Ok so finally Canon have got around to launching the 5D Mark IV … it’s been 4 years since the Mark iii arrived and we expected something special from Canon. Have they achieved that?
In all honestly the answer for me personally is no!
That said the reality is that everyone has different needs and the camera may be more suited to your specific needs. Not to mention I am going to buy a Mark IV anyway .. but let me explain more about what I’m bothered by the choices Canon have made. First of all I want to make a bold statement. That statement is that there is little opportunity for stills photographers to exist within a stills only vacuum. The reality is that most people need to film footage on an increasingly regular basis .. professional photographers and amateur alike. These days most people need to create video for vlogs, social media, marketing and online advertising and without doubt this will only increase in the coming years … so an all round camera has to be just that. Truly all round. The Canon 5D series has always been noted as the film DSLR of choice in the range since the first inception of video included into the unit. Which leads me to the the question have Canon done everything possible to make this unit amazing for photographers who film on the side. Again .. the answer is no.
Outdated Codec – I highlight this because it will probably be one of the biggest pains in the backside for many people. The chosen codec of motion Jpeg is a dated one at best. A 256gb card will be required to film an hours worth of 4k footage … it is just a very inefficient way to generate footage. Not only does this generate storage issues but also this isn’t a very NLE friendly codec for editing … compounded by the already existing need for ass kicking power to edit 4k footage in the first place. H264 would have been a better option at a minimum. So why did Canon choose this codec? Well probably because it is easy to take a frame from within the footage to use as a single 8.8mp photo … which gives 30 fps possibility at that resolution. So a great choice for stills photographers but not a great option for videographers.
The next issue is there is a crop factor on the sensor when using video … so no longer FULL FRAME … your wide angle lenses will no longer be wide angle when using video. Not to mention that if you want to switch between stills and video you will be operating at different focal lengths with the compositional problems that brings or you will have to change a lens. This is a major failing in my eyes. Why have they done this? Probably to reduce the need processing requirement within the camera .. taking a section of the sensor is going to be easier for the camera to manage than trying to scale down the full sensor size to a 4k image … maybe heat became a factor for Canon’s engineers but the end result is something which is far from ideal, especially in a camera at this price. On the 4k subject the camera also cannot output 4k to an external recorder and whilst this may not be a problem for everyone it is without doubt a limitation still. Annoying at best. I’m not sure where Canon go from here with regards to this. If they have encountered a currently insurmountable problem with creating full frame 4K then that doesn’t inspire confidence as other manufacturers have solutions. If they have done this to help protect some of their high end video camera sales then that feels like they are selling their customer base short. The issues don’t end there though.
Canon have also kept the standard CF and SD slot. No UHS 2 support and no Cfast. No real improvements there and that is disappointing. It may create issues if you want to record 4k to the SD card … I’d stick with the CF card for 4k recording in all circumstances to be fair. So let’s talk about 1080p.
There are improvements in the fps at 1080p over the Mark iii but in reality I am not convinced that these go far enough. When GoPro can manage 240fps with a £300 camera I’d expect a £3000 camera to match or beat those figures. Canon can do 60fps at 1080p and 120fps at 720p but that isn’t significant enough in my eyes. I’d have expected a minimum 120 fps at 1080p but 240fps would have been nice.
Another surprise for me is that Canon haven’t gone with an articulated screen on this camera. With video becoming increasing important Canon clearly feel that the typical user of this camera will probably have external field monitors however I think excluding an articulated screen is an omission .. simply because it offers so much more opportunity for filming in the field, or on the fly when you aren’t carrying lots of gear with you. It also allows whoever is operating the camera to flick the screen over and give the presenter a quick view of the composition and just generally would be a much improved option for workflow.
The autofocus system on the surface seems unchanged from the Mark iii however there have been changes there and it’s an updated system borrow from the 1DX series cameras. There’s greater coverage of the cross points and that will definitely offer a benefit. Dual Pixel should also be a big advantage to videographers helping to keep people and subjects in focus and allowing to adjust focus via the new touchscreen. Haven’t had my hands on the 5D Mark IV yet but the implementation in other Canon camera’s is very good and a feature which is a significant improvement over the Mark iii.
Canon have gone to 30.4mp with the Mark IV which is an improvement over the Mark iii’s 22.4 mp … but with the increase in mp, Canon have only made marginal improvements with the ISO range though I expect the files to be cleaner at any given ISO … of course that will be proven when I have had chance to put the camera through some testing in different conditions at different ISO’s. The increase in resolution is welcome but again it would have been nice to see a boost in ISO range. Especially with this camera being a go to choice for wedding photographers and photo journalists who probably would have welcomed less of an increase in mp if they were to gain in the ISO range. The trade off is of course a personal choice. There are other higher resolution options within the 5D range of course and if speed is a requirement with higher resolution then there is the 1DX Mark ii … albeit at a premium price.
Canon has taken the Mark IV to 7 shots per second however, which is up from the Mark iii’s 6. The screen is improved in resolution but retains the same size as the previous model but canon have added WiFi, NFC and GPS plus a timelapse mode has been added which we are keen to use and play with! The WiFi mode will allow you to connect to a tablet or iPad to use this as an external screen and again this may be another reason for Canon not including an articulated screen but we don’t anticipate this function being ideal in practise .. time will tell of course. Overall there are only slight changes to the layout and design of the camera from the previous version but there’s some new options in terms of customising the camera as well as an extra button on the rear. Tethered shooters will also benefit from an upgrade to the USB 3.0 format for faster file transfer. Improved weather sealing is also included (Though being honest we have used the Mark iii in some pretty atrocious weather without problem).
So where does this all leave us? Well for now Canon has created a great camera which at the moment stands up against most of the competition with some compromise. The problem is that in the next 6 months I would anticipate new tech from other manufacturers to take this model down with better specifications and solutions to some of the problems the Canon presents. With video becoming more and more important and more of a focus for all areas of society especially photographers making money from their skills, it is I feel a lack lustre effort from Canon. Some of the workarounds Canon have included in the specifications are just too much of a problem for me and whilst the 5D Mark IV may well be the best all round camera with Canon’s range I don’t think they have managed to meet the expectations of the Canon 5D customer. The Canon 6D has been left hanging around for some time and it may well be the case that Canon is able to deliver some new tech and features into the lower spec model in the coming 12 months. I can imagine what to include and what not to include being an issue for Canon on their current development schedule. If we are to wait another 4 years for the 5D Mark V then I can see this camera being dated and left lagging significantly behind over that time frame.
Hopefully Canon can include a firmware solution to the motion jpeg issue and perhaps there will be a shorter cycle to the launch of the next version which of course won’t impress people investing now with the drop in value that will undoubtedly bring about … however for now I will have to leave you here. I’ll come back with more information once I’ve got the new model and have had a little time to test it in a variety of ways. Feel free to comment below and if you have arrived here and want to watch a slightly less detailed video version of my thoughts then the video is included below.