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Canon EOS 5DS vs 5DS R vs 5D Mark III

Andrew Williams


Canon EOS 5DS vs 5DS R vs 5D Mark III: Canon camera shootout

Canon EOS 5DS vs 5DS R vs 5D Mark III: Full-frame Canons compared

The Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R are the highest-resolution full-frame DSLRs we’ve ever seen. At 50.6 megapixels a piece, their sensors are capable of rendering incredible detail.

They make the old 22.3-megapixel Canon EOS 5D Mark III look positively low on pixel count. However, as we’re going to find out, you shouldn’t place too much emphasis on pure resolution.

The Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R are fantastic in their own right, but they’re far from wholesale replacements for the trusty old Canon 5D Mark III.

Canon EOS 5DS vs 5DS R vs 5D Mark III: Price and Release date

A new top-end Canon DSLR not totally obsessed with shooting speed has been a long time coming. The Canon EOS 5D Mark III has been around since 2012, which would seem like a lifetime in just about any area of technology.

The Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R were announced on the same day, 5 February 2015. They are to top-up Canon’s most expensive full-frame model line-up for 2015, although there are rumours that an outright replacement of the 5D Mark III will appear later in the year.

To re-iterate: the Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R are cameras with specific aims, not general ones like the 5D Mark III. We’ll cover this in more depth later.

The Canon EOS 5DS R is the most expensive of the lot at £3,199 body-only, moving down to £2,999 for the standard 5DS.

While the original RRP of the 5D Mark III was £2,999 just like the 5DS, you’ll find it on sale body-only for around £2,300 these days.

Canon EOS 5DS vs 5DS R vs 5D Mark III: Construction and Handling

All three cameras use the same frame. It’s a fairly high-end magnesium alloy shell with outer armour designed to let you shoot in all sorts of conditions.

While the dimensions of 152.0 x 116.4 x 76.4mm are shared by the three cameras, Canon has made some very slight tweaks. Left hand grip of the newer models has been altered, with an extra contoured lip at its edge to improve ergonomics a bit. The newer cameras are also slightly lighter.

For the most part, though, all three cameras should feel near-identical to hold. That is no bad thing.

They all offer weatherproofing too. This is largely supplied by the rubber seals used in the flaps that cover the sockets on the sides of these cameras.

SEE ALSO: Best cameras to buy now

With virtually identical shells, it's predictable that the 5D Mark III, 5DS and 5DS R all have roughly the same control layout. They use two main control dials, one on the top plate and one on the back.

The main mode dial sits on the left hand-side of the top plate as there’s a chunky secondary LCD screen on the right side - a common arrangement in top-end DSLRs like these. The second LCD gives you a quick view of things like battery life, remaining card space and shooting parameters.

Canon EOS 5DS vs 5DS R vs 5D Mark III: Screen and Viewfinder

Not changing design or handling is not a biggie, but it is perhaps a shade surprisingly that the 5DS and 5DS R use the same class of display as the 5D Mark III. They all have totally fixed screens that are 3.2 inches across and 1,040k dot resolution.

While this is lower-res than the vast majority of phones, it’s till about as sharp as camera screens get at this point. As is common among top-end cameras, there’s no tilting or articulation to the display. It seems this is seen as a bit too fluffy for cameras costing several thousand pounds. However, the heavier a camera becomes the less likely you are to want to get too dynamic about where you shoot from anyway.

Still, we liked the tilt option of the full-frame Nikon D750.Canon 5DS

Canon has made some alterations to the internal design of the viewfinder, though. It’s nothing that will actually affect the feel of shooting with the 5DS and 5DS R, but the newly tweaked mirror mechanism reduces any tiny vibrations caused. This is seen as doubly important in the new models as their high sensor resolution will be all the more picky about any little issues in this area.

All three cameras have pentaprism viewfinders, the kind generally only found in seriously expensive cameras. They’re brighter and clearer than the pentamirror type found elsewhere.

Canon EOS 5DS vs 5DS R vs 5D Mark III: Connectivity

Canon does not have a great track record of adding wireless connectivity to its cameras as standard. The Canon EOS 5D Mark III does not have Wi-Fi for NFC, but both the EOS 5DS and 5DS R have these connections. Finally.

This will let you transfer photos without spending an extra stack of cash on a wireless transmitter, and offer remote control of the shutter.

