It’s a little over a decade since Canon introduced the EOS 5D and both the original and subsequent versions have consistently been hits with both photographers and video-makers. Back in late 2005, Canon described the EOS 5D has heralding a “new category of D-SLR”, but it’s unlikely that even its makers appreciated just how important this category would become. The original packaged a full-35mm sensor in a more compact and affordable body than had been seen before, while from the Mark II onward (launched in September 2008), the EOS 5D became the go-to D-SLR for videographers. Despite the changes in the marketplace since then – mostly notably the rise and rise of mirrorless cameras – the 5D has steadfastly maintained its popularity, making it collectively Canon’s best-selling D-SLR… and almost certainly the best-selling D-SLR full stop.
Even with the continued inroads of mirrorless designs into the higher-end categories of interchangeable lens cameras – and the best efforts of rival Nikon to steal the crown – the EOS 5D remains a hard-to-beat combination of size, features, functionality, performance and affordability. And Canon builds on all of these with the Mark IV (known affectionately internally as ‘ivy’) which probably faces stiffer competition than any of its predecessors, both as a stills camera and a video camera. Yet once again, the 5D IV has that intangible ‘something’ that transcends mere specifications to create a camera which is perfectly in harmony and at one with its user. Right now, Nikon’s D500 has the same magic, and it’s very hard to pinpoint whether it happens by accident or design, but it’s always immediately evident from the moment you pick it up.
On the outside Canon has largely stuck with the same mid-sized bodyshell and control layout as the previous model, but with an upgrade to weather sealing and the relocation of several ports to make for better management of the cables when they’re being used.
Most of the body panels are magnesium alloy, but the top cover is made from GRP. The monitor screen is still a fixed 8.1 cm LCD panel, but now with 1.62 megadots resolution and, significantly, extensive touchscreen controls. Usefully too, the monitor screen is adjustable for colour balance via four presets called Standard, Warm, Cool 1 and Cool 2.
On the inside, however, it’s all-change with a new sensor and processor, new metering system, upgraded autofocusing system, faster continuous shooting, a 4K video capability, both built-in WiFi and GPS (hence the need for the GRP prism cover), and a number of significant new features such as ‘Dual Pixel RAW’ capture (more about this shortly). The 5D IV’s sensor is an all-new device with a total pixel count of 31.7 million, giving an effective count of 30.4 million and a maximum image size of 6720x4480 pixels at a 3:2 aspect ratio. An optical low-pass filter (OPLF) is retained. The pixel size is a healthy 5.36 microns which gives a comparatively high signal-to-noise ratio, translating into a native sensitivity range equivalent to ISO 100 to 32,000 with extensions to ISO 51,200 and 102,400 (plus a one-stop ‘pull’ to ISO 50). These higher sensitivities are actually realistic at this pixel size.
For JPEG capture there’s also the choice of 4:3, 16:9 and 1:1 aspect ratios with five image
sizes each and three compression levels. RAW images are recorded with 14-bit RGB colour in one of three sizes while any combination is actually available for configuring RAW+JPEG capture.
The new ‘Dual Pixel RAW’ capture is made possible via the sensor’s ‘Dual Pixel CMOS AF’ architecture which has two side-by-side photodiodes at each pixel point – enabling them to perform phase-difference detection autofocusing in either live view or when shooting video.
‘Dual Pixel RAW’ (DPRAW) uses both photodiodes for image capture so these files are twice the size of the standard RAW files, but the very slight variation in perspective between the two sets of image data is used to enable some slight adjustments. The processing options are called ‘Image Micro-Adjustment’, ‘Bokeh Shift’ and ‘Ghosting Reduction’, and they all use the offset at any given point in the two images to enable small corrections to be made by applying shifts of varying magnitudes. These adjustments are performed post-camera using the latest version of Canon’s Digital Photo Professional software. ‘Image Micro-Adjustment’ is used to shift the plane of focus forwards or backwards, although in practice this adjustment is very small and measured in millimetres. ‘Bokeh Shift’ does the same with the out-of-focus areas. ‘Ghosting Reduction’ is obviously pretty self-explanatory and used to reduce both ghosting and flare. Not surprisingly, the effectiveness of these micro-adjustments depends on a number of external factors, including the lens focal length and the aperture setting as both relate to the depth-of-field. The shallower the depth-of-field, the more noticeable these corrections will be, particularly to the focusing point. Depending on the content, a processed DPRAW file is going to be sized somewhere between 65 and 75 MB after the two sets of image data are combined (they exist as separate – but linked – files up to this point) so they’ll chew up more storage space, but this is probably a small price to pay if a ‘just missed it’ image can be rescued. Don’t expect miracles, but the DPRAW adjustments do have the potential to make small, but still potentially significant corrections.
