Canon 5DS-R DxOMark Scores: Why you Shouldn’t Care

DxOMark published their objective measurements of our favorite camera in the world, the Canon 5DS-R. As usual, the media has taken the (largely meaningless) “Overall Score” measurement and used that to rank the camera. Here’s a headline from a page I like, SonyAlphaRumors:

Based on those numbers, the 5DS seems to be about 10% worse than its competitors… but it’s not that simple. Here’s a summary of what we found in our reviews and our previous experiences:

  • The overall image quality is noticeably better than the D810 or a7R.
  • All images show more detail, whether using sharp, expensive lenses and less expensive zooms.
  • It’s overall a far more usable camera than the a7R, with a vastly superior focusing system.
  • It gets the most out of our Canon lenses, including the Canon 70-200 f2.8 L IS II, which Nikon doesn’t have a decent alternative for.

But we don’t disagree with DxOMark, just the presentation and interpretation of the numbers. We’ve covered most of this before, in the How To Use DxOMark video:

  • DxOMark doesn’t factor in the number of megapixels. Remarkable, right? Megapixels are definitely one of the most important factors in how a sensor performs, and to people wanting sharp and detailed images, it’s the most important factor. That’s why the 12-megapixel a7S has an overall score of 87, but the 50-megapixel 5DS-R has a score of 86.
  • DxOMark doesn’t factor in the negative effects of an anti-aliasing filter. The 5DS-R is sharper than the 5DS because it cancels the anti-aliasing effects, but DxOMark doesn’t factor this in, so it actually gives the 5DS a slightly higher score (87) than the 5DS-R (86). This would lead consumers to wrongly believe that the 5DS has a better sensor, when most people will be happier with the sharper 5DS-R.

Both these factors are considered when DxOMark publishes their lens sharpness measurements with this camera, but they haven’t yet–but nobody in the media has mentioned that we have incomplete data and should wait until they finish measuring.

I don’t mean to imply that the 5DS-R is better than the D810 in every scenario. The D810’s ISO 64 makes noticeably cleaner images for landscape and studio photographers, and if you have to recover shadows, the D810’s recovered shadows are cleaner. You can create HDR-style images from a single frame from the D810; it’s amazing.

Here’s DxOMark’s noise chart. Notice that the orange and red dots mostly overlap, but that left-most red dot is just for the D810. The D810 supports ISO 64, but the 5DS-R does not, so when you have enough light (or you’re using a tripod), the Nikon gives cleaner images:

Here’s the chart showing the dynamic range. Notice that the orange 5DS-R is FAR below the D810, until about ISO 800. Note that dynamic range only impacts your picture if you raise the exposure in your photo in post-processing, or if you raise the shadows. So, from ISO 64 to ISO 400, the Nikon images will handle those specific post-processing tasks better than the Canon. You won’t notice much difference at ISO 800 and above, however.

Here’s our most important finding: after post-processing, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between the D810 and 5DS-R. The extra detail lets you crank up the noise reduction on the 5DS-R, allowing it to give similar shadow noise and detail as the D810, eliminating the benefits of the D810’s lower noise and better dynamic range. On the D810, add a bit of sharpness, and we couldn’t tell the difference in our blind tests, even though sharpness doesn’t truly add detail.

So, how do you pick between the 5DS-R and the D810? Pick the Canon or Nikon lens system first, then get the body that matches. Glass is generally more important. Then, stop looking at charts at start shooting.



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44 Responses to Canon 5DS-R DxOMark Scores: Why you Shouldn’t Care

  1. Maarten July 13, 2015 at 2:17 pm #

    Hi Tony,

    Thanks for yet again a good and clear post.

    The upcoming Sony A7R II rumoured to be able to combine the quality of a Sony sensor with canon glass, whilst maintaining functional AF with the use of a metabones adapter.
    For me the low-iso dynamic range of the Sony sensors combined with canon glass (I am currently shooting canon APS-C, with a few EF lenses) is a very interesting one.

    I do wonder how the metabones would affect image quality, as adding an extra element increases the chance of misalignment. What are your thoughts on this ‘tradeoff’ and do you expect the A7R II to be a serious threat for Canon’s sales?

    Thank you!

