Weekly Column: Canon’s Confusion

A lot has happened since my last post. I apologize for missing last week, I will be sure to get two posts in this week to make up for it. I’m back from an incredible trip to Yellowstone with truly fantastic people. A big thanks to all those who were involved! I wanted to discuss Canon’s big camera announcement of two new DSLRs, the Canon 5DS and 5DS R.

First off, the Nikon D800 came out in March of 2012. The new Canon DSLRs are coming in June of 2015. That’s more than 3 years we have waited for a competitive product from Canon. Common sense led us to believe that Canon was not going to release a product until they could surpass the fantastic Sony sensor found in the Nikon D800. Surely over 3 years of waiting would yield impressive results. One of the simplest lessons learned was the confusion between the Nikon D800 and D800E. Nikon needed only one model, the D800E. They have simplified the line with the Nikon D810. Canon apparently wants to repeat the same mistake. Not a big deal though, as there is small minority who are concerned with moire, so it’s nice they have an option.

Next up is price. As of today’s date, The Nikon D810 is available for $2996.95 from B&H Photo. The Canon 5DS R is $3899. It’s nearly $1000 more expensive. If you are going to be priced considerably higher than your competitor, the product you produce better be superior in the majority of comparisons.

Let’s get right to the megapixel war. The 5DS R is 50.6MP and the Nikon D810 is 36.3MP. Cleary the Canon has a nice lead in terms of resolution. The debate as to whether we need that much resolution is an important one, but we surely can all agree that no matter the amount or resolution, your sensor must produce clean files with low noise and as much dynamic range as possible. How quickly I’ve abandoned talk of megapixels to discuss the things us landscape photographers want Canon to fix beyond all else. There are 3 issues we have with Canon sensors that you don’t see in Sony sensors. The first – banding in the shadows. Inexcusable and image breaking at times. The second – noise in the sky even at base ISOs. This has never plagued me personally, but I know peers who have switched to Nikon because of it. The third, and most importantly, improved dynamic range. The dynamic range of the Canon sensor is approximately 2 stops worse than Sony’s sensor. There was a time when it was impressive, but not anymore. Technology has advanced and expectations have changed. According to Canon, you should expect to find the dynamic range in the new models to be about the same as the Mark III. This is what killed Canon for landscape shooters. Look no further. Dynamic range is the ticket. And apparently, they either don’t know the importance of it and didn’t address it, or they don’t have the technology to advance it. My guess is that Sony is simply superior in sensor design and years beyond where Canon resides currently.

The question is not whether or not we need 50.6 megapixels, the question is whether or not Canon can improve the performance of their sensors to compete with Sony (Sony makes the sensors for nearly all camera manufactures). Time is running out. More and more Canon shooters are leaving. When the 5DS R comes into the market (around June) hopefully we will have our definitive answer. In the meantime, I went from a definite preorder to a wait and see based on the early impressions. I will keep shooting my Canon 6D and wait for reviews of the final production unit of the 5DS R. At the same time, the next Sony sensor is right around the corner and I will be eager to see what advancements it brings to the table.

While I didn’t purchase the 5DS R this week, there was another camera that caught my eye and did get preordered, the Olympus E-M5 Mark II. More on that in the next post!

My TV recommendation this week is The Walking Dead. The ultimate hit or miss show. Season 1 was fun and campy. Season 2 was awful. Season 3 picked back up again. It’s a roller coaster ride, but in the end it’s worth it due to strong characters and an occasional phenomenal episode. The first half of the current season was very strong, but the midseason premier this week was terrible. And so it goes, that’s The Walking Dead for you!

"Alone" - Yellowstone National Park. ISO 200, f/11, 1/500 sec.

“Alone” – Yellowstone National Park. ISO 200, f/11, 1/500 sec.

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4 responses to “Weekly Column: Canon’s Confusion

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