In the Field with the Canon 5D Mark IV

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While the “professional” 1D series may get the title of flagship DSLR, it is Canon’s 5D series that gets all the attention. With the release of the EOS 5D Mark IV a few months ago, we received a variety of highly anticipated new features, including a higher-resolution sensor, improved low-light performance and dynamic range, Dual Pixel technologies, and 4K video recording. So, what did I think after spending some time with the camera? Well, it’s an easy decision if you shoot with any existing 5D-series body and want the ideal all-around performer, but there are a few limitations for certain users.

Build and Handling

If you have seen or handled a 5D Mark III, 5DS, or 5DS R, you have pretty much used a 5D Mark IV. Not much has changed, and not much really needed to. There are a few nice additions, however, including an extra button on the rear that provides another method of quickly accessing your settings and a higher-resolution rear touchscreen that I enjoyed—something rare for me, since I dislike them. The touchscreen works for changing settings, as well as for tapping the screen to focus, which works wonderfully in live view and while shooting video. Beyond this, it is largely the same camera as before and is very comfortable to handle and hold.

Image Quality

Canon has been making numerous advancements with its CMOS image sensors in the past few years, starting with the 50MP CMOS sensors in the 5DS and 5DS R. The Mark IV doesn't quite reach that resolution, but it does get a nice bump to 30MP that will keep things manageable while providing plenty of resolution for more demanding printing applications. As I'd written in Canon Camera Wars: 5D Mark IV versus 5DS and 5DS R, a previous article comparing all the current 5D series cameras, the Mark IV is the perfect all-around camera, offering good resolution with excellent speed and low-light performance, and I stand by that statement after using it.

One significant upgrade in the Mark IV is a vast improvement to dynamic range and a greater ability to push and pull the raw files in post. Earlier cameras would start to show noise very quickly if you tried to pull up the shadows dramatically while editing. The Mark IV, however, allows users to expose for the highlights and then pull up almost pitch-black areas to reveal detail without suffering from tons of color noise. I have personally seen this issue many times, and am glad to see this change.

Low-light shooting hasn't changed drastically—only about 1/3 stop improvement, but when you combine this with the higher-resolution sensor, it is still a nice upgrade. I would feel comfortable shooting at up to ISO 12800 for most situations, and could probably push that to 25600 if I really needed to. It is good to see significant changes to the image capture system, which provide photographers with more control over their images in post.

Performance and Connectivity

A few other upgrades come with the autofocus system and the connectivity options. The AF system is an expanded 61-point system that is like the 1D X Mark II, and it is extremely fast and accurate, even in low light. This is one of those features that you don't even think about because it just works. Changing AF modes and coverage is easy, thanks to the new rear button, and the coverage is wide enough to cover most subjects with ease, even during tracking. Of course, there are numerous ways to program the AF, as well, meaning you can fine-tune it to do exactly what you need. Additionally, it works very well with the high-speed 7 fps continuous shooting.

On the connectivity side of things, there have been a couple of tweaks made. First and foremost is the addition of built-in GPS. For those clamoring for geo-tagging tech like the 6D, you finally have it. The Mark IV also comes with what is effectively the new standard of Wi-Fi with NFC. Canon's app works well, so you can quickly transfer photos or even take control of the camera.

Dual Pixel Technology

This is surprisingly deserving of its own section, since the 5D Mark IV has two new features related to Dual Pixel tech. First, it gains Dual Pixel CMOS AF, first found in the 70D, which provides outstanding autofocus performance in live view and while shooting video. It is surprisingly accurate and fast and, with the use of a touchscreen, it becomes very easy to use. If you have seen it in action on previous Canon bodies, it isn't very different here, but it is very helpful to have on a professional full-frame camera.

Next, we have the most intriguing new feature of the Mark IV: Dual Pixel Raw. Many questions were raised when Canon mentioned this, when the camera was previously announced, with many people wondering if this was some sort of Lytro-esque technology. Unfortunately, it doesn't take things quite that far, and merely offers slight adjustments to your photos in post. To use it, you must use Canon's Digital Photo Pro software for editing the images and it gives you a few tools to help save an image.

