Canon 5D Mark IV: Is It Actually Great for Video?

Many of you may reply to the title of this article with an abrupt "No," and prior to using the Canon 5D Mark IV for my own videos, I would have agreed with you. It's easy to judge this camera based on the specs because in all fairness they're not exactly groundbreaking, however, the 5D Mark IV might secretly be a great video camera.  

I'm aware that many of us aren't particularly happy about the implementation of 4K video in this camera. The crop factor for one isn't great and it prevents me from using my full-frame lenses effectively. At a 1.74x crop factor, we're leaning almost into Micro Four Thirds territory and this it seems is a deal breaker for many, if not, most people. Not to mention the huge file sizes which use a bloated and outdated file format, meaning that the cost of storage increases significantly. There are however several redeeming features of this camera that more than make-up for its shortcomings. Eric Floberg, a photographer and YouTuber, discusses some of these features and reasons why the 5D Mark IV might actually be a fantastic option for many video shooters. For one the auto-focus system in the Canon is still the best system currently available.

Speaking as someone that uses the Sony a7R III regularly for video, the Canon is still much more effective and reliable for auto-focus. The implementation of tap to focus is also significantly better in the Canon vs the Sony and the touch screen works for all menu options too. The crop factor is a pain, however, using a good aps-c lens like the Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 pretty much negates this issue. Lastly, I really do love to look of DCI 4K, it not only has a more cinematic look to it but, works much better with smartphones and screens with wider aspect ratios.

Floberg describes some of the reasons why he thinks the 5D Mark IV is a really good video camera and I do agree with his points.     

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27 Comments

Mark Richardson's picture

It is an excellent 1080p shooter. We use it for a "B" camera and travel/run and gun. If you're finishing in 1080 then there is no reason the 5D IV wouldn't be a great option, especially if you need a hybrid.

Alex Armitage's picture

Traveling and shooting photos/video. It does just fine.

At the end of the day, no one but us would really even pay attention to those details. Most consumers just want to see pretty cinematic shots, which you can totally get on the camera.

"Lastly, I really do love to look of DCI 4K, it not only has a more cinematic look to it but, works much better with smartphones and screens with wider aspect ratios."

I find this amusing. The difference between 17:9 and 16:9 is so small I doubt anyone would really ever notice. Even people that work with video every day. I know I am never like, "oh, you shot this at 17:9, what a bold choice, it really gives you that cinematic feel". The only reason it exists is that it is the actual aspect of Super35 film stock where as 16:9 is a result of merging 4:3 TV aspect and 2.4:1 cinematic widescreen into a single format that would work for both SD TV as well as wide screen presentations in the home with the advent of widescreen TV's.

Usman Dawood's picture

Small is relative.

The blue is the difference. It's 256 pixels, around 6%.

Usman Dawood's picture

Yet enough to make a big enough difference for me :-).

I wasn't aware of that history. Thanks for the education! (PS: Now someone's going to come out with a 17.1:9 ratio to really take cinema over the top!)

Jerry OConnor's picture

I use the 5DIV primarily for shooting interviews at 1080p. I ordered the version with C-Log and love the look that the camera provides, especially when it is paired with L prime lenes. I'm both a photographer and video story teller so the camera suits me well. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that someday soon Canon would announce an upgraded C100 (Mark III) and then I can use the 5DIV as my B camera as Mark Richardson has suggested above.

Kawika Lopez's picture

I don’t care what anyone says. The usability factor and focus tracking on the 5D mark IV make it my favorite camera to actually use. It’s the camera that get in my way the LEAST out of all the DSLRs I’ve used.

Usman Dawood's picture

Completely agree with you. All the fancy features from the Sony cameras are great but usability is still the most important factor for me.

Jon Kellett's picture

Well. That vid was better than expected!

The only questions I have though is how do 5D users handle ingest - Do you transcode to an edit-friendly format or deal with proxy files? How many shooting with a 5D use an external recorder instead of in-camera (assuming clean HDMI out @ 4K).

Usman Dawood's picture

I don't think the 5D offers clean 4k out which is a bit of a shame. I tend to just import files directly into Premiere Pro and haven't found any issues with that.

Jon Kellett's picture

I've seen stories of people who could edit sans-proxies 4K footage from other cameras, but had issues with MJPEG files stuttering. Just wondered if it was due to their PC or SW (they were Vegas users)...

