Canon 5Ds r first thoughts with images

Canon's 50 megapixel monster arrived at my doorstep just over a week ago. Being a landscape photographer I was concerned about the dynamic range of the sensor. I gathered my things and headed out to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to test the camera out.

My first experiment was to test the sharpness and resolution. It's no disputing that this camera is insanely sharp. It's really hard to explain but the best way I can think of is that the images seem 3D like. Everything pops with well defined edges and detail. It's also crazy how much I can crop and still end up with a 30 megapixel image. Examples are shown below. 

My second test, and for me the most important, was the dynamic range test. I have to say I was presently surprised by the results. So much so I started researching other reviews to see if they were getting similar results. They confirmed my findings. The dynamic range is pretty darn good on the 5Ds r. See for yourself. The image below was exposed for the highlights. I made the raw image, imported to light room, and then exported a jpeg for this write up. 


Image is straight out of the camera. Raw photo exported to jpeg via lightroom. 

Image is straight out of the camera. Raw photo exported to jpeg via lightroom. 

As you can see it's pretty dark. In lightroom I went through my normal editing process. For this image I opened the shadows, raised the exposure, and used a graduated filter to darken the sky because it was pretty bright after the aforementioned edits.  I made some color adjustments, local exposure adjustments, local contrast adjustments, etc. The image below is the final result. 

Image after exposure and shadow adjustments. 

Image after exposure and shadow adjustments. 

I'm not going to win any awards for this photograph but as you can see I was able to pull out a lot of information from just one image.  Again heading back to the web reading other reviews I found photographers were getting similar results with the 5Ds r and on par with Nikons D810 dynamic range. I was really shocked and very happy with these results! 

My last test was to shoot some wildlife and experiment with cropping. Again I was blown away with the detail of this camera. While this is not marketed as a wildlife camera, it will get plenty of use from me in that department. I know of a fox den and set up my camera to capture some images. My longest lens is 400mm so I setup as close as I reasonably could. Below is the full 50 megapixel image edited and exported in jpeg format via lightroom CC. 


50 Megapixel image edited and exported via lightroom

50 Megapixel image edited and exported via lightroom

The composition isn't bad but I wanted to get closer. I cropped the image to my liking and came up with this image. 

Cropped image

Cropped image

A subtle yet better composition in my opinion. I didn't worry about the megapixel count while cropping. I did the adjustments then checked to see where I was resolution wise. Come to find out I was just under 29 megapixels! 

Before I edited the fox photograph I zoomed in to 100% and exported the image. This is a raw photo straight out of the camera exported as a jepeg via lightroom cc. 

100% zoomed unedited

100% zoomed unedited

Overall I am very pleased and excited with the Canon 5Ds r! Some video features and high iso are lacking therefore it's not for everyone. Other features like built in interval and bulb timers are welcome. The build quality is top notch and as far as I can tell the exterior is identical to the 5DIII. I am pleasantly surprised by the performance of the camera specifically the sensor. This camera works flawlessly with Canon's recently updated lens lineup, (in my opinion the best glass you can buy, besides some zeiss glass). The images above were made with the 16-35mm f4 and the 100-400mm II. 

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Camera Sales Declining

What's the reason camera sales are declining? What will the future hold for DSLR's and mirrorless camera systems?

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Canon 5DS R and the 11-24 mm Lens

As many of you probably have heard by now, Canon has announced the Canon 5DS R and the 11-24mm f4 lens. I followed all the hubbub about the release over at Canon Rumors Blog. Here's a great preview from The Digital Picture Blog about the 5Ds R. I have been mulling it over, doing research, and trying to decide what I wanted to do in terms of my photo gear. I have been eagerly awaiting Canons response to the Nikon D810 and Sony's A7R. While the megapixel count is in the medium format realm, the dynamic range is not. According to several Canon interviews, the dynamic range will be the same as the Canon 5D III. This was disappointing to hear! Sony and Nikon (which is using Sony made sensors) have better dynamic range according to DXO Mark. This is pretty important for nature photographers. I researched various websites including DXO to help me decide what camera / lens combinations would be best for me and my workflow. My initial thoughts of disappointment quickly turned back to pro Canon views after a bit of looking around.

Many dispute the ratings and tests of DXO. They provide ratings and numbers that can't be independently verified. Some say they don't accurately measure sensor performance and the testing procedures used are flawed. So I use the results with a grain of salt. While the sensor and lens ratings really don't mean much, DXO seems to rate Canon glass better than Nikon glass. For example, a D810 with a 14-24mm f2.8 lens, did not perform as well as a 5DIII with a 16-35mm f4. The perceived megapixels with the sensor lens combo way 4% higher in the Canon. Chromatic aberration was also better in the Canon while other categories where very similar. What does this mean? According to DXO (which rates Nikon sensors above Canon sensors), rates Canon glass above Nikon glass overall. This means that even if Nikon announces a 50 megapixel camera, the sensor / lens combination won't be as good (in terms of sharpness and chromatic aberration) as a Canon sensor with the better glass .

