Canon EOS 5Ds vs 5D Mark III – Which One Should You Get?

The long awaited Canon 5DS and it’s sibling the 5Ds R, finally brought high resolution image capture, first available in the Nikon D800, to the Canon lineup. The 5DS sports an incredible 50.6mp sensor capable of rendering eye-watering amounts of detail. In the age of high-resolution sensors, what role does the more traditionally spec’d Canon EOS 5D MkIII play and how does it compare?

Canon EOS 5DSCanon EOS 5D MIII
Megapixels50.6MP (53MP total)22.3MP (23.4MP total)
ProcessorDual DIGIC 6Dual DIGIC 5+
Metering sensor150,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor, 252-zone meteringiFCL metering sensor, 63-zone metering
ISO RangeISO 100-6400 (exp. to ISO 50 and 12,800 equivalents)ISO 100-12800 (exp. to ISO 50 and 102,400 equivalents)
Burst rate5fps6fps
Burst depthUp to 510 JPEGs or 14 Raw files with UDMA cardUp to 16270 JPEGs or 18 Raw files with UDMA card
Image size (max)8688 x 57925760 x 3840
Raw image optionsRAW, M-RAW (28MP), S-RAW (12.4MP)RAW, sRAW1 (10.4MP), sRAW2 (5.5MP)
ViewfinderIntelligent Viewfinder II with AF point illumination in AI ServoIntelligent Viewfinder
AF trackingAI Servo with iTR AF (Intelligent Tracking and Recognition Autofocus)AI Servo
Picture StylesAuto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, Fine Detail, User DefinedAuto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, Fine Detail, User Defined
Live View Manual FocusingImage magnification at 6x or 16x on the screenImage magnification at 5x or 10x on the screen
Custom Functions1613
Custom Quick Control ScreenX
Image Crop mode1.3x (30.5MP) and 1.6x (19.6MP)X
Flicker detectionX
Playback zoom1x – 16x1.5x – 10x
USBUSB 3.0 Hi-SpeedUSB 2.0 Hi-Speed
BatteryLP-E6N (supplied), LP-E6 compatibleLP-E6
Battery LifeUp to 700 imagesUp to 950 images
Weight (body only)Approx. 845gApprox. 950g

Handling and Build Quality

Both the 5DS and the 5D MKIII use the same solid magnesium alloy frame that is clearly built to take the day-to-day knocks of a professional camera. There are some subtle tweaks with the grip on the 5DS to make it a little more ergonomic and a slight weight saving but in the hand they feel very similar. They are both also equipped with Canon’s renowned weatherproofing which makes them subtle for use in more extreme environments.

LCD Screen and Viewfinder

Surprisingly, given the high resolution of the 5DS, Canon has decided to stick with the same fixed 3.2in 1,040k dot resolution rear LCD screen as found on the 5D MKIII. It’s not a bad thing, the screen is clear and sharp, and compares well with it’s competitors, although I wish they had added something with a bit more resolution to really show off the high resolution images.At 50.6mp, any small shake will be visible when pixel peeping

The pentaprism viewfinders within both cameras feel very similar in use but Canon did make a few small tweaks to help reduce vibrations with the mirror mechanism, an important feature when getting pin-sharp, high resolution images is important.

At 50.6mp, any small shake will be visible when pixel peeping.

Image Quality

The obvious change between these two cameras is the new high-resolution 50.6mp sensor found within the 5DS. This dwarfs the 24.2mp sensor of the 5D MKIII and when it comes to resolving high levels of detail at low ISOs there really is no comparison.

This blows out the 5DS’s somewhat surprisingly poor 100-12,800 ISO

The 5D MKIII does have it’s own advantages however. Due to the much smaller pixels in the 5DS (4.14 micron vs 6.25 in the 5D MKIII) the low light ability of the 5D MKIII can not be ignored. The ISO range of the 5D MKIII is a staggering 100-102,400 ISO (Native: 100-12,800 ISO). This blows out the 5DS’s somewhat surprisingly poor 100-12,800 ISO (Native: 100-6400 ISO) range.

AF and Speed

Again, Canon has chosen to keep the cameras very similar in spec. Both cameras come with the same 61-point AF system (41 Cross type points) and offer good tracking ability with moving subjects.

The burst speed of the 5DS has dropped from 6fps on the 5D MKIII to 5fps but given the much higher resolution and file size, this is quite impressive. The upgrade to the DIGIC 6 processor, which allows the newer camera to shoot at 5fps with the massive files size, also offers lower noise in general than the older DIGIC 5 processor of the 5D MKIII. I would expect to see this used on the future models of the 5D, giving even better low light performance.


Neither camera excels when it comes to video features, especially not compared with the newer offerings from Nikon, Sony and Panasonic. Both cameras shoot at a maximum of 1080p 30fps which is okay, but it would have been nice to see Canon offer 1080p 60fps or even 4K shooting which is now becoming a more and more common offering on high end cameras.

So Which One Should You Choose?

Forgetting the sensor difference, both cameras are almost identical in every other way. Ergonomically the changes are extremely minimal and any one familiar with the 5D MKIII will feel right at home with the 5DS.

The main talking point, and likely the deciding factor will come down to your shooting style and subject. The ultimate decision is versatility/low light (5D MKIII) vs high resolution/image quality (5DS).

If the majority of your shooting is in controlled environments with good light (studio, architecture etc) and you have a need for the larger files sizes (commercial work) then the 5DS’s image quality will blow your mind. It truly is as close to medium format you can get without the bigger sensor.

If however, you need low light ability or you are working in fast turnaround and dynamic environments (weddings, travel etc). I think the versatility of the 5D MKIII will win hands down. Any image quality difference between the two soon diminishes once the light gets low and you have to start shooting at high ISOs. The smaller file sizes also make storage and transfers an easier proposition.

Also bear in mind that the rumored 5D MKIV is due for release at some point later on this year and with even better low light and a possibly higher resolution sensor, it might just be the camera you need.