Bokeh Shift Left
Bokeh Shift Right
Bokeh Shift can have surprising impact on your photos, and can help move some elements just where you need them.

This tool set includes focus micro adjustment, letting shooters move the point of focus a little bit to ensure the sharpest focus is exactly where it needs to be. This won't save completely misfocused images, mind you, but it can help account for the millimeter or two that you were off when you moved slightly between focusing and taking the shot. There is also a bokeh adjustment, which is more interesting, and lets you change the shooting angle ever so slightly. I found this to be more significant of a change compared to the focus adjustment, and here are some samples of the most extreme changes that you can make.

Microadjustment Front
Microadjustment Back

There are a couple of other settings, as well, including diffraction correction, but with most major editing tools already offering effective tools themselves, it’s hard to justify adding another piece of software to your workflow just for this reason. One other issue I had was that only one of these settings can be used at a time, so you can't shift the bokeh and do focus adjustment or diffraction correction for an image at the same time. It is an interesting tool, for sure, but I'm not sure many people will really find a use for it.

A Word on Video

Compared to the groundbreaking achievements in video quality made by the Mark II and the Mark III, the Mark IV doesn’t quite hit those heights, but it does add some desired improvements. The primary upgrade is DCI 4K recording, and now via an optional paid upgrade service through Canon, you can get C-Log in the camera. It is still missing many critical features, such as zebras and peaking, uncompressed 4K output (HDMI is Full HD only), options for better codecs, and more. Rolling shutter is also noticeable, making it a difficult camera to use handheld. And, it will only record 4K video with a massive 1.74x crop. The overall quality of the video is very nice, however, if you can get over these limitations. And pulling 4K stills after recording is simple if you want to experiment with that capture technique.

Conclusion

The 5D Mark IV is an easy upgrade if you are a professional Canon photographer—it gives you practically every upgrade you could possibly hope for in terms of image quality and performance. If you need it for video too, well, it may not be the best but it will work in many controlled situations. Canon seems to be targeting still photographers with this camera. Many shooters who moved to Canon strictly for video may be upset, but I find it an interesting and good move for Canon to focus on the core aspect of its DSLRs.

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52 Comments

Shawn,

Great article - love my 5D MK III, but this sure makes me want to "upgrade!"

One question, and it probably applies to all these articles, when I try to "print" the article (usually to a PDF, but also to hard-copy printer) the right side is always cut off - I'm missing about an inch or more of text all the way down.  Any suggestions?  Is this becuse of the resolution, screen size, or are others having the same issue with these on the B&H site?

Thanks - I just like to save these great help documents for later reference.

Hmm. Are you using your browser's print function or are you clicking our icon at the top of the article underneath the title? Usually a browser tries to cram a bit too much in and can cause this issue, and when I use the icon I am getting the full article no problem. If this isn't the case I would check your printer settings to see if they have any "fit to page" or other settings to help save that missing part.

Shawn,

I'm using the Print Icon at the top of the articles.  Always cuts off the right side (photos and text).  I've tried various printer settings, including print to PDF, etc.  Or course, page breaks never will line up - so I've sort of resorted to a "copy and paste" but it was bugging me since there was the Print Icon.  It seems to happen on all the articles on the B&H Explora site.  And you are right, printing with the browser function is much worse - plus, it gets all the items outside of the actual article, too.

I'll keep trying but was wondering if I'm the only one with the issue.

Thanks for the reply - great review - makes me wonder about that jump from the MK III to MK IV!

The Canon 5D Mk IV is an incredible camera! I upgraded from the Canon 5D Mk III  6 months ago, I mainly Shoot sports and action shots this camera is simply incredible!  Rent one and you will end up buying it! 😎

I've been agonizing over whether or not to add the 5d4 to my kit. I currently use a 1d4 - mostly for motocross at the local tracks for photos. 

How does the AF on the 5d4 compare to my 1d4?

Hi Tony,

The 5D4 should be notably better than your 1D4 when it comes to autofocus. It has more points and is more sensitive for working in low light.

