Canon 5d Mark IV

For wedding photographers

An in depth review

Well, it’s here. The loooooooonnng wait is over. 4 years in the making, we now have a 5d mark iv. Is it the best wedding camera out there though?

Let’s find out.


First off, I make no money from these articles, no one gives me any kit to try and these thoughts are all my own and are particularly related to my style of photography, although I will try to think of others needs too.

Also, all images are taken with a retail 5d mark iv and processed in Lightroom.

I’ll be comparing the 5d mark iv primarily to the 5d mark iii, although I will touch on Nikon, Sony and Fuji at times too.

I’m also not a professional reviewer – just someone who likes to know as much about their camera as possible! That said, I do my best to make sure everything is factually accurate and sensible.

5d mark IV at ISO4,000 – very little noise!

A bit of history .. but not too much!

The Canon 5d line has a pretty long history now. It was my second DSLR after my 10d .. yes that long ago!

The 5d was the first reasonably priced full frame camera. The 5d2 came along with video and a much higher resolution sensor. It was a revolution! It suffered from a relatively poor AF system though when considering weddings. Then the 5d3 emerged, which was just a really good all round camera – much like the Nikon d700 was.

What makes a good wedding camera?

In order to review something, you have to have criteria to compare it against, so it’s important to lay those out.

Unfortunately, everyone likes something a bit different. Some like stealth, whereas some like files you can push as much as possible in post. I’ll do my best to be fair to all sides, but you might not agree with me…!

  • Be INCREDIBLY reliable please; no one wants the stress of being on a wedding and their camera just stops working. Yes, we all have backup cameras .. but it’s still horrible!
  • Don’t get in my way; This is hard to quantify, but at a wedding the moment is gone when it’s gone, so you want to worry as little as possible that the camera won’t take the shot you want, when you want it.
  • Have a fantastic selection of lenses and a superb flash system; Camera bodies are one thing, but you buy into an entire camera system and the lenses you want should be available too.
  • Be lightweight; Many wedding photographers these days stay at for 10-12 hours. That’s a long time to keep a camera in your hands! So, the lighter it can be, the better.
  • Shh! Be quiet; Weddings are full of people who aren’t used to being with professional photographers, and so you don’t want a huge “clack” in the background.
  • Don’t punish me if it goes wrong; Weddings are .. really fast! Sometimes you’re not quite ready for something. When it goes wrong, let me recover something. For a pro these should be very occasional, but it does happen.

How did the 5d3 perform?

The 5d3 got the basics very right. It was superb and I remember how excited I was about the new AF system. However, there were some pain points, which are listed below.

Dynamic range

Especially at low ISO, if you pushed the exposure or shadows up on the 5d3, you would notice poor quality, badly coloured noise and “banding”. I have to say, this caused me very few real business issues personally, but I know for others it was a bigger problem.

“I’ve found that you can happily recover about 4 to 4.5 stops of shadow detail at ISO100 on the 5d mark iv”

However, total dynamic range is also affected by how much you can pull the highlights back, and here I would say Canon has always been up with the competition if not a little ahead.

It was very seldom that I needed to push an exposure more than 1 stop, as you can see from this graph. It shows the vast majority of my exposures are within 1/3 of a stop of where I wanted them to be. I suppose this is why it’s not been a big deal for me. I also didn’t tend to push shadows too much.

Buffer and card speed

The buffer and card speed go hand in hand to determine the length of bursts of shots you can take.

Cameras like the 1dx / 1dx ii and d4 / d4s / d5 have buffers which mean you can shoot for a ages, but the 5d3 was only about 13 – similar to the 5d2. To make matters worse, the slow speed of the SD card (for which Canon took a beating for being overly cheap) meant it took an age to clear the buffer and the speed would then be limited to less than 1fps.

This is an issue in confetti shots and sometimes walking down the aisle. I am constantly timing shots to ensure I can keep shooting which means I lose moments.

Auto ISO

One of the real annoyances for some people were the auto ISO controls. Not being able to choose a minimum shutter speed faster than 1/250th second was just crazy. I expected this to be fixed in firmware. I believe it was on the 1dx, but not on the 5d3. Why Canon? This was an easy fix.

5d Mark IV – Fantastic dynamic range in a single shot

In addition, not being able to change exposure compensation in manual mode when using auto ISO meant it was much less useful. Again, it should have been fixed in firmware, but was only fixed on the 1dx.

Black AF points

One of the biggest complaints was the black AF points. This was an issue in dark conditions where you could actually lose sight of where your AF point was and so you couldn’t tell what you were focusing on. I spotted this within hours of using the camera.

