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In Defense of the 4K on the 5D Mark IV

By Justin Heyes on August 29th 2016

Canon dropped the news of the 5D Mark IV a few days ago, and there has been an uproar of photographers that have been complaining how underwhelming it is, for the most part. Being one of the most anticipated releases from Canon, there have been innovative features like the quasi-Lytro-like Dual Pixel Raw and the 1080p HDR video, but in some circles they have been overshadowed by the 4K capabilities (or lack thereof).

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A vast majority of filmmakers and wedding videographers that I have spoken with have been, for the most part, disgruntled with the new release. The three biggest complaints are the lack of full frame 4K recording (recording to just over a Super 35mm frame), its lack of C-LOG and its outdated MJPEG codec. There is no denying that these factors can be major negatives, but the 5D Mark IV has some advantages up its sleeve; it comes down to your perspective and the scope of your work.

[REWIND: The Canon 5D Mark IV | Adobe Already Working On Harnessing Canon’s Dual Pixel Raw]

4K Recording in Crop

Like the 5D Mark III, and every other 5D before it, the 5D Mark IV has a full frame sensor; but, unlike its predecessor’s videos, can be recorded in DCI 4K (full 4K). The 5D Mark IV records with a crop factor of 1.74x, which is more than their APS-C DLSRs like the Canon 7D Mark II at 1.6x; but is right in the ballpark of a Super 35mm crop.

I am not a big fan of full frame video; it is one of the reasons I shoot with a Fuji, to help make my images more cinematic and film like. The fact that full frame on a stills camera is different than “full frame” on a motion picture film camera, is something that photographers that do not have a background in motion picture film cannot grasp. Full frame video wasn’t a thing until the 5D Mark II was released and changed the game, full frame was simply called Super 35mm; theses are very different sizes.

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In digital terms, full frame sensors have a 1.0x equivalent, or a 1-1 ratio, to 35mm film stills; whereas APS-C sensors are close to an equivalent to a Super 35mm motion film camera. This means that if you use cinema-specific lenses like the Canon CN-E 35mm T1.5, it would have the same relative look on a “cropped sensor” APS-C camera as it would on a Super 35mm.

The point of this is not to sway you one way or the other. If you want to shoot 4K with a full frame camera, you would be hard pressed to find one that would be within the 5D Mark IV’s price range (and it would be 8.8 MP); even the RED Epic, when shot at 4K, has the same crop factor of 1.74x.

If you are like me and prefer the classical cinematic look that this crop provides, you will achieve a more authentic Super 35mm field of view with your lenses, while also having more lenses at your disposal. There are many lenses that do not cover full frame (including Canon cinema glass). If you wanted to shoot lenses like the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art, you could do so without the worry about vignetting.

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MJPEG Codec

The Canon 5D Mark IV shoots 4K in MJPEG codec at 500/Mbps. MJPEG is not an efficient codec, to say the least, and is about five times the data rate of other cameras that shoot 4K (100/Mbps in H.264). Canon has opted to use the MJPEG codec, the same as the 1D C, which is old technology by anyone’s standards. It yields great results at the cost of file size.

Shooting large file sizes can be a pain and slow your workflow down a bit, and you certainly need to take this into account with the 5D Mark IV as it will take 32GB to shoot 8 minutes of footage. Granted, if you are used to shooting in RAW, large file sizes are nothing new. You will likely have a workflow system for transcoding and ingesting footage before editing.

[RELATED: New H.265 Codec Offers ProRes 4444 Quality at 1% of the File Size!]

It is a matter of personal taste whether you prefer quality over speed. MJPEG shoots each frame in the jpeg compression standard as a still image; it is like in-camera stop motion; whereas with H.264 the frames are compressed as a whole, and can create wild compression artifacts. That is not to say that MJPEG is a perfect codec. It is an older codec that may be less supported by most editing systems, but it does have an ace up its sleeve; it records in 4:2:2 as opposed to 4:2:0.

