Video

Canon told us that one the most common uses for the 5D series of cameras is filmmaking, and with the 5D Mark IV the company appears to be putting a stake in the ground and making a renewed claim on this market. The camera takes a big step forward in usability for video, but has some restrictions on capturing footage as well as restrictions on the footage itself. Because of this, the camera will likely appeal to those for whom video is a secondary requirement rather than primary, or for whom still frame grabs from 4K is a must.

Video Features

The 5D Mark IV is capable of capturing 4K video at both 24p and 30p, which is a big jump up from the 1080p resolution found on the 5D Mark III. Canon’s 4K implementation is based on the DCI standard (4096 x 2160) rather than the more common 16:9, UHD standard (3840 x 2160), meaning 4K video has a slightly wider aspect ratio that could appeal to filmmakers.

Based on our initial experience with the camera, as well as our experience using the EOS-1D X Mark II (which has similar video specifications,) we expect 4K video to be very good. However, this quality does come with tradeoffs.

Menus to select the codec, resolution and frame rate.

Note that, as well as the NTSC-based 23.98p, the camera can also shoot at true 24p.

The 5D Mark IV uses a native crop of the sensor for 4K capture, using a 4096 x 2160 pixel region of the sensor. This works out to a 1.64x crop relative to the full width of the sensor or 1.74x relative to the full 3:2 region of the sensor. This is a little smaller than Canon’s APS-C sensors, so shooting wide-angle 4K video could prove difficult (especially since you can't mount APS-C specific EF-S lenses on the camera). The crop factor could also be challenging to someone who wants to switch frequently between stills and video since the effective focal length of the lens will change significantly in the process.

Additionally, 4K recording is limited to Motion JPEG, which in its favor produces high quality video since it saves every frame as a separate image. This makes it good for extracting stills, but it’s also relatively inefficient, so recording at 4K/30p requires a bit rate approaching 500 Mbps. The camera does include other compression algorithms (All-I, IPB and IPB Light variants of the popular H.264 format), but they’re only available when shooting 1080p video. What this means is that you'll only be able to get around 17 minutes of 4K video on a fast 64GB CF card. And you'll probably want to use a CF card since even the fastest SD cards (with 30MB/s 'U3' ratings) can't be depended on to keep up (the camera will let you use them but may suddenly announce that it's stopped recording).

If you want to extract images from video, however, Motion JPEG can provide good results and effectively provides a way to shoot 30 fps 8.8MP stills with full autofocus. The frame grab feature works identically to the 1D X Mark II: after shooting a 4K clip, simply scrub through the frames in playback and pick the one you like.

The 5D Mark IV has all the ports you would expect for DSLR video: microphone, headphone, and HDMI-out. Unfortunately, HDMI-out only supports 1080 resolution and not 4K.

There’s also support for clean HDMI-out but, like the 1D X Mark II, it’s limited to 1080 resolution. For those who don’t need 4K there are still useful improvements: full HD recording is now available up to 60p, and it’s even possible to record 720/120p, albeit without audio.

Autofocus

As mentioned earlier, the 5D Mark IV includes Dual Pixel autofocus, a technology we’ve praised on other Canon DSLRs for its accuracy and natural looking focus transitions. It works very well for photos, but it works insanely well for video.

Face detection with Dual Pixel AF has proven to work phenomenally well and is extremely accurate, while subject tracking, whether it’s a face or other subject, is some of the best we’ve seen. Depth tracking is equally effective, with focus transitions being smooth and free of hunting. Focus speed on the 5D Mark IV can be adjusted in 10 increments (in FlexiZone-Single mode) allowing you to customize it based on how fast your subject is moving or on the look you want to achieve.

Autofocus speed in Movie Servo AF can be adjusted by 10 increments, allowing you to customize AF based on how fast your subject is moving or the look you want to achieve.

The camera also gets a fully interactive touchscreen, similar to the EOS 80D, allowing you to manage all video settings directly onscreen, along with support for tap-to-focus. It includes the same three AF modes found on the 80D as well: Face+Tracking, FlexiZone-Multi, and FlexiZone-Single.

What this all means is that subject tracking, focusing, and shooting can become a one man job with very pleasing and predictable results.

HDR Video

One interesting feature on the 5D Mark IV is HDR video. In theory, HDR video promises to do for video what HDR techniques do for still photography: increase the dynamic range captured in an image to preserve highlights without crushing the shadows. It works by shooting at 1080/60p to capture two interleaved 1080/30p clips: one optimized for highlights and the other for shadows. These are combined, in-camera, to produce high DR 1080/30p footage with IBP compression. In case it isn't obvious, then, 1080/30p with IBP compression is the only mode in which you can enable HDR.

It isn’t the first Canon DSLR to include this feature; the Rebel T6s/760D supports HDR video, but that only works in a handful of preset modes such as ‘landscape’ or ‘sports,’ is limited to 720p, and has no option for manual control. The 5D IV, by comparison, gives users complete control over all exposure settings, something that will be important to serious videographers.

In practice, the 5D Mark IV's HDR mode effectively salvages highlight detail while giving you the midtone and shadow exposure you were expecting. Interestingly, Canon's 'Auto Lighting Optimizer' mode is available in video, which is a feature which attempts to boost shadow detail without altering the highlights much. You can actually combine the two, which gets you an appreciably flatter profile than using the camera in the standard shooting mode, but it doesn't quite match the flatness of log gamma profiles offered by other manufacturers.

Thoughts on Video

The addition of 4K video and Dual Pixel autofocus represent significant upgrades relative to the 5D Mark III, and help to turn the camera into a fairly complete package for those who need to shoot both stills and video.

Dual Pixel AF, when paired with tap-to-focus, is a compelling combination. It should appeal to everyone from photojournalists to wedding photographers, and even documentary filmmakers, due to its ease of use and class-defining AF in video. This is particularly true for those who shoot with fast lenses that allow for shallow depth of field. In essence, what Canon has done is make it easy for a single person to get great, natural looking video with a simple setup and relatively little effort.

However, we’re left with some questions as well. Specifically, Canon told us that one of the primary target groups for this camera is filmmakers, yet the bulky Motion JPEG codec remains the only 4K recording option. The explanation given is that Motion JPEG makes it easy to extract stills from any frame. That might make sense on a camera like the EOS-1D X Mark II, which is primarily designed for shooting action and short clips, but it makes less sense on a camera oriented at filmmakers who will require a fast 256GB CF card just to record an hour long interview.

As mentioned, there's still no option for a true flat or log gamma profile nor any tools to assess exposure. From a historical perspective it's easy to understand why earlier 5D models may not have had these, however they're fairly common features on video-oriented cameras today, and certainly ones that many serious filmmakers care about. Couple all of this with the 1.64x crop factor and rolling shutter (see our in-depth look at this on the next page), and it's clear that the 5D Mark IV is a powerful video capture tool, but we still believe that it's better suited to users for whom video capture is a secondary (rather than primary) requirement.