Canon EOS 5D Mark IV: Marking New Territories

 
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

The fourth iteration of the popular 5D cameras aims for, and sets new benchmarks for a wide range of users. Shridhar Kunte puts the all new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV on this month’s test bench.

Every 5D camera has marked a new milestone in the history of photographic technology, but over the past few years, Canon seemed to change its path slightly. Consequently, the lineup was divided into two parts, the 5Ds/5DS R line that had extremely high resolution sensors in the same body, and the regular series that would be more geared towards speed. The Mark IV is the much awaited upgrade in the latter category.

The camera comes four years after the 5D Mark III, a camera that had upped itself on the speed factor and in terms of video, but not as much in terms of resolution. The Mark IV is an ambitious upgrade that seems deserving of the rather large time span one needs to wait for this lineup to get refreshed. In a rather competitive full frame market that now consists of cameras like the D750, D810, A7S II, A7R II and the K-1, we see how well this new Canon holds its stead.

Features
The first big upgrade is an all-new sensor. The megapixel count is now boosted to 30, which seems like a nice sweet spot, to start showing visible and perceptible difference in resolution and detail, while continuing to improve on low-light shooting capabilities, and also enabling a high frame rate. The camera has a continuous shooting speed of 7fps, and borrows a number of speed related features from the high end 1D-X Mark II. In what is a big upgrade, the 5D Mark IV’s autofocus is handled by a separate processer, with a revamped AF system that is based on the 1D-X Mark II. This is a 61-point AF system with as many as 41 cross-type sensors, 21 of which are sensitive to both horizontal and vertical lines when used with f/8 lenses or faster. The f/8 capabilities are welcome news for sports photographers who tend to use telephoto lenses along with teleconverters. The centre point also features a separate diagonal pair of line sensors which automatically come in play when lenses with aperture of f/2.8 or faster is used. The coverage area received a 24% boost too, as compared to the Mark III.

In another strong development, Live View autofocus receives a big boost. While the regular AF system is now sensitive down to -3EV, in Live View, the sensor is sensitive to -4EV. The use of Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology, similar to that used in cropped sensor cameras like the 80D, ensures that AF in Live View is extremely quick for focus acquisition, and smooth, for focus transition. This helps both while shooting stills and of course, for video. Focus transition speed can be adjusted in as many as ten different increments, which is quite incredible and allows for a huge amount of control.

Live View autofocus is way faster than other DSLR cameras, allowing you to photos at waist level rather quickly. Exposure: 1/10sec at f/5.6 (ISO 800). Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

Live View autofocus is way faster than other DSLR cameras, allowing you to photos at waist level rather quickly. Exposure: 1/10sec at f/5.6 (ISO 800). Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

Video, of course, gets a big upgrade, since the Mark III was rather long in the tooth, as compared to offerings from other manufacturers. The Mark IV can shoot at DCI 4k at up to 30fps, at 500Mbps, along with Full HD 1080p shooting at 60 fps and 720p at 120 fps. There is also a new HDR Movie mode, which captures two HD frames at different exposures in short succession at up to 60fps, and then plays it back at 30fps to create a movie with a wider dynamic range. 4k is shot only using Motion JPEG unfortunately, which makes it easier to extract stills from any frame, but isn’t as efficient from a file size point of view. Sadly, there is no true flat profile or a log gamma profile.

Dual Pixel Raw is an interesting feature that the Mark IV introduces. The camera records two 30MP images, one from each of the left-looking and the right-looking photodiodes that are at each pixel. Instead of combining these two signals, Dual Pixel Raw keeps them separate, to make a file that’s twice as large, but allows for corrections in software such as image micro adjustment, bokeh shift and ghosting reduction. The difference is slight, but perceptible, and critical while using fast lenses.