Lack of LOG

If your video camera does not offer the ability to shoot RAW, LOG profiles are a great way to to get more dynamic range than cameras that can only shoot Rec 709 (standard video). Shooting with a LOG profile creates a flatter image than can be easier to color correct in post, where you can simply add a  LUT (Look Up Table) to  add the color space you want and bring back the contrast. 
Canon has always delivered consistently gorgeous and natural colors across their entire product line, and that’s more than could be said for many other companies. Sony, for instance, has cameras that shoot LOG, but their color science is considered by some to be pretty lackluster.

[RELATED: Using a Sony A7II With Leica Glass | Can It Produce That Famous Leica Magic?]

Canon 5D Mark III with the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 - 1/200th of a second, ISO 50, f/7.1

Canon 5D Mark III with the Sigma 120-300mm F/2.8 – 1/200th of a second, ISO 50, f/7.1

Photographers who need a LOG profile in their camera know why they need one. Canon hasn’t been the one to cannibalizes their other lines in order to create an impressive be-all-end-all product. There are specific Canon cinema cameras that shoot with a C-LOG profile, and if they included LOG with this camera, there is no particular reason for an upgrade to a cinema class camera.

Since the beginning of the DSLR HD Video Revolution, Canon has teamed up Technicolor to provide a free flat color profile for their EOS line of DSLR cameras, Cinestyle, which is a flat camera profile that gives the similar effect of LOG to Canon cameras that can not shoot it.

Thoughts

The Canon 5D Mark IV may have some pitfalls on paper, but the camera has not even been released yet; Canon spec sheets can never tell the full story. On paper, the 5D Mark III seemed like the 5D Mark II with a headphone jack but has become a venerable camera in its own right.

Are Canon cameras perfect? Far from it. Their inability or unwillingness to cannibalize their other camera lines to better lower models will just leave room for others to do it. Nikon did it with the D700, which introduced pro-level AF into compact full-frame bodies that cannibalized the D3, and again with the D800, which combined superior image quality with top-level AF. So it is arguably better for Canon to cannibalize its own lines, at the expense of market segmentation, than to have someone else do it for them and steal customers in the process. If Canon insists on crippling or delaying their 5D line to protect their 1D line, then they’ll just continue to bleed customers until they change the way they do things.

Although Canon refuses to innovate in many ways, they have found out what works for them. So before we rush to judgement on the Mark IV, let’s see how it performs in reality. I am not die hard Canon fan, and I’ve never bought heavily into their system; having only owned one or two cameras over the years. That said, I can’t deny that their cameras still have some advantages over the competition.

About

Justin Heyes wants to live in a world where we have near misses and absolute hits; great love and small disasters. Starting his career as a gaffer, he has done work for QVC and The Rachel Ray Show, but quickly fell in love with photography. When he’s not building arcade machines, you can find him at local flea markets or attending car shows.

Explore his photographic endeavors here.

Website: Justin Heyes
Instagram: @jheyesphoto

24 Comments

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  1. Dave Haynie

    Quite a few other cameras — including Canon’s — offer AVC-Intra recording for other modes. This works just like MJPEG, where each frame is independent. But it employs the more advanced AVC CODEC, albeit just the I-Frame encoder.

    You’ll find full IPB encoded AVC can suffer considerably on fast motion subjects. That’s solved by using any I-Frame-only CODEC. There’s no inherent advantage to MJPEG over AVC-Intra.

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  2. Marshall Christensen

    I know my comment here will upset some, but I am frustrated the way the demands of a dual purpose “camera” is actually causing many of the problems you complain about.
    Before the 5D MII a DSLR was a CAMERA, not a video camera.
    I take portraits and absolutely NO video, and believe it or not there are many users that are the same.
    Why should I pay for a camera where half or more of the cost / focus of it is video? Imagine if instead they focused all their efforts on making a great DSLR for taking great PHOTOS (imagine THAT!? A CAMERA (not video camera) made to take PHOTOS??
    Why don’t you print your photos on a multi-function printer? Because the compromise for that printer to be able to do it all, is it does it all poorly. Funny how that works, huh?
    The demands to try and make both photographers and videographers happy with the same camera is forcing compromises in design and a lack of focus that leaves neither satisfied.

