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The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV brings 4K video, GPS and more

The long-awaited -- and long-rumored -- successor to Canon's popular pro full-frame camera looks like it has all the essential modern capabilities for its class.

It's been a whopping four years since Canon first shipped its full-frame EOS 5D Mark III dSLR, a popular model for professional photographers who don't need the speed of a model the size of, say, a 1D X Mark II. And even then the 5DM3 wasn't a huge change from the Mark II. But for its update, the 5D Mark IV, Canon has made a lot of essential upgrades necessary to make it current for its core users -- such as wedding, fashion and landscape photographers as well as videographers -- especially if the company wants it to last another 4 years. These include a new sensor (with updated autofocus) and updated metering system, 4K and HDR video and built-in GPS.

For the body, the 5DM4 runs $3,300 (£3,350, AU$5,000; that puts it about $500 (AU$400) more than the still-available 5DM3.  (Canon itself doesn't seem to be selling the Mark III directly anymore in the US or UK,  but you can find it elsewhere.) There's also a slightly more expensive model that includes Canon Log gamma.

What's new

  • Sensor and autofocus. With this model, Canon continues its trend of replacing the standard CMOS sensors in its dSLRs with versions that use its Dual Pixel CMOS technology -- sensors with phase-detection autofocus points sharing each imaging pixel. The Dual Pixel CMOS architecture provides much better autofocus performance over older Canon systems, especially when shooting video or using Live View. The new sensor jumps to 30.4-megapixel resolution (from 22.3MP), and brings with it an update to the same second generation of its 61-pt High Density Reticular AF autofocus system that debuted in the 1DXM2, with a claimed AF sensitivity down to -4 EV in Live View, as well as its iTR face- and color-detection technology. The camera also gains the metering system found in the EOS 5DS models. Its image processor is the Digic 6+ which first appeared in the 1DXM2.
  • 4K and HDR video. 4K recording has become essential in the current generation of high-end cameras; it delivers far more detail than HD and allows the ability to extract 8-megapixel images. Like the 1DM2, Canon skips the popular UHD 4K format (3,840 x 2,160), instead supporting just cinema-focused DCI (4,096 x 2,160). Most cameras that offer DCI also offer UHD, in part because the two formats have different aspect ratios: UHD's TV-friendly 1.78 vs. DCI's 1.9. The 5DM4 also inherits the HDR movie capability Canon first incorporated into the 80D, which shoots each 1080/60p video frame at two exposures, then combines them for a single 1080/30p frame.
  • Performance. Given the updates, the autofocus is likely faster, especially for Live View. However, its continuous shooting speed is only a bit faster -- 7 frames per second vs. 6fps. That's not bad in general for this class of camera, but here that rating is without autofocus, autoexposure and image stabilization. The buffer, too, is only a couple shots deeper for raw, which is disappointing.
  • Features. In addition to Wi-Fi with NFC, Canon adds GPS; it can be used to sync the time across multiple bodies as well as geotag. And you can use FTP for file transfer via the Wi-Fi connection. Canon adds an intervalometer and a timer for bulb mode so your forefinger gets a break. There's also a new file format, Dual Pixel raw, which will allow you to make sub-pixel adjustments in software for increased sharpness; since Canon is the last manufacturer to retain a softening antialiasing filter on its sensors -- better for video but worse for stills -- this is probably Canon's workaround. The files are twice the size of a standard raw, however. In the same vein, you'll now be able to shoot with its corrective Digital Lens Optimizer live rather than having to apply it in postprocessing.
  • Design. Overall, the body design remains the same, save for a few tweaks. Perhaps most important, it has improved dust-and-weather sealing, on par with the 7D Mark II according to Canon. The remote terminal moves to the front to make room for a USB 3 connector, and it adds the much-easier-to-manipulate joystick control for selecting AF areas that we've seen in recent Canon models. The back LCD is similar to the one on the 1DXM2, but it supports touch for all actions (rather than just a limited number of operations). The shutter mechanism has a softer, less vibratory operation and the now-Canon standard Intelligent Viewfinder II overlay. You'll have to buy a new battery grip, though, the BG-E20.

My take

Canon addressed many of the shortcomings from the previous model and seems to have brought it up to date appropriately. The biggest disappointment to me is the unchanged ISO sensitivity range; a high maximum usually means important improvements in noise reduction in the middle of the range. But it's not surprising, since Canon usually targets maintaining image quality status quo when switching from standard to the Dual Pixel CMOS. 

Given the new features, I suspect quite a few Mark III owners will be itching to upgrade; that means this fall should be a good time to pick up a used one.

Editors's note: Updated with new pricing.

