The 5D Mark IV May Well Make or Break Canon

The 5D Mark IV May Well Make or Break Canon

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!"

Oh, shiny!

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. 

3.) Buffer

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.

8. Intervalometer 

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.

Those AF points work wonderfully... when I can see where they are.

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.

Doesn't that make you feel a bit compositionally restricted?

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?

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85 Comments

Previous comments
Kevin Lane's picture

The 5D IV needs to be in the 28MP+ range, needs to have at least a stop better high ISO noise performance, needs to have better dynamic range, needs to have two fast card slots (Doesn't mater if one is SD they just both have to be fast), the AF points absolutely have to light up. As much as I'm in love with my 5D3 I will not ever buy another camera I need to work with that doesn't have focus points that light up. I can't tell you how many shots I've missed because I had to move the focus point to get it to light up so I could see where it was... grrr!

Finally, the price has to be very reasonable. There are fantastic options out now. When the 5D3 came out it was it or the D800 for me.. There are more than a few good options now. I bought the new 24-70 II and it is worth every penny but I won't be paying a premium just to have Canon written on my next body.

Canon has to wow with the 5D IV. Now that all these great bodies have adapters I can switch without having to change my glass.. and there is a whole swarm of new buyers if I want to sell the glass I've invested in. If the 5D IV doesn't wow then I really have no reason to stay. They don't own us any more.

I love my Canon gear. I hope Canon loves selling it to me enough to hit a home run instead of releasing another 7D II.

if im not ganna shift from canon to another brand, canon needs to do something NOW...
higher Sync Speed
better high and base iso
Spot Metering Linked to AF Point NOW..!!
Lighted AF Points

if the 5D4 not is ready ind 2015, i need to find another brand there can lift the job

At the market the higher end Canon cameras are made for, exactly how many people would ever jump ship from Canon to a company such as Pentax or Fuji?

Outside of Pentax (very limited) medium format, Pentax only makes non full-frame models. Pentax will not even have it's first digital full-frame out until at least March 2016. Fuji limited by very outdated and limited sensors.

Alex, I think your comments are spot on. I have the 5DS R, 1DX and 5D III. I love all these cameras for different reasons, although the 5D III is really getting dated. I shoot mostly landscape and wildlife. I tried the Sony a7R II for a week and while it is a wonderful, innovative camera, it just couldn't do the job with my Canon super telephotos for wildlife work. Their PDAF with the Metabones is certainly better than the original a7R contrast-detect AF performance, but it is nowhere near Canon's impressive and reliable AF results for fast moving wildlife shots with Canon glass.

I suspect Nikon will eventually turn that 42MP Sony sensor into a really useful workhorse DSLR camera a notch up from their D810, which brings me to my point. The next 5D Mark IV has to compete head to head with that yet-to-be new Nikon. I assume that new Nikon will have 42MP, an impressive dynamic range (probably more than the a7R II), an excellent AF system, good high-ISO performance, and I am guessing 6-7 frames per second. The 5D Mark IV has to compete with that. I am certainly not interested in some less impressive incremental changes in the 5D Mark IV after waiting four years. Make it happen Canon. Time is of the essence.

Exposure compensation in manual with auto ISO.

Anton Tal's picture

what about the VIDEO?!? With all due respect... the 5DIII is an essential tool for many photographers who also shoot VIDEO, and most of the people leaving the Canon system do it for the insane -GAP- in video quality between the 5DIII and the newer SONY & PANASONIC alternatives.
if it weren't for Magic Lantern we never would have come to know that the 5DIII has the Best RAW video potential locked within it's Technology along with many basic video features... (focus peaking!)

so do we need 4K!? sure, i believe we are damn well OWED at least a 2K UHD option, and C-LOG would be nice as well, and 60fps HD! (i mean REALLY?!?). the 5DIII's video codec is basically the same as the the 5DII's which makes it 7 (SEVEN) years old. (it's like they regret even putting it there...) Sure let's just all buy an Overpriced, (Cropped), Dedicated Cinema EOS camera because Canon wants us to.

