Since this announcement 8.5 years ago, Canon has quietly forgotten about the camera they were at one time developing for us. This was the 120MP DSLR with a stunning resolution of around 13,400 x 8,900. That's a lot of MegaPickles.

Canon was confident at the time that they would have the sensor technology, and the processing power capable of handling such a monster.

After the announcement, Canon had to pivot to mirrorless cameras. They have seriously upped their game in the realm of mirrorless with the fantastic RF system and some of their sensors are now the best in the business. This makes it even more odd why we haven't seen this after the pivot is essentially complete. We know that something that happened in 2019-20 may have influenced this, and even supply shortages that we have theorized about here, but still, this is turning into Canon's very own Fermi paradox. Where are all the R5s'?

There are a lot of secondary advantages to such a camera. You wouldn't necessarily have to turn it into portrait orientation as you could just crop it down to a mere 53MP and achieve a portrait orientation crop. Turn the camera into APS-C crop mode and you will have a 47Mp crop camera, exceeding any APS-C camera on the market.

And it's just the camera for those who love high-resolution landscape imagery. This isn't a sports camera, and nor is it a video camera. I'd be perfectly happy if the thing couldn't shoot video, period.

Now let's do some Myth Busting

Now there's a lot of commentary I usually get when I whine about not having an over 100MP camera, and well, for the sake of getting people telling me I'm wrong in so many different ways, I'm going to talk about that. There are a lot of misconceptions about this, so let's go through them. I'll wait for you all to tell me I'm wrong in the forums. It's been a while.

The Lenses aren't good enough

First, any image captured will benefit from more pixels. The images just become less digitized as the resolution increases. Consider this image of a circle, as you increase the resolution, it becomes more like a circle. So there's always a benefit. Images and elements in nature will become more lifelike, and dare I say – more filmic.

There are diminishing returns, of course, but the less digital the appearance the better.

Lenses will also resolve more if you increase the amount of pixels captured. Photozone.de (now OpticalLimits.com) did some testing back in the day, and they retested specific lenses under 8MP APS-C sensors and 15MP APS-C sensors. Even in the corners where the lens didn't resolve fully on the 8MP sensor, the lenses resolved more detail on the 15MP sensor. So no matter the lens, they will give you more detail to work with, if the sensor is a higher resolution.

Canon EF-S 60mm F2.8 Macro 8MP APS-C sensor test

Canon EF-S 60mm F2.8 Macro 15MP APS-C sensor test

The dreaded DLA – Diffraction Limited Aperture

Whenever you see a conversation about a high MP camera, the first comments are always about DLA – the diffraction-limited aperture. But this is never a hard fast limit and is governed by so much more than simply megapixels and aperture. Now I know some will be all over me about DLA so here goes. The TL;DR? It doesn't matter – what does matter is what you want to do with the images, that is what governs your aperture limit.

Diffraction only matters if you can see it. But what exactly is the diffraction limit? Loosely explained it's when the airy disc caused by diffraction is larger than the airy disc of the circle of confusion (the limit of what we can perceive as in focus). Once larger than the circle of confusion, it's perceived as blurry.

The circle of confusion is defined as when the airy disc caused by defocus is large enough to view. However, the circle of confusion is not a fixed number and is governed by image magnification and observer distance away from the image – which changes depending on how we view the image. Whenever someone sagely mentions DLA, the core assumption is based upon a fixed circle of confusion size. Do you know what the standard CoC size is based upon? a 35mm film image printed as a 10″x8″ print and looked at from 1 foot away. Hardly relevant in this day and age.

You can test this out by viewing any image on your computer screen right now with a narrow depth of field. As you move further away from the image, the depth of focus will appear to increase, as the circle of confusion is governed by the observer's distance away from the image and your ability to perceive it.

When you are critically looking at your images on your 24″ 4K monitor, zoomed in to 100%, and peering 10 inches away from the screen, that's not a realistic scenario – at least it shouldn't be. That's the equivalent of looking at a 72″ wide print (1.84m) from less than 10 inches away from it (25cm). Some do that, for sure, but it's not a critical measure for most.

Now if you take the output from this 120MP camera, print it as a 2m wide print, and look at it 50cm away. With apertures smaller than f/6.3, you can perceive diffraction, but if you move further away to 1m, you can see diffraction if your aperture is around f/16 or smaller. Move even further away to 5m and the aperture would have to be F/32 or smaller before you could perceive it.

Also without a reference of sharpness, you'd be hard-pressed to see any diffraction. This is why even low MP sensors could print large for display because we would tend to move back further and increase the observer distance to take in the entire image.

You can play around with aperture values and observer distances with Cambridge in color's advanced diffraction limit calculator (it's at the bottom of the page, and you have to click on show advanced).

I know the math on this is complicated and complex, and I simply have given the 10,000-foot level. Don't break out the math on me, just tell me I'm wrong.

The Technology – Are we there yet?

