Canon 5D Mark IV review

Although I wrote my first impressions review of Canon 5D Mark IV some time ago I also promised to write a more thorough article after spending more time with this camera. Also I hoped to verify my initial findings in it. And as I’ve been using Canon 5D Mark IV quite a lot in the last few months (for instance during my trips to Cuba, Finland and during some studio work at home) I can share my final thoughts on this DSLR.

If you’re lazy to read whole this article, I’ll tell you one thing: it’s excellent!

Please note that as a photographer I will focus on still features (I virtually don’t shoot video at all… although this started to change recently) and on features especially useful for landscape & travel photographers.

Please also note that this review is heavily based on my first impressions review so if you read that already you won’t find much new information apart from new sample images and a few bits here and there.

What made me 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 just makes my job a bit easier (eg. by providing GPS coordinates and touch screen to make changing settings more convenient) and will give me a bit more keepers by more ability to crop, better high ISO, improved dynamic range and better auto focus system. Most of the current cameras are really great already and allow us to take fantastic images. The differences between cameras aren’t as big as some folks would like them to be.

Design, button layout and build

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

There is just one additional button on 5D Mark IV, below joystick and to the right of Q button, 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 much 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 (i.e. toggle between One Shot & Servo focusing) to one of the buttons. It’s pretty cool and something I missed on 5D Mark III when shooting wildlife or other moving subjects 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 a missed shot. Now I’m able to change auto focus mode looking at my subject all the time thus not loosing any photo opportunity.

Moreover, as expected 5D Mark IV is pretty well weather-sealed. I used in quite tough conditions recently (with a lot of dirt, moist, during snow and cold) and it was working nicely without any sign of issues. In Finland, ice covered whole body and lens (literally!) and LCD screen but apart from the camera being very cold (and LCD screen a bit hazy) it worked normally.

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, or a bit more, compared to 5D MK III) and it’s now pretty close to 14 stops. Even though it isn’t at the level of Nikon cameras (it’s trailing one stop behind) or Sony (about half a stop behind) 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 mentioned cameras to get noise-free results. And in “normal” shooting 13.5 stops should be sufficient most of the time.

Below you will find a few examples showing improved dynamic range in action. I heavily exposed both of them to show you how good dynamic range currently is.

Example 1

This photo was taken during sunset in Lapland, Finland. Dynamic range of the scene was pretty high because sky and particularly sun was still very bright but trees in the the back were very dark. Snow was also becoming dark.

Before image was heavily underexposed (by approx. 3.5 stops) to avoid highlights clipping. After image on the right is one with fixed exposure (+3.5 stops in shadows).

And here are some 100% crops from the image after pushing exposure by +3.5 stops:

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.

Example 2

This photo was taken just before sunset in Warsaw. In this case Before image is underexposed by 4 stops, and After image has exposure increased by +4 stops.

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, for years. Noise is much more ‘pleasant’ and even if it’s there it doesn’t look like an ugly blocky mess.

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 (in some cases I increased it even more, still with good results!) is a huge change and something that is very beneficial in my regular shooting. However, for many high dynamic range scenes (like sunsets, sunrises or interior photography) I still use bracketing and HDR. But as I mentioned 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. And as I want to get noise-free results HDR is a way to go. Remember: the fact that you can increase exposure by 4 or 5 stops in post, doesn’t mean you won’t get any noise in the darkest parts.

Regarding dynamic range there is one more interesting thing. It was 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 megapixels of 5D Mark III really makes a huge difference as thanks to that images are much more detailed and there is more option to crop what I use quite a lot. Also it seems to me that 5D Mark IV is slightly sharper than 5D Mark III but as I haven’t done any scientific analysis take this with a grain of salt. Please note that 5D Mark IV uses Anti-Aliasing filter on its sensor unlike some Sony or Nikon cameras so images from it are probably a little less sharp than on those cameras. However, AA filter has its benefits like reducing moire artifacts. So whether it’s good or bad that it’s present is hard to tell. I personally don’t have anything against it but probably it would be best if Canon created two versions of the camera – one with the AA filter and one without.

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)!

Take a look at below sample taken at ISO 20000.

And now at the 100% crop:

Of course the noise is noticeable and even quite strong but still with a bit of noise reduction you should be able to get usable photo. Also please note that this was long exposure photo taken in freezing cold (around -20 Celsius degrees) and in such conditions noise might be even stronger. Even though I try to use low ISO whenever possible, this great high ISO performance might be great e.g. when tripods are not allowed or when you have to take the photo in difficult light conditions (like during concert for instance).

Auto Focus

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

And 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!

Moreover, there is great feature of focusing by touching LCD screen while in Live Preview mode. It works surprisingly well and most of the time focus doesn’t require any adjustments. So it’s a great way of starting focusing on the subject – just touch the screen where you want focus to be and then slightly adjust if necessary.

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 last couple of months I must admit it’s awesome and something I would really miss if I had 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 shoot a lot of landscape photos with it and it is 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. It’s great when working in a studio for instance.

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 summing up, Canon 5D Mark IV is a really impressive camera and I’m sure you’ll love it to (if you’re Canon shooter). 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 a big step forward.

Sample photos

Below you will find a few sample photos taken with Canon 5D Mark IV:

Northern Lights display in Finland Sunrise in Havana  Free Presets for Capture One 10  Malecon during sunset

2017-03-17T10:03:44+00:00 March 17th, 2017|Posted in: review|
  • Did you really try to transfer images through WiFi in a studio?

    When I bought my Sony camera I hoped to get tethered shooting through WiFi but instantly noticed that WiFi is nearly useless. It’s slow, the handling for transferring images is painful and there is no automatic mode.

    I also asked the developers at Phase One if they plan to integrate tethering through WiFi – the answer was a clear NO. Too slow, too unreliable. I think they know what they are talking about – they are the masters of tethering.

    So I would be surprised if the situation would be better with this camera.

    With kind regards,
    Frank

  • Wojciech Toman

    Yes I did transfer images through WiFi. In fact I do it almost all the time when shooting in my home studio (which is not very often but I plan to shoot there more & more). I can’t say it will work for everyone, but in my case it’s fast and reliable (the images appear almost instantly on my PC/tablet).

  • Really the RAW images? Or are they only JPEG previews?
    Do you initiate the transfer by hand? For Sony I have to select every single image which has to be transferred and then start the transfer by hand. Bad user experience. I am faster with switching SD cards and importing them on the computer for fast reviews.

    Regards, Frank

  • Wojciech Toman

    I’m pretty sure they were RAW images but I’ll double check that and will let you know

  • Thanks!