In February 2015, Canon introduced new twins to the 5D series: the 5DS and the 5DS R. These almost identical models have only one difference: one has an Optical Low Pass Filter (the 5DS), while the other one has a self-canceling filter (the 5DS R).
By doing this, Canon gives an extra nod to landscape photographers, allowing for added image sharpness to an already great image quality thanks to the 50MP full frame sensor, motorized mirror mechanism and improved mirror lockup mode.
All these great specs come in the sturdy, well-designed body that we know and love from Canon, allowing for easy adaptation if you’re already a Canon user but want to make the step to a higher resolution.
Everything in this camera seems to be made with the landscape or still-life photographer in mind. Everything has been done to enable the production of extremely sharp and detailed images with this camera.
The first features drastically improved to achieve this high image quality goal are the full frame CMOS sensor with a resolution of no less than 50MP, and dual DIGIC6 image processors.
This means lot more pixels than the 5dIII for example, but still not enough for Canon. To add to the sensor’s great resolution, Canon has implemented a self-canceling dual Optical Low Pass Filter, a design quite similar to the one in the Nikon D800E.
Whereas other relatively new high resolution cameras often choose to leave the OLPF out altogether, the 5DS R has been equipped with two similar low pass filters; one regular OLPF reducing the risk of possible moiré effect, the other one canceling out the effects from the first one.
Canon’s choice to implement these two filters instead of just leaving the filter out completely, has to do with the logistics of the sensor and all its counterparts in relation to the light coming in.
The sensor with all the usual filters in front (such as the IR/UV cut filter and OLPF) has a specific thickness to it that is specially designed to ensure all light coming through hits the sensor at the exact right distance.
When choosing to leave out the OLPF, this carefully calculated mechanism would have to be redesigned, adding greatly to production costs.
And not only would that have cost Canon a lot more money, all modern lenses are also designed with the filters still in mind, meaning they would achieve different results when used with a camera lacking the OLPF.
But, even adding this new technology did not complete Canon’s quest for the highest quality image possible, so they made some more tweaks and improvements on the inside.
Two of those improvements can be found around the mirror.
The mirror mechanism on the 5DS R is motorized, which means the mirror is able to do a deceleration step before it hits its upright position.
This greatly reduces mirror slap, which in turn allows for a sharper image.
Going a step further, Canon also added an improved mirror lockup mode.
On older models that have a mirror lockup option, you would have to press the shutter release button twice; once to lock up the mirror and a second time to actually take the picture.
Even though this feature has been quite useful for reducing vibration, it still required us to touch the camera after the mirror had been locked up, meaning we would cause the vibration the mirror normally caused ourselves by touching the camera during exposure.
Canon took this problem and came up with a solution: a shutter delay mode.
This feature allows you to set a time between locking up the mirror and taking the picture.
That means you only have to press the shutter release button once and then just wait for the vibration to die down and your camera to take the photo.
For the best results, I recommend choosing the shortest possible delay that still allows the vibration from the mirror to completely disappear.
This will result in maximum image sharpness, with a minimum loss of responsiveness.
As you can tell most of the impressive improvements have been made on the inside of the camera, but Canon has made some minor tweaks on the body itself as well, again keeping the landscape photographer in mind.
One of the improvements can be found in the tripod socket and chassis of the camera, both reinforced to allow for a stable mounting on the tripod, improving on stability and consequently image sharpness (even more).
Otherwise the body has changed very little from other models such as the 5D MIII for example, allowing for a very smooth transition if you’re upgrading from an older Canon model to this one, but also means there are some similar limitations.
The body is still very heavy with 900 grams, and the LCD screen is not articulated or sensitive to touch.
I would have liked to see at least some articulation in the screen, as it is quite an important feature to make your life as a landscape photographer just that little bit easier when shooting from awkward angels.
One of the most popular cameras for landscape photography and a dangerous rival to the 5DS R for sure, the D810 comes with a 36.3MP full frame CMOS sensor.
It has the capability to go down to an ISO sensitivity of 64 (expandable to 32), allowing for shooting with longer exposure modes in bright light without having the use a neutral density filter.
The redesigned mirror mechanism also allows for a reduction of image-softening due to mirror slap, and it comes with an electronic front curtain shutter for even sharper images.
This camera has also been widely praised for its big dynamic range and improved noise control compared to its predecessors.
I personally quite like the option to turn the brightness of the LCD up or down depending on the conditions your shooting in.
This allows you to save battery in low light or avoid squinting at the screen in bright sunlight.
Check out our detailed review here.
This model comes with a very similar sensor to the 5DS R, with a slightly higher resolution of 51.4MP.
This camera however does not have an Optical Low Pass Filter or any technology to replace it.
Since moiré is not really a problem occurring in patterns found in landscapes, this can actually turn out to be an advancement (if you remember to take into calculation the possible change in lens performance, of course).
Again, I prefer the LCD screen on this model over the one on the 5DS R, because this one does rotate. It does not, however, come with a touch screen.
The body is also a lot heavier than the 5DS R, and with 1550 grams this is a real brick of a camera. But, it is completely weather sealed and very sturdy, so at least the added weight is not in vain.
This camera would be suitable if you’re looking for the absolute highest resolution possible from a full frame sensor, and don’t mind carrying some extra weight around.
Although the 5DS R is not a medium format, it does compete with some due to the very similar image quality capable from both the full frame sensor and the medium format one.
The Hasselblad X1D, although not very comparable in price range, does deliver a comparable image quality.
The 51.0MP sensor comes in a quite compact, beautifully designed body that has definitely been made to last.
Although the camera is relatively heavy with 725 grams, it is a bit lighter than the Canon 5DS R and is actually not that heavy if you consider the huge files this little body is producing on the inside.
The LCD screen does not rotate, but it is sensitive to touch, with which you can navigate through the simple and functional menu (one of my favorite menu systems on any digital camera so far).
If you’re looking for the best and biggest image files for beautiful large prints of your work and don’t mind investing a lot of money in a camera, this might be the one for you.
The Canon 5DS R is one of the most suitable cameras for landscape photography out there, completely designed with the landscape photographer in mind.
The high resolution, full frame CMOS sensor works perfectly together with the motorized mirror mechanism.
Improved mirror lockup modes and self-canceling dual Optical Low Pass Filter achieve some of the sharpest, most detailed images possible from a full frame digital camera.
The body is very similar to older Canon 5D models which makes any transition from those very smooth and easy, but the minor tweaks to improve stability on the tripod surely are appreciated.
The only changes I would like to see are an articulated touch screen, and maybe the loss of some weight if at all possible, but those minor issues far from outweigh all the benefits this camera has to offer for shooting landscape.
Hi, I am Luca, founder and editor in chief at photographyambition.com. I am crazy about photography and I always have a camera with me. When I am not busy with my day job, enjoying my family or taking photos, I am on Photography Ambition to share what I have learnt so far.
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