Canon 5D Mark IV Camera Review
Over the past 10 years, I’ve had the pleasure of shooting with the entire Canon EOS 5D series of DSLRs: the original 5D (often referred to as the 5D Classic), 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III, and now the new Canon 5D Mark IV.
The Canon 5D Mark IV offers some impressive initial specifications, including quite a few new features: a 30.4-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor with a Digic 6+ processor (an improvement over the 22.3 megapixel count of the Mark III); a 3.2-inch touch-screen LCD, Dual Pixel RAW mode for fine-tuning focus in post-production; a burst rate of 7 fps; built-in wifi and GPS plus a lot more. Some of these new features would prove to be valuable to me, others not so much. The improvements in the sensor’s dynamic range and high ISO performance, however, are what really impressed me the most about this camera.
My Canon 5D Mark IV’s maiden voyage was a week I spent shooting autumn color in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee while leading photo workshops and doing some personal shooting as well. Here are some of my initial thoughts and some sample images with the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV from the trip. I am offering a subjective, in-the-field, results-oriented evaluation of the Canon 5D Mark IV here in this review. For a comprehensive description, list of features, specifications, and purchasing information on the Canon 5D Mark IV, please visit the Canon USA website.
Digic 6+ processor
Weight: 31.4 ounces
Native ISO: 100 – 32,000
Shutter: 1/8000 – 30 seconds
Sensor Type: CMOS
Frame Rate: 7 fps
61-point AF system
Built-in GPS and WIFI
The Canon 5D Mark IV is Familiar
The looks, handling, and ergonomics of the camera are extremely similar to the Mark III. So much so, in fact, that I didn’t even shoot or practice with the new camera in my office or around my home before traveling to the Smoky Mountains. I just grabbed the camera, inserted a battery and CF card and started shooting. There are no new significant or reconfigured or reassigned buttons to learn and the menu bank is nearly the same as well. I could work the Mark II and Mark III in the dark – without the aid of a light, that’s how familiar the cameras were to me – so now the Mark IV is seamlessly integrated into my field work with nearly a zero learning curve. I’ve always loved the handling of the 5D series of DSLRs so this is a good thing.
One minor but convenient addition that I noticed right away, however, is a small, rectangular-shaped button right below the multi-directional joystick control. Canon calls this the “AF Area Selection Button.” This small customizable control provides a quick-access method of toggling through the camera’s many AF point arrangements. Nice.
Canon also added a touch screen LCD to the 5D Mark IV. To be honest, I’m indifferent about this feature but I’ll give it a couple of months before I decide if this is really useful for me or not. My initial impression is that my fingers are just too big and the menu items are too small, causing me to miss my mark more than a few times. Either way, you can disable the touch screen in the custom menu if it’s not your cup of tea.
There have been some complaints that an articulating LCD was not included with the Canon 5D Mark IV. I often do photography is some pretty rough and difficult conditions and the articulating LCD just looks like something that can be too easily broken. I know I’m in the minority on this one but I’m fine without it.
A Load of Megapixels
Most of the rumors over the summer of 2016 pointed toward 25 to 28 megapixels for the Canon 5D Mark IV so when it was announced that the count was 30.4, it was a nice surprise. 30.4 is still quite a bit less than some of Canon’s competitors (and Canon’s 5Ds and 5Dsr models) but the number of pixels was never the biggest concern for me. I wanted to see improvements in dynamic range and high-ISO performance (more on that later). Still, all things being equal, more is better. I’ll take it.
According to tests conducted by the DXOMark website, the Canon 5D Mark IV sensor was the best they’ve ever tested on any Canon DSLR. Tests at 100 ISO revealed an eye-popping 13.5 EVs of dynamic range and it remained above 10 EVs well past 3200 ISO. My personal, subjective evaluation in the field last week – and the image reviews later – only validated those tests. High-contrast sunrise and sunset situations often needed only a single exposure in order to capture the full range of tones in the scene. Exposure blending and HDR, which were almost always necessary with the Mark III, were not needed. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am with the results. This is what I’ve been waiting for from Canon!
Both images above were captured with my Canon 5D Mark IV and are processed in Lightroom using only one exposure. No exposure blending or HDR was needed to expand the dynamic range. In situations where I wanted to open up some needed shadow detail, the Mark IV files were responsive and didn’t introduce any heavy noise, even where I expected to see it.
This is another area where I was looking for some significant improvement from Canon with the Canon 5D Mark IV and I was not disappointed. Properly exposed files were perfectly acceptable at 3200 ISO and even 6400. The Mark III topped out at 1600 for my high standards. With the Mark IV, even a few images shot at ISO 12,800, previously unthinkable, look pretty amazing (see below).
The image above was shot with my new Canon 5D Mark IV at 560mm, 1/10 second @ f/5.6 and ISO 12,800. It’s certainly not perfect but I’m pretty happy with the results. No noise reduction has been applied either in-camera (it was shot in raw) or in post processing.
Autofocus and Frame Rate
The autofocus system on the Canon 5D Mark IV is very accurate and locks onto any bit of available contrast, even in low light. I purposely used autofocus and its 61 focus points during the low light of dawn and dusk shooting landscapes, just to see how it would perform. I was not at all disappointed.
The Canon 5D Mark IV also features a new technology called Dual Pixel Raw. Here’s a description and excerpt from Canon’s promotion material:
“The EOS 5D Mark IV’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system enables capture of Dual Pixel Raw (DPRAW) files. Images shot as DPRAWs have conditional adjustment possibilities when processed with Canon’s Digital Photo Professional image processing software, which enables pixel-level adjustment and refinement for still photographs and includes Image Micro-adjustment to help maximize sharpness in detail areas, Bokeh Shift for more pleasing soft focus areas and Ghosting Reduction to help reduce aberrations and flare.”