Haven't downloaded any footage to test on my PC yet, as I'll probably be moving to Panasonic or Sony...

Anders Madsen's picture

Jon, it's my understanding that less compression means more edit-friendly, since the computer has to do less work while decompressing your footage on the fly.

The problem with the 5DIV is not that the files are hard to edit - it's that they take up a LOT more disk space than e.g. a H.264 4K file. However, the H.264 4K file will require proxies if your computer is lacking processing power, whereas the 5DIV MJPEG files will edit without a hitch on the same hardware. Until you run out of diskspace, that is...

David Love's picture

The file size is a pain when it takes almost a full battery just dumping footage. (If anyone has an recommendations for a card reader that won't corrupt my footage, please let me know.) I use the Mark 4 on a Crane 2 and the auto focus is amazing. Then again without focus assist, it better be. Just ordered the SmallHD Focus 5 to add to the gimble to help with that. I need to send it off for the log update but haven't had time. My least favorite thing is slo mo at 720.

Been wanting to get a gh5 but when you get to that auto focus, reading about the gh5s joke is kind of a let down but I'm sure I'll end up getting it.

Kristopher Rowe's picture

I have used the built-in card reader on an iMac, Macbook Pro as well as a lexar card reader and all stills and footage import cleanly.

Is it possible you have to update the firmware? To me, corruption upon import sounds like it could be the media itself or the camera.

Agreed on the 720 slomo joke. Just as bad (but not worse than) the 1080 slomo on the 1Dx II. They just want us to buy into their Cinema EOS line...

I saw a handful of comparisons on Youtube between the 5dmk4 and several other cameras. The footage of the mk4 was notably softer than the other cameras that were compared to it. Most were much cheaper.
Compared to the hefty price of the mk4, this camera only seems to be interesting for video if you already own this camera and Canon lenses.

Usman Dawood's picture

It's definitely softer I've compared to a bunch of cameras and you're right, however, usability factors are more valuable than a little extra sharpness.

I currently pick my Canon over my Sony a7R III for many projects.

What are the issues you have with the Sony?

Usman Dawood's picture

Focusing in video is still not great compared to canon.
No tap to focus when using smartphone to control the camera.
Tap to focus on the actual camera is a bit meh.

Focus by wire

Image preview still has a delay.

Slow to start up.

Questionable weather sealing when shooting in tougher conditions.

And an issue that annoys me so much, when you have the camera set to write to both card slots if you only insert one card you can’t take any pictures until you change the setting back to write to single card only.

This annoys the heck out of me cause I have to keep changing that setting but Canon just knows.

Essentially usability and focusing still suck on Sony. They’re getting better though and I think eventually they’ll get there but they’re just not there yet.

Nothing is more natural than a good working touch screen. I just wonder why they haven't implemented that yet. It is indeed very limited. Weird stuff.

Well, it seems as if every brand has issues. Canon is lagging behind and will give you only the least they can afford, Sony has user issues, Panasonic's GH5 has AF issues, Nikon has AF issues and an antiquated mount and so there isn't any camera that does it all without flaws.

Usman Dawood's picture

Oh absolutely every camera has issues the only thing different is that Canon is still the best for many people when it comes to sheer usability. I mean imagine if canon offered Sony spec 4K it would be the perfect camera.

They of course could do it. It is just that they don't want to. The don't want to cannibalise their top of the line cameras. And so, the competitions is laughing all the way to the bank.

Usman Dawood's picture

You might be right I do think canon need to pull the finger out and put some more features in their cameras. What kind of annoys me is that even with those limitations it’s still my main camera thus justifying Canons decisions.

It is not that they have gone bad. The competition has become a lot better and made huge steps.

Jonathan Krier's picture

From my experience, and I shoot tons and tons of interviews with the IV, ask a person you're interviewing if they want to see their face super sharp (or overly sharp) and every detail showing, they'll all say no. I don't mind the "soft" nature of the camera, I tend to think everyone else is too sharp.

And run-and-gun, nothing beats the touch to focus and face tracking of the IV, plain and simple. The camera gets a bad wrap from vloggers and youtubers shooting in their living rooms or people who listen and parrot these same "reviewers". The camera works superbly for me and has made me a lot of money, the thing that matters at the end of the day.