New DSLRs from Nikon and Canon

The new Canon 5DS cameras have 50 megapixel resolution. That ought to up the ante for landscapes and fashion photographers.

There have been a couple new cameras in the news lately. For Canon shooters, the new 5DS and 5DS R models deliver 50-megapixel (8688 x 5792 pixel) full-frame (36x24mm) images. I know many Canon shooters who have been waiting for something to get them over the 20 megapixel barrier, and these two cameras should do the trick. Canon is doing something similar to what Nikon did with the D800/e variants. The “R” model uses a software cancellation trick to eliminate the effect of the optical low-pass (anti-aliasing) filter.  Both models are expected to be shipping by June 2015.

My take: I know many Canon shooters who have switched to the Sony system not necessarily because they wanted a mirrorless camera, but because they wanted to use their L-glass on a 36MP camera. With the aggressive price points of the 5DS (under $4k), the competition just got going again between Nikon and Canon. I’m very interested in seeing how well Canon has done increasing the dynamic range of their sensors, which has been fairly stagnant for the last few years.

Nikon also announced a new D810 variant for astrophotography, the D810A. This camera has the same sensor as the normal D810 (36MP), but offers a different kind of filter over the sensor; one with an Infrared cut filter. The idea here is to allow for better astrophotographic captures of nebulae, as the filter lets these unique wavelengths of light (H-alpha reds) through (see image samples from Nikon). The D810A also offers more flexibility in manual exposure for capturing long exposures (you can set times up to 15 minutes).

My take: This camera is a specialty item, designed for amateur and professional astronomers. The new camera offers great features for astronomy, but it isn’t at all suited for general-purpose work. I think it’s great that Nikon has the resources to release a camera such as this, because it means that they are doing well enough elsewhere to warrant the production of a specialty camera. But man, I still hope to see a 20+MP camera capable of 8fps for my birding work!

Photo: 21st Century Ghost Writer

I’m not dead yet! I’m getting better, really.


I like experimenting with new (or new to me) techniques. Here’s a twist on a self-portrait that is pretty easy to do indoors. I used a 30-second exposure with my Nikon D810, and I only stayed in the frame for about 20 of those seconds. The result is that I’ve become a ghost!

This type of photographic effect has been around for years, but with digital, it is so much easier to do because you can get the instant feedback on each capture. I did about five takes before I got one that I liked.

I processed the image in Lightroom and then used Macphun Software’s Tonality Pro to do the black and white conversion. I used a combination of layered effects (Tonality Pro offers layers) and color blending to retain just a hint of color in the final image.

Save 10% on all Macphun Pro plug-ins with discount code JODELL

Photo: Magic Carpet Ride with the Pixelstick

I used a LED wand called Pixelstick to create the ribbon effect in this long-exposure capture.
I used a LED wand called Pixelstick to create the ribbon effect in this long-exposure capture.

A few years ago, I backed a Kickstarter project for a product called the “Pixelstick.” The Pixelstick is a wand about 2m in length that contains 200 LEDs. These LEDs can be programmed to pulse over time. When you move the Pixelstick through your scene during a long exposure capture, the result is a projected image. You can create ribbons, patterns, and even images (you can use your own too) with this device. It has a SD card slot for storing images.

I captured this image in Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs using the Pixelstick. It’s a cool accessory if you are into long exposures.

Tech Specs

Nikon D810 with 24-70mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens
15s f/13 ISO 400


Why Fast Cards Matter: Nikon D810 Performance

The Hoodman Raw Steel USB 3.0 card reader delivers fast download speeds from CF and SD cards.
The Hoodman Raw Steel USB 3.0 card reader delivers fast download speeds from CF and SD cards.

I won’t be the first one to tell you that fast cameras need fast memory cards. However, even the fastest cards differ in their read/write speeds between the theoretical and the actual achieved speeds. Read/write times not only depend on the tech specs of your card, but also your camera and transfer devices.

In the field, card read/write speed affects not only how fast the camera’s buffer can clear, but also how fast you can copy images to your computer. When transferring your images to a computer, the following factors are important to consider:

  • Card Speed
  • Reader Speed
  • Reader Interface (eg. USB/Firewire)

D810 Performance with CF Cards

I compared download speeds for 27 images (14-bit, lossless compressed) from the Nikon D810 using two different cards:

I tested each card using the Hoodman Raw Steel reader via USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 interfaces.  I downloaded my images to my computer using Photo Mechanic 5 and my typical settings. These settings included file renaming and adding IPTC data to each image as it was copied.

I tested the buffer performance by setting the D810 to capture 14-bit lossless compressed full-size raw images (NEF format) in continuous high-speed release mode (5fps). I determined the number of images I could capture before the buffer was full, and I timed how long it took for the buffer to clear. With these settings, the buffer count shows 19 frames. Continue reading Why Fast Cards Matter: Nikon D810 Performance

Sensor Plane #16: Nikon 500mm f/4 AFS G VR Lens Unboxing

I just took delivery of a brand-new Nikon 500mm f/4 AFS G VR Nikkor telephoto lens. I thought I’d unbox it on-air and discuss why I purchased it, and how it fits into my lineup. I also compare telephoto lens options, including 400mm and 600mm and zooms.

I purchased this lens from Berger Bros.; I highly recommend them as they are a pleasure to work with.

For an audio version of this episode (MP3 format) click here.

Digital photography insights