The EOS 5D Mark IV employs two processors – a ‘turbo-charged’ DiG!C 6+ chip which does most of the heavy lifting and a DiG!C 6 chip which is devoted solely to auto exposure control duties. There are quite a few demands on processing power, including 4K video (see the Making Movies panel for the full run-down on the camera’s video capabilities), continuous shooting at up to seven frames per second, and the aforementioned ‘Dual Pixel CMOS AF’ focusing operations.
The 7.0 fps shooting speed is delivered with full AF/AE adjustment between frames and a burst length of 110 frames when shooting maximum quality JPEGs. With RAW capture the burst limit is 21 frames, and the Mark IV retains the same memory card slot combination as before – namely one for CF type cards and one for the SD format which supports the higher-capacity HC and XC versions and now also the UHS-I data transfer speed. A ‘silent’ continuous shooting mode is available and operates at up to 3.0 fps, but in reality it’s quieter rather than being completely noiseless.
Continuous shooting is possible with live view – although the top speed slows to 4.3 fps – and continuous AF with subject tracking is also available. ‘Dual Pixel CMOS AF’ provides 80 percent frame coverage (although all the sensor’s pixels are actually split types) and the touch controls allow for the subject to be quickly selected by simply tapping the monitor screen.
‘FlexiZone – Single’ and ‘FlexiZone – Multi’ modes are available for manual focusing point or area selection in live view along with face detection.
The viewfinder-based autofocusing system shares the same basic specs as the Mark III model – so there’s a total of 61 focusing points, 41 of them cross-type arrays – but there have been some significant upgrades. Firstly the coverage has been expanded by nearly 25 percent vertically at the sides of the AF area (a little under ten percent at the centre), and all 61 points work at f8.0 while the cross-type arrays work down to f5.6. The overall sensitivity is increased to EV -3.0 (at ISO 100, and to EV -4.0 in live view), but low-light assist relies on a Speedlite flash gun being fitted. As before, the five points in the centre are dual cross-type arrays with additional diagonal detectors which increases their scope for finding a contrast edge on the subject.
Switching between the single-shot and continuous modes can be either done manually or left to the camera when it’s in the AI Servo AF mode. Manual AF point selection can be individually, in groups or in zones. A group – actually called AF Point Expansion – comprises the selected point with either four or eight surrounding points. With Zone AF, all the points are divided into nine zones (comprising either nine or 16 points depending on their position), or there’s the option of Large Zone AF which divides them into just three zones. Of course, automatic point selection and switching is available, with subject tracking regulated by Canon’s ‘Intelligent Tracking & Recognition’ (iTR) processing which includes input from the metering system. The 5D IV has the same upgraded ‘Intelligent Viewfinder II’ LCD information overlays as the EOS-1D X Mark II to show the active focus points (with red LEDs taking over in low light situations).
Continuous autofocusing operation – or, more specifically, the tracking – can be fine-tuned to suit particular types of subject movement and also the shooting situation. The ‘AF Configuration Tool’ – which has its own menu – provides a selection of six scenarios which vary the tracking sensitivity, the acceleration/deceleration rates, and the speed of the point switching. These three parameters are also manually adjustable so, for example, the tracking sensitivity can be varied from ‘Locked On’ to ‘Responsive’ with three steps in between.
AF micro-adjustment is possible for up to 40 lenses – applied either collectively or individually – and this allows for the correction of either front- or back-focusing. This is when a particular lens on a particular camera body focuses just a little in front of or a little behind the true plane of focus and, in technical terms, what’s being adjusted here is the depth-of-focus. On the Mark IV zooms can be separately adjusted at their wide-angle and telephoto ends, and individual lenses can be identified via model or serial number (as even different examples of the same model can exhibition variations).
In To The Light
Exposure control is via a colour-sensitive ‘RGB+IR’ sensor which employs 150,000 pixels to give 252-zone evaluative metering which is also linked to the active AF point(s) and fine-tuned by Canon’s ‘Intelligent Scene Analysis’ processing. Alternatively, selective area, centre-weighted average and spot measurements are provided.
These drive the usual selection of ‘PASM’ exposure control modes – more precisely ‘PAvTvM’ on a Canon D-SLR – and the overrides for the auto modes comprise an AE lock, up to +/-5.0 EV of compensation and auto bracketing with adjustments of up to +/-3.0 EV per frame over sequences of two, three, five or seven. Automatic flicker detection is provided for dealing with the switching characteristics of gas-ignition lighting (i.e. fluorescent types) which can affect both exposure and colour balance when shooting at faster shutter speeds. The anti-flicker capability detects the frequency of a light source’s blinking and subsequently times the shutter release during continuous shooting to minimise any variations.
