A Photographer’s Take on the 5D Mark IV

The Canon 5D Mark IV is one of the most anticipated cameras from Canon in recent memory. It has been over 3 years since the release of the venerable Mark III and photographers have been eagerly awaiting the release of the Mark IV to see what new features are in store for them.

As someone who has been using the Mark III for some time, I have been considering getting the upgrade but wanted to spend some time playing with some of the features and seeing how they fare on the type of shooting that I do. For that, I got the 5D Mark IV for rent at Borrowlenses and took a couple of days to play around with it and thought it would be good to give you a quick take on some of the features I thought stood out to me.

What Stood Out To Me About the 5D Mark IV

Making print tests on my Pro-1000 on set. This is 17x22 paper and the range looks great.

Making print tests on my Pro-1000 on set. This is 17×22 paper and the range looks great.

The 5D Mark IV is capable of making images at just over 30 megapixels – 8 megapixels more than its predecessor. As a photographer who is looking to make larger images, I found this to be a welcome upgrade in the camera. The files are not as heavy as its bigger brother, the Canon 5Ds R (at a whopping 50 megapixels), but for me more is definitely better here. Bigger files allow me to make prints at larger sizes, which is always a plus. Additionally, these extra megapixels will allow me to crop into pictures with a little more reach and still yield a larger print. In that, photographers will find this to be a welcome upgrade.

Push and Pull on Images

I love the details from the area to the right and left of the stairs to the lights. Under the archways and in the bushes.

I love the details from the area to the right and left of the stairs to the lights. Under the archways and in the bushes.

Aside from the increase in resolution, the thing that really interested me in the new camera was how much I could push and pull the files once captured. The Mark III, while being very capable in rendering the images I wanted to make, did not offer me as much latitude as I would have wanted in manipulating my raw files.  I was very excited to see that the images out of the Mark IV held up very well in under and overexposing – offering me details in shadows and highlights that I wanted to bring to bear in my shots. Having a greater range for processing will let you take images further with post processing, as well as offer more options for individuals who want to creatively explore their work. This new exposure latitude is capable because of the increased Dynamic Range in the image.

Dynamic Range of the 5D Mark IV


I’m a photographer who leans on the darker side of image making so I expected to make images with a good amount of details in the shadow areas. Imagine my excitement when I shared some sample images with a friend, only to be asked if this image was an HDR shot. I happily replied that the image was SOOC (straight out of camera) – the picture wirelessly transmitted at the shoot via WiFi (More on that in a bit). To have an image that can show great shadow and highlight details that you couldn’t get previously is going to be very welcomed with this camera. This is all due to the 36.0mm x 24.0mm sensor, offering normal ISOs of up to 32000.

ISO Performance of the 5D Mark IV


This is a shot made 12,800 ISO!


Detail of the dark green awning area.

The Mark IV features an ISO range of 100-3200 (expandable to 50-102,400) and has an improved signal-to-noise ratio and an improved noise processing algorithm – letting you work in really dark areas at higher ISOs with very little loss in quality. I took the camera out at night to make some pictures and was very pleased to see that shots I made at 6400 ISO were totally usable. The proof is in the pudding here, so I’ve included two series of shots that you can download (JPGs, 153MB) and see for yourself. To test out dynamic range, download these RAW files to play around with (personal use only, please).

Autofocus Features of the 5D Mark IV

We did a studio shoot with Mia when we had the 5D Mark IV.

We did a studio shoot with Mia when we had the 5D Mark IV.

Making great pictures is only as good as how sharp the pictures are. Canon has made a great improvement in the 5D line by adding Dual Pixel CMOS AF, a feature found in their flagship 1DX Mark II. This gives you 61 Points of focus with all of those AF points being selectable (with 41 cross-points). In addition to giving you a snappier autofocus out of the gate (something that was extremely helpful when making pictures in a dark area for the night time ISO test), you have the opportunity to continuously focus in Live View while making pictures. There is also a great feature for tracking faces with autofocus. We got a chance to do a studio shoot when we got a 40 minute demo of the Mark IV and Mia McCormick was game to make the shot. If you want to see how we lit the shot, see my 40 Minute Shoot with the Canon 5D Mark IV.

