Achieving Stability: Three steps for Consistently Getting Ultra Sharp Images

When I first unboxed the Canon 5DSR I picked up off of eBay, I couldn’t wait to try it out and see what a difference the 50.6 megapixel, unfiltered resolution offered over my beloved Canon EOS R‘s 30.3 megapixels. I’d done tons of reading on the benefits of the 5DSR and the downsides for years, and was (and continue to be!) extremely happy with the Canon R’s (and 5D Mark IV’s) image quality.

The downside to the 5DSR was always the price which, until the very end of 2020, was exorbitant at nearly $4,000. When I found one for 80% off though, I jumped on it. After a few months of use, I started to see more and more of the extra care that is required in order to get the most out of a high megapixel camera body.

Initially, I thought all I needed was to just use the best lenses. I put on the sharpest lenses that I own anytime I went out: the 24-70mm f/2.8L II, 16-35mm f/4L IS, and 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L II. However, I still found myself questioning if I was really seeing the benefit of the increased resolution. That is, until one of the photos was 100% sharp, 100% in focus, with absolutely no camera shake or motion blur… WOW. Those images were spectacular.

I had to make these results more consistent.

As a result, I decided to implement the following three steps to ensure that I can get the absolute most out of my 5DSR:

Step 1: Stability. Enter the FLM Tripod.

The perfect match!

I have what I’d consider a solid tripod. It’s aluminum Geekoto travel tripod, weighs maybe 4 pounds, and has a center column hook to attach weight to increase the stability. With a 2 second timer and the Canon R, I never had any problems. However – I started to notice that 2 seconds wasn’t enough time to dampen all movement on the 5DSR with the increased detail capture ability, and wind would sometimes cause the slightest breezes to introduce subtle blurring.

The FLM tripod legs would do a few things much, much better. One, they would reduce both the size and weight I need to carry on long hiking trips – always welcome things. And two, the stability is off the charts better! The thick, carbon fiber legs expand much wider, are way stiffer, and dampen nearly all vibration in less than half the time of the aluminum tripod I had been using. This will undoubtedly lead to much more consistently capturing the highest quality images. The FLM legs also do not have a center column, which should provide yet even more stability.

When I was researching, I knew I wanted something better than the “amazon-tier” tripods, or those in the $40-$200 range. I looked everywhere but was uninspired, unless I looked at the premier league of tripods. The Really Right Stuff tripods look exceptional, but I just couldn’t justify over $1,000 just for the legs alone! Nick’s video posted below then caused me to look at a lesser known but equally amazing brand, FLM. These are coming in at around $400 for the legs, which is substantial. But, I was able to get the legs and the ball head for less than the RRS legs along. Easy choice.

I also love how compactable it is!

Step 2: Control. Enter the Really Right Stuff BH-40 ball head.

My biggest complaint with my old tripod was the ball head. Anytime I would attach the fairly heavy 100-400mm zoom, especially when extending it, I would lock down the ball head to the composition I wanted and then… it would droop. The framing would totally change! And with such a far zoom, I’d have to play a guessing game of trying to frame slightly above what I wanted my actual photograph would be so that then, when it would inevitably drift lower, the composition would be what I wanted.

The Really Right Stuff BH-40 does not do that, at all. It is so rock solid, that I’ll just set the composition, twist the ball lock knob, and it will not move at all. This is going to save so much time and energy and frustration! I also suspect there will be cases where a subject could be a fleeting moment, such as a ray of sunlight just sneaking through for a moment, that I will be able to catch that I may have missed in the past.

This ball head and tripod setup is a bit expensive, no doubt, but I am rationalizing it based on output. All it will take is 3-4 print sales to pay off, and with the dramatically increased keeper rate thanks to the new stability of this tripod and head, it seems like a very good bet to make. They both are also incredibly well built. I know that even 25 years from now there’s a very good chance I will still be using both.

Step 3: Capture. Enter the remote shutter release.

Another thing I never really saw a ton of value in thanks to the two second timer setting. I had no problems setting the timer on my Canon R and letting all motion and vibration cease just in time. However, on the 5DSR this wasn’t quite enough time every once in a while, so I’d have to do the 10 second timer. Now, if you want an impossible challenge, try shooting seascapes with a 10 second timer! There’s literally no way to understand what the ocean is going to do in 3-4 seconds, let alone 10.

With the remote shutter cable, now I can set up my composition, wait for the exact moment I want to take my photo, and not have to worry about any timing or introduced camera shake by hitting the shutter button. I can also be infinitely more reactive when dealing with conditions at the ocean, or waiting for breaks in the wind. Awesome! A shutter release is easily the best $10 – $30 you can spend that will dramatically improve your photography. (I got the RS-80N3, but these are different for every camera body, so make sure that you do the research on which is the one you would need).

So there you have it! The three steps I’ve taken to get the most out of the 5DSR images. The only last point I’ll add is that I plan to replace the L-bracket shown in the 5DSR image with a Really Right Stuff L-Bracket made specifically for the 5DSR. The one I’m using is just OK, not because it is unstable but because I need to constantly loosen it to remove the battery and reposition it so that I can use the cable release. I know for certain that’ll get old quick, so I’m just going to get one that is form fitted.

While these three points are what I’ve chosen to improve the images from my 5DSR, these will also be hugely beneficial regardless of what camera you’re using! If you have a camera that takes 30 megapixel or higher images (5D Mark IV, R5, Sony A7RIII/A7RIV, Nikon D850, etc), I strongly suggest you consider getting a cable release and proper tripod setup. Yes, it’s more cash than the $50 tripod you can get on Amazon, but there’s that old saying that fools pay twice. Don’t miss great images or risk your gear falling over and getting damaged or ruined just to save a couple hundred bucks!

Best,

Brian

The inspiration in case you’re curious:

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