The shutter assembly has some tweaks to help minimise vibrations and also further reduce lag, but the speed range remains at 30-1/8000 seconds and the reliability at 150,000 cycles. The reflex mirror mechanism has also been redesigned and is actuated via a micromotor (rather than springs) so its speed can be reduced towards the end of its travel to reduce bounce and the amount of vibrations it creates, but obviously this isn’t quite as critical with 30 megapixels resolution as it is with the 50 MP of the EOS 5Ds/R duo. However, the Mark IV camera has the additional Fine Detail ‘Picture Style’ preset introduced on these models and which processes JPEGs for increased sharpness. It also provides the more advanced manual control over sharpness in all the other ‘Picture Styles’ with three separately adjustable parameters labelled Strength, Fineness and Threshold. These work in a similar fashion to Photoshop’s Unsharp Masking, so Strength controls the amount of sharpening, Fineness determines the size of the details which will be sharpened, and Threshold sets the contrast level at which an edge would be subjected to sharpening. It may look a little daunting on paper, but the idea here is to enable a better matching of the sharpness adjustments with the type of subject. Experimentation is needed though.
The remaining ‘Picture Style’ presets are Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful and Monochrome. The colour presets are adjustable for contrast, colour saturation and hue in addition to the sharpness controls while the B&W preset replaces the colour controls with a set of contrast filters (i.e. red, orange, yellow and green) and toning effects. There’s also an Auto ‘Picture Style’ which adjusts the processing parameters according to analysis of the subject using AF, AE and white balance data. Up to three customised ‘Picture Styles’ can be created and stored in-camera
As on the 5Ds models, the white balance controls include the choice of ‘Ambience Priority’ or ‘White Priority’ modes for the automatic correction. The latter is the standard way of doing things while the former is a development of ‘keep warm colours’, but works with whatever colour cast is predominant in a scene.
Six different types of lighting are covered by presets, plus there’s auto bracketing (again over sequences of two, three, five or seven frames), fine-tuning and manual colour temperature setting. However, again only one custom WB setting can be stored which is a bit stingy by high-end camera standards.
Thankfully, Canon has been much more generous with the rest of the Mark IV’s creative and corrective functions and so, compared to its predecessor, it gains an intervalometer (and time-lapse for making video clips), extra in-camera lens corrections for distortion and diffraction, a ‘Digital Lens Optimiser’, a programmable Bulb timer for long exposures (which does away with the need for a remote trigger), and in-camera RAW-to-JPEG processing. These join multi-shot HDR, a multiple exposure facility (for combining up to nine frames), noise reduction for both long exposures and high ISO settings, and the ‘Auto Lighting Optimiser’ and ‘Highlight Tone Priority’ processing functions for contrast control and dynamic range expansion respectively.
The ‘Digital Lens Optimiser’ was previously a post-camera process, but now can be used with both RAW and JPEG capture, and applies a bunch of lens corrections collectively as well as compensating for “…the deterioration of resolution caused by the low-pass filter” (to quote the user manual) via edge enhancement. The HDR capture function operates over three frames and the exposure adjustment can be manually set to +/-1.0, +/-2.0 or +/-3.0 or automatically adjusted according to the brightness range detected in the scene. An auto image align function is available along with the option of saving all the files or just the final merged HDR image. There’s also a set of four creative effects – called Art Standard, Art Vivid, Art Bold and Art Embossed – which vary the colour saturation, brightness, tonality and boldness of the outlines. That’s it for any frilly stuff though, so the EOS 5D IV doesn’t have any special effects or in-camera panorama stitching.
Operationally, the 5D IV breaks new ground in the series by offering full touchscreen control which gives a new level of convenience. Presumably camera designers think D-SLR users are a conservative lot, but a touchscreen can be really handy and not just when shooting video either.
Canon provides the option of switching off the touchscreen, but it really can make many operations a lot quicker, particularly when it’s combined with, for example, the ‘Quick Control’ screen. This presents a selection of capture-related functions – and can be customised for further efficiencies – and it’s simply a case of tapping on the appropriate tile to bring up the menu or settings. The main menu can also be navigated by touch (using swipe and drag actions), and both touch AF and touch shutter release functions are available in live view (plus image magnification for verification), along with ‘Quick Control’ tiles (customisable again). In replay mode, touch functions are available for browsing, zooming and the thumbnail pages. The screen’s responsiveness can be set to either Standard or Sensitive.
