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.

Discussion 62

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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.

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).

I've been using the 5d mk lll since it came out and am considering the mkIV but I am also thinking about the Sony Alpha a7SII because of its low light performance. So how does the mkIV stack up against the a7S in regards to high ISO/digital noise?

Hi Charles,

The a7SII will definitely beat out the Mark IV by at least a stop, and probably a bit more. If you are consistently shooting in very dark conditions it may be better, but don't forget that you are sacrificing a lot of resolution in order to get that improved high ISO performance.

I've been using the 5d mk lll since it came out and am considering the mkIV but I am also thinking about the Sony Alpha a7SII because of its low light performance. So how does the mkIV stack up against the a7S in regards to high ISO/digital noise?

I love my 5dsr. 50 megapixels makes for added cropping options. However, I really like the wifi and touch screen on my 70d! The 5d iv has those features too, so I may consider the mark iv for a second body. Decisions decisions! Keep in mind the wifi will not send your raw files! (as I understand)

Jeff, also consider adding the W-E1 wifi card to your 5DSR - it's a lot cheaper than a second body! I have one on order, I'm hoping it will come this week - I'll post something here about how good (or otherwise) I find it. They are cheap at about 50 bucks and not only do file transfer, but also remote shooting from a phone with the Canon Connect app.

Hello , I am a real estate photographer with only 2 years experience. I use a Canon 5D Mark II and was wanting to upgrade to the IV or 5DS . Which of these 2 cameras is the better choices for my application? 

Hi Eddie,

This is a tough question but I'll try to answer. From the simplest perspective, the higher resolution of the 5DS/R will be beneficial, but on the other hand you may not need that much resolution and it will clog up your computer if it can't handle the files. The Mark IV is a great camera and much better in low light than your II and the S/R and depending on your setup with lights or if you use available light then it may be the better choice. Ideally you are using lights and a tripod so you can always shoot at low ISOs which would lean me towards recommending the 5DS R, but if you don't "need" the extra resolution, the 5D Mark IV is an excellent camera with a few other benefits.

Shawn C. Steiner wrote:

Hi Eddie,

This is a tough question but I'll try to answer. From the simplest perspective, the higher resolution of the 5DS/R will be beneficial, but on the other hand you may not need that much resolution and it will clog up your computer if it can't handle the files. The Mark IV is a great camera and much better in low light than your II and the S/R and depending on your setup with lights or if you use available light then it may be the better choice. Ideally you are using lights and a tripod so you can always shoot at low ISOs which would lean me towards recommending the 5DS R, but if you don't "need" the extra resolution, the 5D Mark IV is an excellent camera with a few other benefits.

The iv is all youll need.

The previous comments are good. I would just add 2 thioughts.

Since I sell 17x24 high quality prints, I  find my 5DSR is almost too fantastic to believe. In the last 2000 or so shots I have used the SR much more than the Mark 4.

Two problems though. After selling 6 prints taken with the Mark IV of large real estate areas, I made the mistake of letting the clients see the same shots rtaken with the SR and They insisted I replace the Mark 4 prints  with the SR prints. The other problem, my computer, large as I thought it was, is slow sorting Raw negs and a few other Photoshop proceedures with the large SR files.

In addition to beefing up my computer, I made sure that my LR catalog, my Camera Raw cache and my working files were all on seperate drives. And I use an empty 500 Gb Sata 6 SSD as the primary scratch drive in Photoshop. The only thing that still takes any time is generating 1:1 previews when importing a RAW shoot into LR.

Sounds like what you really need is a new computer with the fastest CPU, most RAM and biggest drive you can find (or a SSD for the OS and a big, fast HDD for the data files)! 

I am an enthusist photographer and even though I do not shoot real estate, I undersatnd the workflow involved in shooting real estate. 

A lot of the times the clients want the photos very very quickly. Postprocessing hundreds of photos is just not happening. 

A selling point to clients with the 5D Mark IV is the instant upload feature over wifi. 

One thing you could do for clients is shoot with both the 5DSR and 5D Mark IV and offer them the higher resolution images as a premium package deal. Basically you would shoot with two bodies, and if they wanted the higher resolution shot, they have to pay a higher price for it. 

I've been shooting with a 5DSR since last September. I can't offer a comparison, as it was my first Canon DSLR - but I have some observations to share. In "admin" terms, file size will be a problem for some people, depending on their computing equipment. This issue is twofold - firstly for storage - if you take a heap of shots you will need high capacity storage - and secondly in terms of processing. After a honeymoon period, I moved away from the JPEG files to RAW - even though the JPEG's are good, the RAW files are so much better, and they offer so much more in terms of editing. But they average at around 65 megabytes, and my (very) average computer simply couldn't handle them. I solved this problem by making my own new PC from scratch, using ultra fast NextGen 3.0 x 4 on-motherboard SSD's, but this cost money that a lot of people wouldn't be budgeting for when buying a camera. It does however work extraordinarily well, for example stitching together 10 (or more) 65 megabyte RAW files into a finished panorama in under 2 minutes.

