Canon EOS 5Ds / 5DsR - a wildlife photography real world review

Canon EOS 5Ds / 5DsR

The Canon EOS 5Ds camera and its sister the EOS 5DsR are 50.6 megapixel monsters released by Canon to compete against the high megapixel medium format cameras that have become popular among commercial and studio photographers. These models are amazing tools, theres no doubt. However, could the 5Ds be good for wildlife photography? Well, let me answer that straight forwardly: No, it's not supposed to be. 

This camera is all about the resolution, specially the 5DsR which with the low-pass filter cancelation effect (the only difference among the two) becomes sharper than her sister. These cameras are intended for commercial, studio and wedding photographers, even landscape photographers that want to print big, or any pixel peeper out there. To shoot action, sports and wildlife you  should stay with the 1D X or its equivalent in the cropped sensor realm, the 7D Mark II. The 5Ds is slow in continuos shooting, and given the large size of the pictures it's buffer gets filled pretty fast, also is designed with the studio user in mind. Yes, it has very high building quality with a more robust base plate for extra stability while shooting on a tripod, and more thick chasis and parts, making it more solid (heavy) but weather sealing is equal to the 5D Mark III i.e. lesser than the 1D X weather sealing.

Another thing you have to bear in mind is that cropping the 5Ds image by 1.6x which is equivalent to the APS-C sensor in the 7D II (our favourite wildlife camera) the resolution is reduced to 19.7 MP, while the 7D2 has 20.2 MP.

So, with all that in mind we decided to loan a 5DsR from Canon Professional Services Latin America  and test it for our macro work, it may seem contradictory to the statements above but it isn't. Macro is different than making photos of large animals, the subjects usually are not moving fast, are tame if you know how to approach them and have patience, we do not use autofocus, and we do one shot at a time instead of a burst of photos. 

The photos

We went with the loaned camera and two Canon macro lenses, the 100mm and the 65mm, to a nocturnal adventure at Pipeline Road, Gamboa. Given we are used to the 1.6x magnification provided by the cropped sensor of the 7D II, we paired the lenses with 1.5x and 2x tele converters, respectively. Switching between lenses as required to fill the frame as much as possible. Below are the images that resulted from the test, they are in low resolution and reduced size, optimised for web usage but if you want to see the originals in full size you can visit our flickr album HERE.

 Spider on a grass leaf

 Spider on its web

Dinner time


Wandering Spider (Ancylometes bogotensis)

The wandering spiders are the members of the spider family Ctenidae. The members of the genus Phoneutria are highly aggressive and venomous nocturnal hunters, and are the only wandering spiders known to pose a serious danger to humans. However, the venom of some other members of this family is very poorly known, meaning that all larger ctenids should be treated with caution. Some ctenids have marks and patterns that are attractive. Ctenids have a distinctive longitudinal groove on the top-rear of their oval carapace. However, unlike the dangerously venomous Phoneutria, bites from Cupiennius genus typically only have a minor effect on humans and have been compared to a bee sting.

Ancylometes is a fishing spider genus from Central and South America, where they live near ponds, lakes, rivers and other freshwater habitats. These spiders can walk over water rather fast, in a fashion similar to water striders. This is because of fine air-trapping hairs on the tips of their legs. They can dive underwater, and will consume anything from insects to small lizards and fish. They can stay underwater for over an hour, using air trapped in hairs surrounding their book lungs as a physical gill. Ancylometes is one of only two known genera of spiders that can spin webs in water (the other being Argyroneta) and they do sometimes catch fish. However, they mostly catch fish by diving down or lying in wait until prey passes within striking distance. They do however consume them on the ground or above the water. With a typical body length of 1.5 to 4 cm (0.59 to 1.57 in), Ancylometes are among the largest araneomorph spiders.

 Young basilisk (Basiliscus sp.)

The longhorn beetles (Cerambycidae) also known as longicorns are a cosmopolitan family of beetles, typically characterised by extremely long antennae, which are often as long as or longer than the beetle's body. In various members of the family, however, the antennae are quite short. The family is large, with over 26,000 species described.



