We finally have Canon’s high megapixel DSLR answer to Nikon’s D800/810. It is in the form of the 5Ds and it offers no less than 50 megapixel images. It is a major leap of resolution from Nikon’s very impressive D800/810 and roughly two and a half times the resolution of the 5D MkIII which was up to now Canon’s highest resolution body. This move also firmly puts Canon in medium format territory. An impressive technical achievement that Sony sensors will surely try to equal or better in the near future.
I have come across a lot of online opinions, groaning and moaning about how one does not need so much detail, how large the files will be, and so on. I have some limited understanding about these views, overall however I am all for increased resolution. And it does not only have to strictly do with the photographic hardware.
I have done sharpening of large panoramas much larger than the 50Mp we started to talk about here. I have also had the luck to do editing work on files from medium format cameras from Pentax, Hasselblad and Phase One. One thing is certain, such files have incredible detail and sharpening them is a dream. Especially where there is lots of detail, it is possible to pull your amount and pixel sliders to very high levels without causing noise in the overall image. Sharpening without quality side effects has been a huge subject with digital. Now high resolution cameras provide a great answer.
Large prints, huge cropping opportunities
The cropping opportunities available with high megapixel counts are just so attractive. No need to worry about degrading the result. Even keeping half of a 50Mp file is a lot more than what you currently get from most DSLR bodies! Prints become very comfortable and achieving the minimum dpi for very large sizes is now a reality.
Value your lens collection
The higher the resolution of the sensor, the higher the need for high quality glass. Admittedly, full frame lenses inherently belong to a more “serious” and higher quality category than smaller sensor formats, therefore there is a much smaller margin for erroneous purchases. But still, depending on the type of preferred photography, a high resolution body offers even more incentive for careful purchases and building a lens collection that can serve well for years or decades. Zoom lenses have come a long way, but putting more stress on primes might provide that little extra in terms of performance.
Time to look at your editing hardware
Photography and editing hardware go hand in hand. Working with more megapixels increases demand on the later, more so if you work with multi-image techniques like HDR, panoramas, focus stacking, collages, etc. And it does not necessarily mean a new machine. Installing more ram, upgrading the graphics card, installing a USB3 PCI-express card or getting a better quality and higher resolution monitor can greatly increase editing speed and make it a more pleasurable experience.
Value your frames one by one, like in the film days!
The fact that each file is a large chunk of data that requires extra transfer time and storage space is a good incentive to put more value on each frame, like in the old film days. Back then the limiting factors were much more cruel. The extra film purchase cost and development effort/costs were nothing like what we have today. But still, taking things slower, thinking and planning shots more carefully can be the base of more juicy collections that require less processing.
Use the right gear for the right occasion
The 5Ds is not cheap. Even if I could afford it at €/$3700, I would think twice about using it for every occasion. Which conveniently brings me to the subject of using the right hardware for the right occasions. Carrying a heavy DSLR around on a permanent basis is not ideal, can attract unwanted attention and at the end of the day might not offer any tangible advantages. I believe that some occasions are perfect for smartphones, some for action cameras or compacts and some for DSLRs. Reserving a DSLR for higher quality results and when planning is required puts value in its use.
Absurdly, high resolution developments are not going to stop at high megapixel sensors! The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 II takes the Hasselblad H4D-200MS recipe in a small micro-4/3 body to produce 65Mp RAW files by stitching together several 16Mp images (the inherent sensor resolution). At the moment this option is only available when tripod mounted, soon though firmware might make it possible when handheld. If you thought that the megapixel war was by now over, you are completely wrong. It is not as intense as before and now mainly happens in the higher end of the market, but it will not stop as it is difficult to quantify how much resolution is enough and consumers are happy when offered more pixels. So for all of us seriously interested in photography as a hobby or a profession, it is best to adjust to the new reality and reap the benefits.