Canon EOS M50 Review

The start of the new full-frame mirrorless camera Canon EOS R and Canon EOS RP camera has stolen some of the limelight from Canon’s EOS M range, but with the release of the EOS M6 Mark II, it’s clear that Canon hasn’t forgotten about it.

The EOS M50 remains just about the most accessible and useful EOS M camera for relative newcomers to photography, whether you’re looking for the best mirrorless camera to learn photography with, or the very best camera for beginners.

It’s probably fair to say that these EOS M cameras haven’t specifically taken the world by storm, but the EOS M50 could change all that and for three reasons. First, it comes with an electronic viewfinder. It’s only the second EOS M model to get a built-in EVF – the initial was the much more expensive EOS M5 – and although smartphone users might not miss having a viewfinder, keen photographers and lovers certainly will.

More: Best Lenses for Canon M50

Canon EOS M50 Price

Second, the EOS M50 can shoot 4K video. It was the initial EOS M model to offer this feature (followed by the newer EOS M6 Mark II), and this puts it one step ahead of the now-dated EOS M5. It also has a DIGIC 8 processor, rather than the older DIGIC 7 processor chip in the EOS M5. This sort of technical leap-frogging does happen from time to time as mid-range models overtake top-end digital cameras in key specifications.

This brings us on to the price. With the same EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM retracting kit lens as the EOS M5, the EOS M50 matches, and in some respects beats, the specifications of that camera, but for around two-thirds of the price. So, if you needed an EOS M camera with a viewfinder and you found the EOS M5 too pricey, this is the camera for you.

However, with regard to physical specs, the M50 definitely cuts a few corners. It’s simplified external has just a one control dial, whereas the EOS M5 provides twin control dials and an EV payment dial. If you can live with that, though, you’re laughing all the way to the bank, because the EOS M50 gives you a lot more for your money.

This may well be the EOS M-series camera where Canon has finally got the balance right.

KEY FEATURES

With the EOS M50, Canon is aiming for DSLR quality in a compact body, and since it uses the same sensor design as the company’s APS-C DSLRs, there seems to be no purpose that shouldn’t happen.

The 24.1MP sensor boasts Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF on-sensor phase-detection AF, which offers between 99 and 143 AF points, depending on the zoom lens fitted. This is more than the number of AF points on the more expensive EOS M5, so the EOS M50 is getting the benefit of some of Canon’s latest camera technology, despite being a mid-priced model.

The EOS M50 also gets a continuous shooting speed of 10fps, with focus locked to that of the first frame. This drops to 7.4fps with continuous autofocus, but that’s even now pretty good for a camera in this price bracket.

The inclusion of 4K video is a first for the Canon EOS M range, but although it’s another poke in the eye for the more costly EOS M5, there are some limitations.

A single is that Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF feature is not available in this mode and the camera reverts instead to slower contrast-detect autofocus. That is a bit of a surprise, and while there’s undoubtedly some specialized reason for this, it does seem to undermine the whole point of Canon’s on-sensor phase-detection technology.

There’s also a 1.6x crop factor so that when you switch to 4K video the angle of watch of your lens narrows considerably. It’s not a major issue, but it can mean you have to step back and reframe when you thought you were in the right place. If you enable the camera’s digital image stabilization mode, the angle of view narrows only a little bit further again.

You can shoot video in Full HD quality instead, where these limitations don’t exist, and this presents frame rates up to 120fps for slow-motion effects.

BUILD AND HANDLING

The EOS M50 looks and feels very much like a miniature DSLR, right down to the viewfinder housing on the top where a DSLR pentaprism would be. There’s a grasp on the front for a secure one-handed hold, though you do have to crook your index finger slightly to rest it on the shutter-release button and the surrounding control dial. A camera this little is bound to feel a little cramped here and there, and Canon has done well to keep the controls sensible well spaced and accessible.

The top plate is noticeably more sparse than the EOS M5’s, a reminder that this is a more beginner-orientated model. The main mode dial is definitely smaller and there’s no direct exposure settlement dial, but neither of these is likely to matter very much for this camera’s intended viewers. It’s aimed at first-time mirrorless camera users instead of experts.

Round the back there’s a small four-way controller with a central Q/Established button. Canon hasn’t included a rotating control dial here, as it has on versions like the EOS M5, which is a comfort because these are usually tricky to spin without accidentally pressing them at the same time.

The four-way buttons are used for menu and settings navigation, but they double up as shortcuts to the auto/manual focus setting, EV compensation, flash setting and delete functions. The ‘down’ switch, which can be used for the latter function when in playback mode, has no function while shooting at default settings, but you can plan this to access a feature such as drive mode or Auto Lighting Optimizer if you wish.

If you press the central Q/SET key you’ll see common camera settings arranged as icons on the left and best sides of the display screen with settings for each display horizontally along the bottom. This display can be superimposed on the scene you’re photographing, so you can make changes while still watching your subject, either using the navigational buttons or by tapping the screen.

The EOS M50’s touchscreen interface works very well indeed. It responds instantly to the lightest touch and the icons are large more than enough that you don’t need pinpoint accuracy when tapping. You can tap anywhere on the display to set the focus point in an instant, or drag it around the display screen with a fingertip. This works especially well when you’re looking through the viewfinder, as you can use your right thumb to drag the focus point around without also shifting your grip.

PERFORMANCE

The EOS M50’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system is so fast in most situations that it feels almost instant – and the kit zoom lens probably deserves some credit because of this. Canon’s STM (stepping electric motor) lenses give fast, silent autofocus that’s perfect for both stills and video.

The video performance is more blended, however. When shooting videos is definitely 4K quality, the camera reverts to regular contrast-detect autofocus, so while it will refocus if your subject matter moves or if you switch your framing, it takes a couple of seconds to do it. It’s true that in a video a gradual focus transition is often what you ought to keep your footage searching clean (unless you’re manually focusing), but here you will need to gradual down your technique to help the camera keep up.

In fact, it’s best to keep any camera movement to a minimum, as the EOS M50 also suffers from a visible rolling-shutter effect, where vertical lines become slanted if the camera is moved quickly. This is not a stabilization issue; it’s caused by the way the sensor data is certainly scanned vertically rather than getting captured all at once.

This changes when you swap to Full HD video mode. The resolution is lower, nevertheless, you don’t get the heavy crop aspect of the 4K setting and the autofocus reverts to Dual Pixel CMOS AF operation, therefore the camera refocuses a lot more quickly. There is still a rolling-shutter effect if the camera is normally shifted quickly, but it’s not as severe.

VERDICT

At times, it’s been hard to see where Canon has been heading with its mirrorless EOS M series. The entry-level mirrorless camera Canon M100 is indeed basic as to be a little off-putting and the brand new EOS M200 is hardly more appealing, while the only other option so far with a viewfinder – the EOS M5 – is absolutely rather expensive. The alternative is the brand-new EOS M6 Mark II, which does not have a viewfinder built-in but can have one clipped to its accessory shoe – and many resellers are bundling one as standard.

The EOS M50 is different. It comes with a viewfinder built-in and the key point is definitely that it’s at an affordable mid-range cost. It still doesn’t feel like a breakthrough camera compared to other mirrorless options, but it does at least feel as if Canon has caught up.

In fact, on the features-to-price front, it’s sneaked ahead. Where else will you get a 24MP APS-C mirrorless camera with a viewfinder at this cost? The EOS M50 has some strong Micro Four Thirds rivals, however, the only various other APS-C candidates in this cost range are the Sony A6000, and that’s a four-year older camera targeted at a very different kind of user. Food for thought.

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