5d Mark IV for Wedding Photography

15 DEC 2016 – Learn – by Lucas Kraus

Okay, so I recently splashed out and bought the new Canon 5d Mark IV and have photographed a few weddings with it. Let me explain a little bit about my history. I choose Canon to begin my photography career. I am still deciding weather or not this was a good or bad decision. I started off with the Canon 550d many years ago. Once I began my professional career as a photographer then I upgraded to the legendary 5d Mark II and used a duo of these for several years.

When the 5d Mark II started to become a little long in the tooth then I upgraded to the Canon 6d which, at the time was a pretty significant upgrade. I eventually got another 6d and sold my 5d Mark II’s. I actually skipped the 5d Mark III all together as the 6d provided some advantages over the 5dIII, some of which being better low light focusing, better ISO performance and slightly better dynamic range. In the age of amazing dynamic range and high ISO performance which is seen by both the Nikon d750  and the Sony a7r2, I will admit my faith in Canon was starting to waver and in moments of weakness I considered switching to Nikon and even Sony.

This was until the 5d Mark IV was released. I read review after review until I ultimately had enough information to finally upgrade from my trusty Canon 6d’s to the much more expensive 5d Mark IV. Please note, this is my first review and will be coming from the perspective of wedding photographer.

Price

Okay, so let’s get the awkward part over with. The 5d Mark IV in Australia is around $4900. It’s a lot of money. In fact, you could get 2 Nikon d750 or 2 Canon 6d’s for the price of one Canon 5d Mark IV. The alternative is however, to stay with an aging system or switch camera brands which could end up costing thousands when you sell your lenses at a loss and then have to buy new ones. For me, it made more financial sense to upgrade my existing system rather than switching camera brands.

Okay, so now that’s over with, lets get to the fun stuff that wedding photographers would probably be looking for.

Dynamic Range

As I mentioned, my envy of other cameras was mainly that of Dynamic range. Having the ability to pull your shadows up or decrease the highlights is essential for wedding photography. One of my first weddings with the 5d Mark IV was out in the open overlooking the beach at around 4pm. This was in the middle of summer with daylight savings so the sun was still very high in the sky. It was probably the worst possible lighting situation you could hope for as a wedding photographer.

The grooms face was in full sun and the brides face was in complete shadow. All wedding photographers know that in this situation that you expose for the highlights and pull up the shadows in post. Well, the 5d Mark IV did a fantastic job at this. It allowed me to increase the shadows so the groom ended up being almost as bright as the brides without the ugly noise that comes with it. This reason alone is a great excuse to upgrade to the 5d Mark IV. Although my 6d would have done a fine job at this, the 5d Mark IV served this purpose extremely well.

Another example of being able to utilise the better dynamic range in the 5d Mark IV is that the bride wanted a photo in front of the Opera House. The Opera House was completely blown out with the bride and groom standing in the shade. Normally I would become a little nervous at this, however by exposing for the Opera House I was able to pull up the shadows of the bride and groom while still having the background properly exposed. A little bit of noise reduction and I am good to go.

wedding celebrant sunshine coast

ISO Performance

Another one of my main concerns with the Canon 6d, although quite good at high ISO, was slowly but surely being left in the wake of Nikon and Sony. Although many claim that the Nikon and Sony’s are still a little better than the 5d Mark IV, Canon has taken a huge leap forward with their high ISO performance. I can honestly say that I have no hesitation in taking the 5d Mark IV up past 6400 ISO if necessary. Even at ISO 10,000 the noise is evident but still looks good. This is a major improvement for Canon and will no doubt help produce better and cleaner images for wedding photography.

On previous Canon models such as the 6d and 5d Mark III, photographers were reluctant to go past ISO 6400 or 3200. In fact, I very rarely went past ISO 1600 due to the possibility of the ugly noise that can arise. This will help a lot with dimly lit churches, wedding photos at sunset and being able to decrease the recycling time for your flash at the reception. I have already found it to be very helpful while photographing the bride and groom getting ready as I like to stay away of the flash unless absolutely necessary. The image below is taken at ISO 3200 with little to no noise.

Auto focus

Another one of my major gripes with the Canon 6d was the auto focus. Although I almost exclusively use centre point focusing, I was finding that the Canon 6d would miss focus more often that I would like. In certain situations such as strong back lighting or when there was to much light coming into the sensor, I would find that the Canon 6d would lock on to focus, however when reviewing the wedding photos afterwards, most of the photos were out of focus and not sharp.

In fact, this was happening so often that I developed a bad habit of focusing 5 or 6 times on the subjects eyes before taking the photo, or I would take the same photo several times just to ensure that the focus on spot on. This was becoming time consuming and very frustrating. I am happy to say that the focusing system of the 5d Mark IV is out of this world and my usable shots have increased dramatically.  The 5d Mark IV allows you to customise your auto focus system depending on how you shoot and what you are photographing. I personally use the centre point focus with the 4 cross-points enabled. This seems to be the quickest way for the focus to lock and my keeper rate has improved.

Another major improvement is AI Servo. AI Servo in the 5d Mark IV allows you to customise your settings and focal points with ease to allow a much higher keeper rate with moving subjects. Bride walking down the aisle, sparkler exit, bridal party moving towards the camera is now not a problem with the 5d Mark IV. You can even set it to ignore foreground objects which is a great addition.

