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Canon 5D MarkIV - First Impressions

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South Jersey wedding photographer Jay Cassario blog. Writer for SLR Lounge and Shotkit.com. 

Canon 5D MarkIV - First Impressions

Jay Cassario

Holy sh*t, it's finally here! The long awaited Canon 5D MarkIV, possibly the most highly anticipated camera... ever. Well, at least for as long as I have been shooting. B&H sent me one to review as soon as they got them in stock, and I've been shooting it for a little over 2 weeks now. This is just a brief "first impressions" review, showing some quick tests and comparisons, along with some fully edited sample images. I'll be putting together a full and more detailed review for Shotkit in the coming weeks. I'll save all the more techy stuff for the Shotkit review and keep this one a little more to the point with lots of samples.

First of all, if you are a loyal Canon shooter that has fought off the urge to jump ship to Nikon these past couple years, I give you credit. I wouldn't have been able to do it. If you are a former Canon shooter that got tired of waiting around and now shoot Nikon, I don't blame you. You certainly aren't alone, I personally know a good number of photographers who made the same move. When you rely on your camera to earn a living like myself, you want the best tool for the job. While it's not financially smart to jump at each new camera that comes out, waiting for the MarkIV was a bit different. It was a long wait. It probably felt like sitting all alone at a restaurant for 2 hours waiting for your blind date to show up. If there's no sign that she's gonna show, it's time to move on.

There had been rumors for a while now that Canon had planned on gearing the new 5D more towards videographers. There were also rumors that the MkIV simply wasn't coming. Well, both of those were wrong, and Canon finally delivered. But, is it the upgrade that everyone was looking forward to? Well, that depends on what you shoot and your style of shooting. I'm going to explain what if it was for me...


Why I Care

For those not familiar with my work, I shoot both Canon and Nikon, I have for years.  I started off 4 years ago with Nikon but was always drawn to the beautiful skin tones and colors that the Canon sensors pushed out. About 4 years ago, I picked up a 5D MarkII along with a few lenses and fell in love with the images it produced.  I still shoot a MarkIII and 6D today along with a few D750s and a Df, simply taking advantage of the strengths that both systems have to offer. I prefer the colors and skin tones of my Canon bodies, but I shoot primarily Nikon because of the superior low-light sensor capabilities and industry leading AF. I had always said that if Canon would get their act together with dynamic range and AF (especially in low-light), I would transition over to primarily shoot Canon.  

While the D750 has done good for me, all 4 of my D750 bodies have been giving me issues. My wife is a photographer as well, so two of them are hers. Along with all the recalls they've had, I have pretty much had it with them locking up on me and giving me errors even after I've sent them into Nikon. I simply don't trust them anymore and can't continue to risk having them fail at a crucial moment. My wife doesn't want to shoot them anymore either. Besides the D810 which I have owned as well, I have no desire to own the D5, which is really my only option at this point with Nikon. Even though the AF is crazy good with improved colors, I simply hate shooting with the Nikon flagship oversized small refrigerator of a camera body. Let alone the fact that I refuse to pay $7k for camera built for sports photographers. So, needless to say, I've been really hoping that Canon would deliver a kickass camera with the MarkIV


First Impressions

24mm TSE  -  f/4-  ISO100  -  1/500

Right out of the box, the 5D MarkIV looked pretty identical to the MarkIII aside from a small new button on the back just above the rear wheel. I quickly threw a fully charged battery in and dove into the menu to set everything up. 5 minutes later... I was digging into the owners manual. This was a good thing, I was seeing some cool new features. Once I had it all set up and ready to rock and roll, I quickly started to fall in love. A day later, I was ready to take a sledgehammer to it. The rear wheel completely stopped working and I wasn't able to shoot in Manual, only Aperture Priority. Was this a bug or just a case of bad luck and I received a bad unit? Let's just go with a bad unit since I am the only one that this has happened to. B&H quickly shipped me a replacement and I was good to go. 

Now, close to 10k images rattled off over two weeks and Adobe finally updating Lightroom, I have a pretty good grip on what Canon brought to the table with this camera. The 5D MarkIV is hands down the most impressive Canon camera I've ever shot, but... it's not a game changer. Many were hoping that it would be after the long wait, however, it honestly doesn't need to be for me. 

I have been lucky enough to have shot with tons of different cameras, from all different manufacturers, and I can honestly say with confidence that the MarkIV is one the best I've ever shot. 


The Good

BODY:  If you are familiar with the 5D line, Canon did us a favor and kept the same body and button layout. There is one new button above the rear wheel which is a nice addition. I have it customized to change the ISO when pressed along with scrolling the front dial. This makes changing the ISO a lot easier on the fly than using the designated ISO button on the top.

TOUCHSCREEN:   Surprisingly, the touchscreen is awesome. It's a huge time-saver when it comes to using the menu or even in playback mode. The real game changer here is the Touch Focus in LiveView. This is a feature that I fell in love with while shooting and testing the Leica SL. You no longer have to move the focus box over to where you want it, you simply touch the screen. 

