Canon 5D Mark IV Image Quality


Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Realistic saturation levels with excellent hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links above to compare ISOs, and click to load a larger version.

Saturation. The Canon 5D Mark IV produces images with saturation levels that are slightly less pumped (ie., more accurate) than most cameras at default settings, though still very pleasing. Dark reds are boosted the most, with orange, dark greens, dark browns and dark blues pushed a little, while cyans, yellow and light green are slightly muted. Mean saturation is 107.1% (7.1% oversaturated) at base ISO, a little lower than average these days. Mean saturation is quite stable across the ISO range, though, varying from a minimum of 106.8% at ISO 12,800 to a maximum of 109.6% at ISO 102,400. which is a pretty tight range. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Canon 5D Mark IV produces pleasing, natural-looking Caucasian skin tones in our tests when using auto white balance in simulated daylight. Darker skin tones show a small nudge toward orange, but lighter tones are more pinkish and healthy-looking. Very good results. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. As we've come to expect from Canon, the 5D Mark IV's hue accuracy is excellent when manual white balance is used (as it always is for these results). There are the usual shifts in cyan toward blue (though actually quite small), red toward orange, orange toward yellow and yellow to green, but all are quite minor. Average "delta-C" color error at base ISO is 3.67 which is much better than average. Delta-C color error increases with sensitivity, but remains better than average even at the highest ISOs. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images


Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Default Auto and Incandescent settings both struggled with household incandescent lighting, though Manual white balance worked well. Slightly higher than average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance (Ambient Priority)
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance (White Priority)
+0.7 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.7 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.7 EV

Indoors, under incandescent lighting, the Canon 5D Mark IV's default Auto as well as Incandescent white balance settings struggled, producing very warm orange/yellow color casts. The Canon 5D Mark IV's White Priority option for Auto white balance resulted in a much more neutral color balance, however it was still a bit warm and reddish in our test. The Manual (custom) white balance setting produced accurate results. The Canon 5D Mark IV required +0.7 EV exposure compensation for this shot, which is slightly higher than the +0.3 EV average among the cameras we've tested. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Very good color and dynamic range with good exposure accuracy.

Auto White Balance,
+1.0 EV
Auto White Balance,
0 EV

The Canon 5D Mark IV required +1.0 EV exposure compensation to keep the mannequin's face reasonably bright, while the average needed for our"Sunlit" portrait shot is about +0.7 EV. We preferred skin tones with Auto white balance slightly better than Manual, as they were a little pinker, but both settings were quite good. Despite the deliberately bright, harsh lighting, very few highlights were blown in the mannequin's white shirt and shadows are quite detailed with low noise, indicating very good dynamic range, much better than we're used to seeing from previous generation Canons. The Far-field shot (above right) is a bit cool, but exposure is excellent with the camera clipping few highlights and retaining good detail in the shadows.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

~3,200 lines of strong detail from a JPEG, about the same from RAW.

Strong detail to
~3,200 lines horizontal
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~3,200 lines vertical
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~3,200 lines horizontal
ACR Converted RAW
Strong detail to
~3,200 lines vertical
ACR Converted RAW

Our laboratory resolution chart showed sharp, distinct line patterns up to just over 3,200 lines per picture height horizontally and to about 3,200 lines vertically. Some may argue for higher numbers, but lines begin to merge at this resolution, and some aliasing artifacts in the form of moiré patterns can be seen as low as about 2,600 lines. Complete extinction of the pattern did not occur before the 4,000 line limit of our chart. An Adobe Camera Raw converted .CR2 file shows similar resolution as the in-camera JPEG, but it also produced more moiré and false colors. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Slightly soft images with default sharpening, but with noticeable sharpening artifacts around high-contrast elements. Minor to moderate detail loss due to noise reduction processing even at low ISOs.

Using default sharpening
settings, the Canon 5D Mark IV's
JPEG files are slightly soft, with
some noticeable sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of
the model's hair here.

Sharpness. The Canon 5D Mark IV's 30-megapixel full-frame sensor captures very good image detail when coupled with a sharp lens, though default JPEG images are a bit soft. (Keep in mind Canon has decided to keep an optical low-pass filter in the 5D Mark IV to reduce aliasing artifacts at the cost of slightly reduced sharpness, unlike most competing models which have gone the other way.) Despite the slightly soft images, the 5D Mark IV's default sharpening setting generates visible edge-enhancement artifacts in the form of obvious sharpening halos around high-contrast edges, as shown in the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows some detail loss due to noise suppression in darker areas and in areas with low contrast, perhaps just a little more than we're accustomed to seeing from a full-frame digital SLR at base ISO. Still, a good performance for a 30-megapixel model, with very low chroma noise. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

Aliasing Artifacts. The Canon 5D Mark IV is equipped with an optical low-pass filter, however it must be pretty weak as some aliasing artifacts such as moiré patterns can be seen in some of our test shots. This is quite common these days, though, as a lot of ILCs no longer include optical low-pass filters to maximize per-pixel sharpness and resolution.

