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3 Reasons Why The New Canon 5D MK IV Might Not Suck

The Canon 5D MK IV was finally announced yesterday, and the news has been underwhelming for the most part. The vast majority of filmmakers that I’ve spoken have been generally disappointed with the new release, but I’m still on the fence… Despite the fact that I have never been a Canon fan.

I’ve shot extensively with the 5D MK II, and 5D MK III, but the only Canon camera I’ve ever owned was a Canon C100. Well, that’s not true – I also own a 35mm film Canon EOS 3 that I bought for $60, but that’s for a different article.

I really have no reason to love or hate Canon at this point. I’ve never invested heavily in their system (bodies or glass), and it doesn’t personally affect me one way or another if their video offerings stand up to the competition. For that reason, I have a pretty unbiased view of their latest 5D MK IV, and despite it’s obvious shortcomings it does seem to have some advantages too.

Canon 5d Mark 4

There have been many complaints about the MK IV since it was announced yesterday. The three biggest complaints are the camera’s lack of full frame recording in 4K (it crops to just over Super 35mm size), it’s outdated MJPEG codec, and it’s lack of a log picture profile.

There’s no denying that these factors can be seen as negatives, but the 5D MK IV has some advantages in it’s corner too… It really just comes down to your perspective and how you like to work.

Let’s take a look at these complaints below, and why they may not be deal breakers.

4K CROP MODE

The 5D Mark IV does of course have a full frame sensor like every other 5D before it, but when you record in full 4K video mode, there is a crop. I’ve read that the crop is anywhere from 1.64x to 1.74x, which is right in the same ballpark as an APS-C crop (such as the Canon 7D), or more relevantly, a Super 35mm crop.

I may be the odd one out, but I have never been a fan of full frame video.

Many filmmakers that don’t have any background with motion picture film, don’t understand that full frame on stills is different from “full frame” on motion picture film. In fact in the case of the latter, the term full frame would never actually be used. It’s simply Super 35mm film. These are two very different sizes.

In digital terms, full frame sensors are equivalent to 35mm stills film, whereas APS-C sensors are equivalent to Super 35mm motion picture film. This means if you are going to use a cinema lens – let’s say a 50mm Zeiss CP2, it would look relatively the same on a “cropped sensor” APS-C camera as it would on a Super 35mm motion picture film camera.

If you were to use this same 50mm lens on a full frame camera, it would not give you the same field of view.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does call into question your personal preference as a filmmaker. For me, I always prefer a more traditional motion picture look over a stills photography look – which is what you’ll get when you shoot full frame video. Your images will look great, you’ll have excellent shallow DOF, and nice wide angles when you need them, but your field of view will simply be different than if you were actually shooting Super 35mm film. And for me, that’s not how I like to work.

The point of all this is that the 4K crop mode on the 5D MK IV is essentially going to give you a Super 35mm equivalent, as opposed to a full frame image. If you love the full frame look, this will be a deal breaker for you, hands down. But if you’re like me and prefer the S35mm look, not only will this not be a deal breaker, but it will be an advantage. You’ll be able to achieve a more authentic S35mm field of view with your lenses, while also having more lens options available to you. Remember that many lenses will not cover full frame (including the majority of EF cinema lenses), and shooting with this effective S35 crop will allow you to use the lenses you want to, without worrying about vignetting.

MJPEG CODEC

Canon have opted to integrate the MJPEG codec into the 5D MK IV which can certainly be seen as old technology by anyone’s standards. The vast majority of DSLRs use H264 compression, and even the 5D MK III utilized H264 as a codec for it’s full 1080p recording mode. On the Mark IV, Canon has opted to use MJPEG which is the same codec they use on their 1D C. It yields great results visually, but has one big draw back: File sizes.

MJPEG is not an “efficient” codec, in the sense that it records at 500/Mbps, which is a very high data rate. It’s about 5 times the data rate that most DSLRs/Mirrorless cameras shoot at, which is commonly 100/Mbps in 4K H264 mode.

There’s no denying that larger file sizes can be a pain, and you certainly need to take this into account when considering the Mark IV. Not just because of the extra cards you’ll need with you on set (you’ll only get about 16 minutes on a 64GB card), but also because of the extra hard drive space needed in post to back up your footage.