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    • zaakir abdullah

      Agreed 100%. video DSLR guys are annoying, buy a true video camera.

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    • Chris Workman

      I totally understand where you are coming from, and agree there should be DLSR cameras with no video functions, but that should just be a cheaper offering for people like you who don’t need the video. You should have a choice. Right now pretty much every DSLR/mirrorless camera comes with both capabilities. That being said, I DON’T think video should be stripped from DSLRs because they were designed for photos. There are huge amounts of people in need of a camera that does both, including me.

      I work at a studio specializing in commercial content doing both photo and video work. We specialize in aerial photography with drones. Do you know how beneficial a “dual purpose” camera is for this line of work!? Not just for saving money (which is a great benefit, indeed). Not having to have multiple drones, or having to change camera setups every time we want to switch to video is a major time saver where time is extremely limited. It’s basically essential for the work we do.

      You might be asking “Well, how often do you have to take both stills and video on the same job?” The answer is probably around 80% of the time. We do a lot of real-estate work. They need panoramas for the home page, video for the commercial, and stills from multiple floors to show the view from that height. All on the same 1-day shoot. We send the drone up, take the required video, bring the drone down and while swapping batteries flip the mode switch on the camera to take photos… If we had to switch cameras, there would be another 15min worth of plugging in cables, switching lenses, rebalancing the gimbal, and making sure it’s ready to fly.

      Do we need a camera that can do both… absolutely. And we aren’t the only ones. Ask a wedding videography, or a corporate content creator, or a low-budget documentarian… there are PLENTY of people that need a jack of all trades camera.

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    • Marshall Christensen

      Chris,
      I hear you and agree there should be cameras that do both. Then people who need that should pay more for it, and have to suffer the consequences of the trade offs / sacrifices of a dual purpose device. Right now 74% of DSLR users do not use video, but they are paying for the 26% who do.
      What kills me is most pros need to have many cameras anyway. Your example of wedding “videography” is a perfect example. Someone hired only for video but no photos for their wedding? Only one video angle? I shoot weddings, I have 2 HD video cameras, one takes wide angle video of the entire ceremony, the other focused on the alter (both on tripods unattended). In the mean time I have 2 DSLR cameras on me, one with a prime and another with a telephoto zoom taking photos. Explain to me how having a dual purpose camera helps here?
      Don’t mean to grill you Chris, your response was accurate and intelligent and very respectful so I apologize, just venting my frustration. Sounds like you have a good thing going, I wish you continued success.

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  3. Tobias Heyl

    It’s too expensive. WAY TOO EXPENSIVE and I really get angry when I hear about Canon’s wannabe-explanations and all that crap. It will cost 4.065.- EUR in Germany, the 5D Mk III was 3.300.- EUR when it has been released. Now – thanks to Canon, I can’t afford Canon photography anymore when my 6D breaks, that’s why I’m seriously considering switching for good. The 5D Mk IV was never state-of-the-art, it is -at best- a contemporary piece of hardware. So why is a little adjustment to current needs that expensive? I don’t understand and I won’t believe Canon is being true and honest. Shame on Canon :-(

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  4. Matthew Saville

    I love how the 5D mk2 was a revolutionary camera, that just ~6 years ago was so incredible it was used to film things like the season finale of House, …and now all of a sudden the 5D 4’s video is “un-usable” in the eyes of so many critics.

    Look, there are very, very few actual paying jobs out there that would require the specific quality that this-or-that cutting edge / “professional” standard. Most of the paid work being done today, and of course hobbyists, are still fine with 1080p delivery / viewing. Just keep that in mind. All this talk of “unacceptable” and “no good” is largely pedantic / melodramatic.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s healthy that folks are making their voice heard. In fact in the last decade that’s been one of Canon’s downfalls: all the “fanboys” who eagerly gobbled up whatever Canon did, loudly proclaiming Canon to still be king, while Nikon and others were surpassing them for important things like high ISO, autofocus, and dynamic range.

