Canon EOS 5D Mark IV: A Top-of-the-Line DSLR Camera [Review]
With an MSRP of $3,499 (body-only), the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is unquestionably a professional-grade camera. We believe the Mark IV also has plenty to offer the intermediate photographer looking to cross over into the big leagues as well. It boasts a gigantic range of features and in this article we will be exploring them in great detail.
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Table of Contents
- Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Technical Specifications
- Build Quality
- Image Quality
- What is a Dual Pixel CMOS Sensor?
- Video Capability
- How does the Canon 5D 4 compare to the Nikon D810?
- How does the Canon 5D 4 compare to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III?
- Canon 5D 4 Notable Features
- Sample Images
- Final Thoughts
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Technical Specifications
- Sensor: 30.4 Megapixels, Full-frame, Dual-Pixel CMOS (size approx. 36 mm x 24 mm). This sensor is the same size and ratio as standard 35 mm film (crop factor 1.0). Full-frame sensors are ideal for landscape and low-light photography and usually offer a significant increase in image quality compared to a cropped sensor.
- Number of Autofocus Points: 61 with 41 cross-points. The 41 cross-type AF points will detect features in either the horizontal or vertical axis; the remaining 20 are vertical-only AF points. More autofocus points means you have more locations to direct the focus of your camera within the frame. The same tier Nikon D810 only has 51 AF points.
- Kit Lens: The EOS 5D Mark IV offers two choices in kit lenses.
- EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM: The less expensive of the two kits with an MSRP of $4,399. The lens is a constant f/4, which keeps light levels optimum even at 70mm. In addition, the camera boasts a Macro mode with the flip of a switch at full telephoto range. This gives the camera 0.7x additional magnification. Lastly, its Image Stabilization greatly reduces hand shake and the need for a tripod. This lens is ideal for the Macro and Portrait photographer.
- EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens: With an MSRP of $4,599, this is your top-tier choice. At a constant f/4, even zoomed your f-stop won’t change. The Air Sphere Coating is formulated to reduce ghosting and flare. And the Image Stabilization reduces hand shake and the need for a tripod. This is a true all-around camera lens!
- Continuous Shooting: 7 frames per second for up to 21 images in RAW format or unlimited images in JPEG mode. RAW images are 3-6 times the size of an average JPEG. Therefore, the camera needs to “take a breather” while writing to memory when using continuous shooting in RAW mode. But when shooting in JPEG mode, you can simply hold the button down and the camera will shoot and record for as long as you like. For sports and other action oriented photography, this camera is an absolute powerhouse.
- ISO Range: Native ISO 100-32,000 (with Digital Boosted ISO capability to 50-102,400)
- Exposure Compensation Range: +/- 5 stops (the camera can correct the exposure values up to 5 stops of light brighter. 2 to 3 stops is the norm for mid-range DSLRs)
- Video Recording Capability: 4K Motion JPEG (4096 x 2160) at 30p. Full HD MOV (1920 x 1080) at 60p. Full HD MP4 (1920 x 1080) at 60p. HD MOV (1280 x 720) at 120p. Approximately 8 minutes of high-resolution 4K video takes up 32 GB of space using Motion JPEG as the codec at this quality. The Mark IV can also extract 8.8 MP images directly from recorded 4K video and take slow-motion video at 60p (progressive frames per second).
- Image Format: JPEG, Raw, and Raw+JPEG shooting. The Mark IV can take either or both of the most useful camera image formats at once, with different levels of quality available in JPEG mode.
- Flash: None. You will need to purchase a separate flash unit for the Mark IV.
- Built in Wi-Fi and GPS: The Mark IV offers connectivity to smart devices, computers in FTP mode (more on this later), and can geotag images and video with GPS location (latitude, longitude, elevation, and UTC time) via satellite.
- 3.2″ LCD Touchscreen: Menu modes are easily accessible without resorting to button use and images can be swiped through similar to using a smartphone. In addition, the Mark IV allows custom control settings for 11 of its buttons.
- Dual Memory Card capability: The Mark IV can use SD (Secure Digital) and CF (Compact Flash) memory cards; both with their own unique advantages. CF cards will write and buffer faster, but are larger and more expensive than an equivalent SD card. If you’re looking for capable memory cards, we recommend the Lexar 128GB Professional CF Card and Sandisk 128GB Extreme Pro SD Card.
