Review: Canon 5D Mk IV

This review of the Canon 5D Mk IV has been really, really delayed. I’ve had chances to play with it, but I don’t feel that it was enough to truly give a formalized evaluation. For that reason, I tend to want to spend more time with products than other reviewers. Something is always bound to go wrong or you’re bound to discover something that doesn’t make sense at all. With the Canon 5D Mk IV, a whole lot made sense. The camera won’t do what its predecessor did for the industry years ago, but at this point it’s a workhorse camera that truly can’t be changed much. Working photographers everywhere would have a minor freakout if there was a massive change, right?

Honestly, I doubt it.

You see if you look at the way Nikon did things, you’ll realize that they went from 12MP to 36MP and kept a whole load of their customers. These customers really love the camera–at least the working pros do. So if Canon had made the Canon 5Ds the successor to the 5D Mk IV, it would have sort of made sense. The Nikon D810 shoots at 5fps, so too does the Canon 5Ds. The 5D Mk IV shoots at 7fps.

Granted this is just my personal opinion and I can see the pros and cons of each side. But the Canon 5D Mk IV remains to be an overall good camera. However, it’s not one that I believe the market needed. To that end, I’m not sure that there’s a fantastic reason for the line to even continue out due to just how much the industry is bound to change in four years.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Great image quality, though I still feel that I can do MUCH more with Sony and Fujifilm files when it comes to color. But Canon’s dynamic range is pretty darn good.
  • Ergonomical feel reminds me more of the old 5D Mk II than the Mk III, and I like that.
  • Fantastic autofocus
  • Touchscreen, finally
  • Quiet shutter is nice
  • Weather sealing

Cons

  • Price point

Gear Used

The Canon 5D MK IV was used with the Canon 16-35mm f2.8 L III USM, Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art and the Sigma 85mm f1.4 original. Lighting was done with the Adorama Flashpoint Xplor600 TTL.

Tech Specs

Taken from our original news post

  • New 30.4 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor for versatile shooting in nearly any light, with ISO range 100–32,000; expandable up to 50–102,400.
  • 4K Motion JPEG video (DCI cinema-type 4096 x 2160) at 30p or 24p; in-camera still frame grab* of 4K 8.8-Megapixel images; multiple video options include Full HD up to 60p, and HD up to 120p.
  • Superb Dual Pixel CMOS AF for responsive and smooth AF during video or Live View shooting; LCD monitor has full touch-screen interface, including selection of AF area.
  • Excellent performance — up to 7.0 fps** continuous shooting speed with high performance DIGIC 6+ Image Processor for improved speed and excellent image quality.
  • 61 AF points with expanded vertical coverage with 41 cross-points, and AF possible at all 61 AF points with many lens + extender combinations effective at f/8.
  • 150,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor helps provide precise exposure metering, helps detect flickering lights and allows for enhanced scene recognition and face detection capabilities.
  • Dual Pixel RAW***, in-camera Digital Lens Optimizer during JPEG shooting and Diffraction Correction technologies.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi®1 and NFC2 connectivity provide easy sharing to compatible smart devices, select social media sites and the Canon Connect Station CS100 device.
  • Built-in GPS3 provides geotag information including auto time syncing with Universal Time Code (UTC) via satellites.

Extra Notes From Our Meeting

  • Full touch screen LCD screen
  • EOS ITR: facial data and color recognition data tracking
  • Autofocus abilities EV -3 AF and -4 in Live view
  • built in digital lens optimizer while shooting
  • Built in WiFi NFC and GPS. The camera also has FTP and FTPS built into it in case you need more advanced network
  • Built in bulb and intervalometer for time lapse shooting
  • 4K video at 30p, 25p, 24p and 29.98. The user can also do 4K still frame grabs
  • Dust and weather resistance are now equal to the 7D Mk II
  • Some controls have been moved
  • New AF area select button
  • HDR movies, same as in the 80D 1080 30p
  • 120p video at 720
  • 7 fps still shooting
  • Intelligent viewfinder II
  • Upgraded mirror vibration control. This is just like what you’ll find in the Canon 5Ds that will help prevent the effects of subtle camera shake on the final image because there are so many pixels on the sensor.
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF and Servo focusing in live view at 3 and 3.4 fps
  • Memory card: CF and SD

The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR is currently scheduled to be available in early September 2016 for an estimated retail price of $3,499.00 for the body only††. It will also be sold as part of body-and-lens kits with the EF24-70mm f/4L lens ($4,399.00, scheduled to be available early September) †† and the EF24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens ($4599.00, scheduled to be available late October) ††.