    Before the 5D 3 came around with dual card slots and flagship AF in a non-flagship body, I got real sick of hearing Canon fans make the excuse “but if Canon puts feature XYZ in an affordable body, it’ll hurt 1D sales!” That right there was the mentality that got Canon where it is today. (If you commented here saying how feature XYZ in the 5D 4 would hurt Canon C-100 / C-300 sales, please slap yourself!)

    So, keep on whining, folks, until you see the change you desire. Just know that, like I said, in the real world this is a bit pedantic / melodramatic.

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  5. Jacques du Toit

    So can shoot stills like normal when I do landscapes, with this full frame then use it as a video recorder for wildlife for the crop factor and pull out the 8mp file as a photo, no need for an APS-C as well as full frame while travelling with shorter lenses, WIN WIN…

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  6. fotosiamo

    Not only is it a crappy crop rate, but the 5D Mark IV doesn’t even have highly useful functions like tilting/rotating LCD screen, waveform, false color, and peaking.

    I’ll wait for more videos and test to come out, but so far, I’m very unimpressed with the dynamic range and low light of the videos shot from the Mark IV.

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    • Justin Heyes

      Waveform, false color, and peaking can all be added via firmware upgrades.

      The only other “Full Frame” 4K DCI stills camera that I know of is the Leica SL. Yes it has LOG and clean HDMI out, but at twice the price.

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    • Joel Richards

      Sure, 4k DCI but the UHD is actually part of the 4K standard and MUCH more useful (DCI isn’t 16:9—how many editors and viewers have 17:9 screens?). Kinda cherry pickin’ your arguments there.

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    • zaakir abdullah

      All you video guys should just buy a video camera and stop crying. It’s a still camera first

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  7. Beebee Lestr

    The Canon 5D Mark IV will be a competent stills camera, but it’s no good for video.

    The 30 megapixel image sensor might be its downfall, as it seems Canon doesn’t have the electronics to process it, hence the simple MJPEG codec and cropped sensor 4K.

    Sony’s A7Sii does have full-frame 4K video, so it can be done.

    The reason many video professionals shoot video with a DSLR camera is to get that full-frame look. You get the shallow depth-of-field, bokeh, and the option to capture very wide-angle views. Take that away, which Canon has, and you may as well use a regular dedicated video camera.

    The whole point of DSLR video is the full-frame. Just like when you shoot stills you want full-frame, and would disappointed with a cropped sensor.

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    • Justin Heyes

      There is a difference in the 4K shot with the 5D and the A7.

      4K DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives) is a professional format used on the commercial side of video production.

      Unlike the UHD (Ultra High Definition) recorded by Sony, 4K has a different native aspect ratio. A true 4K image (4096×2160) has an aspect ratio of 1.9:1, while a true UHD image (3840×2160) is 1.78:1

      Sony over samples their images from either 12.2 MP (A7s II) or 42 MP (A7R II) to record essentially 2160p. This is what caused heating issues (among other things)

      The 4K recorded of the 5D MK IV is taken from an 8.8 crop of the 30 MP sensor similar to the way the RED Epic and the Mysterium-X record.

      There are many more “crop frame” DSLRs that shoot 4K than there are that shoot with a Full Frame and even less that shoot with the DCI standard.

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    • planetMitch aunger

      @justin, man you’re hitting the nail on the head here – way to go! There are so many whiners about this or that without even seeing the fricking results. Everyone I know that has shot with a prototype of the 5D4 loves it and loves the video. MJPEG may be old, and may lag with some systems, but it still works and some say it is much better than the compression you get in H.264 codecs. All opinion of course.

      And everyone says ‘well the Sony A7s has full frame 4k and it works’ but they forget how the A7 only has that 12.2 MP sensor! This is almost 3x that.

      Anyway, great article!

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    • Joel Richards

      Look, the 5DIV is a great camera but you’re trying a bit too hard here. UHD is part of the 4K standard. DCI isn’t 16:9. Which will be great for a small number of people but wasted on most of us since 16:9 is the standard aspect ratio these days. Also the A7RII shoots 4K with the full sensor and it has 42MP. I don’t think the 5DIV deserves all the hate it is getting but your defense of the video capabilities are a little spurious. A camera can have weaknesses and still be a great platform.

