Canon 5D Mark IV Review
Whether you shoot Nikon or Canon, the past couple years have been pretty interesting for us wedding and portrait photographers.
I watched for the first time as Canon shooters contemplated making the switch over to Nikon, and Nikon shooters sat back and bragged about their ability to shoot in the dark.
The Canon 5D Mark III started to really show its age over the past couple years while Nikon released several new cameras that simply put it to shame in a number of areas. Dynamic range, high ISO, and low light Autofocus just to name a few.
Canon 5D Mark IV Review Summary
Rugged, weather-proof DSLR with excellent ergonomics and handling, producing impressive results at low-medium ISO levels, with impressive dynamic range. A big leap in features over its predecessor, the Mark IV offers a larger 31.7MP sensor, expanded sensitivity, Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus, 4k Video, touchscreen, Wifi, GPS and more.
Professional Wedding photographers shooting the Canon 5D Mark III and heavily invested into the Canon system were faced with a decision. Continue to wait for Canon to come around with an update to the Mark III, or give into frustration and make the move to Nikon.
It honestly felt like watching all 6 seasons of The Game of Thrones. Season after season, always hearing that winter is coming. Finally, after 6 long seasons, winter finally came. It was brutal.
Many Canon shooters gave in, as the waiting dragged on and on with no real sign of an update coming. Others held out, ignoring all the rumors that Canon had simply given up on the 5D series.
On August 25, of 2016, those who held out were nicely rewarded for their patience, as the Canon 5D Mark IV was finally announced.
(Related: Canon 5D Mark IV vs 6D Mark II)
The Nikon D750 Influence
The camera that really threw a wrench in things and caused the biggest stir, was the Nikon D750. It was the camera that Nikon shooters rejoiced over – I did as well.
It hit the market with industry leading dynamic range capabilities, impressive ISO performance, very impressive AF, improved colors, and a pricetag that was half that of the Canon 5D Mark II.
The Nikon D750 was the camera that ended up being too tempting for many frustrated 5D shooters. It was the camera that most made the jump to. I wrote this review on the Nikon D750 and raved about how much of a game changer it was.
However, if I had the time to re-write that review today, it would be a little different.
It was plagued with recall after recall, some not that big of a deal, some more crippling though such as mirror lockups. I however ended up buying 4 of them, at all different times, and while others complained about issues, I simply didn’t have any and continued to speak highly of it.
Fast forward a little more than a year, and while shooting the bride walking down the aisle, BAM, shutter locks up. Pop battery out, back in, still nothing. Luckily, and ironically as it may sound, I had a Canon 6D I was testing at the time on my other hip. Thank God.
Long story short, all 4 of my D750’s started giving me issues after time. I couldn’t trust any of them, and they became a liability.
I know there are many of you that are reading this saying… that sucks for you, but I love my Nikon D750 and it has never given me issues.
Well, congratulations, but honestly, give it time. I have spoke with way too many photographers who had problems, as well as camera store owners.
I had to make a decision as a Nikon shooter- switch to the Nikon D810 or the Nikon D5. There were really no other options. The Nikon D810 is a camera I have owned in the past, and sold because I simply didn’t love it. The colors left much to be desired, and ultimately the size of the 36 megapixel files was overkill and slowed down my editing.
The Nikon D5 was the direction I was leaning, as I had Nikon send me one to test, and it was the only real alternative to what I needed in a camera.
However, I hate shooting with the flagship size body – it’s too big and awkward for me. Also, I didn’t like that I had to spend $6500 on a camera simply because I was left with no other options.
The Release of the Canon 5D Mark IV
Luckily for me, and for all the Canon shooters just about ready to give up on them, the Canon 5D Mark IV was announced. I held off on making my Nikon D5 purchase and got my hands on the Canon right away.
After a month of shooting the hell out of it, my Nikon gear was up for sale, and for the first time in my career I officially became a Canon shooter. Not just me, but my wife as well. This was the reason that I chose to put together this Canon 5D Mark IV review for Shotkit.
Canon came through, and while many critics have claimed that it was just another upgrade to the 5D line, I can tell you this one is different.
This is the one that gave me everything I needed in one camera, and made me not feel the need to shoot both systems anymore. As a photographer who has had the privilege of testing just about any camera I’ve wanted for the past 3 years, this is the most impressive one I’ve shot to date.
Even more so than the Nikon D5 – there, I said it.
Not because of anything groundbreaking, but simply because it engineered a camera that has just about everything a portrait or wedding photographer can need, or even want, in a single camera.
