Havelock Photography | Havelock's Canon 5D mark IV stuff

Havelock's Canon 5D mark IV stuff

July 31, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

21st July 2017 for me marked six months with the Canon 5D mark IV, so I thought I’d write a post about how I’ve got on with it during the estimated (going by the image file numbering) 17,000 shutter cycles.


A bit of background – I started photographing in 1993 on a Canon AE-1 Program.


Canon AE-1Photo of the Canon AE-1 Program, courtesy of kenrockwell.com


I've still got that camera and it’s still going strong for me, albeit not as a commercial tool, more as a play thing for me to keep sharp, avoid digital over-reliance and fondly reminisce about the crap old days when I used to waste a LOT of film.


I lost my way with photography somewhere in my mid-twenties, relying on a Canon IXUS 110 Powershot compact camera for a while (great camera for everyday low-level photography, it served its purpose), before being given a Canon 450D with stock 18-55mm lens as a Christmas present. That reignited my passion for photography and stirred an ambition and in turn a need for quality which outgrew the 450D in about a month. The 450D is, was, fine for amateurs with little ambition, but no good for much else. I traded that in for a 5D mk 2, which took me from 2012 to 2016, via 85,000 images.


Then 2017, new year, new camera. And here it is, the Canon 5d mk IV, shown here with the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens.


Canon 5D mkIV

Canon 5D MkIV


There’s also a BG-E20 battery grip on there, and a SpiderPro hand grip.


You can find the full details of the 5D4 on Canon’s website, but headlines are – 30.4 megapixel sensor, 61 point autofocus system, 4K video, HD vid at up to 120fps for slow mo (didn’t know it did that, just found that out on the Wix website!), dual pixel RAW, native ISO 100-32,000, expandable to 102,000 if you like photos with a soft sand overlay.


The things which have already been said about this camera – great detail in the shots from the 30MP sensor, good low light and low noise from the higher ISO ranges. I’ve read lots of reviews which claim that it’s almost noise-less even up as far as 6-8k ISO. Personally I think that’s absolute rubbish, I’m seeing grain in skin tones from 1200 ISO upwards, but maybe I’m more demanding than some people. You’ll certainly struggle to spot any grain up to 800 ISO, and up to 3,200 ISO it doesn’t take much noise reduction to clean up your shots.


Not bad in low light then, but not mind blowing. But then, you’re a photographer, what are you doing shooting in the dark anyway?? Buy a flash.


My big plus points for this camera are – number one, and by far at the top of my list, reliability. Now this isn’t necessarily a Canon 5D4 specific thing, but as a professional photographer it really can’t be overstated how important this is. I haven’t had a glitch or a squirm or so much as a hesitation from this camera at any moment in the last six months. Nor indeed did I have from the 5D2. I don’t think I have another electronic device that I can say that about, not my Mac laptop, any of my phones, my Panasonic TV. The Canon professional camera range is all amazing, they're just bulletproof.


There we are, I’ve said it haven’t I? And by doing so I’ve set the wheels in motion. I’ll book it in for repairs now. Me and my big mouth.


Second on the list of top draws for me is actually something I didn’t expect. The image quality is a big plus, the detail, the usability etc etc. But the biggest and most welcome surprise for me has been the huge dynamic range of the standard shots.


By standard I mean non-HDR. On a single image capture, the range is absolutely extraordinary.


I’ll illustrate this by showing the images I was taking when I really discovered the full extent of the camera’s capabilities.


I was photographing for a magazine article about kids and learning, and how active learning and outdoor pursuits can click with kids who struggle in a classroom environment. The sun was setting over the fields and the sky was cloudy and moody but it wasn’t coming out like that in my images of course.


I set up on a tripod for a dual exposure, ground and sky, to stitch later.


Here are the two images.


Ground exposure

Ground exposure

Havelock PhotographyHavelock Photography - commercial, editorial and brand photographyHavelock Photography

Sky exposure


I took the images into lightroom, and just to see what the camera had actually captured, and just out of curiosity I cranked up the exposure on the sky capture. And here’s what happened:

Standard exposure in lightroom Before... 


Boosted dark image exposure in Lightroom And after.


You'll see that both images were originally taken with low ISO, to get the best image quality and low noise.


This work in lightroom absolutely blew me away. All that information is there in the shadows, absolutely incredible. I would never have got the same sort of image performance out of the 5D mk II. (Just so you know, the range isn't quite so impressive in the highlights. It's still good, but as always, once your whites are blown, they stay blown!)


And this has completely changed the way I photograph, and post-process of course. Essentially these days you only really need to get your photos in focus. As long as they’re in focus, and you’re shooting RAW of course, you don’t need to get the color temp or exposure right, really, because you can fix it all later. Technically you don't even have to get them quite in focus either, if you're using Canon's new Dual Pixel RAW option. But I've yet to test this one out. You're better off getting it right yourself I reckon! 


Now don’t abandon your college photography course just yet, because of course these adjustments aren’t loss-less. But you know what, they’re not bad… Here’s a close up of a smooth area of the screen with Lightroom exposure set to boost by 5 stops:


Zoom in of boosted exposure

It’s a bit grainy, but for a 5 stop increase, that is remarkable.


I say it's changed the way I photograph. It hasn't really, but what it has done is allow me to look at an image on the screen and have faith in what I can recover. So let's say you're doing portraits with natural light and your model turns slightly, or the sun goes behind a cloud, right on the click where the model's expression is perfect. I can now look at the LCD and know that I can recover that image, and add back in some contrast and shadows later on in photoshop. On the 5D2 that image would have been gone forever. 


So the 5D4, extraordinary range, great sensor and detail. What else?


The autofocus is something to talk about. I’m not going to give the cross-type blah blah spiel, mainly because I don’t really understand it. I spent many years avoiding all types of autofocus, because I didn’t trust it. I was always of the opinion that if a photo was out of focus, and it was my fault, then so be it. But if it was out of focus and it was the camera’s fault, I’d be furious.


The autofocus on the 5D4 is so complex and advanced that it has its own menu section all to itself. Stills settings, video settings, camera setup, custom functions and autofocus setup. You could spend hours just tweaking your autofocus settings.


I still don’t know what it all does. I stick to one of two settings, normally. My main go-to is the bog standard single sensor right in the middle of the screen.


Centre sensor


I use it to focus on an eye, or a tiny, very specific point of my image, using the AF-ON back button to mark it, and reframe.


For a while when shooting action and events, I used the all-sensors mode:


All sensors


I didn’t have great results from this one. I think it is supposed to focus on whatever is closest in the range of the sensors, but for me (and there’s every chance I didn’t set it up properly) it just did its own thing and focused on whatever took its fancy, close or far.


So I use the top-middle set of sensors for higher speed stuff, where I don’t have time to pinpoint focus. 


Canon 5D sensors - top middle


The major problem with autofocus, for me, is that I am more likely to arrange my images with thirds in mind, positioning faces on the upper third lines either left or right. And that’s not an available option on the 5D4. Plus there would always be the problem that you would have to have both left and right upper fields active, and therefore a constant issue with the camera trying to guess at which one you want it to work with.


The autofocus fields are available to change on a quick menu (and it is a quick menu) so are easily accessible. But if I’ve got that much time then I’ve got time to use the pinpoint centre sensor focus. 


For me, autofocus doesn’t really answer all my questions. However, unlike with the 5D2 I actually have it switched on almost all the time now. So I guess that’s progress.


That’s all I want to say about the 5D4, so I’ll wrap it up. Not a full review, but not meant to be. Long story short – it’s a cracking camera. Do it. Today. You won’t regret it.


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