- Editor Rating
- Rated 3.5 stars
- Very Good
- Canon 5D Mark IV (Body Only)
- Reviewed by:
- Published on:
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- Cosmetic AppealEditor: 65%
- Design & Build QualityEditor: 75%
- FeaturesEditor: 55%
- FunctionEditor: 70%
- Value For The PriceEditor: 45%
Canon's 5D Mark IV harnesses a new 30.4 MP sensor and capable of 4K video recording.
With the digital imaging world quickly converting from the traditional DSLR to a mirrorless method, it has been tough for Canon to remain a powerhouse in the market. Their recent attempts at entering the mirrorless market have been mediocre at best. Many of the loyal Canon users have held their hopes for the release of their 5D Mark IV model, the successor to the popular 5D Mark III which debuted back in March of 2012.
The photo giant has finally released the 5D Mark IV which is available now through B&H Photo at a retail price of $3,499. Thanks to the great people over at B&H, we were able to get our hands on a review unit of the 5D IV on a temporary loan to conduct a full review of the product.
In the rest of this article, I will share my experiences using the 5D Mark IV and ultimately determine if I think it is worth the hefty price tag or whether you are better off spending your money on another competing model. Keep in mind, this is not a paid endorsement from Canon and our opinions expressed are a result of our testing methods.
The 5D Mark IV packaging looks like the previous version and includes your standard Canon accessories like an LP-E6N battery (same as the 7D Mark II), a Canon branded strap, two physical manuals, an electronic manual DVD, an EOS Digital Solution Disk and an LP-E6/LP-E6N charger.
Design & Build Quality
Looking at the 5D Mark IV, it closely resembles the design and build quality that you would find in other Canon models like the 5D Mark III, 5DS, 5DS-R and 7D Mark II.
Since there is more technology packed into the body, there are some slight tweaks and changes including an enlarged handgrip, higher positioning of the pentaprism and a minor 50g weight reduction. These factors are all minor enough that most won't notice a difference compared to the previous version.
The model's branding is updated with the new 5D Mark IV badge. Since this is a model that is destined for professional use, the build quality is up to par with what you would expect from Canon's pro line of cameras.
The body is comprised of a combination of magnesium alloy and polycarbonate making it ready to weather the elements while still allowing it to remain it easy to handle from the user's standpoint.
Regarding the rear button layout, everything stayed the same besides the addition of a new, customizable button right below the joystick on the back right side of the body. This button can be bound to control some settings including ISO, exposure compensation, AF area/point selection, AE lock or AE lock (hold).
You have access to the same dual CompactFlash and SD memory card slots as the 5D Mark III making the ability to duplicate important files much easier than with most mirrorless competitors whom only offer a single media slot.
The rear LCD is finally a touchscreen that not only helps to change settings on the fly but comes in handy with selecting AF points for the Dual Pixel AF system of which I will get into later on in this review.
As always, I am not going to list the full specifications list as you can read it in its entirety on the B&H Photo product page. I will, however, touch on what are the new features offered with this model in comparison to its predecessor.
New 30.4 MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor & DIGIC 6+ Image Processor
Previously, the 5D Mark III harnessed a lower resolution 22.3MP sensor and a slower DIGIC 5+ processor. With upgrades in both of these areas, the 5D Mark IV is capable of a native ISO range of 100-32,000 that is expandable from 50-102,400. The new image processor has improved the continuous burst shooting rate from 6 to 7 frames per second.
This is coupled with a 150,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensors to quickly and accurately determine exposure and white balance settings. Face and flicker detection are also available, most notably for use in low-lit environments.
High-Density Reticular AF & Dual-Pixel CMOS AF Systems
Canon's Mark IV utilizes an AF system with 61 phase-detect autofocus points with 41 of them being classified at cross-type. The center point can focus down to -3 EV thus making for proper work in extremely dim lighting situations. Compared to the last iteration, this offers 24% of expanded vertical coverage on the peripherals, and 8% increased in the center for better frame tracking and subject location.
Finally, the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system made famous by Canon's 70D and 80D line has made its way to the 5D system. This offers accurate continuous AF tracking on 80% of the phase-detection autofocus system, particularly useful for video shooters to pull off clean rack focused shots just by tapping on the screen.
DCI 4K Video Recording & Slow-motion HD support
While the 5D line has been falling behind in the video market these past few years, the 5D Mark IV hopes to change that with the addition of DCI 4K video capabilities right out of the box for up to 30 fps (500 Mbps). The Full HD 1080p mode can now shoot 60 fps, and the 720p HD setting can go up to 120 fps.
