Canon’s Two New 50+ Megapixel Camera Bodies: You Must Read This Before You Buy « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Canon’s Two New 50+ Megapixel Camera Bodies: You Must Read This Before You Buy

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Canon’s Two New 50+ Megapixel Camera Bodies

Many of you have read about the two new Canon 50+ megapixel bodies, the Canon EOS 5DS DSLR and the Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR. The two cameras look, sound, and pretty much are quite similar. I have withheld commenting until now because I did not have a good–heck, I did not have any–understanding of the single difference between the two bodies, that being the Low-Pass Filter Effect Cancellation.

From the 5DS R Overview

Low-Pass Filter Effect Cancellation

Low-pass filter effect cancellation takes full advantage of the 50.6MP sensor, delivering greater detail and even higher resolution images than those of the 5DS.

As that is the elephant in the closet and because I was unable to find anything definitive anywhere online, I wrote the always brilliant Rudy Winston. Below I share his e-mail with you. My brief comments follow.

By e-mail from Canon’s Rudy Winston:

Hi Artie,

The basics are as follows…

1. Canon’s engineers believe strongly that a low-pass filter is an important aid, IN GENERAL, to image quality with digital SLRs. We’ve had one in-place immediately in front of the image sensor on all previous EOS D-SLRs to date.

2. Low-pass filters basically attack problems with false colors and especially occasional moire patterns that can arise when fine, repeating patterns (think of the weave in some fabrics, for instance) begin to line-up with and approach the size/frequency of the patterns of pixels on an image sensor. Low-pass filters work by spreading the incoming light by the width of approximately ONE PIXEL horizontally (left and right), and a second low-pass filter layer does the same vertically, splitting it up and down.

3. This scattering of light in effect produces a slight blurring effect (usually easy to correct with slight Unsharp Mask-type sharpening in the computer, after the fact, or judicious use of the in-camera sharpening via Picture Style control). But the by-product is far less tendency to give psychedelic-looking moire patterns with certain subjects, in certain conditions (and of course, you never see these moire patterns in the viewfinder, before the fact).

(Note: To learn more about moiré and see two good example photos, click here. Moiré is rarely a problem for nature photographers. There are many pronunciations: “mwahr” is the most common and the most widely accepted.)

4. The filter array that includes the two different low-pass filters mentioned above is a part of the optical system, even though it’s sandwiched right up against the front of the imaging sensor. The total filter array includes at least one layer of IR-absorbing glass, a dichroic mirror layer to reflect infrared and UV illumination, and what they call a phase plate, which changes the polarization of incoming light into circular polarization. In other words, it’s a pretty sophisticated optical sandwich, even though to the naked eye it appears as a super-thin layer of glass in front of the sensor.

5. All that said, it is true that if we were to remove the low-pass filter component, in theory, we’d have the potential of greater initial, out-of-the-camera sharpness in many situations. And, it’s definitely true that the moire pattern risk mentioned above won’t occur in the majority of images, unless you were shooting things like fabrics or products with very fine, repeating line patterns on a regular basis. (For the type of bird imaging you normally do, or most landscape applications, I’d guess the risk of moire is pretty much nil most of the time.)

6. As a parenthetical note, these moire patterns, IF they do occur, can usually be moderated or even eliminated in some cases with various image-editing techniques… Photoshop gurus have a multitude of them, and some RAW file processing software now contains anti-moire tools for these occasions. Still, it’s an extra step — sometimes a fairly sophisticated set of them — to reduce or remove moire completely from an image, if it does occur.

7. Because the afore-mentioned low-pass filter array is a part of the optical path, you can’t just remove it — you’d change the effective length of the optical axis, and have to re-design the entire camera body slightly, including the AF system’s optical path, to accommodate such a change. Since Canon made the strategic decision to offer TWO high-resolution cameras, a different technique was needed to achieve removal of the low-pass filter effect, without upsetting the optical system within the camera body. And, without the expense of (in effect) having to design an entirely new camera from scratch, with slightly altered internal dimensions.

8. All that said, here’s what Canon has done: they need two low-pass filter layers in-place to preserve the same optical length within the body. The traditional EOS 5DS of course does just that, with Canon’s typical low-pass filter approach. With the EOS 5DS R, they also have two low-pass filter layers in-place. The first scatters the incoming light by spreading it vertically, similarly to how it’s done in the standard 5DS camera. But the next low-pass filter layer bends the incoming light VERTICALLY again, in the reverse direction — back to ONE single ray path, so the scattered light is effectively “un-scattered” and re-focused into a single optical beam. Thus, the low-pass filter effect is “cancelled.”

9. The result of this cancellation of the low-pass filter effect in the EOS 5DS R is a slight — but noticeable, in many instances — increase in the overall contrast and sharpness of fine detail, lines, and texture in subjects. Canon is clear that photographers need to understand that a by-product of this is a risk of moire patterns appearing occasionally, and that it’s up to the shooter to work with post-processing to limit this effect if and when it happens. But I have no doubt that there would be a bit more detail and texture in things like feather detail in birds, for example. I don’t want to over-state the improvement in sharpness in the EOS 5DS R vs. the standard 5DS model… you can see it when you start magnifying images and look for it, but it’s not an “in-your-face” type of obvious difference that my Mom would immediately spot when viewing on-screen at 100%.

10. Bottom line: we anticipate that the majority of sales of our 50.6 million pixel camera will be the standard 5DS camera, and that in the eyes of most users, the 5DS R will be seen as something of a specialty version. Buy the latter for the right reasons, and it’ll delight you. We just want all potential buyers, and dealer staff, to understand that along with its added initial image sharpness does come a risk of occasional optical imperfections in certain shooting situations. I’ll finish where I started: overall, Canon’s engineers remain very firm that in their opinion, OVERALL digital image quality is enhanced by the use of traditional low-pass filter design in digital SLRs. We’ll let the market be the ultimate judge!