Ergonomics

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When you look at the Canon 5D Mk IV, you realize that it looks a lot like many of their older DSLRs in the 5D lineup. But it feels different. Trust me, there are very subtle things about it that make it feel like a polished and refined DSLR like the 5D Mk II did. With all this said, the front has very little in the way of controls with the exception of the depth of field preview button and the lens release.

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Head to the top of the camera and what you’ll find here are a number of very typical controls. You’ve got lots of multi-purpose buttons on the right and the mode dial with a locking switch on the left. Plus there is the hot shoe.

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Meanwhile, the back is where all the action happens. You’ve got loads of buttons on the left side, a few controls on the right, and a massive touch screen in addition to the viewfinder.

I always hate writing the ergonomics section of the review, but do note that the ergonomics of this camera are really nice overall.

Build Quality

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We tested the Canon 5D Mk IV is a whole variety of situations. It trekked with me many places in a backpack and overall the camera seriously held up. Something that I noticed in particular is how well the finish kept up. With the 5D Mk III I was rubbing the finish off fairly quickly. That doesn’t happen here.

I’ve shot with the camera in the rain and as long as a weather sealed lens is attached, you shouldn’t have any sort of issues.

In the hand, the camera feels really nice and almost reminiscent of the 5D Mk II–which is by far still my favorite Canon DSLR of all time. The 6D comes close as second. The 5D Mk IV has an almost elegant feeling to it while also feeling very refined and mature. A wide variety of photographers will appreciate this.

Ease of Use

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In general this camera is pretty simple to use, but there are certain things that I just couldn’t get over. I’ve been a Canon 6D shooter for a long time now, and I’m so used to no buttons being on the left side of the screen. Plus I can usually find my way around that camera very well in the dark. With the Canon 5D Mk IV I can’t due to some slightly awkward button placements. Additionally, I sort of wish that the buttons glowed in the dark.

Something that I really don’t understand that Nikon does so incredibly well and that Canon doesn’t is the LCD illumination. With Nikon, you simply turn the on/off switch to another position. With Canon, you need to feel for the exact button with a little bump on it. Trust me, that’s harder than you’d think in the dark.

To be fair, I don’t have the best vision.

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Where Canon has seriously improved though is with the implementation of the touchscreen. It makes navigating their menus a million times better though to be honest, I’ve barely used it because the menu system here is just so solid to begin with. Sony only just started doing this with their higher end cameras, and both them and Nikon should take more pages out of Canon’s book in this instance.

Otherwise when it comes to simply shooting, you’ve got a lot here that is just great as usual. The viewfinder is one of the best optical viewfinders I’ve seen though they’re nothing compared to some of the newer stuff that Panasonic is producing with its EVFs. Again, I have very strong astigmatism, and if I can see through them without my glasses on, that’s saying a whole lot.

One thing that I found very annoying to do here is WiFi transfer of images. It’s not done in the same way as the Canon 6D and that’s uber frustrating. It’s a feature that’s so incredibly important to me in a day and age where Instagram is essential to one’s marketing.

Autofocus

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In my tests, Canon never seemed to miss the mark with their own lenses. But when the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art and the older 85mm f1.4 were added, there of course were issues. These are easily fixed with micro adjustment but I find it frustrating that every time you buy a new camera you need to recalibrate your lenses to work with the damned thing. This doesn’t happen with mirrorless and I understand how a mirror and pentaprism can throw this off, but I’d be completely fibbing if I said I missed using the Lens Calibration charts to figure out if my focus was dead on or not.