The in-camera 4K signal has 4:2:2 color sampling with the 1080p signal receiving 4:2:0 sampling. An external recording can bump up the Full HD signal to 4:2:2 sampling, but there is no 4K output is available for external recording.
Built-In Wi-Fi, NFC Connectivity & GPS
Unlike the 5D Mark III, the Mark IV offers connectivity with the Canon mobile app for wireless control and image browsing as well as support for the CS100 Connection Station. A built-in GPS module allows you to geotag your images in camera as well as time-sync with the Universal Time Code satellites.
Dual Pixel RAW Support
Canon's newest technology that allows you to capture more data within the sensor's pixel architecture for fine adjustments like focus tuning, bokeh adjustment, and ghosting. This advanced editing is done using Canon's Digital Photo Professional 4.5 software which comes free with the camera.
Digital Lens Optimizer
Repair common optical defects (chromatic aberration, distortion, peripheral brightness, diffraction) from supported lenses in-camera so JPEGs can be delivered with the corrections already applied to the images.
This feature is found in many of the Canon DSLRs that have launched in the past few years and allows you to record consecutive frames at customizable intervals to achieve the perfect timelapse.
What Does The 5D Mark IV Still Lack?
- Video monitoring tools – such as waveform, false color, zebras, focus peaking and more. These were possibly with the 5D Mark II/III when hacked with Magic Lantern so we know the camera is capable of handling it yet Canon still hasn't put these features natively into any of their DSLRs, yet they are found in nearly all mirrorless competitors.
- Improved slow-motion capture in HD – with the 5D Mark IV getting 1080p at 60fps, it is an improvement yet still way behind the competition. Most of the latest competing mirrorless models (even models priced thousands less) can shoot HD anywhere from 96 to 120fps so the addition of 60fps in HD just seems like they are playing a very late version of catch-up. There is an option of 120fps while shooting at 720p, but frankly upscaling to HD in this day and age is far from ideal.
- 4K UHD support – Natively the 5D Mark IV only shoots in DCI 4K meaning it has a resolution of 4096 x 2160. While this is suitbale for some shooters and even can be seen as an advantage over many competing mirrorless cameras which only shoot up to 4K UHD, there is no way to shoot 4K UHD so you will have to deliver in this aspect ratio or adjust to a more conventional 16:9 aspect ratio during post.
- A better 4K codec – the Mark IV shoots 4K in Motion jpeg which is very cumbersome from a data standpoint. Their lack of being able to support H.265 or another advanced codec is a significant oversight when they are marketing this camera to be a viable option for video shooters especially when the codecs on Canon's cinema line are significantly better.
- Support for 4K external recording – Atomos, Video Devices, Black Magic and Convergent Designs have been releasing affordable external monitoring solutions which not only give you ProRes support but can bypass the 30-minute recording limit on Canon DSLRs. Unfortunately, this solution only works with the Mark IV when shooting in HD as you cannot output 4K externally at all on the 5D Mark IV, something that is possible with competitors like the GH4 (which supports 10-bit externally), a7SII, a7RII, and a6300/a6500.
- C-Log Picture Profile – nearly every mirrorless competitor in today's market offers a flat, logarithmic profile for achieving the optimal dynamic range for the sensor. Panasonic has their V-Log and Canon has their Slog2/Slog3 variant. While Canon's C-Log is touted on their cinema line, they did not extend this capability to the 5D Mark IV (similar to the 1DX II) leaving many video shooters disappointed.
Technical Specification Comparison
Performance & Function
To give you a bit of background before I dive into the performance, I had owned a 5D Mark III as my primary camera for two years before switching to Sony's a7RII mirrorless model back in October of 2015. I have extensive experience shooting photo and video on both systems although I now primarily capture 4K video on my FS7.
Ergonomics & Handling
I have used both the 5D Mark IV and my a7RII extensively handheld, and they each have a different feel to them. Being a regularly sized male, I do prefer the larger feel of the 5D Mark IV in my hands as it feels like a better fit whereas the a7RII smaller and more cramped. The handgrip on the a7RII has been improved with this past iteration, but Canon's grip still reigns supreme when it comes to ergonomics and aids to the overall handling experience.
