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: Dynamic range, resolution and noise
The question many photographers want to know, particularly those who already own an EOS 5D Mark III, is how well the new 30.4-million-pixel performs and by what margin is it better than the 22.3-million pixel sensor as used in its predecessor. Although it doesn’t quite match the staggering level of detail resolved by the EOS 5DS and 5DS R models, the sensor resolves exceptionally fine detail as our lab results illustrate. The major leap forward in terms of image quality is found in the EOS 5D Mark IV’s improved dynamic range and noise performance, which is aided by the move to on-chip analogue-to-digital conversion. Users are given much greater latitude when it comes to returning detail to shadowed regions, and with the ability of being able to push raw files further, users are given greater confidence to underexpose images in order to preserve highlight detail.
The EOS 5D Mark IV’s dynamic range offers a notable improvement over its predecessor. Our lab results tell us it offers a 1.6EV improvement in dynamic range over the EOS 5D Mark III at ISO 100. The astonishing 13.7EV readout is the highest dynamic range figure we’ve ever recorded on an EOS DSLR and it manages to stay above 10EV right up to ISO 1,600. Results at ISO 3,200, 6,400 and 12,800 drop to 8.5EV, 7.4EV and 6.5EV respectively, and it’s only when the sensitivity is pushed to ISO 51,200 that we see the dynamic range figure drop below the critical 6EV. This extremely impressive dynamic range performance is welcome news for those who wish to return detail to shadowed regions with minimal noise as a result.
Unlike the EOS 5D Mark III, which resolved almost exactly the same level of detail as the EOS 5D Mark II, the EOS 5D Mark IV’s 30.4-million pixel sensor resolves a finer level of detail than its forerunner. A close inspection of our resolution chart shows it resolves a maximum of 3,400l/ph at ISO 100, 3,200l/ph at ISO 400 and 3,000 at ISO 800. Detail remains very high when you reach ISO 1,600 and ISO 3,200, with 2,800l/ph being resolved up to ISO 6,400. As you begin to push the sensitivity higher, fine detail starts to get lost with the introduction of noise, although the sensor shows it’s still more than capable of resolving 2,600l/ph up to its sensitivity ceiling of ISO 32,000 before expansion. Pushing to its H1 (ISO 51,200) and H2 (ISO 102,400) settings sees the level of detail drop to 2,400l/ph and 2,200l/ph respectively.
Below we show details from our resolution chart test pattern (right). Multiply the number beneath the lines by 200 to give the resolution in lines per picture height.
A higher density of pixels on the same sensor surface area can often translate to more noise at pixel level. However, Canon has worked its magic to ensure that the EOS 5D Mark IV delivers an admirable noise response. An inspection of raw files captured through the sensitivity range displayed clean noise-free results between ISO 100 and 800. Push to ISO 1,600 and you’ll start to see luminance noise appearing, which becomes increasingly evident when you push to ISO 3,200 and ISO 6,400. ISO 3,200 is very usable, and so is ISO 6,400 with some careful application of noise reduction. I’d consider ISO 12,800 to be the upper limit of where I’d want to push the sensitivity on a regular basis, whereas previously on the EOS 5D Mark III I was hesitant to push much beyond ISO 6,400. Detail and colour saturation hold up impressively at ISO 25,600, but the dominance of noise at this setting restricts it to emergency use. The extended ISO 51,200 and ISO 102,400 both see a drop in saturation and should be avoided.