The Canon 5D Mark IV was widely criticized right from the get-go because it wasn’t what people wanted it to be. If it didn’t appeal to all still photographers because its on-paper specs were less than dazzling compared to what’s already out there, and it enraged video shooters because it was no longer a particularly good video camera. It is easy to focus on the things that the 5D Mark IV is not, but when looked at as a modern, Swiss Army knife of a working photographer’s camera, there is a lot that the 5D Mark IV gets right. It may not be the body you wanted or dreamed of, but that doesn’t take away from what the camera is: a solid, reliable piece of hardware.

canon-5d-mark-iv-review

The 5D Mark IV is a 30.4 megapixel camera featuring a brand new sensor on Canon’s part (this is the first 30 megapixel sensor they have made). It balances relatively high resolution with relatively good ISO performance. It’s not market-leading in either of those categories, but it does well-enough in both to be a solid choice for nearly any shooting condition. Thanks to the DIGIC 6+ image processor, the sensor offers a native range of ISO 100-32000, which can be expanded to ISO 50-102400.

By using a 150,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor, you are able to more comfortably trust the camera to capture difficult scenes. This sensor also has face detection as well as flicker detection which can ensure proper exposure in less-than-ideal lighting situations. The 5D Mark IV can also continuously shoot at a rate of 7 frames per second.

canon-5d-mark-iv-review

Canon also added what they are saying is the same autofocus system that exists in the stellar 1DX Mark II, High Density Reticular AF with 61 phase-detect points, with all points sensitive to f/8 and 41 of which are cross-type. The center point can function down to -3 EV for working in extremely dim lighting. Compared to previous versions, this sensor has expanded vertical coverage of 24% on the peripherals and 8% in the center in order to better track and locate subjects in the frame.

That said, I can’t say I felt like the AF was as responsive or as good as the 1DX Mark II, despite Canon claiming it is the exact same system. Yes, the 5D Mark IV does perform really well in most focusing situations, but it’s not quite as fast, snappy or accurate as the 1DX Mark II. Now, the 1DX did set a very high bar for performance and is a distinctly action-oriented camera (which the 5D Mark IV is not), so this isn’t necessarily saying that the AF is bad in the 5D Mark IV. No, it’s just not quite as good as the 1DX.

To put this in perspective, I rarely missed an focus on an exposure when shooting moving subjects with the 1DX Mark II. I did, however, miss focus on subjects at times with the 5D Mark IV. It was not “common,” but it happened.

As far as body design and features go, the 5D Mark IV has quite a few:

  • A 3.2″ 1.62m-dot Clear View II LCD monitor with an anti-reflective design for easy viewing in varied lighting conditions, and its touchscreen interface can be used for intuitive touch-to-focus control (like in the 1DX) but also for general navigation and control of the menus, which is nice.
  • A new dedicated AF mode selection button located beneath the rear joystick allows for quick access of commonly changed settings, and is also customizable for other functionality.
  • Dual CompactFlash and SD memory card slots
  • An Intelligent Viewfinder II uses a pentaprism design and when using the viewfinder, AF points are highlighted in red for greater visibility in low-light conditions, and the finder can also be configured to display a range of other shooting aids, such as an electronic level, grid, flicker detection, white balance, metering mode, AF information, and other settings.
  • A Mirror Vibration Control System helps to minimize mechanical vibrations
  • A built-in GPS module
  • A built-in intervalometer (finally) that supports recording 1-99 consecutive frames in pre-selected intervals from 1 second to 99 hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC

Look, let’s be real here: the way the camera looks, feels and operates is not much different from what you’re used to if you’ve been shooting on a Canon DSLR for the last 10 years. The body is light but not flimsy. The controls are where you’re used to finding them, and there are numerous accessory ports along the sides and front of the body. The most notable change for those who timelapse will be that the intervelometor port is no longer on the side of the camera, but now located on the lower right hand side of the body (when viewed from the front).

Otherwise, this body feels just as good as its predecessors. Consistency is good, and this body is a model of it.

Quality of Images

The Canon 5D Mark IV continues with the impressive image quality I found in the 1DX Mark II. Files are really beautiful, and 30.4 megapixels is a nice upgrade from the 5D Mark III’s 22.3.