In terms of actual size and weight, the 5D Mark IV is significantly bulkier and heavier making it more of a burden for travel or hauling around on long handheld scenarios like when shooting a wedding or event. This past year I traveled to the CES 2016 for the first year with a mirrorless setup over my previous years carrying around my 5D Mark III. The smaller mirrorless setup not only was more pleasant to travel with because it allowed for a smaller carry-on bag although also kept me less fatigued at the end of the day after eight hours of walking around the show floor with a significantly lighter setup hanging from my shoulder.
The increase from 22.3 to 30.4 megapixels has increased the overall resolution of images by a significant margin although it still lacks the detail captured from sensors like those found in the 5DS/5DS-R and a7RII. By all means, 30MP is more than enough for most photographers needs, but I will say getting used to the 42.4MP in the a7RII has been a treat. It has allowed me to escape a few horror situations for events where I needed to crop in
It has allowed me to escape a few horror situations for events where I needed to crop in significantly to get rid of distracting bystanders while still maintaining a quality image for the end-result. However, the size of files this large can become an issue for an active shooter who does not have ample means of storage on the job or for archiving, so the 30MP is a solid combination of resolution and data size.
Dynamic Range/RAW Performance
DXOmark tested the dynamic range of the 5D Mark IV's sensor to achieve 13.6 stops which is better than the Mark III's 11.7 stops although slightly smaller than that of Sony's a7RII which can capture 13.9 stops.
However, when working with RAW stills, you can achieve a higher range and obtain significantly better highlight/shadow recovery due to the additional information that is captured.
To test the RAW performance further, I took a series of shots at varying exposure values to see how the files performed with highlight/shadow recovery after I purposely under and over exposed.
Overall, I was impressed at how much detail I was able to regain in these tests. The performance when underexposed was much better than that of when I overexposed with only some noise creeping in when I bumped the exposure back up whereas detail was lost in the highlights when I over exposed by 3 or 4 stops.
Compared to the 5D Mark III, this RAW performance as been improved as my 5D Mark III had some noticeable fixed pattern noise anytime I tried to recover anything more than a stop and a half.
From the start, Canon has been pushing their new Dual-Pixel RAW format as a major selling point for this camera. From a user's aspect, it would not be a major factor in my purchasing decision as feels more like marketing hype than a practical, usable feature.
My testing of the Dual-Pixel RAW functionality did not go very smoothly, and even after testing multiple shots with a multitude of lenses and settings, I could not get all of the advertised features to work within Canon's compatible software. Initially, I made the mistake of using a Sigma ART 50mm f/1.4 lens, but came to find out this feature is only full-supported by native Canon lenses (understandably).
After switching to my 24-70mm f/2.8L II, I was able to get the software to cooperate further than before but still was unsuccessful with editing any bokeh effect no matter what kind of image I threw at it.
The problem here lies with the reliance on Canon's editing software to make these adjustments after ingesting your images then importing these files into Lightroom or Capture One Pro at a later point.
Adobe launched a recent update to LR which allows you to import and edit the Dual-Pixel files straight out of the 5D Mark IV without converting them, but this still won't enable you to adjust any of the unique attributes that Dual-Pixel RAW was designed to accomplish.
Considering I never use Canon's native software to edit my RAW images nor does any other serious Canon photographer that I know, this feature added another step to my post-processing workflow and became more of a hassle than a benefit.
During my time of evaluation, the Dual-Pixel RAW technology is not refined enough to fit the needs of a professional photographer and seems more like a ploy to seem innovative in a market where Canon's product lines have quickly fallen behind.
Judging from the test images above and the few thousand sample images I put through the camera during my testing, I can see a difference in the low light performance compared to its predecessor. The 5D Mark IV is at least a stop cleaner with subtle noise creeping in at 6400 and worsening slightly at 12,800 though still usable especially with a hint of noise reduction in post.
Once you reach 25,600 and 32,000, the noise levels are not terrible. In a professional setting, I would not plan to deliver anything shot above 12,800 unless it was under certain conditions where it was 100% necessary. Most will be shooting with a flash or strobe in low-light cases so staying below 12,800 shouldn't be an issue as you still can take in plenty of light.
The autofocus performance from my testing was similar to the 5D Mark III when it comes to speed and accuracy though it did perform better in low-lit situations.
Compared to the 7D Mark II that we tested previously, the AF system is not as impressive, especially when shooting continuous AF likely due to the fewer focus points.
