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