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From Semi-Pro to Pro, Canon 5Ds review

I've written a evolving review of this camera sometime back when I first got it on the second day of launch.

In this post I'll compile the stuffs I think will help users using Canon's the semi-pro camera who are thinking about upgrading. I'm not a pro reviewer that you can find online elsewhere, but I felt it'll be useful if I can give my point of view about the change other than talking about specs, features etc.. so here goes.

Some backstory, I've used Canon 1Ds many years ago, but for a long time, I've been using my semi-pro cameras namely 40D and 6D, before that there's 350D and 20D. So I've mostly been on the semi-pro market.


In terms of built quality, it’s definitely much better than Canon 40D, but when you compare to 6D, I personally feel no different. Yes it’s slightly bigger in size, but that’s about it, both still feels equally solid in hands.

Weather sealing on the 6D was reportly the same as a 5D mark III, so the weather sealing on 5Ds should be the same as a 6D since it's design base on 5D mark III body, although I couldn't find any confirmation info on that. That means some rain or light snow shouldn't bother you too much and you can concentrate on capturing your photos, provided you have a weather sealed lens mounted. This is one of the reason I love L lens so much because it takes my worry away in a bad weather.


If you have been using Canon’s semi-pro camera like 20D to 70D or 7D, you should feel very comfortable with the controls, it’s more or less the same except for some additional new features. 6D users should encounter a bit more learning curves and getting used to as the control layout is quite different as you can see from this top view capture below. It's something you need to get use to especially if you are like me who have a 6D as a back up camera.

But in my opinion this layout is better as it allows me to change my setting without my eyes leaving the viewfinder, very useful if you need to have your sight on your subject for that crucial moment.

I’m still not a fan of the camera menu system control. My big issue is that going from category to category requires you to scroll through all the sub-category before you can move on to the next category. I would really prefer to be able to use the main dial on the top of the camera to select category and multi-crontroler to select the sub-category, this would speed things up so much faster! It's not a big deal, but something I alway felt it's not done perfectly whenever I need to access the menu system.

*edit: I've found that you can skip to the next category by pressing the "Q" button, yeah!

I Love the additional custom function mode, helps me when I need to switch my camera mode real fast, now I have one more at my disposal!


It uses a proven system brought over from the 1 series and 5D mark III, it have been updated so it should perform even better than the predecessor. I find it very usable but sometime struggle in the dark where my 6D is able to perform, guess the king of low light is still 6D.

But the advantage of 6D over 5Ds ends here, other than in very low light situations, 5Ds outperform the 6D and 40D in every aspect. The tracking system is very reliable if you know how to use them, the focus is spot on. I have even tried tracking a running and jumping children with my 50 f/1.2L at f/1.2 without any issue, I'm impressed.

Sensor quality

< Marina Bay Sands captured with 5Ds >

The 50.6 megapixels sensor is the main reason why this camera is so amazing and sometime scary. There's always this debate that if we really need such high megapixels camera and the quality of the pixels is more important than the numbers. While I do agree it's true to some extend, but somehow I felt this kind of debate falls apart in the face of Canon 5Ds.

Because the quality of the 50.6 megapixels sensor is very high. Given a same scene with the same framing, a lower MP camera will never be sharper than an image produce from Canon 5Ds, the amount of details and sharpness produce from this sensor is just staggering.

It doesn't really matter if you are using a lens made for high resolution or not, the image you can produce from this camera will always outperform the camera with a lower MP in it's acceptable working environment. I mention "acceptable working environment" because Canon 5Ds doesn't perform very well in dark environment due to the lower than "usual" ISO, it's a trade-off for the megapixels.

The Dynamic

During my testing with the camera for the first few days, I notice the dynamic range performance is quite good. It makes me suspect that it's performing on par or could be better than my 6D. For example, the sunset photo at Marina Barrage on top actually looks like this straight out of camera below.

Just look at the amount of details I'm able to recover! Especially the shadow areas! A few weeks later my thought was confirm by a test done by DxOMark, it's actually the best performing sensor in the dynamic range of all Canon cameras!

So, should you upgrade?

Canon 5Ds or 5DsR is a very specific type of camera targeting at a certain group of photographers. If you are already in that group of photographers, you will know this is the camera you must have, if your budget allows.

Who is it not for?

If what you do demands high burst rates, for example sport photography, if you constently works in low-light condition without fill in flash, if you intend to use your DSLR mainly for video purpose, if the price of 5Ds is over stretching your budget. If these scenarios fits you, then this camera isn't for you.

Who is it for?

If your current camera isn't performing as satisfying as you would like it to be, if you always have control on the lights of your subjects, if you are looking for a camera system that provides the high resolution of a medium format with the versatility and wide range of options of a DSLR, if you are just a landscape or cityscape photographer. This camera is for you provided you don't falls into the scenarios of "Who is it not for?"

But beware, due to the nature of a high megapixels sensor, certain flaws you have with your current system like lens or tripod will be amplify. I need to upgrade my tripod as a result, you can read up my post about my Gitzo tripod here.

I have posted some of the original resolution photos taken with my Canon 5Ds in my newly created facebook group here, feel free to join to share, discuss about anything on photography! :)

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