On my annual Autumn photography trip here in Colorado, I'm packing two Canon full frame DSLR's, the Canon EOS 6D and the Canon EOS 5DSR.
I've been using the 6D for well over a year now. It's a good, light weight camera with excellent image quality. For this trip, I also rented a 5DSR from LensRentals.com. The cost of a 10 day rental was approximately $350, including shipping.
Firstly, let me say that renting from LensRentals.com was a breeze. The entire rental process was done online and I had the camera in my hands on the day it was due to arrive, no problems, no hiccups. I recommend their services to those looking to try before they buy. The 5DSR I received looked to be almost new, with less than 700 shots on the image counter. It also came with a battery, charger, manual, camera strap and LowPro Case. Not a bad deal.
The Canon EOS 5DSR has a dual memory card slot setup and will accept compact flash memory and SD memory cards. I'm not so certain about the ultimate benefit of this, but it did allow me to choose the type of memory I wanted to use. I chose to use the Transcend 32 GB UDMA 7, 400x Compact Flash chip for my trip.
The 5DSR is quite a robustly built piece of equipment and handled quite nicely along side my 6D, though noticeably heaver and larger than it's older brother. I found myself shooting mostly with the 5D throughout the trip, but I took a few comparison shots for later analysis.
At 50.6 megapixels, the Canon EOS 5DSR is the highest resolution DSLR on the commercial market at the time of this writing. The “R” version has the anti-alias filter canceled out on the sensor, thus providing an even higher resolution capability than it's counterpart the 5Ds. The only drawback to the lack of an anti-alias filter is the greater risk of Moire in photographs. In my case, I never noticed moire in any photo from the camera. Your mileage may vary, particularly if you are photographing scenes that have regular patterns such as architecture or fabrics. Trees and mountains are not generally going to create the moire you'd get with other subjects, so I went with the better resolution version of the camera.
My lens kit consisted of the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS L USM and the EF 400mm f/5.6L USM.
Initially, I was concerned about the image quality from the older L lenses on this newer higher resolution camera, but quickly found that there was nothing to be concerned with. Most of the hype on the Internet review sites was just that, hype. If you've got a good lens kit that works on full frame bodies, don't worry about updating your lenses for the 5DSR body. The newer lenses on the market have improved resolution, but the old “standards” work just hunky dory at 50 megapixels.
My post processing software is Adobe Lightroom 5.7 and Adobe Photoshop CS6 (non-cloud versions.)
If you are using Lightroom, you'll need to be aware that version 5.7 does not support the 5DSR. Adobe Camera RAW 9.2 plug-in for Photoshop does support the 5DSR and will allow you to view and edit the 5DSR raw files in Photoshop CS6 from Bridge however. I used the standalone and free Adobe DNG converter 9.1.1 to convert the 5DSR raw files to Adobe DNG files for processing in LR 5.7. With the size of the image files being much larger, this added a little time to the processing, but nothing too significant. If it had become a problem while on the road, I would have been fine using Adobe Bridge to open the cr2 files directly into Camera Raw and Photoshop for editing.
As for CR2 raw file size from the 5DSR, most images were coming out at a file size between 60-80 megabytes, in contrast to the 6D's 20 megapixel sensor file size being generally between 20-30 megabytes. What this means of course, your computer will take longer to load and process the massive files produced by the 5DSR. If your computer hardware is dated, you may notice a serious performance hit downloading and processing these images. You'll also want to consider your file storage solutions, as the image files will take up twice the space of the lower resolution cameras.
I won't be getting into the technical minutia regarding the camera's menu system, specs and gee-wiz stuff. It's a Canon DSLR and feels very similar to the 5D MK III and handles roughly identically to that body. It's a little larger and heavier than I prefer, but I'm used to the 6D which is about as compact as a full frame DSLR can be in today's market. Still, the camera is lighter and less bulky than the 1D(x) bodies of past and present. It's also easier to pack into a bag of fear with limited space and uses the same LP-E6 battery found in the 5D, 6D and 7D series of cameras, so that's a plus if you already own one of those bodies.
Shooting side-by-side with the Canon EOS 6D, I found myself using the 5DSR about two thirds of the time in the field, most often mounted to a tripod. With all those extra pixels, getting a steady perch for the camera felt imperative so as not to waste potential detail, however, the camera works great hand-held with an image stabilized lens. Camera shake has been mentioned in other review/preview articles as being more of an issue with such a high resolution sensor, but I can say that at full screen resolutions on the monitor, images can appear quite sharp and still exhibit some level blur at the pixel level. What I found quite useful when comparing images with the 6D, was to zoom the 6D to 1:1 (100 %) and then zoom the 5DSR to 2:1 (50%) to give roughly the same field of view on the screen. Quite simply, image detail from the 5DSR smokes the 6D at these extreme magnifications. What does this mean in the real world? You'll want to use a tripod to milk that last bit of exceptional detail from the 5DSR, but you'll get good sharp results using the same techniques you'd use for your lower resolution bodies. Bottom line, for making prints you should be able to get nice and large with this camera. Print sizes up to 40 x 60 inches are possible at a minimum print resolution of 150 Pixels Per Inch, compared to the 6D which will make very nice prints up to 24 x 36 inches at 150 Pixels Per Inch.
Regarding high ISO and noise performance on the 5DSR. I've found that when comparing prints and images on the screen at view sizes, there is virtually no difference at any ISO between the 5DSR and the 6D. You'll be resizing prints when you make any print size, and with all those extra megapixels, you can certainly put more noise reduction on an image and maintain great detail equal to or exceeding the 20 or more megapixels from the 5DIII and 6D. Color accuracy seems very good up to ISO 3200 at the very least, but I never shot at a higher ISO, it's just not necessary. Bottom line, resolution trumps noise when it comes to printing images. Don't fool yourself into making comparisons with other bodies at a 100% zoom on the computer. I make my comparisons at the actual print sizes I want to use. In the end, in my opinion you'll find no other camera capable of creating such detail with such low noise levels.
