Canon 5D Mark IV Video Features, Specs & Analysis

by Posted 06/13/2018

Canon 5D Mark IV Video Review

The Canon 5D Mark IV was harangued at launch by the video community because it didn't seem capable of upholding the legacy of the 5D series for filmmakers. It lacked 4K in 60p, it introduced an incredible crop factor in 4K video, and the dynamic range of clips was extremely disappointing. Add to that sub-par ISO performance, and you had yourself a camera that was barely fine, and most certainly not what the community expected nor wanted.

If you go back in time and read articles, comments and editorials about the camera from around the net, you'll find that there are a great many disappointed, even angry, reactions to the camera's introduction. And while it is a more than serviceable stills camera, it was immediately dumped on as a bad video camera.

Back then, I agreed. But a couple months later Canon seemed to "get it" too, and introduced a C-Log upgrade for the 5D Mark IV. This would be the first, and as of now, still the only time that Canon has put their Log profile on a non Cinema EOS-series camera, and only the second DSLR they've made to feature it (the first being the 1DC). But, by then it was too late. Every shooter I knew who was waiting for Canon to release a great 5D video camera had moved on. Several of them went Panasonic, some decided to just bite the bullet and buy the 1DX II, and others transitioned to Sony. I decided to try and use the 5D IV for video, especially after I got the C-Log upgrade. I wanted to see if it was a viable camera, and to really ascertain if it got a bad shake a launch, or if it really was just a big let down.

The answer is... both.

For those who aren't sure what advantages this would bring or what Log is, Log is a powerful video format that is as close as you can get to shooting in RAW without actually shooting in RAW (some video cameras, like those released from Blackmagic, for example, can shoot 24 frames per second in RAW). Log creates an image low in saturation but with the highlights and shadows as close to equally exposed as possible. Log footage doesn't look very good straight out of camera, but provides video shooters a great deal more to work with in post than shooting in the camera's Standard picture profile. Generally speaking, Log dramatically increases video dynamic range, upgrades ISO performance, and can even affect sharpness.

Video Formats

Below is a comprehensive list of all the video formats and frame rates available on the 5D Mark IV:

  • 4K (Cinema 4K)
    • 4096 x 2160p at 23.98/24/29.97 fps (500 Mb/s M-JPEG)
  • Full HD
    • 1920 x 1080p at 59.94 fps (180 Mb/s MOV)
    • 1920 x 1080p at 23.98/24/29.97 fps (90 Mb/s MOV)
    • 1920 x 1080p at 59.94 fps (60 Mb/s MOV)
    • 1920 x 1080p at 23.98/24/29.97 fps (30 Mb/s MOV)
    • 1920 x 1080p at 59.94 fps (60 Mb/s MP4)
    • 1920 x 1080p at 23.98/24/29.97 fps (30 Mb/s MP4)
    • 1920 x 1080p at 29.97 fps (12 Mb/s MP4)
  • 720p HD
    • 1280 x 720p at 120 fps (160 Mb/s MOV)

This is a pretty healthy list, and not one that is generally that disappointing. In fact, it looks very similar to the Sony A7R III and A7 III, minus the super slow motion in 1080p. Since the 1080p video looks pretty bad on any modern Canon DSLR (there are a couple examples in the video review above from the 5D Mark IV, and I urge you to take a look at the video quality from the 6D Mark II in our video review here). You'll notice compression that crushes shadows, removes the distinct layers of leaves and textures, and colors are less vibrant by a considerable degree), the focus in this review was the 4K capabilities and, more accurately, 4K with C-Log.

Video Quality

Because a lot changes depending on whether or not you're using C-Log, this review at times might read like two totally different cameras depending on what paragraph you are on. That sounds like an exaggeration, but in many cases what the Canon 5D IV can do in video is starkly different depending on the use of C-Log. It really does feel like two different cameras.

First off, the dynamic range of the camera is very, very different with and without Log. In C-Log you can see it almost immediately, and it's most noticeable with highlights. With Canon's Standard picture profile or even Neutral, the 5D Mark IV just doesn't have any nuance with how it captures brightly lit scenes.

In short, the 5D Mark IV is just too "punchy" with its contrast and colors. The blacks are crushed, the highlights are too bright, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of midtone attention. Colors are also not quite right and tend to air on the side of too saturated. When you look at graded C-Log footage compared to what is captured in Standard, the latter can seem almost blindingly bright and contrasty.

NOTE: In the video at the top, you might see some banding in the sky on the C-log clip. This isn't in the original video clip, and it appears to be an artifact from export. I was not able to isolate what caused it, but it's not the camera.

