The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Is Here

…so why won't I be buying it (for video anyway)?

Post updated January 2018: First of all, let me start by saying that if the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV was around £1200 cheaper and had no video functionality whatsoever, I would have bought it in a heartbeat.

Being a Canon "fan", I have waited a long time for this announcement. In the past I have owned the D30, 10D, 20D, 40D, 1D Mark II, 1D Mark III, 7D, 5D and 5D Mark II (and rented the 7D Mark II and 5D Mark III).

At first glance I was disappointed with some aspects. However, I was happy overall with the innovative stills photography side of things but on further inspection, I feel a bit "meh" after learning more about the video. There may be one saving grace that will entice me to buy the Mark IV.

If the egg-heads at Magic Lantern can address some of the issues with regards to video mentioned below, I will happily buy the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV!

Canon EOS 5D IV

When I bought the Canon EOS 5D Mark II in 2009, it was probably the best camera I had used. Putting it's simplicity aside, the main reasons being the incredible 1080p HD footage it produced. Footage from the full frame sensor (a first from a DSLR in its day) and also the stunningly sharp and accurate image files that it gave me.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III

When the 5D Mark III was rumoured, I thought "yes!" and had high expectations. Especially with regard to image quality and updated video specs as many manufacturers were cottoning on to the popularity of 4K and "hybrid" cameras (photo and video).

However, there was no 4K video. Plus, as hard as I tried, I could not quite match or beat the quality from the 5D Mark II and the resolution was the same too. I even hired a 5D Mark III for a wedding last month and was fairly disappointed. Therefore, upgrading for me was not really worth it as there was no real difference or improvement in image quality.

So, when the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV was finally released, I was hoping it would not only match my expectations, but possibly surpass them. After all, Panasonic, Sony and other manufacturers were throwing out exceptional cameras. Some with full frame, 4K video recording.

EOS 5D Mark IV First Glance

When I first saw the specs, I was very impressed. well, except for the 4K video only being 30p max frame rate and 1080p Full HD only having 60fps (with 120fps reserved for the barely-used-these-days 720p HD).

The basic specs as a stills camera are impressive:

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    30.4MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
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    Dual CF and SD Cards (No CFast through)
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    DIGIC 6+ Image Processor
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    3.2" 1.62m-Dot Touchscreen LCD Monitor
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    61-Point High Density Reticular AF
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    Native ISO 32000, Expanded to ISO 102400
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    Dual Pixel RAW; AF Area Select Button
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    Dual Pixel CMOS AF and Movie Servo AF
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    7 fps Shooting; CF & SD Card Slots
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    Built-In GPS and Wi-Fi with NFC

There are a few things to get excited with the EOS 5D Mark IV. However, take note that this remains a stills camera and is not geared towards professional videographers as you will see later.

30.4MP Full Frame CMOS Sensor

This was expected but I secretly hoped Canon would increase this a little. Especially seeing as the 5D Mark II in 2008 had 21mp although this is still more than enough for most photography these days. Even though I have said Megapixels don't matter, more can be good when it comes to large, increasingly demanding corporate clients and stock photography.

The resolution increase of this amount is not a reason for me to upgrade in a hurry but is not bad. Not for most wedding, portrait and commercial stills photographers. However, with the 1DX Mk II only having 20mp and the Sony A7R II having 42mp and the 5DSR with 50mp, I hoped there might be more. 40-50 perhaps (long live the megapixel race ; )

Dual Pixel Raw

Dual Pixel Raw, which allows minor adjustments to be made to focus during post processing is superb! This is depending on the amount of depth of field or focus you have at your disposal. I won’t go into too much detail but this is a great new feature. It allows you to shift the bokeh (blur) around for improved composition and reduce the impact of "ghosting" on your images.

Note: This feature requires the use of Canon's Digital Photo Professional 4.5 software.

LCD Rear Screen (But No Articulation)

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Rear

Canon have finally introduced a touch screen rear LCD monitor. This is great for focussing during video recording (including adjustable focus transition speeds). Also for menu navigation and zooming in on your images once taken etc.

My biggest gripe is that Canon have still not cottoned on that an articulated rear screen is needed. It is best for using live view when filming and is absolutely necessary when shooting at awkward angles. I read somewhere that the reason for no articulation is to do with weather sealing…

ISO

I'll be keen to see how the native ISO 32000 fairs in low light such as weddings and whether ISO 102400 is usable. Shooting in darkness lower than a dim church is never something I have done much without a tripod.

However, good quality images at high ISO is something I love for sports or fast moving subjects. This allows me to use a long telephoto lens with super fast shutter and small aperture without worrying about quality. But nailing shots every time.

All the other new features actually make this a superb stills camera. Anyone upgrading purely for stills photography should consider the 5D Mark IV except for one thing. The price (more on this later).

Video Features

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Sides

I started in this industry as a stills photographer through and through. This was shooting weddings, commercial contracts, portraits and so on. I've used 35mm and medium format film cameras right through to high resolution DSLR's.

