The Six Reasons why I bought a 5dsr for landscape photography in 2020

Yes – I get it. It’s a 5 year old camera body model. Isn’t that well into obsolescence territory by now, especially with the recent release of the Canon R5? No! Maybe I’m eating my own words a bit after writing about how I wondered if 45+ megapixels is really necessary, but I must say, doing the direct comparison results has changed my opinion. Here are the reasons that led me to acquire this megapixel monster despite owning the three year newer Canon R and other new high tech models on the market.

It’s still the highest resolution Canon full frame camera.

Yes, even with the newly released R5, the 5DSR remains unbeaten when it comes to raw # of megapixels. There’s been arguments made online that the newer sensor of the R5 resolves more detail than the 5DSR, but I have a hunch that comes down more to lens selection than anything. I’d love to try a comparison between the two, but right now the R5 supply constraints make this a likely impossibility.

Below is a direct comparison (using the exact same 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens) between my EOS R and 5DSR. I kept the exact same tripod setup and lighting, and also matched the same focal length and f/8 aperture. Just look at that extra detail in the 5DSR (no, I did not miss focus…), as well as the image size increase when compared at 1:1 resolution:

This goofy face shows the power of the full 50.6 megapixels with no aliasing filter. I also mirrored the exact same Lightroom settings, with no differences in either clarity or sharpening applied. The color cast difference was unexpected, as both have the same white balance and temperature/tint settings. I am impresses with the better color grades present in the final 5DSR images, where some of the transition zones in the R image are a bit abrupt & harsh. Then again, this is looking at 100% magnification… but the difference will be evident in 20×30″ prints.

There’s no question which would produce a better print! I’m really excited to have this in my bag for days when I really need the utmost medium format level of detail for high end final prints. That said, it does take extra care to really dial in focus and tripod stability to prevent any detail smearing due to camera shake, so I fully expect the R will remain my “1A” camera. It’s just easier to focus, can be more easily hand held, and takes up less space – both physically in my bag and digitally with smaller file sizes. Although, I will certainly be reaching for the 5DSR when the situation calls for it!

It’s compatible with all of my Canon lenses.

Now this is a big one. Even though it’s possible to adapt lenses to other bodies like the Sony A7RIII, I’m not a fan of adapted lenses. I’ve had trouble before using 3rd party lenses on my old Canon 80D where some priceless photos were ruined due to poor focus. While it’s true that as a landscape photographer, I can take the time to set up my tripod and focus manually, sometimes the light is fleeting or I am trying to capture a candid portrait, where autofocus is critical. I’ll always prefer to stay in-brand.

Also, since the 5DSR and my R with adapter both take EF lenses, I’m able to use my same trusty stable of lenses interchangeably between the two bodies. I can easily go on a hike and take the 5DSR, R, 16-35mm, 24-70mm, and 70-200/100-400 and have every scenario covered.

I paid less than 25% of what it cost new just a few years ago.

I had always been considering this as my main camera, but when I first really “upgraded” to a higher end Canon a few years ago, I just could not even begin to justify the $3899 price tag associated with a new 5DSR. They were wildly popular too, so the second hand market did not exist. I decided to go for the 6D Mark II at $1299, which I then sold for a refurbished R at $1549. This is a terrific camera that met all of my expectations for less than half the cost.

Then the industry shifted in 2020. Along came the Canon R5…. a 45 megapixel beast that elevated the R line into the stratosphere, along with the price. When this new camera came along, 5DSR’s started popping up in the used market as people parted with the older tech in favor of the new tech. I saw a ton of models appearing in the $1600 – $1800 range, which led me to start monitoring for a used model, but not jump. That was still a lot of money, more than I spent for a new R. And, most of these models had shutter counts approaching 75,000 or more.

Then one day, I saw a new model for $1300. I thought long and hard, and was extremely tempted. Thinking that once more R5’s hit the market (or even the rumored R5s), the price might even drop to $1100 or so. That never happened… quite the opposite actually. Once the official prices dropped to $1500 online, they all got bought up again, sending used models back into the $1600 range.

Then I got the alert. A used model with just 5,000 shutter actuations for under $1000. Bought immediately. If it doesn’t end up being enough of an improvement then I will just put it right back on eBay.

The dynamic range is good enough for me.

