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Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Over Ten Years in the Making

Now the lid has been lifted on the superb Canon EOS 5D Mark IV we can get all doughy-eyed and take a nostalgic stroll through the history of this truly fantastic range of DSLR cameras

The camera industry is an iterative market - meaning that once every few years we can get ourselves into a fury of excitement when we know that an upgrade to our favourite camera family is impending.

The Canon 5D Mark IV has been subject to a barrage of rumours lately, but is one of those products that really hits the rumour websites immediately after the launch of its predecessor.

Now, we’ve all seen the 5D Mark IV specs we can start speculating once more, but before we look forward - let's take a look back through the annals of time (or eleven years) and see where it all began.

Canon EOS 5D

Whilst full-frame sensors had been around in digital cameras for a few years prior to the release of the Canon 5D, they were found in larger scale SLR bodies and also were for the select few in terms of budget.

The 5D became the first “affordable” full-frame DSLR and Canon haven’t looked back since, with this camera not finding itself any competition from competitors for almost two years with the introduction of the Nikon D3 in 2007.

Even though this camera came out 11 years ago, it is still part of only a relatively small clique of 35mm sensor touting Digital SLRs. Pentax have only just released their first in the form of the K-1 and Nikon have been the only other company in 2016 to release a full-frame DSLR in their flagship D5 (competitor to the also 2016 released and full-frame Canon EOS-1D X Mark II).

So, as already elaborated - the sensor was kind of a big deal.

Digital Photography Review had nothing but praise, and described the mood in their office from Canon fans as rapturous - thankfully to the enduring legacy of the internet their conclusion is very apt.

“... there are many photographers quite happy with the results they get from their current cameras, only history will tell if the EOS 5D is the start of a full frame revolution or simply the first of a new niche format.”

And so began a full-frame revolution, with affordable DSLRs and later Mirrorless Cameras making it a reality for more photographers to benefit from the advantages that come with these types of cameras.

The sensor itself was 13.3MP, with a Digic II processor - enabling up to 3ps due to its focus on buffering ability.

This shows how far we have come in a pretty short space of time, with the 5D Mark IV packing in 30MP and a Digic 6+ processor - which has a continuous shooting ability of 7fps.

ISO performance is the real key indicator of technological advancement - with a native ISO range of 100-1600 being absolutely trounced by the latest 5D’s 100-32,000! There are obviously going to be major disparities between the first generation of the 5D when comparing it to the fourth in line, but it is impressive to take a look back from where we once came.

These upgraded cameras are no slouches, they are clearly designed to advance your camera rather than be a minor step up.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Jump to 2008, the prophecy from DPreview augured well enough for the 5D to evolve into the Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

In a world where camera industry had become a bit more obsessed with winning the megapixel race, Canon managed to shove a 21.1MP in their latest model. A pretty major jump - almost doubling its predecessor.

Once again though, the 5D provided a first for Canon. With its full HD video capture being their first DSLR to be able to record movies, and the first by any manufacturer to output in 1080p - thanks to the DIGIC 4 processor, which also was capable of ‘much faster’ image processing and assisted in bringing live view to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

Low light performance is improved massively thanks to the new ISO range of 100-6400 - but continuous shooting took a small bump up to 3.9fps, and the 9 AF points were the same as the original 5D.

Our friends over at Camera Labs summed it up perfectly:

“Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II is a powerful and feature-packed DSLR that represents a significant upgrade over the original 5D, and a tough rival in the growing ‘affordable’ full-frame market. We’re becoming used to seeing new models released every 18 or even 12 months, with often gradual improvements, but a lot has changed in the three years since the EOS 5D was launched.

The new EOS 5D Mark II may share essentially the same body and AF system as its predecessor, but almost everything else has changed. The sensor’s been boosted to 21.1 Megapixels, matching Canon’s flagship EOS 1Ds Mark III at a fraction of the price, the maximum sensitivity increased by three stops, continuous shooting accelerated from 3 to 3.9fps, the viewfinder coverage slightly broadened to 98%, and the screen greatly improved in size and detail to a 3in VGA model. 

There’s now also Live View, AF micro-adjustment, support for quick UDMA cards, an HDMI port, a new battery with accurate feedback and numerous processing tricks including Highlight Tone Priority, Auto Lighting Optimizer and Peripheral Illumination Correction. And oh yes, it’s also the first Canon DSLR to offer movie recording, and in nothing less than the 1080p format."

Once again Canon were breaking boundaries with their high-end Canon 5D - this time in Mark II form - and were building us up for much greater things to come in the next 8 years.

This camera is still a top choice for those looking for a secondary camera to their main equipment - and the fact that it is still being used by elite photographers is testament to how super this family really is. I mean, it is astounding to think that a digital camera released in 2008 was used to take the World Press Photo of the Year for 2015. In an industry that is as fast moving as the photographic one - this is a huge endorsement.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Another four years passed, and the brains at Canon gave birth to the third in line to the 5D throne - with the announcement rather cutely timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the announcement of the very first EOS camera (the EOS 650), AND Canon’s own 75th birthday.