Let me know if you have any other questions, or if any of this is not perfectly clear. Good questions you ask, and it’s up to us here at Canon to make sure every potential customer understands the answers to them! Be well, stay warm!

— Rudy Winston
Canon USA


Thanks a huge stack to Rudy for sharing his almost infinite knowledge of all things Canon with us.

The Overview and the Specs

You can learn all about the Canon EOS 5DS DSLR by clicking here , scrolling down, and then clicking on the Overview tab or on the Specs tab.

You can learn all about the Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR by clicking here, scrolling down, and then clicking on the Overview tab or on the Specs tab.

My Comments

I will not have any idea as to whether I would want either of these bodies for nature photography until I see some RAW files from each one. I can understand that serious landscape folks and those who make large prints as a matter of course are salivating over the thought of getting their hands on whichever of these bodies they deem to be best.

There are some great features that many might love; each features the new 50.6 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor that will deliver ultra-high resolution images for large-scale printing and extensive, creative cropping, fine detail mode in Picture Style (I wonder if Arash will like that….), 1.3x and 1.6x crop shooting (I need to learn a bit more about that and will share what I learn with you here at some point), full HD 30p movie capability, a built-In intervalometer and bulb timer, and lots more.

High-speed continuous shooting at up to 5 fps might leave those accustomed to the blazing frame rates of the 1D X and the 7D Mark II feeling a bit sluggish.

Questions and Your Comments

If you have any knowledge of the two new cameras or of any of the related issues, or any questions on the same topics, please do leave a comment. If you ask a question that I cannot answer perhaps other can chime in. And I will reach out to Rudy or to Chuck Westfall and share what I learn with you here.


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9 comments to Canon’s Two New 50+ Megapixel Camera Bodies: You Must Read This Before You Buy

  • I have seen moire in bird feathers on a few occasions with the 5D Mark III and 300 f/2.8 IS II combination, so I’m a little wary of the R model. I mainly use DxO Optics Pro which introduced a moire tool after the Nikon D800E model came out and it was able to deal with the moire quite well. It seems like a little bit of the vibrance and a tiny bit of the fine detail was lost, but overall it worked well and you can adjust the intensity of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Canon added a tool to DPP as well.

    I’m not sure how much it will affect bird photos, but I have no doubt that Artie and his many fans will help us sort things out pretty quickly once these cameras are launched.

  • Bharat Varma

    Arthur, get your hands on a Sony A7R along with a good quality electronic adapter for Canon lenses. Shoot some images using a good Canon lens on this body. You will need to shoot in good light if you are shooting long focal lengths to get a high enough shutter speed at reasonable iso values so as to avoid shutter shock (that this body is prone to). Use manual focus with magnification in the EVF. AF works but is slow and may not be as accurate.

    If you get the technical parameters right, I think you may be quite impressed with the quality of the images. The lack of a low pass filter does add significantly to the detail that is captured.

  • Gary Axten

    For only $200 more it seems worthwhile. If I had the money for an Eos5 I’d go for the R.

  • Geoff

    I was holding out hope that the crop modes in the rumours would allow higher FPS like they do on Nikon cameras. But in the end, we found out that the crop modes give you nothing but a smaller file size. You can’t use EF-S lenses on the mount and you get no increase in frame rate so basically the crop modes are useless unless you really care about saving some space on the drive. If you always want to have a 1.6 crop then buying the 7D2 would be the better option as it has the same pixel density as the cropped 5DS(R) image.

  • David Policansky

    Thanks, Artie. Yes, that was my understanding of the difference between the -S and the -R. I think Canon did it because Nikon had done it, and my understanding is that Nikon doesn’t do it anymore. But it will be interesting to see. The one thing I DO NOT understand is the crop modes on the 5DS/R. They get you absolutely nothing. What should they get you? The ability to use EF-S lenses and a higher burst speed (maximum frame rate). They give you neither of these. So why are they there? I suspect again because Nikon did it, but Nikon implemented the crop modes properly in the D810–burst speed increases and you can use DX lenses.

  • Bob

    I’m in a wait and see mode on both the 5DS R (I agree unless there is a total surprise this is the model people will buy) and the 11-24 lens. I want to see some hands on reports from nature photographers I trust. Also, I think we are due a more mainstream FF camera like a 5DIV or 1DXI which may prove better for general nature. Also how many bodies can you lug around 1DX for BIF, 7DII for more reach with 200-400, 5DIII for higher ISO scenic/mammals/birds/second body to go with 1DX, and 5DsR for lower iso landscapes…… As to the lens, I am going to need more convincing that I really need wider than the 16-35 (which will accept a polarizer) and that if I do, the 14mm Canon or 15mm Schneider is not the better option. No interest in being an early adopter of either.

  • Alan Lillich


    Rudy’s items 2 and 8 are the core of the matter. This is exactly what Nikon did in the D800 and D800E. Interestingly, with the D810 they only have the no filter version, so I would bet that Rudy is wrong in item 10 about the 5DS R being less popular. I think that the D810 uses a single piece of optical glass instead of the inverted filter halves.

    I am glad Rudy did not go into the “pushing lens resolution” issue. I think that is blown way out of proportion. The 1.6 crop in the 5DS is 19 MP, crop sensor bodies have been at this density for years. More to the point, discipline good enough for a recent crop body should be fine. The 5DS will stress the corners, but the high end teles are good corner to corner. I for one do not mind a little softness in wide corners, it adds depth IMHO.

    Every time I been around someone with. D800E or D810 I have been very impressed with the images out of camera. It will be interesting to see what you say after using a 5DS R.