In 1999 my first Pro DSLR had 2megapixels and in just 15 years things really have moved on to a whole new level.
First we had the arrival of the 50mp Canon 5DS which seemed to be the last word in high megapixel cameras, then along came the diminutive and highly innovative 42 mp Sony A7R II.
Either of these cameras will deliver quality massively greater than the best 35mm film camera.
Which one is right for you? Well that is down to you, but rest assured I’m sure they will both be EXCELLENT cameras.
For some photographers perhaps this result of the megapixel race is irrelevant, though the success of the Sony A7R(I) would seem to indicate that photographers do appreciate the possibility of extra detail.
But we need to be clear, this is only a possibility and not a certainty.
I have been shooting with large sensor, high megapixel cameras in the shape of Phase One cameras for some years now dealing with files of up to 80 megapixels, and getting the best quality from them, or any other big sensor high megapixel camera is not a given.
Let me explain, when you have a sensor which can deliver such detail you really have to modify your technique, being meticulous when it comes to focus and being very sure you have the camera as stable as possible as any movement, no matter how small means you will not get the very best detail that the sensor is capable of delivering.
In fact if you have been shooting on the current crop of DSLR cameras of around the 20 megapixel mark and you think you want to venture into the brave new world of 40 plus megapixels these are the 5 things you will need to get the most out of your camera, and believe me it isn’t going to be cheap.
1. Superb lenses. If your glass is not up to the job you simply will not see anything like the resolution or potential from your new acquisition that it is capable of. Establish which lenses you use most often and seriously consider upgrading these to the very best. I’m looking forward to trying out the Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4 and Otus 85mm F1.4 on a Canon 5DS. I did a mini test with them on my 6D with a mere 20 megapixels – the results were pretty staggering. With 42 or 50 megapixels the results will be out of this world.
2. A first grade tripod and head is very important indeed If your camera is not rock steady once again you will not be getting anything like head line resolution from a 40 plus megapixel camera, if you get movement you will get resolution which could be inferior to existing 20megapixel camera. My go to tripod of choice is the brilliant Gitzo 5562LTS which is rock solid and yet fits in a back pack with a GH5381SQR it is perfect for long lens work. For many this set up could be seen as a little ‘Over the top’ I know but if I use it I have just taken the possibility of the camera/lens The key thing though is to choose a tripod and head that works well for you, you might find a combination which is better for your situation, there is no real substitute for trial and error. I do have a couple of recommendations though which will help, firstly choose a well made quality head which has a shortish stem from the head itself to the camera or top of tripod. The shorter these distances are there is less room for movement in the metal of the head itself. Secondly Speaking of shorter distances and less movement try to choose a tripod which will reach your eye level WITHOUT resorting to raising the centre column, the potential for unintended movement is much greater when you have the centre column extended. Thirdly don’t forget the weight hook on the bottom of the tripod. If you have the tripod anchored it can make quite a difference. For me having a very rigid lightweight tripod like my Gitzo and adding extra mass to the set up is the ideal set up. If you try this yourself ensure that the weight when attached is touching the ground. If the weight is moving then so is your tripod…..this has caught me out. Note if you you would prefer a geared head I recommend the Manfrotto 405 head which allows superb fingertip control, even with gloves.
3. Getting the image perfectly sharp can be much more difficult than you might imagine. Getting 95 percent sharpness is relatively easy but getting that last 5 percent can prove to be quite elusive, auto focus or not.
This is one area where the Sony with its electronic viewfinder has a real advantage with its option of in viewfinder magnification before you have taken the shot ensuring the last degree of focus is there. If you opt for the Canon 5DS a lens specific focusing screen. When you have this much detail it will show up any poor focus mercilessly. Autofocus is not always the answer and autofocus is not always as accurate as it might be when it comes to fine focus with super fast lenses at wide apertures in very low light.
If you NEED to get image critically sharp particularly at wide apertures live view is a sure fire way to ensure you have ‘nailed’ the focus.
4. A faster computer. Be it a Mac Pro, an iMac with a i7 processor or some tricked out PC you will NEED a computer capable of processing raw images efficiently. Your current computer might be OK when it comes to processing large numbers of raw images, your computer could turn to something like custard.
People have asked just how fast a computer they need and I would recommend buy the fastest you can afford.
Though buying the best computer I can afford has hit my wallet pretty hard at the time of purchase I have never regretted it long term.
5. Storage. It goes without saying but your storage needs are going to go through the roof….probably doubling. Storage has never been more affordable but I believe if your storage needs are increasing you will be best advised to look at a server of some kind. I use the excellent QNAP TS859 in Raid 10 array for speed and redundancy.
It is not all about buying ever increasing amounts of storage, you might like to consider your file storage plan – by that I mean if you are shooting raw you might want, or indeed need to consider which raw file you keep-none at all? Or just the ‘master’ files? The choice is yours.
So there you have it.
If you want to get the quality which 50 megapixels promise from a high megapixel Canon or 42 megapixels of innovative wizard Sony buying the camera will be the tip of the expense iceberg.
Don’t let it put you off but do remember to take into account these important tips.