When Canon first announced the 120MP DSLR, outside of Liveview there was no real accurate method to reliably focus because the auto-focus pixels were not on the main sensor. That problem has been removed with mirrorless, as the sensor itself is used to determine focus using DPAF (or QPAF in the future).

The technology for autofocus, even auto CA corrections, and more advanced aberration correction using DLO in the camera have greatly increased our ability to reliably use a high-resolution camera. And speaking of DLO, DLO can deconvolute the effects of diffraction, so even if you are worried about DLA – Canon has you covered, and no, DLO isn't simply just sharpening. But that's a rabbit hole for another article.

With Canon's new DIGICs, Canon can reach speeds of around 1.4 billion pixels per second, or around the 12 fps mechanical limit of the R5 Mark II's currently rumored mechanical shutter.

Can Canon do this? Well, yes, they can right now come out tomorrow with an 82MP DPAF sensor based on the pixel density of the 32.5MP APS-C they have used for the last 5 years, taking that up to 120MP shouldn't be a significant lift for Canon, especially if you consider that the 32.5MP APS-C sensor is 2+ generations old now.

When the R5 was first announced, I was rubbing my hands in glee thinking it was any month now, but here we are, 4 years later, and still no R5s.

I get that they may not see the need for a 120MP camera, but why did they think there was such a market 9 years ago? It's not as if the halo products have gone away in the preceding time.

So Canon, give me a reason to sell off a kidney and release a 120MP R5s, please.

Go to discussion...

108 comments

  1. Since this announcement 8.5 years ago, Canon has quietly forgotten about the camera they were at one time developing for us. This was the 120MP DSLR with a stunning resolution of around 13,400 x 8,900. That’s a lot of MegaPickles™. Canon was confident at the time that they would have the sensor technology, and the

    See full article...
    After read your article and the Canon link, I can guess what's problem from Canon view.
    The announcement has 8K cinema camera and monitor. But until now, all three items have not released.
    The 8K camera should be the first priority to release but they have not talked anything.
    R5c is from R5. It is the only 8k camera.
    In these 8.5 years, including 3 years COVID.
    It seems Canon couldn't find the right time to release.
    After they released R mount camera, they need to release many lens every year. They have not released all range lens even now.
    Then the first one EOS R just like R3.
    They were not ready to release R5 and R6 so they released EOS R and RP...
    They might have chance to release 5Ds mkii in 2019 if they didn't release R mount.
    Long story short, 5Ds was released after EF mount released 15 years or released after 5D3.
    I would say they may have time to release after R5 mkii or really wait after R5 mkiii.
    As you said, calculate from R7 sensor, it can be 82mp sensor.
    Between 2018-2024, Canon solved many technical problem.
    1. Sensor speed. R7 sensor can prove they can have 82MP DPAF. More than 10 fps.
    2. DIGIC X is fast enough for R5s.
    3. CFexpress card is fast for big files.
    4. IBIS for taking photos.(I went to one tokyo show at that time. Canon needed to lock the 120mp camera and took the photo to avoid shaking blur photo.)

    So I said one old problem.
    Schedule.
    The other new problem is after covid, the meterial has not enough to make many new camera.
    They may not have enough for R1 and R5 mkii.

    So this stupid answer, they need to release R1, R5 mkii and 8K cinema cameras. At least we need to wait 2 more years.
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  2. After read your article and the Canon link, I can guess what's problem from Canon view.
    The announcement has 8K cinema camera and monitor. But until now, all three items have not released.
    hah. i stand corrected C700 was only 6K.

    Yes, the 8K CINI camera that was shown off never did make it out into production outside of the R5C which wasn't really it either.
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  3. It is APS-H, meaning that they could make an even higher MP full-frame one.
    yes around 202MP full frame, but that wasn't DPAF, so around 101MP with pixel pairs - and that's using ~120nm sensor tech.
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  4. yes around 202MP full frame, but that wasn't DPAF, so around 101MP with pixel pairs - and that's using ~120nm sensor tech.
    I remember they announced 250mp sensor also.
    So I found this


    hah. i stand corrected C700 was only 6K.

    Yes, the 8K CINI camera that was shown off never did make it out into production outside of the R5C which wasn't really it either.
    Anyways Canon finally registered 2 cinema cameras. Hope they will show something exciting.
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  5. At this point in time if you want a bigger sensor get a FujiFilm medium format and forget Canon. With their slow rollouts and production issues Canon isn't likely going much bigger than 45mpx anytime soon. And they don't even have RF mount telephoto primes yet that can keep up with the new sensors unless you want to spend $13k-$20k per lens. Yes you can shoot at F11 if you want but that's a mismatch for what the newest sensors are capable of. Maybe in another 2-3 years they can get caught up.
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  6. I like megapixels. But people who ask for excessive amounts of it forget one very important factor - you are diffraction limited. It doesn't matter how sharp your lens is if diffraction is are softening your image. You can already see the effects of diffraction in sony's 60mp sensors at f11, while canon's R7 sensor which is 83mp equivalent when scaled up to full frame is already seeing diffraction at f8.

