Whether you are a fan of Canon technology or not, the release of the 5D Mark IV marks a historic milestone for camera innovation as a whole. Now, should you purchase the new Canon 5DMIV, particularly if you already have the 5DMIII?

[REWIND: CANON 5D MARK IV | THIS IS IT, FINALLY]

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Canon 5D Mark IV on Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II 1/160 sec at f/11, ISO 100 39mm Focal Length

I’ve had the chance to take out the 5DMIV for several shoots, professional and personal, prior to its release. Having logged over 5,000 clicks on the camera, I’ve gotten a firm grip of what aspects I love about Canon’s new workhorse, and potential drawbacks for some uses. Plenty of reviews will provide you with tech specs, but we want to give you hands-on, practical information from real-world professional shoots.

Evolutionary vs Revolutionary

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The 5DMIV represents an evolution in the 5D series versus a revolution like we saw with the 5DMII’s introduction of video, and the first 50 megapixel full-frame DSLR with the 5DS. The 5DMIV represents an improvement over almost every aspect of the 5DMIII, but outside of its new AF system, I am not seeing that the camera necessarily set any new “high bar” standards.

That being said, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a fantastic camera; I absolutely loved it, and I will be making the upgrade immediately. But, it might not be for everyone.

If you are an enthusiast who loves high-quality photos, and the ability to shoot video, then it’s probably worth saving the money and sticking to the 5DMIII. One of the best things about the 5DMIV is that it will drive prices down for the 5DMIII, which is already a fantastic full frame camera system.

But, if you are a still photographer or an enthusiast who is capable of shooting at the limits of the camera, the 5DMIV is packed with features that you are going to love; Features that make it absolutely worth the upgrade. Let’s talk about my favorites, in order:

Dual Pixel AF – Canon’s Statement Piece

This is by far my favorite feature of this camera because it brings the AF control and precision up to a Canon 1D Mark II level. Seriously, in comparison to the 5DMIII, the 5DMIV’s AF system is like jumping from a Honda Accord up to a Porsche 911 GT3-RS. For those that don’t speak car, it’s a huge improvement; a noticeably massive improvement. In fact, I haven’t used a DSLR with a better overall focus system.

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Along with a snappy quick-and-accurate AF, comes the new touch screen live-view AF, a 3.2″ 1.62m-Dot Touchscreen LCD Monitor where you can touch the screen and the camera’s focus detection system jumps in, helping you to accurately track the focal point right in live view!

While you might think of this as a gimmick, it’s not. In fact, it’s so useful that I found myself using it constantly throughout my shoots, especially when I am shooting macro, or placing the camera in low/awkward positions. Also, this makes for gorgeous rack focus for video. Canon has smashed it out of the park with Dual Pixel AF, and this is the one feature that I would dare say is the revolutionary part of this camera.

[Recommended: Canon EOS R Vs. Canon 5D Mk IV]

It should be noted that the Dual Pixel AF functionality is for Live View focusing, however standard viewfinder focusing has been significantly improved from the 5DM3 as well. You will notice a major difference in the all around AF system.

Improved Dynamic Range and Low-Light Sensitivity

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Canon 5D Mark IV on Canon 35mm f/1.4L II 1/4000 sec at f/1.4, ISO 100
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Canon 5D Mark IV on Canon 24mm f/1.4L II 1/800 sec at f/1.4, ISO 100

We have begged for this, and Canon has indeed done a good job in boosting Dynamic Range and ISO sensitivity. We are releasing this video before Lightroom/Photoshop/Capture One can edit the raw files, so we can’t really do a lot of side by side comparisons at this point. But, we are seeing a pretty big improvement from the files themselves.

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Canon 5D Mark IV on Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II 1/160sec at f/2.8, ISO 6400

We see visually around 1 to 1.5 stops of dynamic range improvement, and around 1.5 – 2 stops of low light performance in the noise when compared to the 5DM3. Again, this is a rough estimation from simply eyeballing the files as we don’t have the ability to process RAW files at the moment. Still, I feel like the sensor trails a bit behind other industry flagship cameras and sensors.

I would have loved for Canon to set the new bar for dynamic range and low light performance, but the marked improvement over the 5DMIII is an upgrade that will be much appreciated for those like me that love the 5D system.

30.4 MP Resolution – Nice But Is it Necessary For You?

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Canon 5D Mark IV on Canon 50mm f/1.2L 1/250sec at f/1.2, ISO 100

A nice boost in resolution provides shooters with full raw files that are just north of 30MP, and medium RAW files at 17MP. This makes for a very nice enhancement in overall image detail and resolution, without making the files too large.

Most professionals will love the new megapixel upgrade as well, but enthusiast and amateur photographers may find that the 22.3 megapixel 5DM3 is already more than adequate.

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Canon 5D Mark IV on Canon 35 f/1.4L II 1/500 sec at f/1.4, ISO 100

For the professional, or the enthusiast that is shooting at the limits of the Canon 5D Mark III, these 3 improvements in and of themselves justify the upgrade. At least, they did for me. Add on Canon’s massive array of professional glass, along with Canon Professional Services, the industry’s best professional customer support service, and we have a solid winner for professionals.

