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November 2015

Paolo Pellegrin: “It’s like an EOS 5D Mark III on steroids...”

Canon Ambassador and renowned photojournalist Paolo Pellegrin is one of the latest photographers to get behind the viewfinder of the 50.6 Megapixel EOS 5DS R. CPN Editor David Corfield discusses with him the benefits of its higher resolution and how it brings a new dimension to his work...

It’s been an exceptionally busy year for Paolo Pellegrin. The Magnum photographer has been on almost constant assignment for various NGOs and publications since the beginning of 2015 and, coupled with family responsibilities and the increasing demands of print sales and exhibitions, he’s hardly had time to draw breath.

A recent trip to Russia gave him a rare moment of downtime to sample for himself the incredible resolution offered by the EOS 5DS R. It was to prove a useful eye-opener for the photographer and a potential gateway to new output, as he explains...

© Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos
© Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos

View from car window, Moscow, Russia, 2015. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 30mm; the exposure was 1/200sec at f/7.1, ISO 1000.

“I only had the EOS 5DS R for a short period of time and I took it to Moscow, where I was hosting a workshop and seminar,” he recalls. “I managed to shoot some material with it and my preliminary impressions are that it is, in all effects, a 5D Mark III – meaning, it’s small; the Canon 5D-series is a camera I have learned to use well in the last few years so there is no real transition for me in moving to this model, which is great. To all intents and purposes it is just another 5D. It’s not bigger, it’s not heavier and it uses all the same lenses, so this is a major plus point.”

“I still use my EOS-1D X a lot, too, of course,” he reflects. “But this camera is a heavy piece of equipment and not really suited to a lot of what I do. I am in the street a lot, which is why the 5D’s smaller form factor wins again and again.”

Taking it onto the street

Paolo incorporated the EOS 5DS R into his usual workflow, equipping it with one of his favourite lenses – an EF35mm f/1.4L USM wide-angle – and taking to Moscow’s Red Square for some street photography.

“The camera is surprisingly fast,” he recalls. “Even though it has to process those monster files you can still use it as a normal DSLR. I used it in the street and as such it wasn't in a controlled environment so I could test it out. It performed very well. I never had a moment where the buffer was slowing me down, which was one of my biggest concerns. It worked perfectly.”

© Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos
© Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos

A bride with friends, Moscow, Russia, 2015. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 70mm; the exposure was 1/500sec at f/8, ISO 800.

In terms the EOS 5DS R’s low light performance, Paolo advises: “I didn't really push it too much because I mainly used it in good light. But I shot up to ISO 2000 with no problem at all. Obviously there is a limit as to how fast you can shoot with a sensor of this type. Up to ISO 2000 it was fine – with absolutely good results. And I have to say though, that I always use Canon’s ultra-fast lenses or the stabilised zooms so I rarely find myself needing to shoot at more than ISO 3200. There can be moments or exceptions but as a rule of thumb I don't push the ISO speed too much.”

He continues: “The file was obviously, from the very first tests I made, extraordinary. It’s huge and allows the user to crop. For me, though, I don’t need that option. Throughout my career I’ve tried to stick to the Bressonian ideal of not cropping and trying to solve compositional issues in camera. But there is so much information that you feel you have this goldmine of information that you can play with. It’s the experience of the medium format in a 35mm camera.”

Is bigger really better?

For Paolo, the most tangible advantage of the EOS 5DS R’s high-resolution sensor is the resulting file sizes and the creative scope it gives him to produce large prints with no loss of quality, even at very large blow-ups. “For myself specifically, I am entering more and more into the world of shows and exhibitions,” he reveals. Big enlargements can risk revealing imperfections, so this camera has arrived at the right time...

“For example, this year I exhibited some very large prints – along with fellow photographer Alex Majoli – at the Arles show in France,” Paolo advises. “This was a long-term project on the Congo river and some of the images I showed there were taken with a 6x17cm film camera. But to have the capacity to shoot at this scale with my regular, smaller and easier to use 5DS R that can let me blow up prints with no limits? That’s definitely a big plus in my arsenal. If I had this camera ten years ago I would have definitely shot all the digital part of it with it. I am interested in the print and the quality and size and being able to have more information to play with.”

© Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos
© Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos

Near Red Square, Moscow, Russia, 2015. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 50mm; the exposure was 1/125sec at f/16, ISO 400.

On the importance of print and how the EOS 5DS R can help him achieve that with no compromise, Paolo affirms: “I can see the print side of my workflow becoming more and more important to me, and this kind of larger file size will really help me achieve the ultimate quality. The print side of my work is definitely on the increase, almost despite myself because I’m not doing anything to promote it. But this camera, and the evolution of my photojournalism, I can see almost going hand-in-hand in the future.”

“This is a great tool to have, there is no doubt. Combined with the 35mm lens it would certainly be one of my go-to combinations. I had a very good experience with this camera – very much so in fact – and the biggest compliment I can pay is that it felt and performed just like my regular EOS 5D [Mark III] in terms of ease of use and speed. The EOS 5D Mark III is my go-to camera for 90 percent of what I do, except when I’m feeling romantic and want to shoot film for something. So I would see the EOS 5DS R as an addition to my kit and not an immediate replacement. It is fast, small and inconspicuous – which is just how I like to work. It’s like an EOS 5D Mark III on steroids.”


  • 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.
  • SuperSpeed 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: for the WFT-E7 new USB cables required and firmware updated).

Biografie: Paolo Pellegrin

Paolo Pellegrin

Born in Rome, Italy, in 1964 Paolo Pellegrin worked for Agence VU for 10 years before he became a Magnum Photos nominee in 2001 and a full member in 2005. He is a contract photographer for Newsweek magazine. Pellegrin has received many awards for his photography, including eight World Press Photo and numerous Photographer of the Year Awards, a Leica Medal of Excellence, an Olivier Rebbot Award, the Hansel-Meith Preis, and the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award. In 2006 he was assigned the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography and in 2000 he received the Hasselblad Foundation Grant for Photography. Back in 1996 he won the Kodak Young Photographer Award - Visa d'Or – at the Visa pour l’Image festival of photojournalism in Perpignan, France. He is one of the founding members of the touring exhibition and installation ‘Off Broadway’ along with Thomas Dworzak, Alex Majoli and Ilkka Uimonen. His book - ‘As I was Dying’ - won the Deutsche Fotobuchpreis 2008. He lives in New York and Switzerland.


Near Red Square, Moscow, Russia, 2015. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 28mm; the exposure was 1/500sec at f/10, ISO 2000.