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August 2015

Low-light and food delights with EOS 5DS R and 11-24mm

When top commercial photographer and Canon Explorer Gary Schmid was given the new
EOS 5DS R DSLR he had planned to use it on a location shoot in The Maldives, but the postponement of that project meant he had just a four day window to work with the 50.6 Megapixel camera in his base of Dubai. In an exclusive interview he spoke to CPN writer Steve Fairclough to reveal his initial thoughts about working with the camera, the key features that stood out for him and why he thinks it could be an invaluable tool for photographers.

As a long-time user of the EOS System, Gary – who currently uses the 5D Mark III as his ‘go-to’ camera – was instantly at home with the handling of the EOS 5DS R: “It’s nice; you are getting a new camera and you know it already. It’s not like you have to get used to something; you already know it. I think the majority of [potential users] will be [working] on a 5D Mark III, so for them it’s like you stay in the ‘same frame’ and the battery grip still works. For example, I have six or seven batteries, so you don't have to replace them – you can keep this gear with you. Somehow it makes sense.”

Despite the disappointment of the planned Maldives shoot being pushed back Gary explains: “I had one food shoot for a Marriott Hotel and did this one; afterwards I shot on my own at the Dubai Marina so I could also use the EF11-24mm f/4L USM lens. The lens is really awesome – the 11-24mm – I have already bought it for myself because this lens is really, really amazing.”

© Gary Schmid

Creekstone Prime with confit garlic mash potato and sautéed asparagus – a dish from the Prime68 steakhouse restaurant’s menu at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with an EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens; the exposure was 1/200sec at f/20, ISO 200.

The food shoot was for the Prime68 steakhouse in the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in Dubai and Gary paired the EOS 5DS R with his Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens to get in close to the dishes. He reveals: “Nowadays we very often do food photography in daylight for a natural, food ‘look-a-like’ style. But this one was purely done with three Profoto strobes in one corner of the restaurant, ducking in and out a little bit so you can then keep the ISO very low and, for me, keeping it on better quality for the picture and controlling it [exposure] nicely. For hotels and restaurants I never shoot in the studio – it’s always at their location.”

He adds: “For food photography it’s really nice to have the huge amount of detail that you can get out of this sensor. My 100mm macro lens is limited because the depth-of-field is a little bit limited but, in general, if you zoom in it’s a really nice, big canvas where you can work on, in post-production, a lot of details, especially in fruits and with the texture of food. With 22 Megapixels [on the 5D Mark III] it’s already good. If clients need [images] for billboards 22 Megapixels is sometimes perfect but if they need higher resolution then you have your back to the wall. If you have RAW files with 50 Megapixels you can give them whatever they need and above.”

The importance of USB 3.0

Both the EOS 5DS R and EOS 5DS can be connected to a computer using a Super Speed USB (USB 3.0) connection for tethered shooting, remote control and file transfer. The cameras come with a dedicated USB 3.0 Interface Cable (IFC-150U II), along with a cable protector that screws in to the camera bodies and holds the cable tight to the bodies, preventing it from being damaged or pulled out of the bodies accidentally.

© Gary Schmid

A selection of desserts from one of the restaurants in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Abu Dhabi. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF11-24mm f/4L USM lens at 20mm; the exposure was 1 second at f/14, ISO 160.

As he almost always shoots tethered to a laptop one of the first features of the 5DS R that really caught Gary’s eye was this Super Speed USB 3.0 connection: “What was really nice to see was that they’re using the USB 3.0 [connection], which obviously makes transferring files quicker. Obviously there’s a much higher resolution sensor in [the camera] that’s very much needed but it’s very important to have this [speed].”

He adds: “I have just a part of a second until I have the files on the screen and I’m surprised that the 50 Megapixel files are quite quick [to get] on the computer. I have USB 3.0 on my computer so I can really utilise the speed of it and I was surprised how fast these huge files were [appearing] on the computer. I was using the camera in full resolution, RAW files – I always shoot in RAW.”

