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Why the Canon EOS 5Ds/5Ds R DxOMarks shouldn’t worry you (at the end of the day the 5Ds has a noticeably better IQ)


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Last week DxOMark posted their test results for the Canon EOS 5Ds and EOS 5Ds R. As usual, DxOMark’s scores on a Canon sensor start bold headlines and heated discussions, especially when compared to Sony’s A7R. Well, I guess most of my readers are smart and do not buy posts based on the uneducated interpretation of DxOMark scores, which are a mere engineering figure. No Canon sensor is “far behind” a Sony sensor, as a site titled.

However, it is always good to remind people why the DxOMark scores do not count very much at the end of the day. Tony Northrup posted an interesting article where he explains why you shouldn’t care about the EOS 5Ds/5Ds R DxOMark scores. I recommend you read the whole article, for those in a hurry (these are not the only points listed):

  1. DxOMark doesn’t factor in the number of megapixels
  2. DxOMark doesn’t factor in the negative effects of an anti-aliasing filter

Please note that Mr. Northrup doesn’t “disagree with DxOMark, just [with] the presentation and interpretation of the numbers“. Same here. While there is a lot to read and learn in the article, I particularly like these :-) :

  • The [EOS 5Ds] overall image quality is noticeably better than the D810 or a7R.
  • All [EOS 5Ds] images show more detail, whether using sharp, expensive lenses and less expensive zooms.
  • [the EOS 5Ds] is overall a far more usable camera than the a7R, with a vastly superior focusing system.
  • It gets the most out of our Canon lenses, including the Canon 70-200 f2.8 L IS II, which Nikon doesn’t have a decent alternative for.

Hmm, noticeably better IQ, more detail, more usable camera, superior focusing system…sounds good, doesn’t it? Who wants a Sony A7R ;-) Read Tony Northrup’s article.

Canon EOS 5DS: Amazon USA, B&H Photo, Digitalrev, eBay, Adorama, Canon USA | Canon EOS 5DS R: Amazon USA, B&H Photo, Digitalrev, eBay, Adorama, Canon USA

eos 5ds

  • MrSkelter

    The problem with Northrup is a total lack of credibility. He’s pro Canon period. You know what he’s going to say before he speaks and he refuses to accept there are any cameras made by Nikon that are their equal.

    Saying ” the Canon 70-200 f2.8 L IS II, which Nikon doesn’t have a decent alternative for.” is ridiculous hyperbole. Yes – the Canon is better than the Nikon (mainly because it’s newer) but the Nikon is a workhorse and an excellent lens. Any Canon shooter could use it without serious complaint.

    • LittleCam

      What Tony saying about the superior 70-200 f2.8L is simply the focus breathing issue.
      Tony claims, that the Canon is the only lens available on market, that has no focus breating, whereas the Nikon goes down to 140mm for close objects.

      Well – technically Tony is wrong!
      The Nikon’s focal length goes down to about 170mm and the Canons focal length goes up to about 240mm. Both are focus breathing! The Canon lens even more than the Nikon!
      But unlike all other lenses, the Canon breaths to advantageous direction for the photographer.
      That’s why Tony is right with his statement, that the Canons focus-breathing is “better”!

    • Wade Marks

      To “MrSkelter:”
      It’s amazing to me how you and others will attack someone personally for simply stating an opinion that they disagree with. Perhaps before attacking Northrup you should actually read his site.

      First, he has been very complimenary of Nikon. In fact last year he posted this:
      “Why I Want to Switch to Nikon, But Can’t”

      In which he gave a very objective account of the Canon v Nikon debate. He has always admitted the superiority of Nikon sensors for DR at low ISO’s.

      Second, if you read his response to one of the commenters on this most recent article, he notes that he shoots his videos with the Sony A7s and uses the A7ii for much of his casual photography, when he doesn’t mind manual focusing.

      So your accusations against Mr. Northrup are pretty much unfounded and in fact easily contradicted by fact. I’d say you have the credibility problem after this embarrasing post of yours.

      • MrSkelter

        I do read Northrup on occasion. I wouldn’t comment if I didn’t.

        His “I want to switch…” post is also filled with inaccuracy. He mentions the ‘superiority’ of L glass despite Nikon’s primes testing better than Canon’s L’s at 24mm, 85mm and 200mm. Then there’s the 12-24mm zoom which Canon still can’t match. People who don’t shoot Nikon like to say their only edge is in the sensor. They conveniently forget that Nikon’s best sensors include ones they designed and aren’t Sony.

        He also says insanely wrong stuff like “Why only 25% more detail with 50% more detail?… Well you always lose something when going from the analog world to little blocks.” What he’s talking about is the inverse square law. You need 4 times the sensels to double the detail. Thus to have twice as much detail as 8MP you need 36MP. To have 50% more detail than 24MP you would need 48MP.

        As for shooting Sony, that says a lot too. Those cameras have great sensor and terrible handling. Every working pro I know would take a fast, well designed camera over one with better IQ almost every time. In fact that’s the strongest case for Canon today. Excellent ergonomics with average performance.

