The Second Megapixel War


Canon just laid down the big thump with a pair of 50 megapixel SLR camera bodies, trouncing previous crown holder with a whopping 40% more pixels than the Nikon D810. Ken Rockwell has all the details you need to know about Canon’s new 5DS and 5DS R models.


I hadn’t bothered worrying about megapixels in almost ten years, but Canon has me rethinking that — let me tell you why.

For the typical SLR shooter, 10mp is more than enough. Back in 2006, I had a three-foot-wide print made of a sunset shot I made with a 6mp Nikon D70 — and it looks great. When was the last time you ordered a print bigger than maybe 11×14, much less 36×24? Since then I’ve shot & owned a 10mp D200, a 12mp D300, and a 16mp D7000. At no point did I think, “Gosh, what I wouldn’t do for more pixels.”

Mostly what I wanted was something faster and easier to shoot, which kept me upgrading for reasons other than megapixels.

For really large prints I spent a few months messing around with a medium-format Mamiya and a bag full of rolls of old-fashioned film, but was quickly reminded why medium format pretty much sucks for civilians, and why we were all happy to ditch film for digital.

But getting up to 50mp gives you a camera with the ability to resolve a photo just like a medium-format camera. That puts a lot of art-print-quality power in the hands of any serious hobbyist willing to put up the money. Living just minutes or hours away from some of the most beautiful and pristine wilderness in the Lower 48, I can’t begin to tell you how tempting that is.


Now I’m a patient man, and I don’t want to trade in all my Nikon gear to pay earlier adopter prices for Canon’s latest and greatest. But a couple years from now, when prices have come down and Nikon trumps Canon with the 65mp D850 or whatever… and my sons are bigger and easier to take on road trips…

…I can imagine spending some serious time in the Rockies trying to get that perfect mountain sunset shot I can blow up to eight feet wide.


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