SENSOR:  The sensor has been the most anticipated part of the MarkIV release, and Canon delivered. It still produces the same beautiful skin tones and colors, while drastically improving on dynamic range and ISO performance. The colors seem to be slightly different from the MarkIII and 6D, but they have changed with each 5D upgrade since the Classic. The lack of Dynamic Range and banding was a big issue with me, and the MarkIV has stepped it up. There is light banding that can be seen, but not until you push the files more than 4 stops. The DR isn't quite as good as the D750, which you will see below, but it comes pretty close. ISO performance is improved on as well, with incredible detail and colors maintained well past that of what the Mark3 can do. I need to test this more before my review for Shotkit, but you can see a couple images below shot at ISO8000 that are pretty impressive. Well done Canon, I'm impressed. I honestly didn't think you could make this happen without getting the sensor from Sony.

VIEWFINDER AF: Canon implemented the same AF tech that's used in the 1D X MarkII, a 61-point High-Density Reticular AF II system with 41 cross-type AF sensors. All I can say is, it easily blows the MarkIII away. Not only that, but it's just as good, if not better then the D750. I wouldn't say it's on par with the D5, but that's ok. AI Servo or continuous focusing continues to impress me. I will be able to tell you more about the AF performance in a couple weeks. 

LIVEVIEW AF: Canon went with new tech called Dual Pixel in the MarkIV's LiveView AF, which is different than that used in the viewfinder. However it works, it is quick and extremely accurate. Tracking is mind blowing. I shoot in LV a good amount, so I'm extremely impressed with everything Canon did here. 

There are some other really good additions that I will get to in the full review, but these are the ones that stood out to me the most. 


The Bad

ILLUMINATING FOCUS POINTS:  As of right now, my biggest complaint is the fact that Canon didn't listen to the crowds of 5D MarkIII photographers that spent years complaining that the focus points were difficult to see in low light. When shooting in low light, since the focus point is black, it is tough to see. It only lights up when focus lock is achieved, but not until then. When they later released the cheaper 6D, they made it so the dim focus point lights up as soon as you engage the AF, and then again when it locks. This is the same as what Nikon cameras do, making it extremely easy to see the focus point in low light. I have to check again, but I believe the 1D X MarkII is the same as the 6D. I am still baffled at the fact that the MarkIV still does the same thing as its predecessor, and only lights up on locking focus. I had a real tough time shooting it during the last reception which was extremely dark. I'm hoping this can be fixed with a firmware upgrade.


CONCLUSION

My conclusion at this point is still a little foggy, as it's only been two weeks, but I'm fairly confident that I love this camera. I have felt severely uninspired shooting the D750 for the past year and have been shooting my Canon gear more and more. The only reason I have held off on making the switch to primarily shooting Canon has been the lack of DR and inferior AF. Now that Canon has stepped things up drastically in both of those departments, I have a feeling I won't be shooting Nikon for much longer. 

If you're a Nikon shooter for life, and you're reading this review... you're obviously a little curious ;) If you have never shot Canon then I don't think this camera will tempt you, especially if you have invested in the D5 or D810 and don't mind the file sizes. 

If you're a Canon shooter, this is the camera you've been waiting for. If you jumped ship and now shoot with a D750 or D810, new upgrades are most likely not too far away so it is probably smart to wait to see what Nikon has coming. If you miss your Canon gear and can afford it, I wouldn't hesitate to switch back. 

Below are some tests, comparisons, and samples. All the test and comparison shots are RAW, and you can click on the images to see them larger. I will have better samples and some more technical info in the full review. Enjoy!


HIGH ISO

ISO5000  

ISO8000  

ISO8000  


Dynamic Range Testing - RAW Samples

No banding visible.

50mm  -  f/1.2  -  1/8000

Exp +3  /  Shadows +70

ISO640  -  f/1.2  -  1/100

Exp +1.5  /  Highlights -75  /  Shadows +75

ISO100  -  f/1.2  -  1/500

Exp +2  /  Highlights -100  /  Shadows +65

ISO100  -  f/1.2  -  1/800

Exp +2  /  Highlights -75  /  Shadows +75


Highlight Recovery


Dynamic Range Comparisons

5D Mk4  -  ISO400  

Exposure +4

Crop

6D  -  ISO400  

Exposure +4

Crop

D750  -  ISO400  

Exposure +4

Crop


Fully Edited Samples

50mm  -  ISO100  -  f/1.2  -  1/640

50mm  -  ISO100  -  f/1.2  -  1/640

50mm  -  ISO100  -  f/1.2  -  1/500

50mm  -  ISO100  -  f/1.2  -  1/400

50mm  -  ISO100  -  f/1.2  -  1/400

50mm  -  ISO125  -  f/1.2  -  1/160

24mm TSE  -  ISO1600  -  f/3.5  -  1/100

24mm TSE  -  ISO2500  -  f/3.5  -  1/200

50mm  -  ISO100  -  f/1.2  -  1/5000

50mm  -  ISO125  -  f/1.2  -  1/250

50mm  -  ISO125  -  f/1.2  -  1/250

50mm  -  ISO100  -  f/1.2  -  1/8000

50mm  -  ISO100  -  f/1.2  -  1/8000

50mm  -  ISO100  -  f/1.2  -  1/8000

24mm TSE  -  ISO100  -  f/3.5  -  1/800

50mm  -  ISO100  -  f/1.4  -  1/4000

50mm  -  ISO100  -  f/1.2  -  1/2000

50mm  -  ISO100  -  f/1.2  -  1/2000

50mm  -  ISO100  -  f/1.2  -  1/2000