Is 45+ Megapixels really necessary?

With the announcement of the recently revealed Canon R5, it’s hard not to compare it to my existing camera body, the Canon R. I’d known for some time now based on rumors floating around that the R5 would be in the mid-40 megapixel range and have also long thought about the 50.6mp of the ultra high resolution Canon 5DSR. I’m not a fan of feeling like my images were somehow lacking because of the camera body, so after the new R5 launch I re-investigated whether I was content with 30.3 megapixels on the R.

UPDATE: While the R is fantastic and I love the resolution, dynamic range, and compact form factor, scoring a 5DSR on eBay for 75% off the original price has changed my mind! Check out the comparison here.

In regards to the Canon 5DSR, I downloaded some RAW files and compared them closely to the types of scenes I usually shoot. Namely, landscape scenes with lots of detail. The best way I could think to compare this one to my Canon R is to find a scene I had shot with trees way off in the distance and compare that image to a sample RAW from the 5DSR. Both images are at f/8, ISO 100, on very sharp lenses (Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II). It’s not a perfect comparison because it’s not the same scene, but it’ll do.

Here’s a quick comparison of the two at a 1:1 zoom (mine is on the left, the sample 5DSR RAW file on the right), showing a side by side of comparable scenes:

My image is the left scene, a mountain vista in the fall. Focus was set to infinity, so I’m comparing the white tree branches in the background to similarly sized branches in the sample shot from the 5DSR. To me, they look similarly detailed. Maybe a very, very slight edge to the 5DSR.

Next, let’s look closer, at a 2:1 zoom:

Again, maybe a very slight edge to the 5DSR. But the R held up very well despite having 20 fewer megapixels to work with. Lastly, let’s look at a 3:1 zoom for an incredibly close look at fine detail:

I would say at this point, the trees all the way at the back of the image from the R start to look very mushy, while the details in the trees at the back of the 5DSR image is still at least recognizably a tree. However, these are very, very small pieces of the final image and I do not expect anyone would ever look this close. There would need to be a magnifying glass hanging by a string next to the print to notice this type of difference in resolution.

One thing that I would like to still look at closer is making exact size comparisons. Meaning, because the 5DSR has more pixels in the same area, a 1:1 comparison of physical print dimensions will have different pixels – about 50% more in the 5DSR than the R. Here is a 2″ x 2″ comparison between the two:

These would be actual 2 inch squares in a print from each. Maybe the 5DSR has more fine detail, but I struggle to see the difference. Despite this very unofficial comparison, I tend to think that the R more than holds its own against the higher resolution of the 5DSR. In fact, I think the better focusing and live view, coupled with the flippy screen and the ability to shoot from weird angles, actually give the R an edge for my shooting.

However – recent announcements of the R5 had me looking into resolution again. This video in particular has a section with side by side resolution comparisons:

I must say, that R5 does look like it captures a noticeable amount more detail than the R. How much better it is in the real world is yet to be seen. I’ll likely download another similar RAW file and compare it to a similar image I’ve taken. Just look at this comparison:

Is the above increase in resolution worth the $3900 for the R5? Or would a little bit of sharpening and clarity adjustments accomplish the same look? I think I’ll stick with the R and the 30 megapixels for now.

Now, if that rumored 75 – 80 megapixel monster mirrorless body rumor has any validity… things may just change! At least I’m saving a bit towards it every now in then in case it shows up.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!


One Comment on “Is 45+ Megapixels really necessary?

  1. Pingback: The Six Reasons why I bought a 5dsr for landscape photography in 2020 – B. Beatty Photography

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