See what's possible when shooting with the Canon 5D Mark IV

Those who know me will know that I have been shooting with Canon gear since 2002, which was when I won my first Canon DSLR camera by winning the Canon AIPP Professional Photographer of the Year award. I sold my Nikon SLR film camera and lenses and switched to a DSLR camera.

SLR stands for single lens reflex and the ‘D’ stands for digital. The reflex part of the camera is where light travels through a lens onto a small mirror that reflects part of this light up into the viewfinder (allowing the photographer to see through the lens). When the shutter button is pressed the mirror flicks up and the light is sent straight through to the image sensor, or what used to be the film. This electronic information is gathered and an image is made.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV has come a long way from the 8.2-megapixel Canon EOS 20D that I used in 2004. The 5D Mark IV has a whopping 30.4-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor that captures so much detail from shadow blacks to bright whites. The ability of a camera to capture so much information is fantastic, but it still requires a photographer to compose the shot and come up with the idea.

I want to share with you some of my ‘in the field’ experiences with the camera, as well as my thoughts on photography. To me the experience of making images should be as enjoyable as possible. The camera, how it works, how it feels in the hand, and its ease of use are all part of the experience.

I have seen photographers struggle with cameras that are perhaps too small for their hands. Important menus are hard to find and the buttons to these menus are too hard to select. They also struggle with focusing on the subject — focus is important. It all must be very frustrating.

Most people never use their cameras to their full potential. The main reason for this is that they are perhaps scared of pressing the wrong button and scared of not being able to get back to what they know — or perhaps they haven’t been taught how to play with their gear.

The fact is, you will never get better unless you go outside your comfort zone and learn new skills. I believe that the new touchscreen controls on DSLR bodies will encourage people to play more, and when we play we learn, because mistakes are all part of the game.

A great addition to the 5D Mark IV is touchscreen focusing

When using the Live View function you can simply touch the screen to focus on the new 5D Mark IV. A small square will appear where you placed your finger and it will go green when focus is achieved, then the image is made. The best practice in low light, using slower shutter speeds, is to use the two-second timer option at the same time. In video mode, the touchscreen focusing works beautifully. It makes it so much easier to move around the focus spot, and it will then follow the action.

Focusing through the lens has been improved as well

To make the most of the improved focusing, first turn on image stabilization on your lens (if you have it), and select AI Focus. The 61 autofocus points have sensitive crosshairs to pick up accurate focus even in low light. Inside the camera, these focus points indicate focus by flashing red, even when you use manual focus, as you move in and out of focus, the actual focus point flashes.

The resulting image will be sharp as long as I remember to keep my shutter speed faster than the focal length of the lens, and that the shutter speed is fast enough to freeze the motion of the subject. Good camera technique is necessary with high-resolution cameras.

While using the 5D Mark IV in bulb mode, tapping the screen starts the exposure, and the second tap will stop the exposure. This takes away the need for a digital cable release, and is very handy for night photography where shutter speeds go beyond 30 seconds.

The 5D Mark IV LCD menu

In the image above you can see all of the available interactive information that is possible to see while setting up your shot using Live View. The ‘Q’ button activates all the shortcuts to all of the main camera controls — it is so easy.

The level of information can be turned on and off via the info button, which is found at the top left on the back of the camera. It is simple to get to and easy to change. Each menu option is cyclic so you never get lost. Just start by touching the icon that you want to access. Then use the back arrow or the set button to bring you back to where you were.

With the new Canon 5D Mark IV camera in hand, and plenty of exploring to be done, it was the perfect time to navigate and test some of the the new features of the 5D Mark IV:

Dual Pixel Raw capture

The Canon 5D Mark IV incorporates a new feature called Dual Pixel Raw capture. When you shoot in this mode the Digital Photo Professional software, which comes packaged with the camera, allows you to shift the focus slightly forward and backward. I used this to tweak the focus of the eye on this wax-eye (below). The background bokeh can also be moved to suit your composition.

Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon EF 100–400mm, 400mm, f/5.7, 1/664s, ISO 1250

Close up of the same image above

Focus tracking with high ISO on a moving subject

With the camera set on AI Servo (artificial intelligence), the camera kept focus while tracking Mike Langford (in the images below) as he walked towards me. At ISO 3200 there is no discernible problem with noise, and the focus track remained sharp on Mike with each exposure.  

Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon EF 100–400mm, 170mm, f/5.7, 1/256s, ISO 3200

Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon EF 100–400mm, 400mm,  f/5.7, 1/256s, ISO 3200

Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon EF 100–400mm, 400mm, f/5.7, 1/256s, ISO 3200

Close up of the same image on AI Servo focus

On our way back from the West Coast we came across this wonderful reflection in Lake Hawea (below). I framed the shot to include a small fishing boat at the bottom of the frame. This  shows the wide  dynamic range that the camera’s sensor can catch, with details in the shadows and highlights.

Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon EF 24–70mm, f/7, 24mm, 1/166s, ISO 250

Multiple exposures

In-camera multiple exposures have been possible since the 5D Mark III, there are no changes to this fantastic feature. On a recent trip to Haast Beach, the full moon was due to set into the ocean at sunrise. It was dark when we arrived at the beach, and the moonlight was shining off the water.

Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon EF 70–200mm, 160mm, f/5.7, 1/200s, ISO 100

I made the first exposure (above) of the full moon showing its craters (if the exposure was too bright it would look like the sun), I then changed my exposure for the water shot (below).

Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon EF 70–200mm, 135mm, f/5.7, 1s, ISO 100

Using Live View I was able to position the moon in the right spot and make this capture. I selected the ‘Save source images’ option to save ‘all images’. This way I could use the single files as well as the combined multiple exposure images.

The main thing to remember about multiple exposures is that the camera needs to use the same ISO.

Landscape photography

Shooting at 30.4 megapixels will output a 56.9cm print at 300dpi. That’s a good-size print, but panoramic images made with multiple files stitched together can capture more detail and be printed even bigger. The file below outputs to a 93cm-wide print.  The smaller image supplied shows the amount of detail captured in a file.

One of the advantages of large files is being able to find images within the scene and being able to crop into them afterwards. Another advantage of stitching images together is to create less distortion where the scene looks more like how the mind sees it.

Each frame was shot at f/9, 1/125s, ISO 100, with a Canon TSE 24mm Mark II f/3.5 lens.

The combined pano stitch

The cropped detail from the left of the frame showing the huge amount of detail

The night sky

One night, from our balcony in Queenstown, I trialled three exposures of the night sky. Shooting towards Walter Peak and the Southern Cross helped me to capture movement of the stars.

The first image (below) I made with a high ISO and an open aperture using the settings of a 35mm focal length, f/1.8, 20s, and ISO 6400.

The image above is the view of the file at 100-per-cent zoom. This file shows low noise and is sharp. As we move closer to summer, the Milky Way moves closer to the horizon, and will soon be lost to our view in New Zealand until next year.

After confirming my focus was correct on this file I then changed the exposure setting to Bulb and used the touchscreen to open and close the shutter. The LCD screen automatically started a really handy stopwatch. I stopped the exposure after 11 minutes, ISO 200 at f/8.

I believe that this will be a great astrophotography camera, because the long exposure from my trials were relatively noise-free. I look forward to seeing the results from other photographers who specialize in this field.

This is a stitch of two files; one of the sky and one with the mountain

100-per-cent zoomed-in crop to show the detail

Being a photographer is not just about the the end result it is also about enjoying the experience of making images. The 5D Mark IV is a very enjoyable camera to use. It can shoot in all sorts of lighting, and photograph all sorts of subjects from birds to people, landscape, sport, the night sky, and macro. You can also capture single shots or HDR-combined and bracketed images. Images may be multiple exposures, a series of timelapse images made using the internal self-timer, or you can create videos made in HD or 4K.  This is a camera body that will keep you entertained for years.