    • John July 13, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

      The metabones EF to FE mount does not have any elements in it

    • mm
      Tony Northrup July 14, 2015 at 11:47 am #

      The focusing of the a7R II definitely won’t be the same–at least with the beta versions, you can’t select the autofocus point while using adapted lenses…

      Let that sink in. During a portrait, the camera might decide to focus on the nose or ear, and not the near eye, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

      Without being able to select the focusing point, adapted lenses are good only for the most casual snapshots or when manual focusing.

      • RTI July 15, 2015 at 7:26 am #

        That is true only for continous focusing. in AF-S you can select your focus points.

  2. Zhou Ye July 13, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    great review, choose nikon or canon become even harder now, they are getting so close. but i will get the d810 because simply it is cheaper.

  3. Roger July 13, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

    I’m loving my 5DSr. It’s amazing. I know you talk about it but I don’t think you can appreciate how painful it is to use SONY full frame mirrorless. Accessories and lenses for SONY are not at the same level as Canon. I tried (VERY HARD) switching to SONY a7r and a7II. I spent most of my time trying to figure out strobe options and other technical issues. I want to shoot, not spend all my time resolving technical issues. So I’m back to using Canon cameras and happily lugging them around (yes they are heavy) but they get the job done ALWAYS.

    • mm
      Tony Northrup July 13, 2015 at 4:40 pm #

      Roger, we use the a7S as our primary video camera, and I use the a7 II for much of my casual photography. To those of us accustomed to the Canon & Nikon lineups, the lens selection absolutely blows.

      So, I’m just agreeing with you.

      I’ll say that for video, we’re always manually focusing, so we regularly adapt Canon & Nikon lenses. When I use the a7 II for my casual photography it’s because I want full-frame image quality but I don’t mind using adapted lenses and manually focusing… so I wouldn’t use it for a soccer game, but I’d use it when walking around a city.

  4. Kevin DiOssi July 13, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

    Incredible review. Sadly, there are too many out there who allow the DxO scores to control their life and mock those who use Canon. Your observation and assessment on the Canon lens lineup versus other brands -especially Sony- is spot on. I’ve used Canon for about 12 years and I haven’t looked back. Now, thay said, I’ve looked to the sides, but never regretted my decision to stick with Canon for its lenses. The 70-200, 100-400, 300, 400, 135, 24-70, 85, accessories for studio support, etc…nothing rivals that for workflow in the professional atmosphere.

    I’ve considered the A7RII as my next purchase, but am waiting on the 1DXII, 5D4, and 6D2 before I abandon ship and try to incorporate mirrorless into my work. For now, it couldn’t handle all of it. It could certainly make some of it better and/or easier. It still doesn’t solve problems I don’t have I guess…?

    The 5DSR will be tried out in the coming months, but a more practical 24-32mp camera would be ideal since I’m not doing as much magazine work these days…all of which was handled quite well by 18-22mp. Haha

  5. Hadrian July 14, 2015 at 2:42 am #

    As quoted from Neuro on CanonRumors:

    “Any individual or organization that doesn’t publish their full methodology, that defends erroneous data and then silently corrects it months later, is conducting bad science. The problem isn’t that DxO is doing these things – companies do that and much worse all the time. The problem is that DxO promote themselves as being, “…known and respected for [their] deep knowledge on the science of image processing,” and even used ‘image science’ as part of their logo – and their science is…bad.”

    DxO is garbage. DxO does not disclose their methods for deriving their scores, which makes their scores completely meaningless. They’ve also been caught many times with their pants down when they’ve silently change data — i.e., when they originally claimed the first Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS was sharper than the second version, which it most definitely is not. Months later they changed their score for the lens.

    • mm
      Tony Northrup July 14, 2015 at 11:44 am #

      I often see people making this complaint, yet DxOMark provides PAINFULLY detailed information about their testing processes:

      Go through their site–did you never look for that info, or is there something missing?

      For the record, I don’t think finding a single mis-measurement discredits their entire operation. Especially if they went through the trouble to correct it (as you mention with the 70-200 measurement, which I know nothing about and have no evidence of), that seems like the best case scenario. Nobody who deals with that many real-world measurements is going to be perfect.

  6. Hadrian July 14, 2015 at 2:46 am #

    Tony, and for those who are interested, here is an excellent thread on CanonRumors that goes into quite some detail as to why DxO shouldn’t be given the time of day.