Comparative specs

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Nikon D810 Pentax K-1
Sensor effective resolution "22.3MP CMOS 8-channel readout 14-bit" "30.4MP Dual-Pixel CMOS n/a 14-bit" "36.3MP CMOS 12-channel readout 14-bit" "36.4MP CMOS n/a 14-bit"
Sensor size 36 mm x 24mm 36 mm x 24mm 35.9 mm x 24mm 35.9 mm x 24mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x
OLPF Yes Yes No No
Sensitivity range ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 25600/102400 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 25600/102400 (exp) ISO 32 (exp)/64 - ISO 12800/51200 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 204,800
Burst shooting "6fps 18 raw/unlimited JPEG (with AF/AE fixed on first exposure and IS off)" "7fps 21 raw/unlimited JPEG (with AF/AE fixed on first exposure and IS off)" "5fps n/a (6fps in DX mode, 7fps with battery grip)" "4.4fps 70 JPEG/23 raw (6.5fps in APS-C crop mode)"
"Viewfinder (mag/ effective mag)" "Optical 100% coverage 0.71x/0.71x" "Optical 100% coverage 0.71x/0.71x" "Optical 100% coverage 0.70x/0.70x" "Optical 100% coverage 0.70x/0.70x"
Hot Shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus "61-pt High Density Reticular AF 21 center diagonal to f5.6 5 center to f2.8 20 outer to f4" "61-pt High Density Reticular AF II 21 cross-type at f5.6 20 cross-type at f4 and f5.6 20 horizontal at f5.6 5 dual cross-type at f2.8 and f5.6 61 to f8; 21 cross-type" "51-pt 15 cross type 11 cross type to f8 (Multi-CAM 3500-FX)" "33-point phase detection 25 cross type (SAFOX 12)"
"AF sensitivity (at center point)" -2 - 20 EV -3 - 18 EV -2 - 19 EV -3 - 18 EV
Shutter speed 1/8000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/8000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/8000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync
Shutter durability 150,000 cycles 150,000 cycles 200,000 cycles 300,000 cycles
Metering 63-area iFCL 150,000-pixel RGB+IR with 252 zones 91,000-pixel RGB 3D Color Matrix Metering III 86,000-pixel RGB
Metering sensitivity 1 - 20 EV "0 - 20 EV (-4 - 20 EV in Live View)" 0 - 20 EV -3 - 20 EV
Best video "H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p, 25p, 24p; 720/60p, 50p" "QuickTime MOV Motion JPEG DCI 4K (4,096 x 2,160) 2160/30p @ 500Mbps, 720/120p; 1080/30p HDR" "H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/60p, 50p @ 42Mbps, 1080/30p, 25p, 24p @ 24Mbps" H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p, 720/60p
Audio mono; mic input; headphone jack mono; mic input; headphone jack stereo; mic input; headphone jack stereo, mic input, headphone jack
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time 29m59s n/a "20 minutes internal 40 minutes (with external pack)" 4GB/25 minutes
Clean HDMI out Yes n/a Yes Yes
IS Optical Optical Optical "Sensor shift 5-axis"
LCD "3.2 in/8.1 cm Fixed 1.04m dots" "3.2 in/8.1 cm Fixed touchscreen 1.62m dots" "3.2 in/8 cm Fixed 921,000 dots plus extra set of white dots" "3.2 in/8 cm Variable angle 1.04m dots"
Memory slots 1 x CF (UDMA mode 7), 1 x SDXC 1 x CF (UDMA mode 7), 1 x SDXC 1 x CF (UDMA mode 7), 1 x SDXC 2 x SDXC
Wireless connection "Optional (Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E7A)" Wi-Fi, NFC "Optional (WT-4A Wireless transmitter or UT-1 Communication Unit with WT-5A)" Wi-Fi, NFC
Flash No No Yes No
Wireless flash Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) "950 shots (1,800mAh)" "900 shots (VF), 300 shots (LV) (1,865 mAh)" "1,200 shots (1,800 mAh)" "760 shots (1,860 mAh)"
Size (WHD) "6.0 x 4.6 x 3.0 in 152 x 116 x 76 mm" "5.9 x 4.6 x 3.0 in 151 x 116 x 76 mm" "5.8 x 4.9 x 3.3 in 146 x 123 x 81.5 mm mm" "5.4 x 4.3 x 3.4 in 137 x 110 x 86mm"
Body operating weight "33.5 oz 950 g" "31.4 oz (est.) 890 g (est.)" "34.6 oz 980 g" "35.8 oz 1,014 g"
Mfr. price (body only) "$2,600 £2,400 AU$3,350" "$3,500 £2,630 AU$5,200" "$2,800 £2,140 (est.) AU$4,500" "$1,800 £1,600 AU$2,900"
Release date March 2012 September 2016 July 2014 April 2016

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