- Battery life (CIPA rating): 900 images per charge
- Weight: 890 g (1.96 lb / 31.39 oz) with battery and memory card
- Dimensions: 151 x 116 x 76 mm (5.94 x 4.57 x 2.99 in)
The Mark IV uses a weatherized magnesium alloy body in its construction, similar to the Canon 5D Mark II and III. A weatherized body allows shooting without fear as the joints and seals are sealed with rubber to prevent dust and water splashes from ruining your equipment. (Note: splashing is not submerging!) However, in bad weather, a weatherized lens is equally important. Canon’s L-series lenses are a great match for the all-weather outdoor photographer as they are all weather sealed.
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV achieves a superior balance of megapixel count and sensor size. Many retailers attract unwitting customers with a high megapixel count attached to a small APS-C sensor. However these smaller sensors actually suffer from sometimes severe quality loss. When you cram a ton of pixels into a small space, dynamic range is decreased and noise issues increase. With 30.4 MP, you can create top quality prints up to 20 x 30 in., and good quality prints up to 50 x 75 in. and beyond. With its full-frame sensor making proper use of 30.4 megapixels, the Mark IV will deliver stunning photography! The new Dual Pixel sensor plays a huge role in the imagery of the Mark IV. More on this in the next section.
What is a Dual Pixel CMOS Sensor?
The Dual Pixel sensor caused quite a stir upon its release. To condense this down as much as possible, each pixel in the camera’s sensor is split in two. This comes into play only when the camera is using its autofocus capability. The camera reads light from both halves of the pixel and detects phase differences to best decide how to keep a subject in focus. The information obtained is then combined into a single signal used to record an image or video capture after the calculation has been decided. As a result, the pixel size is not decreased; the sensor pixels simply serve two functions simultaneously! This also means contrast-detection autofocus is no longer required, which requires using the lens to hunt back and forth for the sharpest view.
This technology uses phase detection; and the benefit here is that the Mark IV does not need a separate phase detection sensor due to Dual-Pixel technology. The vast majority of DSLRs cannot shoot video using phase detection, and the Mark IV handily takes the crown here.
But it gets even better; the Mark IV also has an additional export option beyond RAW known as Dual Pixel RAW. Using this mode, the double function of the pixels is used to create a parallax second image full of RAW data that is bundled together with the first. Parallax is using information about an object from two perspectives to gain additional information about its positioning.
The first and most significant use of DP RAW is that you can adjust the plane of focus in an image by a few millimeters. That photograph that looked amazing in your viewfinder but turned out to be focused on the tip of the nose or eyelashes of your subject can be placed squarely on the eyes. The bokeh (blurred background) of an image can also be shifted somewhat using DP RAW. And finally, flare and ghosting from bright light sources in your image can be reduced to a degree, although not eliminated. The adjustments are not huge, so DP RAW is situationally useful at best. In addition, DP RAW is not compatible with the Adobe line or other software. Canon’s Digital Photo Professional is required to first read and adjust the file before conversion to TIFF. Only then can it be sent to Lightroom or Photoshop for additional processing.
Canon’s Dual Pixel Autofocus makes the 5D Mark IV an incredibly powerful choice for the aspiring or advanced videographer. Any skilled videographer will want to maintain a subject with sharp focus and the background blurred. Dual Pixel AF allows for autofocus usage in both live view and video capture mode, which is a huge step up over the Nikon D810 and even the Canon Mark III.
The Mark IV is sometimes hailed as a true videography camera, but it’s worth noting that its 4K video mode has a crop factor of 1.74x. This means we’ve gone from a full-frame field of view to the equivalent of an 87 mm lens on a full-frame sensor. This is due to the pixel density of the sensor, but this crop factor applies only when shooting in 4K mode.
How does the Canon 5D 4 compare to the Nikon D810?
The best comparison for the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is the Nikon D810. Both use a magnesium alloy construction for corrosion resistance, lightness compared to other metals, and a premium feel. Both use a full-frame sensor, which is mandatory at this tier of camera. But how does the D810 stack up to the Mark IV?
Advantages over the Nikon D810
Anti-Aliasing filter vs. Lack of Anti-Aliasing filter: This is a toss-up as fine detail is lost from having an AA filter. However, moire pattern effects are reduced when shooting fine pattern effects, like cloth or a bird’s feathers.
