George Lepp
George Lepp

George D. Lepp is one of North America's best-known contemporary outdoor and nature photographers. His passions for natural beauty, technical precision, cutting-edge technology, and environmental responsibility are revealed in his beautiful and compelling photographic images.

Go Big or Go Small with Ultra-High Resolution

September 04, 2015

Join Canon Explorer of Light George Lepp as he explores Silver Falls State Park in Oregon with the EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R cameras. George goes into his experience with the camera and how it compares with what he has shot in the past.  Watch his landscape and macro videos and also download two original full-res RAW and JPG files in the related section below, which were shot by George with the cameras, to see all the rich detail that 50.6 MP has to offer.

Canon Digital Learning Center (CDLC): You’re known for not just great imagery, but for superb large printed output. Until now, what was your go-to camera when you knew your end-goal was a really large print? And with those cameras, what typically was the largest print size (for a single image) you felt comfortable with, from a detail and quality standpoint?

George Lepp (GL): I’ve embraced every new higher-resolution Canon DSLR as it has become available; most recently, I’ve been working with the EOS 5D Mark III. This camera allows excellent enlargements of 30 x 40 inches from a perfect file. The EOS 5DS cameras allow me to achieve the same quality at 40 x 60 inches.

But, as you know, I’m often looking for prints of much greater size; 60 x 120-inch panoramas are not uncommon. To achieve these extreme dimensions, my workflow includes multiple captures in a panorama format with approximately 30% overlap between images. With this technique, I can work at 40 inches tall or wide with the 5D Mark III, and 60 inches with the 5DS, for as long as I keep taking images. To increase image size even further, I sometimes capture composite panoramas with multiple rows of images using a tool from Really Right Stuff or the GigaPan. In this manner I can make prints that are only restricted by the size of the printer or the display material. Just imagine the possibilities with the 5DS!


CDLC: What are some of the scenes, situations and subjects up to now where you’ve had a chance to use either the EOS 5DS, or 5DS R?

GL: Using both cameras I’ve photographed landscapes, models, and macro subjects in the desert (Valley of Fire State Park) near Las Vegas, Nevada; landscapes of waterfalls at Silver Falls State Park, in Oregon; aerials from a fixed-wing aircraft over the Cascade Mountains in central Oregon; detail portraits and flight shots of raptors at the High Desert Museum near Bend, Oregon; landscapes and rock climbers at Smith Rock State Park in Oregon; and a multitude of flowers and insects at the Oregon Gardens near Silverton, Oregon. I’ve also put the cameras through their paces in my studio, capturing high-magnification images to 10X using focus-stacking techniques.

Stacked Fern Image

CDLC: Tell us about your reaction the first time you had a chance to work with an EOS 5DS (or 5DS R) file. What were some of the nuances you spotted right away?

GL: The first time I used the EOS 5DS R at Valley of Fire in Nevada, we were working with a female model positioned on a dramatic rock formation. In what we wildlife photographers would call an “environmental shot,” the model’s face occupied only about 1% of the frame. But when I viewed the image at 16X on the camera’s LCD, I was stunned to see that even with the extreme crop, every detail of her face was completely clear on the screen. I knew at that moment that this camera was going to be a powerful tool for my photography.


CDLC: For the critical landscape shooter, do you think there’s enough detail and quality difference with these 50 million pixel cameras vs. previous full-frame EOS models that you’d recommend them to almost any such photographer?

GL: If the landscape photographer has a need for (or an obsession with) capturing fine detail, wants to make large, high-quality prints and/or the creative option of cropping the image in post-processing, the 50MP sensor is very important. These cameras can replace the medium- and even large-format film bodies that were the tools of choice just a few years ago for serious landscape photographers, and even the expensive DSL medium-formats available today. With the 5DS and 5DS R we have affordable replacements of commensurate quality to those formats, but with much greater versatility in lenses and accessories. If you need these capabilities, you need these cameras.