As far as dynamic range is concerned, I was really impressed with the 5D Mark IV. Highlight recovery is really good, and shadow recovery is as excellent as ever.

For example, take a look at the blown out highlights of this image:

canon-5d-mark-iv-review-highlights

Now check out how much detail I was able to bring back, and this wasn’t even pushing it to the max. I just wanted to get the highlights to look “good.”

canon-5d-mark-iv-review-highlights

I am extremely happy with how that sky looked after raw adjustment. This is the sky my eyes saw when I took the photo, and I was able to recreate it with just minor adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw. I was honestly really surprised at how good this recovery was. I’m a happy camper.

Shadows are just as impressive. You can go from seeing basically no detail in the shadows:

canon-5d-mark-iv-review-shadows

And turn that into seeing the full stitching on the backpack and pants:

canon-5d-mark-iv-review-shadows

The best part of the dynamic range in these images is that you can get this kind of detail out of both the shadows and highlights without the issue of terrible color noise. Images just look good.

canon-5d-mark-iv-review canon-5d-mark-iv-review canon-5d-mark-iv-review canon-5d-mark-iv-review

Video Features

Look, I am going to spend very little time here because this topic has been beat into the ground by many others before me already: the video on the 5D Mark IV sucks. It’s fine for general usage, but anyone who considers themselves a “pro” will be nothing but disappointed. The dynamic range is poor, the crop factor for 4K is an absurd 1.74x, there are no video features like focus peaking, and the bit depth is a measly 8 which, when combined with 4:2:2 at 4K and 4:2:0 in 1080 and no clean HDMI out in 4K, leaves a lot to be desired. Yes it captures video, yes the video looks good if you nail everything in camera and don’t expect to grade in post (but can’t handle much in terms of adjustments after the fact), but it’s not a video camera.

This camera is Canon basically saying that the 5D series is no longer a videographer’s line of cameras, and that’s just something you’ll have to accept, unfortunately. Yes it upsets me, but I’m not going to dwell on it. If this is a still camera first, second, third and fourth and a video camera maybe fifth, well… then that’s how we’re going to have to look at it. That’s how we look at Nikon DSLRs, and now Canon falls into that same boat.

Dual Pixel Raw

One of the main selling features of the new 5D Mark IV is the “Dual Pixel Raw” functionality, which is a Lytro-like refocus system Canon instituted that utilizes their, aptly, Dual Pixel sensor. What it basically does is allow for very, very slight micro-adjustments to an image to fix minor back or front focusing issues. It won’t totally save an out of focus image, or if you dramatically miss focus on a shot, but it can help you dial in sharpness exactly where you want it.

At the time of this review, the ability to do this was only available in Canon’s proprietary Raw processor, Digital Photo Professional 4. This is a very poorly designed application, despite it being likely the best way to get the most out of Canon Raw files. The whole thing is based on a group of floating windows, and the way you adjust your image using the tools is just the worst out of any possible option. This is, of course, my opinion. If you like this platform, then you’re in luck if you want quick and easy access to the Dual Pixel Raw functions. But if you share my sentiments, than you will probably rarely use this function as it is a hassle to get to and then transition from it to Lightroom, Photoshop or Capture One.

At any rate, first you have to enable the camera to do Dual Pixel Raw, which is not a default setting, in the camera’s menu. After taking a Dual Pixel Raw photo, you can access the tool from the menu:

dual-pixel-raw-interface

Once in there, you will be greeted with this interface:

dual-pixel-raw-interface-2

In the upper right, you can see an option to select “Image Microadjustment” or “Bokeh Shift.” I was unable to select both at the same time, so I believe you have to do one or the other. The “refocus” feature is the “image microadjustment,” and what it does is indeed very micro. You can see a difference, but with the images I took, you more can see what it’s doing when it removes focus from an area rather than dials more into it. I guess that’s a hat tip to the aforementioned autofocus, because when I did land focus, it was always pretty perfect. Only when my subject was so out of focus that Dual Pixel Raw could not save it did I ever “miss.”

At any rate, here is a pretty clean set of examples of what the back and front options do to the image. Below I took the “Back” and “Front” refocus options to the max at each (which was 5) to compare to the original.
dual-pixel-raw-microadjust-comparison

I know it can be hard to see, because the adjustment is so slight, but there is a difference among each of these. To better see that, I encourage you to download the original crops I used in the above example. You an get the original, the back refocus, and the front refocus at those links.

