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Hands On: Ballooning with the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Canon has finally updated the legendary EOS 5D, unleashing the Mark IV upon the world. We were lucky enough to join Canon in New Mexico for the 2016 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta where we had one solid day to try out the Mark IV. In that sense, there wasn’t enough time to master and test the camera’s entire feature set, so please don’t consider this a full review, but rather more of a quick-look or hot-take on what it’s like to grab a 5D Mark IV and start shooting. Overall, I’m quite impressed. It’s a rugged, solid camera with improved capabilities and more features than ever.

Should you upgrade? Read on to find out.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

LENSES USED

For my fantastic (and long) day ballooning and Mark IV shooting, I used three Canon L Series lenses, including the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM ($1899.00 MSRP), the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM ($1099.00 MSRP), which is one of the 5D Mark IV kit lenses, as well as the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM ($2199.00 MSRP). Though a tripod would have been helpful in some of the lower lighting scenarios, I elected to hand hold the 5D Mark IV, from pitch black to blazing sun, to experience its ISO capabilities. More on this in a moment.

NOTE: the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM and EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM were both **pre-production** units and won’t necessarily represent the performance and image quality of final, mass-production versions. That said, they’re both terrific lenses and I didn’t have any problems with them. To read more about the 16-35mm f/2.8, please click HERE; for more on the 24-105mm f/4, please click HERE.

Canon_5D_MARKIV_BACK

PROS

  • Improves on an already capable lineage
  • DCI 4K 30/24p Video Recording
  • Incredible low-light performance
  • Accurate AF
  • Touchscreen display with cleaner menu functionality
  • Solid & ruggedly built

CONS

  • 4K video crop factor & 8bit 4:2:2 limitations
  • contrast and color a little flat with out of the box settings
  • I prefer a dual-dial setup for manual adjustments (shutter, aperture, ISO)
  • Display could be more exposure-accurate

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

KEY FEATURES

  • 30.4 MP Full-frame CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 100–32000 (expandable to 50–102400)
  • DIGIC 6+ Image Processor
  • 4K Motion JPEG video (DCI cinema-type 4096 x 2160) @ 30p or 24p
  • Full 1080p HD video (1920 x 1080) @ 60p
  • 720p HD video (1280 x 720) @ 120p
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF Live View
  • 4K Still Frame Grab (8MP)
  • Dual Memory Card Slots (1 Compact Flash, 1 SD)
  • 3.2″ Touch Panel LCD
  • 7fps Continuos Shooting
  • 61 AF points with 41 cross-points
  • 150,000 RGB+IR metering sensor
  • Dual Pixel RAW
  • Wi-Fi
  • NFC
  • GPS

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

BUILD QUALITY

Though our day with the EOS 5D Mark IV started in the chilly darkness, our environment was far too pleasant to test the camera’s durability and weather sealing. That said, from what I saw, the Mark IV is quite ruggedly built. With a manufacturer listed 32-104°F (0-40°C) working temperature range, it should have you covered is most shooting conditions, including the ones that are a little damp. Is it has robust as the tank like 1D X Mark II? No, but I was impressed with the build quality.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

ERGONOMICS

The 5D Mark IV fits comfortably in hand and can be held for hours without any cramping. Overall weight will be glass-dependent, but with prime and/or compact lenses, the Mark IV feels lighter than many APS-C DSLRs. Button layout is pretty good, too, though I found myself twisting my fingers to get to the ISO settings. There are workarounds, of course (and with more time it would become more fluid), but I’m becoming partial to DSLRs with front and rear dials for tweaking manual settings.

Canon’s Main Menu system is a densely populated as most camera manufacturers, but their multi-later system of tabs is very intuitive. Also, the Q-button on the body’s backside is quick to populate the camera’s 3.2″ touchscreen display with all your major settings. For those stepping up to a DSLR, or leaping from APS-C to Full Frame, this system has the fluidity of a smartphone app and works quite well.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

DISPLAY

Speaking of the touchscreen display, this 1.62-million dot LCD screen is bright and clear and, despite an abundance of greasy fair treats, resists smudging. In addition to its Menu capabilities, the Live View mode (with the Dual Pixel AF) is terrific, with tap-to-focus helping pic an exact focal point, suffering far less focus-lag than earlier generation DSLRs. Also, while the screen is bright enough to review shots in the midday sun, a very helpful capability, the camera’s metering system underexposes compared to what you see on screen. IE, what looks perfectly exposed on this display comes out a little dark. Further, like all small LCDs, it’s not always great at revealing missed focus (30.4MP crammed into 3.2″ pretty much looks sharp at all times).

