Huge thanks to industry rock star Jared Polin, who has provided sample images from his hands on review of the new camera. You know someone is important when Canon invites them to a VIP shoot for first access. In fact, some of the lenses used are still in prototype phase so they're not even taking preorders yet. These photos are his intellectual property and not mine, so please contact him about any copyright concerns. I am using them here with his expressed permission.
I'll be skipping the profile photos of the camera body or reviewing the other ergonomics to instead focus (no pun intended) on the qualitative highlights of the image quality, as compared to my first hand experience with the 5DsR and 5D Mark III for several years of professional and personal use. Like many of you who Google your way into a review like this, I ask myself the question as I go through the images: Do I need this? Is it worth the upgrade? How much longer will DSLRs hang on before their users are left in the ash heap of yesteryear?
Additional disclaimer: I am not paid by Canon and they don't know me from a hole in the ground.
Because the photo editors have yet to update their programs for us to interpret these files in our choice ecosystem (Lightroom, Photoshop, Apple Photos, etc), Jared coverted the RAW files to DNGs, where I updated them in Lightroom 5.
Jared's image files give us a great impression of the camera. He didn't overwhelm us with images we don't need, and covered most of what we do. The first example addresses a question that many of us have right out the gate: has Canon finally caught up in base ISO dynamic range to the Sony sensors? Well, it doesn't appear so. Sony's flagship cameras now boast 15 stops of dynamic range, and Canon lags almost a stop and a half below that, even still with this new release, which mainly seems to borrow the sensor of the 5d Mark IV, which I visited here when it was new.
Color noise and a loss of detail are evident throughout the foregorund, even after applying noise reduction in Lightroom.
So is this a deal breaker? I tend to think so, if a camera is a horse race of statistics on a page to you. +1.5 stops DR in a Sony or Nikon camera would look a little bit better in this image, yet I'm not sure a pro would sell a shot like this anyway, without exploring some of the options below. But a camera ecosystem is so much more than dynamic range. Its about handling, auto focus capability, lens choices, and subtleties, such as Canon's legendary color science, which is particularly reknown for rendering skin tones perfectly with little need for advanced color manipulation. Those reasons and more are why I'll stick with Canon despite this ongoing use challenge.
In the case of this example we still have options. For one, we could shoot various exposures and blend them as an HDR image. This is difficult without a tripod and even more difficult if subjects wont hold still. Still another option would be to add light to illuminate the foreground, which would have lots of options here with bouncing a flash off that helpfully painted white ceiling. Finally, we can ask ourselves what the point of this image is. Say instead of the subject having his back to the camera we have a bride and groom and we want an environmental shot of their venue while they stand outside. As a viewer our eyes go to the brightest, most contrasty, most saturated part of the image, and I wouldn't want a foreground distracting the viewers attention away from the obvious subject.
Our next trip takes us to a beach shot of a model running on the beach. If I surmise Jared's purpose of this photo well its to test the continuous auto focus of a moving subject, particularly while they're off center where the AF array of a traditional DSLR doesn't cover if you prefer to track a subject with an active AF point over the eye.
Knowing Jared's style, this image wasn't cropped, so here we can see the benefits of an expanded AF array. Sony's trailblazing into the full frame mirroless market awed us DLSR shooters when their cameras hit the shelves boasting three, four, or even five hundred AF points, when we only had dozens. Canon's entry into the full frame mirrorless market boasts more than five thousand auto focus points. Wow!
We also have a preview of the new RF 28-70 f/2.0L. Yep, f/2.0!
Last and certainly not least, high ISO. This exif metadata shows this was shot at ISO 10,000. I pumped +1.0 stop in post and pushed the shadows to 100. After a quick trip to Nik Dfine2, the results are arguably quite impressive. Color noise and banding is apparent in the background given the exposure push and with some detailed time cleaning up the image in Photoshop I’m sure the results would be even more impressive. Results are arguably better than what my 5DsR would put out, even after trading some of its massive resolution for additional noise reduction. This is one reason I’ve become accustomed to adding light for such shots anyway. Isn’t that what we’re doing here anyway? Drawing. With. Light. (“photography”).
Conclusion: After a few weeks to mull the situation over, I can see why Canon went with a non-professional body to enter into the market place. And by that I mean a single card slot camera with a slower frame rate. It seems as though they have a few bugs to work insofar as continuous auto focus for tracking subjects as well as getting their native glass to market. Jumping straight in with a gambit to convert some or all of the pro industry would have too great a leap even for the dominant industry leader. While my current lens and body line up more than meets my needs for now, I can see mirror less in my future for everything from weddings to family sessions. DSLRs will more than likely hang a while longer on for wildlife and possibly even sports given the battery life shortcomings of mirrorless (EVF always on and draining power as well as running current through the sensor). Regardless of which system dominates and for how long, one thing is for certain: tech advancements have given us a beautiful array of options to make memorable images to be remembered through the ages.