Photography / Features

Canon Camera Wars: 5D Mark IV versus 5DS and 5DS R

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While it may be a little unfair to present this as a “versus,” the introduction of the 5DS/5DS R and 5D Mark IV over the past couple of years has made the camera-buying decision a little more complicated. Photographers, especially, may be curious about whether they should pick up the specialized high-res option, and then decide which of those to buy, or to pick up the latest iteration of Canon’s legendary 5D lineup. Hopefully this quick run-through will help you out.

Canon EOS 5DS DSLR Camera

Megapixels and Resolution

This is the easiest place to get started. The 5DS and 5DS R are equipped with 50.6MP full-frame CMOS sensors, while the 5D Mark IV has a 30.4MP full-frame CMOS sensor. The 5DS cameras win easily here. If your work relies on having the most detail and resolution possible, such as with product, macro, or general studio work, the 5DS R is the obvious choice, since its low pass filter cancellation effect guarantees the maximum resolution. Now, if you shoot a lot of fine patterns, such as clothing, you may want to opt for the 5DS, which retains the OLPF effect for reducing and eliminating moiré and aliasing.

30.4 Megapixels Full-frame Canon CMOS Sensor       50.6 Megapixel Full-frame Canon CMOS Sensor

Video

This is another no contest category, but the other way around this time—the 5D Mark IV’s DCI 4K video and various other settings and capabilities blow away the basic Full HD 1080p30 option of the 5DS. The Mark IV’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system is awesome for video. If you are a hybrid videographer/still photographer, the 5D Mark IV is a no-brainer.

Dual Pixel CMOS AF Structure

Low-Light Performance

This is more a question of need rather than want. If you consistently find yourself bumping up the ISO, such as in a dim wedding venue, concert, or just out on the street, the 5D Mark IV’s lower-resolution sensor also brings with it a much improved native sensitivity range of up to ISO 32000, which can be expanded to ISO 102400. The 5DS, on the other hand, has a comparatively low native range of up to ISO 6400, which can only expand to ISO 12800. Simply put, the 5D Mark IV is a documentarian’s or street photographer’s camera (and other similar specialties), while the 5DS remains firmly planted in the landscape photographer, studio shooter, or strobist’s toolkit.

Speed for Sports or Wildlife Photography

This is a more surprising comparison, since you would expect the lower-resolution Mark IV to really take it without question, but the 5DS puts up a great fight. Both manage to pack in a 61-point High Density Reticular AF system, which should do a wonderful job on a plethora of tough subjects, but they begin to separate on continuous shooting speeds. The Mark IV takes the lead, with 7 fps, and the 5DS is just behind with 5 fps. The 5DS’s impressive speed is likely due to having Dual DIGIC 6 processors, compared to the Mark IV’s single DIGIC 6+. For more practical concerns, the 5DS offers a neat trick—the ability to crop to either 1.3x or 1.6x, giving shooters a bit of extra “reach” without requiring extra cropping in post. But, with the Mark IV’s faster speed, improved low-light performance, and smaller file sizes, most sports photographers will choose the Mark IV instead.

Operation

The 5D Mark IV has a leg up here, likely due to its more recent release date and a further refinement of features. It gains touch capabilities on its rear LCD, as well as a dedicated AF Area Select button. These two additions may seem minor, but when you are looking at two extremely similar camera designs, the smaller things like this make all the difference. Realistically, other reasons should push you to pick one or the other besides an extra button or touchscreen.

Extras!

If you had your mind just about made up when it came to these cameras, there are a few more fancy features and settings that could make things somewhat difficult if you were on the fence one way or the other. The 5DS/5DS R doesn’t have as many unique options, so let’s start there. This includes a Fine Detail Picture Style and a Mirror Vibration Control system and Time Release Lag setting for eliminating camera shake. The Mark IV takes the cake when it comes to fancy features, with the newfangled Dual Pixel RAW technology, built-in GPS and Wi-Fi with NFC, and Digital Lens Optimizer technology for JPEGs. This is all going to come down to personal preference.

