Canon 5D Mark IV Conclusion

Classic, familiar 5D-series styling with modern refinements

Canon's classic 5D-series undergoes its fourth revision, bringing a host of important new features and upgrades, but without totally reinventing the wheel. It's still the familiar 5D camera that professionals and enthusiasts alike know and love, and we think that's great. Aimed at professional and advanced enthusiast photographers and videographers, the familiarity of the 5D-style camera is a welcomed aspect, as it lets them just pick up the camera and go without any steep learning curve.

Design-wise, there are few notable changes, the primary one being the inclusion of a touchscreen -- a first for a 5D series camera. Like other touch-enabled Canon cameras we've tried, the 5D IV's works really well; it's fast and responsive and works great for tapping to adjust the focus point if you're framing shots with live view or shooting video. The menu system and Quick Menu are also now fully touch-enabled, and while the menu GUI hasn't changed to accommodate finger-sized navigation, it wasn't frustrating to use, in our experience.

And while the body design is similar, it's different enough to necessitate a new battery grip. You can't just use your old 5D Mark III grip, so keep that in mind when budgeting for the new Mark IV.

Higher-res photos, better dynamic range, and great high ISOs

With an upgraded 30-megapixel full-frame sensor, the 5D Mark IV gains a noticeable, but not extreme, bump up in resolving power. For the ultimate in resolution from a Canon DSLR, you'll still need to jump to the 5DS or 5DS R models. With the 5D IV, a camera aimed at variety of use-cases, from wedding and photojournalism to portraiture and landscapes, 30MP is a great balance between resolution, manageable file sizes and a camera that can still fire off shots at a decent burst rate.

In our testing, the Canon 5D Mark IV performed as expected in the image quality department, with an overall superb showing, especially with RAW files. The 30MP images displayed lots of fine detail, but straight-from-camera JPEGs tended to be a little on the soft side, whereas RAW files could easily be developed to show greater detail. As we've seen with other Canon cameras, the 5D IV's hue and overall color accuracy are top-notch, and its high ISO performance is also excellent, as we'd expect from a pro-class, full-frame DSLR. Compared to the earlier 5D Mark III, the Mark IV displays much better dynamic range, which is great to see -- a welcome improvement for the landscape photographers out there.

One of the major new features touted by Canon with the new 5D IV is Dual Pixel Raw, a new image capture mode that basically records two images simultaneously using the sensor's Dual Pixel design. After capture, users can then subtly tweak focus ever-so-slightly, as well as make other micro-adjustments to bokeh and reduce ghosting. These micro-adjustments, however, are so micro that it's not really worth the hassle for all but the most critical of applications, especially given the costs, such as the increased file size and the drop in buffer capacity.

35mm f/1.4L II: 35mm, f/1.4, 1/500s, ISO 2000

Quick, responsive performance makes the 5D IV a versatile DSLR

Although the 5D Mark IV is not necessarily designed as an action-sports camera with super-quick sequential shooting rates like on the 1D X Mark II or 7D Mark II, the 5D IV is still a very responsive camera with little apparent lag. Canon spec-ed the Mark IV for up to 7fps continuous shooting, and in our testing, the camera matched that rate perfectly. While 7fps isn't the fastest burst rate out there, it's quite fast for a high-res full-frame camera. Buffer performance was also very impressive, with practically unlimited JPEG shooting using our ultra-fast CF card. When shooting RAW or RAW+JPEG, you'll run into a buffer limit, however, at around 19 frames for RAW or 12 frames for RAW+JPEG. Opting for Dual Pixel Raw mode, however, which nearly doubles the size of the image file, will knock the buffer capacity down even further, so we don't recommend that mode for any sort of action shooting scenarios.

70-200mm f/4L IS: 200mm, f/4.5, 1/640s, ISO 6400

Autofocus performance is also very good and up-to-snuff for a professional-class DSLR. Offering an updated 61-point AF system with wider AF point coverage, both single-shot AF and continuous focus is great. Even with difficult subjects, such as with indoor college-level basketball, the 5D Mark IV was able to keep up without issue. The 5D IV also offers Dual Pixel CMOS AF for live-view focusing, which as we've seen with other Dual Pixel Canon models, works very well. Live View AF is nearly instantaneous for stationary subjects and also works great for video recording.