Candid wedding photo

Frames per second

Honestly, the 4.5 FPS of the Canon 6d never bothered me. Unlike wildlife or sports, weddings don’t move at blisteringly fast speeds. The only situation that I can think of where I would fill up the buffer was having the bride and groom or bridal party walk towards me , but even then I could rattle off more than enough frames before this happened.  The Canon 5d Mark IV offers 7 frames per second which is a huge difference and a nice addition to have.

One big advantage however, is the buffer speed. In some very unscientific testing I counted around 24 RAW images could be captured before the buffer speed slowed down. Rarely on the Canon 6d would I fill up the buffer and need to wait for it to save the files, however having this capability is good to know. Another reason why I really felt the urge to upgrade was duel card slots. I have never had a card fail on me, but as a wedding photographer having duel card slots is a no brainer and could potentially save your reputation and career.

Professional wedding photographer

View Finder and Menu

Coming from the 97 percent viewfinder coverage of the 6d to the 100 percent view finder coverage of the Canon 5d Mark IV is a very nice luxury. When having to use my 6d alongside my Canon 5d Mark IV is almost like a punch in the gut. For those of you who have been using the 5d Mark III this won’t be any different, however for me it’s one of those small things that make a big difference. The anti-flicker mode is also fantastic, and one of those things I never thought I would use. Some churches and hotel rooms have awful lighting and the anti-flicker mode is a very nice feature.

One of the things I love about the Mark IV, is the ability to customise all the buttoms and gadgets on the camera. For example, the * button I have set to change to AI Servo to One shot which allows me to change settings without having to waste any time. The little joystick just above the directional pad I have set to change my ISO. I don’t ever have to fiddle with the buttons or look at LCD screen at the top of the camera again. Hurrah! Oh, and by the way, the touch screen is as good as everyone is saying!

Sydney wedding photographer at The Sebel Windsor

Build quality

I don’t know about other wedding photographers, but whenever I am photographing a wedding my cameras are put through the ringer. After a 10 hour wedding they have been beaten and bruised. My Canon 6d’s, although not known for their durable build quality held up to the task exceptionally well. This is big advantage of Canon over the competitors. The Nikon d750 and especially the Sony a7r2 look and feel tiny compared to the 5d Mark IV.  Some wedding photographers like to use smaller cameras for obvious reasons, but for me I like my cameras to be durable and well made.

The Sony a7r2 has been known to shut off unexpectedly, overheat, run out of battery very very quickly. As a wedding photographer this is not acceptable and a major reason why I never seriously considered the Sony cameras. Wedding photography requires cameras that will last the distance without any hiccups. I am sure the Nikon d750 and d810 are both very reliable (I have only used these cameras very briefly) but when my 70-200mm 2.8 v2 is attached to my Canon 5d4 I feel like it could thrown down a flight of stairs and still be okay.

The not so good?

A camera can’t be perfect right? It’s not possible! Let me tell you about some of the things that might be considered a negative

Battery Life – I have noticed I need to change the battery at a wedding as opposed to my Canon 6d. Not a huge deal for me

Video – I know this camera has left many people disappointed about its shortcomings when shooting video. For me, it is not an issue.

Lack of CFast cards – This again is not a big deal for me, however I can understand how some sports photographers or videographers may be disappointed with not being able to use the most current technology.

AA filter – Unlike the 5dsR and the Nikon d810 (I think?) this camera has an AA filter. I am not huge into pixel-peeping so I can not tell you if this makes a difference or not.

No articulating screen – I know many photographers using the 5d Mark IV swear by the duel pixel AF in live mode, however I never use live view so not a big deal for me.

Conclusion

I have been waiting a long time for the 5d Mark IV to be released and all in all, I am very happy I upgraded and even happier I skipped the 5d Mark III. To me, the 5d Mark III did not seem like a massive improvement over the 5d Mark II and was in some ways a side step from the Canon 6d. Although I am a little disappointed that the ISO performance and dynamic range is still not as good as the competition, for me Canon has done just enough to keep me around.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, my confidence in Canon was starting to wobble so I like to think that this article has come from a non-bias and n0n-judgmental viewpoint. Now I just need to get another one and I wont see myself needing to upgrade for several years.

3 replies
  1. Thorn
    Thorn says:

    Really enjoyed your review. Your camera timeline is almost exactly identical to mine. Started with a rebel XS to 40d to MkII to 6d. Shooting mostly weddings and portraits. Decided to skip the MKIII due to the fact that the 6d had better noise and was identical in image quality same lens mounted if not in some cases better if you nail the shot. Rented a MKIII numberous times and for me the only advantage was the ergonomics and much better focus system. Again I adjusted with the 6d and made it work. Still wasnt enough for a $1700 difference. Ended up getting a 70-200 2.8 ii with the savings . Now I am going back and forth with purchasing a MKiV and this review has helped in leaning me towards purchasing it. A swap is out of question because I have a total of 5 lenses all L glass and 4 flashes and would take a big loss selling used. Again, thanks for sharing your experience !

    Reply
  2. Michael Gruich
    Michael Gruich says:

    Glad to see a review from a wedding photographer that mentions the money shots (people coming toward you) and the new focus system. I also am a 6D veteran, love the camera, but have plenty of higher grain and blurry shots than I need. This review sold me, thank you for taking the time to share this.

    Reply

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