Dear Canon, People pay damn good Money for your product because they believe in your Superior Product Quality and innovative & Reliable Design that you can count on to deliver the -BEST- Performance! and We expect and are expected to deliver the same to our clients using the Products we buy. so stop the Nerfing and Let it RAIN!

Chris Froelich's picture

Well, if we are going to dream........ I would love a professional aspect ratio sensor. Instead of increasing megapixel count by decreasing pixel size, I would much rather see a 645 ratio or, heart be still, a 4x5 ratio sensor. The EF mount could handle it fine. Increasing the short side of the sensor to 4608 pixels (4x5 aspect ratio) would increase the megapixel count to 24mp. For me, that is a huge jump from the Mark III.

"What?" you say, "Thats just 2mp difference". Not for me. For large prints, when megapixels really matter, the most common aspect ratio customers want, especially for portraits, is 4x5, 8x10, 16x20....... you get the picture. That means I'm cropping out a lot of pixels. For those large prints, I'm effectively using a 18mp sensor. So a 4x5 aspect ratio sensor, with the same size pixel would actually be an increase of 33%.

I believe that pros who print for a living would gobble that camera up. Its one of the main reasons I don't give up my Aptus 5 II. I get to use all 22 million of those beautiful, wonderful 9 micron pixels and I get to see a more pleasing aspect ration when I look through the view finder.

I would really like to see, and believe Canon needs to address some much needed video functions as well! Focus peaking is one huge necessity that, without a doubt, needs to be added into the Mark IV. Zebra is another feature that would be helpful. An available filmspeed of 1920x1080 @120fps would definitely help bring them up to speed with their competitors...and ill tell you, even though canon seems to save it only for their prosumer line...a swivel screen is so helpful in almost all situations. I would really love to see that feature added!

Until Nikon comes up with some decent lenses that don't cost me a kidney, I'm sticking with canon.

>Did you know the original 1D had a sync speed of 1/500 s

Did you know that the first 1D wasn't fullframe and the height of the sensor *is* the most important fact for the shutter-sync speed (APS-C easily have 1/250 for that reason).

2 things for me (and I hope this doesn't offend anyone) but I just hope that Canon continue to make Canon products in Japan. Since everything I have purchased recently (except my Canon lenses) seems to have been made in China and have developed faults in a short time, I am convinced that quality control is much lower than we have come to expect from Japanese manufacturers. Secondly, I'm hoping for a swivel LCD screen so I can shoot from above my head or at feet level without having to either guess the composition or get down there to look at the 'Live' view image!

Miles Trevelyan-Johnson's picture

The Canon 5dmkiv needs to compete with the image quality and video quality of the Sony A7R2. I have been with Canon for over 15 years and like many have been tempted to sell my 5dmk3 and shift to Sony.

Recently we've seen Canon up their game in response to the amazing Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art, with the as good, if not better Canon 35mm f1.4Lii which is encouraging.

Then again, somebody at Canon thought it would be a good idea to put a slow sd card writer in the 5dmk3, and clump all the focus points together, and if that mentality prevails at Canon with the 5dmk4, then I'll be shifting to Sony for sure.

Emmet Adriaans's picture

Point number 13 is the most important one. Everyone is getting in a knot about vanity. Seriously GPS? It's a damn camera.

Yucel Yalim's picture

You hit most of the points on the head. I would also add Wifi connectivity.

Of the listed points, the most important for me is focus points, ISO access along with dynamic range. Also, keeping the megapixels below 24Meg, like 18Meg would help many of the listed concerns... ie, buffer, shooting rate, ISO and dynamic range... That and the sync... give me at least 1/250.... 1/500 is better...

Grant Beachy's picture

Personally I'd love dynamic range and file latitude combined with a super sensitive center focus point, dual sd cards and nothing over 24mp, so I'm not choking on huge files... so basically I want a D750, but one that uses canon glass. Minus my massive investment in Canon lenses and lighting, I'd have already switched, since canon has been consistently beaten up on DR, and Nikon's colors are even starting to bridge the gap (to my eyes anyhow).

Reginald Walton's picture

'The 5D Mark IV May Well Make or Break Canon" Really? So now Canon is some start up company that they need the 5D Mark IV to "make or break them"? I'm pretty sure Canon will be OK regardless of how the 5D Mark IV sells.