The 5DS/5DS R Mirror Vibration System

What about the 5D Mark III?

In an interesting move, Canon did not discontinue the 5D Mark III when they announced the Mark IV. This means that users looking to pick up a 5D-series camera do have one other option available. The Mark III is an older model at this point, but still an incredibly good camera. It sports the lowest resolution on the list at just 22.3MP, but these days most shooters don’t really need much more than that. It isn’t quite as sensitive as the Mark IV, but its native sensitivity still reaches ISO 25600, which beats out the 5DS by a good margin. Also, its 61-point High Density Reticular AF system is quite good, but it just doesn’t have as wide coverage as the newer models. Altogether, if you are looking to jump into full-frame at a lower price and don’t need the added video features of the Mark IV and don’t need the sometimes too-high resolution of the 5DS/5DS R, the Mark III is a great choice.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR Camera

Which one of these canon cameras is right for you? Tell us in the Comments section, below.

82 Comments

Sorry for such a late comment but I'm at a tough decision, I'm primarily a long-exposure/Astro/Landscape photographer and I currently have a 5d III, my lenses are the 14mm II(w/Lee filters holder and filters), 8-5mm fisheye, 135 f2.0L, and a 50 1.2. My question would be is it worth upgrading to the 5Dsr/5D IV or should I jump ship to sony? Colors and Dynamic range are a huge factor for me as well as being able to do some general photography every now and then I.E. walking around town late night taking bokeh portraits and what not.

Hi Erik,

This is an extremely tough decision. I would say it would be easiest to just stick with Canon at this point. Your lenses will still function perfectly, controls are right where you are familiar, and the image quality should be great for your subjects (assuming longer exposures at low ISOs). Now, if you need to boost the ISO or absolutely need the most dynamic range you can get, then I would say look towards the Sonys. Coming from a DSLR I would say that you should look at the a7R III, as the new battery, controls, and menu are leaps and bounds above the a7R II. However, if you are on a budget, the a7R II will provide very similar image quality. And, the Sonys are obviously smaller for easier carry and you can get some decent auto adapters for your Canon lenses (though if AF is super important to you I would avoid it). I hope this helps.

My old 5D Mark II has traveled all over the US, and is mostly used for aerial pictures.  I feel I am still a noob when it comes to actually fine tuning the shots, especially since I am Pilot and Photographer and use the auto settings most of the time.   However, my work over the last few years has depended on high speed focus and shutter speeds.  Which camera would work best for this?  The Mark II has litterally 10s of thousands of shots, if not 100s,  through it and is beginning to show it's age.  So for a point and shoot between flight adjustments of landscapes what do YOU think would be the best for this purpose?

Hi Ger,

We would be more than happy to assist you with this. Please e-mail your inquiry directly to askbh@bandh.com so we can better assist you. 

I'm a professional lifestyle and celebrity portrait photographer who went from using a Mark III to the 5DS and I do not think it's a great camera. I have more issues with shutter shake than before (due to the huge files) -- even when shooting in a studio with lights at shutter speeds that shouldn't show shake, also when I zoom in on the files on this camera vs another camera with 50mp my file quality is very noisy and pixelated (I suspect Canon upped the resolution but somehow not the quality, if that makes sense?). Just about every shoot I find photos that should be crisp and sharp and just aren't (I'm often using a brand new 24-70 on it). I'm thinking about selling it and swapping to the Mark IV. Anyone have similar issues?

More of a question. Doesn't the Dual Pixel RAW feature in the 5DIV, mean a lot for the picture quality.

Doesn't it deserve more interest and info as to what it does and how much better it is than a regular sensor?

Hi Geoffrey,

Dual Pixel RAW is a nice addition, but it doesn't actually result in an upgrade to image quality. It allows you to adjust certain aspects of the image, but does not affect things like dynamic range, noise, etc... 