Was this a big problem? Well, yes it was really. Again, the 1dx gained a workaround for AI servo, and I believe this is fixed properly with the 1dx ii. The 5d3 got nothing though, even though it was a serious problem. For years we have had to live with missed shots due to this, mainly in the first dance.

Canon, you really dropped the ball on this one. Someone should have realised during development that this would be an issue. It makes me question how much you understand what we actually do.

AF performance

General AF performance was superb, and AI servo was brilliant compared with the 5d2. I’d actually use AI servo instead of one shot for outdoor couple sessions typically since I usually have couples moving while I’m shooting.

A tilt screen would really have helped with this puddle shot

However, when it got pretty dark, one shot and especially AI servo would both fail to lock on.

High ISO

We always want better high ISO quality; it’ll never stop. I wouldn’t like to use my 5d3 past ISO6400 and sometimes that was a little low for the shot I wanted to take.

Silent shutter

This was the “killer app” for the 5d3 as far as I was concerned. I could take 4 or 5 shots before people even close to me noticed I was there. It allowed me to be as stealthy.

It was one of the key reasons I didn’t look into Nikon at the time. It’s funny how things which might not be obvious can be so important to how someone works. Vicars loved it too!

Quality, durability and service

One of the most important aspects of all is that the camera isn’t likely to break. No matter what the quality of prints are … if your camera isn’t working, that’s a bad moment in your life!

5d mark IV accurate focus on AI Servo f2, ISO10,000, 1/200th

The 5d3 excelled here.

In the early days though there were some moments where the card wouldn’t finish writing the current photo and I’d need to switch the camera off and remove the battery <cue heart pounding sound>. This was blamed on the memory cards, but the issue miraculously disappeared over various firmware updates while using the same cards. Hmmm….


General handling was superb. I loved the introduction of the “zoom to 100% of the AF point” feature. That made checking focus so much quicker. A real benefit to a wedding photographer.

It always annoyed me though that switching AI servo to one shot and back was slow. There was a button press option (DOF button) for this, but you had to hold the button down – aagh!

To me, this demonstrated that Canon aren’t testing cameras with enough working photographers because I noticed this immediately and hoped for a fix … which, you guessed it, never came.

So what rating would I give the 5d3?

As a wedding camera, I’d give the 5d3 an 8 out of 10 for it’s time. Right now, I’d give it maybe a 6 out of 10. Now bad for a 4 year old camera though! It was such an excellent all rounder.

So what about the new 5d mark 4?

The 5d3 was already a fantastic wedding camera with superb handling and fantastic AF. So, why buy a 5d4 instead of an older 5d3?

How much improved is it? What are the killer apps?

Low ISO dynamic range

Everyone who is into cameras was wondering what Canon would pull out of the bag on this. They don’t have a great history with dynamic range and Nikon have always excelled here. However, the 1dx ii was much improved and we hoped the same was true for the 5d4.

It was!

Use the blue arrow to see the before and after shot with the 5D Mark IV and about 4 stops of recovery.

I’ve found that you can happily recover about 4 to 4.5 stops of shadow detail at ISO100. That’s about 1 stop behind a d750. It might not be enough for some landscape photographers, but I’m perfectly happy with that.

At ISo200 onwards, the 5d4 is fairly  level pegging with the competition. I’m certain Canon will not rest on their laurels with the sensor for so long now since they’re taken a lot of “internet bashing” and defections relating to this for the last 4 years.

It has cost them a lot of sales.

Crop of the bottom left of the above shot

While discussing dynamic range, I also believe that the extreme highlights (the ones you need to pull back in Lightroom) roll off a little more attractively on the 5d4 compared with the 5d3.

However, while I’ve done some semi-scientific tests, I’ve found this difficult to confirm.

ISO Invariance

The camera is now moderately but not completely ISO invariant. This means there’s much less reason to shoot above ISO100. There is still a benefit, but it’s much much less than it was.

You can see on the image below a crop of the original shot at ISO3200 at the correct exposure for the scene. Then, you can see an ISO1600 shot pushed 1 stop, an ISO800 shot pushed 2 stops, an ISO1600 shot pushed 3 stops, an ISO400 shot pushed 4 stops, an ISO200 shot pushed 5 stops.

You can start to see a bit more noise immediately, but it’s tiny and wouldn’t change a printed photo at all. By the time you are pushing 4 stops at ISO400, the noise is definitely increasing in the shadows. By the ISO200 shot there’s noticeably more noise.