Waterfall Landscape Image

CDLC: Landscape and studio/commercial applications are two that most people think of right away for the EOS 5DS cameras. Now that you’ve had a chance to work with them, can you see using them in less-traditional applications? Even things like action images, birds in flight, and so on?

GL: While the high-resolution capabilities of the 5DS cameras argue for use in stable, controlled conditions, I was pleasantly surprised at their performance in hand-held pursuits, even with longer lenses, for subjects such as birds in flight and aerials. With the birds, the autofocus performed extremely well, and the larger format gave me the advantage of cropping to improve composition. However, in completely controlled settings in my studio, I’ve been working at high magnification with the intent of extracting all the sharpness that can be achieved with the optics. The sensors of previous cameras were incapable of recording all the information that the MP-E 65mm and 100mm macro lenses were able to deliver. With the EOS 5DS R it is all there.

 Macro Images

CDLC: What lenses did you work with during your time with the EOS 5DS and 5DS R cameras? Any initial observations about how they performed, when teamed with these high-resolution cameras?

GL: I have used nearly every class of Canon lenses while testing the EOS 5DS and 5DS R cameras: the 15mm fisheye, 11-24mm wide-angle, 24-70mm MK II, 24-105mm, 100mm macro, 65mm MP-E macro, 180mm macro, 100-400mm MK II, 500mm f/4, and 800mm f/5.6. Some lenses, such as the 100-400mm, 500mm, and 800mm, were also tested with EF 1.4X MK III and EF 2X MK III tele-extenders. I was pleased to note that every lens I used performed well and at a higher level with the 5DS and 5DS R bodies than when attached to the EOS 5D MK III. The extra resolution truly makes a difference, and it’s clearly seen when enlarged in the computer. Even lenses such as the 24-105mm f/4L — a kit lens for the EOS 5D MK III — performed extremely well. I used it for my aerials because it has image stabilization, which the 24-70mm f/2.8L Mark II lens doesn’t have.  

CDLC: In working with these cameras, did you notice any issues of loss of image quality with certain lenses, or run into losses of sharpness from problems like lens diffraction at very small apertures?

GL: While the capabilities of the 50mp sensor were really used to advantage in the newer lenses, such as the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 MK II and the 11-24mm, older lenses, used well, still benefited from the extra pixels. However, as you note, the sharpness capability of any lens will be reduced due to diffraction when stopped down too far. The lens diffraction effect is exacerbated with the EOS 5DS and 5DS R cameras because of our high expectations for those files: we enlarge them, crop them, enlarge them again, look more critically at them, and generally expect more. If diffraction is evident we see it right away. Furthermore, any shortcomings in the photographer’s technique will be immediately evident in images produced by these cameras.

In general, if photographers can resist the urge to use apertures smaller than around f/8 or f/11, they should have no issues with softening of detail from lens diffraction. Technique is critical with these cameras, if you’re going to be super-critical in viewing and assessing your files. Choice of lens aperture is one way to get optimum results.

The EOS 5DS and 5DS R also have new mirror-up options, which are great when working on a tripod. These include menu settings for delayed shutter action… allowing the use of the eye-level viewfinder, but with the option of a user-defined delay between the instant the mirror rises and when the shutter opens. This can be anywhere from 1/8th of a second to two full seconds, allowing any subtle vibrations to settle before the image is actually recorded.

The mirror’s action, in general, has been re-engineered by Canon to minimize shock and vibration. Compared to the EOS 5D Mark III, you can hear the difference in operation sound, and the mirror’s movement does seem a bit smoother when you’re firing the new cameras.

Waterfalls Two Images

Macro Ant Image

CDLC: Two questions on almost all prospective users’ minds: first, what differences did you see with the files from the EOS 5DS vs. the 5DS R? Can you speak about any differences you saw in terms of sharpness and detail in the SR version’s files? And, was that enough to offset the more user-friendly character of EOS 5DS files?