However, there is no flawless hero, here are some reasons why you might want to think twice about making the leap from the Mark III or another camera system to the 5D Mark IV:

A Raw Deal – The Magnitude of Dual Pixel RAW

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Canon 5D Mark IV on Canon 100mm F/2.8L Macro IS 1/160 sec at f/2.8, ISO 800

Now, although we can’t edit to demo Dual Pixel RAW just yet, the Mark IV’s Dual Pixel RAW (which is the same left eye/right eye system utilized for the Dual Pixel AF) allows you to capture a RAW file where it’s possible to make AF adjustments in post.

Keep in mind a few things, though, these AF adjustments are mini to micro adjustments, meaning you might be able to shift focus from the eyelashes to the eye, but not from the ear to the eye.

Also, shooting full 30MP RAW files with Dual Pixel RAW enabled is going to eat up your memory cards like a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos as you shoot close to 100 MB raw files. This means you will get just over 350 shots off a 32GB memory card, a weak standard for wedding photographers working 10+ hour days. Stay tuned for a more in-depth review and comparison once Lightroom/Photoshop/Capture One update their software to enable editing of these files.

One Small Stop for Low Light, Doesn’t Mean A Giant Leap for Mark IV

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Canon 5D Mark IV on Canon 24mm f/1.4L II 1/200 sec at f/1.4, ISO 800

There is a significant improvement in dynamic range and low light, but if you are on other flagship camera systems, like say the Sony A7s Mark II or Nikon D810 then you aren’t going to be convinced to switch in and of itself.

Great video, but not without limitations

The 5D system has always been designed as a high-quality stills machine, with the ability to do video. It was designed as the photojournalist’s weapon, for those that need to capture stills, but then every now and then capture video in short bursts.

The 5DM2 was so popular, that it became many cinematographer’s weapon of choice, although it was never really designed to become that. Hence when the 5DM3 came out people were surprised that Canon didn’t build in every video option and tool needed for cinema professionals. Instead, Canon released specific Cinema line cameras designed to be cinema workhorses.

The changes made to the 5DM4’s video system seems to further that division. The 5DM4 can do 4K video, but in 1.7x crop mode and using an MJPEG video format that is going to fill your memory cards very quickly, not to mention require you to have the fastest possible memory cards available.

It lacks true video features like focus peaking, multiple file formats and other software/firmware components that a cinematographer will need and want, features that many other still/video camera systems already have.

Granted, the Dual Pixel AF is awesome when doing video (we are certain this will be built into the future line up of cinema cameras as well), but the 5DM4 and Canon, rather, seems to be making the statement that if you are looking for a serious video workhorse, you need to step to Canon’s Cinema line-up of cameras. That being said, this camera will still capture beautiful video clips so long as you deal with its quirks.

Product Highlights:

30.4MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
DIGIC 6+ Image Processor
3.2″ 1.62m-Dot Touchscreen LCD Monitor
DCI 4K Video at 30 fps; 8.8MP Still Grab
61-Point High-Density Reticular AF
Native ISO 32000, Expanded to ISO 102400
Dual Pixel RAW; AF Area Select Button
Dual Pixel CMOS AF and Movie Servo AF
7 fps Shooting; CF & SD Card Slots
Built-In GPS and Wi-Fi with NFC

From a still photography standpoint, here are some of the things I wish made it to the final production unit:

– RAW/Low Light to rival other camera makers (a new bar being set)
– True dual card slots, dual CF would enable faster writes, this means we need to buy the fastest SDs available, and still we are probably going to run into buffer issues
– Built-in wireless remote transmitter for 600EX flash systems
– Spot metering over independent AF points

Should You make the Jump from III to IV?

The only people that might be disappointed in this release were those expecting the 5DM4 to be a revolutionary full-frame camera that does it all and does it all better than everyone else. The 5DM4 is primarily a still photographer’s camera, with the ability to do great quality video clips. It’s dynamic range and low light performance boosts are fantastic upgrades to catch the camera up to other industry leading sensors. Who knows, when we have the ability to edit the RAW files and compare side by side, we may even see more latitude and performance, right now it’s just too early to tell. For many (like myself), it’s revolutionary AF system along with the boost in dynamic range and ISO performance are already enough to 100% justify purchase. It’s a fantastic camera.

But, here’s my recommendations for you all :

If you are an amateur photographer and you love high-quality photos, one of the best things about the release of this beast is that it will push down the prices of the Mark III and II – two very affordable, high quality, full frame camera options. These two cameras are a great place to start until you are actually able to shoot at the limits of the 5DM2 and 5DM3. When you start desiring the additional focus and sensor performance, move to the 5DM4. But, most users are not even going to be able to shoot at the limits of the 5DM2/5DM3, hence spending the extra money right now may not make sense.

For cinema professionals, the Mark IV may not have the right tools as a primary workhorse camera. It simply wasn’t designed to be a cinematic workhorse, but rather to offer nice cinematic clips in addition to it’s still functionality. But the Canon Cinema Line may be your salvation here.

For enthusiasts or professionals that are shooting at the limits of the 5DMIII sensor quality, then this upgrade is absolutely 100% worthwhile. Professionals and enthusiasts are going to go crazy over the ease and simplicity of the new AF system, and you will appreciate the expanded dynamic range and the additional low light performance. All-in-all, this camera makes for a fantastic evolutionary upgrade for 5D line-up of cameras.