Resolution for prints: R5 vs R6

Hi all

Long time lurker, first time poster. I bought my first camera in 2008 - a used 5D Classic. Took thousands of shots with it, traveled with it, dropped it, repaired it and still kind of love it. After buying the 24 TS-E II and shooting extensively with it on the 5D with the EE-S, I decided to upgrade to a used 5D II in 2014 due to live view and easier manual focus with the TS lens. University and a side gig as sports photographer took most of my attention away from the 5D II and 24 TS-E and I kind of left them unused for some years. Last year I became a father and thus picked up the R6 because the AF of the 5D II is just not up to todays standards. I love (almost) everything about the R6 and wish I'd have upgraded sooner.

This was my first purchase of a brand-new body. Although I got a good deal and I initially wasn't willing to spend the money for the R5, I keep catching myself side eyeing the R5. I shoot portraits of my son/wife and landscape, architecture, cityscapes. I never really cared about the technicalities of cameras and resorted to "pressing the shutter button" as the bodies at that time were all in the realm of 20 Mp and switching over to a D800 was not in the cards since I loved my 24 TS-E. Most threads on this board on the R5 are about birding, which I don't have either interest nor the lenses for. But I am really interested in the discussion about resolution and detail.

I went down that technicalities-rabbit-hole while researching the R6. "Only" 20 Mp seemed quite low to me and would not have been an update over my 5D II. I initially wished for 30 as in the R or 5DIV as an upgrade over my old camera. As I later learned 20 vs 30 Mp is only a 20% (6700/5500) increase and not 50% as I falsely assumed. The 45 Mp of the R5 seemed overkill for me as I didn’t need to double my resolution over my 5D II and wasn't willing to spend twice as much for the R5 over the R6. But wait, 8192/5472 is "only" a 50% increase and this puts it (in my mind at least) in a reasonable upgrade path over my previous body.

I don't do 8K video and am not relaying on heavy crops. I have a pretty decent lens kit with my 24 TS-E II, 35 1.4L II, 40 2.8, Tamron 85 1.8, 100L and the RF 70-200/4. I want to keep my bodies a long time and have a slight feeling of buyers remorse regarding the R6 or FOMO looking at that beautiful R5 resolution. It seems kind of irrational because I don’t really "need" the high resolution but it sure is great to download samples online and pixel peep trough those huge files. Having the possibility to print another 60x90cm print in 232 instead of 154 ppi seems, at least on paper (or monitor), better to me.

Another potential use case for all that resolution could be DSLR MILC-Scanning of my 120 negatives. Although I don't have a Mamiya 7 with those beautiful lenses and their incredible resolution prowess, increasing working distance and taking one shot of a 120 negative instead of stitching 3 shots together sure does sound like a faster process as well. But then again, how often am I going to do this?

I have a M1 Max MacBook Pro with enough processing power and disk space. I have good lenses and a sturdy tripod to make use of the resolution of the R5. Only thing pulling me back is that I don't really need the resolution. It's a continues back and forth. On the one hand I kind of want the resolution on the other I don't need it. I'd estimate 98% of my prints are going to be A4 max. (family pictures for albums, framing) but it sure is enticing to at least have the option to print really big once in a while in superb quality. The faster and easier MILC-Scanning process is another, albeit minor, factor in this back and forth.

Is the difference in resolution (232 vs 154 ppi) really that noticeable from a normal viewing distance? I argued in my head that it is not and I'd rather spend the difference between those two bodies on the upcoming RF 35 1.2L (it will eventually come…). But something in my head keeps coming back to the R5 and tries to convince me that I need 45 Mp.

Other differences/features of the R5 body over the R6 are "nice to haves" but not really necessary to me. The R6 is an almost perfect camera for my needs. If I could have the R5 sensor in the R6 body for 3k$ I'd have bought that instead. But at almost twice the price it is still a debate in my head I haven't completely settled and it keeps popping up once in a while. My R6 looks no different from a new camera and has about 4000 shots. I feel like if I'd sell it now and buy the R5 my financial loss wouldn't be that great as it's a like new camera still. But as said previously something in my mind hasn't clicked yet to pull the trigger on the R5.

TL;DR: Comment on why you chose the one over the other in regards to prints. Again, not interested in birding or heavy crops. It's all about the resolution and detail for prints. Please help me put a nail in that coffin for the foreseeable feature (as new bodies are always on the horizon). Thank you for reading.
 
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jd7

CR Pro
Feb 3, 2013
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First, I do understand why you keep side eying the R5 and its 45 MP! I think the sweet spot for me would be about 30 MP.

Second, there are other CR members with much more experience than I have with doing large prints, so take my thoughts on this with a grain of salt.