However, since around 2007, I have been more and more involved with video to the point where it is now a huge part of my business. I think there are a lot of other photographers out there heading the same way.

For example, at the last wedding I shot, I used two stills cameras and 4 video cameras to capture all the action:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Sony PMW EX1
  • Panasonic GH4 with Atomos Ninja Flame
  • DJI Inspire 1 with X5 Camera
  • Go Pro HD Hero 4 Black

For the past few years, I have been dreaming of the EOS 5D Mark IV. Dreaming about what it could do to incorporate everything I need into one camera. I was thinking of buying two or three of them to replace some of the above.

Is the 5D Mark IV what the Mark III should have been?

The 5D Mark IV as is stands is what I was expecting the Mark III to be and had this been released back then, I would have been all over it. However, time and technology has moved on. Other manufacturers have joined the fun and expectations have grown.

It seems Canon have either missed the point or are purposely pushing film-makers in one direction and stills photographers in the other with regards to their line up of cameras. If that is the case, I sincerely wish that Canon had made this a pure stills camera with no video at all.

And a much lower price.

That to me would make sense as I cannot remember the last time I used the video on my 5D Mark II despite it being so good! I think that because Canon, albeit accidentally, got the video so right with the Mark II, many of us have come to expect too much from the video side of things.

So, Video on the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

First and foremost, the EOS 5D range gets 4K video…

Again, this is what I expected the Mark III to have but for me, and many others who shoot video, this is way too little and way too late. Why?

Bit Rate

The bit rate for 4K video on the Mark IV is a whopping 500mbps which is huge. The codec (wrapper) is MJPEG which an old format that dates back to the 90's. This means that at 500mbps, the 4k file sizes will be massive but this large bit rate is required to prevent the MJPEG files from "falling apart".

As a comparison, a 46 second, 100mbps, 4K video clip from the Panasonic GH4 (newer codec H.264/MP4 or MOV) has a file size of 530mb. Therefore the same length clip from the Mark IV will be in the GB's.

To reduce this file size, if the EOS 5D Mark IV used a bit rate of 100mbps data rate (like the GH4) with MJPEG, the footage quality would be very poor indeed and more than likely unusable.

Another big issue I have is that with the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV I cannot output the 4K signal to an external recorder. This would allow me to use different codecs other than the crappy MJPEG.

With my (sub £1000) Panasonic GH4, I can record externally at 4:2:2 Pro Res HQ. This produces enormous files that are broadcast quality. Still, I can always wait another 4 years while Sony release a new camera every 18 months ; )

Frame Rates

Again, a huge disappointment for me:

  • 4K at 25/30fps
  • 1080p Full HD at 60fps
  • 720p HD at 120fps

This is so dated and only matches the aging Go Pro HD Hero 4 Black which has been out for 2 years. In fact the Go Pro 4 beats the 5D Mark IV for frame rates. It can shoot 2.7k at 50/60fps, 1080/720p at 120fps and 848 x 480p at 240fps!

I expect the HD Hero 5, and many other cameras about to be released (Panasonic GH5), to have much better frame rates. At least more choice.

The 5D Mark IV frame rates are poor in comparison for a DSLR that will be around for about 4 years before the next generation 5D is released.

Video Crop

Here is the kicker…and quite misleading in the launch. The 5D Mark IV is basically marketed as a full frame camera that shoots cutting edge 4K video.

When the Canon EOS 5D Mark II was released, it utilised the full frame sensor to produce wonderful, full frame 1080p HD footage. It was ground-breaking.

Many people, including me, were so excited to see 4K video on the full frame sensor of the 5D Mark IV. It would produce the most amazing footage in a world where most people will have a 4K TV soon. My 16mm L glass would produces super wide angle, 16mm 4K video. Lovely, or so I thought.

Canon though, have decided to only use a portion of the Mark IV sensor for 4K footage which means there is a 1.74x crop at 4K. Unreal and unforgivable these days!

This means my 16mm lens (16-35L 2.8) will suddenly become a 28mm lens losing all that wide loveliness.

Even my Panasonic GH4 with Metabones Speedbooster and same Canon 16mm lens produces 4k footage with the equivalent focal length of 26mm. That is 16mm x2.3 for M43 crop at 4K and x0.71 for the Speedbooster giving a smaller crop factor of 1.64x. ​And that is on a M43 sensor!

I truly think Canon missed a trick and messed up there. What a shame and it seems like I am not the only one disappointed with the video features:

Other Video Gripes

As well as the above, and not limited to, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is also lacking the following:

  • C-Log mode - NO (yet)
  • Peaking - NO
  • Zebras - NO

C-Log allows video to be recorded in a flat profile which gives you more to work with when grading footage. Peaking is a useful feature that turns all "in focus" areas of the scene either blue, red or green depending on your preference. To assist with critical focussing.

Zebra stripes show you areas of the scene that are being clipped or overblown with regards to highlights. All missing from the 5D Mark IV but present in the Panasonic GH4 and now GH5!

