CANON 5DS Resource Page: Setup, Performance & Review

This Page is dedicated to the Canon 5DS. Here you will find information about how to set up the camera and any reviews that I do.

I hope that you enjoy your new camera!




The Canon 5Ds / 5DsR is a phenomenal tool for image making. To ensure that you get the most from your new camera you must be sure to first set it up correctly!

The purpose of this guide is to help you to set up and understand the features, functions and settings of your new Canon 5Ds. I have tried my best to simplify things and make the choices clear. In some cases the best setting is an obvious one. Other times there are options based on personal preferences. In each case I have tried to make this clear and provide the information that you need in order to get the absolute most out of your new camera.

This guide is for you if you want to:

  • Quickly set up your Canon 5Ds
  • Ensure you have the correct settings
  • Learn to use your camera to its full potential


  • Please note that this is an E-book and there is no printed material.
  • The book can be downloaded as a PDF file and then transferred to use on your favourite digital devices.
  • If viewing on a desktop computer or laptop I recommend the 2 page view (exclude cover)
  • If viewing on an tablet I recommend using Adobe Reader in single page mode. Ibooks should also work well.


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I am a very practical photographer when it comes to making equipment choices. I make decisions based on what “tools” will allow me to capture better images of the subjects that I covet most – birds. Furthermore, I would consider myself primarily a field photographer that rarely sits in blinds or shoots in controlled scenarios where subject distance is under the control of the photographer. For these reasons effective focal length is the primary concern for me when choosing a camera body. The APS-C camera bodies have always been my choice when it comes to photographing birds – even given their limitations in controlling noise. With good control over exposure and solid post processing technique I will take an APS-C body (such as the 7D II) over a full frame body (such as the 1DX) any day of the week.

A camera that has enough resolution to crop in to a 1.6x field of view and still have the same number of megapixels as the 7D II does present an interesting option though. After all, you are essentially getting the best of both worlds right? Or are you?? These are the main questions that this review will explore.


A quick summary of the new Canon 5DS features:

  • Extreme 50.6 Megapixel Full Frame CMOS Sensor
  • 5 fps continuous shooting and silent shutter mode
  • Dual DIGIC 6 image processors
  • 61-point wide area AF including 41 cross-type AF sensors, with EOS iTR, AI Servo AF III, AF Configuration tool
  • 150,000-pixel RGB+IR, 252 zone metering sensor for improved precision
  • Zone, Spot and AF Point Expansion focusing modes
  • ISO 100-6400 with expansion to 12800, 50
  • 30 fps 1080p video
  • Magnesium alloy body, shutter durability rated up to 150,000 cycles, dust and weather resistance
  • 3.2" (81.1mm) Clear View II LCD monitor (approximately 1,040,000 dots)
  • Flicker Mode adjusts shutter release timing to avoid flickering light issues
  • Dual Memory Card Slots supporting one CF (UDMA Mode 7) and one SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I) memory card
  • Mirror Vibration Control System to reduce mirror vibration blur
  • HDR shooting in-camera
  • Upgraded Transparent LCD viewfinder with 100% coverage
  • Dual-Axis Electronic Level with dedicated viewfinder display
  • 1.3x, 1.6x and 1:1 ratio crop modes with masked viewfinder display
  • In-camera Multiple Exposure and HDR modes
  • Customizable Quick Control screen
  • +/- 5 stops of exposure compensation
  • Peripheral Illumination and Chromatic Aberration Lens Correction in-camera
  • EOS Integrated Cleaning System (EICS)
  • Weather resistance
  • Improved custom controls with built-in Intervalometer and bulb timer
  • Time-lapse Movie function
  • Super Speed USB 3.0 for high-speed tethering and image/movie transfer


The 5DS is really all about astonishing resolution. This camera has more pixels than any other DSLR and the detail that it packs into an image is mind blowing! I can only imagine how excited commercial photographers that have been using medium format gear to achieve this type of imagery must have been at the announcement of this camera. But what about for nature photographers? Is there any real world advantage that extends beyond simply pixel peeping on our 30 inch computer monitors?