5D Mark IV ISO invariance test - ISO 200 (top) to ISO3200 (bottom)

This is a great performance when you think about it. That’s 4 stops pushed from an ISO400 shot. It’s not as good as the competition, but it’s a lot.

Here’s the sequence showing the full photo and concentrating mostly on colour differences.

5D Mark IV ISO invariance colour test - ISO200 to ISO6400

You can definitely see some colour differences in the pushed ISO200 photo – it’s more magenta – and maybe a little in the ISO400 shot. Outside of that, the colours are fine.

So if I had an ISO3200 photo, what would be the least ISO I’d shoot it at? ISO800 would be fine, and ISO400 if I really needed to.

So why bother?

If the noise is still better at the correct ISO, why not shoot at the correct ISO?

Well, for scenes with a low dynamic range, there’s probably no reason to shoot darker, but if you have a larger dynamic range, you can hold onto a massive amount of highlight detail that you’d lose otherwise.

You can see this on the bulbs and windows in the cropped image below. The bulbs are much more evident in the ISO400 shot on the left.

Highlight retention at ISO400 (left) vs ISO6400 (right)

I’ve now found myself protecting some highlights, such as candles and windows, more than I would have previously. I’ll shoot dark, move exposure up say 3 stops in Lightroom and then pull highlights right back.

As another example, here’s a speeches photo which I shot deliberately dark to preserve highlights. The unprocessed file is on the left and it was shot at ISO800, but based on the couples skin, the correct exposure was ISO2500. However, there was a bright light shining on the white flowers on the table causing a wide dynamic range scene.

I probably could have shot it at ISO400 and gained a further stop of highlight room but <ahem Canon> without a RAW histogram, or RAW highlight blinkies, it’s hard to determine exactly what the correct exposure is. Again, there’s no noise penalty in the files for doing this.

Taking advantage of the lower shadow noise to preserve highlights

Could I have done this on the 5d3?

A 1.5 stop push would have been just about OK, but more than that and the files would start to look grainy. Was it a big problem with the 5d3 not being able to do this as effectively? For me, not really. It’s a small benefit really. Extra dynamic range won’t transform my business.

Auto ISO

I shoot on auto ISO for much of the day so this is a really key feature for me. Auto ISO is improved significantly and we can now change exposure compensation in manual mode – which was an issue I first pointed out to Canon on the release of the 5d2, 7 years ago.

Yes, 7 years ago. I just wanted to say that again as it leads into a key point at the end of this review.

Understand exposure comp? Auto ISO can save you time!

Unfortunately … I’ve run out of buttons! The only buttons I can use EC in manual mode are “AF area selection” and “Set”, both of which are doing something else. Noooooo……!!!! How about allowing the “*” and “M-Fn” buttons to do this too? In reality, I might give up AF area selection as it’s not a function I use that much.

However, auto ISO is still not perfect in it’s implementation. More on that later.

AF performance

Really good news … auto focus has taken another leap forward, especially in low light. I now find myself using AI servo in the first dance in very dark conditions with few AF mistakes. I wouldn’t have done that with the 5d3. It’s not perfect, but my keeper rate is higher than it was with one shot when people are moving.

If it’s really dark I’d still use one shot though as it’ll use the AF assist beam from my flash.

Ten years ago photographers would use flash, mostly overpower the ambient and run at f4 or f5.6 maybe. It simply wasn’t possible to guarantee enough attractive shots without using this formula. Shots like this below really show how far cameras have come both in terms of dealing with high ISO from a sensor perspective, but also AF performance in the dark.

Another bonus is that the AF points are spread a little more across the frame vertically.

Measuring hit rate

In the long sequence of the bride and groom walking down the aisle, I had an 85% lock on rate when using AI servo, with another 5% being “just out”. It’s possible and likely a few of these were my errors. The rest were perfectly – and I mean totally perfectly – in focus.

Since the lighting was flat and low contrast, which is a harder situation for an AF system, it’s a good performance.

It’s not infallible though.

A sequence of a couple walking into their bedroom lit mostly by dim, flat light (see photo later) caused difficulties with resulted in an “in focus” hit rate of 60%, even on the stellar 35L. As they got closer to me, there was a little more light on them and accuracy improved, but near the doorway, most shots were slightly out of focus.

In another sequence of the guys coming up stairs to the wedding, every shot was in focus and that was an ISO10,000 f2.8 photo so really dark .. but there was more contrast on the face to lock onto.

There are also occasional shots which are just out of focus for no reason .. usually only by a small amount. The 5d3 had the same issue. I think when you shoot as low DOF as I do, in dark conditions, with subjects who are moving constantly, that’s just something you come to expect.