The two largest prints I have done are 45" x 30" (114cm x 76cm) and I have them hanging in frames. The shots were taken with a 20 MP full frame camera (Canon 6D). I can't recall now if I cropped either one, but if I did it would have been only a very minor crop. I'm pretty happy with them, and at (what I call) ordinary viewing distances I think they look good, bearing in mind you have to stand back a bit to take in the whole image. I've never had anyone look at either one and suggest it wasn't sharp or there was some other problem with it.

That said, if you get closer to the image there are some details which I think could be a little bit sharper. eg leaves on some trees. Is that because I started with a 20 MP image? Is it due to the printing process and it wouldn't have looked any different if I'd started with a 45 MP image, bearing in mind the printer, the ink and the type of paper all have an impact on how the printed image looks (eg my images are printed on metallic paper, which has its advantages but I think tends to spatter the ink a little bit more than some other types of paper?)? Is it a depth of field issue becoming apparent when the images are printed that large (meaning it wouldn't have made a difference if I started with a 45 MP image)? Is it something else? I am afraid I don't know the answer ... but to be honest I think I'm probably the only person who thinks about it. As I say, no one else who has ever seen the prints has ever suggested they aren't sharp, and even I only have any concern when I view from a close distance (too close to take in the whole image). I would love to try doing a few more prints at 45" x 30" but with a 30 MP or even 45 MP image to see how they turn out, but I have a sneaking suspicion I could probably live with 20 MP just fine really at least so long as I don't need to crop an image much.

Another factor to consider is that newer software seems to be doing great things when it comes to effectively increasing the resolution of an image, eg
 
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Sporgon

5% of gear used 95% of the time
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Nov 11, 2012
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I’ve been using 5DS cameras for nearly five years now, and print all my pics. My conclusion is that 50 mp is good for severe cropping and viewing the files at 200% on a 27” 5K monitor. Beyond that, not so much. The FF format and good lenses are more important IMO. The facts are 20 mp on FF is pretty high resolution anyway.
I’ve recently had an image of mine exhibited in London along with others, and unusually, the gear that was used for each displayed photograph is recorded in a book of the images. Normally in a gallery you don’t get to know what was shot on what; despite the images being quite large I couldn’t see much difference in resolution between them despite the huge range of formats and mp. So even if printing large format I’d be quite happy with 20mp on FF.
 
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Let me preface this reply by saying thank you to those who chimed in on this topic. I appreciate all the input!

...Nothing in your post suggests you'll get anything more from the R5 than the R6.
I agree 98% with that statement. Although printing really large (e.g. 60x90cm or about 24x36) will yield in a (technically) better print (all else being equal). If there is a discernible difference or not, seems to be quite the topic and also dependent on viewing distance.
(...)

The two largest prints I have done are 45" x 30" (114cm x 76cm) and I have them hanging in frames. The shots were taken with a 20 MP full frame camera (Canon 6D). I can't recall now if I cropped either one, but if I did it would have been only a very minor crop. I'm pretty happy with them, and at (what I call) ordinary viewing distances I think they look good, bearing in mind you have to stand back a bit to take in the whole image. I've never had anyone look at either one and suggest it wasn't sharp or there was some other problem with it.

That said, if you get closer to the image there are some details which I think could be a little bit sharper. eg leaves on some trees. Is that because I started with a 20 MP image? Is it due to the printing process and it wouldn't have looked any different if I'd started with a 45 MP image, bearing in mind the printer, the ink and the type of paper all have an impact on how the printed image looks (eg my images are printed on metallic paper, which has its advantages but I think tends to spatter the ink a little bit more than some other types of paper?)? Is it a depth of field issue becoming apparent when the images are printed that large (meaning it wouldn't have made a difference if I started with a 45 MP image)? Is it something else? I am afraid I don't know the answer ... but to be honest I think I'm probably the only person who thinks about it. As I say, no one else who has ever seen the prints has ever suggested they aren't sharp, and even I only have any concern when I view from a close distance (too close to take in the whole image). I would love to try doing a few more prints at 45" x 30" but with a 30 MP or even 45 MP image to see how they turn out, but I have a sneaking suspicion I could probably live with 20 MP just fine really at least so long as I don't need to crop an image much.

Another factor to consider is that newer software seems to be doing great things when it comes to effectively increasing the resolution of an image, eg
Thank you for your valuable input. I too have a fairly large 60x90cm (about 24x36") print out of my 5D Classic hanging on the wall. I took the image with my 24 TS-E and focused inaccurately so that the foreground is sharper than the background. I was using f/10 but background is still not in perfect focus. The foreground is acceptably sharp at around 110 ppi whereas the subject in the background is clearly misfocused and not sharp but no one ever commented on it as the picture as it hangs there just works as is.