There’s one other change too. Both newer cameras have a USB 3.0 port, which will make photo transfers much quicker. While a fairly predictable upgrade, it’s a useful one as 50-megapixel RAW files will be huge.

Canon 5DS connectionsThe bottom-right connection is a microUSB 3.0 port

Canon EOS 5DS vs 5DS R vs 5D Mark III: Sensor and Image Quality

Here we have the biggie: the sensor. The Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R are much, much higher-resolution than both the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the newer Nikon D810. That's Nikon's top model.

Where the 5D Mark III has a 24.2-megapixel sensor, the two newer models have 50.6-megapixel sensors. Shots taken with good lighting at low ISO settings will offer a staggering amount of detail.

However, it’s not an entirely positive change. Both cameras have a full-frame sensor, meaning that the photosites of the 5DS and 5DS R are much, much smaller than those of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. You get 6.25 micron sensor pixels in the older camera, and just 4.14 micron pixels in the new ones.

Canon doesn’t even try to pretend that performance will be the same when those sensor pixels are stretched with poor lighting conditions and high ISO settings. This is pretty clear when we look at their respective ISO ranges.

SEE ALSO: Canon EOS 750D vs 760D vs 700D

The standard ISO range of the older Canon EOS 5D Mark III goes up to 25,600 while there are ‘non recommended’ 51,200 and 102,400 modes for when high sensitivity is paramount. Like the Nikon D810, the 5D MKIII is a superb low-light performer, letting you shoot handheld even at dusk or night without ending up with blurry or terribly noisy results.

The Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R are nowhere near as capable in lower light, despite being three years ahead. Their upper standard ISO range takes a huge dive from 25,600 to 6400, which can be extended to 12,800. Yes, the native ISO range of the older camera actually goes higher than the 5DS/5DS R’s extended range.

If you want a camera to take out shooting in all kinds of conditions, we’d still recommend the Canon EOS 5D MKIII even though it’s getting on a bit. It’s simply far more flexible, especially if you’re not going to be using a tripod.

The Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R are going to flourish in conditions where you have a good deal of control over the lighting, or where it is at least going to be good. It’s a studio camera, more-or-less, especially when you consider the other options at the price. The Nikon D810 is much cheaper than the 5DS, offers super high-ISO performance and plenty of resolution for most uses (36-megapixels).

Still, if maximum detail is the top concern, it’s here that we discover the difference between the two new models. The Canon EOS 5DS has an optical low pass filter, while the 5DS R does not. Or, to be more accurate, it actually has two. The first filter has the usual OLP effect of reducing moire noise and sacrificing a tiny amount of detail while the second cancels its effects out.

It might seem silly to work this way around, but it’s likely to do with being able to work with an existing hardware design — presumably Canon couldn’t have simply ‘left out’ the OLP filter.

Canon EOS 5DS vs 5DS R vs 5D Mark III: AF and Performance

The Canon 5DS and 5DS R have the same AF system as the three-year-old 5D Mark III. That’s a 61-point AF, 41 of which are cross-type

That’s enough to offer good focus tracking, and we expect performance in the new models to be great, just as it is in the 5D Mark III.

Other than worse low-light performance, one other possible downfall of using such an amazingly high-res sensor is slower burst performance. However, Canon has counteracted this by using a processor array with more power.

The Canon 5D Mark III has a single DIGIC 5 Plus processor, a chip that was tip-top back in 2012 and provides the camera with 6fps burst shooting. For a camera that doesn’t claim to be all about performance, that’s fairly fast.

There has been a slight dip in speed in the new models, to 5fps, but even this is fairly impressive given the sheer resolution of the Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R. The cameras use dual DIGIC 6 processors, which Canon claims offer lower noise than the last generation.

Canon EOS 5DS

Canon EOS 5DS vs 5DS R vs 5D Mark III: Video

Yet another sign that the Canon EOS 5D Mark III doesn’t yet belong in the past is that the EOS 5DS and 5DS R don’t offer 4K video. It’s still not yet something you see in high-end full-frame cameras, but some people will be disappointed.

The Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R can’t shoot video at 1080p 60 frames per second either. Just like the older camera, the max frame rate if 30fps. All three cameras have microphone jacks, meaning they’re fair choices for part-time videographers, if ultimately slightly disappointing ones technically.

