They might be different cameras in many ways but the Canon 5Ds and Sony a7RII offer the best from each respective manufacture. So let’s put these amazing cameras head to head and see what each has to offer.
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You can download the full resolution files for the best results. All tests were performed using the exact same lenses using an adapter to mount Canon lenses on the Sony a7RII
Every several years we see a monumental leap in technology and in many ways, the Sony a7RII and Canon 5Ds demonstrate that leap. While the Canon 5Ds took the already amazing Canon 5D Mark III and implemented a new high resolution sensor, the Sony A7RII makes a technological leap with 4k video, mirrorless autofocus, as well as a new Backside Illuminated high resolution sensor. So let’s take a look at the Canon 5Ds and Sony A7RII to see how these new features impact usability and quality.
Usability wise, both of these cameras are the best of each respective category. As a longtime Canon 5D Mark III shooter, I felt right at home on the Canon 5Ds and for a good reason…not much has changed. While the overall layout and design of the 5Ds is definitely praise worthy, I can’t help but think Canon could have found something to improve during the last 3 years such as backlit controls or giving me some useful options for customizing that rate button I never use. The Sony a7RII is a completely different beast. Even though I have used the original A7, A7S, and now the A7RII, almost nothing about the controls will carry over. The reason is that almost EVERY button on the A7RII can be completely customized to almost every function available. While that may mean that no two A7RII’s are alike, it does mean that my camera is setup for my personal shooting style with all the functions I need at my fingertips. Unfortunately, while the 5Ds dials and buttons have a reassuring feel to them, some dials on the A7RII felt a bit cheap for a professional camera and a definitely too sensitive. I often found myself accidentally scrolling the control wheel while attempting to change my focus point. I don’t want to harp too much on the bodies as these are very different cameras but obviously there are repercussions from the size/weight differences and you can find out more details from my full Sony A7RII Review. In conducting these tests, it was more apparent to me than ever the limitations of the 5Ds Autofocus system which is one of the best in any DSLR. Having to choose from set points located near the center of the frame was less than ideal for landscape work while the A7RII allowed me to Auto Focus almost anywhere in the frame. Additionally, having a quality Electronic Viewfinder helped me accurately fine tune my exposure while the 5Ds was more difficult with the immobile screen under direct sun glare.
Canon 5Ds Sony a7RII
On the image side of things, both cameras performed extremely well. Banding and noise in the shadows on the Canon 5Ds seems more controlled than I am used to on my Canon 5D Mark III. That said, the Sony A7RII has a bit more room to boost things in post with cleaner results. You will also notice more noise in the Canon 5Ds files but the differences between the 5Ds and A7RII were modest at best. If the noise at 3200 ISO is too much for you on the 5Ds, chances are you will not enjoy 3200 ISO on the A7RII. The A7RII showed a bit more detail when zoomed to 100%, despite the lower resolution sensor. This is likely due to the low pass filter in the 5Ds which is canceled out in the Canon 5DSR. Lightroom also processed the files a bit differently with the 5Ds showing a bit more contrast than the A7RII. Thankfully the Canon 5Ds renders colors beautifully as Canon has a history of doing leaning a bit higher to the reds while the A7RII leans a bit to yellow and green. While skin tones on both cameras looked great, I did find myself toning down the greens & yellow in many of my landscape shots on the A7RII.
Canon 5Ds Sony a7RII
Canon has unfortunately not improved video performance on the 5Ds at all from the 3 year old Canon 5D Mark III and in fact, they have removed some features such as uncompressed HDMI output and a headphone port. Meanwhile the A7RII packs one of the best video cameras around into the A7RII making it the camera to beat for video performance and features. While I understand the Canon 5Ds is not marketed towards videographers, many photographers are shooting video on occasion and the ability to do so at better quality and with better features I believe is a missed opportunity for Canon.
Canon 5Ds Sony a7RII
Both the Canon 5Ds and Sony A7RII are unbelievable cameras after all and these slight differences between them will not change that. While the Canon 5Ds does seem to be a notable improvement in image quality over the 5D Mark III, it is still a step behind the Sony A7RII. Thankfully, Canon is starting with a robust body, an amazingly accurate focus system (despite the mentioned limitations), and an overall package that is reliable, trustworthy, consistent, and dependable. And while many of us crave the latest in technology, customization, and features, those 4 core principles cannot be sacrificed. The Sony A7RII brings what is likely the greatest feature set of any camera to date, yet unfortunately pairs that with quirky oversensitive dials, a complex and unorganized menu system, very little overall consistency, and a focus system that while among the best of any mirrorless camera system, is still not as trustworthy as the 5Ds. In exchange for those quirks, you are rewarded with astonishing image quality, flexible and customizable controls, enough video features to make professional videographers jealous, and even a few notable abilities such as greater AF coverage and flip out screen. You can download the images from this review (including the RAW files) to test these yourself and I also encourage you to check out TheLensDepot.com to rent these before purchasing. While it is easy (I’m certainly guilty myself) to get excited over the Sony A7RII’s laundry list of features and quality as well as the improvements they have made to the status quo, the Canon 5Ds grows on you the more you use it and is a camera that always plays in the pocket, never missing that crucial beat.