Striding Forth: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Review
|Photo by Samuel Spencer|
To say the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV has some big shoes to fill is a bit of an understatement. What started off with the 5D as the 'entry-level' full-frame option morphed into a high-resolution stills and video hybrid with the Mark II edition. However, once they released the 5D Mark III with robust weather-sealing, vastly improved autofocus and faster burst speed, Canon really had a winner - the professionals' and enthusiasts' full-frame all-rounder. For extreme speed and durability, there was the EOS-1D series, but for everyone else, the 5D Mark III was almost universally capable.
With the Mark IV, Canon has made some significant changes beneath its magnesium-alloy skin, but hasn't radically changed the formula as it has with previous iterations. Instead, the 5D Mark IV reminds us of a Mark III that's more or less 'evolved' into a 2016 version of itself, comfortably sitting alongside the lower-resolution sports-oriented 1D X Mark II and the higher-resolution twins, the 5DS and 5DS R.
That might not sound like the most exciting outcome to be sure, but there will be improvements on this model that will be revolutionary to some (particularly those that work with video). But for others it will be as much an all-rounder as the preceding model, expected to work day-in and day-out via muscle memory and with little fuss - but now with a few niceties added to make their lives easier. Let's take a closer look.
Body, design and controls
If you've seen one, you've seen 'em all - members of the 5D-series, that is. The camera's body and dimensions are nearly unchanged, which is a great thing for existing 5D owners. One nice bonus - this new model is 75g lighter than the old one, despite additional weather-sealing.
Most controls remain easy to manipulate with your eye to the finder, offering experienced users an easy adjustment. Canon has added a new customizable button to the rear of the camera, but we continue to have concerns with the amount of customization - or lack thereof - offered on the whole. Adding insult to injury, the limited customization options are difficult to access as well.
The new 1.62M-dot screen is perhaps the most significant change on the Mark IV. Fully touch-enabled, it functions a lot more like the panel on an EOS 80D than the limited experience on the EOS-1D X II. You can use the touchscreen to navigate menus, access options on (and populate) the Q menu, and perhaps most importantly, touch-to-focus in both video and stills Live View. And if you don't want or need it, you can disable it altogether. As for us, we like it, and using speedy and accurate touch-to-focus on a rear screen instead of laying on our stomachs in the dirt for a low-angle shot is always an added plus.
The 5D Mark IV has an all-new 30.4MP full-frame sensor with on-chip analog-to-digital conversion. The real-world benefit? Far less noisy shadow detail at lower ISO values. For incredibly high dynamic range scenes, the 5D IV still isn't quite the best on the market, but it is an impressive improvement compared to the older model. Existing 5D-series users will find that the Mark IV much greater flexibility when they process out Raw files.
High ISO performance continues to be a strong point, with good JPEG color rendition and decent detail retention at even its highest native ISO setting of 32000. As you can see in our studio scene, the Mark IV's default JPEGs are a little more subdued than its predecessor, showing a bit less contrast (though this can be adjusted in-camera if desired). We've also noticed auto white balance straying to the cool side.
The 5D Mark IV includes an anti-aliasing filter, but in this case, it is a very thoughtful addition. You might lose some 'crispness' at 100%, but you lose very little actual detail while false color moiré is extremely well controlled - and moiré is a far harder issue to deal with compared to adding some sharpening your files.
Performance and autofocus
The 5D Mark IV performs exactly as one would expect of a high-end DSLR - start up times are instant, viewfinder blackout is short (though not as short as a 1D X II), and battery life is good - CIPA rated to 900 shots on the LP-6N battery (and 300 shots using Live View). The performance of the touchscreen, in particular, is impressive, offering a fluid and responsive experience.
The Mark IV continues to use conventional CF and SD cards, which are cheap and plentiful, but cannot match the outstanding performance of CFast 2.0 or XQD. That said, the burst performance of the Mark IV is still fair, offering ~20 shots in Raw + JPEG or ~30 shots in Raw only (though if you shoot higher ISO values, knock 20-30% off that count). If you're only into JPEGs though, you're in luck with unlimited burst shooting.