As noted at the beginning of this report, the external control layout is largely unchanged from the previous model and the rest of the EOS 5D clan. The basic arrangement comprises a main mode dial, a front input wheel (which Canon actually calls the ‘Main Dial’) and a large monochrome LCD read-out on the top deck. On the rear panel is Canon’s standard combination of a ‘Multi-Controller’ joystick and ‘Quick Control Dial’ (i.e. the rear input wheel). Along with the front wheel, this pair are the conventional method of performing menu navigation and function/setting selection operations.
The menu system is the same tidied-up version that was introduced on the Mark II EOS 7D with a much less unwieldy custom menu, but the self-contained pages (i.e. non-scrollable) pages remain as does the necessity to first press the ‘Set’ button in order to bring up sub-menus and settings rather than the more conventional right-click.
In addition to the ‘Quick Control’ screens, the main monitor can be set to show the main camera settings or a level indicator, now dual-axis as on the 5Ds models. Level indicators can also be displayed in the viewfinder via the ‘Intelligent Viewfinder II’ LCD overlays which include guide grids and a variety of function indicators which are selected in the ‘Viewfinder Information Display’ menu.
The live view screen can be configured to include a real-time histogram (for either brightness or RGB channels), the grid patterns, level indicators, a set of status indicators, or just the image alone. The review/replay screens include a highlight alert, basic capture info or a thumbnail image with either a luminance histogram or the RGB histograms. The playback modes include pages of four, nine, 36 or 100 thumbnails, zooming up to 10x and a slide show function with adjustable image display times plus a repeat function.
Traditionally, Nikon has had the edge in D-SLR ergonomics, but the EOS 5D Mark IV has evolved Canon’s controllability to a level of efficiency and comfort that’s significantly closed the gap.
The well-implemented touchscreen helps greatly here, but overall this camera just feels a lot more cohesive and smoother operationally.
Speed And Performance
With our reference memory card – Lexar’s 128 GB SDXC UHS-II/U3 (Speed Class 3) Professional – loaded into the appropriate slot, the EOS 5D IV captured a burst of 51 JPEG/large/fine files in 7.163 seconds, representing a shooting speed of 7.12 fps. The average test file size was 19 MB. While 7.0 fps may not look much compared to all the 10+ fps cameras now available, it’s worth noting that this will be more than adequate for a great many applications… and it’s delivered with continuous AF/AE adjustments. Obviously, this camera can’t make use of the UHS-II card speed, but the buffer still emptied very quickly. Image quality steps up a good few notches from the Mark III and while there isn’t the knock-out definition of the 50 MP models, the Mark IV isn’t quite so hobbled by the need to completely eliminate all and any sources of camera movement, no matter how small. The Mark IV’s 30 MP sensor more realistically balances resolution and operation plus, as noted earlier, also balances resolution and pixel size to the benefits of dynamic range and noise levels. Furthermore, it balances resolution and file sizes.
Best-quality JPEGs still deliver plenty of crisply resolved fine detailing along with beautifully smooth tonal gradations, excellent colour fidelity across the spectrum, and a wide dynamic range. RAW files are even better in terms of both detailing and dynamic range. Noise reduction is well managed all the way up to ISO 6400 with only a minimal loss of definition and contrast at this sensitivity which is pretty impressive. At ISO 12,800 when chroma (colour) noise starts to become evident and the luminance noise is increased (although it’s quite finely grained), the overall image quality is still very good and the files are definitely useable, albeit with a limit on the enlargement size. Even at ISO 25,600 things are still all holding together reasonably well. The good news here then is that the dynamic and low-noise characteristics translates into increased exposure latitude so deliberate underexposure can be used to better preserve details in the brighter highlights (with the shadows lightened up later)… and accidental underexposures can be more successfully rescued.
Autofocusing performance is significantly improved over the previous model thanks to the increased coverage and responsiveness even in low-light situations. It’s fast and accurate overall, but with lots of scope for fine-tuning to suit particular subjects and shooting situations. Live view operation is also markedly faster with smoother, more linear adjustments when shooting video in ‘Movie Servo AF’ and more reliable tracking.
Video-makers will represent a significant proportion of the fourth-generation EOS 5D’s buyers so it’s equipped accordingly, starting with 4K recording in the more pro-orientated Cinema 4K resolution of 4096x2160 pixels. It’s a direct 1:1 crop from the middle of the sensor so there’s no scaling involved (so no artefacts), but there is a focal length magnification factor of just over 1.6x. For the record, Canon’s ‘APS-C’ format EF-S lenses can’t be used on this body.