Well, heck. That information is going to cost me some money in the next day or two ;-)

Thanks for the timely reply. 

Recently added the 5D4 to my 6Ds. I shoot mostly people and weddings. Around this same time, I became interested in shooting wedding video. I have also added a Sony A6500 in the mix to help with the video work.  The 5D4 is a really great camera for someone in my position. 5D4 plus my full range of L glass is a really great combo for stills photography, and the DPAF helps tremendously with Video.I'm still at a point where I have 75% wedding photography, and only 25% video.  The Sony A6500 is really amazing for video, but the photo's are 'meh'.  What the 5D4 gives me is a great photo system and a great video system.  Other more specialized systems may be better at photo... or better at video, but there aren't many that would outperform the 5D4 for combination of both! Combine both photo and video quality with the great Canon ergonomics and menu systems, the professional build quality, the long battery life, and great lens selection, and you have a really hard to beat system.

I can also attest to the improved dynamic range. I recently shot some golden hour environmental portraits of a model in a field. Shooting into the setting sun. On the back of the camera, all I could see was a mostly blown out sky, and a mostly black foreground (and model).  Bring the images into Lightroom, drop the highlights, and boost the shadows, and I end up with spectacular photos with good color richness and contrast!  Really amazed at the images I was able to rescue!

I bought the 5DM4 and was immediately unhappy with the focus. In my opinion it has problems. There were numerous times when  people were several feet away in good light and the camera blew the focus. Low light was not impressive. I have nbeen able to make a 5DSR work well in low light and the 5DM4 was an unremarkable alternative. I returned the camera and am very pleased withthe 5DSR and the 5DM3 for low light.

Bruce wrote:

I bought the 5DM4 and was immediately unhappy with the focus. In my opinion it has problems. There were numerous times when  people were several feet away in good light and the camera blew the focus. Low light was not impressive. I have nbeen able to make a 5DSR work well in low light and the 5DM4 was an unremarkable alternative. I returned the camera and am very pleased withthe 5DSR and the 5DM3 for low light.

* I have been able to make the 5DSR work well in low light.  I spent the money on the new 16-35 III instead. The comments about the 1DX II however are enticing.

Sorry.........forgot to add the question about long exposure noise.  I do a lot of astrophotography with wide prime lenses.  Noise is obviously a big issue there.  Any idea if the M4 is any quieter than the M3 in that respect.

Excellant summary of the 5DM4.  I bought the 5DM3 when it first came out in 2012 and love the camera, but have been dissapointed with its dynamic range.  Im often surprised by how little attention people pay to the dynamic range of their DSLRs.  I have read elsewhere that Canon lags behind Nikon and Sony in DR.  Does the 5DM4 really change that comparison (assuming it is true to begin with).  Im tempted to shell out the bucks to find out.

Hi Ed,

I will say that the files are a lot more malleable, similar my a7R II files and unlike my older 5D3 files. So it is definitely a big upgrade for Canon shooters.

To answer your other question, the 5D4 is a huge upgrade in terms of noise (especially color noise) at higher ISOs. Not quite sure how specifically that will affect long exposure noise, but with the 4K recording I would assume Canon is using a better cooling system which should help and when combined with the new processing algorithm you should see a notable improvement.

Your review of the 5D4 was exactly what I experienced when shooting with it.  Great for what it is.  However the files from my 1DX2 were easier to work with in Lightroom.  My in focus shots at fast wedding shooting were always better with the 1DX2 than the 5D4 and even my landscape shots with the 1DX2 beat the 5D4.  I returned the 5D4 and bought a second 1DX2. My recommendation is that you get the 1DX2 rather than the 5D4 if you can do it.  Shawn, any take on the comparison between these two bodies?

Hi Stu,

Glad to hear your thoughts here. My take would be that the 1D X Mark II is a much better camera in almost every aspect, helped a lot by the use of dual processors and the lower res (though still very good) sensor, which also contributes to creating files that are easier to process. I also suspect that at higher resolutions Canon is applying some more magic to your files on the 5D4.

