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The Megapixel War is Dead - Long Live the Megapixel War

9 February 2012

When Canon announced their still faraway 1DX last year, there were many in the industry rejoicing that the megapixel war might at last be over.

Ray and 1DX

For once there was an emphasis on quality over quantity of pixels, as the new 1DX heralded superior dynamic range and ever improving high ISO performance.

This on top of the mind-blowing 12 frames per second (fps) auto focus, and 14 fps mirror lock headline figures. And at last a new and improved focusing system.

Well, for me it just didn't make sense, and as the update cycle continues with ever more announcements rather than products appearing in the store, everything seems to point towards the megapixel war being far from over.

For me as a 5D MkII shooter I must say the 1DX was a bit of a letdown, and really nothing more than an answer to the Nikon D4 - refinement for the sake of headline market specs.

What I wanted was a 33 megapixel camera that could be set to APS-H or APS-C. This would give everyone something to salivate over in a Canon flagship professional camera.

The APS-H crowd would jump from 16 to 25 MP, and the APS-C shooters would go from 18 (for the 7D) to 20.6 MP, like I said, something for everyone, and good reason to find the $6800 needed to take one home.

Sports shooters could dial in APS-C and get their 12 fps at 20 megapixel, and their glass would be getting the same perspective as a 7D, 60D, 50D etc.

There are still a lot of professional shooters using equipment like this and moving up to the 1DX might not be viable for them because all the sudden the shots they were used to on a 200 mm lens for example, would now be 125 mm, or the 18 megapixel image they shot would need to be cropped down to 11.25 megapixel to get the same reach.

It is, in short, a product that is taking megapixels from our pockets and making our stable of lenses shorter by the APS-C factor of 1.6.

Same for the 1D Mk4 shooters. They wouldn't be losing as much, but still their 16 megapixel APS-H sensor would be dropping their 200 mm lens back to 154 mm, or cropping down to 13.8 megapixels for the same image.

Now with the sudden announcements of new lenses from Canon, including the long awaited 24 - 70, and its massive price hike, it might appear to the more cynical amongst us that Canon is banking on its users needing to make a major update on their glass.

All this seems to point to expected greater demands of higher megapixel sensors, and alongside the need to update lenses in order to get the reach that many photographers are already used to, it seems Canon may have an eye on lens sales punching company profits forward in the medium term future.

So let's have another look over the fence. Nikon, who has been the clear market leader in many areas for a few years now has announced and released a pre-production model of the D800 with its 36.3 MP sensor.

Its price of $3000 is a direct challenge to Canon and the 5D MkII - and the best indicator that Canon will be launching something similar in the near future.

Nikon already has a far superior focus system as well as an envied high ISO performance, and much of the innovation in the 1DX has been focussed on these areas in what is largely a catch-up exercise for Canon.

But in clinging to the coattails of Nikon they face the risk of falling further behind in other departments such as flash technology.

Canon seems to be riding the rumour mill at the moment and waiting for public opinion to sway, if not direct, their future product line.

Even the alleged leak of a 5D MkII in the wild with the 200 – 400 1.4X lens would again, to my same cynical friends, seem a fully orchestrated event initiated to gauge reaction rather than prepare the market for an impending release.

There is talk of the 5D MkIII, a 7D MkII perhaps moving to full frame, a new line of hybrid somewhere between the 5 and 7 series that might be called anything except the confusing 3D.

Then there is talk of a completely new ultra high MP camera, somewhere in the 40 MP range that would also slightly overstep into the medium format market.

Again, Nikon has already made that step offering the D800E, which essentially is the same D800 without a low pass filter, offering the fine detail necessary in studio shooting.

For me, I just want Canon to head forward, to have the courage of their convictions and get behind a product they believe in. Something that will blow me and the whole industry out fo the water.

I for one will be putting my hand in my pocket for a G1X.

I love the articulating screen for a start, and that's the main reason I got a G12. It lets me get alternate angles on shots and doesn't require me to look like I'm having a dump in the middle of the sidewalk.

Canon's move in putting a near APS-C size sensor in the G series is a good example of market innovation - for me anyway.

I can't see the need for a mirrorless class of cameras, at least not for professional photographers.

Why would I want to invest in another stable of lenses for a smaller camera? To me, the G1X is the perfect answer as something that will fit into my pocket at at a pinch, and can comfortably travel with me when I don't want to lug around a backpack full of lenses. It still serves the point and shoot function, but will have the extra quality of a large sensor if needed.

Sure the 5D was a market leader and was a product that Nikon had to chase, and it is still superior in some aspects on the video front, but to me, as a stills shooter, that's neither here nor there.

But in short, I’m tired of waiting for Canon to catch up to Nikon. I want them to break new ground and astound me with a product that will blow me and the whole industry away.

I want something I can be passionate about instead of just waiting for servings of stale morsels that Nikonians have been enjoying for years.

I want something designed and built by photography enthusiasts, and not compromised on by a bunch of accountants and market analysts.

I just hope Canon can do it before I feel the need to make the expensive and traitorous switch to a rival system.





The Megapixel War is Dead - Long Live the Megapixel War