As they say, the devil is in the details and with 50 mega pixels at your disposal that's a heck of a lot of details. (note, I started this blog post after one weekend of renting the 5ds. Since then, I rented the 5dsr for a good 2 weeks then the 5ds again for a weekend, so my feelings on this camera have evolved - so look for little updates to original opinions)
I will say, at first it was a little love/hate. Loves - the details, shooting in good or controlled light, or on a tripod the image quality is quite noticable. It definitely Beats the 5dmk3. Hates - hand held this is not an easy camera to use, the pixels on the sensor are so small that image blur is a huge concern. Honestly, this camera scared me because of that (note - i am much less scared of this beast after a few more rentals on it. Yes, you have to be careful when using it, but, this just makes me be more careful in general so it isn't a negative. Plus, part of it is practice, the more I used it the easier it was to use.)
Details - first image is full size (well, not really, the full size image exceeds the upload limits of the site)
and heavily cropped
As you can see, that's a crazy amount of detail on a very heavy crop. Do I crop that much often? No, but in a pinch it's a nice tool to have.
The basics, this camera looks and feels exactly like a 5dmk3. Layout is the same, so it feels quite natural in my hands. One click of the shutter though and you know it's a different camera. It's so quiet. In standard mode the shutter is about as quiet as the 5dmk3 is in silent mode. This is due to some fancy anti vibration tech that Canon added - the purpose is to maintain image quality by reducing the vibration every time the mirror flips up and down. This is great as a wedding shooter because the less I am heard during the ceremony the better.
This camera came with me for two weddings (update, the 5ds got a 3rd wedding in in november, and the 5dsr got to see 2 weddings and 3 engagement shoots). The first one, I kind of chickened out for the processional, a wedding is really not the time to experiment, so I went with the tried and true 5d3/6d combo. After the processional though I did bust out the 5ds. While it's intended use is in good light it's no slouch at higher ISO's.
As expected, it was the go to camera for the posed family and posed formal shots. This is where the special qualities or 5ds really shine. Between ISO 100-400, this is what this camera was designed for, so it's really no surprise that it did as well as it did for those moments. With that said, wow! All that detail leads to an image that looks so stunning you could easily do minimal processing on. But if you do want to get crazy all those MP's grant you a lot more flexibility.
Matched with the right glass, wow, both the 5ds and the 5dsr just leap above 5dmk3 in many ways. Shadow recovery is better, not quite at the Sony/Nikon level yet but it is noticeably better than previous canon products. But that's only one part of the picture - the sensor gives much richer colors too.
Next big test, how would the 5ds handle the receptions. Even on the 5d3/6 combo, the first dance is generally the last portion of the evening I roll with 2 cameras. And while I have no doubt that the ds would rock a dance floor, at 60 MP'S per file that's just overkill for that kind of shooting.
As you can see, no slouch at all for receptions. It's really a matter of storage. At more than double the file size of the 5dmk3, you gotta consider how many memory cards you need - it doubles everything across the board.
Detail shots! If you've come this far wit this article, you probably know what I have to say for this part. Yes, the 5DS/R kicks some major booty in this area.
To sum things up - The Loves outdo the Hates for sure.
Yes - it's not an easy camera to use. But, contrary to what some reviews say - you don't have to be tethered to a tripod when you use it. You can handhold all day with it, if you have a steady hand.
Yes - this camera does highlight flaws in technique - but - it forces you to improve, it brings a little of the old school mindset, kind of like film - each shot counts a little more - I don't mind this at all, I felt like I was a better shooter after each rental period because it made me really examine how i shoot.
Yes it demands quality lenses. If you don't have really good lenses you won't necessarily see just how good this sensor is. This isn't so much of an issue with me though as I do have a stable of really quality lenses. It's just something to keep in mind for fellow photographers who may be interested in the 5DS
Yes it demands more infrastructure improvements. As mentioned a lot here, file sizes are huge. That means you need more memory cards, and more Harddrive's. It also means you'll need a computer that can handle big files en mass.
Yes, the image quality is just freaking outrageously amazing.
I am fairly sure I want to add this camera to my bag. But, and yeah there is a but to this (mind you, this would be a $4000 purchase!) - there are many factors to consider. The first being I need to get my storage system upgraded to hold all these huge files. I need to get that in place before the season begin regardless of camera bodies.
Second factor is the fluctuating market - you see this isn't just a very expensive investment, it's also saying - ok, this is whats gonna be in my bag for the next 4 years. The 5D line has previously been filled with one body. Now we have three (counting the 5dS and SR as separate bodies). The 5dmk3 is at the end of it's 4 year cycle, so we should see that getting refreshed very soon (if history repeats it'll be within the next month two). What will the 5dmk4 bring to the table? It seems like Canon may have some new tech up their sleeves for it, will they dramatically increase the Dynamic range? If the 5d4 lands at 28MP, and can pull in closer to 14 stops of dynamic range then we've got some decisions to make.
Third factor is more of a continuation of the second. When Nikon released their big MP camera they offered 2 versions - one with an AA filter and one without. After a year, they dropped the AA filter version and offered one body with other improvements. If the second factor holds true, then canon may end up pulling a nikon and replacing the 5DS/R with a single version that also has the Dynamic Range boost the 5dmk4 may end up having.
Lots of if's and buts and lots of unknown's at play here. Which is fine because there isn't too much of a rush. Wedding season is still a bit off, and I can always rent it. I guess that answers the question of do I want this camera. Yes, I do! But a camera body is just such a big purchase and in the end, it does make a big difference in everything I will be doing for the next 4 years. And yeah, that gets into larger questions of what will the evolution of my photography be?
Well, this article has run kind of long, so I will cut it now! I had wanted to include more about how this beast handled engagement shoots as well but I think I may save that one for a follow up post. Ok, until then hope you enjoyed the review!