Field Review of 5D MkIV

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by dcstep, Oct 31, 2016.

  1. I'm mainly a wildlife photographer, shooting fast moving birds and mammals in all kinds of light and shooting mammals, like deer and coyote, 30-minutes before sunrise and 30-minutes after. I need a body that has autofocus ("AF") that locks on quickly to the subject and tracks accurately as the subject moves up, down and sideways relative to the camera. I need a lot of focal length, particularly for birds and my base rig includes an EF 500mm f/4L IS II, often combined with my 1.4x and 2.0x TC-III.
    My Canon bodies have included the 5D2, 5D3, 5DS-R, 7D and 7D2. My 7D MkII has been my go-to body since it was first released. It's AF was incrementally better than the 5D MkIII and its high pixel-density allowed for cropping focal-length limited shots and still retaining high detail, often without a TC attached. The sacrifice, caused my the high pixel-density, was high noise levels above ISO 1600. While the AF was good, compared to predecessors, it was a constant struggle with the bare lens and the 1.4x TC-III and unusable with the 2.0x TC-III. (If you lost AF on a moving target, it would typcially take around a second to reacquire focus). Any series of bird-in-flight shots would have a couple OOF.
    So, when I borrowed a 5D4 from Canon Professional Services, I was interested to see how well it performed in high-ISO situation and how its AF compared to the 7D2.
    The first evening that I had the body, I came upon a handsome white-tail buck, about 20-minutes after sundown. Two experienced shooters that I know were at the same location, shooting 7D2s with 100-400mm II combos. I had the 5D4 with the 500/1.4x combo, shooting 700mm, hand held, at ISO 3200. Here's my favorite shot from a number of nice images:
    This demonstrates two things. First, I was able to focus in low light, when my experience friends didn't get ANY usable shots. Second, the image quality at ISO 3200 is very nice. I think there's a whole stop of additional dynamic range over my 7D2. That's my gut feel. You can look at and other sources for quantitative measures.
    The next day, I wanted to try the 5D4 with the 2.0x TC-III attached, shooting hand held. I planned to shoot bird-in-flight in good lighting conditions. The 7D2 was hard to use in this situation, because if you lost focus with the 2.0x TC, the AF system would hunt around for a full second before reacquiring focus. That was next to impossible to use. The light was exceptionally good, but to my pleasant surprise, a pod of American white pelicans were fishing in front of me and were joined by a great blue heron, all going after shad fingerlings. Here's my favorite shot from that outing, where I had many shots to chose from:
    Yesterday, I went back out with the 500/2.0x TC-III combo, determined to really stress the AF system. I was rewarded with truly crappy, overcast light and very few subjects. The good news is that the few subjects that I got, were easy to pop into focus. If I lost focus, the AF system grabbed back on quickly. This performance blows away the 7D2. It's no contest. I'm selling the 7D2. ($900 if anyone is interested). Below, is a sample from yesterday:

    To summarize, the 5D MkIV is a major step forward for Canon's pro-sumer level bodies. I've used the 1DX and the 1DX MkII in similar circumstances and their AF is only incrementally better than the 5D MkIV. The MkIV has closed the huge gap that previously separated the 1D series from its little brothers and sisters. Now, a serious photographer can mount Canon's very best super-telephoto lenses on the 5D MkIV and hold their own.
    The high-ISO performance and file quality is also a major step forward. A 30mp sensor give substantially more resolution than the 1DX MkII. For those of that often shoot focal length limited, higher resolution is important. The 1DX2 is designed for pro photographers shooting professional sports events in all kinds of light. It's NOT a wildlife and bird-optimized design. Shooting JPG at 14-fps, tethered to an editor blasting out images on the internet, it can't be beat. Start cropping the Raw image and you lose detail, due to the low pixel count.
    I didn't have a 1DX2 to compare back-to-back, but my memory tells me that the 5D4's AF system is very close in performance, even with the latest Canon TC's attached. (I've read that the firmware/processors in the Series II lenses and Series III TCs are optimized for the latest bodies. Older Canon TCs and other brands may not give the performance that I describe here).
    I believe that the 5D MkIV is a major step forward by Canon, for the wildlife photographer. I will order my own, very soon.
    BTW, if you want to see the images in this review in higher resolution, click on the image and it'll take you to Flickr, where you can view an image full-screen. Also, I have some series images over there. For instance, the gull shot is one of a series of four, all in sharp focus.
  2. Nice images and nice field test. Thanks.
  3. Thanks David, I plan to get one too, although I will have to save my pennies. I was going to sell a few lenses, but I am finding it hard to part with them.
  4. Love your photo's and commentary, it's always a great learning experience.
  5. I also read with great interest, thank you. Will get one before Christmas I hope.

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