Canon EOS M5 Review

Canon’s EOS M cameras have been something of a disappointment, failing to translate the company’s expertise at making DSLRs into the mirrorless camera market. But the M5 implies that Canon is getting there: This camera has many of the benefits of its larger DSLR cousins (image quality, ease of control) while offering the advantages of mirrorless systems such as smaller, lighter bodies and ease of use. We tested the Canon M5 with the 15-45mm EF-M kit lens, a combination that retails for $1099.99, and found that while the new camera much improved over prior iterations, it’s still not best in class.

Update: Check Out Canon M6 Mark II

Canon EOS M5 Price

Design

The Canon EOS M5 looks like one of the company’s DSLR cameras shrunk in the wash. At 4.5 inches wide and 1.75 inches deep on the grip, it’s about half an inch smaller than the Rebel SL2. Although the body is smaller sized, the M5 matches well into the hand and has the same plethora of control dials, buttons and knobs, including a mode dial on the right and two multipurpose control wheels on the left.

The 3.2-inch LCD screen of the M5 has a 1.6-million dot resolution and looks great. I found it easy to view in all but the brightest direct sun. This display also ideas down and up 90 degrees, so you can use it for shooting from awkward angles. The hinge mechanism does feel a little fragile like it could be too very easily snapped off or broken if you dropped the camera with the display folded out.

The viewfinder provides the same view, with a slightly higher-resolution screen. Again, the picture preview and control screens here are clean and sharpened, but I came across that the eye sensor that triggers the viewfinder was a bit too sensitive, switching from LCD display screen to eyepiece anytime an object went anywhere near it. You can disable this sensor and switch from one display to the various other in the menu, but you can’t modification the sensitivity of the attention sensor itself.

Controls

The Canon EOS M5 offers a bewildering number of controls, however, a large number of dials and buttons on the camera body making it a little easier to access those controls. The front-wheel around the shutter can be used primarily to control shutter speed in TV mode or Aperture in AV settings. The rear wheel usually adjusts the ISO placing, although that can be changed by pressing the switch in the wheel’s middle. Because these dials can be accessed with the thumb and index finger, you can use the camera in full manual mode with one hand, a welcome feature. There is also an exposure-compensation control within reach of the thumb, useful for when you want to shoot in plan mode but desire to tweak for unusual lighting.

One control that is poorly placed is the video shutter, located on the back of the camera body near the menu ring. This is too low down to end up being reached without moving the proper hand, so movies inevitably start and end with a shaky camera as you move your hands to retake hold of the grip.

Image Quality

The EOS M5 shoots images with a 24.2-megapixel CMOS, APS-C sized image sensor. That puts this camera on a par resolution-wise with most modern mirrorless camera systems. It creates images with a maximum resolution of 6000 x 4000 pixels or 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second. The camera offers optical image stabilization, which is also becoming the norm for digital cameras in this class.

Video Performance

The EOS M5 offers a good range of video features, capturing HD video at up to 60 fps. Image stabilization and autofocus are active while you’re shooting, so handheld video doesn’t look too jittery. There is definitely one big feature that’s missing from video: 4K. The EOS M5 can capture video at full-HD quality, but not the higher, 4K resolution that many other cameras today support, such as the $599 Panasonic Lumix LX100.

Bright-Light Video

As it did in still photos, the EOS M5 captured very attractive video in bright lighting conditions, with excellent detail; bright, clean color; and clean, natural motion. This was especially true with the full-HD/60 frames per second mode, which looked great when proven on a big-screen Television. We didn’t have any problems with rolling shutter, the odd effect in which straight objects become curved because of the way the video signal is captured.

Autofocus & Speed

The M5 uses a new focus system called Dual Pixel, with both contrast- and phase-detection sensors built into the image sensor chip. This combination makes for better focusing in different lighting conditions (phase recognition works better in low light, but contrast is often quicker). We discovered that this was generally the case; the package lens quickly snapped into focus in use, and the focus point (or points) could possibly be quickly altered with the touch screen.

Kit Lens

The kit zoom lens that we tested the EOS M5 with is a 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 zoom lens. It offers acceptable picture quality and is a good starting point for the aspiring photographer. We did find that pictures got rather gentle at the edges at both the wide and zoom ends of the range, with a lot of details fading into the blue with the aperture wide open.

MORE: Best Mirrorless Cameras From Beginner to Pro

This lens carries a locking mechanism that shrinks it right down to just 1.7 inches deep when not used. Press in the locking key and twist the manual zoom ring, and the lens expands out to just under 2.5 inches deep.

You can also purchase the EOS M5 with an 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM lens; this kit costs $1,299.

Lenses

The EOS M5 uses the Canon EF-M mount, and Canon itself offers 10 lenses for this relatively new mount. These range from the $349 11-22mm f/2 wide-angle to the $349 55-200mm contact lens, and a handful of fixed focal-duration lenses. All of these are under $500, and most are under $300, therefore they are cheaper than most other types. For those who have Canon lenses from a Canon DSLR camera, you’ll need the EF or EF-S zoom lens mount, which requires an additional $200 adapter. These EF/EF-S lenses could be fully controlled from the M5 camera; autofocus and image stabilization work just as well as they do on the DSLR cameras.

Bottom Line

There’s a lot to like in the Canon EOS M5. It combines the controllability of a DSLR with the smaller size and pounds of a mirrorless camera. It doesn’t displace the Sony A6000 as our editor’s pick for a mirrorless camera, though, as it is more expensive, bigger and doesn’t shoot images of the same quality, especially in low light. In the mirrorless space, Canon provides made some strides with the M5 but still has a ways to go.

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