It seemed like an eternity since Canon officially announced the EOS 5Ds and 5Ds R. In reality that happened during the first week of February 2015, which was just four months ago, so it wasn’t really that long ago. The anticipation of getting my grubby hands on the megapixel monsters from Canon is killing me, or rather was – I fell into a coma after two months of waiting. It’s not because the 5Ds and 5Ds R still haven’t graced the physical and virtual shelves of camera shops yet, but more than likely is due to having been spoilt by the rapid new product turnaround times of Sony. Four months in Sony’s reality is an eternity.
This week, a significant number of photography-loving peeps simultaneously and forcefully exploded in their undergarments over the announcement of the mega-impressive 42.4-megapixel Sony a7R II. I sympathise with the unfortunate mishaps of those with poor control of their bodily functions, not because I made a mess in my pants too, but because the key improvements are to put it plainly: bloody sexy. And gadgets should never be described as sexy.
High-resolution, 5-axis stablisation, 4k video, faster autofocus, better shutter – these are not marginal improvements but rather changes of a colossal scale. If you are currently a happy owner of the a7R then you should probably stop smirking now because your camera, despite being a little over one-year-old, has been rendered outdated, bordering on extinct. The 36-megapixel and the other mediocre features may seem adequate, but the technological advancements in the a7R II is like Blu-Ray to the original a7R’s Betamax. Other camera manufacturers should take note: the a7R II is how a product update should be done.
The 5Ds and 5Ds R are mid-term makeovers, which is a nice way of saying that it was designed to not really offer any improvements of significance over the three-year-old Mark III. The headline feature is the huge hike in megapixel count: 50.2-megapixels, with the ‘R’ version having the added benefit of not having an anti-aliasing filter for added pixel-peeping geekiness, plus a mandatory new image processor (Dual DIGIC 6).
There are consequences to this excessive tweaking, however, with the maximum ISO limited to a modest 6,400, with the possibility of extending it to 12,800 (the 5D Mark III could go up to 25,600, extended to 102,400) and a 5fps continuous burst rate (the same as the 760D). Luckily, some things have simply stayed the same: the video mode is the same as that of the Mark III, but even then, the body features that videographers might find useful have been taken away, with no uncompressed HDMI output or headphone socket that the Mark III has.
Different products, different targets. For sure, someone will be eagle-eyed enough to spot that they’re not meant to compete with each other: the 5Ds R is meant for professional photographers, mainly current Canon users, and for a small number of enthusiasts who want to have incredibly high resolution stills images and not much else; the a7R II is meant for enthusiasts who want to have incredibly high resolution stills images, video and a lot more. The Canon is a rugged camera that is chunky and heavy; the Sony is light in weight but is more of a lightweight when it comes to toughness.
I’m not going to say that the Sony a7R II is a better camera than the Canon 5Ds R, I’m not comparing the cameras as such. But what should be compared are the approaches of the respective manufacturers of each camera. Both Canon and Sony are huge companies that don’t need to rely on outside help to develop things like their own sensors, they have the potential to create new and exciting products without having to take whatever parts they are given. They are pretty self-reliant companies. When you look at what Canon are coming up with and then what Sony are doing, you can’t help but think that Canon are holding something back, playing it safe. In this comparison, there is no comparison because it has become quite apparent that Sony is the one that we should be eagerly anticipating to make the next big moves.