I highlighted some parts of the second quoted paragraph which I found really interesting. Last Friday I went out to shoot the sun setting over our oldtown. I didn't bring my tripod since the R6 has IBIS and I tend to shoot more and different angles without a tripod. I couldn't take as much time as I did before we had a baby and I wanted several different angles. I was quite happy with some pictures but then later noticed at home @100% that the DOF of some images is not quite there. Might have had to set the camera up on the tripod and use a bit of tilt to influence the plane of focus. So the pictures might not be technically perfect but I might not have taken some of them with a tripod. So is it really important to have a technically perfect shot or get the shot as best as you can? I think the latter often times rings true.

edit: forgot to add a comment on that petapixel article. Really interesting altough it remains to be seen how that influences print quality. As far as my understanding goes you can't create detail out of thin air. It's either there or it isn't. I have a hard time believing that an extrapolation is better than the actual data... I might be wrong tough
I’ve been using 5DS cameras for nearly five years now, and print all my pics. My conclusion is that 50 mp is good for severe cropping and viewing the files at 200% on a 27” 5K monitor. Beyond that, not so much. The FF format and good lenses are more important IMO. The facts are 20 mp on FF is pretty high resolution anyway.
I’ve recently had an image of mine exhibited in London along with others, and unusually, the gear that was used for each displayed photograph is recorded in a book of the images. Normally in a gallery you don’t get to know what was shot on what; despite the images being quite large I couldn’t see much difference in resolution between them despite the huge range of formats and mp. So even if printing large format I’d be quite happy with 20mp on FF.
That's what I lived by all this time using my "old" cameras with modern decent lenses. I am not surprised that prints in a gallery are not taken with the best gear or even are technically perfect pictures. A technically perfect picture does not make a good one. And not even resolution will change that.
This is my same post crossposted to another board. Is that prohibited?

I guess typing this all out seemed to have healed me a bit from GAS and I will take a practical approach to my first world problem and go ahead and print one of those imperfect shots from last friday, hang it opposite of the toilet in the bathroom and will then have enough time to judge if I need or want better quality prints or not. Thank you guys for chiming in!
 
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jd7

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Feb 3, 2013
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I highlighted some parts of the second quoted paragraph which I found really interesting. Last Friday I went out to shoot the sun setting over our oldtown. I didn't bring my tripod since the R6 has IBIS and I tend to shoot more and different angles without a tripod. I couldn't take as much time as I did before we had a baby and I wanted several different angles. I was quite happy with some pictures but then later noticed at home @100% that the DOF of some images is not quite there. Might have had to set the camera up on the tripod and use a bit of tilt to influence the plane of focus. So the pictures might not be technically perfect but I might not have taken some of them with a tripod. So is it really important to have a technically perfect shot or get the shot as best as you can? I think the latter often times rings true.

edit: forgot to add a comment on that petapixel article. Really interesting altough it remains to be seen how that influences print quality. As far as my understanding goes you can't create detail out of thin air. It's either there or it isn't. I have a hard time believing that an extrapolation is better than the actual data... I might be wrong tough
As the parent of a toddler, I think the really important thing is you did fantastically well to get out and take photos at all! :)

Regarding software upscaling images, my instinct is, like yours, to say it cannot be as good as having actual data. However, perhaps the question is, whatever the lack of optimal image quality caused by reliance on software (or by any other technical imperfection, for that matter), does it significantly detract from the effect the photo makes on a viewer? If it doesn't, my thinking is that, at least generally, getting the shot will matter more than worrying further about technical issues. I think it is not very different from the issue about lenses which essentially require software correction of optical issues to produce a (relatively) non-distorted image, eg the Canon RF 16mm f/2.8 and even the RF 70-200 f/4L IS (as I understand it - I'm sure there is a thread about it on CR somewhere). If the image produced looks good to a viewer, how much does it matter whether it was produced by outstanding optics or by lesser quality optics coupled with software? If the combination of lesser quality optics coupled with software provides other advantages, such as smaller and lighter lenses which are easier to carry and use in a wider range of circumstances, is that, on balance, in fact an even better approach than aiming for outstanding optics? (Of course, the answer to these questions depends at least in part on the purpose of taking the photo, eg "optical perfection" may be a more significant issue in the context of, say, forensic photography than in the context of many other types of photography.) Perhaps I'm just trying to convince myself to stop worrying too much about gear and get out and take photos? :)
 
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PCM-madison

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Dec 9, 2013
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First, I agree with the comments that you can print great large prints from 20 megapixels. Second, I have an R5 and I love it (but I do shoot birds and do a lot of cropping). Third, I have experimented with the AI upscale filters and have been impressed. I'll share one example taken with my first digital camera, a Kodak DC120, that outputs 1.2 megapixel jpeg image based on a 850 x 984 pixel CCD sensor. I took this photo in the late 1990's as a storm blew into Arches National Park. I generally liked the image but the low level of detail left it sitting on my computer. I recently tried to improve the image with the AI upscale, and this was the result.

original jpeg
Arches_storm copy.jpgupscaled version
Arches_storm v2s.jpg
 
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