Later this week 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 autofocus 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.
Sorry for double post
Very good developed Foveon type sensors could solve all mentioned problems and 24 to 42 MP would return astonishing images. Come on Sony/Nikon, Canon and co. …
I own D750, A7 II, D7200, FUJI XT1 and X-Pro2 (not counting the past). NOTHING compares to the Foveon sensor into my Merrill, SD15 and DP1 Quattro in good light condition.
We just need very good 24 to 36mp Foveon type sensors from Sony/Nikon and or Canon, FUJI etc etc.
Then we can easily cope also with actual lenses with astonishing images in return.
Bayer sensors are light years away (and old)…
I remember about 1956 there was an ad for the new 1957 Chevrolet…. longer, lower, wider, with more horsepower! I have never forgotten that ad…. and boy, did we all want one!! This is marketing, and it will continue on as long as there are companies producing products. Buy new, buy more…. What was the Air Force motto? Higher, faster, further, with more payload. Just got a Lumix GM1… I love it…. Enjoy what you have…. now stop worrying about the technology, and go out and take some pics….
10 years ago we said 6mp was enough.
5 years ago we said 12mp was enough.
3 years ago we said 24mp was enough.
2 years ago we said 36mp was enough.
Anybody notice a trend here?
Just say I use this camera in a Photo Booth and took 200 pictures. How big will the files be and will they all fit on a mini laptop? Sorry to ask I have no clue
I currently am a Canon user. I’d rather see them improve the dynamic range of their sensors and make other technically sound improvements then just resolution. 50MP sounds appealing, but appears to have limited use given its implementation given the small buffer, limited FPS, cropping, etc. As for needing a computer with more processing power and space, larger memory cards, and/or better lens, it’s just a vicious cycle with this stuff. Get a new camera which leads to having to spend even more $$$ for other items perpetuating sales and business.
It’s always good to have improvements. But the camera is just a tool. It really doesn’t matter…. I push the button. Did I get the shot? If not, doesn’t matter if it’s a Hasselblad studio camera, I still didn’t get the shot. So, the most important part of the camera, is the 12 inches behind it. And that will be true no matter what technology brings us! Have fun, break the rules, explore, get the shot…..
“And even the bigger question is, will lenses be able to resolve that much detail? ”
But is it not the case that we WANT the sensor to resolve more detail than the lens can provide? That simply means that the resolution is lens limited, which is not really a problem, unless you think that failing to extract the maximum possible resolution from a sensor is a problem. But why is that an issue? It never bothered us in the days of film that we rarely got 100 lp/mm or more from our Technical Pan?
If the sensor is the limiting factor and cannot resolve the detail provided by the lens then that really can be problem as it creates a risk of Moire. We have been struggling with that problem for years, i.e. lenses that out-resolve sensors, and have used an anti-aliasing filter to solve it … at the cost of throwing away much of the resolution of most lenses. In an ideal world every lens would be perfectly matched to its sensor, but that is only guaranteed with a fixed lens camera such as a SIgma DP2 Merrill or similar.
The mirrorles camera. I have some in point and shoot types. I went to do a night shoot of a fireworks store with windows outlined in colored lights. Wanted to get car lights in the shot. The camera took so long to think about it, the car was gone by the time it got around to taking the picture. Then, I wanted to get the light gradient of a house light at night. The result was extremely noisy. I went and reshot it with a Nikon DSLR and had no problem. The lesson is not to use a mirrorless camera at night.
50 megapixel cameras are already available. They’re called Hasselblad. Just can’t afford one right now! Anyway, I remember, many years ago, my folks took me to the NY worlds fair. I saw the future in the turbine car that went silently around in circles. Where are the turbine cars today? What they discovered was the turbine did not like being throttled. Works well in aircraft and boats, but never found it’s way into cars. So, with the limitations of the mirrorless cameras, are they really destined to be the wave of the future? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…..