    • mm
      Tony Northrup July 14, 2015 at 11:57 am #

      I took a look at that, and didn’t see any reason not to use their measurements. Many of the arguments are non-sensical, and many are very theoretical. But here are a couple of reasons I’ll continue to find their measurements useful:

      1) There’s no other alternative. They’re the only organization doing this type of testing. I really wish there was a good competitor so we could get a second opinion–better yet, multiple competitors with different techniques. But there’s not.

      2) Their data *almost* always agrees with our real-world tests. We’ve tested dozens of cameras and lenses, and afterwards I look at the DxOMark data and think, “That adds up.” Even with this test, where I disagree with how the data is presented, all the measurements are consistent.

      Once, with the 7D Mark II, their measurements didn’t agree with mine… and I took another look and it was my fault–they were right and I was wrong.

      I’m still looking for someone else to test the a7S vs D810 total noise, because I don’t think the a7S deserves its high ISO title–I think the low megapixel count threw off their testing, but I need a tie-breaker.

      • Jonathan Brady July 15, 2015 at 7:42 am #

        I think the point is that the average person couldn’t come up with the “overall score” number that DxO likes to assign to everything. To this point, no one has been able to reverse engineer the formula and replicate the scores by applying the formula, and DxO isn’t sharing it either. For instance, is the total score weighted 33% for each of the 3 scored parameters (ISO, portrait, and landscape)? (No, it’s not) Or is landscape 95% and portrait and ISO are 2.5% each? (No, it’s not) Or something else? Without being able to use their data and come to the same conclusion, their results are a bit mysterious. The most people have been able to conclude is that DR is VERY heavily weighted, perhaps being more than 50% of the overall score. The same general complaint goes for lenses as well.
        Like you, I tend to ignore the overall score and simply utilize the measurements which, are generally very good, despite occasional errors.

      • Chris July 15, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

        Hi Tony,
        What do you think of and They are not as comprehensive (or well-funded I presume) as DXO, but they would seem to provide a usable alternative to DXO. The sites also describe the weightings used to obtain the overall score of a given sensor or lens based on individual measurements.

      • edward hyde September 28, 2017 at 9:38 am #

        Reason 1. is not valid and should be thrown out.

  7. Igor July 14, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    Simply LOL. Sorry. “Megapixels are definitely one of the most important factors in how a sensor performs”. Well, if you really need 50 MPix and have top-notch primes to accomplish the sensor resolution. The “less expensive zooms” can not cope even with 36 MPix. And would you compare IQ-wise a 20 MP P&S to the 20 MP 6D?

    Far superior AF? It is faster. But less accurate which counts when using fast lenses. And you can not magnify the image in the OVF to check critical focus, save for poor lighting. What about the AF tracking? With the A7RII the gap gets smaller even in the AF speed.
    Cool Canon 70-200? Twice less expensive Tamron is nearly the same if you are about the resolution. And now you can use the Canon with the PDAF on the 7RII.

    • mm
      Tony Northrup July 14, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

      Why don’t you watch the videos–our testing determined that higher megapixels get more detail out of ALL lenses. DxOMark’s measurements show this, too. You don’t need a top notch prime.

      Re: the Tamron 70-200 vs Canon, check our review on that. We did find it to be sharper, but (like the Nikon) it has a severe focus breathing problem that prevents it from being a good headshot portrait lens for our style of photography.

      We’ve tested all the latest Sony cameras, and shoot with the a7S and a7 II regularly. Our testing and real-world experience shows that the focusing systems are still far behind the Canon DSLRs, for both speed and accuracy. Check our reviews for examples.

      The mirrorless cameras are FAR better at manual focusing, and that’s how we typically use them.

      Note that the a7R II does not allow you to choose a focusing point when using adapted lenses. Perhaps they’ll fix that in a future firmware update, but for now, that’s a deal-breaker.

      Please be more polite in the future. Saying things like, “Simply LOL. Sorry.” comes across as condescending.

  8. Igor July 14, 2015 at 2:43 pm #

    Re: If a lens resolving 10 MPix on a 36 MPix sensor could (unexpectedly) resolve 11 MPix on a 50 MPix sensor, I would not care.

    How could the contrast-detect AF on the A7S be less accurate than any PDAF? If you are speaking about moving objects you are right. However, in that case Nikon’s AF is no worse and is better for tracking, even on times less expensive models.