In contrast, the C-Log clip is not only sharper, but fine gradations of colors (how one blends into the next) and the differences between shadows and highlights are more nuanced. There are not distinct "lines" of anything, and this is indicative of much better dynamic range. C-Log is allowing the sensor to display a much wider range of shades and colors and how they blend together, and that results in an image that is much more pleasing to look at.

And that's all before grading! Thanks to C-Log, you can give your scenes different looks depending on how you want your viewer to see your shots. There is not much room at all for color adjustments and tonal changes in post production when you shoot in Standard, but the opposite is true in C-Log.

One thing I did notice is that while C-Log does tend to give you more range, I actually like shadow scenes, when exposed properly, a bit better in Standard than I do in C-Log. When the light is really bright, Standard produces far too much contrast that can look really bad. But in softer light, the Standard picture profile is much better.

The thing is, with the C-Log upgrade, you can now choose what you want, and that freedom of choice is a really wonderful addition to what was once a very restricting camera.

ISO Performance

I think what is the most impressive thing about the addition of C-Log in the 5D Mark IV is the ISO performance. In video, the 5D IV can shoot from ISO 100 to ISO 12800. It's a rather limited range compared to what you get in other modern cameras, but it's the only camera I have shot that looks extremely clean anywhere in that entire shootable ISO range (in C-Log).

At ISO 6400, there is noticeable noise in the Standard profile, which you can see in the video above. But, in contrast, the footage is extremely clean in the graded C-Log footage. Up another stop to ISO 12800, the noise is even worse in Standard, but again not noticeable in C-Log.

The 5D Mark IV, before C-Log, had bad dynamic range, over-emphasized the worse parts of a bright image when using the Standard picture profile, had disappointing ISO performance and had almost no wiggle room to correct any of this in post.

But with C-Log, the 5D Mark IV actively addresses and eliminates every single one of these problems.

That crop factor though...

The only problem C-Log can't address is that absolutely horrific crop factor, which isn't obvious until you look at a 1080p clip side by side with a 4K clip. I didn't really visualize what a 1.74 crop would look like until It was laid out for me.

For a while, there were rumors that a firmware update would address this huge crop factor by reducing it significantly, but no such feature was ever introduced (even in the April 2018 firmware update).

That crop is really, really intense. So while the 5D Mark IV does create some really beautiful-looking footage now, it can be a challenge to shoot with it because of that crop. You don't get a "full frame" look to video footage, and it doesn't square up well with what is out there from Sony.

Shooting Experience

I've always made note of the excellent shooting experience you get when shooting with a Canon: it's marvelous. The menus, buttons and options are just so well laid-out that you rarely get mad at the camera because you can't change something. The ease of use means that you can focus on capturing the image, and not so much on fiddling with the camera itself.

That experience does not change on the 5D Mark IV, and that is to be expected. I really do enjoy shooting with the 5D IV because it just works. In the end, that's all I'm really looking for out of a video camera.

Autofocus

The 5D Mark IV uses Dual Pixel CMOS AF when shooting video, and like with all modern Canon cameras with this technology, it works really well in nearly any circumstance. It almost never hunts, focuses smoothly, and it's fast, accurate and reliable.

Summary

Pros:

  • C-Log unlocks massive potential with the 5D Mark IV, including:
    • Better sharpness
    • Dramatically improved dynamic range
    • Better color rendition
    • Excellent ISO performance
  • The "Canon experience" while shooting is maintained
  • Autofocus is reliable and, for the most part, excellent
  • Camera body is light and familiar

Cons:

  • The crop factor in 4K is extreme
  • 1080p video footage is lackluster, and doesn't look good compared to what scaled-down 4K footage would produce
  • Lacks slow motion features in both 1080p and 4K; no 120p in 1080, and no 60p in 4K

Honestly, the biggest fault with the 5D Mark IV when it comes to video is that it didn't ship with C-Log installed from the beginning. I think shooters would have been much more forgiving of that huge 4K crop factor if they didn't have all the other video problems when the camera launched. Once you remedy the problems with the image quality, the other complaints with the camera seem considerably smaller.

Does the 5D Mark IV now compete in what is becoming a tougher and tougher video market year over year? Absolutely. It's a totally serviceable video camera in 2018, it's just not a market leader. It works well as a great b-camera for any Canon shooter using a Cinema-series camcorder or the 1DX II, and the fact that it's quite good in the stills department makes it an excellent multitasker.

The 5D Mark IV took it hard to the chin at launch, but nearly two years later it's still a viable camera thanks to Canon giving it what it needed: C-Log.

 



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