Ross Murphy's picture

I have a 5D3 and I recently bought and returned an A7R2, I didn't like the files, but I also use a D800E and I like the DR and file sizes, I would be perfectly happy with the D800E sensor in the 5D4 with improved focus points similar to D5. I don't care or need WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth or even movie mode for that matter, having 4K would be nice though. My work is all in the field. Canon has the glass and the colors I like, but I'm starting to get used to Nikon.

Of course GPS, wifi, bluetooth, etc... but more important than anything else: 4K video. This camera is to be the latest in the line of 5D cameras that started the DSLR video revolution... the 5DmkIV needs to be IV-K.

You've mentioned almost everything I'd expect in a mkiv. When I upgraded from the mkii I couldn't believe there was no lighted AF points on the mkiii. They'd better bring that back. And more and wider spread of AF points, linked meter to AF points, and better dynamic range are absolute must have's if I'm not going to jump ship.
I'd also like to see better high ISO quality; I shoot a lot of music photography and quite frankly I was very disappointed with the noise levels of the mkiii after I'd read how much improved it was on the mkii. Not on my mkiii.
And finally, Canon had better get cracking with a release date, because like so many others I'm getting tempted by all the eye candy and might consider 'playing away from home' if they don't get their skates on. And that's despite having thousands of pounds invested in Canon lenses and a strong brand loyalty.

Seems simple enough - discover which Nikon the new 5D Mark IV will be competing against and improve or at least match it in price and /or performance. Last thing we need - those ready to jump ship, will be a lesser camera at a higher price months away.

Dynamic range - personally, I'm tired of looking at images taken by my Nikon friends using the same settings! Color depth. Equal or better PERFORMANCE at higher ISO's, not just higher maximum ISO's. And last major stumbling block - megapixels. I'm not printing billboards, but I often crop and would like to crop even more if viable.

To a lesser degree - GPS, WIFI, more focus points spread out further, lit focus point boxes, faster fps, better thumbnail previews (hate that first large preview crop jump), lower ISO's (50, 24, 12, ect) and why not dual ISO in camera HDR's, ala Magic Lantern??? Please keep at least 1 CF card slot!

michael prudhomme's picture

Yep. I've seen such lovely work come from the III that I was tempted to purchased it a year ago when I decided to get a "real" camera. But I wanted more from a camera and since there wasn't even a rumor about a IV release coming anytime soon I decided on Nikon instead. If they can pull out all you've mentioned then it would be a very tempting second body for me as I think both the 1DX II and D5 are just too much camera for me.

Christian Cardona's picture

I'm selling my Canon gear if they don't present a beast! I allready test a Nikon d750 and is impressive, also the xt1 but as a backup camera, I love my MIII But Canon is losing my trust day by day, there such much new options that start to putting my faith in the brand to the limit.

Sony had already dislodged Nikon at the time this article was published

Kurt Boomer's picture

I'll be honest. This post is everything I hate about photography now. I need to shoot more images faster! I need more megapickles! I need faster autofocus! FASTER FASTER FASTER! Seriously, nooo seriously, is the 5D Mk IV going to make your photos better? Photography has become, "hey listen to what my camera is capable of" instead of, "look what I have produced with this photographic tool". This is why I love that most of the photographers that are worth anything (at least in the wedding world) have all gone back to medium format film. Slow down. Think about each motif. No, actually take time to think about each shot. Then, take ONE shot and move on. Unless you're shooting sports I guess. It's hard to say this but, digital camera technology has bumped photography out of the realm of art and into the world of MOAR TECHNOLOGY! Pick up a film camera and feel the reward of thoughtful shooting again. At the very least, take a Holga out to your favorite spot with one roll of film and see what the limit of 12 images does to the way you shoot.

Have you guys actually spent a day with an a7rii? Great camera, but ergonomically unusable to me. Just far too small. Rear dial feels cheap and small. Really bad balance with any kind of quality wide or long lens. Just carpal tunnel all around. I wanted to like it, but I ended up doubling down on my canon system after giving it a go.