Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R Underwater

Text and images by Todd Winner

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Whale shark, Cenderawasih bay, Indonesia, Canon 5DS R, Canon 8-15mm Fisheye @15mm, Nauticam 5D Mark III housing, Zen dp230 dome, Ikelite 160 strobes, 1/200, f9.0, ISO 160

Let’s start with the main headline, the Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R are the world’s highest resolution full frame 35mm bodies ever made! The 50.6 megapixel sensor creates a 8,688 x 5,792 pixel image! Pretty impressive. The EOS 5DS and 5DS R are essentially identical with the exception that the 5DS R cancels out the anti-alias filter. The 5DS R will give you slightly sharper images but at the risk of moiré on very fine repeating patterns. For my tests I used a 5DS R. If I was someone who did a lot of portraits or architectural work as well as underwater I would probably have gone for the 5DS model.

Now the next headline, the body size and button layout remain unchanged from the EOS 5D Mark III. This means if you already own a 5D Mark III housing your 5DS or 5DS R will fit perfectly with no modifications! Thank you Canon engineers. So lets take a closer look and see how they compare to the 5D Mark III.

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Goby with eggs, Bali, Indonesia, Canon 5DS R, Canon EF100mm Macro IS, Nauticam 5D Mark III housing, Ikelite 160 strobes, 1/200, f13, ISO 160

First off the 5DS and 5DS R are not replacements for the 5D Mark III. All three cameras remain in the lineup. With so many megapixels the new bodies are a bit slower. Five frames per second as compared to six and a little shorter battery life. The main difference that I noticed was a  slightly longer write time before I could review an image. The RAW files are about 60mb each. The delay is not bad but it does take longer than the Mark III. Also the top ISO speed has been reduced to 6400 without the expanded modes.

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Cuttlefish, Cenderawasih bay, Indonesia, Canon 5DS R, Canon 8-15mm Fisheye @15mm, Nauticam 5D Mark III housing, Zen dp100 dome, Ikelite 160 strobes, 1/160, f8.0, ISO 160

The auto focus systems are nearly identical but to me the Mark III still feels a bit faster. Also, because there is so much detail with the new cameras, focus needs to be perfect. You can really see when you have missed focus when zooming in 100% on a 50 megapixel image. This is by far the biggest difference I see when comparing the cameras. I haven’t altered my shooting style too much but I am paying more attention to critical focus and technique. I also am trying to use slightly faster shutter speeds whenever possible. Refraction starts to show up sooner on high resolution bodies as you stop down your aperture. It’s something to keep in mind but I think the resolution gain far outweighs any softening you would get from refraction.

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Shrimp on Sea star, Cenderawasih bay, Indonesia, Canon 5DS R, Canon EF100mm Macro IS, Nauticam SMC, Nauticam 5D Mark III housing, Ikelite 160 strobes, 1/200, f20, ISO 160

Finally Canon added exposure compensation when using auto ISO. In Manual exposure mode you can set your desired aperture or shutter speed, let the camera choose ISO and still have exposure compensation. I like shooting full manual but this would be my preferred auto mode over aperture or shutter priority.

I’ve never been a big fan of cropping but these cameras are starting to change my mind on the subject. The fact that I have the ability to crop a vertical from a horizontal image and still have a larger file than my current camera is pretty intriguing.

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Scorpionfish, Bali, Indonesia, Canon 5DS R, Canon 8-15mm Fisheye @15mm, Nauticam 5D Mark III housing, Zen dp100 dome, Ikelite 160 strobes, 1/200, f13, ISO 160

Video specs remain very similar, with 1080 still the highest resolution. They have removed the headphone jack from the 5DS and 5DS R, not that I was going to use it underwater anyway. They added a nice time-lapse feature to the movie function as well as a intervalometer to the stills side. Also added is the movie servo AF function. Essentially giving you full time auto focus when shooting video. It works pretty well when you’re moving the camera. With a static camera and just the subject moving, the focus breathing is noticeable at least with the lenses I own. Even though the 5DS and 5DS R are not being marketed for video I do think the video is a little sharper out of the camera than the Mark III.

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Skeleton shrimp , Bali, Indonesia, Canon 5DS R, Canon EF100mm Macro IS, Nauticam SMC, Nauticam 5D Mark III housing, Ikelite 160 strobes, 1/200, f16, ISO 160

Overall I think it is a pretty amazing camera underwater for anyone who needs high resolution images. You do need to slow down a bit and pay attention to your technique but if you’re looking to make large prints, crop a lot or just have the most resolution possible this is the camera for you.

Todd WinnerTodd Winner is a contributor, instructor, and trip leader for Samy’s Underwater Photo & Video and has over 20 years of experience in underwater still and broadcast video. To see more of Todd’s work please go to www.toddwinner.com. For the latest information on workshops and trips, sign up for our newsletter.

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