Canon 5D Mark IV review – comparison with the 5D Mark III

About a week ago I bought the new Canon 5D Mark IV to finally replace my trusty 5D Mark III as a main camera. I was using the 5D Mark III more than four years (along with 5D Mark II as a backup/secondary camera) and while it is still a great tool, there are few things I don’t like – especially the hideous noise in the shadows when compared with the current Nikon and Sony marvels.

So the 5D Mark IV is finally here, full of improvements! Some of the features became a norm in the Canon world few years ago and were already present in other models, but since I haven’t used 6D or 5DS/R (and no newer APS-C camera either), such features were new to me.

I expect that there will be many more photographers using their 5D Mark III to this day and considering the upgrade to the newly released successor. You have probably learned much about it already, you know the specifications and you have probably read the review on DPR, so I won’t bother you with repeating all the details.

I have read the main reviews too, but still I was surprised (usually positively) by a lot of changes, so this article focuses on comparison with the Canon 5D Mark III. More precisely, it points out practical differences and improvements that are important to me. During the past week I have already shot a wedding and some assignments using the new camera, so here are features I have noticed.

I will leave out the video. You already know about the crippled 4K, but I don’t capture video, so it is annoying to realize this fact, but not a real importance to me.

Features worse than those of 5D Mark III

Unfortunately, there are several items in this list.

Most importantly: In silent mode, there is a longer delay till you are allowed to take another shot. I am using the silent mode most of the time, especially at weddings, company events etc. The burst rate seems to be unchanged, around 3 fps – fine for me, I don’t use it much anyway. But if you use single shots and repeatedly press the shutter, you will only reach around 2.27 fps! Curiously, using this trick the 5D Mark III can shoot silently at 3.25 fps, i.e. faster than the silent burst mode (haven’t realized this before :) ).

Anyway, in other words, when you are taking a shot and you quickly press the shutter again for the second shot, there is a perceivable delay when you have to wait and the camera will take the second picture only after 440 milliseconds at best. With the 5D Mark III, the delay was only 310 milliseconds. I have tried to change some setting such a Flicker detection or Focus/Release priority, but so far there has been no change in this behavior.

Comparison of 5D Mark III and Mark IV in various SILENT modes (not the high speed ones). The 1000 ms results are not rounded - it really happens with such a precision. Actual sound levels are not comparable - the recording cell phone was not in the exact same distance.
Comparison of 5D Mark III and Mark IV in various SILENT modes (not the high speed ones).
The 1000 ms results are not rounded – it really happens with such a precision.
Actual sound levels are not comparable – the recording cell phone was not in the exact same distance.

I have also found a second possible bug (“phenomenon” in Canon speak). When the camera goes to sleep mode you can wake it up by half-pressing the shutter. But sometimes it doesn’t wake up. At some cases you have to half-press the shutter two or three times to get the camera operating again. For the record: I have the GPS localization turned on at all times (to test it out) and the first shutter press flashes the GPS indicator briefly, so this might be related. But it shouldn’t happen.

The camera is sleeping, but I have set the GPS to be always active.
The camera is sleeping, but I have set the GPS to be always active.

I hope that both of these issues could be fixed with a new firmware (currently using 1.0.1) or with some menu option, but we will see in the future.

One small change is that top LCD doesn’t display file formats (RAW, JPG, …) anymore, but there are a GPS and WiFi indicators at that same area. The card icons are still there, but moved. The Quick Control Screen and also Custom Quick Control Screen can show the file format information, so this is not a big deal.

The top LCD, file formats are gone.
The top LCD, file formats are gone.

Features unfortunately equally as bad as on the 5D Mark III

As you will see in the next chapter A LOT has been improved. But some obstacles remained:

Officially no user-replacable matte/precision focusing screen. You can see in my article, why precision matte is a great thing (article is both in Czech and English). It is replacable in some models (5D Mark II, 6D), but not in others (5D Mark III, 5D Mark IV). Fortunately after some time a third-party solutions emerge, so I have been able to replace my matte in 5D Mark III and I hope to be able to do it again in Mark IV. But it will take many months till it will be in production and it will probably somewhat mess with the exposure.

The main LCD is not tiltable. This would have been really useful, but still no luck… Though now you can display LiveView over WiFi on your phone and control your camera from there. And with pairing by NFC it is a relatively painless process, although the initialization is slower.