GL: I was fortunate to have both the 5DS and 5DS R cameras for a number of my shoots and, because I know this is a question many photographers will ask, I tried to compare the two cameras’ results whenever possible. Yes, when viewed side-by-side, I can see slightly better sharpness in the files produced by the 5DS R. But when looking at the files individually, I could only guess which camera took the image. Even side-by-side the difference is very slight. I do want the sharpest image possible, but if I had to work with the 5DS instead of the 5DS R I’d be just fine with that. Both are very good.

 Macro Flower Image

CDLC: Secondly, Canon has been up-front in alerting potential EOS 5DS R users about risks — however slight — of encountering moiré patterns with certain extremely fine, repeating types of lines or texture. Did you ever observe this in your EOS 5DS R files, and if so, where did you encounter it? Were you able to minimize it successfully in post-processing?

GL: In all the imaging I’ve done with the 5DS R camera I have not seen a single instance of moiré in my files. None of my colleagues using the 5DS R that I have talked to has seen moiré either, and in fact, we’ve been trying to generate it by photographing subjects with repetitive features. It just hasn’t happened.


CDLC: Did you work in any low-light situations, which called for high ISO settings? If so, what was your impression of overall image quality at those higher ISO settings?

GL: I rarely use ISOs higher than 3200. In my work we solve the lighting problem with a longer exposure or use auxiliary light. I will say that at 1600 and 3200 (which to me are high ISOs) the quality is as good as I expected from the 5D Mark III.

One of the features I’m anxious to continue to work with is the new in-camera metering system, which is a big advance over that used in previous-generation EOS models. The EOS 5DS and 5DS R now use a metering sensor with 150,000 RGB pixels, so color as well as brightness is read from a scene. I’m looking forward to working with this in challenging lighting conditions.


CDLC: We’re sure you shot RAW original images. How do you normally process your RAW files? Did you find the need to make any changes when doing so with 5DS or 5DS R files, vs. RAW files from previous Canon EOS models you’ve worked with?

GL: I have in the past used the RAW file converters found in Adobe software such as Photoshop and Lightroom. But I was forced to use a beta copy of Canon DPP 4 to open the RAW files when first using the 5DS and 5DS R cameras. I was very pleased with the DPP 4 software when it came to optimizing the files. The Digital Lens Optimizer feature alone is making the software a must-use. When a lens might have generated some chromatic aberration at the edges of the frame, running the file through the Digital Lens Optimizer made the green and magenta fringing disappear like magic. I now run my RAW files through DPP 4 first, and then work with them in Photoshop or Lightroom.


CDLC: Overall, what do you think this new higher resolution — more than double the pixel count of any previous EOS D-SLR — can add to your personal and professional work? Are you excited to add one of these cameras to your regular shooting routine?

GL: Because of the nature and outdoor subjects that I specialize in, I’m always looking for more resolution and sharpness. Everyone wants to see more detail! As we discussed previously, I also make huge prints, not to mention panoramas. I am very excited to have 50MP of information at my fingertips, and when I need to crop, I can crop to my heart’s content. However, these cameras have really brought home to me in the past few months the need for nearly perfect photographic technique to produce the best files possible. Without a perfect file achieved by dead-on focus and a steady camera to eliminate any movement, you lose all the advantages these cameras offer. Do it all right and the results are game changing. The 5DS R already has become my go-to camera; to say I love it is an understatement!

Upperfalls Waterfall Image

The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.

All images are copyright George Lepp

Additional Resources

  • EOS 5DS .JPG Image Downloadable .JPG from the EOS 5DS

  • EOS 5DS .CR2 Image Downloadable Canon RAW file from the EOS 5DS

  • EOS 5DS R .JPG Image Downloadable .JPG file from the EOS 5DS R

  • EOS 5DS R .CR2 Image Downloadable Canon RAW file from the EOS 5DS

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