High ISO

As I said earlier, extra high ISO performance desire will never stop.

Crop of ISO12,800 file with default noise reduction

Is the 5d4 noticeably better? Yes and I’ll happily now use ISO12,800 whereas with the 5d3 I’d stop at ISO6,400. The noise grain is also more attractive – more filmic and random.

I would say, looking at dpreview files in detail, it delivers the same if not slightly better performance than the d750 and not quite as good as the d5 or 1dx ii .. although it’s getting to the point where it’s hard to tell the difference. I believe it’s very close to the 1dx (which wins a little past ISO6400) and therefore what was expected and needed.

How versatile are the exposures at ISO12,800?

Will they accept much pushing and pulling?

I’d say you could push up to a stop at the absolute maximum, presuming you were willing to keep the blacks fairly dark and maybe add more noise reduction in. Half a stop should be fine for sure. As expected, it’s the deep shadows which show the worst noise.

Colours hold up very well though, with only a little distortion here and there in the darkest shadows.

I would happily print an ISO12,800 shot pretty big, but when pushing a stop or more, I’d say you would want to keep the print size smaller, or expect to see a bit of noise.

ISO12,800 pushed one stop, plus a crop

Silent shutter

There’s good and bad news here. The camera has a new shutter which reduces “mirror slap” vibration, which is superb. Sharper photos and lower shutter speeds are always welcome.

The great news is that the normal shutter is noticeably quieter. However, the silent shutter is less silent than the 5d3. Is this an issue? Not really for me, but I know others were disappointed. I now use the normal shutter for much of the day, whereas I never used to use it on the 5d3 at all.

How much of a difference is there?

To put numbers on it, from about 3 feet, the 5d4 was 65db for normal shutter and 60db for silent shutter. The 5d3 was 68db for normal shutter and 57db for silent shutter. So, the silent shutter is now 3db louder but the 3db quieter for the normal shutter.

1db is just perceptable, 2 is moderately perceptible and 3 definitely is noticeable. 10db is doubling of the loudness.

It is what it is. Mostly I’m still happy.

Quality, durability and service

Currently I have nothing to report here as the camera is too new. Canon typically produce very reliable cameras though. It’s one reason I wouldn’t like to move to Nikon as I hear there are significant issues on that side.

I would say though that several people, again, noticed the card not finishing writing the current photo problem, which was again blamed on the cards, but which again seems to have gone with firmware updates. Hmmm…. again.


The camera handling has changed relatively little.

5D Mark IV easily tracks a bride coming down the stairs

They have fixed the functionality of the AI servo to one shot switch, which made me so incredibly happy. I can now use AI servo coming down the aisle and quickly press the DOF button to switch to one shot for the ceremony.

Or, if I spot a great reportage moment which needs AI servo and I’m on one shot, I can switch quickly and catch the moving action.

The old functionality is still available if you want it.

There’s also a new button to change the amount of AF points (AF area selection) you’re using – just a single point, through to multiple. I don’t really use this for my wedding work though. I’d say it was more bird in flight and sports territory.

mRAW and sRAW

I don’t personally use mRAW and sRAW, but I know some of you do, so here’s my quick and dirty assessment.

On the whole, there’s little to tell in terms of noise or sharpness of the overall photo, whether you shoot mRAW, sRAW or RAW, as long as you don’t want to brighten shadows much.

I’d say the original RAW is probably a bit sharper, but I don’t think anyone would ever notice. I did notice a difference in colours. The mRAW and sRAW files had less colour depth than the RAW file, even though the development and WB settings were the same.

High ISO files are fine..

You can see this in the (rather unexciting) ISO12,800 photo of the inside of my cupboard. The colour of the box is noticeably different.

.. but pushing shadows not so much

The much bigger problem is when you start to push the shadows. You can see a series of photos pushed from ISO100 to ISO6400 (max 5 stops). The original RAW files retain their colours and the noise is fairly well controlled.

With mRAW it’s terrible. The colours are horrible and there is a lot more noise. This started even with a relatively moderate 2 stop push. It starts to look like a 5d3 again. I’m not sure why that would be the case, but it is.

I’m sorry to say that, unless you don’t need to push shadows, I don’t recommend mRAW or sRAW. Fix please!

30mp sensor

I’ve not mentioned this so far, but the sensor has more resolution. My honest view is that sensor resolution for wedding photography is pretty much irrelevant, except for cropping. 20-24mp is more than enough for me.

To be honest it’s more of an annoyance since it’s just caused slower lightroom performance, more memory cards on the day and more disk space used.

I do get why Canon had to do this though – to be keeping up with the competition on headline specs.