By 2012, the megapixel race had slowed a little - so the 5D Mark III had an increased count of 22.3 Megapixels - a jump of just 1.2 MP.

The focus, excuse the pun, of improvements on the Mark III did actually centre around the autofocus system, with the new 61-point AF yanked out of its bigger brother the EOS-1D X and thrust into the spotlight to improve massively upon the 5D Mark II’s mere in comparison 9 AF points.

As always in this line of Canon DSLRs, the DIGIC processor is the brains behind it - with the 5D Mark III utilising the DIGIC 5+ with a 17x leap in performance compared to the DIGIC 4 as found in the older 5D.

Again you know the processing power is going to be strong when the chip that powers Canon’s flagship DSLR, the 1DX, is harboured inside - although the EOS-1D X offered dual DIGIC 5+ which assists in greater buffering ability for continuous shooting.

Which segues nicely onto the fact that the 5D Mark III manages 6 fps continuous capture which was a nice increase on the 3.9 fps proffered by the Mark II and the 3 fps as found in the inaugural 5D.

Low light performance is once again enhanced by a huge increase in ISO range with this iteration of the 5D capable of ISO from 100-25,600, which compared to the maximum 6400 ISO on the 5D Mark II is a huge improvement.

The 5D Mark III is basically the moment that Canon realised they were no longer making this DSLR for just photographers - they knew that videographers were using this as their weapon of choice. The introduction of Full HD into the Mark II was a watershed moment, it changed the whole purpose of this DSLR - and the 5D Mark III capitalised on this by tweaking to suit its new audience.

A headphone jack for monitoring audio, live-view switch on the rear of the camera and a raft of significant tweaks geared towards making this the ultimate tool. Weatherproofing was added, as was an extra CF slot to cater for the extra memory that capturing video will take up, plus the LCD screen was taken from the 1D X to improve playback clarity.

Tech Radar took umbrage to the fact so many features of this camera had been borrowed from other cameras in its range and declared:

“It suffers a little from the fact that the majority of the systems have been seen elsewhere in the Canon DSLR lineup, and therefore there is nothing really groundbreaking..

Hindsight shows that this wasn’t an issue customers had, with the 5D Mark III being an incredibly popular camera. Also from a personal perspective, borrowing things from flagship DSLRs and adopting them across cameras lower down the ranges is standard practice in this industry - it is one of the huge benefits of these expensive range-leading cameras, their innovation is paid for by their consumer and the love gets shared.

Canon 5Ds and 5Ds R

In early 2015 came a surprise addition to the 5D family to sit alongside the 5D Mark III - not so much an upgrade, as a premium version of the camera for photographers who were after the detail that a Megapixel powerhouse can offer.

And how many Megapixels can a powerhouse offer? 50.6 MP!

Probably due to competitor pressure, with the low bump in MP between the two previous 5D cameras we found ourselves with the Canon EOS 5Ds and the Canon EOS 5Ds R.

Two versions of basically the same camera, with the R version simply differing by adding an optical filter to cancel out the low-pass filter (also known as anti aliasing filter) found in the 5Ds.

The aim of this is to reduce artefacts and moire - something a high megapixel sensor as this will be a bit more susceptible to.

There are some clear indications that there is an altogether different application for these cameras compared to the 5D Mark III which show that they can live together in harmony rather than competing for the same audience.

Firstly the continuous shooting capture rate is lower than the Mark III and ISO Sensitivity harks back to Mark II levels, maxing out at 6400. On the other hand, there are dual DIGIC 6 image processors with 14-bit processing, no doubt requiring dual processors to take on the load of the extra pixels each shot contains.

Rather aptly, as we’ll be touching on this very soon, there was a new shutter and mirror mechanism to reduce camera shake when taking pictures which also assisted in creating a quieter shutter.

Canon 5D Mark IV

Fast forward to the year of 2016 and Canon are once more taking us on a pilgrimage of camera delight - with the introduction to the world to the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Canon have really blown the doors off the industry this year, with the astounding Canon EOS-1D X Mark II leading the way. They’ve also released the 80D and the 1300D, upgrades to the 70D and 1200D respectively.

So what better way to continue the trend of innovation by releasing the 5D Mark III’s successor in the same year?

There are some real noticeable jumps from the 5D Mark III which make this camera again present itself as a worthy upgrade as opposed to a mere iteration.

Firstly, you’ll notice that the all new sensor is packing 30 Megapixels, a surprising jump - with all the rumour sites in the build up expecting a mere three or four more only.

4K has made it too, however rather than being the trendsetter of the Canon pack - it is following on the heels of the aforementioned Canon EOS-1D X Mark II which is also capable of 4K video capture.

The new de facto standard in top-quality video capture, you can capture 4K at 30fps - and rather interestingly can extract 8-megapixel still images from this video. This is similar to technology adopted by Panasonic in their range of 4K cameras.

Video advancements aren’t just limited to the new ultra high definition, with Full HD now capable of 120fps, meaning you can capture lovely slow motion footage.

