Alex Hare Photography

Canon EOS 5dMKIV Review

Posted on 11th May, 2018

Canon EOS 5dMKIV Review

I’ve just received a shiny new EOS 5DMKIV. This is a short user review aimed at helping anyone else thinking of buying one. 

In all honesty, I’d have been happy not to buy it; my two EOS 5DMKIII’s have served me well for about 4 years and I could have done without blowing the money on something like this.  My plan was to wait for the (inevitable) EOS 5DMKV and skip the MKIV altogether…

So why did I do it now then? Well, the 5DMKIII’s are starting to get a bit tired and worn with the odd error message creeping in.  The weather seal had started to go and the final straw was when the joystick/button on the back dropped off mid shoot on one of my bodies.

So it seemed a good time to trade in and take the residual value (which will only drop as time goes on) and pump it into a new camera.

Canon EOS 5dMKIV Review

My first foray with the camera at Ramsgate Harbour.  Shot at the very end of the blue light I expected the noise in the shadows to be excesive but a 100% view shows really good performance.

Canon EOS 5dMKIV Review

In terms of value, the 5DMKIV is pretty good; current prices are £3250 with a Canon cashback of £250 making it £3,000 all in.  That’s what I paid for my MKIII’s so it’s a cheaper camera, in real terms, with much more ooopmf under the bonnet.

So, why the 5DMKIV and not the EOS5DS R?  This is a tricky one.  The 5DS R is really aimed at those wanting super hi resolution files; it’s like a Ferarri in that it just goes really fast, faster than anyone else.  Whereas the MKIV has a lower resolution (but considerably more than my MKIII’s) together with more boot space, comfier seats and air con.  Really? No, but you get what I mean.  Let me explain.

I shoot video, I shoot in low light where noise is always a worry in the shadow areas and I shoot commercial photography that can require fast paced shooting with high frame rates. Here the MKIV trumps the 5DS R.

The video is 4K compared to the 1080p in the 5DS R, so here it’s a outright winner.  

Canon EOS 5dMKIV Review

For my landscape photography, the holy grail is to dispense with fiddly ND filters and capture the full range of tones in one single RAW file, where possible.  My initial experiences are that it’s far better than the MKIII in this respect and research suggests it’s also better than the 5DS R too.  In the shot above, this is the unprocessed RAW and the histogram indicated I'd just kept everything in at either end of the shadows and highlights.  Indeed, the processed file had all the data I needed to balance it out:

Canon EOS 5dMKIV Review

The other biggie is digital noise.  It’s no good capturing a big range of shadows and highlights if, when you extract the detail from those shadows its all grainy and noisy.  The simple technical fact is that a sensor is a fixed size (36x24mm) and so the more pixels you cram onto it the smaller the photo sites become. The smaller the photo sites are the weaker the digital signal is that they pick up from low light areas, and the greater the noise will be.  On this basis, the MKIV trumps the 5DS R because with the extra megapixels come smaller photosites less capable of delivering low noise levels in low light conditions.

In terms of user experience, the camera is fine; almost identical to the MKIII.  Yes, there’s some new features like GPS (drains the battery), wi fi, a built in intervelometer (max 99 shots, so pretty useless (that’s less than 4 seconds of time lapse footage)) so really it’s the extra pixels that are the major upgrade.  

The files are HUGE to the point that where I could get just over a 1000 from my MKIII on a 32 gig card whereas I now get around 650. Which means for a big job heavy on photos, like a week away in the Outer Hebrides, I’m going to need to buy bigger cards.  More expense, and not to mention the ‘L’ bracket I use to mount my MKIII onto my RRS ball head wont fit the MKIV…grrrr….that’s another £150 I wont see again!

Into the digital darkroom and the files are a whopping 86.1 megabytes.  And here is one of the advantages I had hoped for; more chance to crop a single frame to a sufficiently hi res panoramic.  Until now I have always shot a sequence of images and stitched them together to comprise a single, hi res, pano.  Now I can do a 3:1 aspect ration crop and generate a pano at 45 megabytes, enough to comfortably print at any realistic size.

Canon EOS 5dMKIV Review

On the camera itself, one thing that really annoys me is that you can’t assign the DoF preview button to show the spirit level in the view finder. This was an excellent feature on the MKIII and especially as when you pressed the assigned button it would flash red making levelling in low light really easy to see.  In the MKIV it only flashes red very briefly if you half res the shutter and you cannot activate it via an assigned button; it's just always there, or not there if you turn it off.  This lack of flexibility and functionality is a step backwards.  I have written a strongly worded letter to Canon…

So, all in all, the EOS 5DMKIV is a high end generalist camera offering super duper video, hi (but not the highest) res stills, fast-ish frame rates for action work and lots of AF options for tricky subjects like sports and wildlife all of which you mostly get in the MKIII.  For me, the only major attraction is the extra megapixels which, frankly, goes in the ‘Desirable’ column as opposed to the ‘must have’ column.  A client is very unlikely to reject my images because I don’t have the extra pixels.

Is the EOS 5DMKIV worth it?

I’m really not sure.  If you have a perfectly good MKIII and don’t mind running it into the ground I’d say no.  There isn’t enough new stuff or improvements to make it so much better it becomes a must have.  If you’re in my position and you can see the inevitable day when the camera gives up the ghost looming ever closer then I’d say try and limp on until a EOS 5DMKV (or whatever replaces the MKIV) comes out. 

With a giant hole in my camera from the button that fell off, this wasn’t an option for me, but I’ve kept my other MKIII because it’s still fine (so far…) and I can’t justify blowing another chunk of money just to get it replaced for the sake of a few extra megapixels.