Canon 5D Mark IV Review

I’ve been meaning to do a Canon 5D Mark IV review for a while now. I didn’t feel that my experience with the new body was quite adequate enough until I shot a solid amount of images to really get a feel for the camera. Now that I’ve had several weddings, engagements, and other shoots under my belt with it, I thought I would share my experience, thoughts, and concerns.

I would definitely consider myself a tech geek. Not just in the realm of photography, but with everything I own. Heavy amounts of research is done before a purchase is made. I tend to stay awake into the wee hours of the night reading articles, blogs, watching YouTube videos. I also chat with friends and colleagues so I can get as many different opinions as possible before (hopefully) making a good purchase.

My History With Canon

I owned two different 5D Mark II’s for a period of less than a month. Too many things were wrong with it for me to shoot with it- autofocus was continually off, not enough AF points, and the noise was terrible. Fortunately, the upgraded model was being released around that time. I bought (and kept) my first professional camera body (5D Mark III) when it was first released in 2012 and have been shooting with it ever since. I was very happy with it to start, and I still am, for the most part. As I honed my style and shooting technique I began to recognize the features that my camera lacked. This led me to hope for updates in Canon’s latest iteration. Enter the 5D Mark IV- Canon’s new flagship creation that is supposed to rival Nikon and Sony’s top-of-the-line cameras. I can’t quite give comparisons to those cameras because I’ve never shot with them before. But I can give you a thorough overview of the difference in upgrading from the Mark II or III to the IV.

In this review, I will be going over what, to me, are the most important features and benefits in a camera system. Because I specialize in photography I won’t be touching on any video-related features.

1. Autofocus

Up until the Mark III, Canon’s 5D lineup had what I considered to be sub-par autofocus. The Mark III was the first of the series whose system I could actually rely on. The improvement in AF from the III to the IV though is huge. This camera not only has faster AF than all of its predecessors, but it offers new features that if used properly, can greatly increase your keep rate on images.

Increased AF Speed– One of the things most important to me in a camera is its ability to lock onto my subject quickly and accurately. Without that, I would be delivering out of focus images to my clients that were taken after “the moment” is already over. Canon came through and blew me away with increased performance in AF. Low light performance is way better as well and my keep rate has greatly increased.

Expanded AF point spread– Compared to the Mark III, the new body has a slightly bigger spread of its 61 autofocus points. Although I personally can’t tell a difference in looking through one viewfinder to the next, it’s there, apparently. While I would like to have seen the number increased, 61 gets the job done. If you’re still shooting with a 5D Mark II and surviving on only 9 AF points, you will be thriving with this upgrade. The precision will be increased greatly.

Large Zone Focusing– Canon released an additional option for choosing AF points which they call “Large Zone Focusing. They split the 61 points up into 3 separate vertical groups that can be used for face detection. This is a crucial tool when the couples are walking down the aisle!

canon 5d mark iv review

5D Mark IV // Sigma ART 50mm 1.4 // 1/80th sec // f/1.6 // ISO 10000

2. ISO

• ISO is another huge factor to me. Canon really knocked it out of the park on the latest iteration of their 5D line. When I was shooting with my Mark III I wouldn’t push my ISO past 2500 and even then I was getting noise in the shadows. On this new body, ISO can be pushed to 8000 and have no issues when recovering shadows in post. It’s gotten so good that I have been shooting the reception almost exclusively without a flash and using the ambient light.

• The camera’s native ISO has been bumped up to 32,000 from 25,600 in the previous model. That’s is nice and all, but I would never recommend pushing it that high. The max you can push it to is still the same (125,000 I believe). I still would recommend never shooting anywhere close to that. The only use is if your home was broken into and you need to pull a license plate from the getaway car.

 

canon 5d mark iv review

Canon 5D Mark IV // Sigma ART 50mm f1.4 // ISO 2000 // 1/125th // f/1.4

3. Dynamic Range

• This is a department where up until recently Canon was really lagging behind the competition. That unfortunate circumstance is no more. I wouldn’t say that Canon is now leading the dynamic range game, but they have most definitely caught up to the competition.