Was AA filter really necessary?

What was something of a surprise and disappointment was adding an anti-aliasing filter on. The competition have pretty much all moved to no anti-aliasing filter and I hear literally no complaints. Sharper photos would always be a preference so I actually was confused about this.

What else is new with the 5d4?

Is that it? 4 years later and I’ve got better AF and a better sensor and a few tweaks? Surely there must be more than that?

Fortunately, you are right! There’s more to look at. Some of it isn’t that relevant to weddings and I’ll largely ignore it. It’s just not relevant to the work that I do.

Dual pixel AF & touchscreen

Canon has been working on this tech for years now and it has finally made it’s way to the 5d4, along with a very functional touch screen for choosing what to focus on, as well as menus and so on.

The dual pixel AF system is superb. It can lock onto an object – especially a face – and track it with incredible accuracy. You can shoot at 4fps in live view with the subject being tracked.

However, more work has to be done to allow you to choose exactly what you want to track. Too often I find myself pressing on something I want to track and finding the AF point moves elsewhere by itself and changes size.

I also can’t change the size of the virtual AF point, which is a problem for very low depth of field shots.

It’s a relatively new feature though and I hope to see this improved over time as it could be superb. Firmware updates maybe? It would have been even better with <ahem> a tilt screen though.

There’s also a slight bug. With normal AF points, if you press the zoom button on a particular shot, it zooms to 100% at the AF point used to take the shot. However, this feature doesn’t work when using live view – it just zooms to the middle of the image. This is a major annoyance. Fix please!

Multiple “my menus”

One of the most useful features Canon cameras have is a “my menu” which allows you to build your own menu from commonly used features.

You can now have multiple ones of these and even disable the normal menus. This is great!

Dual pixel RAW

I have to say … given that there are “missing” features, I’m disappointed that Canon put time and marketing effort into this. Pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to has been totally underwhelmed.

There have, however, been some discussions online about whether this feature could further improve dynamic range. Now that would have been a feature worth having!

“Real white” white balance

There’s a new white balance mode, already on the more modern Canon cameras, which attempts to produce a more accurate white balance under tungsten light.

I’ve found it fantastic, but not without some problems.

When you have a flash on the camera it’s overridden to use the standard flash white balance temperature. Unfortunately, I often use my flashes with a CTO gel and this leads to an orange looking file on the back of the camera so I have to set white balance manually again .. annoying!

Here’s an example of what I mean. The photo is just horribly orange because the system thinks the flash is the dominant white balance.

I would prefer the camera to ignore the flash colour temperature and just use the white balance setting it calculates. Fix please!

Anti flicker mode

Also available on more recent Canon cameras is the anti flicker mode. I’ve turned this on and often see it telling me that there’s a flickering light source. I understand that this will give me more consistent exposures, so it’s a great option to have.

New viewfinder options

The viewfinder can now contain more information. I can’t say I use this much though.. sorry!

I find the black of the viewfinder generally to reduce the usefulness of the new elements which can be shown. For example, if I switch from one shot to AI servo, the viewfinder will show me that change … unless I’m shooting something black, in which case I won’t be able to see it.

New custom buttons

Alongside the “AI servo to one shot” button fix, there are other new button assignment options. Initially I was interested in assigning a single button (AF-ON) to be “one shot” auto focus, whereas “*” would be AI Servo.

However, after a couple of shoots, I realised I couldn’t reliably determine which one I was pressing, so I switched this off again after getting it wrong a few times. The two buttons are just too similar in feel and location.

Higher resolution screen

The screen resolution is now 1.62 million dots, compared to 1.04 million dots. More is better.. and I’d say it’s noticeably improved.

What’s still missing or problematic?

For me, here are the key issues that remain with the camera. While it’s definitely moved on, the Canon 5d mark iv still not the perfect wedding camera.

I’m sure we all expected this because what is ever perfect? There’s always still room for improvement with everything that we produce. Are any of the issues really significant though, or are they just small tweaks?

Tilt screen … where are you?

Firstly, I really really wanted a tilt screen, and I know a lot of other photographers did too.

However, I know this makes the cameras less durable so maybe a compromise would be two bodies? One with tilt and one without?

ISO invariance .. a bit more please!

Dynamic range at low ISO and ISO invariance can still be better. It’s significantly improved to the point where I personally find myself again saying I don’t need more.

It’s likely Nikon (and Sony) will improve both low and high ISO again over the coming month and years and this will put Canon at a disadvantage again, purely from a competition point of view, just as they had started to catch up.

