It’s been more than four years since the launch of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, and just head of this year’s Photokina trade show in Cologne we finally have a successor: the EOS 5D Mark IV.
While externally similar to the 5D III, and the higher-resolution 5DS/5DS R, the new EOS 5D Mark IV offers some significant internal improvements. We got our hands on a pre-production camera recently, and in this slideshow we’ll be giving you a quick overview of the key features.
The EOS 5D Mark IV will come in three kits: body only ($3499), with the 24-70 IS USM lens ($4399) or with the 24-105 IS II USM lens ($4599).
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV offers a roughly 30% increase in pixel count over its predecessor, and sits midway in terms of resolution between the EOS 5D III and the EOS 5DS/R, currently ‘best in class’ at 50MP. Nikon’s current ‘resolution’ flagship, the 36MP D810, offers a few more pixels but practically speaking the difference between 30MP and 36MP is likely to be pretty much academic.
The 5D Mark IV’s native ISO sensitivity span extends a touch higher than that of the EOS 5D III, covering ISO 100-32000. Its extended ISO sensitivity span, however, is identical to that of its predecessor, at 50-102400. Both cameras offer greater nominal low light sensitivity than the Nikon D810, which is capped at ISO 12800 natively, and can be extended to 51200.
New (and currently exclusive) to the EOS 5D IV is what Canon is calling ‘Dual Pixel Raw’. This mode uses the sensor’s Dual Pixel photo sites (more on that below) to effectively create two 30MP files from a single exposure. The resulting file can be adjusted in Canon’s Digital Photo Professional Software to slightly shift the point of critical focus.
The technology behind this feature is complex – it isn’t light field imagery, although the user experience is similar – and we’ll be digging into it more when we receive a fully reviewable camera, but for now we’d caution you not get your hopes up too high with respect to ‘image microadjustment’: the degree of re-focusability is miniscule, and this feature isn’t a replacement for proper AF microadjustment of your lenses.
Something old, something new, something borrowed… the EOS 5D Mark IV’s AF system is very closely related to that of the EOS 5D III, which itself inherited the 61-point AF array from the (then) flagship EOS-1D X. Vertical coverage has been expanded up to 24% though, and all points focus down to F8 with proper lens/teleconverter combos. Like the 5DS/R and 1D X series, there’s now a completely ‘auto’ AF point selection mode in AI Servo, which can be made to prioritize faces, thanks to the addition of Canon’s iTR (Intelligent Tracking and Recognition) system. iTR incorporates data from a 150,000-pixel metering sensor, to assist subject recognition and tracking.
In theory this should make the 5D IV better at identifying and maintaining focus on moving subjects, but from our (admittedly limited) use so far it seems to offer roughly the same performance as the EOS 5DS/R. Which is to say: not bad, but not great. The EOS 5D IV might prove somewhat more useful for fast action photographers than its predecessor, but when it comes to tracking, the Nikon D810 probably still offers the most capable autofocus system in this class. Obviously though, this is something we’ll be testing as soon as possible.
One key area where the EOS 5D IV outshines pretty much all DSLRs today is autofocus in live view and video. The Mark IV’s Dual Pixel AF system brings rapid and consistently reliable focus in both modes, and unlike the flagship EOS-1D X II, the 5D IV can offer continuous tracking in live view mode for stills, in addition to the incredible capable movie servo AF during video recording. Based on the time we’ve spent with preproduction Mark IV’s, we are very impressed with just how responsive the Dual Pixel system is – take a look at how easy it is to select subjects and track them reliably in our video here.
That sort of subject tracking outclasses the camera’s own viewfinder AF in some ways, not to mention the far greater frame coverage and accuracy of on-sensor AF. Frankly, Dual Pixel AF is so good we’d often prefer it over viewfinder AF (for anything but sports), but alas using a DSLR at arm’s length isn’t very practical.
By comparison, the contrast-detection live view and video AF system of most DSLRs, like the 5D III and all Nikon offerings, is slow, prone to hunting, and cannot offer any kind of reliable continuous focusing.
As far as handling is concerned, the EOS 5D IV offers a broadly similar experience to its predecessor. This is simple common sense on Canon’s part (minus the fact that all top shelf buttons have had their associated dials reversed), but the new camera isn’t just a re-heated version of the same old 5D-series ergonomics. For one thing, the 5D IV features a touch-sensitive, 3.2″ rear screen which, unlike the EOS-1D X II, is tightly incorporated into all key areas of the camera’s feature set.