        People happy to stick adaptors on Sony bodies and fight through that menu system with an unbalanced camera are the minority. It’s just not practical if you have to worry about capturing the moment. He’s pretending to be better versed than he is.

        • Miguel M

          12-24 by Nikon? You mean 14-24mm I suppose. Canon can’t match it? Wrong again. Canon’s rectilinear 11-24mm does it. And even canon’s 16-35 f/4 is at least equal. Both from f/4 and beyond ofc

      • Lee

        Disagree. That was not a personal attack. If he’d called Northrup a pedophile, that would be a personal attack. Disagreeing with someone’s published opinions is absolutely fair game.

        • Wade Marks

          Of course MrSkelter didn’t engage in the worst possible personal attack on Mr. Northrup…it’s a bit silly to suggest that the only personal attack is of the magnitude of calling someone a pedophile.

          But he did say that Mr. Northrup “lacked credibility” and was only “pro Canon” and that he never would “accept there are any cameras made by Nikon that are their (Canon’s) equal.”

          To me saying someone lacks credibility is a personal attack. Mr. Northrup is a photographer of some merit who also has published books and videos. He may not be the biggest name in photography, but he does have some cred.

          To suggest that Mr. Northrup is biased is a personal attack, and one I’ve shown to be false.

          So sure MrSkelter engaged in a relatively mild personal attack and could have been worse. And of course MrSkelter is free to disagree on the other points. But he didn’t have to accuse Mr. Northrup of lacking credibility and having bias.

          BTW, I think we all have bias and cannot avoid it; the question is how much bias and if we are giving our opinion, how far to do we go to ensure as much objectivity as possible.

  • LittleCam

    As a Sony-owner I was very amused about the DxO-mark headline and the bad scoring for the Canon 5DS-sensor (And of course did some jokes about).
    Being serious, I never expected the new Canon sensor being so bad rated compared to A7R / D810, especially not after comparing the studio test shots on DPReview. Well – at base-ISO the DR is remarkable better on the Sony-sensors. But that’s all – there is nothing else in favour for the Sony’s sensor in my opinion. Especially for me as I often take picutres in low-light, using ISO 1600 and higher.
    On the other hand, the D810-sensor is quite old now – let’s see how 5DS compares to A7Rii !

    • Christian Wilde

      Exactly. The camera the 5DS should really be compared to is the A7RII. Until then these comparisons are pretty much moot.

  • Nobody Knows

    The major disadvantage of Canon sensors for me including this one is the base ISO shadow noise look at a direct comparison with both samples having their shadows pushed to the max { obviously to show the difference }

    • Yawn

      Not exactly science, I only see two ugly pictures with no descriptions attached.

  • Wade Marks

    Great post by Northrup. Since when did DxO become the god that gets to judge all cameras? Since when did this one area of low ISO DR become the be all to end all?

    Bottom line is this: the Canon 5ds/r is a great camera, no matter what some rather arcane measurements show.

    This reminds me of when I was growing up and there was a thriving market for hifi equipment, long before the days of mp3’s and such. You had companies trying to outdo each other on specs, such as which produced the best frequency response of the sound at frequencies that the human ear couldn’t even hear. Many tech writers would obsess over this data, but the best would simply say to go have a listen and see which equipment…speakers, turntable, tape deck, etc…works for you. The best in the audio industry would always say that it comes down to the sound you hear, and that numbers don’t always tell the entire story. Sometimes the speaker with more modest specs sounded better than the speaker with technically better specs.

    I think we’ve long since entered this territory with camera equipment, where most cameras from the major brands are simply great and can get the job done. Lens selection and personal choice of ergonomics becomes far more important.

  • Athanasius Kirchner

    Exaggeration much? The chosen points are questionable, to say the least. DR is not the be-all end-all, but 50 MPix aren’t such a tremendous advantage over 36, either.
    Also, the camera is still one overfed pig that doesn’t accept all lenses known to man. And doesn’t have Nikon’s flash system, or the possibility of an EVF. So, all in all, not THAT useable.

    • Wade Marks

      Every reviewer chooses their talking points.

      50 MP is still a noticeable advantage over 36.

      As to the camera being an “overfed pig”…which I assume you mean too large…to me the size is right…not too big or too small. I prefer a body the size of the 5d over a Sony A7 series if I am going to use telephoto lenses. The Sony bodies are too small for larger lenses. That’s part of the problem that Sony has: you can’t cheat the physics of a FF lens; if it’s going to have any appreciable focal length it will be big and feel unbalanced on the smaller body.

      Finally, I’ll take an OVF over an EVF any day…just a better image, no lag time, and of course battery life with an EVF sucks.

      • OVF vs EVF is just a personal choice. I used OVF for years and I loved it before I met EVF one day. The freedom of seing what you are shooting.. this changes everything. Being able to see every single adjustment overlayed properly is another advantage of EVF. Battery life is not also an issue because the batteries of Sony are so small that you can forget 3 of them in your pocket, and depending on the occasion, one battery lasts 700 to 1.000 shots most of the time. If you are using large lenses that would make small Sony body unbalanced, I guess these lenses should be 300 / 400 / 500mm, where most of these lenses are used with a monopod or tripod most of the time. Now think about this. You’ll be using the very same Canon lens on a small Sony, and the lens attached to a mono/tripod. Everything would be in balance, don’t you think?