Auto ISO max shutter speed

Auto ISO would benefit from being able to just choose a specific maximum shutter speed. Instead, you have a set of shutter speeds you can choose from. Sadly, 1/60th is too slow due to subject movement and sometimes 1/125th is too fast if I’m trying to keep ISO low.

Just allow us to set the maximum shutter speed to any value. Most of the time I’d choose 1/80th as I have steady hands. Fix please!

Black AF points .. again

Black AF points is still not fixed. I have no idea on such an expensive camera why this is still broken.

I should never be able to lose my AF point. Yes, in AI servo they now flash red, but what about in one shot? This needs to change in the next version of the camera. Well, to be honest, it needed to change in this version, but Canon clearly didn’t want to spend the money on fixing it.

Battery performance

Even without using the back of the screen any more than I used to, I’m finding that I’m using 25-40% more battery than I used to. With the 5d3, I would tend to get through a day with two batteries. I’d switch as the couple went in for the wedding breakfast.

Now though I’m having to change sometime in the afternoon reception, which is a disappointment. Apparently the new sensor and shutter drain more power.

When you have to change batteries will be down to how many photos you take though.

Line protection

It’s been noted many times that Canon appear to deliberately withhold features to protect the 1dx line. I understand that. You can’t have everything for less cost. It’s business.

However, while I think tank like build quality and 14fps are unreasonable to expect on the 5d4, I’m not sure the same can be said for some features.

Buffer depth

The major complaint here is buffer depth. A £3600 camera which is used for this type of work should not have such a small buffer. This was a major mistake and will be a massive annoyance … again!

I don’t think we expect a 50 frame buffer, but UHS II SD cards and maybe a 25 frame buffer wouldn’t be too much to ask. For me, this is Canon penny pinching and unnecessarily protecting the 1dx line.

Note to Canon: if I want a 1dx, I’ll buy one. I don’t want a camera that big and heavy at all, so I will never buy one.

AF point spot metering

The major omission though, again, is AF point linked spot metering – why is that still not available on the 5d line? There is no good reason for it that I can see.

Features I’d like to see

This might sound a little negative, but here’s a few things I’d love, but doubt we’ll see. I’d love to be proved wrong. Any or all of them would make fantastic additions to the camera in my opinion.

After working with a camera manufacturer for years, you get an idea of how they like to work and what you can expect from them. Based on this experience, here’s a list of features I don’t think we’ll see.

RAW histogram

It would be incredibly useful to be able to see when the RAW file had run out of highlight room on any channel, not just the embedded JPEG.

JPEG with highlight pull

I don’t understand why a JPEG file can’t include different levels of highlight pulling? The JPEG is produced from the RAW file which contains all of the highlight detail which Lightroom allows me access to.

It would be of significant advantage to JPEG shooters if they could retain more highlight data and would probably push some people to shooting JPEG since they wouldn’t have files which “highlight clip” skies and dresses.

Buttons that light up

This is one of those “come and see how much of a problem it really is” issues.

During the winter, weddings are dark events and I’m often struggling to see what options I’m changing or pressing. This goes for all buttons, outside of the obvious ones like the shutter.

New “LED screen” instead of the top LCD

The LCD top panel with shutter speed and so on included has been like this for probably 15 years. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t now be a small LED screen of some kind. This would make it possible to customise the display and show the options I actually want to see.

Automatic lens calibration

When you shoot much of the day at f1.6 or f1.8, you realise quickly that lens calibration is pretty important. I use the excellent Focal by Reikan for this job.

To calibrate all of my lenses takes me about half a day. Now granted, it’s a one off. I don’t need to do it again. However, with excellent live view AF, it seems like Canon could quite easily implement an in-camera automatic lens calibration system. I first made this suggestion mid way through the 5d3 lifecycle and I still maintain it would be useful for people.

Canon 5d mark iv review – summary

Canon again have produced what is in my opinion the best balanced wedding camera for professionals. Obviously others will disagree, but here’s why I come to that conclusion.

Compared to other DSLR’s

Here is the obvious competition

  • It’s not heavy and expensive like the 1dx, 1dxii, d4s and d5 but is very close in performance in all key wedding related elements.
  • It’s a larger and more durable body than the d750, and doesn’t suffers from a 1/4000th shutter limit (try shooting at f1.4 in bright sunshine..).
  • It appears to have better AF than the d810, plus a sensor which is close in low ISO performance and a bit better at high ISO. The d810 is it’s closest competition today.
  • It has better AF and a significantly better sensor than the 5d3.
  • It’s in a different league altogether to the 6d and d610.

It’s not the best at everything though, and in fact there’s not much it’s actually the best at, but it has the best balance of features and cost for the professional wedding photographer, much like the 5d3 before it.

