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Gear & Apps

The Canon 5DS Produces Images Comparable to Medium Format?

By Kishore Sawh on March 21st 2015

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As photographers who know what we’re doing, who understand the typical demands of most types of work, and what equipment is needed to achieve it, we know that megapixels is not quite the be-all and end-all of photographic measurement. In fact, not only can more be a nuisance for most types of shooting due to massive files and a severely slower workflow, but more MP can also create other types of photographic problems depending on all sorts of things like the organization and size of pixels.

However, there’s no denying it is still a strong marketing tool, and that there are, in fact, times when more does mean more.

At the moment, the undisputed king of the DSLR hill is the Canon 5DS/R sporting a whopping 50MP, and that has led to comparisons between the image quality it produces, and the produce of medium format cameras. That is precisely the aim of the video within, where award-winning landscape photographer David Noton states how he sees the quality similarity between the 5DS/R not only for medium, but large format photography. He calls it a liberation to have that power in a small casing.

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I love that word, ‘quality’, because it covers all manners of sins really, and attractive in its ability to be bathed in ambiguity. Image quality is not so much singular as it’s made up of many different facets, typically not dissected in these sorts of talks. Noton does a good job discussing some of the benefits of this new MP monster which really will hold a lot of appeal for certain shooters. I think it’s just important to note that it really would seem to be a niche camera for those either printing large, or who want to crop their way to success.

[REWIND: Canon 50MP 5Ds and 5DsR Pre-Orders To Open Monday]

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Also it’s worth a mention now to those of you eager to buy one of these variants that there are other reasons why larger format cameras are different and superior to smaller sensor ones. For one, your DOF will be different, and for that number of pixels to mean anything, you’ll need the quality of glass that will allow for that level of resolution. There comes a point where it’s not just about the sensor, but the system itself.

Source: ISO1200, images are screen captures from featured video

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Hoya Eagle

    Hi – Im very late to this thread. I’d appreciate your opinion.

    If I wanted very large landscape prints, say 48″x48″, that would be viewed from fairly close range ( ~2-3ft) how would results from film or transparencies shot with my Hasselblad 503 CX compare to output from this 5DS-R w/ top Canon lenses such as the 24-70 2.8L II? Could I put a digital back on my 503 CX for even more detailed prints ?

    Thanks!

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  2. Mark Brooks

    Bud or Miller? PCs or MACs? How about smartphones vs. Hasselblads? Maybe the CEO of Hasselblad wishes he was the CEO of Apple? There’s a lot to be said for selfies and cat pictures…hundreds of millions of them. Anybody here doubt that Canon is making wayyy more money than Hasselblad?
    This is really an argument about obsolescence anyway. Obviously Canon is making the MF’ers nervous. That’s stands for medium format in case you were wondering. Once again, as with the advent of digital, Hassie sleeping in the marketing wet spot. Look at the economics and the cash flow. The cash is flowing to Canon. In time there will be little reason to own a big bulky MF camera. In time the lenses and sensors will catch up. My printer does really nice prints. I only do 17×22 but they still are nowhere near as sharp as my computer screen…or,of course, my camera. When printers catch up I’ll buy the newest MF camera even if it looks like a 35.
    I like nice crispy shots but at what cost? Many photographers have devolved more into “shoppers” than photographers anyway. I must have looked at 500 pix at one “pro” site and it seemed like every frame was heavily shopped. It’s more important to know your shop ‘n chop software than your camera…or so it sometimes seems.

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  3. Gustavo Santos

    Everytime I hear Canon(or sponsored folks) saying ‘the 5Ds is comparable to the medium format camera’ sounds as a joke.
    How can anyone believe in this?
    Show us an image from the 5Ds, side by side with a Pentax 645Z file(same pixel count) and this comparison will will make us laugh.

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    • J. Dennis Thomas

      Nikon people said that about the D800 when it was announced too. It’s just a marketing technique. The megapixel war is back on because camera tech is starting to plateau to the point where people aren’t upgrading like they used to because cameras are staying relevant much longer. BUT, if you’re the type of person who like to have better gear than everyone else that “50MP medium format quality” hype will give you the satisfaction of having better numbers than the guy with the D810 even though his image quality may be better.

      As a pro I find 16-18MP more than enough for anything I do. If I needed a 50MP image for a project I’d rent a Hasselblad H5D. If I needed medium format quality for most of my work the last camera I’d buy is the 5DS/R. Canon simply doesn’t have the lenses to compliment a sensor of that resolution. You’d have to sink more money into Zeiss Otus lenses to make the best of it.