Wi-Fi and GPS: The D810 only has these abilities with additional devices, meaning additional expense.
More Focus Points: 61 vs. 51 (15 cross-points). More AF points are always useful.
No Dual Pixel Sensor: The Nikon D810’s sensor is standard and does not offer the capability of the Canon’s Dual Pixel sensor.
Disadvantages over the Nikon D810
30.4 MP vs 36.2 MP: ~20% greater detail captured in the same full-frame sensor gives the Nikon D810 a clear edge here.
Built-in focus motor: The D810 has focus motors within the body. The Mark IV requires focus motors within the lens it’s using to AF. An Autofocus motor in the body means Nikon lenses are cheaper and one can use any Nikon F-mount lens going back as far as 1959!
Battery Life: The D810 boasts 1200 shots per charge compared to the Mark IV’s 900 shots.
Cheaper: The MSRP for the Nikon D810 is $2,999. That’s a full $500 less than the 5D Mark IV.
How does the Canon 5D 4 compare to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III?
At an MSRP of $2,799 (body-only) and a single model below our Mark IV, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III is the obvious contender for the savvy shopper. The Mark IV is the clear successor; it has all of the strengths of the Mark III plus a satisfying collection of new features that make it feel like a true upgrade. But is the Mark III a bad buy?
The Mark III boasts a full-frame sensor just like the Mark IV, but at a 22.3 megapixel resolution. Not terrible, but if you make large prints, not nearly as useful. Losing the Dual Pixel sensor is pretty painful but tolerable at this price mark. The ISO range, AF points, body make, and weatherization are all the same. The Mark III weighs slightly more at 950 g (2.09 lb / 33.51 oz), but has a slightly better battery life at 950 shots over 900 for the Mark IV. You lose out on the Wi-Fi and GPS capability unless you buy extra equipment (or just buy a Mark IV). And the Mark III does not shoot 4K video, nor offer in-camera still grabs like the Mark IV does.
If you’re looking for a workhorse photography-centric camera and are willing to compromise on megapixels, weight, Wi-Fi/GPS, and the Dual Pixel sensor, you could do very well with the Mark III. The powerful video options and incredible sensor of the Mark IV are painful to give up though!
Canon 5D 4 Notable Features
The 5D Mark IV offers a host of other goodies that don’t warrant their own section but are too good to ignore. Silent Shooting mode is a big seller for the event or street photographer looking to be as unobtrusive as possible. No more noisy clicks spoiling the atmosphere!
Autofocus Area Modes are another sweet feature this camera offers. You can choose between Single-Point Spot AF, Single-Point AF, AF Point Expansion, Zone AF, and 61-Point Automatic AF. Each mode allows you to custom-tailor how the Mark IV uses its AF points for the best scene. Single-Point Spot AF would work marvelously for an animal among branches that would confuse Automatic AF. Zone AF is better for a large, moving subject, such as a boat or truck.
Using Wi-Fi, the Mark IV can be connected to a smartphone or tablet to create a perfectly serviceable remote shutter using the Canon Camera Connect app, available for Android or iPhone. The Mark IV can also connect to a printer or other smart device to speed up the printing process. And finally, the camera can connect to any computer configured with an FTP server to directly send shots as they are being taken! For anyone carrying smart devices, this is very useful if you want to avoid buying additional hardware.
The Mark IV offers GPS tagging as well. By triangulating the position of the camera via GPS satellites, the camera can add GPS metadata into the image or video created. For wildlife, travel, and landscape photographers, geotagging is a must-have feature. With a few clicks and the proper software, you or your viewer can see exactly where you were standing when you took the image.
These are simply a few of the standout features. The Mark IV’s feature list is absolutely enormous and something for everyone can be found here!
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is everything and more the intermediate to professional photographer could ask for. It offers top-tier videography and photography, with a host of features and customizability. And the Canon brand offers an enormous selection of lenses, battery grips, flashes and other gear that will allow you to shoot in any fashion you desire.
The Nikon D810 is slightly weaker in many of its specialized options. And the loss of that beautiful DP sensor is definitely worth considering. If you’re looking to save a bit of money, then the Nikon D810 is a good alternative. However, if you’re looking for the best camera in this tier, then the Canon 5D Mark IV is the way to go.
If you think the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR camera might be for you, click here to buy it now.