Does the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV offer enough to entice existing 5D-series users as well as newcomers to full-frame? Michael Topham finds out as he puts it to the test
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV review: Performance
With the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV having two processors as opposed to one, and one of these exclusively looking after the camera’s image processing, there will be many who hoped for a big improvement in terms of speed. As it stands, the new model is capable of shooting a continuous burst just 1fps than its predecessor. Loaded with a SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB CompactFlash card, it managed to rattle out 22 raw files before its buffer kicked in. This is four more than we recorded with the same card loaded in an EOS 5D Mark III, but not quite the dramatic improvement or big step up we’d been expecting. Switching the image quality setting from raw to JPEG let the camera off its leash and it managed to rattle out an unlimited number of JPEGs at 7fps, with its predecessor doing the same albeit at 6fps. Enabling Dual Pixel raw sees the frame rate drop from 7fps and after three frames of continuous shooting in this mode the camera slowed signs of slowing down. It’s fairly obvious the speed benefits are fairly modest over the EOS 5D Mark III and will be much more significant for EOS 5D Mark II and original 5D users who feel they’re more restricted by their 3.9fps and 3fps respective burst rates.
As mentioned earlier, there is a silent mode as well as a continuous silent mode that allows users to shoot more discreetly at up to 3fps. Unlike some mirrorless cameras that are capable of shooting completely silently thanks to their electronic shutters, the ‘slap’ in silent mode remains audible. The shutter mechanism is clearly dampened, but naming it a ‘quiet’ or ‘less unobtrusive’ shutter mode instead of ‘silent’, would be far more accurate.
With a 61-point AF system borrowed from Canon EOS-1D X, we expected a pro-level autofocus performance and that’s exactly what you get. Whether it’s used in single or continuous AF, in good light or poor light, it goes about its business of acquiring focus accurately at a rapid pace. The AF case-sensitivity settings it carries over from the Mark III work wonders and the new push button takes the hassle away of having to nip into the menu to change the AF area mode on the fly. Activating live view and experimenting with the AF method to FlexiZone Single AF, and the AF mode to Servo AF revealed the true benefit of Dual Pixel AF. The speed of focusing in live view has come on tenfold since the EOS 5D Mark III and the live tracking also works well provided your subject doesn’t move too erratically or shift outside the boundary that’s displayed on-screen.
A majority of the images taken during my testing were shot with the camera set to its evaluative-metering mode. I found the metering system performed exceptionally and on the whole did an excellent job of ensuring the highlights weren’t clipped. Only very occasionally did I find myself dialling in -0.3EV in high-contrast scenes. For scenes that might be harder to expose, there’s also spot, partial and centreweighted modes to choose from.
Keen to explore the practical advantages of Dual Pixel raw and the working benefits it brings to pro and enthusiast photographers, I started out by enabling the function from the main menu. You’re given subtle clues to when it’s active, the DPR abbreviation being displayed on the top-plate LCD and also in the viewfinder when it’s selected from the viewfinder display options. After shooting a series of shallow depth-of-field portraits at apertures ranging from f/1.4 to f/2.8, I picked out a few files that weren’t quite as pin-sharp at the point of focus as I would have liked with the hope of improving them.
The giveaway of the level of adjustment you have in the Dual Pixel RAW Optimizer that’s located within Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software is in the name microadjustment. It’s important not to misinterpret image microadjustment as a way of turning poorly focused images into pin-sharp shots – you’re simply not given this kind of level of control. For shots where you’ve almost nailed the focus, but it’s not razor sharp, it’s possible to adjust the image and bring sharpness back to a desired area. In answer to my earlier question of whether Dual Pixel raw actually works, the answer is yes it does – just don’t expect large tolerances of control. An attempt at using Bokeh shift revealed that this can also be used successfully to adjust the position of out-of-focus areas, or ‘bokeh’ to enhance composition, but just like image microadjustment, the tolerance of top to bottom adjustment is very small.
The addition of Wi-Fi connectivity adds another string to the Mark IV’s bow. Having the option to transfer images directly to a smartphone or tablet out in the field can be valuable for photographers who need to share images instantly with clients or those who like to post via the means of social media. To establish the connection between camera and mobile device you’re required to root through the main menu to the communication settings, but having the option to assign the built-in wireless settings to one of the customisable buttons could make this process faster. It goes without saying that using the camera for long periods with Wi-Fi switched on does have a detrimental affect on battery life so you’ll want to use it vigilantly.