Review: Canon 5D MK IV in Aquatica Housing

Andy Sallmon shares his first impressions of the Canon 5D Mark IV, best lenses, new Aquatica A5DMKIV housing and comparison with the 5D Mark 3
By Andy Sallmon

Canon’s remarkable 5D lineup has proven to be a very successful lineage over the years. Every iteration of the 5D spawns great new features and the new 5DMk4 is no exception to this, hitting new highs with a host of refinements. Most notable are a 30.3 megapixel CMOS sensor, faster and more accurate autofocus, increased dynamic range and 4K video capture that utilizes Canon’s latest phase detection AF system, called “Dual Pixel” (in the Live view mode). It seems that Canon has been listening to its shooters and has included all of the most important upgrades, especially the ones that underwater photographers want.


The Aquatica A5DMKIV Housing

Over the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to shoot this amazing new camera inside the new Aquatica 5D Mark IV housing. It’s arguably the toughest housing on the market and often found in use by professionals the world over. Military, law enforcement, technical divers and professional underwater photographers value the Aquatica design and durability. Made in Montreal, Quebec Canada, Aquatica Digital is one of the longest running and most successful underwater housing manufacturers serving the industry today and with the A5DMk4 they add another winner to their extensive line of successful models.



I found the Canon 5D Mark 4 and Aquatica A5DMk4 housing to be a perfect pairing of high tech, robust build quality and superb ergonomic function. In other words, the camera was a vast improvement over my 5DMk3. The housing is produced from the highest grade of USA produced metals, then Mil-Spec anodized and powder coated to be tough as nails. Most important of all, it features a control set that is easy to reach without taking my eye off of the viewfinder. And speaking of viewfinders, the Aquatica 180 was my choice for this testing and it performed perfectly, giving me a vivid 1.2x magnified view for both fast and accurate compositions.  


5D Mark 4 Lens Choices

To really see how well the 5D Mk IV worked underwater I used two of my favorite lenses: the Canon 8-15 f4L fisheye zoom and the Canon 100 f2.8L IS macro lens. Both push the limits of modern lens performance and because they are Canon L (Pro) glass, they are able to get the most out of the Mk4’s autofocus system, especially in low light situations. Additionally, the 8-15 f4L offers either a rectilinear fisheye view or circular fisheye format. It is the only zoom lens with this capability.



Underwater Photo Tests

As soon as I shot my first burst of frames it was apparent that the 5D Mark 4’s real potential improvement is in speed. Both frame rate and autofocus. Boasting 7fps and coupled with a Digic 6+ processor and the same AF system used in their Pro model 1DX Mk II, it easily locked on to every subject quickly, even under the most demanding situations, including the typical low light environment that I am so often faced with under California’s kelp forests. The center AF sensor will focus down to -3EV in single-shot AF-S mode and down to -4EV in the Live View mode, which further expands the camera's AF capability while shooting static subjects. With the higher frame rate and the precision autofocus, the Mk 4 was much faster than my 5D Mark 3, even with fast subjects that are constantly changing direction, like sea lions, and that defy even the fastest autofocus systems. The Mk4’s fast autofocus allowed me to capture a much higher ratio of in focus “keepers”. In fact all the images that I shot were in acceptable focus and many were just plain tack sharp.  So if you “feel the need for speed” this camera will earn its keep.

The 5D Mark IV image quality is excellent. Tonal gradations were smooth and even the dreaded sun balls that so frequently aggravate underwater photographers (by causing cyan colored gradient rings) were subdued and less harsh. This is likely due to the wider dynamic range of the 5Dmk4. The fine detail and resolution provided by the 30mp CMOS sensor was crisp and clean, much sharper than my 5DMk3 and almost reminded me of the detail that I get from my 5DSR, even though this model has 20 fewer megapixels. And it definitely showed less noise than either the 5Dmk3 or the 5DSR.  I am a fan!



The Canon 5Dmk4 has undergone a huge evolution over its predecessor Mk3. It has incredible high res still capability, precise autofocus response and is now equipped with 4K (1.64x cropped) video capture.

The Aquatica A5DMK4 housing matches the camera very well with a logical control layout. All the vital controls were in logical places right at my fingertips and easily reached without ever taking my eye off of the viewfinder. Their dual coated anodized and powder coated exteriors are tough enough to withstand the daily abuse and heavy usage that both pros and divers that are in the water frequently dish out (after 20 dives the test unit still looked brand new). This is a winning combination for pros and serious amateur alike. 


Learn more about the Aquatica A5DMKIV housing at Bluewater Photo






Andy Sallmon is a freelance underwater photographer specializing in marine wildlife, scuba diving and ocean natural history. His images have been published in numerous magazines and books, some even gracing the walls of notables such as the Smithsonian Institute and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

When not on assignment Andy stays busy as a manufacturers representative for several leading brands of underwater photographic equipment including Aquatica Digital, Beneath the Surface, Light & Motion and Sea and Sea.

His website is:


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