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    • Justin Heyes

      Yes, the A7RII shoots 4K UHD with a “full frame”, a lower resolution consumer aspect ratio.

      The 5D MK IV shot a higher resolution wider DCI 4K that is a professional production and cinema standard, while UHD is a consumer display and broadcast standard.

      DCI can be cropped to match the aspect ratio of UHD, not the other way around.

      I don’t cherry pick my arguments. I answer a particular questions that readers have about issues that I did not address in the main piece.

      If you have any questions regarding the piece I would be glad to answer them to the best of my ability.

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  8. Andrew Leinonen

    The 1.74x crop is considerably smaller than Super35, which has close enough to the same diagonal as 1.5x APS-C (28.5mm vs. 28.4mm) but since APS-C is 3:2 and Super35 is 1.78:1, the horizontal crop is 20% wider.

    It’s just a weird irony, because you get closer to Super35 using Canon EF lenses on an A6300 or a GH4 + Speedbooster than you do on the 5D IV.

    It’s not that there’s anything inherently bad or wrong with a smaller sensor size, as long as you have the focal lengths to work with it. Those FLs are abundant on smaller sensor format, but even to get a moderate wide-angle like 28mm on the 5D IV, you need an ultrawide zoom like a 16-35 for $1000-1500. Heaven help your budget if you want to go wider than 28mm!

    It also makes switching between taking video and stills a lot more difficult. With the above 16-35 you could do it, awkwardly, by zooming from 16mm to 28mm. But with a prime? I guess you better hope those MJPEG stills are really, really good quality.

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    • Matthew Saville

      There are plenty of ultra-wide APS-C format lenses that provide killer resolution for a 1.5-1.7x crop factor. I bet the Tokina 11-16 and 11-20 will be jaw-droppingly sharp on this camera when shooting 4K, and the former of that pair can be had on eBay for $300 if you’re diligent.

      However, if you need to go faster than f/2.8, indeed heaven help you. There’s the Tokina 14-20mm f/2 however, that is a pretty awesome lens.

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  9. Jacob Jexmark

    My biggest gripe with 4K video on the 5D IV is indeed MJPEG (230GB/h, come on) and the fact that it only supports UHS I cards and can’t send 4K to an external recorder thru HDMI.

    So for anyone filming longer parts or want to do documentary stuff, better buy up some 20-30 128GB cards!

    And don’t give me the quality spiel, most of the videographers I’ve talked to about the 5D IV (and believe me, there have been a lot of talks) all say the quality gain is negligible and not worth 5x the file size. They are also hogs to work with in post and most of the aforementioned people converted the files to h264 or something similar before doing post anyway, It seems to me (and a lot of others) that Canons sole purpose of using MJPEG is to enable clean frame grabs from the 4K footage.

    And the price of the body. Oh and any serious film makers, please add $1000 dollars worth of old tech CF cards to your budget ;)

    I don’t even shoot Canon but I still get upset. Because I love the company. I used to be a Canon shooter. 5D classic when it came out, Mark II and Mark III before succumbing to the dark side (Nikon. Now left them for Fuji). I have huge love for Canon. But after 4 years since the III and being the company it is, bringing HD video to the DSLR world I can’t help but feeling disappointed.

    (Damn, that got rambly….)

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  10. Stephan Kok

    “I am not a big fan of full frame video; it is one of the reasons I shoot with a Fuji, to help make my images more cinematic and film like.” Do you mean you shoot video or stills with a Fuji? My x100s video is totally unusable.

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    • Justin Heyes

      Both Actually. Video on the X-T1 is good enough for daily use and quick video segments for events.

      For serious work I rent the Black Magic Pocket cinema or a GH4. I would love to get my hands on an XT-2 and play with Fuji’s F-LOG and 4K.

      The x100 series is not the most ideal for video and seems just tacked on.

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