Which is the best camera?

The Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R made a big impact on landing. The highest-resolution full-frame DSLR to date certainly sounds impressive.

However, they are much less flexible cameras than the older Canon EOS 5D Mark III, with poorer low-light sensitivity spoiling one of the key appeals of a full-frame camera. If you’re a pro photographer who is going to be shooting at low ISOs in a studio environment, the new guard might just be perfect. The average enthusiast photographer would be much better off with the EOS 5D Mark III, the Nikon D810, or waiting for the Canon EOS 5D MKIV, expected to arrive later this year.


February 14, 2015, 12:49 pm

Here's to hoping that TR's gets over its irrational aversion for displaying any comparison data in easy viewing table form!

The 5Ds - I think Canon have just created a solution for a very small problem, and I wish they would concentrate more on innovation and implementation of new, helpful features, improve IQ and dynamic range, improve noise banding issues and higher ISO noise in general and increase the RAW buffer capacity dramatically. Their current time to market for any new features is glacial. Their DSLR HD video support and quality is a joke. ('We ran out of room' to fit a headphone out on the 5Ds - hilarious).

If It wasn't for their superb lens quality and selection I would have jumped to Nikon this year - D810. The Sony A7s has my full attention right now, apart from the crappy battery and poor lens support this camera is a diamond.

Canon, you have a lot of work to do. I expect a lot from the 5DMK4! (Faster & more accurate AF please, much wider screen focus points, 8-10fps with 100 shots RAW buffer, faster identical dual cards, touch screen back (which can be deactivated) perhaps with a robust, articulating screen, MUCH improved dynamic range - 14 stops please, GPS/NFC built in, 20-25MP with on-the-fly crop modes 1.3x and 1.6x reducing files to ~18MP and 12MP, 1080p Video at 60FPS+ (LONG overdue!) 4K at 30fps, USB 3 output, clean HDMI for all video formats, headphone jack, wireless flash trigger built in, advanced intervelometer built in. And how about updating the archaic LCD top display with something a little more modern in design? Ta.

PS - If you can't be bothered to do any of the above, just improve the image quality slightly, add another thousand quid to the price and sell us the same camera again ;)


February 16, 2015, 9:53 am

Thanks for the feedback RE: comparison tablets. We don't have a facility in the CMS at the moment, but I'm going to speak to team to come up with an Excel template we can use. These pieces would be much improved with the addition of a simple table.

Jennieandchad Bartlett

April 12, 2015, 11:16 pm

Just wondering if the 5ds r is better for outdoor portraits or families babies large groups and weddings or better off to go with the Mark III


June 9, 2015, 12:46 pm

Hello Andrew,

Please check you statement:
"Canon does not have a great track record of adding wireless connectivity to its cameras as standard. The Canon EOS 5D Mark III does not have Wi-Fi for NFC, but both the EOS 5DS and 5DS R have these connections. Finally."

This series of canon cameras (5Ds) WILL NOT be wireless enabled.

Canon just does not get the importance of a connected camera to the professional photographer. They reserve that particular functionality for the consumer models; i.e. T6 etc.

Alexander Stross

August 18, 2015, 12:46 am

I have been shooting with 5ds r for a few days now and if conditions are perfect it produces a far superior image to the 5d3 which I have as well. For low handheld shooting forget it this camera is so sensitive that if the exposure is not 320/second you are going to get some blur and the result will be equivalent to the 5d3. That said: At 100 iso and with my Schinder glass and a tripod I can capture images that compete with a low end large medium format back. That said I'm thinking of just returning it taking the plunge and get a IQ380 back for the dynamic range Phase One provides. 80mp at ten times the price but the final production is what really matters and if I can shot I image and do minor tweaks as apposed to having to resort to staking frames and the extra processing time it will be worth it. Still once you get over 22mp shooting with a tripod is pretty requisite. I shoot architecture so a bellows kit will replace my tilt shift lenses or i will have to have them modified to work with the medium format system. So ultimately it's more fun to shoot with the 5d3 because it's faster, I can shoot in the dark and get a less grainy photos even handheld. Considering the 1/1000000000 exposure time sensor of that camera from MIT there should be some some high ISO quality cameras coming out in a few years.