Much like the Mark III it does borrow some features, and unashamedly so, from the EOS-1D X Mark II. So we’re delighted to see the DIGIC 6+ processor make its way to the Mark IV.

This brings Dual Pixel AF with it, meaning improved performance in focusing speed during movie and video modes - with this being a camera aimed to capture great video as well as photos, that is a welcome addition.

Possibly more intriguing, and one of the features that didn’t make the rumour sites until later on, is the Dual Pixel RAW shooting setting. This basically takes two RAW photos at once and subsequently captures enough data in each pixel to allow a series of ‘micro adjustments’ - thus meaning you can alter the sharpness of an area of a photo to a much more granular level after the shot, plus you can adjust where Bokeh is in the actual image too.

So, say you shoot a portrait at a wedding and the focus is ever so slightly out, if you shot your picture in Dual Pixel RAW mode, then you may be able to adjust ever so slightly to regain that focus.

This is not being marketed as a focus adjustment function like the Panasonic ‘Post-Focus’ feature that allows focus adjustment on a large scale after the shot has been taken - Canon are eager to highlight that it is only a very granular level, but it is a highly intelligent new killer feature and one that will appeal to many photographers who will get a chance to salvage more of their shots after the event has occurred.

Autofocus has already been discussed from a video perspective, and the 61-point AF is the same as in the 5D Mark III but with one major difference - as seen in the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II - is the fact that it functions with maximum apertures as small as f/8. This was a revelation for those who shoot with telephoto lenses, and means that the 5D Mark IV has another one-up on its predecessor in that it is now able to use AF with a teleConverter where the Mark III would’ve struggled.

Focus point selection also becomes much easier thanks to the 1620k LCD screen which is not just astoundingly clear (which should be expected from something that adopts ClearView II technology!) but is a touchscreen. This means you can select where you want to focus with the tap of a finger or thumb.

As with the Canon 80D you can also adjust a range of settings via this screen, which is a matter of taste really - there are certainly enough buttons to do this already, but some may find this way more intuitive. It’s also something that you would now expect from a camera of this pedigree.

Overall, the style of the camera is pretty much the same - but there are a few aesthetic tweaks, including the little custom function button on the rear of the camera which can have a number of different functions assigned to it.

The remote controller jack has been moved to the front of the camera in order to accommodate the newly added USB 3 port which requires more space than a conventional camera’s USB (which is usually in the form of mini or micro USB). This really isn’t an inconvenience as you’ll be amazed and the transfer speeds when used with a compatible computer (nippy!).

The subject of a load of conjecture since the launch of the 1D X Mark II has been the storage solution that would be found inside the 5D Mark IV - resulting from the fact that there was the inclusion of a CFast slot in the aforementioned big brother camera. So, don’t believe everything you read, because nothing has changed here - with a single slot for Compact Flash and a single slot for SD cards.

It is more the fact that CFast is a better performer when it comes to continuous shooting - ensuring that the 1D X Mark II is capable of buffering a shedload of RAW images at once. This isn’t as necessary in the 5D Mark IV, but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise once costs come down to see it in the next version, the 5D Mark V/5D X or whatever that one will be named!?

Wireless technologies are the unsung hero of features in this camera. There are some expectations on modern devices to contain all sorts of these technologies, and Canon have been sure to cram as many in to the 5D Mark IV as possible - and all with great effect.

Wi-Fi and NFC are both present, enabling connection to smartphones and the Canon EOS app - impressively boasting the capability of capturing video over Wi-Fi which opens up a plethora of opportunities - and one which will hopefully open up live broadcast opportunities over the various social media outlets.

Another application for the Wi-Fi in this camera is the built-in FTP transmitter, resulting in wireless transmission of images at the touch of some buttons - a huge feature for those who will require it, and one that eradicates the need for an added wireless file transmitter accessory as per the Mark III.

Finally, they’ve also managed to somehow fit a GPS chip in there, ideal for those who want geo-tagging built into their EXIF data.

With all this new technology comes a small price to pay, with the battery (the same LP-E6N of 5D yore) capable of 900 shots as opposed to the 950 in the older model. You’d also think all these newfangled things come with a weight penalty too, however the 5D Mark IV actually loses 50g from its waist - not a dramatic difference, but a nice reduction considering there are so many advancements on board.

Having had some hands on time with the Canon 5D Mark IV we know that this is going to be an absolute behemoth in its lifetime - if you’re a fan of this family of cameras then it is a no-brainer. If you’re a Canon fan and want to take the leap from APS-C to full frame, it’s a worthy contender for your money too.

We are hugely satisfied that this contains a load of advances that make it a massively tempting proposition to any photographer or videographer. It’s just a matter of time until we get to have a go with a release version of the 5D Mark IV and see how the sensor handles images and videos and we cannot wait.

Be sure to read more on our experience with this camera on this blog, and sign up to our newsletter for the heads up on our latest offers as well as all the new products to hit the market,

To purchase the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV visit our website now!

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By Park Cameras on 25/08/2016

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