Canon Announces the 5D Mark IV - Quick Assessment

Canon 5D Mark IV with new Canon 24-105/4 LS IS II

Canon 5D Mark IV with new Canon 24-105/4 LS IS II

I think the rumours about the 5D Mk IV started the day that the 5D Mark III was announced.  Since then, the now announced camera has been everything to everyone at all times.  With the official announcement all the speculation and "expert perspectives" can now just shut up.  Let's take a look at what Canon has announced.

Now while many manufacturers are interested in hearing what I have to say about their products and often provide me gear for evaluation, Canon is not one of them.  I have not seen a 5D Mark IV.  I have read the press release, but have not yet read the assessments, because I am content to make my own.

First Glance

Canon has announced the fourth camera in their popular and successful EOS 5D family.  Sometimes the next 5D is evolutionary, sometimes revolutionary and most of the time a combination thereof.

The body does not look much different from the 5D Mark III.  That's probably a good thing, because existing owners are clearly targeted as potential upgraders.

Announcement Assessment

The 5D Mark IV has a brand new 30.4 megapixel full frame sensor.  This is good for a couple of reasons.  With the new Digic 6+ CPU, it has the processing power to handle larger RAW files.  A new sensor could imply better noise management at higher ISOs.  A new sensor could imply greater dynamic range.  Certainly the marketing materials suggest this to be so.  Time will tell, and with enormous respect to Canon's Explorers of Light, they are somewhat motivated to say nice things.  I only know Lindsay Adler, and make no allusions to us being close buds, but she is a straight shooter and she seems impressed.  The Canon Explorers who talked about the 1Dx Mark II before it shipped were on target so that is a good reference.  No one says anything bad, but they do call out what they see as good.  My hope is that we see the same noise control or better than the 5D Mark III and with the dynamic range improvement that I can personally attest to in the 1D Mark II over the original 1Dx.  I hope this because Canon's foray into big megapixels (the 5Ds and 5DSr) are only good at really low ISOs and turn into noise factories very quickly.  Who cares about resolution if it looks like spatter.

The base ISO range is extended to 32000.  That's actually quite decent in a 30MP sensor.  I hope that the claims are accurate, unlike the alleged performance noise management boost in the 7D Mark II that is not actually there.  Many buyers don't understand flash or it scares them enough to only want to shoot ambient light.  A higher ISO range with a decent signal to noise ratio will appeal to people.

Familiar layout will make upgrades easy

Familiar layout will make upgrades easy

My personal driver is always dynamic range, and for the last couple of years, the Sony sensors used by pretty much all the competitors have been eating Canon's lunch.  Canon never produces dynamic range data, but soon enough the DXO folks will get it out there and I really hope it's an improvement over the existing 5D family.

The cameras as 61 AF points which is great and about 50 more than I will ever use.  So long as autofocus is fast, accurate and works in low light is all that really matters.  Canon did not document the EV range of the AF system.  Failing to provide this kind of useful data is irksome but I hope that they smarten up.  They do specify that the range of the metering system is EV 0 to EV 20.  There is nothing exciting there.  Next.

Shutter speed range is from 1/8000 to 30s, a fairly common range these days although some vendors manage to miss this boat.  Canon didn't.

Canon did not change their flash system at all with the new body and that's a good thing because high prices have slowed the adoption of their really quite superb radio controlled speedlites.  Canon's radio system is as easy to use as Nikon's superb CLS system but is not limited by line of sight.  If you are a strobist using multiple speed lights, Canon's system is awesome, presuming of course that you are using Canon bodies.

The camera is rated at a max burst rate of 7fps with a bunch of caveats posted.  None of the caveats exist to shirk or spin, I suspect that our immediate satisfaction, cannot read society necessitates this kind of CYA stuff.  That's not really the speed for jet aircraft but if you practice your craft is likely to be plenty fast enough.

I need to download the manual to discover what's under that seal on the lower left front, although I suspect it is a multi-pin connector for a network interface as is found on the 1Dx and 1Dx Mark II.

I need to download the manual to discover what's under that seal on the lower left front, although I suspect it is a multi-pin connector for a network interface as is found on the 1Dx and 1Dx Mark II.

Canon has placed their awesome dual pixel AF in the 5D Mark IV.  If you've ever shot video on a DSLR that has this and then tried on one that doesn't, you're likely to give up on video on the camera that doesn't.  Dual Pixel AF absolutely rocks.  Yes most pros pull focus manually.  But the majority of buyers who bother to even go into video, want AF that works and they will get it in this camera.

The camera can capture true 4K at up to 30fps known as 2160p30.  It can shoot Full HD at up to 60fps 1080p60 and HD at up to 120fps 720p120.  That's pretty good coverage in what is to all intents primarily a still camera.  Pushing the video any harder would have made overheating a real problem and even at 30p I wonder how the slow CF and SDXC buses will hold up to true 4K.  Oh wait, they won't because the capture mode for 4K is severely compressed Motion JPEG.  Do not expect 4K out of the 5D Mark IV to compare to the 4K out of a Sony FS-7 CINE camera, or even a Sony a7R Mark II.  However, with video as typically a secondary consideration, if considered at all, it's probably good enough.  Just because I disagree with a decision does not make it wrong.