4K video finally comes to the 5D-series, but its tricky to use

The 5D Mark II was perhaps the biggest contributor to the rise of DSLR video, and with the Mark IV, we see a major upgrade in video capabilities, including Cinema 4K video at up to 30fps. Full HD video is there too of course, up to 60p, while 720p video can crank up to 120fps. Overall, the 5D Mark IV offers a range of video features, appropriate for casual videographers as well as more advanced cinematography workflows.

There is a noticeable downside, however, regarding 4K video, and that's the codec used: Motion JPEG. While this allows for very high-quality footage (which does, in fact, look great), the file sizes are huge, and the inherently high bitrate of around 500Mbps can really bog down even quite powerful computers. We had trouble with smooth video playback of 4K footage even on fairly modern, quad-core, nearly maxed-out computers. Also be aware there is a 1.64x crop factor for 4K video capture relative to the full width of the sensor (1.74x relative to 3:2 stills), while Full HD and HD modes use the entire width of the sensor.

As mentioned, 4K video looks great, with tons of fine detail and great colors, even up to higher ISOs around 6400, but it's definitely worth a thought as to whether or not you need 4K before you hit 'record.'

Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS: 16mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 100

Summary: The familiar yet refreshed Canon 5D Mark IV is a top-notch, all-around professional DSLR

Performance-wise, the 5D IV earns the high marks in all the areas we expect from a pro-level DSLR. The increase in image resolution is a nice upgrade, bringing the 5D Mark IV more in-line with a number of competing full-frame cameras. Image quality, at both low and higher ISOs, is great, and the camera is nimble and responsive with fantastic autofocus. For still photography, the 5D Mark IV is undoubtedly a highly versatile camera that's capable of shooting a variety of subject matter in all sorts of lighting conditions.

On the video side, the 5D Mark IV comes as one of the most fully-featured Canon DSLRs for videographers. Video quality is excellent, and the Dual Pixel CMOS AF makes focusing easy and smooth for both still and moving subjects. 4K video is a fantastic, much-requested feature, and while it looks fantastic, the codec does make it tricky to work with after the fact.

Overall, while it looks like a 5D Mark III, the design of this new model is refined, well thought-out, and most of all familiar, which to a seasoned professional is exactly what he or she wants and needs. They need a tool, and the 5D Mark IV is an excellent one, for photography as well as for video. The Canon 5D Mark IV doesn't throw any surprises, other than perhaps being surprisingly satisfying. It's a reliable, durable and capable workhorse camera -- exactly what a professional needs.

Given that the Canon 5D Mark IV earned a top-spot as our pick for Best Professional DSLR of 2016 in our Camera of the Year Awards, it's obviously a shoe-in for a Dave's Pick!


Pros & Cons

  • Very good image quality, excellent from RAW files
  • Excellent high ISO performance
  • Very good dynamic range, much improved over its predecessor
  • Excellent color accuracy
  • Quick startup and mode switching
  • Low shutter lag
  • Swift autofocus
  • Fast 7fps burst speed for a full-frame camera
  • Unlimited JPEG buffer
  • Decent RAW buffer considering speed and resolution
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF offers much better Live View and movie autofocus than most DSLRs
  • Dual Pixel RAW lets you make minor adjustments to focus, bokeh and ghosting in post
  • DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) video at up to 30fps
  • 4K video is excellent with very bitrate quality (but see Con)
  • Can save still frames form 4K videos
  • Dual card slots (but see Con)
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with NFC
  • Built-in GPS
  • USB 3.0 port
  • Microphone and headphone jacks
  • Good battery life
  • Bright, accurate viewfinder
  • Comfortable, familiar design
  • Rugged, weather-sealed build
  • Default JPEGs are a bit soft compared to competitors
  • Dual memory card slots use different formats
  • Top flash speed of 1/200s
  • Low-light AF a bit disappointing with low-contrast subjects
  • 4K video is cropped by 1.64x relative to the full width of the sensor
  • 4K videos can be difficult to playback smoothly due to high bitrate and Motion JPEG codec
  • 29:59 continuous video recording limit

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