The EOS M5 is Canon's best mirrorless offering. But this may not mean that the camera giant's mirrorless beats the excellent mirrorless cameras from Sony and Fuji. With a lot of features borrowed from the 80D in a small and light body, the M5 is certainly interesting. Let's see if it can hold up against the competition or not.
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1. Body design
The EOS M5 has been designed keeping retro cameras in mind. The DSLR-like shape but a smaller size is certainly an advantage. The grip too is more comfortable than the grips found in cameras like the Sony a6300. But there is one caveat. A better body design does not mean better build quality, and the M5 does utilize a lot of plastic and is not weather sealed.
2. Controls and buttons
Even though the size is small, the button placements and controls in general do not feel cramped at all. There are 3 dials on the top, and one of them is dedicated to exposure compensation. There is also a lot of customizable buttons in the M5. Your assignable options for the Dial Func. button are as follows: Standard (the default dial assignment for that exposure mode), ISO, White Balance, Metering Mode, AF mode and Drive Mode. The other dials can also be reconfigured so that they hold different functions. The degree of customizability is very high.
3. Touchscreen and Wi-fi
The inclusion of a touchscreen is certainly a very big bonus, especially with the up and down tilting screen and the Dual Pixel autofocus. You can even select which area of the screen you want to be touch-enabled. This means that accidental nose-touching can be prevented by excluding that area of the screen from touch capabilities.
The smart touchscreen and Canon's autofocusing makes this camera great for enthusiast videographers. Canon has also included Wi-fi and Bluetooth, which can be used trigger the camera shutter and transfer photos on the go.
4. Sensor and Autofocus
Small and compact body, in this case, does not imply a smaller sensor. At the heart of the M5 is the 24 megapixel APSC CMOS sensor along with the Digic 7 image processor. All this means sharp photos and lots of details without too much noise and a good speed of 7 fps.
However, even though the brain of the camera is excellent, Canon's noise reduction algorithm does take away details a bit too soon. Also, the buffer fills up withing 2-3 seconds of shooting RAW.
But it is not something many will notice, as Canon's excellent colours straight out of the camera and better than average dynamic range compensate for the few quirks of the M5. Also great is the Dual Pixel autofocus, which allows the camera to use information from the sensor directly. The camera tracks subjects beautifully, even in Live view with Face Detection on.
5. Image Quality
Image quality is the best thing about the Canon EOS M5. The camera produces photos with good, accurate colors that offer solid true-to-life representations. Also, with adapted lenses – something which Canon has implemented well in M5 – you can get even more versatility and sharpness with Canon's premium lenses.
With the excellent sensor, you will get Canon's famous skin tones and a lot of latitude in post-processing. Apart from the agressive noise reduction of JPEGs, there is no lack of image quality, especially in RAW.
This is what impresses. But although the EOS M5 is Canon's flagship mirrorless, not all is good. There are a few quirks here and there which make the M5 good, but not the best.
With a price tag of almost $1000, you can find overall better mirrorless cameras in the market. Don't get me wrong, the M5 is a very capable camera, but there are other offerings which give a little bit more at a lesser price. Unless you really the Dual Pixel autofocus for video work and already have Canon lenses which you want to keep using, the EOS M5 may not be your best bet, especially with the non-weather-sealed body and meagre low light capabilities.
2. Electronic Viewfinder
Before coming to the EVF, let's talk about the complementary eye sensor. This is one of the biggest frustrations with the EOS M5, as it is not very well implemented. You may find the eye sensor frustrating when the screen is folded out, as moving your hand in front of it - to say, place an AF point - will disable the screen. Also, the eye sensor takes some time to detect your eye and actually turn off the screen.
The EVF of the Canon M5 is average, though not anywhere close to the competition. It's a 0.39-inch OLED EVF with 2.36M dots and provides a 100% coverage. But what is lacking is an excellent refresh rate and low blackout time. While shooting for long durations, you won't be able to track the action and see what is going on through the EVF.
3. Low Light images
The EOS M5 does not give very noisy images, but the images are not clean either. In a bit tricky situation, even ISO 1600 can give significant noise, although at least it is organic-looking and not weird blocks. Coupled with noise is the the even worse noise reduction, which actually smoothens out details even before they get noisy. Even the Auto ISO is very limited, and just allows you to set the maximum ISO and nothing else.
4. Battery Life
Even by mirrorless standards, which rarely touch 400, the Canon EOS M5 tops out at just around 250 shots. It may a full day on normal use, if you do not shoot video a lot, keep playback at minimal levels and do not use the built-in flash.
5. Video control
The Dual pixel autofocus with touchscreen does make for a compelling package, but there are a lot of other features that the EOS M5 leaves out. Interestingly, your only options for shooting videos are fully automatic and fully manual, though thankfully, Auto ISO is available with exposure compensation in the latter mode. You do get focus peaking if you prefer to focus manually, but there is no zebra patterns for highlights, nor can you view an electronic level or histogram during recording. Also, with a price of almost $1000, there is surprisingly no 4K.