Are You Ready for 50 MP Cameras?
Canon will be announcing its first super high resolution cameras, the Canon EOS 5DS and the EOS 5DS R, which will feature a 50.6 MP sensor. After the current 22.3 MP sensor on the 5D Mark III, this will be quite a jump for Canon, something that many did not expect would actually happen. With Nikon dominating the DSLR market with high resolution 36 MP sensors for a number of years now with its D800, D800E and D810 cameras, Canon has been getting a lot of heat from its loyal fan base for not releasing a true competitor. The 5DS and 5DS R cameras are Canon’s response – with the former sporting an anti-aliasing / low pass filter and the latter not having one, similar to what we had previously seen on the D800 / D800E cameras. With such a high resolution jump, it will be interesting to see where the market will trend in the next few years. Sony and Nikon will probably follow suit, releasing their versions of 50+ MP sensors. The megapixel race is still on…
The big question is, will the market be ready for such high resolution cameras? And even the bigger question is, will lenses be able to resolve that much detail? Massive 36 MP RAW files have been scaring a lot of photographers, who complain about post-processing speed, storage and backup requirements and other problems high resolution files create. And with a jump to 50+ MP, this will be an even bigger concern for many. Without a doubt, these new generation sensors won’t be for everyone and will primarily appeal landscape, architecture, studio and macro photographers. At 50 MP, we are talking about approximately 4.1µ pixel pitch and roughly 8700×5800 image size. Compare that to 4.9µ pixel pitch on the D810 with a 36 MP sensor and 7360×4912 image size – that’s a difference of roughly 1340 pixels just on image width. Considering that the Nikon D7100 has even a smaller pixel pitch of 3.9µ, 50 MP is actually somewhat on the lower end, since a full-frame camera with the same pixel pitch would have resulted in a 56 MP sensor. And if Nikon used the pixel pitch of its Nikon 1 sensors, we could be potentially looking at 100+ MP sensors! Sounds insane, but the technology is already here. And those small sensors packing so many pixels look pretty darn good nowadays too, so it is not like you are sacrificing image quality for more pixels…
But think about all the consequences of such sensors. Larger RAW files will require more memory and more powerful computers to handle them. Hand-holding technique will have to be solid if one does not want to see potential blur at pixel level / 100% zoom. Backup and storage requirements will rise. There will be a need for more precise focusing. Determining depth of field and calculating precise hyperfocal distance will be critical. Mirror and shutter vibrations will be more noticeable. Diffraction will kick in at larger apertures…
As we have seen from the Nikon D800 / D800E fiasco, manufacturers will need to tighten their quality assurance standards. Nikon’s issue was with focusing and AF point calibration, but there could potentially be other issues to worry about. I really hope Canon keeps things in order and thoroughly tests the camera before it is released to the public.
Lenses could be a source of problems too. If you want edge to edge sharpness, forget about using lenses older than 5 years. Lenses designed for film cameras and early digital cameras might do well in the center of the frame, but will surely suffer everywhere else. That’s because many lenses are not optimized for high resolution digital camera sensors and older film lenses are not designed to perform on a flat sensor. This all means that to take full advantage of the 50+ MP sensor, one has to use the latest generation lenses that are specifically designed to yield maximum sharpness and contrast on imaging sensors. If your lenses are unable to resolve 50 MP, there will be little advantage to owning such a high resolution camera. Images will also suffer from poor technique and handling of such equipment in the field. Hence, while there are clear benefits to high resolution sensors, there are a few variables to keep in mind and it all has to come together to truly be advantageous.
The Canon 5DS and 5DS R cameras look promising. Just after Romanas wrote his article on switching to a different system, looks like its Canon’s turn to dominate the market for the next few years, unless Nikon responds with its own super high resolution camera soon. Exciting times!
What do you think about all this? Are you excited, or worried about these developments in sensor resolution? Please provide your comments below.
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