That said, whether or not this is a deal breaker for you is simply a matter of preference. If you are used to shooting RAW, this won’t be that big of a big deal to you. You will likely already have a workflow down for transcoding your footage before editing, so doing this same with MJPEG files will be nothing new. On the other hand, if you typically shoot material that needs to be turned around the same day (for news gathering let’s say), you would probably want to stick with H264 as it is easier and faster to work with in post, and doesn’t necessarily require any transcoding.

Personally, all that matters to me is image quality. If I need to wait a few minutes, or a few hours to transcode footage – I will, as long as it’s worth the wait. I would rather wait to transcode footage in post and get better results, than save a few minutes and record a poorer quality image in camera.

That’s not to say that the MJPEG codec is perfect by any means. It is an older codec and less supported by most editing systems, but it’s still a very strong codec from an image quality standpoint. Not to mention it records 4:2:2 as opposed to 4:2:0 which is great, although it is in fact still 8 bit.

LOG PROFILE / COLOR SCIENCE

My biggest personal complaint with the 5D MK IV is it’s lack of a Log picture profile. I’ve grown so accustomed to shooting with Log lately, that it’s definitely something I miss when shooting on cameras that can only record to Rec 709.

The benefit of shooting in Log of course is to maximize your dynamic range by capturing a far flatter image than you would with standard Rec 709. In post, you can simply add a conversion LUT to your footage to bring back the contrast, and you get the best of both worlds – a nice punchy image that still retains the added dynamic range associated with the LOG profile.

I don’t really understand why there isn’t a Log profile in this camera, as I believe Canon could have easily integrated one. They clearly have the technology to do so with their other cameras, so why not the MK IV? I don’t get it… At the same time, this isn’t a deal breaker for me necessarily.

As important as Log is to me, what’s even more important is color reproduction. Canon has always delivered gorgeous and natural colors across their entire product line, and that’s more than could be said for many other companies. Sony for instance, has pretty lackluster color science, at least from where I stand. I purchased the A7S II last fall, and sold it after just a few months as I couldn’t get the colors to look right when shooting in Log, even after extensive color grading.

To me, this goes to show that Log really isn’t everything. Sure, I’d like to have a best of both worlds scenario… A camera that shoots Log and has great color science. But if it’s only one or the other, I’ll choose color science every time.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

My last and final point here is that we need to remember that Canon’s specs on paper never tell the full story. The original C300 is a case in point. On paper, people couldn’t get over how bad the C300 specs looked, especially considering the price point Canon had it listed at. But in the end, the C300 went on to be one of the most popular hybrid cameras ever made, and is still used daily for broadcast television, independent film, events, news, and more. Even the Palm D’or winning “Blue Is The Warmest Color” was shot on the C300.

Canon 5D Mark IV

Canon 5D MK IV – $3499 at B & H

So before we rush to judgement on the MK IV, let’s see how it actually performs in reality. As I said at the top of this article, I am the furthest thing from a die hard Canon fan. I’ve never bought into their eco system, and have owned very few of their cameras over the years. That said, I can’t deny that their cameras (despite their flaws) still have some advantages over the competition – namely color science – and that can be a huge factor for some of us when purchasing the camera.

The MK IV does show some interesting new features too, such as internal HDR recording for (for video and stills) and lytro-style focusing in stills mode, that allows you to change the focus/bokeh in post. As a stills camera, I’m sure it will be one of the best on the market. As a video camera? We’ll see… I need to shoot with it first, but I’m definitely not writing it off just yet.

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About Author

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!

22 Comments

  • Stronz Vanderploeg
    August 26, 2016 at 7:28 am

    Any one of these points may not be a dealbreaker on its own, but these issues combined with 30min recording limit and no 4K HDMI output simply kill this camera from a video perspective.

    Crop – sure, maybe it had to be done, 1 sacrifice I can sort of stomach
    MJPEG – Why they couldn’t offer anything else for the 4K mode?
    LOG – should be a simple firmware setting, I see no reason to not include it
    30min Limit – Understandable for some countries but shouldn’t affect US
    No 4K HDMI Out – Again, why is this not a feature?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 26, 2016 at 4:25 pm

      I hear you Stronz! In an ideal world, I wish we could have our cake and eat it too. I’d love to see a 5D that not only has the great Canon color science/reliability, but also doesn’t suffer from any of the limitations you pointed out above. That said, the point of my article wasn’t to discount these issues. The point really was to say that all cameras have their shortcomings. Some are more obvious on paper, and some are more obvious when you get your footage into the editing room, and Canon uses falls into the former category. Canon has never been a favorite brand of mine, but I do have to hand it to them for having the best color science out of any of the major players (not including true cinema camera manufacturers), which counts quite a bit in my books. For me, this still gives the MK IV a leg up over some of the competition, despite it’s lack of features. Thanks for the note!