Here are three more, in the order of original, back and front refocus:

dual-pixel-raw-microadjust-3-original

dual-pixel-raw-microadjust-3-back

dual-pixel-raw-microadjust-3-front

The difference is slightly noticeable on his left shoulder, where you can see the focus plane move on the pattern of his coat.

Like I said, this is all extremely slight. This is a tool you should not expect to rely on, but have as a possible option in case of a very unique situation. Even in super shallow depth of field shots, the way the refocusing tool works is so slight, you should not expect huge results.

That said, this is incredibly cool. There is no pixel degradation, no compromises to the image, nothing that would otherwise affect the photo when you use this. If this is the first step to getting some really good focus-in-post functionality, I’m all for it.

The second feature on the tool page is called Bokeh Shift, and this one isn’t there to really “fix” an image, so much as it is there to tune something to your liking. Bokeh Shift moves the perspective point slightly, but enough to adjust how light hits a subject or even how that light affects the color of an image. For example, I slid the bokeh shift all the way to the left on this photo:

bokeh-shift-left

And then slid it all the way to the right on this one:

bokeh-shift-right

You probably can’t see a huge difference, so this should help:

bokeh-shift

When looking at the images back and forth (which is what I’m illustrating in the gif above), you can see it is affecting where and how the subject is displayed with regards to his surroundings. Even the light on his chest, arm and the camera in his hand changes slightly. This is absolutely incredible, even if it has limited usage. The camera was able to capture a lot more data than you ever typically see in any photograph, and this is just Canon’s first shot at this.

Now as mentioned, I don’t know how or why I would use this, but the fact that it is there and has that much of an effect on an image is really impressive. It’s certainly worth playing around with when you use the 5D Mark IV, if for no other reason than it’s fun to look at.

Usability, Reliability, Longevity

Eventually a camera is more than its on-paper specs. It’s stuff like finding out battery life and heat dispersion is an issue, or that button placement is cumbersome, or that it has a problem writing quickly to memory cards. Things like that, which are legitimate problems on a host of top-tier camera releases lately, are things you never see written down on the specs sheet. You have to use the camera to really know.

I’ve shot multiple projects with the 5D Mark IV, including a wedding and using it as a photo booth camera. At the wedding it was my primary timelapse camera, and as a photo booth camera it was on all evening while also streaming the images to an iPad for viewing (thanks to the WiFi).

The wedding was a great place to really test how the ISO performed in real world situations. For the below shot, I was at ISO 4000:

781a2756Of course this was too dark, so I bumped up the exposure in Lightroom. This is where you can see how higher ISO affects the quality of the shadows. You can most certainly see a lot more noise here than in images taken at lower ISOs:

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Another from the same lighting situation:

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Now these were single frames taken from a timelapse, but you get the idea. I ran this camera all night and completed eight timelapses in that timeframe. The battery made it through six before I needed to switch it out, which isn’t too bad considering the exposure times on some of these, and the number of frames.

The ISO performance is nothing to get excited about, but it’s not bad either. As mentioned, it’s not market leading, but it’s good enough to do generally anything a working professional is going to find himself up against.

The photo booth setup was a great test of the camera’s ability to handle a stressful situation while transferring files wirelessly to my iPad via WiFi (using the Canon app).

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The images all came out tack sharp and in focus, which is as much a testament to the lens as it is to the body. At any rate, the autofocus never had an issue in the booth environment.

What is perhaps the most impressive is how the camera maintained the WiFi singal the entire time, never dropped it and continued to quickly send preview images to my iPad for everyone to see. This while still taking constant images from people in the booth.

At the end of the night, the battery had only one bar off of full, which surprised me considering how much power I assumed it would take to keep the WiFi going.
photobooth-35 photobooth-230

There is a lot about this camera to point at and hate on, and Canon is an easy target given their position in the market and the number of people who demand a lot of them. Though the Canon 5D Mark IV isn’t anything over the top special, it is still an excellent camera. The battery life is outstanding, the images are gorgeous, the weight and performance of the body itself are unquestionably a fit for the professional shooter, and the sheer number of things this camera can do compared to the competition is impressive.