The Reduviidae are a large cosmopolitan family, almost all are terrestrial ambush predators. Most members of the family are fairly easily recognisable: they have a relatively narrow neck, sturdy build and formidable curved proboscis. Large specimens should be handled with caution, if at all, because they sometimes defend themselves with a very painful stab from the proboscis. Among others, the family include the assassin bug genera.


Leafhopper (Cicadellidae)

Treehopper (Membracidae)

 Cockroach (Blattodea)

 Beetle (Coleoptera)

 Cricket (Gryllidae)

Harvestmen (Opiliones) conform an order of arachnids but their phylogenetic position within Arachnida is disputed: their closest relatives may be the mites (Acari) or the Novogenuata (the Scorpiones, Pseudoscorpiones and Solifugae). Although superficially similar to and often confused with spiders (order Araneae), Opiliones is a distinct order that is not closely related to spiders within Arachnida. They can be easily distinguished from even long-legged spiders by their fused body regions and single pair of eyes in the middle of their cephalothorax (spiders have an 'abdomen' that is separated from the cephalothorax by a constriction, as well as three to four pairs of eyes, usually around the margins of their cephalothorax).

English speakers colloquially refer to species of Opiliones as "daddy longlegs" but this name is also used for two other unrelated groups of arthropods: the crane flies of the family Tipulidae, and the cellar spiders of Pholcidae, most likely because of their similar appearance. They are also referred to as "shepherd spiders".


Stick-bug or Walking stick (Phasmatodea)

 Frog (Anura)

The verdict

The Canon EOS 5Ds is an excellent camera, feature-wise it hasn't improved a lot compared to other current full frames. If you are considering to purchase it, let's be clear, it's because the high megapixel count. Do you really need all those megapixels? Certainly not, we think we're not exaggerating when we say these pictures in web quality may look exactly as the ones we've made with the supposedly lower range 7D II. If you are a wildlife photographer wanting a full frame camera that will let you make better images under controlled conditions, this camera is for you.

This camera is definitively not for birds, and not for sports (we also tested it on motor sports and didn't like the slow shutter) but wildlife photographers that can get close to the subjects, shoot tame, slow or very large animals will find it useful. For macro work it's excellent, details and sharpness exceeded our expectations and surely we will consider the acquisition of this camera since we want to return to full frame for macro work, as well as for other stuff we do outside Panama Birds & Wildlife Photos (travel, events, landscape, etc), specially because it is still cheaper than the 1D X.

One of the interesting features in the 5Ds is the cropping mode, it can crop to 1.3x and 1.6x (among other sizes) but if you are shooting RAW format the images will still be around 50 MB, the frame rate and buffer usage do not improve, and the viewfinder does not zoom so you still see the image at the same distance as in full frame. Maybe studio photographers could find this option useful for composing the image for a different resolution but for wildlife is useless.

1.6x crop image imported to Lightroom

We made a test with a tiger heron, using the 1.6x crop. In the viewfinder you will see the full frame as usual except that the area inside the cropped frame is hi-lighted. Then, when you import the image to Lightroom it is already cropped as made by the camera but if you remove the crop, you will see the expanded full frame perspective image. So, you can redo or undo the crop as made by the camera if you wish. This happens in RAW format but if you use JPEG, the image will be completely cropped directly in camera and you won't be able to undo the crop in post processing. 

To make this the perfect wildlife camera it would need a faster frame rate and larger buffer size, and to actually zoom the viewfinder when you switch from full frame to 1.3x or 1.6x crop modes. This will be perfect because you will have the benefits of having a cropped sensor with still good resolution (to fill the frame) and the usual benefits of the full frame sensor (wider angles, better ISO performance and dynamic range).

In the meantime that dream camera is developed, and if you are seriously into wildlife photography, we highly recommend having a Canon 7D Mark II as a do-it-all, and if you would like a full frame instead and have the budget for it, you can choose the 1D X, which by the way is getting cheaper these days due to the future release of its successor. As we see it, the 5Ds / 5DsR will be the perfect camera to compliment the 7D II, mainly for macro and also for other stuff that do not involve fast paced action.