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5 Reasons Why the EOS 5D Mark IV is Great for Astrophotography

For long-time users of the EOS 5D series, the EOS 5D Mark IV is a next step in the series’ evolution. With operability that enables you to dive right in to do a shoot without any confusion, and a sense of security that comes with the camera’s ability to reliably reflect the photographer’s intention, the 5D Mark IV can truly be described in just one word: Dependable. Read on and take a look at some examples to discover what makes the EOS 5D Mark IV a hit with astrophotographers. (Reported by: Shigemi Numazawa)


Reason 1: Superior high ISO speed characteristics and noise-free imaging lets you "freeze" the stars while maintaining high image quality

These pictures were shot one autumn as I walked around a riverbed. From the visible changes in the various areas of vegetation, including the Japanese pampas grass, it was clear that the season was in transit.

Conditions like this are interesting to photograph because you can get images with a different feel, all within the same area. All you need to do is slightly increase the ISO speed, shorten the exposure time, and explore various angles with the camera mounted on a tripod. The EOS 5D Mark IV has an improved high ISO speed performance. Hence, when combined with a bright lens, it can take images with the starry sky and landscape completely "frozen", using a short exposure time while maintaining high image quality.

EOS 5D Mark IV/ FL: 20mm/ Manual exposure (f/1.4, 8 sec.)/ ISO 3200/ WB: 3,600K
While I was moving around shooting in an expansive field of Japanese pampas grass by the riverbed, Orion rose in the eastern sky. I took shots with the camera mounted on a tripod while limiting the shutter speed to 8 sec. This allowed me to use an ISO speed of ISO 3200 at a maximum aperture of f/1.4 with peace of mind.


Now you can shoot the stars even in handheld photography

I gave handheld photography a try, and determined the practical range to be an ISO speed of ISO 51200 and exposure of 0.3 sec. The flexible framing made possible by the expanded ISO speeds on the EOS 5D Mark IV might change how astrophotography is done from now on.


Reason 2: There is less noise during long exposures, so Long Exposure Noise Reduction is no longer needed even on hot days

The features that I took the most notice of during astrophotography were the high ISO speeds and noise characteristics. A big issue was working out what ISO speed to use so that good image quality could be maintained.

The higher resolution of the EOS 5D Mark IV means that the pixel pitch has become even smaller, but the high ISO speed characteristics are well maintained and the gradations in RAW images are smooth with a wide variety of colour tones. In terms of the noise, dark current noise, i.e. fixed pattern noise, is a big issue for long exposures and appears as scattered white pixels. Such noise also rises dramatically when the ambient temperature is high. However, the EOS 5D Mark IV obtained the best results in tests of various cameras’ abilities to suppress such noise.

EOS 5D Mark IV/ FL: 20mm/ Manual exposure (f/1.4, 10 sec.)/ ISO 3200/ WB: 3,750K
As autumn progresses, the Milky Way of summer begins to move over to the West. I shot at a low angle using a 20mm lens. I set the position carefully, as even minute changes in position can greatly affect the composition when using a super wide-angle lens.


White pixels are almost non-existent on the EOS 5D Mark IV

ISO 3200


ISO 51200

A comparison of only the dark current noise was carried out in a completely dark room. The exposure was set to 30 sec for all cameras, and at an ambient temperature of 25°C, with the number of pixels becoming uniform on the EOS 5D Mark IV after the shoot. The images were enlarged to 200% and highlighted. At ISO 3200, white pixels are almost non-existent in the image taken using the EOS 5D Mark IV.


Reason 3: The radiance of the stars is beautifully reproduced because false colours are kept to a minimum

False colours are a problem in astrophotography. In situations where the stars are captured very sharply and the camera pixel size is large, generation of normal colours according to the Bayer matrix is not possible, resulting in a phenomenon in which colours such as green and magenta, that are completely non-existent for stars, appear in images.

