Since 2012, many have considered the Canon 5D Mark III to be the proverbial workhorse of the photography industry. It's a great all-around camera. It's not perfect, though. It's also three-and-a-half years old. In the meantime, manufacturers like Sony and Fujifilm have vaulted ahead in the innovation game. This is Canon's chance to take back the spotlight.
Well, that's nice, but where's the Mark IV?
The Canon 5DS and 5DS R are fine and capable cameras; however, they're niche cameras, as evidenced by their naming convention that leaves the 5D Mark IV slot open. With a pixel pitch of 4.14 microns (versus 6.25 in the 5D Mark III), they top out at ISO 6,400, making them questionable for low light applications. But hey, this clearly isn't what they were designed for, so I don't fault them for that. They shoot gorgeous, detail-rich 50.6 megapixel images that will certainly make most any photographer who is in the Canon system and looking for ultra-fine detail quite happy.
Nonetheless, the 5DS is not and was not meant to be a replacement for the 5D Mark III. Photographers purchased the 5D Mark III because it could step into almost any genre and excel. With great (stellar at its release) low light performance, a just-fast-enough-for-most-action continuous rate, and an AF system that made the 5D Mark II look positively primitive, the 5D Mark III was that camera that you could take into any situation and trust, which is a lot to say of any camera, even nowadays. It fit perfectly in-between Canon's budget full-frame, the 6D, and the flagship 1D X.
The Time Is Now
Now, all three cameras are coming due for an upgrade; thus, you might ask why I'm emphasizing the middle child. The 6D is a wonderful camera, but it's intentionally hobbled in several ways to distinguish it from the 5D Mark III, most notably in its AF system. You can expect the same sort of distinctions between the 6D Mark II and the 5D Mark IV, thus rendering it out of the running for many professionals. On the other hand, the 1D X, with its stratospheric price of admission, is both too expensive and really, too much camera for all but the most demanding pros in the most demanding situations. The 5D series strikes the balance of capability and price that suits 90 percent of pros.
Nonetheless, in the intervening years since its release, many have claimed a stagnation of innovation on the part of Canon, claiming the 5DS to be an upscaled 7D Mark II, while many have begun to switch to other manufacturers, lured by some rather novel advancements. Canon has always had a more methodical, evolution-based reputation versus the frequently updated, revolutionary approach of a manufacturer such as Sony. While many appreciate the former approach, some have grown impatient, particularly now, as this week marks three years since any announcement of a full-frame DSLR, save for the 5DS series, which we'll disregard for the purposes of this discussion, as it fits in separately from the budget, professional, and flagship tiers. Lately, I've seen more and more comments along the lines of: "If Canon doesn't have this and this in the 5D Mark IV, I'm jumping ship!"
I have to admit that I've been having more and more thoughts along these lines lately. With Sony making full-frame mirrorless technology advances on a seemingly weekly basis, Pentax bringing medium format to the masses, and Fujifilm closing the gap between APS-C and full-frame in many ways, it seems that the traditional full-frame DSLR model is under assault from all sides. As many of my talented Fstoppers colleagues can attest to, I've asked a lot about the user experience in these other realms. With each day, my reasons for not making the switch are further diminished: mirrorless AF is evolving and the lens systems of other manufacturers are burgeoning. Really, I only have one reason left (as do many others): I want to see what Canon will produce.
What I Would Like to See
So, let's talk about some things the 5D Mark IV not only should have when it's likely introduced in 2016, but really needs to have to keep pace and to quiet the dull roar of the oncoming mirrorless offerings.
1.) True Dual Card Slots
The 5D Mark III has both a CF card slot and an SD slot. Unfortunately, while the CF slot is fast, the SD slot maxes out at 133x, meaning that if I'm shooting a lot of shots in a short amount of time, I frequently run into buffer blackout. This means I frequently have to choose between having an in-camera backup or being able to shoot freely. Whether the 5D Mark IV has two CF slots (highly unlikely), two SD slots (more likely), or one of each (most likely), the speeds on both need to be up to par.
2.) Variable Drive Rate
The 5D Mark III has a 6 FPS continuous rate. It's not unreasonable to expect the Mark IV to max out at 7 or 8 FPS. However, there are situations in which I don't need a full 8 FPS. The Mark III has a high speed mode (6 FPS) and a low speed mode (3 FPS), but often, I find 3 FPS to be a bit too slow for things like the first kiss, while 6 FPS fills the buffer a little too quickly. It would be great if I could dial in the speed setting that best suited my needs, especially if the Mark IV sees a bump in its maximum rate.