    As a product photographer in studio i focus stack the heck out of my images taken at larger, sweet spot apertures to squeeze out so much detail that is not achievable with single shots, but that's not feasible for many other genres of photography.

    I'm content with existing 45mp sensors and wouldn't buy anything with 24mp for my primary camera. 60mp+ is cool but I'm not sure if more than 10,000 pixels wide (i.e. Above 68mp) on a full frame sensor is something i want.
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  7. I like megapixels. But people who ask for excessive amounts of it forget one very important factor - you are diffraction limited. It doesn't matter how sharp your lens is if diffraction is are softening your image. You can already see the effects of diffraction in sony's 60mp sensors at f11, while canon's R7 sensor which is 83mp equivalent when scaled up to full frame is already seeing diffraction at f8.

    As a product photographer in studio i focus stack the heck out of my images taken at larger, sweet spot apertures to squeeze out so much detail that is not achievable with single shots, but that's not feasible for many other genres of photography.

    I'm content with existing 45mp sensors and wouldn't buy anything with 24mp for my primary camera. 60mp+ is cool but I'm not sure if more than 10,000 pixels wide (i.e. Above 68mp) on a full frame sensor is something i want.
    People haven't forgotten diffraction, we know to use wide aperture lenses to minimise its effects.
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  8. If I wanted a 100 MP camera I would use the Fuji GFX system. I did try the GFX system and the resolution is amazing, but for me I had really little use for such resolution. For me the most practical format is full frame 3:2 aspect ratio and 45 MP or even less is good enough.
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  9. I for one would really like to see a Canon camera with a higher resolution. Why?
    I'm a full-time commercial photographer and the requests from clients have changed quite a bit just in the last decade. I find myself creating a lot of stuff for webpages, multimedia, social media etc. And it pays off to have high-resolution files, because of the different formats and sizes those images are used in.

    A lot of times the same image gets printed on a poster in landscape format with lots of background and foreground around the main subject. Then the same image is heavily cropped and the main subject is printed vertically in a magazine. Clients zoom into images for multimedia presentations, crop them heavily for social media, they use all sorts of crop formats for web banners, vertical webpage backgrounds etc.



    Another reason is I find retouching easier with high-resolution images, even if the images are downsized later.



    I also shoot a lot of landscapes and exhibit large prints, and then, at first people look at them from far away, but then they step in closer to look at the details.



    I shoot a lot of outdoor sports and a lot of times the in the picture athlete is pretty small surrounded by a magnificent landscape, and it is a huge benefit if you can still see some details on the athlete when you step closer to the print, make a multimedia zoom, or decide to crop the image for a magazine or whatever.



    I also make time-lapses and the higher resolution enables zooming and panning across the frame without using motorized heads and on-the-site zoom movement.



    I have some low res wide angle landscape shots with animals in their natural habitat and even though the shots look nice, I would love the ability to print them big and see the details on the wildlife or in some cases do a crop to present on my webpage and social media next to the whole frame.

    ---



    I don't thinkndiffraction is that big of a deal.

    In some cases, you can focus stack, in some cases you don't need everything sharp so you use wider apertures, and in some cases, you have everything basically in the same focus plane (shooting a model in front of a tapestry, doing a reproduction of a painting, shooting a building front, a climber on the wall etc)



    And in the cases where diffraction is a limiting factor and you can't get around it, you are still no worse than shooting with a lower-resolution camera.



    So for me, a Canon high res camera with more than 90MP, moderate fps and some basic video features would be a great addition to the R5 (or the future R5 II that I'm probably getting anyway)



    ______

    As for the GFX system ...

    I've used Fuji and the 102 MP files are great, with loads of detail, nice colors etc... however Fuji doesn't offer some of the lenses that I use daily.

    Even if you buy their "trinity" lenses they don't cover the whole range from 16-200mm (which I find most useful)

    They don't offer any bright ultra-wide primes, or telephoto zooms above 150mm (35mm eqv).

    Also, their AF is a lot slower than what I'm used from Canon cameras and lenses.
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  10. I like megapixels. But people who ask for excessive amounts of it forget one very important factor - you are diffraction limited. It doesn't matter how sharp your lens is if diffraction is are softening your image. You can already see the effects of diffraction in sony's 60mp sensors at f11, while canon's R7 sensor which is 83mp equivalent when scaled up to full frame is already seeing diffraction at f8.

    So basically you didn't read the article, right?

    TLDR; diffraction is overblown since it entirely depends on image magnification and observer distance - and a monitor at 100% isn't it. if that's all you do with your images then you probably don't need a 120mp camera.
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  11. Canon probably does not see a good market for a 120MP R5s at this stage. Also making a full frame version of the 90D sensor which would be around 82MP might be too slow of a readout time for the AF system. I think Canon would have lots of ideas but some just don't get released for various reasons.

    The R5 does have the 400MP pixel shift feature for still subjects.
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  12. [..] The R5 does have the 400MP pixel shift feature for still subjects.
    I'm curious if that will be present in the R5II and if so, will it still be limited to JPEG?
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