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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Big Megapixel jealousy?


So the word is out. We Canon shooters may soon be able to stop feeling inferior to our Nikon brethren with their 36 Megapixel D810. Rumour has it that Canon is about to release a whopping big 50MP beast, which brings up some interesting questions.

Firstly who needs 50MP? I can see how all those glorious pixels would come in handy if you shoot and print huge prints. I'm afraid I can't remember the last time I printed a picture (although my clients use them in print regularly). So I guess that crosses me off that list.

I could also see it coming in handy if you're shooting wildlife and your longest lens just doesn't get you close enough. Just crop a bit out of the middle and, assuming your lenses are up the task, I'm sure you could get a very good, large image. Unfortunately I don't really shoot wildlife either so I guess I'm off that list too.

Hmmm..I'm not doing myself any favours if I really have designs on a new camera here. In fact, truth be known, I can't think of a single use (in my business) for all those pixels. In fact, until the reviews come out, I would be worried that it would be a downgrade from what I'm shooting now. How could that be you ask?

Well at the moment my camera shoots a little over 20MP, about standard for a Canon full-frame camera. But, more importantly for me, it's low light shooting abilities are phenomenal. I regularly shoot it at 1600 and 3200 ISO without the need for any noise reduction work. Hell, as I've mentioned in a previous post, I shot plenty of images in Paris at 12,800 that were perfectly usable for up to A4. The ability to shoot in low light is a godsend for me.

But not only when shooting available light, as in this shot from the Louvre above. I often use the high ISO capabilities when using flash. Why would you do that you say? Because many of my compositions involve blending flash with ambient light to create as natural a look as possible. Sure if my entire frame was lit by flash I could shoot at ISO 100, but I like to retain the natual light of an environment as much as possible. Bumping up my ISO means I can do that easily.

So is this new fandangled camera up to those same levels? Only time will tell but with more than twice as many pixels on a sensor the same size I'm thinking something has to give?

Also there's the issue of increased file sizes leading to the need for faster computers, bigger hard drives, more storage cards, more portable hard drives on the road. I've only just rebuilt my computer and don't really feel like doing it again for a very long time!

Yep, it almost sounds like this is my wife writing this post. Explaining exactly why I don't need 50 Megapixels.

But here's the underlying question that needs to be asked. Will a new camera fundamentally affect the way you are able to create images? Will it enable you to do things you'd never thought of? And will having more megapixels than the photographer next to you mean that you'll create more insightful, thought-provoking images? Of course you know the answer to that one, or at least I do.

Advances in equipment are wonderful when they free your imagination and allow you to create pictures that you could only imagine before. When I was shooting film (yeah I know, I'm old) we were limited to 50 or 100 ISO. Can you imagine shooting documentary travel work on 50ISO? If only I had a dollar for all the pictures I couldn't physically take!

For me the most recent game changers have been (in no particular order) - high ISO capabilities, Wi-fi enabled, GPS tracking. Those things might not appeal to you at all but for me they were all huge game changers for various reasons. 50MP? Meh, not so much.