This is a landscape, wildlife, event, wedding, concert, and walk-around camera. It can do just about anything you need it to, and handle nearly any situation well.

But there is room for improvement. Quite a lot actually. The autofocus is good, but not amazing (expectations were set very high when Canon said it was the same system that is in the 1DX Mark II). There are a lot of megapixels, but many will want to see at least 35. The video features, or rather lack there of, are incredibly disheartening. The ISO is passable but not anywhere near market-leading.

It might be enough to get Canon shooters to purchase… but it’s not enough of a camera to turn someone away from another brand. It gets enough right to forgive for those aching to upgrade their Mark III bodies, but lacks features and technical specs to impress Sony or Nikon fans (who have become used to seeing really impressive on-paper specs). Dual Pixel Raw is a neat feature, but isn’t strong enough just yet to be the main selling point. It’s cool, don’t get me wrong, and it gets me really excited for future builds of the technology… but it’s not enough yet to make me jump up and down with excitement. It’s not enough to get someone to drop a competitor’s brand.

The 1DX Mark II was the kind of body that could turn heads. The Mark IV? It’s just sitting quietly in the back of the room. It’s not as attractive as the other cameras around it, but it definitely will get the job done.

Canon 5D Mark IV
Outstanding image qualityGreat dynamic rangeDual Pixel Raw is pretty coolTouch featuresExcellent battery lifeBuilt-in intervelometer7 frames per second shooting
Lack of video features, and video features included are sub-standard for the timesAutofocus doesn't act like the same one in the 1DX Mark IIISO doesn't "wow"Relatively expensive
8.6Great
Build Quality9.8
Image Quality9.5
ISO Performance8
Performance of Core Features9.2
Autofocus (Speed, Accuracy)8.5
Ancillary Features (built-in timelapse, headphone jack, memory card slots, etc)9.3
Video Features6.5
Price Point8.5
Overall Appeal8.5
Reader Rating 16 Votes
6.1
  • Infiltrator

    Did Canon Paid you for damage control? Look when it’s all said at the end of the day the facts remains, The camera it’s at least 2 years behind the competition! When a person that have used the5D iv grabs a Nikon or another great camera it becomes obvious that our 5D has been butchered and lacks innovation! I’m a Cannon guy but Cannon has taken the Kodak road and they prefer finance than innovation and tech! I come from film and I have used my fair share of cameras (since I was 9 and today I’m 52) and I have seen how many giants of photography have felt into oblivion because of taking the Kodak road (I hope you know what happened to Kodak). Unless the 6D mkii raise the bar I see Canon loosing thousands of customers due to lack of competitiveness and innovation. Next year Nikon will launch new tech and where will that place the 5D4, WHERE?

    • We are all welcome to our own opinions, but right now, today, this camera still gets a lot right. You’re totally welcome to disagree, but I’m doing my best to look at equipment completely objectively. You’re asking me to look at this camera while also imagining new tech that hasn’t been announced or released yet and then scoring it as such. I can’t do that. I can only review something based on facts and current reality. In that space, I feel my score is just.

      • Infiltrator

        Mr. Schneider, am I not being objective? Did I said it was a bad camera? No! What I said is that it lack ingenuity and innovation, and that it’s at least 2 years behind if the competition! Therefore, I am NOT making a comment based on unicorns or fantastic ideas. I agree with you in that I also welcome your opinion and I will certainly disagree telling you this: Time NEVER lies, the camera is behind and it lacks innovation so please don’t become one more insouciantly obtuse reviewer that only see what he wants to see.

      • J.J. Hernandez

        https://youtu.be/GeJRuzGNvCk

        And I was being huh what was the word?

      • J.J. Hernandez

        And another one

        https://youtu.be/dS9rdzUiSVM

        If Panasonic can do this, then I’m right by saying that the Canon 5D mkii is NOT intuitive nor innovating! Like I said time never lies and time and time again what I said holds true ground! Your article was without any doubt trying to rescue Canon horrible sales of a camera that’s at least 2 years behind in tech, the butchered 5D mkiv! Be more careful next time kid!

