Canon 5D Mark IV: Is Canon Going To Take Back King Of The Hill Title?

ShadowCanon 5D Mark IV: is Canon going to take back King of the hill title?

This day will be a celebration for many Canon enthusiasts as today, with the new generation 5D Mark IV, Canon has joined many manufacturers who have recently bumped up the specs in their cameras to the brand new level.

Even though Canon joins the game a little bit late, it’s still a huge deal for the photo industry as Canons’ 5D cameras are arguably the most popular and recognized in the world.

Canon 5D Mark IV Key Features

  • 30.4MP CMOS Full Frame sensor
  • 61-Point (41 cross-type) AF System
  • ISO 100-32000 (expandable to 102400)
  • DCI 4K 30/24p video + 4K Frame Grab
  • Video 1920 x 1080p at 60 fps
  • Video 1280 x 720 at 120fps
  • 7 fps continuous shooting
  • Dual DIGIC 6+ Image Processor
  • 3.2″ 1.62-m-Dot Touchscreen LCD
  • Dual Pixel Raw
  • Wi-Fi w/ NFC + GPS
  • 150k-Pixel RGB+IR metering sensor

In the heart of the body (and almost identical to its predecessor) is the 30.4MP CMOS paired with a Digic 6+ image processor, which offers decent resolution by modern standards, but is be no means record breaking.

What seems to be top class though is the fact that it’s an autofocus system brought straight from the flagship model – 1D X Mark II. This means that the latest 5D has 61 AF points (41 of which are cross-type) and the vertical coverage was expanded by 24%. The central point can autofocus to -3EV in AF-S mode and up to -4EV in Live View mode, given the fast lens.
The dynamic range of the sensor should also improve significantly, given Canon's statement that it was one of the four most important areas to focus on, and because of the improvement we observed in 80D and 1D X II.

Canon 5D Mark IV back

But the biggest boost of all probably is the addition of the video recording capabilities. 5D Mark IV is capable of capturing 4K (4096 x 2160) at either 30 or 24 fps. For this it uses a 1.74x sensor crop, rather than a full sensor sampling and gives you almost the same crop factor as Canon APS-C sized cameras, so shooting really wide angle footage without carefully considering the lens might be a bit difficult.
The advantages of going with the inefficient and not very popular Motion JPEG compression are arguable. It requires a bit rate near 500mbps which means you’ll top up a 64GB card in about 17 minutes. On the bright side, due to the 4K Frame Grabs feature, the camera allows for 30fps still shooting in JPEG format with 17:9 aspect ratio and 8.8MP resolution. How useful this ability is time will tell, but it’s always better to have more options than less.

As for AF performance, it definitely will be better than in it's predecessor, as it’s the same as in company’s flagship – 1D X II and offers increased coverage area, so you shouldn’t have any problems with sports photography.

However, the 150,000-pixel RGB-IR metering sensor comes from the previous generation flagship (1D X). This sensor is also being responsible for subject identification (including faces) and tracking (‘iTR') and based on the previous experience with 1D X, it can hardly be called accurate and reliable.

The situation is completely different when using Dual Pixel AF in live view, as in this case 5D Mark IV performs incredibly well by sticking to specified subject, no matter where in the frame it moves. To further improve impressions from this system, now you can simply tap on touchscreen to set the subject you want the camera to follow and continuously focus on. By the way, it’s the first Canon full-frame camera that continuously focus in Live View photo mode, and thanks to Dual Pixel AF, it excels in this, even when using fast lenses wide open.

Canon 5D Mark IV top

All these upgrades are nice to have, but none of them can be called cutting edge or boundary pushing. So, what’s special about Canon 5D Mark IV? It’s the features.

Dual Pixel AF

As was mentioned above, 5D Mark IV is the first full frame DSLR that received this technology. What it does, is effectively splits every of 30 million available pixels in half, allowing one side to work with the light coming from the left side of the lens and the other side from the right. This ability to separately compare left-side and right-side light gives the ability for phase-detection autofocus in live view without using the AF sensor and promises to bring significantly improved - and accurate - autofocus in both video and stills shooting.