In regard to the moire worry with the 5DSR, I have found that it was less of a problem than I expected, but I've also found that with the odd shot that has it (and yes, fabric has been the culprit) - it has only been present in the JPEGS outputted by the camera, and was not visible in the RAW files. Moire is more subjective than a lot of people think - often it is screen related, and/or related to levels of zoom on your device. Again, I found I had to upgrade my equipment to keep up to the camera, moving to a 28 inch 4K IPS monitor, which makes every part of my photographic experience all the more enjoyable - but again, might not be something in the minds of people budgeting for a new camera.

Apparently Canon did warn potential purchasers of the high-res S series that they might want to consider their lenses, and whether they were up to the extra resolution. I lashed out when I got the camera, and combined it with the 50mm F1.2L USM prime - and I'm glad I did. The images it gives when combined with the 5DSR are breathtaking. But I also got a 70-200 F4.0L USM and a 17-40 F4.0L USM a month later to keep all my shooting options open - only to find that the quality was markedly not as good. Over time I have been able to extract better from them, but you have to work for it, whereas the prime is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Some of this is related to the issue of camera shake. Believe me, you will have to rethink some of your long-held technique - particularly in respect of shutter speed floor. The super resolution will show up ANY camera shake and your shot will be visibly poor compared to what you've quickly become used to. With telephoto, unless you have the steadiest hands in the world, you can forget it with handheld below about 1/500th.

Which brings us to ISO. I'm a perfectionist, and I've found image degradation from about ISO 640 and up. A lot of this can be removed in post with noise reduction, but not always, and not if you want the worlds best shot. Whether this is any better with the Mk IV (or II or III), I don't know - but if I was adding a Mk IV to my gear, I'd want a visual demonstration that there's an improvement. Just because the ceiling for ISO is higher, does that actually improve the quality? Do you want the worlds best shot (yes, you do), or do you want to be able to identify the murderer at midnight on a moonless night from 300 feet away?

And to finish, I've found several other little setup things that were really useful. One of these is the ability to reverse the dial directions. I started out shooting mostly Auto-everything, but quickly found it lacking (maybe Canon could help this with a firmware upgrade - once a subject moves, the auto-everything can't keep everything together), so I now shoot mostly manual. Being able to move the dials in the same direction that I want the exposure needle to move is fantastic, I highly recomment you try it. Intellectualising your exposure triangle when you should be thinking about composition and light is removed from the equation.

You have a 5DSR and shoot in Auto?

Great read and confirms my wanting to wait for the Mk III to come down in price, I was about to pull the trigger, went online and there was the announcement about the MK IV, so I'm in wait mode, black friday just around the corner, I gotta see if there is a deal to be had. I thought production of the MK III was ended? I'm shooting with the 7D MK II right now and very happy but the grand kid count is building and I want to go full frame

Hi Eric,

Yea, if you don't need the extra bells and whistles of the Mark IV then waiting for the III is a good choice. Canon has stated that it will remain in production for the time being and serve as another entry point for their full-frame DSLRs.

I am still struggling with the choice.  I have a 5D MkII that does not handle low light shots well.  I have a 7D MkII that does a great job with wildlife telephoto shots and does a better low light job that the 5D MkII.  My gut tells me that the 5DSR is probably the right camera for my landscape and macro work and use the 7D MkII when I need high ISO shots.  Thoughts?

7D2 has been amazing for me and im sure you would love it as well. While the video gets its love the the photos that come out this thing are just as amazing. At the end of the day forget the naysayers its the mechanic behind the tools that does the real work. 

Anonymous wrote:

I am still struggling with the choice.  I have a 5D MkII that does not handle low light shots well.  I have a 7D MkII that does a great job with wildlife telephoto shots and does a better low light job that the 5D MkII.  My gut tells me that the 5DSR is probably the right camera for my landscape and macro work and use the 7D MkII when I need high ISO shots.  Thoughts?

Hi Jim,

The 5D Mark IV may be able to fill both roles for you, since it should have better low-light performance and is faster all around as well as having a higher 30MP resolution. But, if you are mainly looking to upgrade the resolution of your camera for landscape and macro then the 5DS R is the obvious choice.

Deep field crop wildlife shots, the 5D MK III runs circles around the 7D MK II which its images fall apart much sooner as you digitally zoom in.  I do like the AF system on the 7D MK II and would like to see it in a new 5DsR MK II along with much better ISO performance, possibly with a slightly small MP sensor (~35mp).  The 5D MK IV did not offer enough incentive over the MK III along with its pour choice in 4K video standard to get me off of my wallet and upgrade.  I can still get great shots with the MK III...

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