    • Corky

      The 5D mkIV is the Camry of the camera world. It reliably hauls the freight for photographers for years.
      It does most things very well and some things outstandingly well. It isn’t bad anywhere.
      The real world truth is that while the competition may have some advantages on paper and in some areas, the Canon 5D platform produces work that is indistinguishable from any other camera.
      If you like Canon , Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Fuji or Topcon and it makes images you like, (or in my case my clients) then use it.

      Specs are relevant but the real world is where products succeed or fail. Years ago I purchased a Nikon scanner based on specs and the breathy endorsements of web fanboys.
      It was a very poor scanner despite its impressive specs. I returned it and bought a Scitex which, despite its slightly poorer resolution, was visibly and demonstrably superior in every aspect of performance.

      The same is true of cameras.
      This camera may not be your cup of tea but parroting the unchallenged “wisdom” of its critics is scarcely credible analysis.

      • J.J. Hernandez

        I’ve been in photography since the mid 80’s (film), so I have used my fair share of cameras (some I still have, some I sold). I have been a loyal Canon customer, however I also own Nikon, Hasselblad, and my light Leica. As a 5Div user I sustain my comment! It is behind, it is not innovating, and Canon butchered it like the do to every camera. You can say whatever you like, so go ahead and be a fanatic, but brother time never lies!

        • Michael Clark

          So what you are saying is that since the 5D Mark IV is so horrible for being only two years behind the competition all of those film photos you took back in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s along with all your digital photos up to two years ago are trash?

          • J.J. Hernandez

            WHAT????? LMAO How in God sake you came to that conclusion? lol what a character!!!! Yikes you must have been shooting for less than 5 years to think that way and if you have shoot since film (like I have) and think that way you have wasted your time! Just be a bit more eloquent and elucidate just a bit, because you make no sense. Read again what I wrote and elucidate without any bias. It is very simple, but if you rather go with the crowd then, by any means, go ahead and be like the sheep. Me; well, I’ve been shooting since the early 70’s so I know better and i wont talk without reasoning. I’m afraid this discussion is over. Good luck kid

          • Michael Clark

            You totally missed the point, just as I expected you would.

      • J.J. Hernandez

        https://youtu.be/GeJRuzGNvCk

        Like I said, time lever lies! Before posting learn a bit more!

  • I think most of the hate for this camera must be coming from video enthusiasts (amateurs and aspiring pros) who want the features of a RED for $3,500 or less. I just don’t get it. The video features have only improved since the 5D Mark II, and suddenly now they are disappointing and unusable?!

    You even state in your review that you believe Canon is purposefully telling us that the camera is not for the video pro anymore because they didn’t include pro video features in this model. But that hasn’t changed from the Mark II either.

    It’s just confusing. I’m a pro. I’m making a full time living from producing video and still from the affordable and very capable 5D series of cameras. I would guess that there is a wide swath of other professionals doing the same.

    Not every shoot requires ultra HD RAW production. In fact The vast majority of my shoots hugely benefit from the portability, quick turn around, relatively small file sizes, and fast setup the 5D style cameras offer.

    For bigger productions with a more discerning customer, we rent more “professional” higher-end gear. But the vast majority of my money is made with the 5D line.

    Again, those whining about this camera seem to be inexperienced pixel peepers with little knowledge of what the market is really demanding.

    • You’re totally right, and I think that’s something people (including myself) overlook. It’s probably due to the competition, who have been making some pretty stellar stuff that competes with what the 5D Mark IV is, and were made over a year ago. When the Mark III came out, this wasn’t the case. So from a camera-to-camera perspective you’re right on, but that would then also be ignoring the other options on the market.

      • Fair point. Competition has some nice stuff. But as a working pro who has already invested thousands in Canon glass and years in muscle memory with the Canon ergonomics and menu systems, there still just is not anything else out there at a similar price point that is enticing enough for me to switch.

        If I can nail the image with the gear I have, it makes little business sense to abandon Canon just because some of the competitors have options that are marginally better. My clients pay me because I deliver on their needs, not because my camera shoots 4k without a crop factor.

        Does that make sense?

        I hear again and again all over the internet that “Serious professionals would never use the Mark IV over the Sony, Nikon, Pany option.” It’s just total B.S. My status as a paid professional has very little to do with the gear I use. My paying clients are proof of that.