IMAGE QUALITY

Every Canon Full Frame DSLR produces high-quality images that can be manipulated endlessly in apps like Adobe Lightroom. Glass and photographer are far more important. The key, for me at least, is getting an understanding for how a particular body’s performance capabilities (frame rate, AF, ISO, and so on) interact with the visual characteristics of a specific sensor. To date, and within the Canon family, I’m partial to the 6D’s 20.2MP sensor for the way it produces highly dynamic images that are almost filmmic.

The 5D Mark IV, straight out the box at least, is a little less contrasty and painterly than I was hoping, but this may be more of a symptom of my inexperience with the new model. That said, I’m quite pleased with the stills this camera captures. Dropped into Lightroom, there is TONS of latitude in even the darkest shadows (at the expense of some noise, of course), and I could recover about two stops worth of information from bright areas (we shot a lot of balloon afterburners, which, it turns out, are easy to overexpose).

32,000 ISO INSANITY

To fully digest and enjoy the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, one must rise at an unholy hour and trudge into the frigid early morning for a laser light show and Dawn Patrol balloons. Then, after a mid-day siesta, return at dusk for After Glow (dozens of balloons using their burners to light up while remaining tethered to the ground) and Fireworks. To that end, I spent at least half of my time with the 5D Mark IV in the darkness and shot everything from ISO 100 to the absolutely insane ISO 32,000.

And it’s incredible.

Yes, there’s noise, but it’s incredible noise. Beautiful noise. So I say embrace the noise. Love the noise. Shoot for the noise.

I routinely tested  Canon EOS 5D Mark IV at 8,000, 12,000, 20,000, and 32,000 ISO in the pitch-black as lasers, balloon burners, and fireworks lit up the blackness. And you know what? It’s never going to be ISO 100, but the imagery is gorgeous. I could barely see, but the Mark IV was snapping away with ease. Akin to shooting with a classic film stock, black & white 32,000 ISO gives off a bit of a 1960s vibe.

To be fair, AutoFocus speed vanishes in the dark, so hitting up manual-focus infinity is a must. And I totally get why some folks avoid noise, glorious or not. It’s not for every shooting scenario, but I personally can’t wait to see what enthusiasts and pros do with this capability. The sensation is freeing, and lots of fun. If you pick up a 5D Mark IV, I highly recommend testing out the ISO performance to see if would ever fit with your work.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

5D Mark IV 4K Video Screen Grab

VIDEO

Unfortunately, I’m not currently setup to handle the bandwidth of shooting DCI 4K video so I can’t test this feature fully. My apologies. Even trying to watch these clips on my two-year-old MacBook Pro sends the processor and fan into a feedback loop of hysterics and dropped frames. I will say, though, that I shot some video to get a sense of how it works.

The 5D Mark IV is set to 1080/60p out of the box, so 4K must be actively engaged. Full HD video is quite smooth, though I’d recommend an image stabilization accessory because, like most DSLRs, there’s no built-in IS (something I adore in M4/3 camera bodies). Internal sound recording via the built-in Mic is, as we’d expect, GoPro in quality.

4K takes things to the next level. With up to 500Mbps Motion JPEGs, you’re dealing with file sizes that are akin to what’s distributed to your local cinema for theatrical motion pictures. Further, your aspect ratio is a theatrical 1.85:1 rather than Ultra HD’s 1.78:1 (16×9) ratio you’ll experience with 4K displays made for homes. This is pretty incredible on the surface, but there are some drawbacks. There is no 4K HDMI out, the crop factor instantly zooms in (more than HD), and we are limited to 8-bit 4:2:2. In the era of Dolby Vision and HDR10 in theatrical and home entertainment video presentations, the lack of true High Dynamic Range capability prevents the Mark IV from being a main camera on larger budget features and TV series productions.