While we're on the topic of the buffer, we need more. Every photographer in the world would appreciate buffers large enough to obviate worrying about filling them in all but the most challenging situations. With the quantum leaps achieved in both memory and processing capability in the past four years, Canon could make this a killer feature.
4.) ISO Knob
The Fujifilm X-T1 is one of my favorite cameras in terms of control. All three exposure parameters are readily available at the fingertips. On the 5D Mark III, it's possible to use a custom function to set up a button/dial combination that allows changing the ISO on the fly, but given the myriad of custom functions available, it would be great if such a fundamental setting had a dedicated control and I could assign that slot to something more specialized.
5.) Sync Speed
Did you know the original 1D had a sync speed of 1/500 s? I know a lot of strobists who shoot with the 5D Mark III and are continually frustrated by its sync speed of 1/200 s. Sure, there's high-speed sync, but right now, in the eyes of many pros, Canon is in a position of needing to reestablish itself as an innovator. An ultra-fast sync speed would be a great distinguishing feature.
6.) Built-In Wireless Transmission
I love the Canon RT flash system. I don't love having to pay almost $300 for the transmitter (or use another 600EX-RT). I generally believe that after a certain price point, certain features that professionals frequently use should be included in a professional system.
7.) Long Exposures
The fact that in 2015, I can't input an arbitrary exposure time without resorting to bulb mode and a trigger is a little bewildering and frankly, makes me think it's a way to push me toward buying accessories. This should be a no-brainer.
Similarly, this is a basic and highly useful feature that I shouldn't need an extra accessory to take advantage of. If my phone can do this, it should be a foregone conclusion that a high-end DSLR can.
9.) Lighted AF Points
The 5D Mark III has a stellar AF system that performs admirably in low light. There's only one problem: I can't see my AF points in low light. For some reason, when shooting in Servo mode, the black AF points do not illuminate, meaning in a dark reception hall, I have to try to follow dimly lit subjects with, you guessed it, a black AF point. The best AF system in the world doesn't mean much to me if I don't know what I'm focusing on.
10.) AF Point Coverage
While we're on the subject, one thing mirrorless cameras do really well and DSLRs do really poorly is spread AF points across the frame. It would be great if I could compose a shot without having to also think about if I can get an AF point on the subject. This would also be tremendously beneficial to those who photograph erratic subjects, such as wildlife photographers, and have to not only keep the subject in frame, but within the confines of AF coverage. Of course, this should not mean the same number of points spread wider, but rather, the same density, with more points added to extend the coverage. I frequently shoot at or near maximum aperture, so the focus and recompose method is not always a viable option.
11.) Spot Metering Linked to AF Point
This is a feature I highly suspect Canon left out of the 5D Mark III to distinguish it from the 1D X, but I really think this is a mistake. Top level cameras should be distinguished not only by their build, but by state of the art and innovative features exclusive to that echelon by virtue of their newness and novelty. Purposely excluding a highly useful and sensible feature that even a camera released in 1998 possessed from your second best camera seems to be a bit of a snub to working professionals.
12.) More Frames Per Second
The 5D Mark III's maximum continuous rate of 6 FPS is just barely adequate for me to feel comfortable in most any situation. I would really feel better if that number was bumped to 8 FPS. Really, with the 1D X Mark II likely to top out at at least 14 FPS, there will still be plenty of room to distinguish it for those who want ultimate speed.
13.) Dynamic Range and File Latitude
This is a big one. With Sony and Nikon's cameras consistently possessing around 14 stops of dynamic range, the 11.7 stops of the 5D Mark III are starting to feel a bit antiquated. Coupled with its poor shadow recovery, I frequently feel a bit restricted when shooting scenes with a large dynamic range.
14.) Release Date
Every day, I read of more photographers jumping ship to the likes of Sony, Fujifilm, Pentax, or Nikon. In all likelihood, there will be at least a four-year gap between the 5D Mark III and the Mark IV. In my humble opinion, that's just too long. At the very least, I long for an announcement, so that I might at least be able to know what's on the horizon.
Now, I'm not saying that if the Mark IV doesn't live up to expectations that Canon is going bankrupt. I am saying, however, that if it doesn't inject some innovation and dare I say, excitement into the market, we might see a shift in the paradigm among working professionals. Many people counter this by saying that the brands like Sony and Fujifilm are too toy-like, too in the realm of consumer electronics to ever dislodge the mighty two brands, but for those who think that, I direct your attention to the ever-burgeoning market share held by Sigma and Tamron's lens divisions. Who's to say such a shift isn't possible with camera bodies too?
What do you need or want in the 5D Mark IV?