What's the best (reasonably priced, not priced like a car) camera for 2015? Looks like it will be another slugfest between Nikon and Canon.

Don't worry, if you shoot with Fuji, Olympus or Panasonic you can stand on the sidelines and watch the spectacle without giving in to the urge to grab a fistful of credit cards out of your pocket and go berserk. But if you are a Canon power user you are no doubt on pins and needles because of the news we've heard in the last week (strong rumors) of not one but two Canon full frame camera bodies coming into the market which will seek to better the specifications of the Nikon D810. Or at least match that camera's imaging quality in a body Canon lens collectors can be proud of. 

The rumors (somewhat confirmed for me by contacts in retail) point to two very high resolution bodies based around an improved Canon 5D mk3 body. By very high resolution we are told that the bodies will boast 50+ megapixel, full frame sensors. In a move similar to Nikon's just previous D8XX adventures one camera will have an anti-aliasing filter (a nod to the needs of videographers?) and the other will not. It will be unencumbered by a detail degrading filter in order to achieve  maximum sharpness.

I'm hoping Canon goes for the Full Monty and adds real 4K video capability to the new machines. It's already available as a Magic Lantern hack for the 5D3 but hacking your primary shooting camera tends to scare the crap out of a lot of careful people so having it as a native feature is always a marketing plus. 

It's overall an interesting strategy on the part of Canon at a time when the bottom part of their camera market is succumbing to the same entropy that everyone else's bottom markets are falling prey to. As camera sales decline around the world camera makers seem to be focusing more and more on the tops of their product mixes where (no doubt) the profit margins are thicker and the bang per sale is much greater for the bottom line. It's also no coincidence that the upper end of the enthusiast market is where the people with the greatest concentration of money are greatly concentrated. Especially those with an interest in buying some sort of cutting edge camera. It all seems to me to be like the big pirate ship that is sinking and all the officers (top cameras) are climbing the mast in the hopes that the ship will settle on the shallows before they themselves are totally underwater. 

The clear winners in the race for maximum sensor resolution and image quality? That would be Sigma and Zeiss. Each is rushing to establish and brand segments of their product mix as the only lenses really capable of actually doing justice to all those tightly packed pixels. The mantra I hear on every forum and at every camera counter goes something along the lines that all the camera makers' lenses before a certain time period were designed in a time period when there was no need to design in critical performance at the levels that are now purportedly required to show even a mild difference between a 20+ something sensor resolution and those at 36 and now 50+ megapixels. 

Sigma's "Art" branded lenses and Zeiss's "Otus" branded lenses are positioned as some of the few optical systems that are capable of delivering the resolution required to match the potential of the new generation of sensors. That older zoom lens? Not gonna do the job. So there's both an inertia to ignore the "ultimate upgrades" based on the idea that the lenses won't support them (or that you'll need to totally re-invest in better glass) or to pauper yourself buying new lenses that are a critical match for the new camera bodies you also have to have. No one wants to look like the jerk that buys a Canon 1DX and then puts a cheap, off brand, super zoom on the front. 

Of course, this process is rarely binary and the first blush response after getting one of the new bodies and convincing one's self that the lenses are sufficient unto the task, will be to get "just my favorite focal length in the newest formulation." Which only breaches the dyke and starts the process of good judgement erosion that eventually leads to a spirited defense of the benefits of the new system upgrade. 

I can hardly wait for the articles. "Battle of the Titans!" "Winners and Losers." "Who will wear the crown of Imaging when the smoke clears?" Perhaps by that point people will have played around with the Sony A7S some more and decided that 12 really fun megapixels is a better holistic value.  Naw, people love a good school yard dust up and that's what we have to look forward to if the rumors pan out. 

Ah, this way lies madness.


Dave Jenkins said...

Getting one of these new cameras is not going to help my business, and paying for one is definitely not going to help. I'll just sit tight with my 6D, "the little camera that could."

amolitor said...

The whole 'you must have magic lenses for this beast of a sensor' thing is hilarious and ingenious. Nikon's cheapest bodies actually have finer pixel pitch than the Beast. And yet, oddly enough, a kit zoom is fine for them. Hmm.

But I think they're shifted a LOT of high end glass on that basis. And their clients are happy!

Gato said...

I have to admit I'm intrigued by all this, though strictly as a spectator sport. The only chance of my buying one of these beasts is if I win the lottery. Or maybe in 2 or 3 years when I can get one used for half price.