While I flirted with switching to Nikon, my research quickly reminded me that my philosophy of basing a camera system around lenses and not camera bodies is the best way to build a camera kit. Cameras will come and go, lenses last for a lot longer. Canon has been actively updating their lens lineup and has produced some of the best lenses we've seen to date. Nikon has also has had issues with the D600 and complaints about their repair service are well known. The Nikon Corporation has not been performing well financially. All the factors combined had an influence on my decision, and I'm  also not fully convinced on the mirrorless movement. I think most of the mirrorless following has been stirred up by well known photographers that are paid by Sony. I'm not saying the Sony mirrorless system is bad, all I am saying is that well known photogs that use Sony mirrorless equipment are getting paid by Sony.  My advice is to find the best set of lenses that suits your style and base your camera system around that.

Canon also announced the 11-24mm f4 lens. While I have been waiting for this lens for some time, I didn't realize it would cost as much as a new pro level camera. The price is a major deterrent. On the other hand the MTF and optics chart looks amazing! This lens could be a major game changer!  I will wait for real world testing to be done and will probably rent it before I make a decision on whether I will add this to my kit. The 16-35mm f4 has surpassed all my expectations, so it will be hard to give that lens up as it seems impractical to keep both.


Canon's 11-24 f4 lens will be available late February and can be pre-ordered here at:

Amazon | B&H

Canon's 5Ds R is available in June and will go on pre-order in April. Sign up to get notified when preorders are being accepted at:

Amazon | B&H 

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Holiday Gift Guide For Nature Photographers 2014

Every year I publish a Holiday Gift Guide for nature photographers. If you're looking to find some special presents for the photographer in your life, here's my list of must have gifts for the 2014 holiday season. Wacom Tablet - The Wacom tablet is for the photographer that likes to edit. I love to edit and to me it's all part of the creative process. Wacom makes several tablets but by far the most popular is the medium sized Intuos Pro. There's a learning curve but once you master it you'll wonder why you never had one before.

GoPro - I'm not sure I know anyone that wouldn't love a GoPro. They're small, light, and provide great footage for the outdoor and adventure photographer. GoPro also makes an array of mounts for the camera. Everything from a helmet cam to a mount for your dog. Your creativity is the limit on what to mount the cameras to and how to use them.

Memory Cards and NAS Storage - I have this on every list because it seems I keep filling up my digital storage. Every camera needs a memory card and depending on the shooting style, you may need lots of memory cards. It's not uncommon for a wildlife photographer to fill up several memory cards in one session. Along with taking so many images, you need somewhere to store them safely. My favorite way of doing this is using NAS storage by Synology.

A Drone - A DSLR Drone or a GoPro Drone. Yes they can be expensive, but they can capture footage that was only possible by major motion picture companies. Even if your special someone is not a photographer, these are atop of many christmas lists. 

Last but not least is a destination vacation. One thing all of us nature photographers need is a subject to photograph. Planning a trip to a nearby National or State Park would be a great gift idea. If you can afford it, a photography hotspot like Iceland or Patagonia would be a trip of a lifetime. Places like the Columbia River Gorge would provide plenty to photograph with Portland just 30 minutes away. It's a great vacation for the whole family. Maybe you can cash in those air miles and send your loved one to a location they have been wanting to go. The most important thing for a nature photographer is getting to the beautiful places to make beautiful photographs. It would be something they would remember forever.

For more Holiday Gift Guides visit my gift guides from 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010


Canon 100-400mm II USM Lens Announcement

Today them Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens was announced. It's said to be shipping sometime in December and will be available for $2199 US dollars. The original 100-400 was a workhorse for many landscape and wildlife photographers. It's been quoted by many as the best all around wildlife lens. Of course this was before the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender was introduced, but as you can see, that's out of the price range for many photographers. The Canon EF 100-400mm II is about the size of a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens. This makes it a great compact wildlife and nature lens. The updated version will include a standard zoom ring as compared to the push pull design of the first 100-400. Looking at the specs it appears to be a great lens. Lets take a look at the MTF Charts.  

100-400 MTF


As you can see by the MTF chart the lens is close to flawless in terms of sharpness and contrast at 400mm. A little less so at 100mm but still very good. Even with a Canon EF 1.4X III Telephoto Extenderat 400mm it's very good. Remember anything above .8 on the chart is considered exceptional. But in all cases the 400mm end is better than the 100mm end. Lets take a look at the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L prime lens MTF chart. This lens is often on the short list when shopping for a lens in the 400mm range.

400mm MTF


By reading the chart we notice the new Canon EF 100-400mm II should outperform the 400mm f5.6, even with a Canon EF 2.0X III Telephoto Extender. Last but not least lets take a look at the 200-400mm MTF. 


On paper you can see the 200-400mm would be considered a better lens optically, but I would wonder if anyone would be able to notice a difference in photoshop. Of course the 200-400mm is a faster lens. If it's crucial to have the extra stops of light, then you have to go with the 200-400mm, but for $8000 cheaper the Canon 100-400mm II would be a great compromise. The lens looks very promising and is on my list. I should have one once it's released with a report to follow.