After taking a picture, the last shot is automatically displayed, but it is still impossible to go to the previous shots. Why??? One have to press the Play button to get the identical view of the last photo (except with image counter included) and only after that it is possible to traverse through all the images on the card.

Assigning functions to buttons is artificially limited. It makes sense in some ways, but do the Canons think that they know the best for all the possible combinations? I already bumped into some limitations.

Features that might have been different, but are the same as on the 5D Mark III (fortunately?)

Compatible batteries. There is a newer LP-E6N and older LP-E6, both are usable in 5D Mark II/III/IV and can be charged in any charger that comes with one of the cameras. (The LP-E6N has the advantage of slightly faster burst shooting.)

Same card slots. There is a slot for CompactFlash and another one for SD card with a direct support for Eye-Fi cards from the menu. I will be using both 5D Mark IV and Mark III, so it means no mess in my bag with CFast etc. But this is a minor thing.

Features that got better since 5D Mark III

Finally getting to the main part :)

Much lower noise in shadows. Yes! The dream comes true. There is no more that significant penalty for brightening the RAW image on a computer. This means there is lesser need to merge multiple landscape shots and also you can fix bigger underexposure (sometimes done on purpose, sometimes accidental).

You already know that, but to illustrate the difference I took an image using the same settings (f/2.8, 1/1000 s, ISO 100) with both Mark IV and Mark III. It was intentionally dark, so I could brighten it up in Lightroom.

The original image and the brightened one
The original image and the brightened one

I used a compensation roughly equivalent to +5 EV. Pretty extreme, but sometimes necessary to avoid clipped highlights. So here are magnified results from both cameras:

Comparison of noise after pushing originally dark ISO 100 photograph by about +5 EV in Lightroom.
Comparison of noise after pushing originally dark ISO 100 photograph by about +5 EV in Lightroom.

Definitely much better. Thank you, Canon!

LiveView focusing using the phase detection. Wow! The dual pixels work great and coupled with face detection they are excellent. LiveView autofocus is now fast and really useful. I haven’t had that much time to test it out, but I already hope that 5D Mark V will be a fully mirrorless camera (seriously).

Autofocus works in dark. I can confirm that you can shoot through the viewfinder and focus in darker areas than it was possible using the 5D Mark III. And the LiveView can focus in even slightly less light.

Higher resolution. A good thing, but not crucial. There are 36 % more pixels, but this means just about 17 % increase in horizontal or vertical resolution. You will notice a change only in direct comparison.

Much larger buffer. I am usually storing RAWs on CF card and JPEGs on SD card, so I can tax the system at times. The Canon 5D Mark III has a buffer for 6 shots, whereas the Mark IV has a buffer for 12 shots (which are much bigger too). A welcome addition.

Added GPS and WiFi support. Great, I will probably use both.

Configurable screens and views. Very nice touch. Since in many screens you can see so much information, you can now choose what is important for you and what to hide, e.g. in LiveView you can have up to four different screens, but you can also choose disable some of them altogether. Then you can toggle between just two or three of them. And you can select items that will be present on each of the screens – histogram, settings, level etc. – each can be shown or hidden. And as for Custom Quick Controls Screen you can completely design your own using the “widgets” you need.

Touchscreen. Nice, but not as good as it could have been. See the chapter below.

Horizon in viewfinder is shown at all times. It is located above the focusing points, so no need to decide between focusing or leveling.

There are possibly much more icons in the viewfinder … if you want them. You can configure what you do and don’t want to see.

The ISO information is included in Image Playback. At last!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! On 5D Mark III when reviewing the image there are three views – image with nothing else; image with basic info containing aperture + exposure time + exposure compensation, but NO ISO speed; and verbose view with details like picture style and also the ISO speed. On the 5D Mark IV the ISO speed finally got into the second screen too, so you can see all the exposure information at once and there is no need to switch between screens all the time. The third screen now got extremely verbose, so you can scroll through all the information on nine (!) sub-screens.

Image playback, the ISO speed is finally there!
Image playback, the ISO speed is finally there!

USB 3.0 with cable protector – Cool! As LensRentals commonly point out in their great blog the USB and HDMI connectors are stressed and prone to break. This usually results in a motherboard replacement (!), so there has been some third party hacks solutions. Canon implemented the same idea natively in 7D Mark II and now in 5D Mark IV too.