If you want to read more I discuss it in my review of the 5D Mark IV: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/hands-review/field-canon-5d-mark-iv

I don't shoot vide. I don't shoot JPEGS.  I still can't decide.  Maybe I'll just have to toss a coin.

I am looking at the 5DMkIV and the 5DS, I do a lot of seascapes and landscapes as well as a fair amount street photography. My specialities are long exposure photography and HDR so resolution is something I need to consider. I am very torn between these cameras and wondered if you could help at all?

Hi Samuel,

I would say to make the decision based on what subjects you work with more often. If you shoot more landscapes, the 5DS/R is going to be the better choice. If you work more with street then go with the 5D Mark IV. Both will be good for both situations, but each will be slighly better at these than the other.

Also, what about DR between these cameras. As I said, I shoot night photography, low ISO, long exposures, small f/stop... I don't recall seeing information about DR between the 3 cameras.

I am looking to upgrade from a 5D MkII, which I have enjoyed for many years. I do primarily night photography, but it is always on a tripod with a long exposure (30 seconds). I project the results, via digital projector, up 8 feet tall and so resolution/detail become essential. I also make DuraTrans prints to be displayed in a lightbox, typically 3 feet tall.

I'm not sure if the "extra" resolution of the 5DS/5DS R is warranted. Also, would my current L lens (24-105) be satisfactory with the higher res camera, or would I need to upgrade that as well?

Thanks!

Hi Ernest,

Not a scientific analysis, but in my opinion the 5D Mark IV has a better dynamic range than the 5DS/R. I would imagine that you may start to see issues with your current 24-105mm in you got the 5DS as well. If you have been fine with the Mark II, I don't think you absolutely need the extra resolution of the S/R, but if you do just want higher res than it would be better than the IV for your purposes.

So I'm really torn between these two. I haven't gotten a new high-end camera in ages as I have the Canon EOS 5D. I have other dSLRs, but not any that are realllyyy nice. 

I'm a newborn baby photographer, so I work mostly in hospitals, but rarely neeed to bump up my ISO past 1250, occcasionally a bit higher. I mostly deal with sleeping babies so it's not like I'm catching any speed racing. Outside of that, I do regular portrait photography (like senior portraits, etc). Which would be better for this sort of work? Thanks!

Hi Liz,

It's a tough decision, since it seems like either will work for you. But, I would say for what you are doing you probably do not need the extra MP of the 5DS and are better off with the Mark IV. 30MP is still very good and the advantages at higher ISOs will benefit even at settings like ISO 1600. It also seems like the Mark IV has a slightly better dynamic range.

Dear "Torn" keep what you have. How big a print does a parent need of their new born... More than an 8x10 and a few prints for the family. Really... I am sure, for your needs your Canon is more than good enough. If you don't make more than $20,000 a year on your photos, save your money. Or, borrow or rent any of these two and see. The cheap way... Shoot a couple of shots of anyone or get one of your clients with a baby and shoot a couple of shots with your camera in the camera store and then with the 5D IV and see. Make a few prints and ask a couple of parents if they can see any important difference.

I think B&H is the best, but they are, above all, camera salesmen.

Hi Shawn,

I have a 5ds r and have been shooting with it for the past year.  Love the resolution and like many users, have had to adjust my techniques to accommodate for higher res issues.  I routinely shoot starscapes and have been fairly happy with the 5ds r (using topaz denoise and generally staying at ISO 4000).  Would the 5d Mk IV offer less noise at that ISO than the 5ds r?

The other issue I've noticed, even shooting at 1,000 of a second, is the occasional pixel smear/blur when shooting aerial photographs (usually from sport light aircraft or helicopters with the door off on my side of the aircraft).  I've found it most noticeable when shooting wide on a 24-70mm.  Given the reduced resolution of the mk iv (yet better than my mk iii--currently my 2nd body), would the mk iv offer a "sweeter spot" to handle work from the air?

Thanks 

Hi Keith,

The Mark IV will definitely have an advantage when it comes to noise at higher ISOs. It is really easy to see the difference if you ever shoot with the IV. In terms of the smear/blur, in theory the Mark IV wouldn't show as much, but I think that if you downsized your 5DS R files to match the Mark IV they would be equivalent. If you want to skip that downsizing step then the Mark IV may be a better option (it is also faster if that helps at all too).

Hi Shawn- Thanks for this great article. Currently I’m using the 5D Mk III. Mostly I shoot architecture/interiors, macro, and night photography with a tripod and wildlife and landscape, both handheld and with a tripod. I’d like to upgrade the camera body, in part to achieve a better overall product, but also because I’ve had a very difficult time with shadow noise. In low light settings, or even indoors with a good amount of natural light, and shooting longer exposures with a tripod at low ISOs, the noise has been challenging. It seems between these two cameras, the 5DS might be the best upgrade for my purposes and for what I shoot. My 5D Mk III could be a second multipurpose body, although the 5D Mk IV also seems like it would be an improvement in this regard. Any thoughts on this or suggestions of other Canon bodies?

Hi Sue,

The Mark IV is definitely a significant upgrade when it comes to noise handling and the ability to push the shadows in post production. For your purposes it will be very helpful. However, the 5DS will give you a huge advantage for resolution when shooting at or near base ISO, but if you find yourself pushing the ISOs up a bit or bringing up the shadows in post the Mark IV may provide you with a better product.

This may seem a bit far out for you, but... What about testing a Sony 7s/7IIs, they should be much better in low light with 8.4µm pixel size. You can buy an adapter for Canon lenses. Try it.

I would even add the a7R II over the a7S II since you are using the tripod. Then you get the benefit of extra resolution and improved noise performance at higher ISOs.

Hi - Like many I think I am on the fence here, I currently shoot with a 70D, mainly macro and landscape, I am looking to get a full frame and am struggling to decide between the 5D MK 4 and the 5D SR - the attraction of the SR being the amazing resultion, if I was to need to crop down a macro image for example it would still give me a lot of pixels and details. Landscape the resultion looks amazing, I am less concerned over the low light SR comments, but have been told by some that hand held (which is how I shoot macro) it is an unforgiving camera to use, also the MK 4 AF system is better and easier to use. 

I shoot landscape usually with a tripod, and like to work with filters and long exposures, so have no concerns around this - but would welcome your thoughts around my macro shooting, the AF capabilites and hand held challanges etc. 

SR or Mark 4??

Just to clarify on the Mark 4 AF point I made, I shoot macro manual focus of course, but generally for wildlife etc, I was told the Mark 4s AF and tracking is great to use from an all round perspective. 

Hi Clinton,

Even though it is a little less forgiving when working handheld (I pointed this out in my review too), the advantages of the added resolution from the 5DS/R are notable. You really can't go wrong with either, but for your macro work, though you may need to bump up the shutter speed, and landscapes on a tripod the higher res files will be nice. And the AF of the 5DS/R is outstanding, almost at the same level as the 5D4.

Hi Shawn,

I'mI'm a super enthusiast on my way to go pro. I have 1DxM2 and I'm looking for a second body. What is your recomandation to successful cover almost everithing. I would like to feel free to do everithing in any kind of photography. My main focused will be had shot, portrait and people and the rest too (sport, weddings, landscape, arhitectural, fashion and products)

Kind regards,

Sorin

Hi Sorin,

Easy choice in my opinion is to go with the 5D Mark IV. Perfect do everything option from this bunch. It near perfectly balances low light, resolution, and speed. Now, if you are looking for a two body set, I could make the argument that the 5DS R would be a great complementary body to your 1D X Mark II. The 1D would be your go to for sports, action, weddings, etc... while the 5DS R would be great for landscapes, architectural, products, and fashion. Both could do all the things you mention, but having a high resolution option would be nice compared to your 1D.