There’s definitely a lot of squawking online about Canon cameras and their dynamic range. DXOMark has the 5DSR listed at 12.5 stops of range, compared to the 13.8 stops of the Canon R. I definitely will prefer the R in extremely challenging lighting, but as you can see below, the lifted shadows and detail in the rock look to have excellently maintained clarity when lifted:

Even in cases where the lighting is a bit rough, it is easy enough to do a +/- 1.5 stop bracket to end up with a 15.5 range end image. This easily outclasses the best cameras in the industry, and with my static subjects, this is plenty. If you shoot wildlife or sports, I totally get investing in a body with native 15 stop range, but I think anything in the 12.5-13.5 is fine.

It has tank-like weather sealing.

Where I am fortunate enough to live, San Diego, CA, the weather is nearly always mild with no to minimal precipitation. What is great for beachgoers, is great for cameras! However, many of my other favorite places have much more hostile conditions… The Canon R is stated to be fully weather sealed, however my Canon M50 (for video work is not). And even with the stated performance of the R, I question whether the flip screen and increased electronics in the viewfinder would not somehow be susceptible to moisture and dust.

The 5DSR though, does not have the flip screen or electronic viewfinder. The buttons also seem much hardier, and the sealed joystick will certainly work better than the Canon R Touch Bar and touch screen in inclement weather. When paired with my weather sealed L lenses, I know that the 5DSR will be incredibly resilient when I need it to be. This will be very important when I start venturing to less mild locations!

Dual card slots as a failure backup for peace of mind.

The last item that I originally did not value as highly as I do today is the dual card slots in the 5DSR. I’ve never had a card fail at any point for any reason, however I can’t help but imagine making a once in a lifetime trip to Patagonia or Iceland. Those photos would be so incredibly valuable, and even the thought of a card failure would be devastating. Therefore, having this backup in place gives me a peace of mind that I never knew I’d need but am so thankful for today! I can confidently say that ALL of my photos taken in places where it falls under the “rare” to “once in a lifetime” category will be taken on the 5DSR.

So that’s my reasoning for picking up this megapixel monster even in 2020. Yes, the tech may be a bit dated and the image performance isn’t 100% on par with the newest releases by competing manufacturers, but I am 100% satisfied with my decision. Also, by purchasing every piece of gear I’ve ever bought either used or open box, I’ve totaled less than had I bought the 5DSR and Canon Trinity new. If you’d like to see my in the field review and comparison of the 5DSR vs. R, be sure to check out my YouTube video below! Please subscribe if you find it valuable so you can stay in touch and see all the future outings I pursue with this new medium format like DSLR!

Happy trails,

Brian

13 Comments on “The Six Reasons why I bought a 5dsr for landscape photography in 2020

  1. Pingback: Is 45+ Megapixels really necessary? – B. Beatty Photography

    • Thanks Marc. For a long time I thought it wasn’t a great choice, but ended up changing my mind with the dramatic price drop this year. Looking forward to enjoying it!

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  2. That’s in my opinion one of the best cameras from Canon. I love my and I’m not planning on upgrading it anytime soon. Plus, the new price tag makes it a real bargain.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the inspiration. I just purchased one of the last new ones from a place in New Jersey. They informed me that it was one of the last ones they had in stock, and they’re not able to get anymore because Canon stopped making them.

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    • Thanks Kelly! I’m glad you grabbed one as well. When I heard they were discontinued I was on the hunt. They are still exceptional cameras and likely won’t be around much longer!

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  5. Pingback: Final gear change in my landscape kit for 2021 – B. Beatty Photography

  6. Your assessments are spot on, Brian, and nice work! I recently slipped and my beloved 5DsR crashed to the ground then tumbled off a bridge into a river. “Devastated” isn’t enough of a word to say how that felt. The 5DsR is special, indeed. I’m fortunate that a friend literally just got an R5 so agreed to sell me his mint 5DsR. However, after less than a week, I think he now misses it as he asked if I’d consider selling it back to him. Maybe the R5 isn’t ready for the flagship crown yet?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh no!! I’m so sorry that happened. I don’t know what I’d do if mine took a bath, so much so that I just bought a much sturdier (and expensive) tripod to ensure it is as safe as possible. The R5 looks stunning for sure, but there’s just something magic about the 5DSR. Glad to hear you quickly got a replacement. I’d hold tight if you can keep your friend focused on the new R5!

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