The camera that kicked off the DSLR revolution is about to release a major upgrade. But is it too late?
While we don't generally run gear rumors or leaks here at NFS, the Canon 5D line is a landmark for our industry, and the leaks about its upcoming revision from digicame-info.com (link in Japanese) appear at this point solid enough to be worth covering. The biggest news for filmmakers is that the Mark IV finally includes 4k recording (what a great branding tie-in, Mark IV: 4k!), though in actual delivery it looks like serious users will be disappointed by its video offering.
When it was first released in 2008, the 5D Mark II was the camera that really kicked off the DSLR video revolution, although unintentionally. The video feature was added because they could, not because anyone feasibly thought it would be used for filmmaking; Canon had an entire filmmaking line of cameras built around HDV (remember that format?) with ergonomics designed for a film set. Why would anyone give up ease of use those cameras brought and adapt a stills camera for film set use, just for the sake of beautiful image quality? Canon apparently thought video would primarily be used by news photographers to capture quick clips in the field, and would maybe see some limited home video use.
With the upcoming release of the Mark IV, it appears that Canon is trying to make up for some lost ground.
Canon was wrong, of course, and it turns out many people will give up ease of use for image quality, especially when the improvement is as obvious as it was when comparing 5D Mark II footage to comparable footage from HDV or DVCProHD cameras like the popular Panasonic HVX-200. The 5D took fire in the indie film world, and ignited our very own site, with the release of Ryan Koo's DSLR Cinematography Guide. The big-sensor images it created had a cinematic depth of field, beautiful bokeh, and great low light performance without the need for complicated lens adapters, which ate stops of light and were a hassle to operate. It didn't do slow-mo (that would come with the 7D), it overheated all the time, and it was hard to keep the images in focus—but it looked beautiful.
The Mark III update was relatively minor for filmmakers, especially as other cameras moved into the gap left behind. Canon released the C line with the same sensors, but with the needs of motion image capture in mind, and they went on to some success, but the price point started higher than the 5D line so they never really gained the ubiquity of the 5D/7D. As other competitors have come to dominate the sub $4,000 camera space (specifically the Sony A7 line and Blackmagic offerings, along with Panasonic), Canon had a real opportunity to renew the 5D to keep it prominent in that space. As the Sony and Panasonic cameras prove, filmmakers will still put up with a lot of hassle to get an affordable camera that shoots beautiful images. With the upcoming release of the Mark IV, it appears that Canon is trying to make up for some lost ground.
Since it's 2016, 4K is the name of the game with this update, and the Mark IV does deliver. However, since the sensor is 30MP, Canon has to either use a crop (the middle 4000 pixels), or pixel-bin to downscale the images into 4K resolution in realtime. Considering the processing limitations of a DSLR camera, pixel-binning inevitably leads to artifacts including moire and noise, and generally comes with a hit of at least a few stops of low light performance. Pixel-binning is how we got 1080 from the Mark II, but that of course had artifacts galore. With the Mark IV, it appears Canon is going for crop, as it did with its previous DSLR 4k camera options, the 1D X Mark II and 1D C.
If you haven't had to work with a lens crop, it uses a smaller sensor (or, in this case, portion of a sensor), which changes the field of view of your lenses. If you are using this exclusively for video, you can get used to it and build your lens kit around it (though your selection will be more limited with the EF mount of the 5D being primarily meant for Full Frame glass). However, if you plan on going back and forth between stills and video it can be frustrating. A full frame 4K option would be nice, even with its artifacts, but since the 1D X Mark I—which costs twice as much as the 5D line—doesn't have it, we shouldn't be surprised if it's missing here.
The Mark IV is also using the same 4K codec as the 1D X Mark II and 1D C, MJPEG 4:2:2 500Mbit/s, 8bit. It's not a terrible codec, but a lot of the competition at this price point is getting image benefits out of H.264 and some are even implementing H.265, so those would have been good options to include for longer runtimes and smaller file sizes.
It seems with this release that our initial suspicion—that Canon really had no idea what they were creating with the Mark II—is still true. Even today, this is a stills camera with video as an afterthought. That afterthought was revolutionary in 2008, but the rest of the market has spent the last 8 years reacting, and in 2016, the afterthought feels like just what it is. If you have a solid need for stills and occasional video, this is an exciting update. If you a primarily a filmmaker, for this price point there are a lot of competitors that push further.
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF
- AF 61 points
- 150,000-pixel RGB + IR photometry sensor
- Continuous shooting 7 frames / sec.
- ISO100-102400 (extended sensitivity)
- Touch panel
- 4K at 30fps, MJPEG 4:2:2 500Mbit/s
- JPEG still image of 8MP from 4K video
- 120fps HD video for slow motion (1080)
- Time-lapse movie
- GPS built-in
- Wi-Fi, NFC
- Media SD / SDHC / SDXC and CompactFlash TypeII
- USB3.0 terminal, HDMI terminal (unknown if 1080 or 4K via HDMI, likely 1080)
- Size: 150.7mm x 116.4mm x 75.9mm
- Weight: 890g
Anyone thinking of upgrading their earlier 5D? Or picking up a Mark IV as their first 5D?