Thank you Sir. It was my though too.

Hi! I'm really on the fence about getting the 5D Mark IV or the 5DSR.. l usually shoot landscapes, and the 5DSR is the better pick for this! But then again l take a lot of pictures of the Aurora borealis during the winter, and I am conserned about the low ISO. Other than that its the occasional birthday, holliday pictures etc. I currently have a 70D

Kenneth, I'm sitting on that same fence, landscape and architecture are my #1 need so therefore the 5DS R would be the no-brainer, EXCEPT, I shoot the occasional video project and also shoot weddings once in a while. For THOSE to areas I need the MARK IV for the clearly superior video features (4K and 7FPS)... but if all I were doing was landscapes (including night images) and architecture, it would be 5DS R hands down all the way home. Big prints and the ability to crop are the shining star of the 5DS R. Don;t bother with 5DS, the sharpness factor is much more importanty than the moire issue which most 5DS R owners claim they never see anyway.

Hi Kenneth,

This is a really tough pick. One thing to consider is the ratio of low light images to good light images you take in a given year. Also, while the 5DS R might not be ieal for aurora shots, if you are doing longer exposures at lower ISOs it will likely still be very good. I would lean towards the 5DS R in your case, but if you are really unsure about it you really can't go wrong with the 5D Mark IV.

Also, Paulie, yea if you need good video you are unfortunately forced to get the Mark IV. And I have to agree the 5DS R is definitely the right choice. I struggled to get moire on most normal subjects, and the extra detail is great!

Which one of the four would you pick for supercar photography?

they're either parked up and im having a photoshoot.... and they're on the move so i need fast speeds with a 1.8STM - although id love the 1.2

so which camera???

Hi Jack,

I would say the best bet is the 5D Mark IV since it has a good resolution with faster shooting and a speedy AF system. Unless you desperately need the 50MP of the 5DS series, the Mark IV is going to be better for the action and will do perfectly well with staged shots.

Hi

ive been shooting a 70D with all "L" glass with great results. I shoot literally everything in every condition I want full frame for my fisheye and for better light sensitivity etc .... I am considering the 5DsR but am now confused since there is the 5Dm 4 ..... mostly wildlife and sporting events but also some wedding Astrophotos macro everything etc  I see that the 5DSR can do 1.3x  and 1.6x   Can it autofocus my 400mm with 1.4x converter attached? (F/8) what are your thoughts on choosing between these 2 or another Canon FF??

Hi James,

I would personally chose the 5D Mark IV for your shooting needs. It is going to be much better in low light, shoot at a faster frame rate, and it has a slighly improved AF system compared to the 5DS. It will also autofocus at f/8 at all points. You don't have as much resolution, but 30MP is quite enough with room for cropping. The only thing you might consider a "loss" compared to the 5DS is the lack of crop modes, but in practice these aren't as usuable as one would like anyway.

Thank you !

When rumors of the Canon 5Div were being posted, I was beginning to sense that there wasn't going to have rising eyebrow  new features, in fact, many of them incorporated from the APS-C 70D, such as touch screen and dual pixels, into full framed version. I was already using the 5Diii, but I was hoping more for a larger sized buffer, a CFast memory card and 8 to 10 fps for action photos to upgrade into. At least something to match the 7Dii but in full frame, but not quite as elaborate as the 1DX2. I did find that the 5Div had a newly designed 30 mp sensor, and withimproved noise—at least for the increased resolution, but I didn't find that the noise at ISO 8000+ was any different that the 5Diii, and the one more fps to 7 wasn't worth the 5Div upgrade. So long story short....I bought the 1DX2 instead from B&H. Now this is a camera for action shots, low light, and low noise at high ISO.

