Okay, I can’t believe I am sharing what I am about to share…! For months before I purchased the Canon 5D Mark IV, I looked for a blog post like this and I couldn’t find one. If there is one out there, it must have been hiding from me because for the life of me I couldn’t find a post that showed Mark III vs Mark IV RAW image files side by side of the same setting and subject. I have heard that the Mark IV’s image files are noticeably different from the Mark III’s and have therefore created a little bit of an editing hiccup for some photographers, especially when they first get the Mark IV. That is completely understandable and believable after shooting with both cameras side by side at my engagement session earlier this evening. It was noticeable enough on the LCD screen that I couldn’t believe I was shooting with both. I thought I was creating an editing NIGHTMARE for myself by shooting with both cameras… but it turns out, I was able to match them pretty closely! I was pleasantly surprised! Just wait until you see everything side by side!

I have NEVER shown a RAW image on my blog and I can’t believe I’m about to… but hey, the occasion called for it. I really want to share about how my experience has been with the Canon 5D Mark IV since purchasing it about a week ago. Now, I want to make it clear that this is truly a FIELD test in every sense of the term. I wasn’t setting up the same exact shot from the same exact spot with the same exact lens for every image comparison. I was shooting as I would on a wedding day with two camera bodies, so some comparison shots are taken with two different lenses. However, I think this test is just as relevant as a perfectly set up comparison test would be because this is what was actually happening as I was shooting LIVE at a REAL engagement session with two camera bodies.

So now that we’ve got that disclaimer taken care of, let’s dive in! Since purchasing the Mark IV a week ago, I have shot one wedding and one engagement session with it, so the camera has already seen a variety of lighting scenarios, skin tones, backgrounds, and color casts. Right off the bat, I noticed…

  • The Mark IV nails focus more often and more accurately than my Mark III (woo hoo!)
  • The Mark IV files look a little more dull on the LCD screen, but the differences are MUCH more subtle when viewing the RAW files on my laptop’s retina display (phew…!)
  • The Mark IV has a much quieter shutter on normal mode (not silent shutter), which doesn’t really matter but it sounds so much more discreet and I kinda like it
  • The Mark IV drains its camera battery somewhat quicker (I had to change to my second battery about 6 hours into my 8 hour wedding day and I usually don’t have to change until hour 8 or 9 with my Mark III)
  • The Mark IV has a touch screen that is TRULY life changing when it comes to focusing for aerial shots where the camera is lifted away from my face! I can’t rave about this Mark IV feature enough! It’s awesome!!
  • The Mark IV has wifi capabilities and I shouldn’t have to tell you how life changing that can be for photographers!!! Just think of the possibilities…!!!

If you’re considering purchasing the Mark IV, I would highly recommend it if you plan on taking advantage of the wifi capability, the touch screen for styled photos or aerial shots, or just having something that’s a little more caught up with today’s technology. When you do decide to purchase the camera and it shows up on your doorstep, the first thing you should do is go through and apply all of your custom settings you might have had in your Mark III to the Mark IV. Next, make sure you plug all your lenses on and apply your micro-adjustments for each lens (thankfully I only needed to adjust one lens for this camera and I had to adjust three lenses on my Mark III)! Then, you should take a look at your back of camera previews for each camera and consider playing around with the playback image settings to what looks best to you or closest to your end goal image. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, be aware that your normal presets or editing workflow will not be the same for your Mark IV files as it is for your Mark III. I created a new preset when I got home from my engagement session tonight for my Mark IV files based on the differences I was noticing and it works like a charm. You’ll see below!

Now, disclaimer, I am a private photo editor for a handful of wedding photographers as part of my full-time photography career. Needless to say, editing is FUN & ENJOYABLE for me. I didn’t have a hard time creating a new preset in less than 5 minutes and editing all of these photos in under 10 minutes because my editing eye is highly developed at this point in my photography career, and it isn’t super difficult for me to notice and adjust for subtle differences in tone, exposure, color casts, temperature, etc. My best advice is to grab a photo that you want to match colors and lighting to and play with the sliders until you get as close to matching that image as possible. Things don’t have to be PERFECT… they just have to be consistent enough to not be distracting when moving from one image to another. You want all of your galleries to look cohesive above all else! If you can achieve that, you can shoot anything in any sort of light and be confident that you can do some amazing work in post-processing to make images match from the beginning AND end of your wedding day (or shoot)! Now let’s get to the good stuff!

First, we will start with the RAW images… I’m not going to tell you which one is which just yet… I’ll let you try to guess!! It’s more fun that way! I will tell you that with these images, one camera’s files are first and the other camera’s files are the second image…! Do you think the Mark IV or the Mark III comes first?!

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*Disclaimer* The first image above was taken with the Canon 50mm 1.2 lens and the second image above was taken with the Canon 85mm 1.8 lens! The next two images below were taken with the SAME exact lens (50mm) and the same exact settings!

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If you guessed that the Mark III files were first… you were CORRECT! In all of the above, the Mark IV images come after the Mark III image. Do you notice any differences? If I look closely, the Mark III files look slightly more vibrant. There’s definitely more color there, which is what I heard before trying this out myself! The Mark IV has slightly DULLER images and I also noticed that on the Mark IV, the image is FLATTER. There’s just some depth or contrast missing. Now… that can be a good and a bad thing. With a slightly less saturated image, you are going to have to pull color back into your photos when editing in post-processing. However, this can be a GOOD thing when it comes to tricky shooting situations and weird color cast scenarios! I’d personally rather breathe life and color into an image in post-processing than have to pull contrast/shadows and color out. I think it’s totally personal preference… but I will say that it’s NOT a deal breaker. It might take some extra time to nail your editing and consistency on your Mark IV files, but you will get there! Here are my examples below. Can you tell which are the Mark III files and which are the Mark IV?!

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The images are in the same exact order as the RAW files above, so all of these have the Mark III images first. It’s not impossible to get them looking VERY similar to where only a seasoned pro might see subtle differences. I tried really hard to make these as close as possible and I don’t think I would have a problem on a wedding day shooting with both cameras now that I have presets created for both camera files!

Now, I’ll show you the Mark III and Mark IV images side by side with labels! Now you should really be able to notice a few differences!

Lastly, I’ll show you a before and after of a Mark IV RAW file next to its edited version… it’s crazy the difference editing can make!!

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And just to reassure you that you can make Mark III and Mark IV files look extremely similar, here are two photos taken with the same exact settings, same lens, same spot, just different camera bodies! Can you tell which one is the Mark III image and which is the Mark IV?

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Leave your questions in the comments section below if you have any and I will be sure to reply. Be encouraged if you’re getting ready to purchase the Mark IV and aren’t sure how different your files will be or whether you’ll be starting from scratch with editing. You’ll get there!! Just pay close attention to the differences and don’t be afraid to bump some sliders in either direction more than you normally would! Happy shooting!!

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