        • Oh yeah, that last line is total B.S. That’s coming from someone who either doesn’t know any serious professionals, or the ones they do know never shot Canon to begin with. It’s also why I think the Mark IV is still an outstanding camera, and Canon shooters will end up buying it.

          I started as a Canon shooter and now i use whatever is best for a situation (thanks to plentiful, excellent adapters this is possible). I too am knee deep in Canon peripherals, and the Mark IV is absolutely not a slouch of a body that would make me totally drop everything and switch.

          But as mentioned, I don’t think it’s enough to make someone using a different brand switch from that to Canon either. It’s kind of a “retain the status quo” camera. And that’s probably fine with most serious people, Canon included.

          • Infiltrator

            LMAO

        • Mike A

          I don’t mean this to be argumentative – just my point of view. For background – I own/paid full retail for my 5DS R, 5D MkIV & A99II. I also have a more than $10K in Canon Lenses.

          From my point of view, there are two significant issues with the 5D MkIV (Non D5/1D series).

          First, the MkIV is an Average DSLR by 2016 standards and almost outdated at launch – especially considering the rapid technical advances being made by the competition (camera only). D810 has better overall image quality and it’s 2 years old. I’m sure the soon to be announced D810 successor will far exceed the MkIV. The Sony A7 Series and A99II are very, very exciting cameras. Fujifilm and Olympus also appear to be moving “upmarket” as the low end is taken over by phones.

          Second, it is way overpriced. For people who actually pay retail – $3,500.00. I feel ripped off paying that for what I got. In comparison, I paid $3,200.00 for my A99II and I think it’s fantastic and worth what I paid.

          In the end, I feel the MkIV is a value proposition. It’s a very good camera. It’s just that it should be priced around $2,500 to $3,000 for its specs & build quality or launched more than a year prior. For others, I think they may be disappointed because it doesn’t set any new standards like they had hoped from Canon’s flagship 5D series.

          • HF

            I don’t think the 5div to be average by 2016 standards. It has less DR than D810 at base ISO, but that is not all. It is a lot better at higher ISOs (and I have a D810). It has dual pixel AF, which is class leading. Faster than Sonys OSPDAF, with touch possibility and sensitive to -4ev. It works with all Canon lenses and is able to focus extremely fast in dim light, too. It works better than my A7rii in my testing. Canon can easily get rid of the mirror and you have a mirrorless camera. Regarding the A99ii we have to see how it turns out. AF in movie mode is not that good and restricted by f3.5. Its DR is not better than that of the Canon, as isn’t S/N ratio (it is even lower according to DXO and Bill Claff). Yes it has other interesting specs, but so far I didn’t see reliable tests.

  • Ben Young

    Personally I don’t see anything wrong with the camera being reviewed. I say personally, because I base my opinion and thoughts on what I use my cameras for.
    I only shoot stills. I’m not a video person at all. I can see that this latest offering from Canon is lacking in the video department, but I don’t care.
    And yes, there our other cameras that have additional features. Features that make me think “that’s cool, but would I use those features beyond the first two weeks after the novelty has worn off?” Most likely not.
    And yes, there are other cameras with more resolution and more dynamic range, blah blah blah.
    And yes, it would be nice to have the same in the Canon, I admit it. But it’s not a deal breaker. Not for me. Those extra pixels, that little bit wider dynamic range, that is supposedly missing from my Canon, doesn’t make my images terrible, or unusable and leave me scratching my head wondering what I did wrong.

    This is a workhorse camera that you can depend on to work day in, day out. And it works well, delivering fantastic images that I am pleased with. And I was willing to pay for it.
    Canon also has a wide range of lenses. I don’t think any other company offers such a wide range. Correct if I’m wrong.

    But at the end of the day, if I can’t create an image that I’m satisfied with by using a Canon 5d mark IV, then using a Nikon 810 or Sony A7rII or any other camera isn’t going to make my photos any better.
    Sorry, but a good image captured by a camera has more to do with the person behind the camera than it does with the camera.

    I’ve chosen Canon because I can feel I can rely it the equipment, (hasn’t let me down yet – I have CPS membership but am yet to use it), the wide range of lenses, the ergonomics (I find mirrorless too small, I’ve tried offerings from both Fuji & Sony), battery life, and because I can create the images that want using it.

    Now go choose the right tool for the (your) job!