[Test] Canon 5D MK IV: we tested the SLR in New York!

A last effort to reach the ultimate enclosure?

We like

  • Housing finish
  • Improved ergonomics
  • Excellent image quality
  • Dual Pixel Raw
  • Net shots
  • Progressive video mode

We don’t like

  • Perfect 4K video
  • Awards


Walking the streets of the Big Apple with this latest version of the big 5D family has been a real pleasure. Well-designed, robust, with a resolution that puts it in the standard of today’s high-resolution SLR cameras, the Mark IV delivers beautiful images and is very pleasant to use. Above all, there’s a real shadow in the picture: its price.

Read the test

In order to see what the latest version of the 5D series of Canon has in store for us, we decided to supplement our usual battery of tests with some shots taken under travel conditions. We set our sights on New York, where we were able to gauge the technical quality of Canon’s response to fierce competition.

[Test] Canon 5D MK IV: we tested the SLR in New York!

>>> Read: How to choose your camera (compact, SLR, hybrid)?

Very good image quality

It was mouth-watering as soon as the news came in: a few days walking around freely in New York with the sole aim of taking pictures with the 5D MkIV, a delight in perspective. And we weren’t disappointed, because let’s say it right away, the newest Canon kid has some serious assets to show for it, as you can see on these pictures:

For your information, all the images of New York used to illustrate this article are from unretouched JPEG files (simply resized), except for the general illustration image of the article, which has been the subject of a work of global density, contrast and localized colorimetry.

By offering 30 megapixel resolution on the 5D MKIV, Canon finally fills the gap in its range between the 22 megapixels of the 5D MKIII and the 50 of the 5DS/5DSR. It is associated with a Digic 6+ chip and without surprise the colorimetric rendering is of very good level.

[Test] Canon 5D MK IV: we tested the SLR in New York!

The increase in resolution is not accompanied here by a deterioration in quality when the brightness drops compared to the very good previous version. Indeed, on Raw files developed without special correction in DDP (the manufacturer’s software supplied with the camera), images are noise-free up to 800 iso. From 1600 iso it becomes only 100% perceptible on a screen and then the rise is gradual up to 25600 iso (see details on page 2). 

This is particularly appreciable in travel conditions, because even indoors in low light conditions such as we can photograph in JPEG at 2000 iso in a museum in peace and quiet or even at 3200 iso, as is the case in this church :

Moreover, we can also appreciate on this very contrasted image the beautiful dynamics offered by the new sensor:

[Test] Canon 5D MK IV: we tested the SLR in New York!
A small novelty, thanks to the new structure of the photosites, the 5D MkIV offers the user a new file format, the Dual Pixel Raw, which is heavier and uses the dual-pixel Raw photosite to allow the user to act in post-production on the sharpness area, the perspective of background blur, parasitic ghost images or sharpness. In practice the possibilities of these different corrections are rather limited and, except in the case of a very slight shift of the point by a few millimetres, their usefulness remains for the moment rather obscure, but nothing says that some users will not find it useful in certain specific cases.

Top performance

[Test] Canon 5D MK IV: we tested the SLR in New York!

As on the previous model, the 5D Mk IV’s shutter allows shots from 30 seconds to 1/8000e, synchronization with external flashes at 1/200e and a rather efficient silent mode (although hybrids without mirror are often more interesting from this point of view). The only real evolution comes from the burst speed, which goes from 6 to 7 frames per second. For a generalist practice, the difference is not huge, but professionals who cover sports events from time to time should be satisfied. For these specialists, who are by nature very demanding in this area, the 1DX MkII or 7D MkII are the real solutions at Canon.

Increasing the resolution to 30 megapixels also poses another mechanical challenge: movements become increasingly visible as the resolution increases (at the same sensor size). The internal mechanics of the housing (and in particular the kinetics of the mirror) must therefore be designed to produce as little vibration as possible so as not to cause blur when shooting without a tripod, especially since the 5D MkIV is intended to be a versatile professional SLR.