Obviously in a studio setting the 5DS is the new king of DSLRs. This would also extend to wildlife photographers who do most of their shooting from a staged scenario or from within a hide. For me the real question is how well would a cropped 5DS image hold up against a full frame 7D II image? In other words if I can’t get as close as I might want to my subject can I still crop in to the super high resolution image and get a better result?

From a straight resolution perspective this does indeed seem to be possible. The Canon 5DS offers both 1.3 and 1.6 crop modes. The 1.6 mode offers a 19.6 megapixel (5424 x 3616) image compared to the 20 megapixel 7D II (5472 x 3648). There are however other considerations to be made here. For example, imagine that you are focussing on a bird that is small in the frame. Your goal is to focus accurately on the birds eye. Unfortunately, the subject is so small in the frame with the full frame camera that all you can do is put the focus point on the birds head (and not specify the eye). On a crop body the image would be larger in the viewfinder and allow for more accurate focus.

The above image shows the cameras crop/aspect ratio set to 1.6x.

From an image quality standpoint (noise and dynamic range) Canon states that the new camera is similar to the 5D Mk III. It should therefore offer image quality slightly better than the 7D II files.

There is no question that the resolution and image quality of the 5DS is incredible! Whether or not this makes it the ideal camera for you depends on the type of subjects that you shoot. If you find that you are generally reaching for the 1.4x tele-converter and cropping in post processing then there is a strong likelihood that this is not the camera for you!

**Note that these are my opinions and the RAW files from this test are available for download if you would like to form your own conclusions (see link above).


As crucial as it is, Image quality is not the only factor to consider for a wildlife photographer. Almost as important can be the focusing capabilities and the action capturing frame rate of a camera body. When it comes to the frame rate the 5DS clearly lags behind its Canon counterparts at just 5 frames per second. The 5D Mk III offers 6 frames per second where the 7D Mk II offers a very snappy 10 frames per second. It seems that all of those megapixels do indeed come at a cost. The camera simply cannot record and transfer the data fast enough to enable a satisfactory frame rate for action, sports and wildlife photography.  Furthermore, the camera buffers out after just 14 RAW files compared to 31 RAW files on the 7D mark II.

When photographing these Black Oystercatchers bathing I found myself really noticing the difference between 5 and 10 frames per second. The buffer on the camera filled rapidly and there is no question that this cost me many potential action shots.

The actual focussing capabilities (and menu set up) of the 5DS are similar to those of the recently released 7D Mark II. It offers a 61-point wide area AF including 41 cross-type AF sensors that are sure to track subjects well in most conditions.   

The new 5DS also shared the 7D Mark II’s ability to customize autofocus settings to several buttons based on how you shoot. Many bird and wildlife photographers for example have long been assigning “back button focus”. Doing so allows the user to allocate the AF-ON button to control the autofocus and the shutter button as the release mechanism. This setting has the advantage of allowing the user to focus, recompose the shot, and then trip the shutter at the pivotal moment without having to re-acquire focus. The 5DS takes such settings a whole lot further. Now the AF-ON and AE Lock buttons on the back of the camera can be assigned specific autofocus capabilities. You can literally configure any autofocus setting to one of these buttons and have two completely different scenarios based upon how and what you shoot.

  • AF-ON: Used for birds in flight or moving subjects where I want to be able track the subject. In this scenario I have the focus points set to the AF point expansion (4 pts). I have also enabled a custom AF scenario that is designed to hold tightly to objects once focus has been acquired (-2,0,0).
  • AE-LOCK: Used for subjects that are not moving. One shot focusing and single-point spot focusing. This setup is great for static subjects such as perched birds.


The video capabilities on the 5DS are a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand it includes the new dual pixel technology (as launched in the 7D mark II) which allows aspiring cinematographers to focus on moving subjects. Another nice aspect of the 5DS is the ability to make in-camera time lapse movies. This beats the intervalometer setting on the 7D Mark II.

On the down side the 5DS does not introduce 4K video, lacks a headphone jack, and does not allow for uncompressed HDMI output. For these two reasons serious DSLR film makers will continue to favour the 5D Mark III.


There is absolutely no question that the 5DS is a very impressive tool for photographers. The choice to upgrade from your existing camera depends on a wide variety of factors (subject matter being paramount). Below are a few summery points to consider between the 5DS, 5D Mark III and 7D Mark II.