The 4K video is recorded at either 25 fps (PAL) or 24 fps with Motion JPEG compression – at a heady bit rate of 500 Mbps – which is easier to handle in post-production, but means very big files and the need for speed as far as the memory card is concerned. UHS-I U3 (Speed Class 3) is the minimum requirement for the SD format as there’s no UHS-II support, but one of the latest CF cards – such as Lexar’s 1066x device which has a writing speed of 155 MB/second and is available in capacity up to 256 GB – is a better option. You’ll need all the storage you can get too because here, as well, the Mark IV is throttled by not being able to record 4K video to an external recorder. The HDMI connector delivers a 2K output (8-bit 4:2:2 colour) while the camera records 4K internally, but you can’t have it the other way around. Fortunately, there’s no 4.0 GB file size limit with the larger-capacity exFAT CF or SDXC memory cards so the theoretical maximum clip length is 29 minutes and 59 seconds, although this would represent around 120 GB of data!
Canon offers a ‘4K Frame Grab’ function which delivers an 8.8 megapixels still from the 4K footage, but that’s as far as it goes and there’s nowhere near the versatility offered by Panasonic’s suite of ‘4K Photo’ modes.
Full HD video is recorded using the whole sensor width – subsequently downsized without any pixel binning – which means the image quality is very good, particularly in terms of detailing and definition. In the PAL TV standard, there’s the choice of shooting at 50, 25 or 24 fps with either IPB or ALL-I compression (i.e. in multiple frames or frame-by-frame, the latter being easier to edit). A slow-mo speed of 100 fps (i.e. quarter speed) is available in the HD resolution of 1280x720 pixels.
The built-in microphone is mono with a 3.5 mm stereo input for connecting an external mic plus an output for monitoring headphones. Audio levels can be manually adjusted and both a wind-cut filter and an attenuator are provided.
Most of the Mark IV’s processing functions for still photography are also available for video recording, including the ‘Picture Style’ presets, the ‘Auto Lighting Optimiser’ dynamic range expansion and ‘Highlight Tone Priority’. Exposures can be preset via any of the ‘PASM’ control modes and the Auto ISO range is 100-12,800 for 4K shooting, 100-25,600 for 2K
Continuous autofocusing is via the ‘Movie Servo AF’ mode with the options of face detection and subject tracking. Furthermore, the tracking speed and sensitivity can be adjusted as per still photography. Convenient focus pulling can be performed via the touchscreen which also allows for other adjustments such as exposure and ISO to be performed also pretty much silently. Manual focus assist is via a magnified image (either 5x or 10x), but there still isn’t a focus peaking display or, for that matter, zebra patterns. Nor is there a cinematography-specific flat picture profile (as is provided
on the EOS-1D X Mark II), but then there is time-coding and, as mentioned in the main text, a time-lapse recording function (for 1080p clips) plus an HDR movie mode.
A mixed bag then? Well, Canon does offer dedicated pro-grade video cameras with its Cinema EOS series and there’s little doubt that many cinematographers who want to use Canon lenses will take this route. However, D-SLRs remain popular for many video-making applications and the EOS 5D Mark IV offers an attractive combination of capabilities and compactness (especially compared to the EOS-1D X II and even the cinema models).
The 4K performance is exemplary and the 2K excellent so there seems no reason why the Mark IV won’t continue the EOS 5D legend.
The challenge facing the EOS 5D Mark IV is not so much attracting Mark III users or even taking on its D-SLR rivals, but the increasing competition from the next generation of higher-end mirrorless cameras. Mirrorless makes more sense operationally for shooting video and there are the size and weight advantages for all users so the ILC market is just going to get harder for D-SLRs, but like Nikon’s D500, the 5D IV needs to be looked at as a total package and then it represents very much more than the sum of its parts. Also like the D500, it’s the more accessible – and even more workable – alternative to the flagship model and, as such, is a highly desirable combination of features, functionality, performance and price. It inspires confidence in its ability to physically get the job done no matter what, and in the reassurance that visions will be realised.
The ‘reliable workhorse’ aspect of a D-SLR at this level cannot be underestimated and it provides a solid foundation for photographic creativity. Canon has further built on this with many of Mark IV’s key elements, including the sensor, touchscreen and autofocusing.
It is, quite simply, a triumph and just possibly – like the D500 for Nikon – Canon’s crowning moment in D-SLR design.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Enthusiast/professional digital SLR with Canon EF bayonet lens mount
Price: $5099 body only. $7599 with Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8 II USM L-series zoom. Estimated average street prices.
Dimensions (WxHxD): body only = 150.7x116.4x75.9 mm.
Weight: 800 grams body only (without battery pack or memory card).