Looking at mirrorless for a second, Sony is an interesting company, but their mirrorless cameras just don’t have the support, nor do they have dual card slots, and they maybe lack some lens option. They’re one to watch.

Fuji are interesting too, but I just can’t trust the AF system like I can with the 5d3 or 5d4 and I would prefer a full frame sensor for lower DOF and higher quality high ISO files.

What’s the final score then?

What would I rate the Canon 5d mark iv out of ten then? When the 5d3 came out, I thought it was an 8 out of 10. Today I’d rate it a 6 out of 10.

Has it bettered the original 5d3 score?

Sadly not. I’d also rate the 5d4 an 8 out of 10 today. Overall, it’s superb and if you’re looking to upgrade your 6d, update your 5d3, or maybe even move to lighter 1dx with few downsides, it’s the most obvious choice. Whether it’s the right business decision to spend the money is a different question. My 5d3 had seen a lot of action so I was due a new camera fairly soon anyway.

However, I would have rated it at 9 out of 10 if it was £2800 not £3600 and they’d fixed the black AF points. I might even have pushed to 9.5 out of 10 if they’d sorted the buffer and iTR system, added a tilt screen and fixed a few other bits. A 10 out 10 would come from complete ISO invariance.

The million dollar question .. would I buy it again if I could make the decision again? Yes I would. That’s the best recommendation I can give to any purchase really. Niggles aside, I’m very happy with it.

Price talk…

Talking of price, I believe the d810 was £2700 at launch.

Looking at the 5d4, £3600 is just too expensive for this camera.

This was universally agreed on by everyone I spoke to.

I realise it’ll go down in price over time, but it would be preferable to start lower and go down more gradually.

What it is and isn’t

Understanding what you’ll really get from a camera can help when making a buying decision.

What is it not?

  • It’s not the best budget wedding camera – that’s the Nikon d750.
  • It’s also not the most durable – the 1dx, 1dxii and d4s/d5 take those titles.
  • It’s also not the bleeding edge for low ISO dynamic range – that’s the d810.
  • It’s not the most innovative – I think you need to look to mirrorless cameras for that.

If you’re looking for those things, look elsewhere!

So what is it?

The 5d4 was recently voted the most disappointing camera of 2016 by Tony Northup youtube viewers. Is that what it is?

I understand what they mean in some ways. There’s no really exciting whizzy new features. There’s not much to look over at your Nikon / Sony / Fuji friends and go … “yeah, but can you do this!”. That’s what online critiquers often want.

That’s not the point though. It’s important to understand this when reviewing the camera. This is a workhorse. It’s meant to be the most all around well balanced camera for a professional photographer.

When you review it with this in mind, it starts to make sense.

Sure, I would have liked a few new exciting features that pushed me try new things, but I need to look back at my original list of criteria. Nowhere did I say “whizzy new features”. I did, however, say:

  • Be INCREDIBLY reliable please
  • Don’t get in my way
  • Have a fantastic selection of lenses and a superb flash system
  • Be lightweight
  • Shh! Be quiet
  • Don’t punish me if it goes wrong

.. and as far as I can see the 5d4 accomplishes these more effectively than the 5d3, although it’s too early to talk about reliability I suppose. It’s a better 5d3 with a few bells on.

This is why it’s so important to lay out what you want before reviewing.

Should you switch from Nikon?

Mostly when I speak to people about switching from Nikon to Canon or vice versa, I say “don’t do it”. Although it’s often explained with a business reason, I don’t believe this for one second. It’s a non-business reason. People just want something better. A pure business reason would be “will it make me more money”.

Is my view different with the 5d mark iv?

Nope. I can’t see any good reason for you to switch from Nikon unless there’s something specific you want, like a lens or maybe the dual pixel AF system.

How long with the crown?

How long will the 5d4 be the best wedding camera body though, at least in terms of headline specifications? The 5d3 was arguably the best for maybe 2 years until the d810 and (maybe the) d750 were launched.

However, I don’t see the 5d4 holding the crown for that long this time.

I’m sure the d820 will be superb, and Nikon are pretty aggressive with the frequency of camera body launches … although people might not love the file size which is inevitably going to come with it!

I’ve said it time and time again though ..  a camera is a complete system and the reason I shoot Canon is not just the body, but the lenses too.

I’ve tried Sigma and the AF is just not as accurate in AI servo, which is important to me. That’s not to say Nikon doesn’t have great lenses – they are definitely catching up over time and that 105 f1.4 looks great!

