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Pixel power puts new Canon camera ahead of the pack

A Post Weekend photographer holds up an article at 30 metres, and a crop of the same image (insert left).
A Post Weekend photographer holds up an article at 30 metres, and a crop of the same image (insert left). Scott Howes

Pixel power puts new Canon camera ahead of the pack

Ahead of the Canon PhotoMarathon, the Post’s photo editor Scott Howes took the manufacturer’s latest model for a test run around the city

When Canon launched the 5DS and 5DSR earlier this year, the camera manufacturer transitioned from being a brand little associated with high-resolution camera bodies to heading the pack: its new camera is now the highest resolution full-frame DSLR camera on the market.

Earlier this month, I took the 5DSR for a spin around the streets of Phnom Penh to see how the much-anticipated new model fared in practice.

Visually, there’s little difference between the 5DSR and its three-year-old sibling, the 5D Mark III. The dimension of the body, button layout and weight – give or take a few grams – are identical.

The guts of the camera are where the new 5DSR flexes its muscles, the obvious difference being the 50.6 million pixels that Canon has managed to squeeze in – more than double the amount of its predecessor.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

Excited by the camera’s specs on paper, a trusty staff photographer and I went to our testing range – the company car park – to see what kind of detail we could pull off the 5DSR’s sensor in practice.

Standing a bit over 30 metres away, I took a handful of images of my colleague holding a copy of Post Weekend to see what we could distinguish on the newspaper, if anything at all.

Checking the photos we had just taken on the back of the camera, we were easily able to read the headline, which consisted of letters only one and a half centimetres tall.

Realising that nobody is likely to be particularly interested in reading a newspaper from 30 metres away, we tried the same trick with a portrait shot.

I was joking beforehand about being able to count eyelashes, but it turned out you could do exactly that.

The picture was punchy and beautifully detailed across the whole frame. Colour rendition was accurate, and skin tones were well handled.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The Canon 5DS being unveiled in Tokyo earlier this year (above right). Afp

Venturing out into the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh’s markets, surely one of the city’s most photogenic settings, the camera kept pace with the busy scenes.

A bright viewfinder and fast, accurate auto-focus were great to mop up candid moments in the streets, although in the darker corners of the markets the auto-focus was a bit sluggish at achieving a focus lock due to the reduced contrast of the scene.

Taking the camera inside, I discovered the benefits of the camera’s sophisticated light meter, which has the ability to detect light flicker from artificial light sources such as fluorescent bulbs.

Thanks to this feature, an “Anti-Flicker” function has been added whereby the camera can add a miniscule amount of shutter lag so that the capture coincides with the instant of peak illumination.

There are still some limitations to the function, but it’s a neat addition to have when you happen to be shooting in dirty fluorescent lighting – an all-too-common occurrence in Phnom Penh’s poorly lit shophouse interiors.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A flower stall at Phnom Penh’s Central Market. Shot settings: f5.6 at 1/30sec on ISO 200 at 35mm. Scott Howes

Canon have done their best to mitigate against holdups created by the sheer size of the images the 5DSR produces: dual DIGIC 6 Image Processors allows the 5DSR to still shoot at a respectable five frames per second, and a USB 3 port allows for far faster transfers than the more widely used USB 2 connector.

But loading and editing the files on a mid- to high-end computer still took noticeably longer than an image from a 20 megapixel camera, and the same went for applying certain filters.

Because HD monitors generally don’t have enough pixels to display these photos in all their high-resolution glory, the only real way to get the most out of the large detailed images from this camera would be to make large prints on a nice gloss or semi-gloss paper or a billboard.

But there are reasons for all photographers – not just those with a billboard to fill – to get excited by this new model.

The camera produces beautifully detailed images with vibrant colours and good tonal reproduction, and its reasonable price would make it a decent option for those who don’t have the tens of thousands of dollars to spend on a digital medium format camera but are junkies for detail.

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