Let’s talk about the Canon 5DS. Is this camera worth it? To me, it’s all pretty simple.
I have been inundated over the past couple of weeks regarding questions pertaining to Canon’s 5DS camera. That’s to be expected. It’s a new and expensive piece of gear; and as it turns out, I have one of the first. The questions of course reflect each person’s dilemma as to whether the camera should be purchased. Yes… it’s a lot of money; but it’s a lot cheaper than medium format with a whole lot more bells and whistles in its DSLR body and sensor size. Unfortunately, Canon made the evaluation far more difficult than it needed to be by classifying this camera into categories such as studio and landscape.
The 5DS as a Sports Camera
Let’s just focus on the Canon 5DS as a sports camera (it’s as good an example as anything else). There is incredible virtue in the 1DX’s 12 frames a second; and the 5DS simply lacks that speed in frame rate. My 5DIII complimented the 1DX beautifully in many ways but it is never something that I would have taken out to shoot sports. It’s speed did not accompany any significant offsetting benefits. That said, with the 5DS Canon imposed some key video restrictions. Restrictions suck, but they likely reflect Canon’s desire to not have any one camera be the be-all, as well as reflecting some physical restrictions related to the space required by the USB3 plug. Still, the 5DS focuses brilliantly and the viewfinder is super bright, much brighter than even the 1DX. This is a simple fact, as attested to by the photographers nearby as I shot the Oakland A’s game with both the 1DX and the 5DS.
Of course this is the best camera in Canon’s lineup when it comes to studio and landscape. Back to the speed thing… when it comes to sports and speed, the fact of the matter is that 12 frames/sec are still remarkably few. At 1/2000th of a second, 12 frames is a mere 6/1000ths of a second. Empty space accounts for the remaining 99.4% of the second. That is why many of the best sports photographers will just as often single-shoot the events requiring the most critical timing (such as bat-on-ball).
The Virtue of the Canon 5DS
Well… if you decide to stop spraying-and-praying at 12 frames a second, it is worth noting what can be accomplished with the 5DS at 50 megas when you single-shoot whatever subject you may desire. That is the overwhelming benefit and a reasonable trade-off for speed when the time is right. Here is the original framing of a shot of Michael Phelps (Santa Clara, June 20, 2015), a finished (uncorrected) crop, and a 100% crop of the mustache of Mr. Phelps:
Original and Final Crop Frame
Here is the image of Phelps from the camera (50.3 MP) and cropped as final (21.6 MP). That is a perfectly sized final image! If this were shot with a 22MP camera, the crop would be, oh I don’t know, a lot smaller. By percentage, the crop would have been 43% of the original or 9MP. That is a massive difference. I’m not a math guy – but 22 vs. 14, 12, 10, 8 and so on is a huge deal when it comes to a final image for print or media.
100% Crop of Mr. Phelps’ Stache
This is the unbelievable magic. You can see every single hair of the stache. The crop didn’t hurt us at all and this image can be printed on the side of a building and would look truly brilliant.
To me, this is stunning. The raw data is too-good-to-be-true. I haven’t felt this giddy since I was a tiny youngster on the first day of Hanukkah. Sports camera? Not by birthright. This time – absolutely.
Let the Stache do the Speaking
So in conclusion … you buy the 5DS if you want the absolute in terms of resolution and detail. Light can be managed and frame speed and video is the compromise. The 5DS is no small difference as Mr. Phelps’ stache can attest. It is remarkable in every sense of the word. Pixel peepers do your thing. Oh whatever … damn… there are 50 friggin megapixels here. There are no comparisons. So… do you want it or not?
P.S. I do.