For the first time ever, Canon has shipped a DSLR without a low-pass filter—the EOS 5DS R—and that same camera just so happens to feature a whopping 51-megapixel full-frame sensor. Can it compete with Nikon’s latest semi-pro DSLR, the D850?
This full-frame camera builds upon the success of its predecessor, improving upon the D810’s performance and challenging Canon’s hold on the market.
It’s Nikon against Canon in this comparison: the D850 vs. the EOS 5DS R.
Nikon D850 Advantages
- Better overall image quality
- Tilting touchscreen
- 92 more focus points (153 vs 61)
- Longer battery life (~1150 more shots)
- Shoots 4K video and 120 fps slow-motion
The Nikon D850 is an absolute workhorse. This semi-professional DLSR features a full-frame 46-megapixel BSI-CMOS sensor that provides fantastic low-light performance.
BSI stands for “backside illumination.” Sensors with this unique designation house the sensor wiring behind the photocathode layer, allowing each pixel to capture even more light.
This alternative construction method proves successful in the D850’s case, since this powerful machine far outpaces its Canon competitor in low-light situations.
In fact, the D850 overwhelms the EOS 5DS in most shooting situations. Its sensor captures a higher dynamic range and deeper color range, while blotting away noise from your images in low-light situations.
It is also loaded down with many additional features that Canon’s model lacks. The D850 is capable of bracketing focus, boasts 92 more autofocus points and 58 more cross-type points, and has built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity.
It can also shoot 4K time-lapses in camera and can even produce 8K versions of your images, although these must be put together manually.
The D850 offers a substantially longer battery life. The difference between its 1840-shot rating and the 5DS’s 700 is quite noticeable for those who frequently take large bursts of photos.
While capturing video or using Live View, the D850 provides on-screen peaking, highlighting what’s in focus to help you line up your shot. It can also shoot 4K footage, encoded in H.264, or up to 120 fps when only recording in 1080p.
In addition to a great range of D850 compatible lenses, the camera’s screen also features touch capability, a tilt-axis, and a higher resolution screen than the 5DS.
When shooting continuously, the D8500 offers a 14-bit RAW buffer of up to 51 shots, or 170 when capturing in 12-bit. This is far better than the 5DS’s 15.
Unlike many more expensive cameras, the D850 will shoot full frame 4K video without any kind of sensor crop.
Nikon D850 Disadvantages
- Underwhelming video capabilities for price
- Focus peaking doesn’t work in 4K
- Slow Live View autofocus
- Loss of detail in very low-light shots
- Short battery life for video
The D850 is an impressively snappy camera, but if you intend to use it to capture video, its luster fades a bit.
The D850 shoots beautiful 4K footage with minimal pixel binning and a great color profile, but despite its price tag and recent release it lacks a useful autofocus offering while in Live View. Any shot that contains a moving subject will basically require the use of manual focus.
Focus peaking is also not an option when shooting 4K footage, making the task of manually focusing that much harder.
A single battery will only grant you 60 to 70 minutes of footage. For comparison, the 5DS is rated for up to an hour and a half.
The D850 also lacks built-in image stabilization, and this omission leaves its video capabilities solidly behind cheaper options from Panasonic or Sony.
Like the 5DS, the D850 lacks a built-in flash of any sort. Removing the pop-up flash can improve weather sealing and is one less fragile part to worry about damaging, but on a sunny day you may miss using it as a quick fill.
On a final note, the D850 scored much lower in low-light conditions than did its predecessor, the D810. Noise is better controlled, but it seems to pay for this advantage with a lack of sharpness at higher ISO stops.
The 5DS had more noticeable noise, but it did not seem to lose quite as much detail.
Canon EOS 5DS R Advantages
- Similar performance
- Higher megapixel count
- Slightly lighter
- Canon UI
The Canon EOS 5DS R is a special version of the 5DS that comes with a canceled anti-aliasing filter. This increases the possible sharpness that you can capture, putting it on par with to the D850, which also lacks an AA filter.
Both of these cameras are more susceptible to moiré, which shows up in repetitive patterns like fabrics and fences as a result of their design—but if you know what to watch for, their increased sharpness lends a deliciously crisp appearance to landscape shots and commercial images.
The 5DS R does perform at a similar level to the D850, offering a measured 24.6 bits of color depth compared to the D8500’s 26.4 and 12.4 Ev stops of dyamic range (compared to 14.8). Its dual DIGIC 6 image processors handle most operations with ease.
It also captures a slightly higher 51 megapixels, compared to the D850’s 46. This difference will go unnoticed unless you are aiming for a tight crop or a large print job, of course.
The 5DS R lacks the extra oomph that the D850 seems to have, but being two years older it is often available for a much lower cost. When that is the case, it provides similar performance while saving you enough to pick up a stunning lens or two.
The 5DS R’s sophisticated onboard auto-exposure system also seemed to nail tough lighting situations more consistently than the D850.
A final point is personally awarded to the 5DS for its ease of use—I have always found Canon’s button and software layouts more intuitive and quicker to navigate. But if you find yourself more comfortable with a Nikon in your hands, then consider this point moot.
Canon EOS 5DS R Disadvantages
- More shutter lag
- No 4K or slow-motion video
- No Dual Pixel AF
- No wireless connectivity
- Small photo buffer
The older 5DS R definitely loses ground to the D8500, which hit stores in late 2017.
As we have noted, its performances is not quite as impressive as the D850’s, but it also tends to be slower overall. This model starts up slower and gets stuck with shutter lag more often than the D850, and its photo buffer is far smaller.
The 5DS lacks any sort of built-in wireless connectivity—you’ll need to purchase a Wi-Fi adapter if you’ve grown to love the remote shooting capabilities that many cameras have begun to offer.
Perhaps as a result of the 5DS sensor’s massive pixel count, this camera does not integrate Canon’s Dual Pixel AF technology. This proves a major blow, as its inclusion would have solidly given it the edge over the D850 when it came to video capabilities.
Instead, the D850 comes out on top, as the 5DS lacks the ability to capture either in 4K or at a higher 120 fps. Neither camera boasts an autofocus feature that could be reliably used when recording a moving subject.
The wider variety of video capture options available on the Nikon D850, along with its greater number of built-in niceties like ultra-high-resolution time-lapses and focus bracketing, make it a more well-rounded choice than the Canon EOS 5DS R. Its slightly better performance is just icing on the cake.
Capturing stills on the D850 feels effortless. This is the kind of camera that will stand by you on countless trips, becoming a familiar weight in your carry-on bag. You’ll never miss a moment.Back to Top