Some Observations on the Canon 5DS and 5DS R
On Friday Canon announced the company's newest DSLR offerings, the much rumoured Eos 5DS and 5DS R cameras. The new versions of Canon's long running 5D line have been making waves in the photography community for their headline feature, their new 50mp sensor. I won't go into all the specifications and technical details on the cameras, as that's been covered in great detail by photography news sites (check out DPReviews first impressions and announcement posts) but instead I'll offer some opinion and observations.
First of all, I'm a long time 5D user. In fact, I am a long time Eos 5 user, as I have the film version of this camera too. The first 5D was a game changer in that it brought full frame to affordable levels, and it produced (and still does) some gorgeous images. The 5D was my second digital camera, and I shot with it lots, although some things drove me mad about it (the dirt and oil on the sensor became a big deal with mine) . The 5d Mark II was another ground breaker, as it pioneered the use of digital slrs in television and film production (I know Nikon's d90 was the first with video). I have this too and still shoot with it regularly. The mark III was an evolution of the Mark II and I didn't bother upgrading mine at the time.
The new ones are not being marketed as a replacement for the mark III but instead as companions. They are niche cameras for specialist markets, although I'm sure people who don't really need the resolution will be buying them too. Of course there has already been the usual round of "you don't need anything more than 12 megapixels" from various voices, and of course depending on your type of photography, you may not. However, as I pointed out recently, higher megapixels are becoming more relevant with the advent of high dpi displays.
There is a market for cameras of this resolution, in fact there already is a range of cameras that shoot these resolutions - medium format cameras. These are very expensive systems, so in the one sense Canon is bringing this class of image capture down to more affordable levels. If you need the resolution it's probably the cheapest way of getting it outside of medium format. And if you don't, then don't buy one. It was the same when Nikon's D800 came out.
Speaking of which, I got to use a friend's D800 before christmas for a bit, and it's a great camera. However, working with those files did put a strain on my system, and I have a good system - a 12 core mac pro. I can only imagine that the new Canons will take up even more computing resources to handle, but again, if you're coming from the medium format market then it's not going to be anything new for you. Some people have also expressed concern at cramming so many pixels into a 35mm sized sensor, but 50mp on a full frame sensor has a similar pixel density to the Canon 7d mark II, so it's not completely ridiculous.
There are some things that may disappoint however. For a start the dynamic range has not improved, according to Canon. They claim it is similar to the 5D Mark III. Some Canon users had been hoping it was an area where Canon would improve their sensors (compared to the capabilities of Nikon/Sony's current sensor lineup) but that doesn't seem to be the case. Incidentally, having used the D800 I have to say, the dynamic range on that camera is amazing. I would nearly consider that more of a seller than the 36mp resolution. Still, if you're happy with the dynamic range on the 5D Mark II you'll be happy with the new ones too.
The long lead time on these announcements seems a bit odd to me. They're announcing now, but availability is not expected until June. I have to wonder if they're getting them out there because, while there are rumours of Sony also releasing a 50mp sensor, Canon might know more than the rumours. Perhaps Canon want's to get theirs out first. Also, the video is a let down on these cameras, but then they are not cameras for video, they're for shooting high resolution stills, and it's good to see Canon focussing on that. I suspect that we will see the 5D mark IV out soon (probably at NAB) and it will focus on video and will probably have 4K. My suspicion (and it's just my own speculation) is that the reason that the 1DC had it's priced slashed so severely recently was to sell as many as they can before releasing a 4K capable 5D mark IV. This is just a theory of course!
Anyway, the 5DS and 5DR are interesting cameras. They're not for everyone, but for the target market, I suspect they will garner a lot of interest. Personally, I wouldn't buy one, as I don't need the resolution, but I'll be curious to see how well they are received once they're in production and out in the real world.
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