Frame Rate
The 5D Mark IV is capable of shooting at 7 FPS for up to 21 RAW images and while I think the increase in FPS for shooting is awesome, it didn’t really make it as a “standout feature” for me. It’s definitely good that it was included but exposure range and focus are bigger perks to me.

4K Video
In terms of video, the Mark IV offers video at 4K resolution at 30 frames per second. Its important to note that making 4K video will mean that you are using your sensor at a 1.7 crop – something that will affect depth of field and range. The video is also recorded using Motion JPEG, creating very large file sizes for small amounts of video, so be prepared. Users looking to work with video in 1080 and 4K should be considering Canon’s cinema offerings, like the C100 and C300, respectively. See the 4K resolution offered on the Mark IV as a “good to have just in case” feature that you will occasionally use. That said, I’d be interested to explore the capabilities of 5D Mark IV video further.

Full Touch Screen Interface

The Mark IV has made a great upgrade stride by including a 3.2’’ touch panel on the back of the camera. I’ve grown very accustomed to using my command dials to get to the features that I need but I’ve always felt like accessing them could be a little quicker. When setting up for a couple of shoots, I forced myself to un-learn the use of the dial and try the touch screen – and I have to say it really felt better! Accessing functions felt quicker, both in the menus as well as items I would commonly change in the Q menu at the back of the camera. During Live View shooting the touch screen proved useful for setting focus by simply touching on the part of the picture that I wanted to focus on. Thank you, Canon, for that! While it certainly was helpful to access features during the capture of the image, I really fell in love with the way I could review the images afterwards. The back of the touchscreen offered pinch-to-zoom along with swipe and move gestures. Getting right into the part of the image that you want to check for focus is essential so the touchscreen is something that I think people will quickly adapt into their workflow.

Wireless Transfer Performance of the 5D Mark IV

When I am in the studio or on the road, I am always trying to find the fastest way to get a frame that is in the camera out to someone. That person could be sitting in the studio with me working on something else – a client looking to review a shoot, or just me wanting to share the work that I am doing on social media. While I could shoot a picture with my phone, I always carry my DSLR with me to keep me ready for whatever picture comes my way. To have to come home, download the card, upload to Lightroom, tweak, then share felt very slow to me. The Mark IV changes that completely with their wireless transfer.

Enabling the WiFi on your device can give you two different options. With the Mark IV searching for networks to connect to, you can attach the camera to the same network you are on and transfer files back and forth. Setting the Mark IV to create an easy connection is great however. This allows the camera to broadcast out its own wireless signal and letting you connect your phone to it.


I downloaded Canon’s Camera Connect app when I was doing the shoot on location and connected to the camera. In a few seconds, I was able to see the images on my camera – move through the take to find the best picture, and download it to my phone. A couple of tweaks inside Lightroom mobile and I had an image online!

Try Before You Buy

When something new comes out that I am looking into I immediately dive into websites to find out as much as I can technically about the product. While it does help, I find that only I can make the decision to see if the technology works in my specific scenario. To that, I am a big fan of renting the gear to test on my own. Borrowlenses has always been great about renting me the gear for the exact times I need it and making the whole process very easy. This way I’m not committing too much financially I can make the decision if its right for me. I hope this gives you a little bit more information to help that decision along!

RC is the founder of First Shot School, an award winning photographer and author of the best selling books Get Your Photography On the Web , The HDR Book, and The Enthusiast's Guide to Lightroom. He worked as Director of Content and Education for Kelby Media Group and host of the popular podcasts Photography Tips and Tricks and The Grid. A sought after public speaker, he has held training seminars around the world and has served as guest instructor for the Digital Landscape Workshop Series with Moose Peterson, Advanced Flash Photography at Jade Mountain with Joe McNally, and His Light workshops with famed landscape photographer Bill Fortney.

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