• From the images that I’ve shot side by side, I’ve seen at least a 2 stop increase in dynamic range. It could always be better, of course, but I am thrilled with the quality of images this camera produces.

 

canon 5d mark iv review

Canon 5D Mark IV // Sigma ART 50mm f1.4 // ISO 1000 // 1/250th //  f/1.4

4. NFC/Wifi

• At first, I thought this feature was just a gimmick but have found this to be a total game-changer. I can quickly transfer images directly to my phone during a wedding or engagement shoot, apply a quick edit, and share the photos.

• One drawback is that if you don’t turn this feature off while not in use it will quickly deplete your battery life. I’ve never been too impressed with Canon’s battery longevity so I have to remind myself as soon as I’m done transferring photos.

canon 5d mark iv review

5D Mark IV // Sigma ART 50mm 1.4 // 1/125th sec // f/1.4 // ISO 1600

5. Color

• I never had any complaints about the colors on my Mark III. Regardless of the camera, color correction was needed to match my editing style. The Mark IV showed me just how much better these cameras could get at capturing accurate colors.

• Another useful feature that this camera has incorporated is the new white balance option. The user can maintain warm colors in AWB  or disregard warm tones and produce true white. This is a wonderful feature for shooting in the evening and capturing the warm tones from candles or tungsten bulbs.

 

canon 5d mark iv review

Canon 5D Mark IV // Sigma ART 50mm 1.4 // ISO 500 // 1/320th //  f/2

6. Burst Rate/Buffer Increase

• A small but nice upgrade in this camera is that the burst rate has been increased from 6 to 7 frames per second. This might not seem like a big deal to some, but getting that one extra shot could be the difference you needed.

• A big complaint that I had about the Mark III was that the buffer was terrible. I would notice consistently when I was shooting weddings (and writing to 2 cards at once) the camera would cease firing and the screen read “hold”. That’s not the case with this new buffer. This camera writes blazingly fast and doesn’t get hung up on files at all even when writing Large RAW 30mp images.

 

canon 5d mark iv review

Canon 5D Mark IV // Sigma ART 50mm f1.4 // 1/640sec // f/1.6 // ISO 250

7. Touch Screen Functionality

• Another feature I assumed to be just a gimmick but turned out to be incredibly useful is the touch screen. This not only applies to being able to change my camera’s setting by touching the screen but by touch selecting my focus as well as zooming in on images. I’ve found this feature to be very useful when holding the camera above my head or low to the ground for certain shooting situations.

canon 5d mark iv review

5D Mark IV // Sigma ART 50mm f/1.4 // 1/800sec // f/1.6 // ISO 250

8. Back Button AF Point Adjustment

• A small but very useful feature on this new body is the new button Canon incorporated just above the thumbwheel. Through the menu, the use of this button can be changed depending on your shooting preference. I use it to quickly cycle through my different AF modes.

canon 5d mark iv review

5D Mark IV // Sigma ART 50mm 1.4 // 1/4000sec // f/8 // ISO 100

9. In-Camera Lens Correction

• If you’re shooting with Sigma Art series lenses like I do this might not be of much help to you, but with the L series lineup, you can now experience in-camera lens correction. This is a small but useful tool that will allow you to see what the image will truly look like in post.

canon 5d mark iv review

5D Mark IV // Sigma ART 50mm 1.4 // 1/400sec // f/4.0 // ISO 100

10. What I Would Have Liked to See:

I’m happy to say that I don’t have too many things to mention here. Overall, Canon knocked it out of the park and released a solid upgrade. With that being said, however, there are a few things I would have liked to see included:

Focus Peaking– For those of you who don’t know what focus peaking is, Google it right now. Focus peaking is an incredibly useful tool to ensure that you’re autofocus is locked onto your subject. This is especially useful when shooting in strongly backlit or dark lighting scenarios. Once the focus is locked, tiny red “marching ants” highlight on in-focus edges within an image using an edge detect filter. This feature is available in tons of Sony and Fuji cameras but unfortunately not Canon. If you happen to hack your Canon’s firmware with Magic Lantern it’s available. But be warned, hacking your camera voids your warranty.

