Last night the highly anticipated 5D mk III was announced and all official specs confirmed the rumours that have been doing the rounds on the internet. My first impression is that Canon followed the exact same recipe as with the 1Dx (low resolution, improved peripherals) and for that I’m thankful. I knew the launch of these cameras would be interesting, but I don’t think many people saw this reverse of roles in the pixel race. The pixel race is something that degrades image quality by making camera manufacturers money off people’s lack of understanding of true resolution. It’s like an abscessed sore in the camera development world that will hopefully be healed one day.
Nikon has now taken the lead with its 36mp D800, but it wasn’t willing to compete in the pixel race with the model that won it the global sports and journalism market?? They’ve increased the resolution of the D700 by 1.73x, while upping the resolution of the D3 only by 1.22x. There are obviously the speed, focus and noise areas where the D4 needs to perform much better than the D800, but looking at this fact I suspect the D800 is a confident throw of the dice to try and get their foot in a market that is dominated by the 5DmkII. I may have stuck faithfully to Canon over the past 3 years, but the way in which they compromise IQ for specs that sell cameras really pissed me off. The companies obviously just want to make money, but it’s insulting when they sacrifice the performance of their cameras for high pixel-counts that appeal to the Tom, Dick and Harrys that don’t know squat about resolution.
It’s been proven time and time again through many models from every brand that the higher the pixel density, the worse the image quality gets. Nikon faithfully stood by this knowledge and produced cameras with low resolution, great speed and focus that resulted in a great overall camera. Apart from the 1Ds III and 5D II, I can’t say I ever desired one of the non FF Canon cameras. The 1DmkIV was killed on launch by the D3s. The 7D’s pixel density was more than twice that of the 5DmkII and while its IQ did surprise me, it was a very useless 18mp.
Now it seems that Canon has taken the lessons it learned from those over-rezzed models and applied it in the development of what I hope will finally be their comeback from the knock that they’ve taken from Nikon over the past 4 years? They’ve been surviving off the consumer market and the 5D II. The money may be in the consumer market, but it’s the pros that build your reputation and 3 years ago it was like Canon pro bodies were Polish Jews all taken to Auschwitz under the rule of the D3.
Enough speculation, there are solid facts to look at.
22.3mp – I’ve had 21mp for 3 years now and I honestly can’t say I want more unless it’s on a larger format. In what situation will you truly benefit from 7-8mp more? I’m still very doubtful of whether Nikon’s new technology can truly pull out that much detail from a 35mm format lens, BUT, if the D800 can prove me wrong then I’ll get in my car and go buy one.
New AF system – I focus manually most of the time using Live View because you can zoom in 10 times to any part of the frame and make sure focus is dead on. I do however shoot on AF when shooting handheld and I know the focus isn’t reliable, so while it’s not a make or break issue it is a useful improvement for me.
Light metering, video functions and higher fps don’t really tickle my fancy, but it has all been considerably improved.
Improved Weather resistance – After a year of risky seascape shooting and one final wave giving me a sunset shower, my 5D II kicked the bucket. Upon analysis it was constant exposure to sea air and water that corroded the circuit boards around the buttons, so improved weather sealing is very welcome.
New sensor cleaning – They’ve added something at the bottom of the shutter box that absorbs the dust after it has been shaken from the sensor? I’d love to get a better understanding of how this works. All I know is that everyone HATES dust!
Larger, better LCD – Always welcome.
New HDR function – In camera HDR processing…I don’t want to say much about this, but I suspect the results to be very photomatix-like. I’ll wait and see.
Multiple Exposure Function – This I’m very excited for…Something you could do in the film days to create very interesting results. If you don’t know the potential of this then you don’t deserve to get excited about it!
If you go read the page on Canon’s website you’ll see that there are many other cool new functions like comparative playback, in camera processing, variable aspect rations…the list goes on!
100-25600 Native ISO range – Canon says that newly designed photodiodes, a better signal to noise ratio and improved image processing has upped noise performance by two stops. To most people that doesn’t mean much, but for landscapers wishing to go to the night skies it means a lot. I’ve always shot at 3200, which is good enough for web viewing but I wouldn’t print it. Two stops more will mean you can print ISO3200 files and you can shoot at ISO12800. Imagine this…pitch black wilderness sky, a milkyway so bright it casts a shadow under a Namibian tree…ISO12800, 30s, f/2.8. To say that the thought of that gets me very excited is an understatement. If you use a 24mm f/1.4 lens you can get another two stops, and if you’ve got a 1Dx (100-51200 native range) then you’ve got another stop. I’m confident that these new cameras are about to open one massive door to night sky photography and that is the thing I’m most excited about.
I’m going to try and type my conclusion as short as possible without elaborating on points. I would love to hear people’s arguments for or against certain things.
Megapixels – I don’t think that on the medium term the way forward for 35mm cameras is resolution. Even the sharpest lens can only project so much detail in a 36x24mm area and Nikon has gone upstream from their recipe for success of low res, high IQ. I can’t wait to see hi-res samples from the D800 because it will confirm or bust this theory. If you’ve seen the detail that LF film or MF digital produces, you’ll understand.
Live view – Up until the D3s, Nikon’s live view was very 3rd world compared to Canon. The ability to meter and zoom to x10 anywhere in the frame is a brilliant function. If Nikon has improved on this they’ve won serious brownie points from me.
Noise – Canon has a native ISO range going two stops higher, but Nikon has dominated noise performance over the past years. This is going to be interesting.
Highlights – Most readers of my blog know my passionate hate of Nikon’s highlight tones and colors in skies. If this hasn’t improved then there’s no chance of me buying a D800.
Price and availability – The canon is set to be a few $100 more and history has shown that Nikon is better at getting things on the shelf on time…
I honestly don’t know what to expect. These cameras will come packed with 3-4 years of R&D. My main standing point is that I’m doubtful about 36mp in a 35mm sensor. The proof will be in the pudding, so lets hope the pudding hits the shelves ASAP!