That said, for indie productions, YouTubers, or aspiring filmmakers, the 5D Mark IV is relatively affordable, with access to tons of great glass. Daytime imagery looks quite good, but I found night footage to be a little too noisy (please note the above screen grab).

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

BATTERY LIFE

I was able to use the 5D Mark IV for a little more than a half day before the LP-E6N battery pack started to fade. Fortunately for us, we were able to take a break at mid-day for recharging. I would recommend picking up a spare or two for longer outdoor adventures. The LP-E6N retails for $100.00.

Canon_5DMIV_Samples_24-105mm-18

WIRELESS PERFORMANCE & GPS

No 2016 DSLR is complete without wireless capability. The 5D Mark IV has built-in Wi-Fi & NFC for connecting to a iOS and Android devices running the Canon Camera Connect app (iTunes; Google Play). The connection process is a breeze and, once tethered, your smartphone or tablet becomes a remote control. Please note that the Mark IV can only connect one device at a time (if you’re renting one and can’t connect, make sure it’s not already set up for another device). The other limitation is in image transfer. At this time, you can only wirelessly transfer JPEG images to your phone, which is a shame because Adobe Lightroom Mobile can edit RAW. To get around this, you need the Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter ($29.99 MSRP). Lastly, I didn’t engage the GPS for my time with the 5D Mark IV, but if you’re interested in Geo Tagging, the Mark IV’s GPS not only tracks your location on the globe, but also — and this is so, so perfect for ballooning — your altitude.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

FINAL THOUGHTS

The modern DSLR era is awash with outstanding cameras. If you know the fundamentals of exposure, focus, composition, and post-processing, you’ll be able to produce strong images and videos with almost any DSLR. The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is for advanced enthusiasts and pros who need a full frame camera with excellent low light performance and 4K video recording at a semi-professional bitrate.

With only 24 hours to test out the Mark IV, I need a little more time to familiarize myself with its particular features, so I’ll leave full judgment to our forthcoming in-depth review. My early impressions were mostly positive. The camera is easy to use for long days, fast, and can shoot in a multitude of challenging situations. I also enjoyed the touchscreen Menu interfaces and Wi-Fi capabilities. Button layout could be a little more ergonomic, and I wish the display was a little more exposure-accurate. Also, 10bit or 12bit 4K video would open up the video capabilities.

Bottom line: the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is an exciting DSLR for advanced enthusiasts and pros who need to replace an aging 5D Mark II, or any worn out camera body, shoot in DCI 4K, or want insane ISO performance. That said, if your 5D Mark III or 6D are in fine working order, the Mark IV might not yet be MUST HAVE.

Canon_5D_MARKIV_EF24-105_LEFT_CL

WHERE TO BUY

If you’re already set in the glass department, the body-only edition will set you back $3499.00 (MSRP). If this is your first time using a full frame DSLR, you can’t go wrong with an L series kit. The EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Kit MSRPs for $4399.00, while the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Kit retails for $4599.00. In my opinion, if you need a versatile lens for travel, portraits, and street photography, the 24-105mm (review HERE) is worth the extra $200 for its added zoom range.

Hands On: Ballooning with the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
October 20, 2016
9/10
We had one day to test out the new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV at the 2016 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. A full review is forthcoming, but we wanted to share our first impressions. Though we have a few nitpicks about some of the ergonomics and 4K video limitations, overall this is a very impressive camera that produces strong still images and offers insane ISO performance. If your DSLR is showing its age, or you need 4K video and 32,000 ISO capabilities, the 5D Mark IV is Highly Recommended.
9 Overall Score
Highly Recommended

We had one day to test out the new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV at the 2016 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. A full review is forthcoming, but we wanted to share our first impressions. Though we have a few nitpicks about some of the ergonomics and 4K video limitations, overall this is a very impressive camera that produces strong still images and offers insane ISO performance. If your DSLR is showing its age, or you need 4K video and 32,000 ISO capabilities, the 5D Mark IV is Highly Recommended.

BUILD QUALITY
9.5
ERGONOMICS
8.5
STILL IMAGE QUALITY
9
VIDEO QUALITY
8.5
ISO PERFORMANCE
9
SPEED
9
BATTERY LIFE
7.5
AUTOFOCUS
8.5
WIRELESS
8

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