No CFast slot– I’m perfectly comfortable using CF cards but it would have been nice to shoot on CFast cards. These have write/reads speeds that are 3x faster.

Built-in AF lamp-Built is AF lamps are on the front of the camera and turn on when the sensor struggles to lock focus on a subject. This is common on many Nikon DSLR’s. Canon has never incorporated this feature as far as I know.

Compatability with older versions of Adobe Photoshop + Lightroom
If you are using an older version of Adobe software like I was you are going to have to upgrade to CC if you want to edit RAW files from the Mark IV. This isn’t a huge deal but I would have like to stay away from the monthly subscription for just a little bit longer before upgrading. I’ve heard of flaws within this software from colleagues of mine.

canon 5d mark iv review

5D Mark IV // Sigma ART 50mm 1.4 // 1/2000sec // f/2.8 // ISO 100

Overall Thoughts

I’ve owned this camera for just shy of 5 months now and am thoroughly impressed and happy with the upgrade. The benefits far outweigh what the camera lacks. Anyone who currently owns a Mark II or III and is hesitant about upgrading has no need to worry. You will be more than impressed and will get years of use out of this camera.

canon 5d mark iv review

5D Mark IV // Sigma ART 50mm 1.4 // 1/2000sec // f/1.8 // ISO 100

Photography | Alex W Photography

 

 

Comments(11)

  • Toby
    January 7, 2017, 11:13 pm  Reply

    Thanks for the review, fantastic photos also! What sort of work have you done to them in post? 

    • Alex Warschauer
      January 7, 2017, 11:15 pm

      Thanks man! All of the work that was done to the images was edited exclusively in Lightroom.

  • Lee
    January 8, 2017, 7:01 am  Reply

    Thanks for the review! Love your toned man, did u use VSCO or mastin lab? I can never achieve this Color easily with Nikon

    • Alex Warschauer
      January 9, 2017, 6:22 pm

      Thank you! After lots of tweaking to find my style I have created my own presets that I apply and then do individual adjustments to afterwards. If the photo requires anything beyond that I will open it in PS.

  • Marianne
    January 9, 2017, 1:04 am  Reply

    Just curious do you purposely under expose them in camera to save the highlights to brighten in post?  Thanks! 

    • Alex Warschauer
      January 9, 2017, 6:24 pm

      Absolutely! Digital is still lacking when it comes to retaining highlights so I am always sure to capture all of the highlights and then recover the shadows later.

  • Fotograf nunta
    January 28, 2017, 12:20 pm  Reply

    Thanks for this sincere review… i am waiting for 6d2… and then make a purchase decision. Great photos!

    • Alex Warschauer
      January 28, 2017, 5:05 pm

      Thanks for reading!

  • Chris
    February 3, 2017, 7:20 pm  Reply

    The Canon 70d (and I presume 80d) has the annoying focus light that I’ve tried everything imaginable to turn it off for mirror lockup/2 second delay situations…trust me you don’t want it!!! I’ve had to put a piece of electrical tape over the stupid thing to shut it up. I can see if you’re doing single shots, but if say trying tripod/long distance landscapes with a telephoto, it’s made me want to take a hammer to the stupid thing. Other than that, it’s a good camera for birds/wildlife.

    Thanks for the review, I have the MKIII currently, debating MKIV vs DSR vs not putting any more money into this hobby vs buying my woman more stuff.

  • Ronan
    February 10, 2018, 10:34 am  Reply

    Is there any particular reason that you use the Sigma Art lenses as opposed to Canon lenses? Your photos are beautiful by the way!

    • Alex Warschauer
      February 12, 2018, 1:39 pm

      Thanks Ronan!

      I have found Sigma lenses to be really reliable and haven’t noticed a big enough difference in quality to warrant the price jump with Canon.

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