A Viewfinder Darkly

Photography tips and tutorials

Canon 5D Mk IV

October 2 2016

by Philip Northeast

This is the latest version of Canon’s workhorse DSLR  for weddings, portraits and landscape photographers. Here image quality is more important than speed, but the new Mk IV is still very fast. It has a full frame 30 megapixel sensor to deliver high resolution, high quality images.

With “only” a 30 megapixel digital sensor will have Canon’s  marketing people awake and  screaming in the middle of the night. The competing Nikon and Pentax full frame DLSRs have 36 megapixels sensors,  but this is not a deal breaker for photographers. It is a big upgrade from the 20 megapixels of the old MkIII which is now starting to look inadequate, but still capable of producing stunning photographs.

Even though its primary role is not sports, it inherits the autofocus system from the Canon 1-DX, and has a respectable frame rate of up to 7 frames per second. Pretty handy for the large image files from this class of camera.


Canon 5D Mk IV

The Canon 5D Mk IV can shoot 4K video, keeping it current with the latest  trends in professional video and movies.The compact size of the 5D range and its high quality video capabilities see them being used in Hollywood blockbusters. This underlines the versatility of the DSLR format that is useful for still photography or video use.

A neat touch is anti-flicker shooting mode. This is useful when using fast shutter speeds under artificial light, particularly in sports venues. Here, although the light looks constant, the brightness  rises and falls at the frequency of the alternating current electricity supply. The banding effect is obvious on high speed photo finish cameras where many still images are combined into one image.

The dynamic range test is a useful indicator of image quality for cameras used mainly for landscape and architectural photography. Here there are often bright skies and deep shadows when photographing using the available light.  Dynamic range is a measure of the digital sensor’s ability record thee range of light from bight white to pure black. The dynamic range tests from DxO Mark show the new Canon loses nothing to full frame rivals the Nikon D800 and Pentax K1.

test graph

Dynamic Range comparison Canon 5D Mk IV Nikon D800 and Pentax K1 (courtesy DxOMark)

Even though the 5D R and S version offer over 50 megapixel resolution it appears to be at the expense of increased digital noise. Fantastic for studio work where good lighting is assured, but when the lights get low the Mk IV is probably a better choice.

Iso Ranges

5D MK IV 100-32000 (Extended Mode: 50-102400)

5D R 100-6400 (Extended Mode: 50-12800)

In common with many maturing digital technologies it becomes more difficult to significantly improve the basic performance of the product. The marketing department resorts to adding extra capabilities  to try and make a point of difference to encourage users to upgrade. This is called feature bloat and it can clutter up a digital product making it harder to use then the old version.

However, some of the extra functions on the Canon 5D Mk IV I would use. The built in GPS system that adds a geo tag to the meta data of the image file is useful. Lightroom understands location data and uses it as a method to sort and categorise photo collections.  I have old film slides of landscapes taken thirty years ago and I am not sure of the location. So I definitely would use the GPS system in the 5D Mk IV.

Geo tagged images in Lightroom

Geo tagged images in Lightroom

The other function I love is the built in capability of interacting with smartphones. Being able to copy a high quality DSLR image to a smartphone on location is an advantage for photographers.  Sharing photographs social media is a part of a modern marketing strategy. This is part of having a conversation to build  interest in the photographer’s work. The system also allows a smartphone, with the right app of course, to act as a remote control for the DSLR.

Despite the new sensor and communications functions the Canon 5D Mk IV is not different enough to switch to from another manufacturers system. However, if you have a collection of Canon’s excellent L series lenses this is an obvious choice for a high performance camera.

The Canon 5d Mk IV is available from Adorama for $US 3,499.00 body only.




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