I’ve been shooting with the new 50 megapixel Canon 5Ds for a little over a month now. I have to say, it is one impressive piece of engineering. The image quality and detail this camera is capable of producing is mind blowing! No big surprise there. What was somewhat of a surprise to me, was the way I had to change my shooting habits to get the most out of the camera. The past month has been quite a learning experience, and I thought I’d pass along some practical lessons learned in the field for those of you considering buying one of these cameras.
First off, this is not a technical discussion of the Canon 5Ds. A quick Google search on the topic will give you all the information you ever wanted on the technical side. Instead, this article will focus on the techniques needed in the field to ensure you get the most out of your new camera. In particular, how to work with an image sensor with such a high resolution.
Cameras have always been vulnerable to any type of movement, hence the invention of the tripod. However, with the extreme resolution of the 5Ds, movement is now one of my foremost concerns when shooting in the field. The pixels are packed together so tightly on the sensor, any camera shake or vibration with a relatively slow shutter speed causes a softening of the image. Depending on how much movement occurs, the image might become blurred and completely unusable. Counteracting this problem is what caused me to change my techniques in the field, and to write this article.
Solving this problem is really straight forward. Shoot with a fast enough shutter speed, and your images come out tack sharp. However, the old rule of setting your shutter speed to the reciprocal of the focal length of your lens (ex. 1/100 sec. with a 100mm lens) doesn’t quite cut it. I would recommend doubling that value, especially if your hand holding the camera. Shooting with a fast shutter speed, however, is not always an option. Here’s how I deal with those situations.
A tripod is a must! If you’re going to invest in a camera of this magnitude, invest in a sturdy, well built tripod also, and use it! Using a tripod (which I always do) solves most of the movement problems that cause your images to blur, but not all of them. If it’s windy, try and shoot during the lulls in the wind. Here in the Southwest, wind is almost always present. I noticed the first time I shot with the 5Ds, my images were much softer than I anticipated. This wasn’t a problem with the Mark II I shot with before. I started waiting for a break in the wind, and the sharpness came right back. I even went as far as removing the neck strap from the camera, as it was causing vibration from the wind also. Shoot with a remote shutter release, to ensure your camera remains as steady as possible. Following these techniques produces tack sharp images with wide angle to semi telephoto lenses. Get beyond a 100 mm lens and another problem arises.
The Canon 5Ds has a very sophisticated motor driven mirror built into it. This reduced the amount of ‘slap’ vibration created when the mirror locks up significantly, but it didn’t remove it completely. At focal lengths of a 100 mm or greater, mirror vibration begins to soften your images again. The longer the lens, the more exaggerated it becomes. Fortunately, the 5Ds has a very robust mirror lock up function on it. You now have the option of setting up to a two-second shutter release delay after the mirror locks up, with one press of the shutter release button. Awesome! I’ve been using the two-second delay when shooting with my EF 100-400 mm L lens, and the images are incredibly sharp. Without it, the image becomes to blurry to use. I would highly recommend placing this setting in the custom menu, so you have quick access to it.
To sum it all up, steady is the key to successfully shooting with the Canon 5Ds. Beyond what I discussed earlier, the camera functions just like any other advanced DSLR. If you’re in the market for an extremely high resolution camera, and you do most of your shooting from a tripod, I would highly recommend this camera. However, if you’re more interested in speed and mobility, I would purchase another model designed for that use, like the 1D or 7D series. I’ve posted a gallery on my Fine Art America website with all the images I’ve taken so far with the 5Ds. Follow the link below to check them out, and as always, feel free to start up a conversation in the comments section.