When Canon released the first 5D in 2005, it took the entire photography world by storm with a genuine game-changer – the first full-frame DSLR with a mass market price-tag (£2500). During the intervening years, Canon continued to develop the original model with the release of the equally brilliant 5D MkII in 2008 and 5D MkIII in 2012, making vast improvements to the autofocus, screen and video performance. 2015 saw Canon’s full-frame range break further ground with the 50.6MP 5DS and 5DS R, which offered by far the highest megapixel count ever seen on a DSLR. It’s no surprise then that the long-awaited MkIV has generated plenty of buzz. Can it live up to expectations, or will it be the black sheep of Canon’s full-frame family?
The 5D series has offered nothing less than tip-top image quality and fantastic resolution from the outset, and the 5D MkIV definitely doesn’t disappoint in this department either. Many fans participating in the recent frenzy of internet rumour discussions were hoping for 30MP and they got it. In fact, Canon has packed 30.4MP onto the MkIV’s full-frame sensor, 8.1MP more than the MkIII. In resolution terms, this places the MkIV between the MkIII and 5DS. Most pros will consider this a perfect compromise – plenty of pixels to play with, without too much of a compromise to low light performance or the inconvenience of huge file sizes.
The MkIV’s maximum ISO is 32,000, which is a modest increase from the MkIII’s top value of 25,600. The camera retains detail in the shadows well and images remain free from noise until fairly high in the ISO range.
Canon has introduced Dual Pixel RAW on this model, allowing photographers to perform fine adjustments to sharpness, shift bokeh and reduce ghosting. This gives photographers far greater control over their shots and can help to fine-tune the point of sharp focus after the fact. For example, you can tweak the focus from the bridge of a nose to directly on the eye. This can be a godsend to all photographers, especially when shooting at very wide apertures where the depth-of-field is shallow.
If you are going to use the Dual Pixel technology, make sure you invest in a few extra memory cards. The files contain twice the information, so RAW file sizes jump to a whopping 70-80MB.
Despite having the same number of autofocus points as the 5D MkIII at 61 points, the system as a whole has had a total facelift. The AF sensor is extremely sensitive and will perform in low light down to EV-3 and EV-4, when shooting in Live View with Dual Pixel CMOS AF. The area of the AF points has had an 8% vertical expansion in the central area and 24% vertical expansion in the peripheral area, meaning far more freedom when placing a subject in the frame.
The improvement that is particularly key is the introduction of some advanced autofocus tracking. The autofocus system now offers customisable tracking depending on your needs. You can choose the focus performance based on your subject, making this a genuinely versatile camera that can be used for any type of photography. The options available adjust the tracking sensitivity, acceleration or deceleration tracking and AF point automatic switching.
Other features & video
The MkIV is the perfect all-round camera for most pro photographers. With this model, it’s possible to input IPTC metadata and copyright information from the camera itself. This can shave precious time off your workflow, as it saves you having to add copyright and metadata once you’ve finished shooting.
As well as this, there’s now built-in GPS, and for the first time on a 5D-series body, Wi-Fi. This was an absolute must, as most modern cameras have it, including the cheaper full-frame 6D. Now, users are able to wirelessly upload images to the web or print direct from the camera.
Geotagging is also available in-camera, which helps to speed up your workflow. You can tag images in a particular location before you upload them online. This will also help when you are sorting your photos after you shoot, as they can be quickly organised by location. This model really plays to the needs of pros by adding these small but useful features that can dramatically speed up workflow for its users.
Dominating the rear of the camera is a 3.2in 1620k-dot screen which, unlike the screen on the 5D MkIII, boasts touch functionality. This allows for fingertip navigation through the menus and quick control of settings. When reviewing images, you can simply swipe right or left to flick through, and you can pinch to zoom in and out. During Live View mode, you can use touch to change the AF point selection when shooting stills or movie, and touch shutter is also possible.