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  4. jozef povazan

    That is Robert the point :)

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  5. jozef povazan

    35 mm full frame digital sensor can not be compared to a 645 sensor or 6×6 which are 2/3 or more larger !!! Like in film era, if you were shooting 24x36mm 35mm film you could not stand a chance against 6×7 medium slide when enlarged!!! The quality of light caught by larger pixels and specially DYNAMIC range just smashes the smaller size sensors, it does not matter if the number of MPix is the same !!! 2.5L Subaru 300HP suabru can not outrun 2.5L Formula 1 800HP :) it is that simple :)

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    • robert garfinkle

      Are you suggesting the “No Replacement for Displacement” theory applies here?

      Good man…

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    • robert garfinkle

      I suppose Jozef is saying more or less – like comparing the Nikon N1 v3 to a D4(s) right? You can’t…

      The N1 v3 has 18.4mp @ 20/60fps (on a CX sensor) vs the D4(s) 16mp @ 10/11fps (on an FX sensor) – still, the D4(s) wins – every time…

      unless I’m missing the point…

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    • Rafael Steffen

      I totally agree. They are trying to compare organges and apples. Look at the work of Mario Testino with the Hassablads and see the differences when enlarged.

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    • Rafael Steffen

      Thanks for sharing the video, but comparing it to a Medium format which costs around 30k is too much.

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    • J. Dennis Thomas

      “Are you suggesting the “No Replacement for Displacement” theory applies here?”

      The displacement is the same on both motors he mentioned. 2.5L. What would be different is the efficiency at which the engines operate. a 2.5L engine will pull in 2.5L of air and typically the fuel mixture is at a 15:1 ratio (15 air to 1 fuel). Add more fuel and you don’t get an increase in performance because it’s limited by the amount of air that can be taken into the cylinders. In sensor terms, jamming more pixels onto the same amount of space gives no performance increase in DR.

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  6. Trey Mortensen

    I’m really honestly curious to see what camera resolution will be in 10 years from now. Back at the megapixel race, people always seemed to scoff at the new, bigger (in pixels) sensor. Whether it was people who had an 8 megapixel sensor scoffing at the new 16 megapixel sensors or 20 scoffing at 36, those sizes become the norm. 36 isn’t quite the norm and 50 is pushing that limit more, but there will always be some form of progression. Canon just chose to push the resolution progression rather than dynamic range, ISO limits, or autofocus abilities.

    I want to see some real world (non-Canon paid) reviews of this camera

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    • robert garfinkle

      To Trey, and others – where will we be in 10 years…

      I’m not sure – but here is a start. make a short list of the true shortcomings / hurdles each mfr struggles with today – and that’s probably a good start.

      1. Onboard processing – they have to get faster. If you are gonna whompem with megapixels (maybe a 1TP or 2TP, by then…) you better get some grips on the processing – i.e. throughput etc… can’t do much without it.

      Personally, not sure what’s in a camera these days as far as processing, but I’m imagining why not go the way of quad-multi-core or n-multi-core processing, where if let’s say a Nikon N1 v3 on a CX sensor can easily consume / process 20/60 fps (standing on it’s head), it’d make sense to pack an FX based camera with 9 x the multi-core processors to subdivide up the parallel processing etc… therefore, on a future electronic shutter etc (or whatever) you can get full frame 20/60 fps…

      of course at today’s energy consumption rates with that much computing power you might get about 200 shots of before you kill the battery to an unchargeable state – ouch :)

      and you might as well put an mSata slot in the camera vs. a card, let the camera write directly to large capacity SSD. you’re gonna have to to handle the throughput – obviously swappable…

      2. Change in sensor makeup – this could address all sorts of issues, from dynamic range limitations, ISO noise, and any other photographic limitation I am unfamiliar with that exists in sensors these days… maybe, a smart-sensor / nano-sensor (similar in naming to apple’s retna nomenclature) where the sensor technology leans towards a natural / “real-feel” and adapts itself for each shot – possibly leading to no post processing… by no means wanting to live in what Pye calls the “Ignorant Elitist” head mind you, not suggesting that. it could be a different way we post process – complementary to the smart / nano sensing…

      3. As far as the megapixel race, well, I suspect if technology changes, we may see a drop backwards to smaller again, or it could open up to TP’s… print size = earth :)

      4. Security – I would imagine, in 10 years, maybe, finally, the mfr’s will have worked out all the kinks in wifi by then, yet we’d have another problem on our hands… The “IP-Jacker” Intellectual Property-Jacker who can be in close proximity and lift images that come off the sensor right on to their device – and steal your stuff… we gotta watch for that…

      any of this, or none of this, might stick in 10 years…

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    • Rafael Steffen

      Remember when the D3X came out. It was the most amazing sensor for so many different type of jobs. I would love to shoot one even though the D750 or D810 is much superior.

