This camera was released a whopping seven years ago. Being the last-of-the-line DSLR for Canon, it is still the best 5D camera they will ever make. While there are photographers switching from DSLR to mirrorless, the 5D Mark IV is still being sold to photographers worldwide. Let’s review this camera and see how good it is in 2023.
I won’t lie, I did not buy this camera upon its release in 2016. Back in those days, I was nothing more than a kid shooting on my dad’s film camera. I bought my 5D Mark IV in 2020, right after a series of good jobs, and right before covid. This might be one of the worst business decisions I made, frankly. Nonetheless, having used the camera for three years almost every day, I have developed a liking for it, and I am now happy that I bought it. In fact, I shot so much on it that I had to bring it in for a shutter replacement and a few other repairs already. In this review, we will see what the 5D Mark IV is capable of seven years down the road, very much in the mirrorless era.
Because the 5D Mark IV has been reviewed so many times by so many users, I will focus less on the specs and more on the user experience with it. However, here is a quick spec sheet in case that’s what you’re after.
- 30.4-megapixel full frame CMOS sensor
- DIGIC 6+ image processor
- 3.2″ 1.62-million-dot touchscreen LCD monitor
- DCI 4K video at 30 fps with 8.8-megapixel still grabs
- 61-point high-density reticular AF
- Native ISO 32,000, expanded to ISO 102.400
- Dual pixel raw
- Dual pixel CMOS AF and movie servo AF
- 7 fps bursts
- CF and SD card slots
- Built-in GPS and Wi-Fi with NFC
Now, let’s talk about some of the biggest benefits of using a Canon 5D Mark IV in 2023.
The 5D Mark IV has an awesome 30.4-megapixel full frame CMOS sensor. It is a departure from the 5D Mark III, which many users appreciated back then as well as now. However, what good is a high-resolution sensor without bit depth and dynamic range to match it? Fortunately, the Canon 5D Mark IV is good at those as well: 24.8-bit color depth and 13.6 EVF dynamic range. I have no problem bringing out shadow detail or shooting underexposed or overexposed. As long as the camera is set to raw, you can almost forget that something is over- or underexposed. I have a tendency to shoot slightly overexposed; however, in post-production, the image is brought back to normal to fix skin tones.
Another big pro of the Canon 5D Mark IV is the ISO range. It goes from ISO 100-32,000. The highest usable setting for me will be ISO 12,800. If you’re going higher than that, you’re either doing something very wrong, shooting in the dark, or perhaps doing astrophotography. I’ve shot my late event work on it and never once had a client comment that the images are too grainy. If anything, I like adding grain in post-production to make them more textured and provide that extra film-like appearance. Image-wise, the Canon 5D Mark IV sensor is awesome, and you will not have any problems producing 99% of your work on it. The requirements to produce high-level campaigns have not changed for the past 10 years. You could probably even make do with a 21-megapixel Canon 5D Mark II, but without significant cropping.
While not as good as Canon’s flagship models, focusing on the 5D Mark IV isn’t bad either. The live view focus is decent; however, I rarely use it due to my shooting style. The autofocus system will be not nearly as good as the ones in modern cameras; however, it is not unusable. The 5D Mark IV’s focusing system takes its roots in the older Canon 1D X model, with improved facial recognition and tracking. Focusing depends on your lens as well as your camera. I tend to find the Canon 5D Mark IV to be adequately suited for portrait, fashion, and beauty work. It is nowhere nearly as bad as the one on Canon 5Ds. When I know that the subject I will shoot will be fast-moving, I always switch to the 5D Mark IV.
This is a big one for me as well as other photographers who don’t like upgrading cameras all that often. Investing in a piece of gear as expensive as a camera should be a long-term plan, not a short-term endeavor. Therefore, I would like to talk about the long-term reliability of the Canon 5D Mark IV.
I had this camera break on set, and it was somewhat below the 150k shutter threshold. This initially led me to somewhat question the reliability of the camera. Then again, I bought it used, which is always a gamble. Perhaps the previous owner wasn’t as cautious with it, or perhaps I was too reckless — the latter being more probable. In any case, having repaired this camera, it’s back on set and working more than ever. I’ve dropped it plenty of times, slammed the bottom against the tripod base, and had water splash all over it. I really can confirm that this is a workhorse or a camera, and it will serve you for years without fail. Then again, if it does fail, just replace the shutter and you’ve got yourself a new camera. Another thing I will add is battery reliability. My battery manufacture date says 2016, and I still am able to squeeze 800 shots from the camera. Rarely, if ever, do I worry about not having enough battery power to last me a day of continuous shooting.
The camera has its drawbacks, though. One of the most obvious ones is that it is a DSLR, which is deemed by today’s marketing standards to be outdated technology. The video, while usable, is far from the best available. The 4K on it is frankly very disappointing, and I rarely use it for video work. So, if you are a videographer, this camera is not for you. The LCD on the back does not articulate, which can be a problem for those of us who prefer live view shooting.
If you are on the fence between getting a 5D Mark IV and a mirrorless camera, I say go for the 5D Mark IV. Don’t worry about it being old technology; instead, worry about the skill you have. The EOS series will be around for the next few decades, if not more. Just like you can still find all the FD lenses from the 70s, you will be able to find all the EF lenses well past 2050. As for me, I am not sure when I will upgrade, but definitely not for a while. I have more problems with the images I am making than with the tools I do it with.