This camera borrows much of the EOS-1D X Mark II's autofocus system, save for having a lower resolution (150,000 pixel) metering sensor to help the AF system 'read' the scene. In the real world, expect swift and reliable autofocus performance across a range of scenarios, though you need to pay careful attention to your case settings to get the most out of it - setting up the system for highly erratic subjects means you'll need to dial it back down for more stationary ones. Lastly, iTR subject tracking still lags behind the reliability of other systems.
Dual Pixel, video and other features
Dual Pixel AF subject tracking is almost spookily good whether you're in stills or video shooting. Face detection, especially, is accurate and excellent, and the option to 'toggle' between multiple faces in a scene is a nice addition (keep in mind, it's still detecting overall faces, and isn't yet able to track a single eye with absolute accuracy). It's also important to note that Dual Pixel AF works down to -4 EV across 80% of the frame, so it's effectively got two legs up on the traditional AF system. If it's dark and you can't acquire focus through the viewfinder, give DP AF a try.
The 5D Mark IV captures DCI 4K/30p video (DCI means it's a wider aspect ratio than the more common 16:9, UHD 4K) in a Motion JPEG codec. That codec means that both video and frame-grab quality will be great, but also means it'll eat through card space very quickly. Adding insult to injury is that HDMI-out is limited to 1080p, precluding the possibility of using an external recorder for 4K with a more efficient codec. However, that Dual Pixel AF and the touchscreen mean you can get smooth, precise and professional-looking focus racking in video, making one-man shooting about as easy as it gets. One important note - because of the 1.64x crop while shooting 4K, you essentially get an APS-C shooting experience, with all of the potential pitfalls that come with it (especially with regards to noise and wide-angle shooting).
The camera can also utilize Dual Pixel data to shoot 'Dual Pixel Raw' files, allowing for microadjustment of some image parameters in post, including focus (emphasis on the 'micro' part). It also includes Wi-Fi and NFC with fairly robust support for remote shooting and transferring images to your phone, a laptop, another camera, and even printers with DLNA support.
The final word
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV comes four years after the Mark III version. That sort of product lifecycle indicates two things - first, it's a foregone conclusion that this was a highly anticipated product. Second, and perhaps less obviously, it's a sign that Canon expects and builds these cameras to last at least that long, and that's for working professionals that aren't likely to be kind to their gear.
Ready for anything - the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is built to last. Processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw using the Camera Standard profile. Canon EF 35mm F1.4L II USM. ISO 320, 1/160, F2.8.
Photo by Carey Rose
With the Mark IV, the 5D-line takes a big step forward - but moves a lot less laterally than previous models. By that, we mean that the group of users picking up a Mark II was likely to include those that picked up a Mark I, but added indie filmmakers. And the group picking up a Mark III over the Mark II were likely to shoot some sports, or in inclement weather. But those picking up the Mark IV - they are likely to just be Mark III shooters looking to retire their old workhorses. There are some great offerings for video enthusiasts, particularly with regards to the touchscreen and Dual Pixel AF, but anyone looking to shoot serious video is likely to be turned off by the codec, 1080p HDMI out, rolling shutter and crop factor in 4K.
We said in our overview video for the 5D Mark IV that this is the most refined 5D yet, and we believe that still stands. This is a camera that will stand up to years of abuse and churn out images with appreciably better quality (and at a faster rate) than its predecessor. The touch screen and Dual Pixel AF offer users more shooting options, and the built-in Wi-Fi and NFC will be an important addition to those working in the field. It may not be a revolutionary update, but this evolutionary update will find its way into the hands of thousands of working professionals, and it will reward them with better and more reliable results than ever before. For those that don't need it, the Mark IV won't be an exciting camera. But those that do now have a new and improved all-rounder that will last them for years to come.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Category: Semi-professional Full Frame Camera
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
With the EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon has further refined its semi-professional full frame all-rounder. With a solid build and improved weather sealing, faster burst speed, increased resolution, increased dynamic range, updated autofocus system and Dual Pixel live view functionality, the Mark IV will be as much camera as many people need, even if it doesn't revolutionize the 5D-line the way its predecessors have.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Samples Gallery
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