It’s very obvious that Canon listened to their users when engineering the 5D Mark IV. They produced a camera with a sensor capable of impressive dynamic range, clean high ISO, as well as the best the autofocus system ever in a Canon body.
They also gave us an awesome touch screen LCD which makes Liveview focusing a beautiful feature.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still a few things that I would have liked to have seen. I do miss the tilt-screen LCD and better battery life of the Nikon D750, but overall it’s pretty damn impressive.
The Same Old Canon 5D
When Nikon shooters waited and waited for an upgrade to the Nikon D700, a very popular camera tagged as the mini-D3, I can tell you that it still hasn’t come. The Nikon D750 was a pro sensor in a cheap prosumer body that felt awkward to anyone used to the Nikon professional body and design.
Nikon shooters still hope that they will get a true D700 replacement one day, or a mini-D5. Canon did exactly what Nikon should have done, and that is built on what works, and what professional photographers already love.
Canon kept the same body, for most part, it’s hard to tell the difference between the 5D Mark III and Mark IV. It did however, add a new button on the back that is extremely helpful, as well as add a touchscreen LCD.
Besides the body, and a familiar menu, everything else about the camera was upgraded to the point that you’re not left wanting more.
Lastly, and most importantly, the new and improved sensor of the 5D Mark IV still produces those beautiful colors and skin tones that photographers have always loved about the 5D series.
I did find that they are slightly different than the MarkIII’s colors, but with each new 5D came slightly different colors.
Bottom line, they are still the impressive colors you would expect from a 5D series camera, the biggest reason I started shooting it to begin with.
Shooting in the Dark
Like most of my reviews, I’m not going to get into extreme detail about how the Canon 5D Mark IV compares head to head with every other camera on the market. Instead, I’m going to ask you to trust my unbiased opinion on this subject.
Unlike most reviews you will read, I not only earn a living from photography, but I have shot with every professional Nikon and Canon camera on the market over the past 6 years. This review is totally unbiased.
Neither are groundbreaking by any means, but it puts the 5D Mark IV in the same league now as the industry leading cameras on the market.
Previous 5D series cameras, including the 5D Mark III, were plagued with god aweful banding when shadows were pushed more than 2 or 3 stops. With the 5D Mark IV, it’s pretty difficult to find any banding at all when pushed even 5 stops.
The dynamic range upgrade is by far the most impressive, and shadow recovery gives you the ability to underexpose and save highlights now when you want to – something that Nikon shooters have enjoyed for a few years now.
Many Canon shooters will tell you that the 5D series sensors were always impressive at recovering highlights, better than Nikon sensors, and the Canon 5D Mark IV is no different.
The ISO performance is quite good as well. I wouldn’t say that it’s leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor, but it’s a nice and welcoming improvement.
There is noticeably less noise, while doing a better job of preserving detail and colors. ISO 12,800 is now useable, and 64,000 is more than useable, both being comparable to the Nikon D750.
In the image below, I purposely took this shot while testing the camera to see how it would perform at ISO12,800. I was pretty happy with the results, and you can see by the fully edited image below it that it would be more than good enough to deliver if I had to.
The fact is, many will ask if the Dynamic Range and ISO upgrades were enough to keep up until the next 5D upgrade. We all know that Nikon and Sony will be releasing their next low-light monster this year, or at least that is what I would expect.
For myself, and I know a lot of other working photographers out there will agree with me, do we really NEED much more? I know that I don’t, and the only upgrade that I would like to see over the next year or two as far as Canon and Nikon are more along the lines of the sensor size.
For the full-frame sensor, I have more than enough to get the job done.
Right now, the Nikon D5 is the king of AF, and it really is mind blowing how good it is. But, if you’ve never shot with it, you really don’t know how good an AF system can be. Being that I have, I honestly never expected Canon to come anywhere close to it with the Canon 5D Mark IV.
Well, they came close. While it’s not as good as the D5, it’s pretty impressive that it is as good or better than any other Nikon body, including the D750.
In writing this review, I realised that the new and improved AF system is my favorite feature of the camera. Having improved DR and clean ISO is nice, but only if you can nail the focus.
Even more impressive is the Live-view AF, which to me is better than the Nikon D5. The LCD of the 5D MarkIV is touchscreen, and unlike the $6500 Nikon flagship camera, you can actually use the touchscreen to focus.
The Live-view AF utilizes a completely new tech called Dual Pixel, and along with face recognition and incredible tracking, Live-view has quickly become my go-to.
