I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a gearhead. Something new comes out, whether it be a camera, a motorcycle or a backpack, and the well-trained consumer in me starts plotting a way to buy the latest and greatest. When the Canon 5D Mark II was announced I knew I had to have it. I was using a 1D Mark II at the time and while it was a good camera, the 5D Mark II was light years ahead of it with regard to image quality and the technology packed inside that beautiful black body. Naturally, I bought it. I’ve been happily using it since and honestly, I can find very little to complain about.
When rumors of the 5D Mark III started rolling in I honest to God thought mine would be one of the very first pre-orders at B&H. I had visions of a full-frame sensor packing 30+ crystal clear megapixels with magical noise control and crazy dynamic range. Oh, the prints I would make! And then the Nikon D800 hit shelves with a whopping 36 megapixels residing on it’s sensor and sample images started showing up with some serious issues resolving detail. Surprising? Not really. Sure, the files are bigger but if they aren’t full of rich detail what good are they?
Tonight, Canon announced the 5D Mark III with a 22.3 megapixel sensor. Yep, 1 lousy megapixel more than the 5D Mark II. Big deal, right? Actually, I think Canon was smart not to engage in the War of the Megapixels. I’ve not seen any sample images from the 5D Mark III but I’d bet my Gitzo that they’ve got much more detail than those 36 megapixel whoppers from the D800. But this isn’t a Canon vs. Nikon thing. Unless Canon cut some kind of deal with the devil I’m fairly certain 36 megapixel files from a Canon full frame camera would be equally mushy. It’s just a matter of math. You can only cram so many megapixels into a full frame sensor before something has to give. What’s the solution? A bigger sensor.
And that brings me to why I won’t be buying a Canon 5D Mark III, at least not any time in the near future. I don’t need a faster frame rate, or built in HDR, or the capability to use ISO 25,600. I need a bigger sensor. My clients aren’t asking me to shoot 6 frames per second. They’re demanding ever larger prints. Currently I’m only comfortable enlarging 5D Mark II files to 32″ x 48″, and then only when they’re freakin’ perfect files to begin with. Of course, every time I press the shutter I’m generating a perfect file so that really isn’t an issue but you know, maybe, once in a while, something happens that isn’t my fault and perhaps a hyperfocal point was missed, or something like that. But seriously, the Canon 5D Mark III just isn’t a worthwhile investment for me to make at this time. In no way am I smack talking the camera, though. I’ve read the specs and the reviews of those lucky souls who got their hands on pre-production models while the rest of us sat around the interwebs sucking up the fumes from the rumor mill. The camera has a damn impressive feature set. I’ve no doubt the files will be even more impressive than those from my now ancient 5D Mark II. And while I might not need 6 frames per second, it never sucks to have it. But really, as a landscape photographer, I saw nothing in the specs that make me tingle all over.
What’s the answer to my dilemma? Digital medium format. I’m now plotting the purchase of a Pentax 645D. By the time I’m actually able to afford one Pentax will likely be pushing out the 645D Mark III, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact remains that I need bigger files for bigger, detail rich prints and I’m not going to get them out of the 5D Mark III. And that, my friends, is why I’m not buying one.
If you don’t think you can live without a 5D Mark III, B&H is already accepting pre-orders.