So the rumors were true, Canon has announced a 50MP dSLR with an EF mount. Yay! I think.
I've been a 5D user since the first model way back in 2006. Each has been an amazing workhorse of a camera. High-end images out of a compact body. The X-wing fighter of the camera world. For the past few years though, I've had a little bit of pixel envy. When I've shot with PhaseOne and recently Pentax medium format, and even the Nikon D800e, I saw a level of detail in the files that can only be described as mind opening. Do I need 50MP files for the magazine portraiture that is my bread and butter? Not really, but there are times in my personal work where I'd LOVE the option to think and print BIG. Nothing like a giant print on the wall, Crewdson-style, that you can dive into.
Up until now my options for entering this level of Nirvana involved spending $40,000 on a Hasselblad or Phase setup, about $12,000 on a Pentax 645Z. Neither I could easily swallow. The new Canon clocks in at less than $4000. Figuring I've got all the high-end Canon primes and I can sell my current body for $2000 or so means that I could conceivably upgrade to fifty megapixels for a couple thousand dollars. So why am I not putting in my pre-order as we speak?
Well, I'm not without my concerns. I love the idea of the giant files and the sample images on Canon's site look pretty damn good, especially for jpegs. I also love the idea of the MRAW format which would allow me to shoot 28MP RAW files when I didn't need the extra pixels, perfect for magazine work. Also, they've finally gotten on the bandwagon to use support UHS-1 SD cards for much faster writing to faster cards and they've added option crop lines in the optical viewfinder for when you want to work square and such, unfortunately they seem to not have an option for 4x5, my preferred ratio as of late.
Most of my concerns center around the sensor. Canon admits that due to the pixel density (It's got the same pixel pitch as the 7DII), the noise levels per pixel will be about the same as the 5DII, but a little more than my current 5DIII. Now I don't shoot at very high-iso very often, and even if there's some noise at 50MP it'll be heavily attenuated if you shrink the image down to a normal size, but it tells me that the sensor technology they're using it's not a huge leap beyond what I've got now and perhaps a little behind their competition.
And that gets me to the real crux of my indecision. Canon has also said that the sensor's dynamic range is about the same as my 5DIII as well, and that's one spec I wish wasn't true. Not that there is anything wrong per say with my current camera's DR, but Sony's sensors like the 36MP used in it's own cameras and the Nikon D800/D810 as well as the 50MP MF sensor in the new Pentax/Phase/Hassy backs have a dynamic range that's a couple of stops better than what I've got now in my Canon. It's part of the reason those files are so great. When I'm working on my more artsy stuff where I'm bending the files like Silly Putty with curves adjustment layers, that extra DR can make all the difference. Cleaner shadows and impressively recoverable highlights are the result. About 4/5th of the way down this review of the 645z by Philip Bloom, he shows what he was able to pull out of the shadows of a drastically under-exposed image. That's amazing.
Is my current setup limiting me from taking the kind of pictures I'd like to take? No way. Would I like 50MP files to work with? Hell yes. In the same way that Snap-On tools make a mechanic's life easier even when Craftsman work just fine. So in the next few months I'm going to wait and see what people say when they have the camera in their hands. Maybe I'll borrow one, shoot some RAW files and beat them up a bit to see where they stand. Maybe the answer is to jump up the Pentax anyway even with the new Canon out. Bigger sensor DOES mean bigger pixels which capture more like, and MF has a different look in the focus falloff. Not to mention that the sensor's ratio is a lot closer to the 4x5 look I like. Less pixels wasted in cropping.
Either way I'm in no rush. Life is too short to worry too much about camera bodies. I think.