One thing I really disagree with is having two completely different card slots in a single camera.  Canon got it right on the original 1Dx and then screwed the pooch on the 1Dx Mark II.  Real people do not want to carry two different card readers.  If you must choose the fragile SDXC format so people can stuff these cards into ports on their computers ok, but then give the customer two SDXC slots.  In my opinion, a camera at the price point (more on that) of the Canon 5D Mark IV should be dual CFast or dual XQD and live with it.  When Nikon released the D5 it comes in two flavours dual CF or dual XQD.  Yes the new card styles cost more, but you future proof yourself.  No one is future proofed with CF or SDXC.  I'm calling this a mistake right now.

Note the little AF pattern selector lever on the back beside the Q button

Note the little AF pattern selector lever on the back beside the Q button

The rear LCD is 3.2 inches, pretty standard and good enough to know that you got an exposure, but not large enough to confirm sharpness without a loupe or playing whackamole with the magnification buttons.  The LCD is a touchscreen as well.  Until I actually touch it, I can offer no opinion.  I only hope it is as actually usable as the touchscreen on the D5 and that I can turn it off if it isn't.  Looking at the press release image, you can see clearly that this screen does not tilt or flip.  This is not unexpected given the desire for weather sealing, but I really wish that a manufacturer would figure out how to do tilt and maintain weather sealing.  I couldn't give a poop about selfie flips, and the song and dance about how it lets you see yourself if you are filming a video is not particularly useful if you are more than three feet from the camera.

Looks very familiar to owners of the 5Ds

Looks very familiar to owners of the 5Ds

There is a USB port, which I believe is USB3 although the Canon spec sheet doesn't say.  There is also an HDMI C port out.  Again the specs at this point do not say if this is clean HDMI capable of being routed to a switcher or off board recorder without all manner of Info detritus being included.  I am guessing it will be clean, because that's available on the 7D Mark II and the 1Dx Mark II.  There is no indication that the HDMI port can push 4K.  It doesn't (stupid) on the 1Dx Mark II and it should on both.  Sony can make it work, so should Canon.  You can use the USB3 port to tether to Canon software and to Capture One and Lightroom with patch updates I would expect.  You can also use the USB as a connection for the older wireless adapter or to the Canon CS100 Connection Station.  The CS100 is nearly as dumb an idea as Nikon's Snapbridge but at least it's not mandatory.

For those who like a battery grip there is the BG-20 grip.  The battery is the proven LP-E6N that is used in most Canon large frame DSLRs and I commend Canon for not orphaning customers with a bag of spare batteries who choose to upgrade to the 5D Mark IV.

The biggest new thing is called Dual Pixel RAW.  I have read the description several times and still am not clear exactly what this does.  You can choose to capture images as Dual Pixel RAW images which must then be processed in Canon's Digital Photo Professional.  I really hope that this software has been completely rewritten because anyone who has had to use it seriously in the past usually takes up opioids or puts their eyes out with a sharp stick.  Horrible does not begin to describe...Anyways.  Once in DPP, you can now do image micro adjustment in detail areas, that I think means fix sharpness issues.  You can also apply Bokeh Shift which implies manipulating the effect of blur, even though Bokeh actually refers to out of focus highlights.  There is also Ghosting Reduction to deal with flare and to reduce aberrations.  Canon has also built lens corrections for Canon lenses, no idea which ones, directly into the camera.  This sounds similar to what Fujifilm has been doing for a bit, eliminating the need for the creative to apply lens corrections in post processing.  

I am confused about WiFi.  The specs say that WiFi is built in to support connection to Canon's app for iOS and Android, but if more "robust" WiFi is needed you can sell an organ to fund the stupidly expensive WFT-E7.  I think this means that the range of the built in WiFi is going to be severely limited.  I do use WiFi to control my C300 in the studio and it is very fast and effective and also participates on the Enterprise WiFi.  I suspect that you will have to drop coins on the WFT-E7 to get that level of useful functionality.

There is built in GPS as well.  The 7D Mark II has this, and I do hope that Canon has improved its power efficiency, because it's like a voracious weasel when on eating batteries like PEZ.  There are two modes for the GPS, always on, even when the camera is off, or on when the camera is on.  Nowhere in the specs does it say anything about disabling the GPS entirely.  I expect that the functionality is there, or it had better be.

Pricing And Availability

The camera body was announced today at $3499 USD, which looks like a $700 jump over the pricing on the 5D Mark III.  Whether the price bump is worth it to you, is entirely your call.  The current pricing equates it to the 5Ds body, and I think that for most shooters the 5D Mark IV will make a superior general purpose camera, but please understand that I really don't like the 5Ds.

Availability is scheduled for September 2016 and Canon is pleased to take pre-orders now direct as are all Canon resellers.  Given the amount of speculation and that the 5D Mark III is Canon's top selling prosumer camera, I expect sales to be solid so don't be thinking that the thing will go on sale until well after Christmas.

Canon also announced new versions of the proven 24-105/4 L and the 16-35/2.8 L lenses.  We will have to wait to see them to determine if the upgrade is worth doing.  Both preexisting lenses are excellent, so the new ones have big shoes to fill.