      Reply
  • Tom
    August 26, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    Based on your statement of the color science behind it, I think the 5D M II can be a very good camera for very short productions.

    But with the new GH5 shipping maybe in January I would have to wait. New rumors said it has no crop for 4K and does 4:2:2 10 bits internal recording.

    Following the recent developments in the whole Lumix line, I think the GH5 would be my preferred beast.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 29, 2016 at 5:13 pm

      The GH5 could really make a splash, and I’m also looking forward to seeing what Panny comes up with! I’ve been following the rumors, and if even some of them are true – the GH5 is definitely going to give the competition a run for it’s money.

      Reply
    • Dave
      September 8, 2016 at 2:04 pm

      No crop for 4K… But Micro Four Thirds itself is a “crop” sensor. You need a Speedbooster to get it into the same FOV as the 5D IV in 4K. Also, 10-bit vs 8-bit… It’s a huge advantage, but what good is being able to utilize more DR if the person in frame has weird skin tones that you can’t quite fix?

      Reply
      • Noam Kroll
        September 19, 2016 at 2:29 pm

        Exactly. There are always pros and cons… No camera is ever perfect!

        Reply
  • Kim
    August 27, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    We have been on vacation for last week, and decided not to take any video cameras with me, but took the old trusted Canon 1 Ds II. It is outdated camera on many regards, but I love it. Like it much better for still photography than 5D II that I got many years ago because of Video. The 5D II has been pretty much unused since Panasonic GH4.

    5D III did not provide any reason to update, now there is the 5D IV that finally provides improvements also on video. I really would like better (easier to handle) video codec and 4k HDMI out, not too worried about the 4k crop.

    Maybe the 5D IV would be good replasement for the 1 Ds II + GH4/Speed booster and could finally get rid of the 5D II also.

    Ps. The 5D IV auto focusing looks great how it follows faces etc. If it would provide X, Y coordinates of the tracked object, could make a gimbal tracking the object and that would be awesome.

    Reply
  • Kim
    August 27, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    To add, full frame 2.5k video would be perfect. It would allow lens corrections and some cropping to output perfect FHD. I hope Canon is listening, one can hope future FW updates could bring this…

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 29, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      Great point about the 2.5K mode… I think a lot of people like working with that resolution, especially if they are planning to downscale to 1080p. Smaller file sizes than 4K, but better image quality than most standard 1080, which is a win-win. You’re also right about the autofocusing on the MK IV. That’s not a feature I use often for video, but for event shooters or anyone that likes to work that way, it’s definitely a big plus. Thanks for the note!

      Reply
  • Craig Marshall
    August 28, 2016 at 12:25 am

    One of the better argued articles I’ve read. The lack of log on an 8bit camera is no real issue as on most DSLRs, it’s simply a marketing exercise. Shoot through a grade 2 Schneider Optics ‘Digicon’ filter and you’ll manipulate light to log before it even hits the sensor. Add classic low contrast Zeiss Contax primes and your problems are solved.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 29, 2016 at 5:16 pm

      Good points Craig! I haven’t actually tried out the Digicon filter, but I think you’ve inspired me to run some tests…

      Reply
  • Steve M.
    August 28, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    My biggest complaint is the price @$3,499 for the body only, not going to happen. I still have no doubt my Samsung NX1 will blow this Canon’s 4k image out of the water! Concerning the LOG, would the old picture profiles be loadable to this camera? I have several from my past ownership of the 5DM2, one of which is the Technicolor profile which was pretty awesome!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 29, 2016 at 5:18 pm

      That’s a great point and the price is definitely steep, especially if you aren’t shooting stills with the camera as well. For a stills/video hybrid shooter, I think it’s worth it. As strictly a video camera, there are a lot of other (cheaper) options out there, not to mention cinema-style cameras (such as the URSA Mini) that aren’t much more.

