Photography Gear

Update to Canon 5D MKIV?

Posted by on Oct 7, 2016 in Cinematography and Film, Photography, Photography Gear

WARNING –  this is written from a very personal standpoint – however it may help you decide whether the 5D MKIV is for you just yet.

Canon 5D MKIV

Canon 5D MKIV

I was waiting (like pretty much every other 5D MKiii owner) for the arrival of the EOS 5D MKIV.

Now that it’s here I can think of too many reasons not to buy it just yet but i wanted to write something about it – if only to make it clear in my own mind why that is so.

Bear in mind that this is written from the standpoint of someone who works in both film and photography – but if you’re only into one of those games then what i say here may still resonate. As i write this i’m in the middle of covering the London Film Festival for Associated Press – so stills cameras are very much ‘on my mind’.

I make all my money using cameras and for me a camera is a work tool  – different tools all come with limitations and it’s the job of the DOP/Photographer to work with those limitations. As a purchaser i simply need to assess which limitations affect me – or truly limit me the most. This isn’t a “bash the 5D MKIV” piece – it’s a fabulous camera, but before shelling out about £3k (& yes i get the VAT back) i need to assess how that cash is going to advantage me.

There was a beautiful (or terrible depending on your point of view) point in time when the technical needs of HD film and stills  cameras were somewhat in alignment. As we’ve moved into 4K film those requirements (particularly on the sensor) have once gain diverged and this is why we see a parting of the ways between stills and film cameras. The 5D MKIV perfectly illustrates this point in that the 4K capabilities  it does have are handicapped by the fact that in capturing 4K footage it’s forced to use cropping which alters the focal length of the expensive L-Series lenses i have weighing down the front of the camera (and my wallet). Worse still is the capture codec it will use – I’d rather have HD footage with a lot of latitude that i can grade and make great than 4K footage delivered with a Motion JPEG codec. Frankly the Motion JPEG compression format you’ll get from this camera at 4K carries very little latitude for colour balancing and grading.

The film camera i’d be looking at right now is an URSA Mini for about £2k – which delivers 4K in a codec with plenty of latitude that’s ripe for grading. If I was a low-light freak i may even be looking at the Sony a7s MKII (or even the MKI – which is still excellent). Ergonomically though the Ursa is more of a traditional film camera with some weight behind it and without the need to buy adapters for either Canon or PL mount lenses.

Right now – even the 5D MKIII when paired with an atomos external recorder will deliver great film through the clean HDMI out port. OK it’s HD but it can be shown at any film festival in the world and i’d still rather show a glorious HD film than a lacklustre 4K one.

As for stills i’d say this is really where the compulsion to purchase gets stronger. As i write this i’m about an hour away from heading up to Leicester Square in London to cover a Red Carpet Premiere for the Associated Press – and yes if i had the MKIV to hand i’d grab it like a shot and rejoice. Fact is the 5D MKIII will do for now though. I’ll get more shots per second with the MKIV and i’ll be able to WIFI them direct to laptop for captioning and sending to the picture desk but these advantages are slight for the price increase. Generally you take a card out of camera and start ingesting whist sticking another one in the camera to keep shooting… the WiFi isn’t a game changer unless your picture editor is screaming at you to get a picture in seconds before other agencies. My experience in the field is that small speed step ups like this make little difference to my revenue. Hell i still occasionally take stills with a 5DMKII and they sell ok.

In the Press Pit where time is money and pictures are money those that have the EOS 1DX are sticking to that. Those with the 5D MKIII are sticking with that and the upgrade is not ‘sexy’ enough a proposition. I’ve seen a few EOS 1DX MK1’s around in good condition for only a little more than the price of the MKIV so given the choice i’d take one of those for stills because it outperforms the MKIV on speed and versatility. Perhaps this is why so far i’ve only seen one MKIV in anyone’s hands other than a Canon Rep.

The new feature being touted is the dual pixel feature which will allow focus shifts in the final image. This is certainly something worth having but in all honesty the only demonstrations i’ve seen of it in action show that the shift is minimal.

If you have the money, and money’s no object  – go buy the MKIV because it’s a great stills camera with better and faster focussing than the MKIII – but if like me you need value for money i really don’t think the price tag is there yet – especially when considering the usual price hike we get here in the UK.  Will i buy one in future?. Durrrh…yes most probably….er..maybe….. perhaps.