In most situations, it’s safe to assume that you’ll get pretty flawless performance with the camera when it comes to autofocus and after calibration. It will never be perfect with anything but Canon’s own glass, and even then you’re likely to experience issues depending on what lenses you’re using.


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In extremely low light situations, the hit rate is simply astounding. Very few Nikon cameras can keep up like this. Part of that has to do with the autofocus system being very similar to the 1DX Mk II’s. It just works. Comparatively speaking though, Olympus is still better in a lot of situations and the new Sony a99 II can track moving targets extremely well.

Metering

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According to our tests, this camera completely meters by the Sunny 16 standards of film. That’s all, moving on here.

Image Quality

Before you all ask: Dual Pixel RAW is a feature that Canon could have done so much with but someone at the company absolutely continues to shoot down ideas involving anything that could be really truly cool or revolutionary. In some ways, it feels like my days in Catholic school: if it felt good it was bad and I wasn’t allowed to do it. In this case, Canon had the opportunity to do something seriously cool but instead it really sucks and is completely useless.

When a number of us journalists and bloggers are writing our reviews, we tend to talk to one another. Overall, the Canon 5D Mk IV does a great job when it comes to image quality. The dynamic range is pretty amazing, and the best of it comes from a few images that I’m not allowed to show due to client confidentiality (boudoir type stuff). It also handles high ISOs very well for the web. Even when printing, I wouldn’t really have any major issues printing a 17×22 at ISO 6400. To be fair though, I’m a fantastic photo editor.

Where the Canon 5D Mk IV tends to suffer is in color depth. I can create some very nice and film-like photos with the sensor in this camera, but it’s easier for me to get better color from both Sony and Fujifilm. At the moment of my writing this review, I’m using the Fujifilm X Pro 2 and the Sony a99 II in heavy rotation. And when you consider how each camera performs in similarly lit situations, Sony and Fujifilm tend to take the cake here. Yes, an APS-C sensor can outperform the 5D Mk IV when it comes to color. But when it comes to high ISO output, very little is going to beat the 5D Mk IV.

High ISO Output

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I’m amazed at how clean the files from the Canon 5D Mk IV are. Granted, I really shouldn’t be. They’re surely cleaner than most of what Nikon can deliver though it’s debatable if it can outperform the 24MP sensor that some of those cameras use. Of any full frame camera out there though, the 5D Mk IV probably does the best job sans the Sony a7s II.

RAW File Versatility

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So here’s a bit of what I can show you. Above is an image with no highlight retention and with the contrast turned all the way up.

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Above is the details from the highlights recovered. Doesn’t seem like such a large task, but trust me it is.

Extra Sample Images

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Conclusions

Likes

  • Good image quality, and dynamic range
  • Autofocus is awesome
  • Ergonomics are nice
  • Touch screen

Dislikes

  • Why is it really this expensive?

As I sit here typing out the conclusions to this review, I’m in chats with every single one of my staffers about how not a single camera on the market out there is for me. Would I buy the Canon 5D Mk IV? Personally no. Is it reliable? Totally. But in order to make the most of the system I need to go all Canon and I don’t really want to do that. I like the lightweight of mirrorless cameras and if the company starts taking their mirrorless division more seriously, I’ll consider making a jump.

My personal opinions are my own though. By all means, the Canon 5D Mk IV is a fantastic workhorse of a camera but in some ways it’s a jack of all trades and master of none. There are cameras out there with better high ISO results, better detail rendition, and with better dynamic range capabilities. But for the most part, the Canon 5D Mk IV takes almost every mirrorless camera on the market and wipes the floor with it. The exceptions are Olympus’s autofocus system, Sony’s general everything when it comes to image quality, and Fujifilm’s color.

Image quality and autofocus aside, I truly wish it were easier to work with third party companies when it comes to their systems and I wish that they were lighter. With all this said though, the Canon 5D Mk IV is a great camera. But I’ve got some very personal issues with it that have me very torn.

Phoblographer-Star-rating

The Canon 5D Mk IV receives five out of five stars. But I’m still not buying one.