According to our tests carried out freehand with an unstabilized 50mm on a grid, the in-house engineers have succeeded. Indeed, we obtained 100% sharp images up to 1/160th of a second, 80% sharp and 10% acceptable images at 1/125th and 70% usable images (of which 50% sharp and 20% acceptable) up to 1/80th. From 1/60th, things become more complicated with a majority of images still usable up to 1/40th of a second (20% sharp and 40% acceptable).

These results are certainly not reproducible, as they depend very much on the stability of the photographer’s hands. Nevertheless, with a constant lens and operator, we obtained better results at 1/100th of a second with the 5D Mk IV than at 1/320th of a second with the 5DSR (with the 50 megapixel sensor). Even taking into account the difference in resolution, a clear improvement can be seen.

Examples of sharp, acceptable and blurred images include:

Solid and neat design

From the very first contact, the resemblance to its illustrious elder, the 5D MK III, is obvious. The two cases are indeed very close and you really have to pay attention to notice the few millimetres of difference that exists between the hulls of the two versions. Still with a very good grip thanks to a well-dimensioned handle and covered with a non-slip granular coating, the 5D Mark IV still manages the feat of being both lighter (approx. 145g) and with a higher level of weather protection thanks to the discreet addition of many extra seals. As a worthy representative of the 5D family, this version does not include an integrated flash, which is all the more unfortunate since some competing models (e.g. D810) offer one.

[Test] Canon 5D MK IV: we tested the SLR in New York!
Thesight is a real pleasure: clear and spacious, it offers 21mm eyepiece clearance for a magnification factor of 0.71 and 100% coverage. We can only applaud.

From a connection point of view, here again it’s classic and the distinction with the Mark III is subtle: a three-pin plug for a remote control makes its appearance, the USB output evolves towards 3.0, a welcome progression given the increase in file size. Also, the dual standard of SD and CF cards is very appreciable.

The video output, on the other hand, is a reason for reproach: as on the previous model, it remains limited to Full HD whereas 4K is proposed here, a choice that is difficult to understand.

As for regrets, small ergonomic evolutions make the power handle of the previous version incompatible, and it will still cost nearly 400 euros to acquire the new model BG-20.

[Test] Canon 5D MK IV: we tested the SLR in New York!
The battery on the other hand does not change, which we welcome, even if a slight decrease in range due to an increase in average consumption is to be noted.

Proven ergonomics further improved

On the top we find exactly the same functional layout of the commands as in the previous version, so we will not dwell on it except to point out that the keys allowing access to two functions have their supporters and detractors, and that canonists will not be out of place.

[Test] Canon 5D MK IV: we tested the SLR in New York!
The same applies to the rear panel, where there is nothing new in the control section except for a button under the joystick to change the AF area selection mode.

On the other hand, therear screen has undergone a significant evolution: in addition to a significant increase in resolution from to 1,620,000 dots, it is now touch-sensitive, a real advantage for selecting the net subject in liveview as well as in video and navigating in the menus.

[Test] Canon 5D MK IV: we tested the SLR in New York!
Finally, let’s point out the presence of a wifi module integrated which allows a rather complete remote control of the camera (with a restriction: the lens is not electrically motorized contrary to what exists on some hybrids, it is thus not possible to zoom remotely, but it is always the case in full format) as well as a GPSchip.

To sum up, the 5D Mk IV is a continuation of the previous version, with the addition of some very significant improvements.

A very high quality case, but at what price?

Indeed, while all manufacturers have chosen to increase their margin on the sale of each unit due to the structural fall in sales volumes, Canon is breaking new ground here. The very limited decrease of the cost at the purchase of the previous model was already difficult to accept, but to propose this case at more than 4000 euros without any objective seems difficult to justify when the original spirit of the 5D range was to make the full format more accessible. Unless there is a real evolution in tariffs over time, which Canon’s overall trade policy does not suggest, we can only deplore this choice.