I don’t actually print that many of my photographs, so it never really bothered me that my trusty Canon 20D of the past 5 years or so had a 1.6x crop-sensor and was capable of capturing only 8 megapixels.
On the odd occasion I did decide to print something, I could easily squeeze out a decent traditional sized print, and I have even printed a couple of 20×30 sized images that look quite good… at least I thought so… until now. My Canon 5D Mark II has a 21 MP sensor capable of more advanced processing, and while the number of megapixels might not directly improve my chances of making a good photograph, along with the full frame capabilities, the detail it can capture is quite remarkable.
Images made with this new camera make for some pretty big file sizes – each processed tiff is a whopping 60MB – and the detail within each frame is exceptional. The picture above is a 100% zoomed-in crop from the image below (see the red box)… it is from the RAW unsharpened file, and as you can see, even without any post-processing, the detail in the lighthouse wall is quite impressive.
Good and bad though… everything becomes amplified. If I set up on a steady tripod and nail the focus… if I use mirror lock up and a remote release… an image captured can look incredibly sharp. On the other hand though, with the full frame sensor it doesn’t take much for an image to start looking ever so slightly soft or blurry when issues of steadiness aren’t addressed properly.
When using the 5DMKII I have had to revert to using my older, heavier tripod legs to ensure a greater degree of stability. The smaller, lighter tripod purchased over the summer for portability doesn’t seem to be able to provide a steady enough platform for the new camera, especially in windy conditions or when I make the decision to leave the shutter open for a longer period – I may have to invest in a more solid ball-head too. Depending on the aperture selected, my favorite 17-40mm lens appears to have some issues with “softness” in the corners when shooting wide at 17mm. For someone who has recently become quite enamored by the look of 17mm on a full frame sensor, this isn’t good news.
Having said all that… I am absolutely loving the quality of image produced by this camera. I have ordered a large metallic print (24×36) of a recent photograph to see how well the detail on screen transfers to the printing process – fingers crossed that it looks just as impressive!