Gary was also quick to praise the Mirror Vibration Control system of the 5DS R: “I’ve also seen there is a new, different, mirror mechanism so you can control the ‘mirror slap’ much better. This is really nice because with 50 Megapixels you see it even more – the slap or vibration [in images] – so you can handle this; you have some more options.”

He is also perfectly content with the camera’s top standard ISO speed of 6400: “I use a camera 95% of the time on a tripod, hence why the ISO range on this camera is more than enough. It’s 6400 and is much more than we had many years ago and to a better quality. Having ISO 100,000 plus is for events or other types of photographers. But, I think, in a professional field not so many professional photographers need this high amount of ISO.”

A level viewfinder tool

Gary also liked the Dual Axis Electronic Level which appears above the focusing points in the EOS 5DS R’s viewfinder: “I have seen there’s [something] different in the viewfinder – you have this kind of a tool where you look through and see a horizontal balancing or a vertical balancing of the camera. This is quite handy. On the screen on the back of the Mark III I love it and you can also do it with the focusing point but not in the live viewfinder screen as you can now with the 5DS and 5DS R – it’s a little bit more obvious.”

He adds: “Especially if you have a wide-angle lens it’s very, very important; crucial to have the camera really, really straight because if it’s a little bit off-balance the lines [will look wrong]. It’s not a big thing for food photography because you have a macro lens and are very often [shooting] without a tripod – it’s one of the few cases, food photography, where I sometimes don’t use the tripod, but sometimes I keep the tripod because you add some sauces and it’s easier to choose and pick the shots of food as you need.”

As for his focusing preferences Gary reveals: “If I can reach it [the focusing point] with autofocus I prefer the autofocus because this is much more accurate. Autofocus-wise I’ve been happy with Canon since day one and this [AF] is still improving. On the 5DS R I think there are some more competences included with [AF] configuring, which was from the 7D Mark II which makes life a little bit nicer. It’s not that crucial for me for my static photography but once in a while, with lifestyle photography, I have the models moving and with the autofocus, there is no comparison to it with other brands. For me, it’s just ideal.”

Advantages over medium format

Gary admits he did once consider the idea of using a medium format system but he explains: “You have five frames per second [with the 5DS R] – with a Hasselblad you have just below one second per image. This is a big difference – this is the reason why… a few times I was thinking of using medium format but previously they haven’t had enough wide-angle lenses for my architecture [work]. For lifestyle work if you only have one shot per second you might get a ‘lucky shot’ but you're not getting this natural look… with five shots per second this is fine – there is a real strength. It’s 50 Megapixels and an acceptable speed.”

He adds: “If I wanted [to shoot] any faster I would go for the 1D X anyway. I tried this camera – for sports or fast moving images it’s an amazing piece [of equipment]. But, for me, and I think they are addressing a lot of landscape photographers, five frames per second is more than enough and the Dual DIGIC 6 processors are working quite well in this camera – they handle these 50 Megapixel [files] in a really nice way in terms of speed – I’m very happy.”

Opinions on new features

We also quizzed Gary on if he had the chance to try out some of the new features on the 5DS R – such as the crop/aspect ratios (which include 30.5 Megapixel image files with a 1.3x crop and 19.6 Megapixel stills with a 1.6x crop), the Fine Detail Picture Style, the Customisable Quick Control screen and the time-lapse movie feature…

He reveals: “I didn't take photos in the crop modes – honestly, I would hardly ever do it [use crop modes]. Even for post-processing the [cropped] files are quite big but if I have the option of shooting in 50 Megapixels I want to have it. Very often clients will ask ‘do you have it bigger? We want to do billboards’. So, I would hardly ever use crop; if I have it I want to have it at least as a [50 Megapixel] RAW file. It’s a nice option… if some people are shooting event photography they may say ‘OK, I can store more images [by using crop modes]’ so it will be handy for some people for sure.”