  • Achim Pancke

    As an engineer, data count more than the opinions of other people.

    • Miguel M

      It wouldn’t be the first time some thing worked perfectly on paper/simulations but didn’t do as expected in real situations… You should know that as an engineer

      • Achim Pancke

        DXO is the Final Test and the Sensor is not good.

        • Guest

          Yawn. And who said that? Don’t bother answering, I don’t really care.

  • Lee

    Sorry, no, Northrup’s / your premise is just as misleading as DXO’s headline.

    Yes, of course, DXO’s scores are misleading for several reasons, including that they don’t take several factors into account.

    HOWEVER, that does not invalidate DXO’s assessment of the factors they do take into account. I don’t like their scores either, but look at their charts. The difference in dynamic range and noise between the Canon and Sony sensors, and the lack of improvement in those areas compared to the 5D3, are undeniable facts.

    You’re welcome to the opinion that more megapixels but less dynamic range balances out to “greater overall IQ,” but that is just an opinion. And keep in mind that anyone promoting that opinion and reigniting the megapixel war is giving CaNikon a way to keep, as they’ve done for at least ~5 years, iterating / re-selling the same camera (I call the 5Ds the 5D3.5) over and over without really trying anything new or really improving anything or spending one dollar on R&D. Sony may still have terrible judgement about ergonomics and usability and still be behind in AF and some other areas, but at the rate they’re improving while CaNikon does absolutely bumfuck nothing, they’re going to pull ahead much sooner than you think.

    • Wade Marks

      Canon and Nikon have hardly been releasing the same camera for the last 5 years.

      Let’s start with Canon. Their 5d3 is a whole different camera than the 5d2, with a far superior AF system, weathersealing, etc. Anyone who has used both would agree. And BTW, the 5d3 is an amazing camera.

      As for Nikon, they’ve had the fantastic D700, followed by the very different yet still great D800 series (now the D810), and of course the D750, which is again a big step up from the D700.

      And those are only a few of their models, not the entire lineup.

      You admit that Sony has terrible ergonomics and usability, and is behind in AF…but that makes up a huge part of what a camera is all about. That cannot be dismissed.

      I have news for you: any camera with poor ergonomics and lacking in superior AF will never challenge Canon or Nikon. Most Canon and Nikon shooters are very satisfied and not looking to switch. It would take something very dramatic and disruptive to achieve that, and something that was the total package. So far Sony hasn’t come close and the sales figures reflect that.

      • Lee

        Yes, I understand CaNikon have iterated slightly on their AF modules and such. Obviously I wasn’t saying it’s LITERALLY the same camera. But they haven’t had a new idea pretty much since they went full frame 35mm. They won’t even use existing ideas the market wants. Those sales you’re hemorraging at the low end? All you had to do was add an “upload to Facebook” button. And where’s the EVF that fits into the hotshoe? How about upgrading the rear LCD, which you haven’t changed at all since in 2-3 generations, to “retina” level. Where’s the IBIS since only certain lenses have VR/IS? Hell, how about an A7 competitor that bests them in the ergonomic and AF areas the A7 is weak on?

        And yes, I am not disputing that Sony is not currently viable. But they’re gaining fast. There’s about 895032850932x more difference between the A7r and the A7r II than there is between the D700 and D750. Partly you can dismiss that to “the D700 had far less that needed improving than the A7r,” but not entirely, and not considering.

  • Nope

    DXO do not explain anywhere how to reproduce their measurements; all I could see was their mediocre software and some funny charts. Sony shills and non-photographing geeks love that stuff, but anyone with above-gorilla iq should know better :)

  • Karli

    Very funny how Canon Fan’s talk oneself into beliefing it that the bad test results compared to Sony is just wrong or at least not important. But have a look at all the people out there who already switched to Sony. You (or Tony) should show a bit more boldness and admit defeat…

  • Asmund Mæland

    I believe these cameras (5Dsr and A7r ii) have (slightly) different usages. First, I have invested heavily in Canon (both lenses and houses). For action photography, Canon serves good (I have the 1Dx). The problem is if one travel around the world and want to have a smaller package, and if you shoot video. I got feed up with Canon video (on the 5D3) and tried out A7s which is excellent. Last trip I went to (Peru), I was called into security for extra checking due to the big package (it went ok). There was also people that tried to steel – however I sensed the situation and got out of it. (Street photography). So what do you do ? Obviously, smaller equipment that do not compromise picture and video quality is a good direction. Therefor I will test the A7r ii and hopefully get excellent pictures and video quality. On the other hand, if you move by car – move a short distance to your shooting event (sport), canon will do a nice job, and be compatible with all my canon lenses. For those who have not “discover” the joy of video, I see them more satisfied with Canon, video guys are much more in love with Sony. The good thing about A7r ii, it will most likely deliver excellent pictures also. But lets face it, you have to invest in some FE glass to get the smaller package and all Sony AF features.

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