Jonathan Bruce

September 30, 2015, 2:56 pm

I have a Nikon D7100, D800e and also access to the Canon 5d iiii.. On quiet mode the Canon is the winner but how quiet is the new 5ds (r) in comparison to the mk-iii ? At Concerts and gigs I do the shutter sound ( or lack of it !) is very important to me.


November 3, 2015, 10:52 pm

Guys, talk to me, please!

I'm currently shooting a lot of ballet!

This means, low light, high speed, but I need-the-speed because 'airs' are what it's all about.

I want the pinnacle of the jump, and I want it to be clear, sharp, and concise with no blur at the hands and/or feet, and I have to 'burst-shoot' to get it.

It's equivilent to shooting football or hockey, but in-the-dark.

What do I want here?

Or would the wait for the EOS 5D Mark IV pay a handsome dividend?

Thank you all for any help you can provide.


November 19, 2015, 12:11 am

To stop the action and capture what it sounds like you care about, using available low light, you need high ISO facilitate the high shutter speeds. In that case, the 5D Mark III will be better than the 5ds. More than likely a potential 5D Mark IV will just be more goodness, but at a premium cost when it comes out. If it were me, i'd get a Mark II. Your milage may vary.


November 19, 2015, 4:37 pm

Awesome sauce of a reply/comment, sir.

And I want more 'GOODNESS'!

What have you heard about the Canon Mark IV; when available, price, features, etc.

Have you come across any articles on this shtuff?

I use, at the moment, my trusty Canon T3i, with a Canon EF 70-300 - f4-5.6 as my lens of choice for this set of circumstances.

I assume at my wide-shot it's f4, and when all-in for the close-ups @ 300mm, it's f5.6.

I'm shooting on Auto' modes.

I'm already beginning to see some strategy adjustments I could make, including, maybe, that lens, and also going 'manual'.

I was all ready to buy that Canon Mark III, with a new and faster lens, but then the 'Mark IV reared it's beautiful head, and I thought, 'Wait, sir; wait to see what the "IV" has to offer!'
Yeah, I did; I said that to myself.

I prefer to only buy 'bodies', and then select the lenses after-the-fact.

Thank you, Monsieur Kirk, if only for listening to me. You are a photo/video Viking of the highest degree, a true poet/warrior.


November 19, 2015, 4:49 pm

I do not know anything about the Mark IV, sorry.

For the ballet stuff since you want to freeze the action, I would probably shoot on shutter priority mode most times, not any auto or manual. Most other situations, use aperture priority.


November 19, 2015, 6:10 pm

You have been enormous, sir.
Thank you for your input, inspiration, and information, you've been more help than you know, and I truly appreciate it.


December 1, 2015, 10:33 am

Which camera would be better for a natural light studio set up, with off camera flash or fixed lights used at times? What would give the better performance? (Mostly newborn and child photography)


January 15, 2016, 9:28 am

If money is not really much of an issue then Canon 1 DX ticks all your needs. As for the lens that also depends on your budget. Canon 70-200 f2.8 II will land you outstanding pictures which you can crop later else some good old primes like Canon 300mm f4 IS would be perfect addition to the set


January 15, 2016, 9:50 pm

Monsieur Sz4', you are the man with the plan.
Thank you so much for taking the time and energy to enlighten me on, what seems to me, very exciting and relevant information.
Money, unfortunately, is always an issue, and is always to tight to mention.
But we both know that in photography you sometimes have to work outside your fiscal comfort zone.
I will definitely take your advice under consideration.
I just wish I could peruse the Canon D5 Mark IV.
I'm reluctant to purchase a 'Mark III only because I don't want to be regrettable for doing so if the 'Mark IV suddenly arrives shortly thereafter.

Demetris C Demetris Christodou

May 30, 2016, 12:55 pm

1dx or even better 1dxii

Pressed Rat and Warthog

September 4, 2016, 12:36 am

I thought I'd reply to your erroneous comment. The 5DS and 5DS R are in fact wireless enabled, and a wireless adapter to make use of that enabling was introduced with the 5D IV. The name of the adapter is the Canon W-E1 WIFI Adapter. It goes for about $40.

Tom Webb

October 2, 2016, 11:14 pm

You're better off being comfortable in manual and buying some good glass. That's usually a lot better than getting bodies. Try finding prime lenses with lower f-stop.

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