© Gary Schmid

One of the bedroom suites in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Cairo, Egypt. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF11-24mm f/4L USM lens at 16mm; the exposure was 6 seconds at f/13, ISO 160.

As for the Fine Detail Picture Style he notes: “I read about it online but I don't like to use a lot of Picture Styles on the camera. I like to have a pure, RAW file and then I use Lightroom and Photoshop [to edit images]. For some clients it might be easier if you can already show them files that are a little bit nicer. These tools are getting really, really good so maybe, one day soon, I will try to use them a little bit more if the clients want to see an image that is already a little bit enhanced on the computer. I sometimes use the HDR [Picture Style] because very often for previews for clients in architecture, when you have a very bright outside and a lot of dark areas inside, it gives them a little bit more of an idea of how the final picture will look.”

Gary admits he didn't get the time to experiment with the Customisable Quick Control screen – which offers photographers the option of customising and changing the contents, size and placement of the information fields can so only the functions they really want to see are shown – but states: “It sounds pretty awesome.”

He adds: “What I was looking forward to doing in The Maldives was something that you can do with time-lapse, which is great, especially for hotel clients who are asking for it more and more regularly.”

In fact, the EOS 5DS R’s time-lapse Movie mode shoots still frames at specific intervals before combining them to create a .mov movie file. Up to 3600 frames can be captured automatically and merged into a single clip, with intervals ranging from 1 second to 99hr 59min 59sec. The movies created by the camera will be either with Full HD (1980x1080) 29.97p ALL-I if the camera is set to NTSC or Full HD (1980x1080) 25.00p ALL-I if set to PAL. A sequence of 3600 shots will produce a movie with a playback time of about two minutes at Full HD 29.97p ALL-I or about two minutes 24 seconds at Full HD 25.00p ALL-I.

Gary adds: “This is something that will make my life much, much easier because you often have a camera on a stand with a remote control but with the variation in exposure you have to always keep an eye on a different way of exposing. I would have loved to have seen this time-lapse [in action]. This is, for sure, a big plus for consideration for this piece [of equipment].”

Going wide for cityscapes

Aside from his food shoot for the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Gary also tried the camera out at the Dubai Marina. He reveals: “For my way of commercial photography it gives you this extra space to be on the very safe side and you have the details, especially on this wider shot of Dubai nightlife in the ‘blue hour’ that’s really nice if you go into the towers, [to see] how crispy and clear the details are. It’s there that you can see the difference from 22 Megapixels – that’s for sure.”

© Gary Schmid

The Dubai Marina at night. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with an EF11-24mm f/4L USM lens at 11mm; the exposure was 8 seconds at f/13, ISO 160.

He adds: “I did this shot from a restaurant terrace. It's a nice area and I wanted to do one ‘blue hour’ shot – I love the ‘blue hours’. I wanted to do one of these wide-angle shots. The [11-24mm] lens – I love it! It’s not cheap for a lens (laughs) but it’s the quality [that I like]. Very often I have used the 16-35mm [lens] from Canon – it’s nice but sometimes you need just this little bit more [quality]. With this one [the 11-24mm lens] the corners are so clear [in pictures] – there’s no vignetting and the distortion is, for 11mm, very minimal but is far, far better than anything else there was in the previous [wide-angle lenses].”

Gary notes: “For interior photography, it [the lens] is a ‘must-buy’, even if it’s expensive but we are making money out of our job. This lens is very heavy and I’m travelling a lot, which is not that good because I’m always overweight [in baggage], especially with carry-on hand luggage, which is always where the lens will be. But the build quality… if you hold it, you can feel it already – [in] the heaviness. I think, from a design and physics point of view, they made a ‘masterpiece’ with this one.”