So, with this technology, live view shooting in some occasions now outperforms viewfinder’s AF in several respects, namely wider coverage area and higher accuracy in low depth of field cases. You can also select your subject with a simple tap on the screen and use the joystick to switch back and forth between all the recognized faces in the frame.

Dual Pixel Raw

It's brand new technology making its debut with 5D Mark IV. The technology allows you to save the data from both the left and right sides of the pixels separately resulting in twice as many files, but offering some unique functionality with the company’s bundled Canon Digital Photo Professional software, among which:

Focus micro-adjustment – because different sides of one pixel have a slightly different perspective, it’s now possible to slightly change focus after the capture. This kind of repeats technology found in Lytro cameras, but to a much lesser extent, so Canon repeatedly emphasizes that this is not a replacement for proper AF micro-adjustments. Still, if the image you captured with wide aperture has a focus with a slight error now you have the option to do something about that.

Bokeh shift – another possibility for seeing one scene from 2 perspective offers. Now, you can choose from which of 2 slightly different angles out of the focus region will be seen. I’m not sure what difference this will make in real world, but you can do it.

Ghosting reduction – probably the most useful feature of Dual Pixel Raw, although it may not seem that way at first glance. What it effectively allows, is to cancel out the flare that might be seen on your lens, as flare typically comes from one side of the lens and is seen either by the right or the left facing side of each pixel, so by using the other one you can get rid of it, if it wasn’t meant for artistic effect.

Wi-Fi + NFC + GPS

5D now gets the latest connectivity features as well and can be paired with Canon Connect app for control over the camera, although functionality, except for the exposure adjustments, is limited.
Wi-fi can be used not only for pairing with the smartphone or tablet, but also to send images directly to a computer, between cameras, or DLNA devices, such as a printer.

HDR video

An additional useful feature is the ability to capture 1080 30p HDR video. HDR, standing for High Dynamic Range, does exactly the same thing for video as for photos: preserves details in highlights and shadows instead of clipping them. This works by effectively shooting 1080 60p video in two streams: 1080 30p each, one exposed for highlights and the other for shadows, and then sticking them together. This I haven’t been tested yet, but given my the experience with 760D (which has the same feature, although much more limited) I expect it should produce good results.


All in all, 5D Mark IV seems to be a well rounded camera that doesn’t break any records hardware wise, but instead offers versatility that will allow this camera not to fall short in any situation, and we have mostly new technologies to thank for this. In other words, this camera might not be the best for landscape and studio photography, but will impress the competition again in journalism, event and sports photography.

By the way, the preorder is already available available on Amazon. You can get this camera by itself or with one of the two new lenses: 24-105mm f/4 or 24-70mm f/4.

Canon 5D Mk. IVCanon 5D Mk. IIINikon D810Sony A7R II
Dimensions151 x 116 x 76 mm (5.94 x 4.57 x 2.99″)152 x 116 x 76 mm (5.98 x 4.57 x 2.99″)146 x 123 x 82 mm (5.75 x 4.84 x 3.23″)127 x 96 x 60 mm (5 x 3.78 x 2.36″)
Weight890 g950 g980 g625 g
Resolution6720 x 4480 (30 MP)5760 x 3840 (22MP)7360 x 4912 (36 MP)7952 x 5304 (42 MP)
Video resolutionMotion JPEG 4096 x 2160 (1.74x crop) 30 fps, 1920 x 1080 60 fpsH.264 1920 x 1080 30 fps, 1280 x 720 60 fpsH.264 1920 x 1080 60 fpsH.264 3840 x 2160 30 fps, 1920 x 1080 60 fps
Continues shooting7.0 fps6.0 fps5.0 fps5.0 fps

About the Author

Denis ProtopopovLandscape, lifestyle and product photographer for the past 3 yearsView all posts by Denis Protopopov →

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