I use a Sony a6500 for any sports/action shooting. The 5D MKIV does indeed look like a well versed camera, but for landscape the 5DSR looks like the weapon of choice

Jus a note, I loved my old minolta slr, films are no longer available and switched to digita . My coments or questions is why do they still make them so bulky, housing no longer need motor to transport film, camera no longer need space for a roll of film and spool to wind up snapped pictures, can we not make these a bit thinner? I hate the bulkiness but still want the large lenses

There are a number of reasons for this. 

1- The internal processors required to handle exposure calculations, image processing and storage are all quite significant and make up for some of the bulk.  

2- The mechanics of viewing the image through the viewfinder and moving the mirror out of the way so the sensor can be exposed are all very much the same as film cameras

3- Weight distribution is extremely crucial.  If you're using a heavy wide aperture lens, you want the camera body to help balance the entire setup in your hand. 

Hi Dieter,

Sean basically nailed it with his answers. Just becaues there isn't film going through the camera anymore, doesn't mean that those parts weren't replaced with new electronic components to handle processing and data handling. Also, these more delicate electronics require additional engineering concerns such as heat disappation which can contribute to the size. If you want something smaller, mirrorless is the best option, but you give up an optical viewfinder.

I purchased a 5Ds when it was first announced becuse I wanted the high megapixels for bird photography. Even with a 600mm L lens I still need to crop a great deal to get a large detailed image, and the the 5Ds has come through with flying colors. The camera is smooth quiet and responsive, and the raw images are sharp enough to not only show the individual feathers, but the detail of an individual feather. Most of mhy pictures are taken at ISO 400 with an occasional boost to 800. I think that Canon had a real winner here.

Hi Jerry,

Glad to hear you like the 5DS. It is a great camera.

I got 1 dx mark 2 , 7d mark2 , old 40d bodies still i want one more body which i can use for multipurpose. May i go for 5d 3 or 4 or 5ds as u specified & i got 600mm but still requires cropping for birding . Nowadays i am interesting in landscapes & macro along with my original birding passion .. which body will be better. Thx 

Hi jerry ,sending my correct emailID 

Hi Nilesh,

I would say that the 5D Mark IV is the multipurpose option out of those. The 5DS is very specialized and while the 5D Mark III is still good, the Mark IV will likely suit you better with its higher resolution, improved sensitivities, and increased dynamic range.

Normally, we can easily find photographers for weddings than funerals.  Which camera should I choose for taking funeral pictures?  Please note that I always changed lens between wide angle, fish eye, zoom, etc. even though I have a 2nd camera.  Thanks.

Hi tc,

For that kind of work you would probably want a 5D Mark IV, or a Mark III depending on your needs.

The 5Div reportedly has one stop to two stops more dynamic range at low ISOs than the 5Ds or 5Diii. According to Canon, increasing dynamic range was one of their goals when creating the camera. Most comparisons of the 5Div don't mention this.While I have not shot any of the above cameras (so dont have first-hand knowledge), I find i run into shadow noise with my 5Dii annoying often; Shooting in antelope canyon is an excellent example. 

Your comment about shadow noise is interesting Oliver. Back in the days of film only we were taught to "expose for the shadows", so using your exposure lock might yield different results (although this is by no means a foolproof thing, as years of photos shot "according to the rules" with blown out highlights testify).

I'd be interested to know if this is with JPEG's or RAW files. I've found out with my 5DSR, through experimentation and comparison, that a lot of the "faults' seem to live only in the realm of JPEG shooting. I've taken quite a few shots in "surprise mode" while shooting manually - where something odd worth capturing suddenly happens, and it's a case of shoot immediately or lose the moment - so the exposure has been over or under by quite a bit, and it was very retrievable in the RAW files, but non-existant, especially with shadows, in the JPEGS (I'm shooting to two cards at once - JPEG to an SD card, and RAW to a CF card, which is another great option on the newer offerings from Canon).

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