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Top

Price

Here we go…the biggest kicker of all (for us Brits anyway).

  • Price in the USA - $3,499 (£2660 at today's exchange rate)
  • Price in the UK - £3,599 ($4,727 at today's exchange rate)

Even taking into account VAT, that is £400 ($530) more than in the USA!!!

No thanks…

However, there may be one thing that will convince me to buy this camera. Like I said earlier, if those boffins at Magic Lantern can work their magic and improve certain aspects mentioned above, I will more than likely buy the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Summary and Thoughts

I have to admit I feel a little deflated regarding the video features.

I am a huge 5D fan and have waited a long time for this release. Like I said earlier, maybe I wanted or expected too much but in a fast moving world (where even the cameras on Smartphones produce incredible footage from a host of funky features), I hoped Canon would make the 5D Mark IV all things to all men (and women of course ; )

If you live in the USA and are a stills photographer, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is great. It is a beautiful DSLR packed full of great features (as long as the image quality is up to par which I am sure it will be).

If you live in the UK and are a stills photographer that can either travel to the US or get a relative to buy it for you...or if you don't mind the cost, it is a great camera and a worthy upgrade even from the Mark III.

If you are like me and have introduced video into your workflow with big clients who have high expectations, there are better alternatives with regards to video. However, the more I read about the still photography, the more I am warming to this camera.

Alternatives

Me, for stills I have been seriously thinking about getting either the full frame 50mp Canon EOS 5DSR for £2,275. That includes shipping. Or the full frame Sony A7R II for £2,400 which has amazing 4K video too. Then there's the "about to be released" Panasonic GH5 (now released) for high end 4K video which will be around £1300.

(I wish I could justify £5k for the 1Dx Mark II. Still a bit bulky and also uses MJPEG 8-bit video, although...hmmm *thinking*)

The Panasonic GH5 is reliably rumoured to include some very interesting upgrades. Upgrades such as 5 axis in-body sensor stabilisation and 4:2:2 10-bit internal 4K recording producing incredible 4K footage. When you bear in mind that I had to pay £1200* for an external recorder to get that quality from the GH4, this is huge.

Edit 2017: The Panasonic GH5 is everything I hoped it would be and more.

*Entirely justified purchase as I have had to produce high quality 4K footage for the a Pinewood Studios company and various other high end media companies : )

So, by buying these two cameras for pretty much the same price as the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, I could get a high end, high resolution 50mp/42.4mp stills camera (with all I need purely for stills with great 1080p HD or 4K video thrown in) plus the amazing GH5 that could possibly have 6K video and 4K at 60fps, 1080p at 120/240 fps and so on…

Conclusion

Gone are the days where I need to stick with one manufacturer for photography and video. Professional or otherwise. I can now use my old, trusty Canon L glass on Sony and Panasonic cameras with no loss of quality. Plus I can use cool software to match colour space and style with my video.

My 5D Mark II is now 7 years old. All my Canon L glass is 10 years old or more (but still going strong). One of my video cameras (Sony PMW EX1) is now around 7 years old. However, the Sony did film non stop for 4 and a half days recently so I am loathed to sell such a reliable and loyal camera.

Edit:   Sony now sold since the GH5 came out : )

I am about to go through all my equipment and have a sale to make way for a new set up which I think will finally comprise of:

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    Existing Canon EOS 5D Mark II (still love it) for stills
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    Sony a7R II for stills and occasional 4K video OR the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV (brain is hurting on this choice)
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    Existing Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4K for 4K video
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    Panasonic GH5 for better, faster, higher bit rate 4K video
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    Existing DJI Inspire 1 Pro Drone/DJI OSMO for aerial/car mounted 4K video
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    Existing GoPro HERO 4 Black Edition for "mounted anywhere" 4K video (but could be replaced when they finally release the Hero 5). Edit 2017: It was : )

Two stills cameras purely for weddings, commercial and other professional photography. Four video cameras purely for commercial work with media studios, TV, promotional videos, interviews, aerial work and so on.

The above should cover that lot and keep me going (and current) for a good few years once more!

End Note

Please understand that all of the above is purely based on my wants, dreams and needs. As a professional photographer and videographer looking to upgrade his equipment, I need innovative kit. As I said before, the 5D Mark IV for many people is a superb camera and very highly recommended for pure stills photographers who like the idea of trying out 4K video.

For me, it just doesn't suit the direction that my video business is heading. That includes the need for quality 4K video that is potentially being used on TV. For stills, and from the samples I have seen already, it is superb.

If you like this article, found it helpful and think your friends might like it, please comment, share, like and tweet it below...thanks : )

About the author

Nick

Professional photographer and videographer for more than 30 years and all round photography, video and gadget geek. Shooting ground and aerial wedding, stock and commercial photography (and video) in the UK and Europe.Please note: As an Amazon Associate and affiliate for other companies, I earn from qualifying purchases from some links used in this website. You don't pay any more but the commissions earned means I can keep adding to the website and offer free training etc. I.e. they pay my costs. Thank you.


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