Canon 5d Mark IV Dynamic Range and High ISO test

Canon's latest iteration of the 5d line brought many photographers to the edge of their seats as rumors and hopes that 30 megapixel sensor would boast an increased dynamic range. Cleaner high ISO capabilities have also been eagerly hoped for.

This month, with usual clock work precision, Canon released the 5d Mark IV, four years after the release of the Mark III. With my primary interest being wedding photography and portraiture, industry leading dynamic range and high ISO aren't at the top of my priorities for a camera, as I am often adding off camera illumination to creatively expose a subject within the composition, and for the purposes of sculpting flattering shadows across faces and figures. Canon suits my creative pursuits well thanks to their excellent array of high quality lenses as well as the beautiful color palette rendition, especially as far as skin tones are concerned, that I get right out of camera.

However, when the wedding season has ended and I'm out on my own time, there's nothing like getting away to capture some of the breathtaking landscapes of the Southwest United States that I call home. In high contrast lighting of landscapes, a lower dynamic range often forces the photographer to either use graduated neutral density filters or bracket shots and use complicated HDR software and techniques. Newer sensors that boast an increase in dynamic range can ameliorate this onerous burden by simply allowing shadows to be lifted in post production.

For a quick test I shot a high contrast scene behind a building.

Canon 5d Mark 4 Dynamic Range Test

I underexposed the shot by -3.0 stops in camera, then lifted the exposure +5.0 stops in post. Sufficient to say: this is quite the torture test of shadow recovery.

5dIV +5ec and no NR.JPG

Using the same lens (Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM), I shot the same image with my Canon 5d Mark III. I underexposed by the same amount and then lifted the shadows back up in post. Here are some close ups of the bench and waste receptacle from the prior generation camera with no noise reduction editing applied.

5dIII Crop 1 no NR.JPG

So here's how the new 5d4 fared under the same lighting conditions. Again: no noise reduction.

What an outstanding improvement. Landscape shooters rejoice! This could mean the end of complicated graduated filters and other post processing headaches! While these test shots rarely represent normal photographic expectations, its nice to see some improvement for challenging light in extreme conditions.

While the best test of high ISO capability is done under low light conditions, the best I could muster shooting on this afternoon was in the shadow under the glove compartment of my truck. Soon I'll get out for some low light shots to get a realistic idea of high ISOs in the quality of light they'd most likely be needed: handheld, no tripod, say some time after sunset, etc.

The new 5d Mark IV tops out at 32,000 ISO, which is 1/3 stop more than the 5d Mark III.

Canon 5d Mark 4 Dynamic Range and high ISO Test

Into the digitally expanded range we next arrive at ISO 51,200...

Canon 5d Mark 4 Dynamic Range and high ISO Test

Finally, and just being silly at this point, here's ISO 102,400:

Canon 5d Mark 4 Dynamic Range and high ISO Test

Bravo, Canon!!