This week CharlesTalks reports on a test comparison between the Canon 5D MarkIII and 5D MarkIV. Our live shoot explains the differences we found and what the photographer thought about the new 5D MarkIV.

Jonathan Taylor of Cloud9 Leeds has owned Canon cameras for many years, using and the 5D series since its introduction in 2005. He upgrades his system each time a new model becomes available so that he will always have the best. Is the 5D MarkIV the best? Let’s take a more detailed look and find out.

Sensor Quality

Looking at the sensor size and pixel resolution it certainly should produce the best quality file.

5DMKIII size 36x24mm, 22.3MP

5DMKIV size 36x24mm, 30.4MP

File Sizes & resolution for output

Larger files produce larger output, particularly useful if you need to crop and blow up an image.

MKIII 63.3MB  5760 x 3840 pixels or 16.457 x 10.971inches at 350ppi

MKIV 86.1MB 6720 x 4480 pixels or 19.2 x 12.8inches at 350ppi

Location: MediaCity, Salford.

When evaluating files I tend to check the Blue Channel to see whether there is any noise or adjustments made to the file. Looking at the MKIII it’s as expected, the file is good and has plenty of detail. At this point it certainly seems to hold well in comparison with the MKIV in the highlight and midrange tone areas.

5D Blue channels

However, when we look at the shadow areas there is more detail and information in the MKIV file. The screen capture clearly shows there is more detail in the bricks and concrete blocks. The concerning area for me is in the water detail. The MKIII looks like the file has had some kind of gaussian blur applied, it hasn’t but this is what is looks like. The MKIV has far more detail, which indicates the darker areas will hold information that we can pull out later.

5D colour comparison

When we take a look at the colour file, the MKIII is flat, it lacks punch and doesn’t come close to the colours the MKIV produces. Saying that, if we didn’t have a MKIV to compare with, the MKIII is still acceptable.

Colour; The test shots show the difference in colour and detail. WOW! The red is leaping out of the image and there is far more detail in the shadow area under the bridge. Although the MKIV image is better it was captured with less light on the subject area.

Colour Sampling; We made 3 colour picker readings, see the sample images;

MKIII Point 1 R80 G16 B17, Point 2 R76 G15 B13, Point 3 R195, G197, B172.

MKIV Point 1 R168 G28 B19, Point 2 R166 G25 B14 Point 3 R248 G241 B198.

5D MKIII Colour

5D MKIV Colour

We are not working in laboratory conditions, a live shoot is a great way to test kit. We will find improvements in new products and in the case of the MKIV the colours have definitely improved, but for the Red to jump from 81 to 168, this is huge! At least if the information is there we can always use it or tone it down, it all depends on the project and media output. The screen captures are an extreme zoom of the area to show the colour assessment.

Canon, Photokina 2016

I wanted to know if the colour captured was correct and if our findings were true. Canon explained that there has been huge improvements in sensor sensitivity and that the new colour profiling will produce more vivid colours. Of course colour is perceptual.

On the Canon stand I watched Clive Booth’s presentation about his project with the RNLI. For him he finds by reducing the colour the image can show more emotion. This is his requirement and he showed examples of this by showing some of his fabulous quality prints. The bonus is, the colour is there and you can play and adjust to reproduce what you need. There is also some improvement on the camera screen display when capturing images.

Photographer’s Comment

Overall I’d say that the improvement in this bright daylight test at 100 ISO is that the camera is incrementally better. The shadow detail is less noisy, the colours are more natural and the detail has some improvement. Overall this adds up to something, that said, there wasn’t much wrong with the 5D MarkIII files. The shots I did on some interiors the other day were, in Sarah’s (Colour Editor) opinion much better to work with, and she’s the one who knows.

Higher ISO is certainly better, but I don’t generally work there.

Once Adobe and Capture One get Camera RAW working I’m sure the strengths of the 5D MarkIV chip with come through.

In over 25 years of shooting I have never had a client question the detail, resolution, colour or any other technical aspect of my work, having the best kit is a start, but at the  end of the day 90% of the result is knowing what to do with it.

What really makes this camera worth buying are the extra toys that have been added whilst keeping all the ergonomic efficiencies that have been built in over the years, you can just pick this up and use it.

The Wifi should be good once I’ve mastered it, the GPS is very handy for location shooting. The processing speed is significantly faster than the 5Ds, and from the quick test I did before I sold it the files looked better that the 5Ds too.. The touch screen is great for both navigating menus and playback. The video capabilities are greatly enhanced, though I’m not really into making movies.


Jonathan text me to say he’s flying out to Germany and Milan this week with the MKIV. He prefers it and his colour editor has said the files are much better to work with.

For this comparison both files were processed through Canon Software into Photoshop. We will process the same files again using Capture One Pro when the final version is available. We expect both camera files to improve with C1P, it will be interesting to see the MKIV file and judge how much of an improvement there is.

Do you want the comparison images?

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