It’s extremely easy to touch the screen and lock focus on a face while in tracking mode, and nail the focus with quick moving subjects – everything from a bride walking down the isle to a young kid jumping around in a lifestyle family shoot.
While I didn’t really know what to expect from the touch screen, I can tell you that it is far from being just a gimmick.
The touch screen not only comes in handy when going through the menu, or swiping through images, but using it for Live-view AF is now my jam.
I use it all the time, and it allows me to hold the camera away from my eye, which is extremely helpful for getting your camera in awkward positions. While a tilt-screen would have made this even more useful, I’m hoping the Canon 6DII will have one.
It honestly makes me never want to shoot any other Canon or Nikon camera in Live-view again. The only other camera that I have shot with that has similar tech is the $7500 Leica SL mirrorless camera.
Other Features that Impress…
A few little things also helped make the 5D Mark IV even more impressive. The extra button on the back can be customized to change the ISO, so you can hold it down and make quick adjustments with the dial.
It was a little more difficult than that with the previous 5D series bodies, those who shoot Canon know what I mean.
Another cool feature is the Auto White Balance adjustments that can be made. You now have the ability to adjust the temperature of the AWB to fit how you like to shoot.
Whether you like your images a little warmer, a bit more on the cool side, or even just more magenta. You now have the ability to adjust it.
Wifi is a nice feature to have, and while I haven’t used it much, I have a few times. So far I’ve used it for transferring files to edit on my iPad Pro while at a wedding for a same day slideshow, as well as posting to Instagram while still at the wedding.
Some might use this feature more than others, some might not ever use it at all.
In-camera double exposures via Liveview is also a feature that I use a good amount, a feature that Nikon still to this day does not offer.
This isn’t new to the Canon 5D Mark IV, but the touchscreen is a welcome addition to performing this technique.
At the Mystic Seminars last year, I spoke to the Nikon rep who was there to show off the new flagship D5 and all its fancy new features.
I asked him about using Liveview for double exposures and he laughed at me, and tried to tell me that no one would use that.
Well, obviously I was proven wrong, apparently, no one needs to do in-camera double exposures anymore now that we have Photoshop…!
Dual Pixel RAW
With the 5D Mark IV announcement, Canon bragged about this new groundbreaking Dual Pixel RAW that would give users the ability to adjust the focus point in post-production. I have yet to use it for real shooting, and I don’t plan to use it either.
You have to shoot at a crazy high file size, and obviously not knowing when it will come in handy, always have it enabled, it’s just not a realistic option.
So, don’t buy into this one, at least not where the tech is now.
What’s Still Missing on the Canon 5D Mark IV?
Like I mentioned earlier, I do miss the tilt-screen of the Nikon D750. I’m hoping that Canon implements one on their rumored 6D upgrade.
If they do, and it has the same AF as the Canon 5D Mark IV, I’ll more than likely be picking one up.
Another feature I would have liked to of seen is auto lens calibration. It’s a nice and helpful feature of the Nikon D5, and although it’s something that I think comes in a little more handy with Nikon lenses, I still wish that Canon had given us the feature in the MarkIV.
On the topic of lenses, check out this selection of the 9 best Canon lenses – some of the budget-priced ones may surprise you.
There’s really not much more to say in this review, other than the Canon 5D Mark IV was worth the wait. It is a camera that is unlike anything in the Nikon line-up, the closest thing to it being the $6500 flagship D5.
I made the switch to Canon knowing full well that Nikon will most likely be releasing an upgrade to the D750 and the D810, and I am completely fine with that.
I don’t see Nikon giving the D750 upgrade a professional body like the D810, because no one would buy the D810. I also don’t see it having too many features better than the D5, and unless it does, it really won’t be that impressive.
I always said that if Canon would just improve on the AF, DR, and ISO performance of the Mark III, I would make the switch. I simply felt that Canon had always done a better job with everything else, especially with the colors and skin tones. Well, they did just that, and I stuck to my word.
If you are a Nikon shooter, you either aren’t reading this ’cause you don’t care, or you are frustrated like I was.
Personally, I have been telling every Nikon shooter to wait and see what Nikon has in store for you in 2017. My fingers are crossed for you that they give you an all around awesome camera, not 2 or 3 that each do something better than the other.
The bottom line, with where technology is today, the camera you are shooting with right now is more than enough to get the job done.
If you have the money and want the best, than test out your options and see what you personally like to shoot with. Just do yourself a favor, use what you have, and get out there and shoot.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.