If you can afford the 1D X Mark II, including the extra size and weight on top of the price, then it is the better choice. I'm a little surprised by your statement that the 1DX2 beat the 5D4 when it came to landscapes, since I would say the 5D4 is better there, especially since you do get the extra resolution boost, which I was very satisfied with when I was using it. You probably did the right thing considering your needs for speedier and more accurate AF for weddings.

Enjoyed reading your review, thanks for your time!  For us crop sensor users that would like to venture off into a full frame camera would you recommend the Mark IV, III, or 6D? I enjoy taking videos and the fast fps capability of my 7DM2 but miss the wide angle shots a full frame offers. 

Hi David,

Tough question here. The 5D series is definitely a better choice for video and faster shooting opportunities. And the Mark IV is better than the Mark III for those specific reasons. But in terms of image quality all will be very good. The Mark III and 6D are comparable in terms of IQ, but the Mark IV is ahead of both of them. I would say if you can afford it the Mark IV will make you the happiest. The Mark III after that. And then if you are sticking to a budget to go with the 6D. 

Thank you for your review...  As a 5Dm4 user for several months now, I agree this makes an excellent upgrade for Canon full-frame shooters. 

Hi John,

Glad you liked the reivew! And I'm glad that you have been enjoying your Mark IV.

And one more thing - Canon now officially supports C-log Gamma on the 5D IV :-)

https://www.usa.canon.com/internet/portal/us/home/explore/see-legendary/canon-log

You missed the #1 key video advantage of the 5D IV!! THe DPAF provides continuous autofocus in video mode. This includes face recognition and touchscreen autofocus. So if I am shooting an interview with a wide-open lens, and the subject is moving back and forth - the autofocus completely tracks the subject face. The performance is absolutely brilliant. This feature alone is worth the upgrade from previous 5D.

Hi EP,

I didn't go super in depth about this besides mentioning it once and I probably should have, since many users looking for a high quality stills and Full HD camera can benefit greatly from the Dual Pixel AF (the Mark IV however is a tougher sell as solely a 4K camera compared to other similar options). It certainly was surprising as to how well it works for tracking and rack focusing and the touchscreen implementation is near perfect.

 I enjoyed your article very much and I enjoy using good equipment. I  purchase the Canon AE1 when it first came out even though I never got the opportunity to use it that much ,someone else wanted it much more. I have six Canon Cameras three films and three digital cameras and I recently Purchased the Mark 111 last year and the 1D Mark IV this year. Maybe  in a couple more years I will purchase the Mark IV  for some reason I was looking for a video along with the article but I enjoyed it in the way have a nice day .i

Hi Earl,

Unfortunately no video to go along with the article but glad you still enjoyed it! The Mark III is a wonderful camera so your equipment should keep you plenty satisfied for years to come.

ONE SUBSTANSIAL DOWNGRADE IS THAT WHILE YOU ARE FILMING VIDEO, YOU CAN NOT TAKE STILLS WITHOUT EXITING THE VIDEO FUNCTION.ALSO, I FEEL RIPPED OFF OVER THE 4K CROPPING- I AM SPENDING BIG BUCKS FOR A FULL FRAME CAMERA SO MY WIDE AND FISHEYE LENSES WORK PROPERLY

Hi Richard,

I have to agree that this was one of the most frustrating things about the Mark IV, as it is very very good camera in every other way.

The bias against "flip screens" on pro models is laughable. It's the pro  who can make the best use of this feature. I do a lot of street photography, and when messing around in crowds, such as at a demonstration, being able to hoist my Canon 80D  puts me litterally and figuratively "above it all." And there's nothing more helpful than taking portraits with the camera at hip level so you can maintain direct eye contact with the subject. So what's with the lack of that useful feature? Elucidate me, you effete snobs out there.

Hi Antonino,

Many pro models seem to forgo the flip screen as an effort to produce an every more durable and weather sealed body. Myself having started using Sony's a7 series, there were moments with the Mark IV where I missed having the option as I have come to use it fairly often, but I will say that the Mark IV felt much more solid and durable than the a7 or even my 60D with their flip screens.