In actual fact, this phenomenon occurs more or less on most cameras. In relation to the EOS 5D Mark IV, I have used various lenses and found that false colours have been so minor as to not be of any concern. The EOS 5D Mark IV has been dependable in terms of its ability to reproduce the natural radiance of the stars.

EOS 5D Mark IV/ EF24mm f/1.4L II USM/ FL: 24mm/ Manual exposure (f/1.4, 25 sec.)/ ISO 800/ WB: 3,650K
On this particular night, there were a lot of fishing lamps visible off the coast, which negated the brightness of the stars. However, even under such conditions, as long as you are able to carefully process the RAW image, you will find that the EOS 5D Mark IV is able to depict both the details of the Milky Way and the rocks in the foreground.


Colours of stars are accurately depicted

I compared an image of stars taken on the EOS 5D Mark IV with one taken on the EOS-1D X, which has a slightly larger pixel size. Using the same data from the same location, I enlarged the images by 600% so that the number of pixels was uniform for both images. Although the difference is minor, it is apparent that false colours occur in the image of stars taken using the EOS-1D X.


Reason 4: The high resolution of approximately 30.4MP brings out the variation in brightness of the stars

It has been thought that high resolution results in a reduction of ISO speed and dynamic range. However, advancements in image processing technology are constantly overcoming such downsides. As a result, the advantages of high resolution have come more into the forefront. One of those advantages is with image noise. Because noise is basically pixel-based, the more pixels there are, the smaller the pixels, and therefore the less they stand out. Moreover, because dark stars will appear smaller, the variations in the brightness of the stars are brought out.

EOS 5D Mark IV/ EF24mm f/1.4L II USM/ FL: 24mm/ Manual exposure (f/1.4, 30 sec.)/ ISO 3200/ WB: 3,500K
I came across an impressive scene in which Orion rose in the eastern sky above the rice fields in a mountain village. The conditions were extremely dark, requiring an exposure of 30 seconds even at f/1.4 and ISO 3200. This emphasized the radiance of the stars and the details of the nearby landscape.


Accurately reproduce the difference in brightness of the stars

I enlarged the images of the 3 stars of Orion to make them the same size. In the image taken using the EOS-1D X Mark II, the dark stars appear enlarged. However, in the image taken using the EOS 5D Mark IV, you can see that the differences in the brightness of the stars are expressed considerably more accurately.


Reason 5: The remote control terminal has been placed in the front for improved usability

Even as it has become much easier to photograph a starry sky and exposure times have been reduced, the importance of the cable remote control has remained unchanged. Despite this, who hasn’t found it stressful when connecting the remote control to the camera in the dark? Firstly, it is hard to find the terminal by touch, so it is often necessary to use a light to find the opening of the terminal. This is especially the case in scenes where you are about to photograph a break in the clouds. On the EOS 5D Mark IV, the remote control has been placed separately in a corner on the front side of the camera. The rubber cover is also easy to remove, which is a very pleasing improvement indeed.


You can now mount the cable release by touch

EOS 5D Mark IV



Moving the remote control terminal to the front of the body is beneficial in terms of protecting the terminal from dust and water, but the most pleasing aspect of this improvement is that it is easy to find where the terminal is even in the dark when doing astrophotography. You can also find the terminal by touch, making it easier than ever to mount the cable release.


If you are at a loss about where you could go for astrophotography, here are The Best Places to Shoot Astrophotography in Asia.

For ideas on how to take stunning starscapes, check out the following:
Photographing Glowing Fireflies under a Sky Full of Stars
Photographing a Spectacular View of Cherry Blossoms and the Milky Way at Night

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EF24mm f/1.4L II USM

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Shigemi Numazawa


Born in 1958 in Niigata, Numazawa specialises mainly in astrophotography and astronomical illustrations. He has been involved in numerous science-related TV programme projects by the NHK. He is also appointed as the photographer for the National Geographic Tour and a recipient of Good Life Award presented by the Ministry of Environment (Japan).



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