Among other things, you can correct focus issues or shift the focus after the capture – at least a few millimeters. The downside is that you need Canon’s proprietary processing software to take advantage of this feature. I never tried this any of this during my shoot last week in the Smoky Mountains but it sounds intriguing nonetheless.
The Canon 5D Mark IV offers a modest improvement in its frame rate or burst rate, besting the 6 fps in the Mark III with a 7 fps rate in the Mark IV. It would still be difficult to tout this as a serious wildlife or sports camera (currently the Canon 7D Mark II and the 1DX Mark II are much faster) but an improvement is an improvement. On an assignment where I’m traveling light and need a versatile backup to my primary wildlife body, I would have no qualms at all bringing my 5D Mark IV as a viable insurance policy.
WIFI and GPS Enabled
The addition of GPS and WIFI on the Canon 5D Mark IV have made a lot of Mark III users very happy. As a photographer who travels a lot, especially to remote places, I can see tremendous benefits accruing with the GPS feature. During my trial run in the Smoky Mountains last week, I didn’t try it out (in all honestly, I forgot to enable the GPS receiver) but it’s something I will be using in the future. I don’t see me ever needing the WIFI connectivity function for my type of photography work.
A long-awaited feature the Canon 5D Mark IV offers that videographers have been clamoring for is 4K video (DCI 4K, 4096 x 2160), albeit with a 1.64x crop. The camera also offers full audio controls with headphone and mic jacks. My guess, however, is that serious video shooters will continue to gravitate toward the EOS C line, which feature large sensor cameras that shoot true high quality video. This is still a nice added feature to this model, especially for those of us who only casually shoot video from time to time.
Ten Easy Steps to Photography with Impact! This free e-book, Ten Easy Steps to Photography with Impact shares ten simple concepts that will help you make more creative decisions with your camera. Get Yours Here!
The Canon 5D Mark IV is a game changer for me. The improvements are exactly what I had hoped for – better dynamic range and high ISO performance – among many others. The results I was able to see with my own eyes this past week have me super excited about my travel schedule for 2017 and the prospect of taking this camera along with me. I suspect the Canon 5D Mark IV will be my landscape, nature, and travel workhorse DSLR for at least the next two or three years.
Get yours here at Amazon: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body
Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer is the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.
After visiting the Photokina 2016 and checking all relavant Modells of Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony and Panasonic, it was for me clear to either stay with Canon or to switch to Pentax, all the others did not really convince me during this visit. It finally became the Canon 5D Mark IV, which I own since September 29 and I can confirm what you are saying. For me there is just one negative point and this is the missing 4K Output
Canon is really making photography more i
Hello fritz I will appreciate and glad if you can send me your email address. Thanks
Great review, Richard. Looks like it might be time to upgrade from my 6D!
Looks like things are finally heading in the right direction at Canon if all you wrote here is true. I don’t have the funds for the 5D mark IV yet, but I’m looking to upgrade this coming summer. Thanks for the thoughtful review.
I agree that an articulating screen sounds a bit on the week side. However a screen that tilts so one can shoot below the knees or above the heads is a must for me on a 3500 dollar body. And why is it that Canon (or Nikon) keep ignoring focus peaking and in body stabilization?
Thank you for sharing this…I have the Canon 5D Mark III and I’m still learning how to use all it has to offer since I’ve only had it about a year now…so I’ll probably wait just a bit before I would upgrade to the Canon 5D Mark lV…I can’t justify purchasing this until I have much more experience behind me – But this is an excellent review with such detail! I so appreciate knowing the comparative differences between the Mark III & IV – Thank you again for taking the time to write such a thorough review – Such beautiful images you’ve displayed here…Your work is outstanding Richard! It’s been such a privilege to be able to attend your workshops both here in the states and internationally. Thank you again…
Thanks for posting a review about the things that really matter for outdoor photographers : improved dynamic range , GPS. I agree that the increased megapixels are useful, even if just for cropping. Up to a point though: I’ve read that 50Mp’s requires powerful computer hardware.
I’m in the process of choosing a system. The dynamic range may not be quite as good as Nikons but it’s now close enough so that all the other advantages of Canon (lenses & handling) make it the clear overall winner.
I own one. I agree with your report completely.
I wish Apple would hurry up and bring out the RAW compatibility fix for the 5D4, Adobe managed to bring one out quickly. I am fed up with having to convert my HDR’s to DNG’s before I can import into Aurora2017. Apples fault, not Auroras.
I think the Mark IV was a good upgrade from the Mark III. The built-in Wifi is a nice feature.
Beautiful photos, though with such luscious scenery, just about any camera could capture those scenes. Show us some images under rainy or cloudy skies, like what most of the northeast will have to contend with for the next five months.
Thanks for so lucidly explaining every feature and what it means out here. I am on the verge of getting a Canon 5D Mark4 this week. I’ve been using a Canon 600D so far since the past 4 years. However, a lot of my friends have suggested going for Nikon’s newest model D850. This has confused me quite a bit. Request you to give your verdict between the two.
Your prompt response will be appreciated. Thank you so much 🙂
Sorry, I don’t have any personal experience with the Nikon D850, but I’ve heard plenty of good things about it.
Watch my website. You will be surprised.
i’m using it. it’s a great camera canon 5d mark iv.