Canon 5D Mark IV first impressions review

Canon 5D Mark IVI am lucky owner of Canon 5D Mark IV DSLR for just a couple of days now but I managed to take some shots with it already and put it to some testing over the last few days. So today I would like to share my first impressions of this camera. Please note that as a landscape photographer I will focus on still features (I don’t shoot video at all) and on features useful for landscape/travel photographers.

Also please note that I intend to update this review as I use the camera more. Also right now there isn’t many sample images but I plan to add more in the next few days.

Finally I haven’t tested some of the features yet, especially Dual Pixel Raw. I hope to do so in the next couple of days.

Why I decided to upgrade?

The reason why I decided to upgrade from Canon 5D Mark III wasn’t because 5D Mark IV would make my images so much better and so much more ‘pro’. No. Canon 5D Mark III was already very good and capable camera. So was Mark II or even 50D which I used before (and which I sometimes still use as a backup). Mark IV would just make my job slightly easier (eg. by providing GPS coordinates and touch screen to make changing settings easier) and will give me a bit more keepers by more ability to crop, better high ISO or improved dynamic range. Most of the current cameras are really great and allow us to take fantastic images.

Design & button layout

The look of the camera didn’t change much compared to its predecessor. Dimensions are virtually identical to 5D Mark III, weight is pretty close too (in fact it’s 60 g lighter) and so is layout of the buttons.

There is just one additional button on 5D Mark IV which by default is assigned to changing autofocus zone (eg. from one AF point to zone AF, or automatic). Also remote shutter release cable port was moved to the front of the camera (it was on its left on 5D MK III). This makes it easier to access this port when using L-Bracket (what is L-Bracket you can find out in this article) and so is a welcome improvement.

One very cool small addition is that you can now assign toggling of autofocusing mode (one shot / servo) to one of the buttons. It’s pretty cool and something I missed on 5D Mark III when shooting wildlife for instance. Sometimes I was shooting in ‘One Shot’ mode when the animal was still but as soon as it started to move I changed AF mode to servo. This required looking away from the viewfinder, setting the options and reframing again what sometimes resulted in missed shot. Now I will be able to change auto focus mode looking at my subject all the time thus not loosing any photo opportunity.

Dynamic Range

As a landscape photographer I was especially interested in dynamic range which compared to its peers was pretty mediocre on 5D Mark III.

I’m very happy to say that DR saw big improvement (about 2 stops compared to 5D MK III). Even though it isn’t at the level of Nikon cameras (it’s trailing one stop behind) or Sony (about half a stop) yet it’s now pretty close and in real life situations the difference might be negligible as much more contrasty scenes still require using bracketing and HDR on all cameras.

Anyway here’s quick example taken just before sunset. Dynamic range was pretty high because sky was still very bright but tree and grass in foreground were very dark because they were located in deep shadow.

Before image was heavily underexposed (by approx. 4 stops) to avoid highlights clipping (and as a test as 4 stops of underexposure was too much really 🙂 ). After image on the right is one with fixed exposure (+4 stops in shadows).

And here are some 100% crops from the image after lifting shadows by +4 stops:

crop_100_1 crop_100_2

Left image above is with no noise reduction. As you can see there is some noise but I would say it isn’t very bad. In the right image I applied minimal noise reduction – noise is almost completely gone but details are still there.

BTW below is a 100% crop from a similar image taken at -3 EV exposure compensation and with shadows lifted by 3 stops (and with no noise reduction). As you can see noise in this image is very well controlled and I would say the image is perfectly usable.

crop_100_3

Also what I’m very happy to report is that there is no visible banding in the shadows – something what 5D series was a bit infamous for.

From the above quick dynamic range test I would say, dynamic range of 5D Mark IV is greatly improved over its predecessor (and other tests like DXO’s confirm that). For me the ability to lift shadows by 3.5 – 4 stops is huge change and something that would be very beneficial in my regular shooting. However, for many high dynamic range scenes (like sunsets or sunrises) I will still need to use bracketing and HDR. But this would be true also with Nikon D810 or Sony A7R. The reason is that dynamic range of such scenes is much greater than capabilities of even best sensors available on the market.