In-Camera JPEGs: Standard vs Fine Detail Picture Style setting
The 5D Mark IV offer Canon's Fine Detail Picture Style first seen on the Canon 5DS R and 5DS. Below is a comparison with the default Standard Picture Style.

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
Camera JPEG, Fine Detail

In the table above, we compare the Canon 5D Mark IV's default Standard Picture Style setting (left) to its Fine Detail preset at base ISO. Like the 5DS/R, the Canon 5D Mark IV offers users much more flexibility in sharpening than other EOS models, allowing you to adjust not only the "Strength" (from 0 to 7) but also the "Fineness" (1 to 5) and "Threshold" (1 to 5) operators. We believe these parameters correlate to unsharp mask options for strength, radius and threshold available in photo editing software such as Photoshop, although we don't know what the equivalent units might be.

The Fine Detail Picture Style preset boosts the Sharpness Strength operator one notch (to 4 out of 7) while dialing down the Fineness (1/5) and Threshold (1/5) operators to their minimum compared to Standard which defaults to Sharpness: 3/7, Fineness: 4/5 and Threshold: 4/5. The result is improved, more natural-looking rendering of fine detail along with less obvious sharpening halos than the default Standard setting. Interestingly, moiré is also less visible in our red-leaf swatch. However, noise is more visible in flatter areas, and contrast is lower, making the Fine Detail image appear to have less "pop" than the default Picture Style. There also appear to be minor differences in color, even though Color Tone, Saturation and Contrast settings are identical between these two Picture Styles presets. Given the flexibility in settings, though, you may be able to find a better combination than the defaults compared above.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above the Canon 5D Mark IV produces JPEG images with very good detail, but that are somewhat soft with visible sharpening halos. With a good RAW converter, additional detail can often be extracted with fewer sharpening artifacts. See below:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare a best quality in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 via DNG Converter 9.6 using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (300%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

Looking closely at the images, we can see ACR extracts additional detail that isn't present in the default JPEG from the camera, particularly in the red-leaf and pink swatches where the fine thread pattern is likely treated as noise by the JPEG engine and thus blurred away. Fine detail in the mosaic crop is also improved, but as is often the case, the conversion isn't as clean and smooth looking, with more noise that can be seen for instance in the flatter areas of the bottle crop. You can of course apply stronger noise reduction (default ACR NR used here) to arrive at your ideal noise versus detail tradeoff. Also notice sharpening halos aren't nearly as strong as the default camera output. Still, not bad in-camera default JPEG processing, but as usual you can do noticeably better by shooting in RAW mode and using a good RAW converter.

ISO & Noise Performance
Excellent high ISO performance for a full-frame sensor.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 50 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 3200 ISO 6400 ISO 12,800
ISO 25,600 ISO 32,000 ISO 51,200
ISO 102,400

Images are very clean and detailed up to ISO 800, with a only a minor loss in image quality as ISO rises within this range, though signs of noise reduction are visible even at base ISO. At ISO 1600 luminance noise and blurring become noticeable resulting in a more evident drop in image quality, though fine detail is still excellent and chroma noise is well-controlled. ISO 3200 is a bit grainier but chroma noise remains low and fine detail is still quite good. ISO 6400 is of course noisier with stronger blurring due to noise reduction, but a lot of fine detail remains intact and chroma noise is still low. ISO 12,800 is still pretty detailed with reasonable luma noise and fairly low chroma noise, but ISO 25,600 and higher show a more rapid decline in image quality with progressively stronger luma noise and blurring, although chroma noise remains well-controlled up to the native ISO of 32,000. Extended ISO of 51,200 is pretty noisy but the noise grain is still fairly tight and chroma noise is only an issue in darker areas and shadows. The top ISO of 102,400 is very grainy and contains a lot of ugly chroma noise blotches though overall color and saturation remain surprisingly good for the sensitivity.

See the Print Quality section below for our evaluation of maximum print sizes at each ISO setting.

A note about focus for this shot: We used to shoot this image at f/4, however depth of field became so shallow with larger, high-resolution sensors that it was difficult to keep important areas of this shot in focus, so we have since started shooting at f/8, the best compromise between depth of field and sharpness.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Somewhat high default contrast yet very good dynamic range in JPEGs. Very good low-light performance, though conventional autofocus didn't work as well in low light as we'd hoped.