From touching to focus in live view and video to quickly tapping to zoom into images after a shoot, the EOS 5D IV’s touchscreen makes a real – and very positive – difference to the camera’s handling compared to both the EOS 5D III and also competitive cameras like the Nikon D810 and Sony a7R II.
In classic Canon style, for all of the brand new features that the EOS 5D IV brings to the table, it inherits a few, too. One of the more welcome additions is an iteration on the EOS 7D II’s AF area selection toggle, just below and to the right of to the AF joystick on the rear of the camera. As with the 7D II, this button can be customized to fulfill one of various other functions, depending on the preferences of the photographer, albeit limited only to a set of options Canon thinks you should assign to it.
Hiding inside that comfy grip are dual slots for SD and CompactFlash media. As usual, media can be configured so that when two cards are installed, one acts as overflow storage, backup storage, or can be dedicated to either stills or video. Bear in mind though that the SD card slot is limited to UHS-I speeds (so you can’t use it to record 4K video).
That molding line on the EOS 5D Mark II’s pentaprism might look like the camera boasts a built-in flash, but it doesn’t. The very top of the pentaprism is polycarbonate, to accommodate the requirements of built-in WiFi and GPS. The EOS 5D IV is fully weather-sealed, and when paired with one of Canon’s L-series lenses, it should withstand shooting in tough conditions.
There are plenty of holes in the EOS 5D IV, but fortunately they’re physical, not figurative. As well as microphone and headphone monitoring sockets you’ll also find HDMI out, USB 3.0 and a conventional flash sync socket. Just under our hand model’s thumb is the port for a wired remote shutter release.
Speaking of video, the EOS 5D Mark IV becomes only Canon’s third DSLR to offer 4K video capture, in addition to a solid HD video feature set. As we’ve come to expect from 4K-capable DSLRs there is a crop factor at play in 4K video mode, though, and it’s fairly aggressive. At around 1.74x – it’s more aggressive than the Super 35mm format – which means that, at best, the field-of-view and noise performance will still be worse than some APS-C offerings like the Sony a6300. There’s also significant rolling shutter, more so than the 1D X II.
Neither the EOS 5D III nor Nikon D810 offer 4K, of course, and the EOS 5D IV’s combination of high-resolution video, full-time touchscreen interface and Dual Pixel AF make it one of the most capable DSLRs for video at this point in time. Which makes the lack of proper video tools – like zebras, peaking, or Log gamma modes – all the more frustrating.
Clean HDMI out is possible in HD, but not for 4K. Like the EOS-1D X Mark II, 4K recording is only possible in the highly inefficient Motion JPEG format, but according to Canon, this is deliberate, as it offers easy stills extraction from a 4K timeline – essentially enabling 30 fps 8.8MP JPEG capture (assuming favorable shooting conditions, considering the rolling shutter). Still, the option for a more efficient codec for video use would have been useful.
The Canon EOS 5D Mark II uses the very familiar LP-E6N battery, rated at 900 shots per charge (CIPA).
A new dedicated grip, known as the BG-E20 ($349), doubles your battery life and offers additional controls for shooting in the portrait orientation.
The EOS 5D IV is launched alongside a brand new 24-105mm F4 IS L II USM kit zoom, and a Mark III version of the 16-35mm F2.8 (pictured above). These lenses retail for $1099 and $2199 respectively, and both are scheduled for October availability.
Compared to its predecessor, the EOS 5D IV is improved in virtually every way. Compared to the EOS 5DS/R, while the Mark IV can’t quite match their resolving power, it outpaces them in terms of speed, and of course a much richer video feature set.
Nikon’s D810 is the EOS 5D Mark IV’s most obvious competitor, but although it’s been on the market for quite some time, it’s still very competitive in several areas. Where the EOS 5D IV scores over the D810 is video specification (obviously) and some aspects of handling. Thanks to Dual Pixel AF, the EOS 5D IV much more fun to use in video and live view modes, but the addition of a touchscreen makes some operations – like focus in live view and image review – quicker and easier than they are with the D810’s more traditional button-based ergonomics.