Most professionals who are shooting sports or fast-paced action will probably be choosing a 7D Mark II or Canon's 1DX Mark II as their body of choice, so this should not be a big issue for those who were satisfied with the AF found in the 5D Mark III.
Since I only had a short period with my demo unit, I focused more on the stills performance than video (it is marketed as a stills camera first, video camera second) so I wasn't able to put together a YouTube review focusing on the video elements like I did with the 7D Mark II. However, I did spend a few days both in my studio and throughout my downtown area shooting some sample video and testing out the video-specific features.
I will start off by saying Canon has made significant improvements the video performance and feature set compared to their previous-generation model. However, it still feels outdated when switching to this camera based on past experiences shooting with competitors like the Panasonic GH4, Sony a7SII, and Sony a7RII.
From a positive standpoint, my favorite addition to the video capabilities of Canon's 5D Mark IV would be the inclusion of the Dual-Pixel AF capabilities mixed with touchscreen support. Having used many systems for capturing video with continuous AF support, I think Canon's Dual-Pixel technology is the highest performing and most reliable method in a DSLR camera for video.
While it was a nice addition to the 7D Mark II, the 5D Mark IV's execution is much more practical as you can choose focus points on the fly with the touchscreen and identify subjects for AF tracking without complication. While I think the 70D/80D is even easier with a screen that can be extended and rotated for “selfie-style” shooting, I would have loved to see a flip-out screen to aid shooting high or low shots as the fixed screen becomes a hindrance unless you have an external monitor set up.
For those interested in a studio test showcasing performance of low-light/noise, dynamic range, and highlight/shadow recovery:
After testing this camera's video capabilities, I would NOT recommend it for someone who is shooting primarily video (more than 50% video compared to photo) for a few big dealbreakers when compared to the current market:
- Canon has finally added 4K support (long overdue), but its limitation to C4k (lacks UHD) and overbearing 4K codec makes it a poor choice for most 4K shooting needs. The codec is a significant burden not only to work within your NLE of choice but also a burden when it comes to archiving/storage.
- While you get 8-bit 4:2:2 in-camera for 4K, you cannot get any 4K ProRes externally via an Atomos Shogun or another competing recorder, external video output is limited to HD only. This means you can still monitor internal 4K capture, but the signal sent through the HDMI will only be served in HD.
- Video monitoring tools make shooting properly a lot easier and in today's video market, you should not be left guessing whether you are exposed correctly or in-focus. If you were to opt for virtually any 4K-ready mirrorless competitor, you would get valuable monitoring tools like zebras, peaking, and histogram overlays in-camera thus saving you from a lot of potential headaches in post.
- The lack of an actual log profile does hinder the ability to get every ounce of dynamic range out of the sensor, and I would love to see some option even if it is a paid add-on such as with the case of Panasonic's V-Log upgrade for the GH4.
When it comes down to a focus on video, I would recommend choosing a Sony or Panasonic mirrorless competitor as the 5D Mark IV just falls too far behind especially at its price-point. For most, the Sony a7SII or Sony a7RII are the most comparable options in this price range that match or beat most of the 5D Mark IV's performance while excelling even further in video shooting. If it came down to it, I would even recommend choosing Sony's a6300 coupled with a Metabones Speedbooster and save $2,400 to put towards a quality lens or other video-related gear.
Canon's 5D Mark IV improves upon its predecessor in many ways. While this is a step in the right direction, Canon still lacks the innovation or desire to compete with the likes of Panasonic and Sony especially when it comes to video-related features.
With a steep price-point of $3,499, the 5D Mark IV is a much tougher sell than the 5D Mark III which launched in a market where it was the top contender in its price-point. Since the mirrorless market has brought more innovative and affordable competition, traditional DSLRs from Nikon and Canon are still playing catch up.
If you are a diehard Canon user, the 5D Mark IV might be a worthwhile upgrade for you (especially for a wedding/event photographer). From someone who made a switch from Canon to Sony in the past, I will say I do not regret my decision having used Canon's newest flagship model. With the ability to adapt Canon's EF lens line easily to a modern Sony or Panasonic body, the brand switch is a lot less intimidating and Canon just isn't pulling out all the stops to maintain their dwindling market share.
As a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and our Managing Editor, Colt loves testing out the newest tech products/services. His goal is to help better educate other consumers to ensure the most satisfying purchases decisions on consumer electronics and services. When he is not working on creating new content, Colt enjoys spending time with his two Australian Shepherds, Mia and Zoey.