+0.7 EV +1.0 EV +1.3 EV

The Canon 5D Mark IV produces images with moderately high contrast. The mannequin's face was far too dim at the default exposure and a few too many highlights were blown with +1.3 EV, so we preferred the image with +1.0 EV exposure compensation overall, even though the face is still a touch dim. But despite the bright appearance, +1.0 EV resulted in only a few clipped highlights in the shirt and flowers, a lot less than we're used to seeing from previous-generation Canon sensors, indicating much better dynamic range than its predecessor. Shadow detail is excellent as well, with noticeably lower noise levels compared to its predecessor. Bottom line: While the Canon 5D Mark IV's default tone curve still results in a darker face than we'd like to see in this shot, its improved sensor delivers noticeably better usable dynamic range.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)

Highlight Tone Priority
The Canon 5D Mark IV's Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) option did an excellent job of preserving highlight detail, as shown below. (Mouse over the Off and On links to load the corresponding thumbnail, histogram and crops.)

Highlight Tone Priority (+1.3 EV)



(Levels boosted
to reveal noise.)

Both shots above were captured at the same exposure with +1.3 EV exposure compensation to intentionally blow some highlights, the only difference being that HTP was enabled for the second shot which necessarily increases the ISO to 200; part of how HTP works. As you can see, the thumbnails, histograms and crops above clearly show superior highlight preservation when HTP is enabled, with very little impact to the brightness of shadows and midtones. If you look closely at shadows (the levels in shadow crops above are heavily boosted to reveal noise that would be difficult to see otherwise), you'll notice an increase in noise is the price you pay when ISO is boosted from 100 to 200, though as mentioned previously, noise in the shadows is pretty low and has improved over the Mark III.

Far-field Highlight Tone Priority (0 EV)

Above you can see Highlight Tone Priority at work in our Far-field shot. As expected, highlights are toned-down preserving the few that were lost without HTP enabled, with little impact to midtones and shadows.

Automatic Lighting Optimization
Like previous Canon EOS models, the 5D Mark IV offers three selectable levels of Automatic Lighting Optimization (ALO), plus Off. In fully automatic (Scene Intelligent Auto) ALO is automatically enabled and it's available in P, Tv and Av exposure modes. Mouse over the links below to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the links to load full resolution images.

Automatic Lighting Optimization (0 EV)

As you can see above, ALO has the effect of shifting shadows and mid-tones in the histograms to the right, brightening them while leaving highlights pretty much as is, though even the High setting still produced an underexposed image. ISO is not boosted for ALO so increased noise is not an issue, though it may be slightly more visible in shadows that have been boosted significantly.

Far-field Automatic Lighting Optimization (0 EV)

Above is the effect of ALO on our Far-field shot. As you can see, it operated mainly on the shadows and midtones, leaving highlights pretty much intact.

HDR Mode
The Canon 5D Mark IV's HDR feature takes three continuous shots at different exposures and merges them together to create an image with wider tonal range than would be possible with a single exposure. There are three strength settings available (+/-1EV, +/-2EV,+/-3EV), plus Auto, and there are also 5 effects possible (Natural, Art Standard, Art Vivid, Art Bold and Art Embossed). The source images captured are not saved, and RAW mode is not supported.

Far-field High Dynamic Range

Above are in-camera HDR Natural results of our Far-field scene (mouse over the links above to load the corresponding thumbnail). As you can see Auto produced very similar to +/-1 EV, and all settings produce a slightly cropped image which is resampled to full resolution, so details are a little softer than the non-HDR image, but quality is otherwise quite good with no noticeable haloing even at the highest setting. Be aware that ghosting can occur when elements of the scene move during the sequence capture, though, as can be seen with the moving flag, leaves and people in some of these shots.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we decided to compare the Canon 5D Mark IV's dynamic range to its predecessor, the 5D Mark III, and also to its closest Nikon competitor, the D810. You can always compare other models on

As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger version), the Canon 5D Mark IV's dynamic range is markedly improved over the 5D Mark III's, with a peak of about 13.6 EV versus only 11.7 EV, giving the new model an almost two stop improvement at base ISO. The improvement diminishes as sensitivity is increased, however the Mark IV still out-performs the Mark III at the highest ISO, with a dynamic range of 6.2 EV vs 5.4.

The Canon 5D Mark IV's dynamic range still lags behind the class-leading Nikon D810 at low ISOs with the D810 managing almost 14.8 EV at its lower base ISO setting of 64, however the 5D Mark IV catches up quite quickly already at ISO 200, and surpasses the Nikon at higher ISOs with up to about a 3/4 EV advantage at some ISOs.

Bottom line: Very good dynamic range for a full-frame camera and in fact the best performing Canon DSLR to date, with a massive improvement over its predecessor at lower ISOs and better performance than the class-leading Nikon D810 above ISO 200. Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Canon 5D Mark IV for more of their test results and additional comparisons.