Still, for me, it’s the key lenses that I use which keeps me with Canon. They make great, but not particularly exciting, camera bodies but they make great lenses. I’ve just purchased the 24mm 1.4 II and 35mm 1.4 II. They both look superb at f1.4 and I’ll look forward to more low DOF goodness!

Where next for Canon cameras?

Why is this even a relevant question for this review? What does the future have to do with the 5d4?

Well, it’s my view that the days of selling cameras on features like sensors megapixel improvements and AF quality are coming to an end. They’re already superb and I’m not sure people will continue to part with the same level of hard earned cash for them.

The next major steps should be in usability in my opinion.

If Canon were to take a leaf out of User Experience projects which create better websites, the best thing they could be doing is interviewing and shadowing as many photographers as possible and working out what their problems are and how they can solve them.

That could produce a truly awesome camera.

Updates through the life cycle

Yes, I’m glad you brought that up. We understand that you release a camera and it’s not perfect. Look at the 5d2 and 5d3 auto ISO implementation. They were far from perfect. However, they were firmware fixes.. or should have been.

That’s the point. They should have been firmware fixes.

I think it’s time for Canon (and other manufacturers) to realise we are in a different age now:

  • Phone manufacturers release firmware updates with major fixes and new features.
  • TV manufacturers release firmware updates with major fixes and new features.
  • Speaker manufacturers release firmware updates with major fixes and new features.
  • Weighing scale manufacturers release firmware updates with major fixes and new features.

Everyone does this. Except, it seems, some camera manufacturers.

Canon need to look at Fuji and how they are working with their users and providing them with updates during the camera life cycle. This makes their users more loyal and buy more cameras.

It doesn’t mean they buy less cameras.

They’re grateful and appreciative.

How innovative are Canon now?

If I was to be honest, I’d say it feels like Canon hasn’t been as innovative of late. Maybe that’s not reality, but rather how it feels.

The same thing seems to have happened to Apple. They don’t really push so much now in my opinion. They get themselves to the point where they’re the market leaders and they run slightly behind everyone else.

What do customers want?

This is not a good situation for customers and I know there have been defections to Nikon for low ISO dynamic range issues in Canon and the likes of Fuji and Sony for mirrorless (dual card slots in a high end Canon full frame mirrorless that will take my lenses please!! In fact, just a mirrorless 5d4).

Canon are being attacked from every side. They must know this.

Still, it seems to me like they’re maybe a little too confident of their market leading position. If the 5d4 had been even a bit less than it is, I would have kept the 5d3 and waited to see what the d820 and d760 brought to the table. I did buy into Fuji for a while a few years ago, but it was too early, and while the xt-2 is a superb camera I’d rather stay with full frame.

Really, they did just enough to keep my interest and take my money this time.

You could say that’s perfect marketing, but in fact you want to excite and delight your customers.

Four years ago when I looked over the fence when I was trying to decide if I would buy the 5d3, I wasn’t as serious about a switch. Now, I don’t know; I’m less brand-centric generally and just want a camera that will allow me to do the best job for my couples.

We’re all reviewers now

I think with the advent of real user reviews, youtube, facebook groups and so on, people have a voice that they didn’t have before.

All manufacturers should be keenly aware it’s much easier for their reputation to be hurt. Canon have really taken an online bashing for low ISO shadow quality, as I’ve mentioned a number of times. Information (good and bad) flows around very quickly now.

On that point, I do think it’s time to solve a few problems, Canon. The viewfinder black point issue is unnacceptable for the second time. This was a problem 4 years ago. And only UHS I in the 5d mark iv .. why? Auto ISO max shutter speed being limited to specific options .. why?

We are under threat too!

Camera manufacturers also need to understand that professional photographers are also under threat and not only from each other.

The new iPhone cameras will soon be able to shoot in some kind of simulated low depth of field mode. That takes another chink out of our armour. Yes, if low DOF is all we have to offer as professionals, then we don’t deserve to be in business. But still, it makes things a bit more tricky.

If you can help us push on, we will continue to support you with more sales.

So Canon – get out there with your customers. See what their pain points are and how you might fix them. Help your customers gain a competitive edge. This is a symbiotic relationship. You help us succeed, we help you succeed. If we die off, so do you.

You are very welcome to join me at a wedding and post production session to see how a camera might be improved upon and I’m sure others would welcome this too. I understand that you have your Canon explorers of light, but they do not represent us or shoot like us, so it’s important to take a wider range of opinions.

That would be my Photography Christmas Wish.


It would be lovely to hear about how you’re planning to celebrate your marriage, so please get in touch.

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Canon 5d Mark IV
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