From an operational viewpoint, I didn't have time to study the camera manual. I did read up on the new specifications and capabilities of the camera, so I knew roughly what I could expect it to do in the field. I found the additional mirror lockup settings in the configuration menu to be quite useful. After a couple of days of shooting, my main concerns were battery life, auto-focus, live view, memory chip capacity and fumble factor. Fumble factor is my way of describing how much fumbling around in the menus to find a setting I had to endure to get what I wanted done. Like other Canon bodies, the menu system is familiar and fairly intuitive, if not a bit more involved than the simplified menu of the 6D. Probably close to the new 1DX and 5DIII functionally speaking. As for battery life, I found the 5DSR drained the battery a little more quickly than the 6D. I was recharging the battery each night but found it acceptable getting over 500 shots per charge on image stabilized lenses. Still, you'll want to keep a spare battery or two in the bag when out working with this camera. Auto-focus worked very well, most of the time. I did run into a problem when using a graduated neutral density filter in one situation. The camera simply could not accurately auto-focus on a particular scene and assuming it was reliable and accurate, I blew one set of shots by not paying attention to the fuzzy results. I tried several auto-focus setups, all having trouble in that situation. My advice, check your work. The auto-focus system though robust, is not flawless, particularly in very high-contrast scenes. I found the 5DSR was giving me about 650 images on a 32gig Compact Flash chip. The camera flushed the buffer quickly and photography was never delayed while waiting for the camera to write to the chip after a burst of shots. I did not try to use this camera as a sports camera, so how many shots it could buffer and how long it took to clear that full buffer was never analyzed. I had no issues though.
One problem I did have was the camera locking up, at least partially. Twice when using the in-camera level indicator, the camera locked up and would not allow me to exit the level indicator view and freezing the camera buttons so as to be nonfunctional. But, the shutter, and exposure settings were still available. In both instances, I removed the battery and allowed the camera to sit for about 5 minutes. In both instances, the camera began operating properly after a few minutes wait with the battery removed. I wasn't inclined to troubleshoot the problem further, so I reverted to the 6D during these two brief outages. Still, it could have happened in a critical situation and that would have been a bad thing. A $4,000 camera should not be freezing up. I've read other reports around the web about this camera doing strange things and then magically clearing itself, so Canon engineers have a bug or two to work out here or there will be hell to pay on the internet forums. They better get this straightened out.
Video/Live View wasn't something I played with. Yeah, the video worked, and it even focus tracked but I don't buy my DSLR's to be camcorders I buy them to be still frame cameras. If I need video, there are better video cameras on the market, and that's where I suggest you go if you absolutely need top notch video. One thing that I did find disappointing was the live-view function. With my other Canon bodies, one can use the live view to zoom in on the scene and manually focus for sharpness. I found that the 5DSR did not allow me to zoom in with the LCD screen. Perhaps it will do this and I didn't have it configured, but I did try to make a quick adjustment to allow it to no avail. If it is capable of LCD screen zooming in while in live view, I couldn't figure it out without getting into the “fumble zone”, so I abandoned all attempts to do so. There was no intuitive way of changing things on the fly and that's a big negative in the field.
In my final analysis, the Canon 5DSR is a superb camera with resolution that will knock your socks off. It handles and operates quite similarly to the 5DIII, produces outstanding images at least up to ISO 3200. The real question I kept asking myself was “do I want one” and in all honesty I have to answer that with a qualified NO.
Why don't I want one? It's a version 1.0 type situation. It's as good as any camera on the market and it's the highest resolution camera on the market but the added benefit of those extra megapixels simply don't justify it operationally in my world. I seldom if ever make prints larger than 24 x 36 inches and for that, any camera with 20 megapixel or better resolution is going to be cable of delivering. I don't need 40 x 60 images, so that extra resolution is simply going to waste at 16 x 20 or 20 x 30 print sizes. Another reason is the image size and photo editing compatibility. If you like making large panoramic images, Photoshop is going to barf with these image files. They are just too large to deal with quickly and efficiently. The camera files are pushing the limits of what computers and photo editors can handle. Eventually, computers and photo editing software will catch up, but by that time, the 5DSR will be obsolete and there will be even better cameras with even more resolution available. My suggestion; unless you you absolutely need the higher resolution and don't mind limping along at slower download and editing speeds, stick to the cameras that have a bit fewer megapixels. At close to $4,000, you'll be spending a lot of money on something that isn't going to do all that much more than a 5D III, 6D and or similar offerings from the other camera brands. Add to it the fact that it's not a bug free camera, you'll be left wondering “why did I get this?” On the other hand, if you have the money and don't mind the limitations you'll be facing on the computer side of the equation, you won't be disappointed with the images coming out of this camera as they are chock full of detail.
Addendum to my field report of the Canon EOS 5DSR.
Here are two comparison shots. One is the Canon 6D the other is the Canon 5DSR.
These are raw file conversions to jpg images at 100%. If you go full screen, you'll notice the size difference between the images, as the 5DSR has way more pixels in the same area of the photos cropped to match. You'll also notice a difference in color temperature, which makes little difference, as this is adjustable in post processing.
By: Gary Gray
September 29th, 2015. Crested Butte, Colorado.
Canon EOS 6D - Dallas Divide, Colorado 2015
Canon EOS 5DSR - Dallas Divide, Colorado 2015
These are 100% crops of the same cluster of trees on the Dallas Divide, using the same lens. The camera perspective is slightly different as the two bodies were on tripods about 20 feet apart.