The USB cable and the cable protector in action.
The USB cable and the cable protector in action.

Exposure compensation in Manual mode. Seems like a unnecessary thing, but even in Manual mode, you can turn on the Auto ISO. But without the Exposure compensation you were stuck with whatever the camera chose for you. From now on you can map the compensation to the newly added button on the back of the camera and enjoy better Manual mode.

New button can be set to perform one of six defined functions.
New button can be set to perform one of six defined functions.

Interval shooting. It took very long to develop, but we now have the ability to set up the interval shooting from the menu without the need for an external timer remote.

Focusing is possible up to f/8. I will use it maybe once per year, but definitely an improvement.

With a low battery the shooting is still pretty fast. When the battery level in 5D Mark III got under 50 % it wasn’t possible to shoot faster than 3 fps. With the 5D Mark IV there is still a difference between fully charged and discharged battery and between LP-E6 and LP-E6N batteries, but you should get at least 5 fps at any time (at best you will get 7 fps with fully charged LP-E6N).

LiveView automatically activates Image Stabilization. So far I haven’t found any drawbacks, so I consider this to be a good change. You can still turn the IS off using the lens button.

Shortcut for setting LCD brightness. When viewing an image, you can press the illumination button to get into the menu for changing the brightness settings. No need to search the menu. Clever. (In case you have never tried it on the 5D Mark III and now you are wondering if the function wasn’t there already: I have the same thoughts and no – the button was inactive while browsing the photos.)

The illumination button now works in image playback too.
The illumination button now works in image playback too.

Many more items can be added in My Menu. You can now create multiple tabs in My Menu housing lots and lots of items. But since there are various new shortcuts and great configurable Custom Quick Controls, I have actually reduced the number of my items from 5D Mark III :) But still it is possible to add more if there is a need to do so.

Standard (fast) shooting is quieter. The difference is not staggering, but is seems a bit better. The silent modes are similar.

New Auto While Balance mode. There is the previous mode – AWB – and also a new one AWB-W. I am testing it, but still don’t have enough data. There should be less warm color cast under tungsten light.

Touchscreen in depth

It speeds up the work.

It is great in menu.

It is really great in Quick Custom Controls! Never used this before, but I like this screen already.

The Custom Quick Control screen has huge configuration options.
The Custom Quick Control screen has huge configuration options.

You can use the touchscreen to easily scroll around in image playback mode.

But whenever I have read about the inclusion of the touchscreen in the previous reviews, I thought that this will make my life easier by a simple operation – when viewing a photo I will be able to just touch the part I want to magnify (the face usually) and check the focus. Awesome! Except that this is not possible and I don’t have a slightest idea why. Instead, when you touch a photo the following thing it happens… nothing. No clash of functions, just a completely wasted opportunity in my opinion.

To zoom to 100 % at a precise point you have a few options, all of them a bit faster than not using the touch screen. But the perfect solution is missing!

Going on, if you want to avoid another facepalm I suggest you not to look at the rating screen. And also stop reading these two paragraphs and skip the next picture, because I will show it to you. In the rating screen, you can iterate through the images and rate each of them. There are icons for individual stars with the number of pictures that already have the respective rating. But you cannot touch the icons to set the rating for the picture! The fastest way to assign three star rating for a picture is pressing these buttons: SET – UP – UP – UP – SET. And it is not that the stars icons are there just accidentally – you cannot even hide them.

It seems that this screen is a remnant from the old times, because in a stark contrast you can easily configure the Rate button in normal image playback to only set the stars you want and then it will become much more useful. You can have the Rate button toggle between 0, 3 and 5 stars instead of going through 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (this trick was possible on 5D Mark III too).

The rating screen.
The rating screen.


As always, nothing is perfect. Some Canon omissions are weird, some might be bugs, some limitations were probably planned by the marketing department.

The camera is very expensive, but for me the the positive aspects prevail. Finally, we Canon users have almost noise-free shadows, viewfinder AF working in dark environments, phenomenal AF in LiveView, WiFi to command our camera from a smart phone, touch screen and plenty of other features.

From my previous experience with Canon EOS cameras (350D, 40D, 7D, 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III and now 5D Mark IV) I expect this camera to easily withstand the next four years of hard work till its successor is ready again. And while there are minor inconveniences it should be great for basically any kind of work and bring excellent results.