Yes, I've considered that. But then I recall that I had a Nikonos in the '70's that I used in the ocean. A manual machine, of course, with all kinds of moving parts. And pretty durable! I'd replace the rubber seals every few years whether I needed to or not, and never worried about water seeping into its innards. And It still works today, almost half a century later. So I still say it is a silly bias against a feature that is on lower-end cameras BECAUSE it is on lower end cameras. Oh well. (I don't know of any pro models that have those screens, by the way.)

SORRY! Which offers better video capabiliies and performance, overall? Mk II or Mk IV

Hi Alberto,

The Mark IV is definitely better in every way compared to the Mark II, or even the Mark III. This is due to improved overall quality in all aspects (resolution, noise, color) for Full HD as well as the inclusion of a 4K recording mode which the Mark II doesn't offer at all.

Hmmmm. My overall impression of your review of the video capabilities left ,e with the impression that you find ithem sorely lacking. Did I miss something or read something into your review which you did not actually infer?  :-)

Alberto

The review has to take into account current offerings from other manufacturers to an extent and what they are offering. The video functions of the 5D Mark IV don't compare too favorably to the abilities of other cameras in a similar price range, but compared to the earlier 5D models it is most certainly a step up. Canon certainly went back to its still photography roots with this release and for good reason. They made a spectacular photo camera with nice enough video features on the side.

Thank you, Shawn. I very much appreciate the clarification. It helped a great deal.  :-)

Cheers. - Alberto

Which offers better video capabiliies and performance, overall?

The app works well!!!????

Hi Jim,

I had no issues with the app during my time with it. And it seemed very comparable to offerings from other manufacturers.

You should probably mention the Sony A9......

Hi Christian,

Most of my time spent with the camera was actually prior to the a9's announcement, and since the a9 has only been made available to us for short demonstrations it is very difficult to make any direct comparisons with any certainty. Stay tuned though, we will have more coverage on the a9 when it is officially released.

I upgraded from the Canon 5D Mark III  in September 2016 to the 5D Mark 4.  The Mark 4 has some nice new features like built in GPS and an improved touch screen.  The new WiFi capability works great with my ipad for editing photos too. I recommend upgrading to the 5D Mark 4 

Hi Curtis,

Glad you like your new camera. The many smaller additions to the Mark IV definitely make it a worthy upgrade over the Mark III.

The crop factor for video is pretty lame. My lenses all will look completely different so I'll have to relearn what they look like at 4k crop. 

Paying extra for c-log is likewise kind of a jerk move. Gets the price tag into Sony territory. 

How much are the Metabones adapters?

Hi Calaveras,

The crop factor is a bit frustrating due to how severe it is, but the resulting image quality is excellent if you can deal with it. The C-Log upgrade is a whole other story, but due to the need for what appears to be a physical upgrade the paid upgrade makes a small bit of sense (compared to paying for what is essential just a firmware update).

If you are going to start looking into Metabones adapters, you can find all the current offerings for Canon to Sony E here, keep in mind some only support APS-C bodies (namely the speedboosters).

question. is the sensor   a back illumiated sensor that allows for high iso 's. without much grain.. like

the back illumiated sensor sony camera has ?

Hi Vaughn,

It is not a back-illuminated sensor, but the low light performance has been improved over its predecessors. Part of this is much better image processing which can help reduce the appearance of noise without giving up detail.

What does this portend for updates to the 6D? I'd love to see the dynamic range there too. Thank you.

Hi Elisabeth,

I would assume that any future cameras from Canon will see similar improvements to dynamic range and sensitivity as the Mark IV has.

Can the 5D IV do fast dual pixel autofocus without saving the photos in some strange format that can be opened only by Canon software?

Yes, dual pixel auto focus and dual pixel raw are two totally different things that have nothing to do with each other. One is the way the camera uses the dual pixels to improve live view focusing and the other is choosing a special output format (like raw vs jpeg) that will capture data from the dual pixel array into essentailly two raw files (in one container format).

Hi Gary,

Matt is correct. Dual Pixel AF and Dual Pixel RAW are separate things. As I mention early in the Dual Pixel section the new AF works wonderfully in Live View and video modes.

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