It is 2009 and we are in a year of amazing resolutions! No, no, not exercise or painting the house…sensor resolution! Phase One has their P65+ 60mp medium format back, Nikon has the D3X @ 24.5mp, Sony A900 @ 25mp, and the Canon 5DmkII and 1DsmkIII @ 21.1mp. Even point and shoot cameras are hitting 15mp!!! Just a year or two ago, getting in the 20+ mp range would involve spending $20,000 – $30,000 US on a digital medium format system and lenses.

So, everyone knows this already. Why post about it? I have finally gotten a chance to experience this first hand. I have been using 5Ds since their release several years ago. I am familiar with what they can produce, how much I can stretch the RAW, and how much I have to work with in terms of printing large. The 5D is a serious workhorse that always impressed me. I’ve got my 5DmkII upon release in December 2008. It really felt like a modern and refined 5D. Fantastic quality in the images, amazing print size for a 35mm, and some great new features. Ok. Great! Until…yesterday.

I have begun shooting a new body of work this past week. When I loaded the work into Bridge, I was stunned. I myself have never seen work from my cameras that contained such detail. 21+ MP can really do some amazing things! I don’t remember shooting with other 35mm cameras that revealed such minute detail. Mosaic tiles, marble, columns, inlays, etc… all reveal themselves with intricate detail on these images! At the distance I am from these features, I am just absolutely amazed at how distinguished details can be resolved with good glass, technique, and these new sensors!

Here is one example, downsized for the web. This is a combination of 3 images left completely default in ACR and combined in Photomatix. This shot is using a 24-105L @ 105mm, f/13, 1.5s, 6s, and 20 second exposures. ISO 200, Highlight tone priority on, and all noise reduction is off, except for long exposure noise which is set to auto. I use a tripod with a spherical panoramic head. I shot with a cable release, 2 second timer, and live view on. (quick and easy mirror lock up!)

© 2009 Ancient City Photography

© 2009 Ancient City Photography

For a sense of scale, the altar with the purple cloth at the center bottom of the image is approximately 4.5 feet high. I was a couple hundred feet back.

Here is a center crop @ 100%.

© 2009 Ancient City Photography

© 2009 Ancient City Photography

Here is a corner crop @ 100%.

© 2009 Ancient City Photography

© 2009 Ancient City Photography

I am sure sharpness would be even better with a fast exposure and an uncombined shot, but I am looking at real world results for the work I need to produce. I think this is simply stunning from a 35mm camera. Adjust contrast, add some sharpening for output, and it’s just awesome. So…I wonder what we will be working with in a few years from now! Some people spend all their time looking at 100% crops for sharpness and splitting hairs…but I am impressed no matter what.

These new cameras are simply awesome.