      Reply
  • Saied
    August 28, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    Thanks for the article. I think you are saying that a full frame lens on this camera will have the same field of view as S35 due to 4K using only part of the sensor, but I believe the aspect ratio will be 17:9 – do you have any thoughts how that ties in to movie aspect ratios ?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 29, 2016 at 5:20 pm

      No problem Saied! You are correct that the aspect ratio is 17:9, but that is actually good – for many of us at least. 16:9 is the HD television standard, where as 17:9 is the film standard, or DCI, which is used on most cinema cameras. Hope this helps clear things up.

      Reply
  • Talia
    September 10, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    At last a review without anti Canon rage, and some very valid points like the 17/9 aspect ratio. What about the Technicolor camera style profile for a flat picture to be graded later? What I find attractive with Canon here is the avaibility of many quality profile picture styles. And codec wize, are you saying the MJPG is not compressed as a H264? One big difficulty, at least for me, is to find a canera that can truly work as much as a video camera (up to one’s needs that is) so not only you learn to fully know one devise, not two seperate, but maximize investment especially on lenses. I am wondering about the Fujifilm X-T2. Great stills, the Fujis I think. If video is properly implemented that could be it. Thanks dor your blog!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 19, 2016 at 2:35 pm

      Hey Talia – Thanks for the note! You’re right that one of the great things about Canon DSLRs is you can load on custom picture profiles. Even though it doesn’t have a log setting, you can essentially create your own, and load it straight on to the camera… Or as you said, download something like the Technicolor cine-style profile.

      MJPEG is (I believe) technically less compressed than H264 since the data rate is about 5 x bigger. It’s more challenging to play back the files natively on your computer, but as long as you’re willing to transcode the footage, it shouldn’t be a problem at all.

      The X-T2 also has really piqued my interest, and I’m hoping to get a chance to shoot with it soon! Hopefully I can share more on that front in the future when I get a chance to work with it.

      Reply
  • Matt
    September 19, 2016 at 4:41 am

    Noam,

    Great article, and you hit the nail squarely on the head with regard to how Canons perform ‘in the field’ as opposed to on paper. I’m renting one this week to see how ‘I’ feel about it after reading SO many reviews written by folks who simply parrot anti-Canon talking points (generally panning the MK IV because they need to continuously justify their purchase of the A7Sii).

    Thank you for the objectivity and spelling out why some of the apparent cons may very well end up being pros to some of us out here.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 19, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      Thanks Matt! Glad you liked the article, and good to know that there are others out there that see it this way too. As I said, I’m not exclusively a Canon fan by any stretch, but I never like to write off a camera based on specs alone.

      Reply
  • seastian
    September 23, 2016 at 11:05 am

    The sad thing is, the most complaints about this camera are all software based… And software could be fixed by firmware update…but canon will never do it for whatever reasons/protecting what ever they think they should… Ok HDMI 1.1 and lacking cFast/UHS II are totally hardware fails. There will never be a 4k Output through a HDMI 1.1 socket.

    so lets hope for a canon wakeup in 4 years, if they play anymore role in dslr-video then…

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 28, 2016 at 10:13 pm

      You’re right… many of the issues with the MK IV are software based, and personally I don’t think holding back any functionality on the camera is going to increase sales on their higher end models (which seems to be their logic). That said, for some reason intrigued to see what this camera can do…

      Reply
  • Nakean
    October 6, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    I’m late to the party but I gotta say, Canon has made it abundantly clear they want no piece of the DSLR video market they started on accident with the 5DMKII. Their motion picture division is completely separate from their stills division and it shows. I saw some serious jello rolling shutter on the MKIV when I rented it and those Data rates!!! Insane 400Mb/s and motion Jpeg codec! If I’m going to suffer those data rates and codec plus storage that won’t natively play on my workstation I think I’d much rather shoot raw. All the downsides and none of the upside with this data rate and Codec. 16minutes on a 64 gig card with no way to output 4k to shogun or odyssey with larger SSD’s?
    No doubt it’s a wonderful step forward in the still camera but a hybrid I think not. 60P is very mushy as well. I love my MKIII and will continue to shoot stills with it but will stick with my GH4 for now when it comes to video.

    Reply

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