May 4, 2020

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | Camera Review

When the Canon 5D Mark IV was released in August of 2016, I pre-ordered it the night it was announced!  Since then, I have used three Canon 5D Mark IV bodies to photograph over 120 weddings as well as hundreds of engagements and portrait sessions. It has truly been a workhorse and a near perfect wedding camera. The way I have used it has changed over the years, and this review will hopefully not only reveal a few of its many useful features, but also help photographers make a decision about investing in this camera! Here are my top five favorite features of the Canon 5D Mark IV!

1. Live View Autofocus – Face Detection and Tracking

When I used to use the Canon 5D Mark III, I almost always used the viewfinder when shooting as it seemed that when I used live view it was really slow to focus. That all changed with the Canon 5D Mark IV as Canon incorporated Dual Pixel focusing technology and live view autofocus became extremely fast, reliable, and perfectly accurate.  Thus, the live view AF is perhaps my most favorite feature about this camera. Its focus is virtually 100% reliable and it requires no calibration of the lenses since the camera is focusing digitally.

When I photograph subjects who are looking at the camera, I put the live view focusing mode on “Face Detect”. When I am photographing subjects that are not looking at the camera, I use “Flexi-Zone Single”. When subjects are moving or walking toward the camera, I use “Flexi-Zone Multiple”. No longer do I need to over shoot hoping that at least some of the images will be in focus.  I have found that nearly all of my photos are in focus now! One tip I would recommend for shooting in live view, is to shoot in AI Servo and turn off automatic image review. This will prevent the camera from displaying a black screen in-between images thus eliminating distraction. 

2. Image Quality

One of the most important aspects when considering a camera, is image quality. Nearly four years after its release, the Canon 5D Mark IV still delivers absolutely breathtaking photos! I have come to love the 30 megapixel images this camera produces. The detail is beautiful, yet the file sizes aren’t so large that they would bog down my computer. With 30 megapixels, I can crop in an image of a ring significantly to make the ring appear larger than life.

Another situation where cropping comes in handy is if I photograph a group vertically but forget to also take a horizontal image. I am later able to crop one of the vertical shots horizontally or vise versa to include more variety.   The color of the Canon 5D Mark IV’s images is breathtaking. I especially appreciate how accurately the camera handles reds. This is important in wedding photography because, in general, people are usually the focus of the photos. I want skin tones to be beautifully rendered and the Canon 5D Mark IV does an incredible job of that.

The Canon 5D Mark IV also has plenty of dynamic range and amazing shadow recovery. If I accidentally underexpose a photo, I can easy bring the exposure back up in Lightroom without losing image quality in both color and contrast.

Lastly, the Canon 5D Mark IV‘s high ISO capability is incredible! There are some situations in a wedding day where using a flash would change the mood of the photo from how it was actually experienced. For example, oftentimes, first dances are experienced in very soft, romantic, and low light using the ambient light of Edison lightbulbs.  Sparkler photos also capture a certain ambiance when photographed using only the light from the sparklers. In those situations, when using the Canon 5D Mark IV, I can safely shoot at ISO 6400 or 12,800 and still retain the image quality. 

3. 10X Zoom Live View

Another of my favorite features of the Canon 5D Mark IV is its ten times zoom.  When photographing macro shots or images of people who are very far away, I want to ensure my focus hits perfectly. Because the area of focus is so small, it may at times be smaller than the AF focus point appears. In these situations, I put the camera in live view, then put the lens in manual focus, and then use the 10X zoom. The magnifying glass button lets me zoom in to 5X or 10X zoom and then lets me focus while zoomed in. I then zoom back out, fine tune the composition, and take the photo. I have found that this method results in perfect focus.

4. Build Quality

The Canon 5D Mark IV really shines in its build quality. Its magnesium-alloy frame is made to withstand the grind of weddings in every type of weather condition.  On a typical wedding day, I may take around 1,500 photos on each of my camera bodies.  Due to the nature of wedding and event photography, I am also moving continuously throughout the day resulting in normal bumps, and wear and tear on my gear.

I have photographed sessions on sandy beaches, on windy days, and in the pouring rain and this camera has stood strong through it all, barely showing any signs of wear. I have full confidence that when I pull the Canon 5D Mark IV out of my bag, it will turn on instantly and be ready to go. Personally, the only downside for me is that I find the size of the body is just slightly too big and bulky. That said, I do like the sturdy feeling it has to it and its quality certainly feels very professional. 

5. Customization with Extra Buttons 

Professional level cameras provide additional buttons so that experienced users are able to access advanced abilities of the camera quickly. I find the layout of the buttons on the Canon 5D Mark IV to be perfect. I also love that this camera allows for a lot of customization. For example, I have the button on the front of the camera set so that when I hold it down, it puts my camera in AI Servo (subject tracking) mode. If I let go of the button, it goes back to One Shot. This is very helpful on engagement sessions when I have a couple standing together not moving (single AF point and One Shot Focus) and then I have them hold hands and walk toward the camera (and I switch to multiple AF points and then hold the button for AI Servo). The focus works like a dream, especially when using live view.

The second button I have customized is the AF Area Selection button. I have it mapped so that if I hold it down while turning the main dial, it changes my ISO. I am constantly adjusting my ISO so this makes the change quick without the risk of accidentally bumping it. I have also customized the display so that when shooting in live view mode, which I now do about 99% of the time, I have the histogram displayed in the top right corner of the LCD screen. The histogram allows me to see if my highlights are being blown or if my shadows are being clipped. I find viewing the histogram to be especially helpful when shooting in live view because the brightness or darkness of the LCD screen can trick my eye and result in an over or underexposed image. Using the histogram is just one more feature that helps me to get the shot right in-camera so that it saves time in post-processing.

Though I really like the Canon 5D Mark IV, there are a few features that I wish it had.

First, I wish that it had a 10 second timer mode. A ten second timer with a 5 photo burst feature built into the camera would allow for me to take a photo of myself with my family when we are on vacation. My old Canon 60D had this feature, back in the day, and I used it when traveling quite often.  One way I have tried to find a work-around for this is by using the wifi and Canon Connect App.  However, in my experience, once I am standing more than about 8 feet from the camera, the app becomes unresponsive to me pressing the shutter button on my phone due to the weak signal strength.

Second, I wish it had an electronic viewfinder. I realize this isn’t really a fair request since the Canon 5D Mark IV is a DSLR, but after using the Canon EOS R, I have found that the benefits of an EVF are immense. With the EVF, I can see my exposure and white-balance live and can customize the menus. The AF is also far more accurate. With the Canon 5D Mark IV not having an EVF, I put the camera in live view and hold it out in front of me. This essentially transforms it into a “mirrorless” camera. However, continuously holding it out is hard on my arms and hard on my eye to look at something that close. This does not make it a sustainable way of shooting on long wedding days.

Lastly, I wish it was just slightly smaller in its build. Though it is built like a tank, and is very sturdy, I find it to be just a bit too bulky. I realize this point is totally dependent on hand size, but for me, I much prefer the size and weight of the Canon EOS R

There is much more I could have shared on the Canon 5D Mark IV but I hope that what was covered in this review was helpful! Even being nearly four years old, the Canon 5D Mark IV is still a more than capable camera. The price of the camera has also dropped over $1,000 since it was first released and you can currently purchase it for around $2,500. This is definitely a plus!  For professional wedding photographers, its dual card slots and quick access to controls, make it a go-to wedding camera. It has never failed me and continues to produces images that are simply stunning! All in all, I highly recommend the Canon 5D Mark IV to any professional wedding photographer! 

For a video review of the Canon 5D Mark IV, check out our YouTube review: