In the past few years, we've seen renewed interest in digital medium format cameras. The options on the market right now from Hasselblad, PhaseOne, and Mamiya all duke it out in a space that's of limited appeal to photographers other than the most demanding of professionals. Last year, the Pentax 645Z brought the power of a 51-megapixel medium-format sensor to a price point that's relatively affordable in the space—only $8,500.
Now, Canon's taking its best shot at the same demographic. While it doesn't have a medium-format offering of its own, Canon has come up with a way to leverage its current EF lens system and get results that are more like what you'd see from a more expensive medium format camera. The brand-new Canon EOS 5DS R (MSRP $3,899.00) is the name of the camera, and its claim to fame is a whopping 50.7-megapixel full-frame sensor. The idea is that pros can migrate to a camera that's sharper, without leaving behind their Canon lenses and the support that Canon is famous for.
Canon's special 50-megapixel full-frame sensor is the star attraction of this new DSLR. Both the Canon 5DS and 5DS R sport similar sensors, but Canon has hedged its bets a bit. While the 5DS has an optical low pass filter, the R version optically cancels said filter in order to achieve even sharper results. That'll yield finer detail, but at the expense of invoking some dreaded moiré on high frequency patterns. Both cameras aren't mainstream models by any stretch, but the 5DS R is a niche within a niche. If you're considering these cameras, also consider that the R version costs $200 more, so the extra sharpness isn't free.
And, before you get your credit card out, there are also a couple of other factors that might make you think twice about going for the new, high-res 5DS R. The 5D Mark III, which this is based on, is a camera that's become a favorite of many videographers. While we initially suspected that the 5DS might be able to shoot 4K or another high resolution format, we were disappointed to learn that it's limited to HD shooting resolutions.
Also, whether you're shooting still or video, the sensor's sensitivity range is rather small for a full-frame DSLR. The standard ISO range is only 100-6400, with 12,800 available in an expansion mode. We're betting that shots at the higher ISOs won't look great, and that's a stark contrast to what you can eke out of a true medium format sensor at higher sensitivities. From our experience with the Pentax 645Z, we found that sensitivities up to and beyond 12,800 are shockingly usable, without banding and easily downsampled to look just fine at lower resolutions.
So, the 5DS R gives up some of the flexibility afforded you by the lesser 22.3-megapixel sensor in the vanilla 5D Mark III. Other than that, the 5DS R is a lot like the 5D Mark III, with a few other changes. To read about everything that's new, jump on over to our First Impressions review of this camera's sister model, the 5DS.
Design & Usability
Imagine an ultra-sharp 5D Mark III, and you're just about there.
We only had a short time to play with the 5DS R on the show floor at CP+, but one thing struck us immediately—there's nothing new or innovative about its design. If you've played with a 5D Mark III, then you know exactly what the 5DS R feels like in your hands. If you want a refresher, make your way over to our hands-on take with the low pass filter version of Canon's high resolution recipe.
A solid camera, with a new purpose.
While some might whine about the 5DS R not being a true 5D Mark III successor, we think it's smart that Canon has utilized the platform to expand its professional offerings. Whether you're in the studio, or outside shooting buildings, the 5DS R offers die-hard Canon pros an upgrade path that doesn't mean jumping ship to another system. It's a great new option for those shooters, but it's also nice to see Canon bring some innovation to the professional space without debuting an entirely new flagship model.
All in all, we think this camera will probably do both of its jobs with aplomb—by keeping Canon fans from going outside the EF ecosystem, and also by bringing a new DSLR option to the toolbox of many. In either case, Canon has proved that it's not standing still in the face of greater-than-ever competition for the big bucks of working photographers.