  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc

2s, f2.8

30s, f2.8

30s, f2.8

1/15s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1/160s, f2.8

1/10s, f2.8

1/10s, f2.8

Low Light
The Canon 5D Mark IV performed very well in our low-light tests, capturing bright images at the lowest light level (1/16 foot-candle), even at base ISO (100). As expected, noise increases as ISO goes up and light levels go down, but luminance noise remains quite low and fine-grained at ISO 3200, and chroma noise is well-controlled. Even at the maximum native ISO of 32,000, luma noise is fairly fine-grained and chroma noise is well-controlled, making it very usable sensitivity setting.

We didn't notice any hot pixels except when long-exposure noise reduction was disabled, where you'd expect to see them. We didn't see any signs of heat blooming or banding (fixed pattern noise) either.

Color balance was fairly neutral with Canon 5D Mark IV's Auto white balance setting, just a touch cool at the higher light level, but warming up at the lower light level.

AF low-light limit: In-spec but disappointing
When using the optical viewfinder with dedicated phase-detect AF (center point), the Canon 5D Mark IV's autofocus system was able to focus on our low-contrast AF target down to -1.1 EV unassisted with an f/2.8 lens, which is a little disappointing given Canon's -3.0 EV AF spec. With our high-contrast AF target, though, the 5D Mark IV was able to focus down to -5.6 EV, which is quite good.

In Live View mode, the Canon 5D IV's autofocus could focus in lower light, down to -4.1 EV with or low-contrast target, and down to -6.4 EV with our high-contrast AF target, which is excellent.

The Canon 5D IV does not have a built-in AF assist lamp, however it can utilize an external flash's AF assist lamp to focus in complete darkness when the subject is within range and has sufficient contrast.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Digital SLRs like the Canon 5D Mark IV do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Excellent, high-resolution prints at 30 x 40 inches up to ISO 800; Solid print quality with sizable 11 x 14 inch prints at ISO 12,800; Usable 4 x 6 print up to ISO 51,200.

ISO 50/100/200 images all look fantastic and make excellent prints up to 30 x 40 inches and larger. The images in this range are all nearly identical, with sharp detail and vibrant color. 30 x 40 is the largest size we print for our testing, but the 30-megapixel full-frame sensor in the 5D IV could certainly work for larger prints; it just depends on how much you're willing to push its resolving power.

ISO 400 prints also do very nicely up to 30 x 40 inches. There's an ever-so-slight decrease in very fine detail compared to base ISO prints, but not nearly enough to negatively impact print sizes.

ISO 800 images show extremely minimal, if any, visible noise, but there's a subtle drop in detail in lower contrast areas, such as some of the fabrics in our test shot scene. However, the overall level of detail and minimal noise still lets us call the print size up to 30 x 40 inches, though 24 x 36 inch prints look fantastic.

ISO 1600 prints top out at an impressive 24 x 36 inches. Detail is great up to that size, and noise is extremely minimal with little to no visible graininess.

ISO 3200 images begin to show some visible background/shadow noise, but it's quite well controlled, making prints up to 20 x 30 inches more than acceptable.

ISO 6400 prints look great up to 13 x 19 inches. Shadow noise is more apparent now, and fine detail loss is more noticeable at larger print sizes.

ISO 12,800 images make for excellent prints up to 11 x 14, which is certainly an impressive feat at this ISO, as not many cameras can offer a usable print at such a size at this sensitivity. Any larger, however, and the loss in detail and stronger noise do become an issue.

ISO 25,600 prints begin to suffer from stronger noise and noticeable detail loss, making a 5 x 7 inch print the highest we're willing to accept. However, with careful post-processing, or for less critical applications, an 8 x 10 inch print could be acceptable at this sensitivity.

ISO 32,000 images look practically identical to ISO 25,600 images, and therefore print up 5 x 7 inches, as well.

ISO 51,200 prints are quite noisy and show a significant drop in detail, forcing us to call the maximum print size at 4 x 6 inches, though a 5 x 7 might be usable for less critical applications.

ISO 102,400 images are too noisy, with heavy luminance and chrominance noise, and an overall lack of fine detail for us to call any acceptable print size at this ISO.

With its higher-resolution sensor and updated image processor, the fourth-generation of Canon's popular 5D series of DSLRs makes a very solid showing in our print quality testing. From extended low ISO all the way to ISO 800, the Canon 5D Mark IV is capable of excellent, sharp prints up to 30 x 40 inches. As ISO sensitivity increases, the camera displayed very well-controlled noise characteristics, allowing for some impressively large prints, such as 13 x 19 inch prints at ISO 6400 and 11 x 14 at ISO 12,800. While the native ISO range of the 5D Mark IV stops at ISO 32,000, the camera still managed a usable 4 x 6 inch print at its first expanded ISO of 51,200; however, prints should be avoided at the maximum expanded setting of ISO 102,400.


The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

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