One of the great additions to the 5D MkIV is its 4K video, which also shoots at 120fps HD for smooth 4x slow mo. Given that 4K is so high res, users have the option to save any frame from a 4K movie as an 8.8MP JPEG in-camera. Dual Pixel allows graceful and precise pull focus transitions and touch focus can be used on the LCD.
The side of the camera boasts a connections port for headphones, microphone and HDMI output in order to enhance the usability for video, including monitoring audio and connecting an external mic. The HDMI out delivers full audio and uncompressed Full HD to external recorders and video monitors.
The camera’s battery life does not disappoint, with one fully charged battery supplying around 900 still shots.
Build & handling
Canon has changed very little about the external look and feel of the camera, so users of previous 5D models will be able to hit the ground running. As such, the build quality of the body is top-notch, and like the 5D MkIII, it should easily be tough enough to withstand the rigours of everyday professional use. The camera is sure to be immensely popular with press photographers, so the rugged build is absolute vital. It owes this to its magnesium-alloy construction and in-built weatherproofing, making it resilient enough to shoot in all kinds of extreme weather conditions.
The handling is much the same as previous models too. The handgrip is slightly bigger to fit more comfortably in the hand, and the customisable buttons speed up your shooting process and make it quick and easy to navigate. The custom Quick control means that you can tailor your camera to your exact needs and make it your own.
The MkIV is also around 50g lighter than its predecessor, which may not seem like much on paper but when you’re carrying heavy kit around your neck all day, every gram counts. It will be welcome news to pro shooters who are currently tempted by a smaller and lighter mirrorless model (CSC), such as the Sony A7R II.
For 5-series users it’s been a gruelling four-year wait between the MkIII and MkIV, sparking a huge degree of speculation about the potential name, features and resolution. Most had their fingers crossed for a higher megapixel count, more frames-per-second and a better AF system, and their wishes were granted.
There can be absolutely no dispute that this is a stunning camera that is set to carry on the family name admirably. It’s highly likely that it will be the professional workhorse of choice for the foreseeable future, and it’s versatile enough to be able to turn its hand to any photographic genre.
The camera’s 4K video, coupled with a redesigned autofocus system, have stepped it up a notch as a more prominent player in the video world. The autofocus is also ideal for stills photographers, and it’s extremely fast and accurate even in low light conditions.
The Dual Pixel RAW gives this camera an added edge. It’s a feature that can make all the difference when it comes to getting the ‘money shot’.
For enthusiasts, the MkIV is not a particularly affordable investment at £3629 body only – a £600 increase on the MkIII release price. But given the featureset that this camera has on offer, the price-tag is unlikely to turn off the pros, who need a rock-solid workhorse that simply won’t let them down. As with previous 5D models, the price will, of course, fall in the coming months, which will make the 5D MkIV much more attractive to non-pro users.
Overall, this model seems like a natural progression from the other 5 series models. Not only has it introduced new technology for this series, such as Dual Pixel RAW, but it has caught up in terms of existing technology to remain a key, pro-level player.
- Price: £3629 (as of October 2016)
- Effective resolution: 30.4MP
- Sensor: 36x24mm full-frame CMOS
- Processor: DIGIC 6+
- LCD: 3.2in 1620k-dot touchscreen
- Viewfinder: Pentaprism
- Autofocus: 61-point (41 cross-type)
- ISO: 100-32,000 (expands to 50-102,400)
- Shooting speed: 7fps for 21 RAWs or unlimited JPEGs
- Video: 4K at 30fps, Full HD at 60fps
- Pop-up flash: No
- Other features: Dual Pixel RAW, Wi-Fi, GPS, IPTC data input
- Battery life: 900 shots
- Card type: CF, SD, SDHC, SDXC
- Size (WxHxD): 151x116x76mm
- Weight: 800g
- Web: www.canon.co.uk
This review was first published in the November 2016 issue of Practical Photography - download back issues here.
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