5DS VS 5D Mark III

  • Resolution – 50 MP vs. 22 MP (8688×5792 pixels vs 5760×3840 pixels)
  • 5DS has Dual DIGIC 6 Processors (able to transfer all those megapixels)
  • 5DS has Customizable AF controls via the “custom settings” menu
  • 5DS has built in Intervalometer
  • 5DS has In camera time lapse movies
  • 5DS has Anti-flicker mode (useful if you shoot from indoors)
  • 5DS has Improved viewfinder
  • 5D Mark III allows for higher ISO speed settings (although who really used above ISO 6400 anyway?)
  • 5D Mark III has a slightly faster frame rate (6 vs 5) and slightly larger buffer (18 vs 14).

5DS VS 7D Mark II

  • Resolution – 50 MP vs. 20.2 MP (8688×5792 pixels vs 5472 x 3648pixels)
  • 5DS has In camera time lapse movies
  • 7D Mark II has a much faster frame rate (10 vs 5) and much larger buffer (31 vs 14).
  • Similar AF characteristics


This camera is all about the tremendous resolution that it offers. Feature wise it does not bring a lot new to the table. If you are buying this camera it is for those 50.6 megapixels. It is that simple!

For this reason commercial photographers, wedding photographers, etc. will love this body! Landscape photographers who print BIG (or who love to pixel peep) may also be interested in the 5DS. Some wildlife photographers that shoot tame, slower moving subjects or that shoot primarily from a blind may also be interested.


Action, sports and wildlife photographers may be tempted by the allure of all those megapixels. But the truth is that the 5DS is not a field camera. It is a studio camera that is designed to compete with the medium format cameras these photographers have been using up until now. If action and speed are involved in what you shoot then the 1DX or the 7D Mark II is the camera for you.


The 5DS has raised the bar and become the new king of high megapixel cameras. It is an impressive camera to be sure! Photographers whose primary and ultimate concern is resolution need look no further than the 5DS. If your photography workflow includes the best glass that money can buy, a very sturdy tripod, good technique, a solid post processing workflow and a fast computer this just might be the camera for you!

The reality is that most of us simply do not need 50.6 megapixels. Aside from the resolution increase the 5DS doesn’t really bring enough to the table to “force” 5D Mark III users to upgrade. Those of us wildlife photographers focussed on fast moving and small subjects would be wise to look past the incredible resolution of this camera to the more practical capabilities that it lacks (such as frame rate and buffer size).

In the not too distant future I can imagine a scenario where cameras are mirrorless, have electronic shutters and can transfer data at a higher rate enabling much faster frame rates. If this was the case in the 5DS, and if the viewfinder actually zoomed in when you switched from 1.0x to 1.6x crop mode, then I could see myself getting excited about this camera. Until that day comes I will be sticking with my 7D Mark II for the great majority of my own personal wildlife photography.

As I stated in the introduction I am a very practical photographer. The primary question for me is whether this new camera will allow me to capture better images than I could before. In the case of the 5DS I would have to say that in most cases the answer is “no”! That is not to say that this is the case for everyone. I do think that most photographers should ask themselves this important question before taking the plunge into the tempting world of pixel peeping and ultra-high megapixel cameras.


  • Insane resolution for a DSLR
  • 61 autofocus points (most of which are the cross type).
  • Fantastic autofocus
  • New live view/video AF capabilities. Can now track moving subjects while shooting videos.
  • Intelligent viewfinder. So much info available and completely customizable.
  • Ability to customize AF settings to several buttons based on how you shoot.
  • Price. When compared to a medium format rig this camera is a serious bargain!


  • No real ISO performance or dynamic range improvements over the 3 year old 5D Mark III. This area can definitely still be improved (based on the Sony sensors).
  • Would have preferred dual compact flash card slots instead of one CF and one SD.
  • Would love to see built in radio transmission to external flash.
  • Must have a very powerful computer to handle the large files.
  • Must have the best lenses to take advantage of such a high megapixel sensor.
  • Any camera shake will be magnified on such a high megapixel sensor.
  • Slow frame rate and small buffer (not suitable for action photography).









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