    Sorry for my style in the previous post but I hope you can see the reason for my emotions. Saying that Canon is far better than anything and not giving the opposite examples in in my view unfair if that is polite enough (I am not a natural-speaking English). One more thing: what you mean “overall image quality”? Canon’s DR for instance is narrower, itse high ISO performance is worse.

  9. Igor July 14, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

    In short, I am bored with the “megapixel rage” entering the serious camera market and hope that next Canon FF camera will not be a 100 MPix “5DSS”.

  10. asmundma July 14, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

    Hi, regarding selecting the autofocus point. I do believe this will work, as it works on my A7s with Metabones adapter and a Canon 70-200 2.8 v2 with the current version. By coincident I was able to tried the camera in Oslo a few weeks ago. It worked quite fast for regular use, however I am not sure it will be proper for action sports (with canon lenses)
    This camera will be nice if you shoot both stills and video, and want a light package traveling around. I have started to invest in FE lenses to get the weight down, else one can question the advantages with the A7 series (of course very good sensors though).
    In the coming year, I plan to keep the 1Dx for sports and test A7rII camera for other tasks. I hope to get it July 28-29, will let you know my experience.
    I know Tony claimed the missing autofocus was for the beta version, but see it referred all over internett – more like a a truth. Stay tuned ….

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    Bought an entire array of lenses (6 primes, 2 zooms) in November for the D810. Two of them happened to be the “top in sharpness” in DxOMark. I noticed that a week AFTER my test.
    I took two test shots with the camera with each lens within the same 20 minutes, same cloudy sky, same settings (exactly), tripod, electronic shutter etc. The picture included a large brick wall, and most importantly, gravel, at an angle of 1-2 degrees, distance of 20-30 meters. Perfect for test!
    Since I have four monitors, and didn’t have anything else to do, I tested the pics on the two sharpest ones.
    All pics had about the same sharpness, you could only tell just a tiny bit difference at more than 200% magnification in Photoshop. For prints, identical, different only in contrast, but most importantly, in depth rendition (even with the same focus point).

    Of the 8 lenses, I returned 5 (both zooms, 3 primes). Of the 3 I kept, only one was highly rated in DxOmark (the Zeiss 35). Of the ones I returned, they all have top ratings in DxOmark. The images were so FLAT I could not believe I was testing prime lenses of the semi-pro range. In other shots, you could not tell that a tree is a 3D object with the Nikkor AF-S 70-200 f4 VR, that flat. The lens has functions and buttons and sharpness and speed and AF/VR, but no beauty in the result, it can’t hold a candle to the 180mm Nikkor 2.8 ED Ais in that aspect. That zoom turned also inferior to the Nikkor 80-200 2.8, very noticeable. The VR is the most flat lens I’ve seen in my life. DxOmark rates it very highly. The Tamron 24-70 was also very flat. But I kept it a little longer and re-tested it at 28mm compared with the Zeiss 28mm. Ahmm… a different planet all together. I tested only ONE aspect: depth rendition. The colors I knew were already inconsistent in the zoom, the blue pretty bad to a body of water, kind of “muddy” dull look.
    Of face skin tones, the Zeiss 85mm second to best, the best was Voigtlander 58mm under the worst conditions (indoors, low light, handheld, auto ISO – face skin tones exactly as my eyes saw it in all shots from all angles). The Voigtlander is the only lens I have tried that needs zero processing. Print your portrait right out of the camera.

    But the flat lenses had to go. my old Canon T6s with the stock lens made slightly more pleasant pics. Pleasant as in “depth and color rendition”, a major factor in how interesting and pretty a photograph is (3D faces with noses, tree branches separated, etc). Who cares about “ultra-sharpness” if the pic is yet another “impressive but boring shot” which never leaves the computer. Who cares about another super-compressed portrait without a nose!

    After that, I only use DxO mark ONLY “at the end”. I first check all other factors. If two lenses are identical in color and depth rendition and pleasantness and realism (or, in the case of the Zeiss 28, surrealism), then it’s a tie, and then I would let DxOmark decide. Only when it’s a tie in everything else. Most of photography is art – DxOmark should be doing tests for microscopes instead. There are lenses that are not extra-sharp, they heve vignetting, some color aberration etc, but they are also charming, beautiful, deep, interesting, alluring. It’s what makes photography interesting, otherwise we should all shoot just 4K video instead.

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