Indeed Gary also got the opportunity to use the EF11-24mm lens on a shoot of interiors at the prestigious Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Of the zoom’s f/4 aperture he says: “I don't care… I’m on the tripod so I’m always shooting with f/4 or f/8 or usually an even smaller aperture anyway. I never need f/2.8 for this kind of specific lens, so I’m very happy with f/4 and the quality. The lens is very high in price but it’s worth it – I’ve bought it already. I highly recommend this lens to anyone who does serious landscape or interior photography, there’s no other way around it.”

A wide appeal?

That’s a clear endorsement for the 11-24mm lens but would Gary recommend the EOS 5DS R to other photographers? “Definitely, but it depends on their needs. For product photography for me it’s a ‘must-have’. If you do fragrances, perfumes or product there it makes a big difference because there you really have to zoom in; that’s when it makes a big difference if you have 22 Megapixels or 50 [Megapixels]. For product photography or studio photography, for me it’s a clear ‘yes’ [to buy an EOS 5DS R].”

He adds: “For landscape or pure studio product photographers it’s amazing. I’m not so in to landscape photography but I can imagine [it’s great], especially for the details. If it’s for high-end fashion photography… [it’s great] for really big billboards because it can make so many pictures per second. For architecture I would have to see the need for resolution from the clients but for me the price [of the camera] for a professional photographer is not a big thing to think about because you’ll make money with it. Speaking honestly the price is fair for this camera; for 50 Megapixels and all the new stuff inside.”

Summing up what he liked about using the 5DS R Gary notes: “There are a few points. The [lack of] ‘mirror slap’ was very nice, the ISO [range], the level inside the viewfinder, the time-lapse mode (which unfortunately I couldn’t use), the USB 3.0 [connection] and the detail [in pictures]. I’m very pleased with the product. The camera, with the quality [it has], is very low in price, which is very good.”


  • 50.6 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor with ISO 100-6400 (Lo: 50 and H1: 12,800) sensitivity range.
  • Low-pass cancellation filter for maximum sensor resolution.
  • Dual DIGIC 6 processors for outstanding image processing speed and camera responsiveness.
  • 5 frames per second (fps) with selectable burst speeds and silent shutter mode.
  • 61-point wide area AF with 41 cross-type sensors with iTR, AI Servo AF III and AF Configuration tool.
  • 150k pixel RGB+IR metering sensor.
  • 100% magnification Intelligent Viewfinder II with electronic overlay.
  • 1.3x, 1.6x and 1:1 ratio crop modes with masked viewfinder display.
  • Mirror Vibration Control System to reduce mirror vibration blur.
  • Fine Detail Picture Style.
  • CF + SD (UHS-I) dual memory card slots.
  • Peripheral Illumination and Chromatic Aberration Lens Correction in-camera.
  • Multiple Exposure and HDR mode.
  • Customisable Quick Control screen.
  • Built-in timer functionality – bulb timer and interval shooting timer.
  • Time-lapse Movie function.
  • Super Speed USB 3.0 for high-speed tethering and image/movie transfer.
  • 150,000 shutter cycle life.
  • Compatible with most EOS 5D Mark III accessories (note: the WFT-E7 requires new USB cables and firmware updated).

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Biografie: Gary Schmid

Gary Schmid

Austria-born Gary Schmid is an international commercial and travel photographer who trained in the days of film but was very quick to adopt digital technology. In 2005, after gaining a Master Craftsman's Diploma in Photography, Gary opened a studio in Austria. With more business coming from the Middle East, in 2009 he moved to Dubai from where he covers the Middle East and Africa. Gary’s commercial photography includes luxury hotels, food, fashion and more, whilst his passion is travel photography. His photographs have been published in magazines around the world, as well as often featuring on food packaging and in cookbooks. His travel photographs have been displayed in art galleries in Dubai and his native Austria.


Wagyu Beef Tartare with whole grain mustard, caviaroli and quail egg – a dish from the Prime68 steakhouse restaurant’s menu at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with an EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens; the exposure was 1/160sec at f/18, ISO 200.