Wildlife Photography with the Canon 5DS

September 29, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

A few weeks ago I posted a brief hands on review of the Canon 5DS. Since that review, I have been able to test my 5DS a bit more and see how it fares when used to photograph wildlife.

All up, the 5DS is a fantastic camera for wildlife photography. With a 50.6 megapixel sensor, it produces stunning 73cm native format images. This is brilliant for texture and detail in bird and mammal portraits. Combine this with a prime lens and the sharpness and clarity are stunning.

Working with a medium format image, you also grant yourself a fair degree of leeway in being able to crop while preserving detail. This is something which bird photographers will love. Ergonomically, the 5DS is a pleasure to hold for long periods and it's got the simple, yet effective user interface we have come to expect from Canon. There are also a number of nifty features which my older 5D Mark II doesn't have, the most useful of these being the easy access double exposure and HDR setting buttons and the in built gyro which provides an electronic level on both the display screen and in the viewfinder.

Canon 5DS w/500mm f/4.0L IS USM II Lens

1/640, f/5.6, ISO 400

There are some small trade offs. The 5DS is not a 'fast' camera. You will get a maximum of five frames per second in burst mode. Shooting at the maximum rate, you will need to ensure you have a very fast memory card, as each RAW image is approximately 52 megabytes. The focusing system is good, particularly when matched with the latest Canon prime lenses, but it's not on par with my 1Dx. Fast moving birds test the focusing limits of the camera. I haven't used my 5DS in low light to shoot wildlife yet, but looking at the results at ISO 400, I wouldn't want to push the ISO into the upper limits.

Canon 5DS w/500mm f/4.0L IS USM II Lens

1/1250, f/6.3, ISO 400


My Canon 5D Mark II has been an ever reliable camera. It's also a little unfair to compare it against the 5DS, which is several generations ahead and sits in the medium format category. But Canon have taken the best of the 5D Mark II and produced a stunning and versatile camera in the 5DS. It's the best of both the new and the old. I love what it offers for wildlife photographers. 

My 5D Mark II will stay in my kitbag but the 5DS is brilliant. Sure, digital photography is moving to mirrorless systems, but the trusty DSLR is not dead yet.


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