Regarding dynamic range there is one more interesting thing. It was already discovered that so called Dual Pixel RAW might give 1 additional stop of dynamic range (what would mean it has about 14.5 stops of dynamic range). Unfortunately right now it’s difficult to test as no major RAW converter supports those files and it’s difficult when they will and to what extent (as it was even discovered that some very limited 3D effect could be possible).

Resolution and High ISO

Another nice addition is increased resolution. 30.4 megapixels vs 22 of 5D Mark III really makes a difference as thanks to that images are much more detailed and there is more option to crop.

High ISO and low light high ISO also show massive improvement (but range of native high ISO was only slightly extended to ISO 32000). Even very high values like ISO 12800 seem to be completely usable. Heck, even ISO 25600 and 32000 seem to be usable (to some extent)! Unfortunately I don’t have good test images of high ISO yet but be sure to check my blog again in a couple of days – I should finally upload something.

Auto Focus

One of the most highlighted features of 5D Mark IV is improved auto focus (which is now the same system used in mighty Canon 1DX II).

And after quick tests I must say that it’s really impressive. Not only it does much better job in low light situations (it now works in -3 EV when optical viewfinder is used and -4 EV when using Live View mode) compared to 5D Mark III but it’s also faster, tracking AF works so much better (also in low light and in -2, -2.5 EV exposure). When I was shooting moving subject in low light, were in focus. Pretty impressive!

Another welcome improvement is slightly wider spread of the auto focus points vertically. Whole frame still isn’t covered but it’s a nice improvement over previous generation.

LCD Touch Screen

Real winner for me is touch screen. I thought it will be just a nice add-on but after using it for a couple of hours I must admit it’s awesome and something I would really miss if I was to switch to another camera. It’s very responsive and accurate (just like on smartphone) and you can do so much with it: change menu or shooting settings, zoom images, swipe through the gallery and even change Auto Focus in live view mode by clicking in the area you would like to be focused. And this last feature is really cool! I shot some landscape photos with it and it was very accurate. Even though most of the time I’m using manual focusing when shooting landscape photography I think that it might be good starting point for setting the focus. Just click on the rock on the foreground, adjust focus (if needed) and shoot. Now click on the tree in the background, adjust (if need), take photo and you already have photos for focus stacking 🙂

Additionally LCD screen has now higher resolution (what makes the images look sharper and more detailed) and also there is option to set color temperature of the screen using one of predefined values to make the colors warmer or cooler.

Additional features

GPS and WiFi are also working great and are something that I missed on 5D Mark III. Regarding GPS, in the past I tried using logger installed on my smartphone but most of the time I forgot to enable it… now I don’t have to remember about it anymore. WiFi might be useful for transferring the images and also for remote shooting using smartphone or tablet as 5D Mark IV doesn’t have articulating screen (in fact I’m happy about that as it’s always something that could break) but using smartphone app lets you compose and shoot remotely.

Additionally you can use WiFi to transfer images to your smartphone/laptop on the fly to view them on larger screen and/or backup as you shoot. Of course I can imagine that it’s also a great feature for those working in the studio (I don’t 🙂 ).

Another nice feature is slight improvement in frames per second. Camera can capture 7 FPS vs 6 FPS on 5D Mark III. The difference isn’t much but it’s noticeable.

Also what I noticed is that Canon 5D Mark IV is generally a bit quieter from its predecessor.

There is also a wealth of other features like built-in intervalometer or option to set the exact exposure in Bulb exposure mode that I’m sure will come in handy for landscape/fine-art photographers.

Summary

So far the Canon 5D Mark IV camera looks really impressive and I’m sure I will have a lot of fun with it in the next few months (especially as I have some nice travels planned). All additions and improvements seem to make perfect sense.

For me as a landscape photographer most welcome improvements are higher resolution and better base ISO dynamic range. The fact I can now comfortably lift the shadows by 3.5 to 4 stops (sometimes maybe even a little more) is a big thing as it means it will be easier for me to capture scenes with moderately high contrast.

At the same time 5D Mark IV isn’t revolution but it’s still big step forward. I think that difference between III and IV is much bigger than it was between II and III.

BTW expect full real-life review in a few weeks or months from now.