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  7. adam sanford

    Ugh. Years of pent up desire to be the top of the spec heap will lead to a lot of Canon Explorers of Light making impossible claims softened into marketing statements with an adjective. Example: ‘Comparable’ instead of ‘As good as’.

    Canon had better make as much hay as they can until those units start shipping and those sensors get reviewed. There is a lot of chatter amongst the Canon representatives that the sensor will deliver in detail but be underwhelming (read: 7D2-like) in dynamic range and high ISO performance. We shall see.

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  8. Anders Madsen

    I’m not sure that the comparison with large format is really that relevant since there are no digital sensors with an area comparable to a large format negative – if anything, medium format digital shooters have long claimed that their (cropped, compared to medium format negative) sensor delivers a result comparable to large format analog.

    At least for landscape, there is probably not that much of a difference between a 50 MP Hasselblad or Phase One sensor and a 50 MB Canon sensor – resolution is what it is. However, when it comes to dynamic range (a subject that was completely absent from the video), the medium format sensor will whoop the poor Canon sensors ass by a mile or more – the physics (aka pixel pitch) simply works against the Canon.

    As for the competition to the Nikon D810: I just created three files in Photoshop with the pixel size corresponding to a 5Ds, a D810 and a D610, and just like the real world difference between a D610 (or a D750) and a D810 is not that groundbreaking after all, the difference between the D810 and the 5Ds is smaller than the numbers may lead to believe. However, going from 24 MP to 50 MP will definitely be noticeable, so current 5D Mark III owners will feel thoroughly spoiled, that is for sure.

    I think we should let them enjoy the feeling – after all, they waited for this moment for quite a few years… ;)

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    • Anders Madsen

      Argh – nonsense alert: “At least for landscape…” should have read “At least for perceived resolution…” instead – my mind was still on the content of the video when I wrote that sentence. :)

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    • Rafael Steffen

      Nice answer!

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  9. robert garfinkle

    And so the D800(e) / D810 goes to the wayside – or does it…

    Progress…

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    • Rafael Steffen

      Totally agree and maybe with more dynamic range.

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    • robert garfinkle

      well, from what I’m reading, it looks like they’ll have some more work to do – as general commentary is, that this sensor’s dynamic capabilities are similar to one of the elder cameras…

      I’ll keep my D810 thank you… won’t trade up for anything else, unless a D900 just so happens to hit the streets… Hmmm….

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    • J. Dennis Thomas

      From what I’ve been hearing, the Dynamic Range of these cameras doesn’t touch the D800/E / D810. Which is to be expected since the pixel pitch is the same size as a crop sensor camera. So basically what you have is a full-frame camera with the performance of a crop sensor camera.

      And honestly, how many people really need 50MP? Most don’t even need 24MP…

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    • robert garfinkle

      in all fairness – whether it’s Canon / Nikon / Sony etc… your point should apply to all who seek more MP from a sensor that size – correct?

      technology has to change IMO before they creep up the MP count; to achieve the DR, yes?

      or do we just make it easy on everyone and just go out and buy a medium format cam :)

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    • robert garfinkle

      if I can chime in as the alternate-rob for a cynical moment, to say:

      if the function of a large MP camera, aside from printability, is to capture detail – does it make sense to take the equipment you have and move that much closer to the subject, save the bucks…

      or am I being a wise-ass “again?”

      don’t answer that :)

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    • J. Dennis Thomas

      @ Robert Garfinkle: It doesn’t matter who makes the sensor, it’s limited by physics. Smaller photocells collect less light before overloading and contaminating the photocells around them, therefore DR is reduced.

      Obviously there is some technological advances in processing that are involved because some newer cameras have better DR than say a D3s which has the largest pixel pitch of any FX camera (that I’m aware of without doing research).

      In any case, If I were looking for medium format quality in a camera, I’d go with a medium format camera. I don’t see many high end fashion or product photographers jumping on this when Canon has few lenses that can even resolve enough detail to match the resolution.

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