Handling
In terms of design, the company isn’t reinventing a rather successful wheel, and the design, build and control layout is extremely reminiscent of its predecessors. The form factor is excellent, the grip, secure, and the body, built around rigid magnesium and polycarbonate resin, extremely sturdy. There is some weathersealing with the help of seals and gaskets, but it is to the level found in the 7D Mark II, not to the extent found in pro bodies like the 1D series. A majority of buttons and dials are located on the right side of the camera on two different planes, either on the top or at the back. This makes easy to operate with the right hand, while holding the camera steady gripping the lens with the left hand. There is a new button at the back of the camera, that is primarily used for selecting the AF area, and another small switch-like button below that changes the number of AF points that are active on the fly. Both these buttons need one to press the AF-point button first though, which seems like an extra step in the process that could have been avoided. The touchscreen is excellent, especially for video shooters who wish to control focus transitions carefully. Canon missed a trick by not including a tilting screen though, especially considering that almost every competitor of this camera seems to have one. Going by the excellent Live View performance and that a lot of filmmakers would look at this camera with some interest, a fixed screen is a bit of a disappointment.

The constraint of using an f/4 lens was solved by the use of the high ISO and further pushing in software. The file has responded rather well, with a good amount of detail and no banding despite the pushing. Exposure: 1/20sec at f/4 (ISO 12,800). Photograph/Raj Lalwani

The constraint of using an f/4 lens was solved by the use of the high ISO and further pushing in software. The file has responded rather well, with a good amount of detail and no banding despite the pushing. Exposure: 1/20sec at f/4 (ISO 12,800). Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Performance
According to Canon, the four things that they paid most crucial attention to, while taking feedback from previous 5D users, were AF precision, AF speed, resolution and dynamic range. Autofocus works as promised on paper, with near 1D-X performance ensuring that focusing is quick, accurate and works equally well for a wide range of subjects, both still and moving. Remarkably so, focus acquisition in Live View while shooting in extremely low light tends to be even faster than the AF that’s there in regular shooting.

Do keep in mind that the AF system is rather complex, since it is extremely exhaustive. This can hinder you in the beginning as the system needs some serious studying, but once that’s done, it is the best in class at this point of time. Coupled with 7fps shooting, the AF ensures that this camera is a true all rounder, with the 30MP output capable of large prints, the video appealing to serious filmmakers and the speed being fast enough for this to be one’s only DSLR even while shooting high octane events like adventure sports. The only thing limiting the Mark IV’s speed is that it only has conventional CF and SD slots, and does not have a CFast 2.0 slot like the 1D-X II. This tends to limit the buffer to around 30–32 shots, while shooting RAW. The buffer performance also tends to drop a little while shooting at higher ISOs, even when in-camera noise reduction is switched off.

The metering system, which is borrowed from the 5DS R does a good job overall, but at times, when shooting front lit scenes, one tends to observe some highlight clipping. The images are free of noise all the way up to ISO 6400, around a stop better than the 5D Mark III, which along with the improved resolution, is quite welcome. Dynamic range has been much improved, but it still lags behind the competition, slightly. There is a marked improvement in exposure latitude, and how the files respond to pushing, as compared to older Canon cameras. The latitude is only slightly lesser than that of cameras like the A7R II and D810, and significantly better than the 5D Mark III and the 5DS R. There is also a huge amount of improvement one can see in the ISO invariance of the camera, allowing you to underexpose and push without seeing any significant increase in noise, something that’s rather useful while shooting extremely contrasty scenes.

Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Conclusion
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV shows a bunch of radical improvements, most of all in dynamic range and Live View focusing. Wedding photographers and filmmakers will particularly appreciate how intuitive these new changes are, and how they make life easier while working in rapidly changing conditions. There are plenty of great full frame cameras in the market at this point for those who want resolution, speed or great low light performance. The 5D Mark IV manages to tick every box, and marks each of these territories, making its rather high price tag of Rs. 2,54,995 seem worth it.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
Wide area focus, 61 AF points, DIGIC 6+
13/15
Performance
Fast and accurate AF, Improved dynamic range, noise-free photos till ISO 6400
42/45
Build Quality
Weather sealing, Magnesium alloy build
18/20
Ergonomics
Easy handling, controls are well laid out
13/15
Warranty & Support
Two-year warranty, wide service network
4/5
MRP Rs. 2,54,995
OVERALL 90%
VALUE FOR MONEY 3.5/5
Who should buy it? Those who want a great all-round camera that combines resolution, speed and low light performance for both stills and video.
Why? There may be other cameras that are better at one
particular aspect, like resolution (5DS R, A7R II, D810) or video (A7S II), but the 5D Mark IV is probably the most complete all rounder at this point of time.
Tags: Canon, Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, November 2016, Review, Shridhar Kunte

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