Otherwise to pay for it I'd have to get out and work to sell some jobs, then work even harder to do those jobs ... and then I'd want lenses. Not my style.

Timothy Auger said...

+/- 15 MP is quite sufficient to expose the limitations of my technique and creative vision, thank you. Not to mention my computer's processing power.

Phil Service said...

As amolitor points out, many current cameras have finer photosite pitch than the Beast. A 54MP full-frame sensor would have slightly larger photosites than your D7100. Yet there is not much wailing and moaning about needing cutting edge glass for that camera. I don't think we'll know if the current lenses are a good match for 54MP until we get to try them out. As a rule of thumb, 4 rows or columns of photosites are needed to reproduce a line pair with high contrast (MTF50). 54MP FF is 4 micron photosites. x 4 = 16 microns. If a lens is a good match for such a sensor, I predict its MTF50 resolution will be 1/0.016 = 62.5 lp/mm. I nominate Roger Cicala at LensRentals.com to do the test.

Craig Yuill said...

What gets lost in all of the debate about which camera or lens is best are the supporting technologies needed to do anything to distribute and display what they produce. What good are the best sensors and lenses if you have no way to properly process, distribute, and show them? Still photography is well taken care of by many programs like Lightroom and Photoshop. But video (especially "full HD" or 4K)? Ha!

It annoys me when I read that today's video-editing programs have problems ingesting the 1080 HD and 4K video produced by today's DSLRs, thanks to the widespread use of highly-compressed formats to save video files. I have been checking out trial versions of some of the latest video editing programs. I can import and edit 1080 HD .MOV files into consumer/enthusiast programs with little or no difficulty, but have been unable to do the same with one well-regarded "pro" title. And why can digital cameras take 1080p60 progressive HD footage, but video-editing programs and can't really output it due to the lack of HD standards that support 60 fps progressive footage? I want to be able to produce edited video footage that looks like what my camera is be able to produce, not footage with a lower resolution or frame rate.

Camera makers really really really need to work much more closely with computer and software makers to ensure that the editing, processing, and playback/display technologies will do their imaging technologies justice, especially with video. Then their 50 MP sensors and 4K video will really mean something.

Anonymous said...

Winners and Losers, that an easy question to answer. The Winners are the camera companies. The Loser are people who spent a lot of money on something neither they or their clients needed ;-)

Anonymous said...

Quite. The new Canikon rumours and new top of the line mainstream models. Yes, all the pixelpeepers, measurebators, hardcore Canikon fanbois, YouTubers, blogger nerds and regular gadget geeks are going to have an orgy. The new rumours and then the actual releases will keep them busy for weeks, if not months. When the new Canon models arrive, the blogosphere and their comment sections will be overflowing with megapixels and spittle.
But that's alright, they all need some love, too, and Canon need money. :)

Meanwhile, I think I'll just skip this coming frenzy, just like I did the last time around (5D3 vs. D800 wars). I'm not too interested in the new Canon dSLRs in the first place, but even if Sony or some other underdog came up with their 50+mp version, I think I'll still just skip it, and stick to the soon 'obsolete' lower megapixel gear. Even if it came with the 'obligatory' 4K (compressed consumer grade) internal video.

The reason is fairly simple. The clients who want me to shoot some stills and video for them don't give a crap about the 50+ megapixels. All they care about is my solving their problems.

Out of the blue last Friday I got a surprise request for a quote about a stills & video job from an all new potential client. It'll be a challenge to me even if I get the job in the first place.

If I get the job, I probably will have to go shopping for some new gear. Not for a newer and better camera, but for more and better lighting gear. That's a more critical factor in making a good end result than the camera.

Aurèle said...

This great battle to come is wonderful : more gear, barely used, will arrive on the second hand market, for very cheap !
Very good body, with les than 10k actuation...
Wonderfull lens, with no IS nor VR, light as possible...

I will enjoy this battle to come, and Kirk article that will praise and show US what old good lens can do with a proper lighting skill set (because it's always about the light, in the end !)

Good article, as always ;)

Lanthus Clark said...

36 was already too many. For me.

Anthony Bridges said...

The latest camera I bought is the Fuji XE2. It has a meek resolution of 16.3 Megapixels. I bought it used with the excellent Fuji 35 f/1.4.

I have a 5D3 and I crop photos with it at times. With good technique and a sharp lens, it's not a big deal. Some people consider cropping sacrilege but 50 megapixels can give you lots of cropping for web use and typical sized prints.