Canon M5 Conclusion

Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM: 200mm (320mm eq), f/6.3, 1/320s, ISO 125.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image.

Generally speaking, Canon's mirrorless offerings have not compared particularly well against similarly-priced competition. With the EOS M5, however, Canon has changed that and delivered a new and improved mirrorless camera that is poised to attract the attention of enthusiasts. The EOS M5 includes an impressive built-in electronic viewfinder, new sensor and faster processor in a compact SLR-style body.

Impressive, though not class-leading image quality from the Canon M5

JPEG images were a bit soft at default in-camera sharpening but still showed some sharpening artifacts. The camera exhibited minor to moderate loss in detail due to in-camera noise reduction, even at low ISO settings. Nonetheless, image detail is good overall. Processed RAW images offer similar resolving capabilities, but careful processing can produce sharper images with fewer sharpening artifacts than the camera's JPEG files. Considering color, the camera delivers slightly below average saturation levels but excellent hue accuracy in its JPEGs. Color balance with Auto white balance when shooting outdoors tended toward the cooler side, but indoors in tungsten lighting it was too warm.

Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM: 32mm (51mm eq.), f/7.1, 0.1s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

At high ISOs, the Canon M5 offers good performance given its image sensor. While not quite as good as some rival cameras, the M5 nonetheless delivers a nice 16 x 20 inch print at ISO 1600 and an acceptable 5 x 7 print even at ISO 12,800. At ISO 100-400, the M5 makes a very nice 30 x 40 inch print, which is quite impressive. While print quality proved not to be a step up over the EOS M3, the M5 is generally on par with much of its APS-C competition.

Canon EF-M 15-45mm: 15mm (24mm eq.), f/8.0, 3.2s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

Canon's first "Dual Pixel" mirrorless camera offers swift AF in most situations

The EOS M5 utilizes Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, which worked well in most situations. The 49-point hybrid autofocus system has phase detect AF points covering 80 percent of the image sensor's width and height, providing good, reliable coverage.

With the large 3.2-inch touchscreen and a good autofocus system, it's quick and easy to touch and drag the AF point around the display. You can use the display to move the AF point while using the electronic viewfinder, as well, but this setting needs to be enabled as it is not available by default.

While the autofocus performance is generally good, offering fast, accurate AF in many situations and good performance in the lab on a tripod, low-light autofocus did not impress out in the field, at least with slower zoom lenses. The AF system is only rated to work down to -1 EV with an f/2 lens and with many of the native EF-M lenses having rather slow apertures, it results in a system that is not ideal for low-light autofocus. Manually focusing is improved with the EOS M5 over previous cameras with the inclusion of focus peaking.

Canon EF-M 55-200mm: 200mm (320mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/160s, ISO 100.
Click for full-size image.

Continuous autofocus performance is quite good in the EOS M5 thanks to the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system. Subject tracking can keep up with moving subjects well and is even adept at refocusing on a selected subject after it exists and reenters the frame.

Overall, autofocus performance is generally a strength of the Canon EOS M5. While not perfect in every scenario, it handles most shooting conditions and situations well.

Faster DIGIC 7 image processor brings big improvements for the M5

With its DIGIC 7 image processor, the Canon EOS M5 offers very good overall performance for its class. While its startup time to first shot of 1.2 seconds is about average, every other aspect of its performance impressed in our lab.

Full autofocus shutter lag was 0.143 seconds, which is faster than many mirrorless cameras and even faster than some prosumer-oriented DSLRs. Looking at continuous shooting performance, the M5 captured JPEG images at 9.2 frames per second and RAW images at 9.3 fps during our testing. These are impressive speeds, although shooting with continuous autofocus drops the burst rate down to 7 fps. Buffer depths were okay as well, at 27 and 18 frames for JPEG and RAW images, respectively. Capturing both RAW and JPEG images simultaneously resulted in slightly faster continuous shooting speeds, which is unusual but certainly not problematic, and buffer depth dipped very slightly to 17 frames. The buffers for JPEG, RAW and RAW+JPEG cleared in four, eight and 10 seconds, respectively. It is worth pointing out that when shooting JPEG images and you fill the buffer, the capture rate drops to still rather quick 5.5 fps.

Canon EF-M 55-200mm: 200mm (320mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO 1600.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image.

Overall, the EOS M5 offers impressive performance across the board. While buffer depths were not as impressive, relatively speaking, as the rest of the camera's continuous shooting performance, its speed is very good and the EOS M5 -- along with the very similar EOS M6 -- is the best performing Canon mirrorless camera yet, by a large margin.

Canon M5 lacks enthusiast-level video features, including no 4K

One area where the M5 comes up short for some users is in the video department. The camera offers good quality 1920 x 1080 video at up to 60 frames per second, but it does not offer any 4K video recording, nor are there any high speed or slow motion video recording modes. While the camera doesn't include many videographer-oriented features -- there are no zebra exposure warnings or a headphone jack, for example -- it does offer users the ability to easily capture nice video thanks to a friendly interface and solid AF/AE performance. We lament the lack of high-end video features in the EOS M5, but for many users, it should prove plenty capable.

First EOS M camera with a built-in EVF handles well

More oriented toward enthusiasts than previous EOS M cameras, the M5 impressed us with its physical controls and overall form factor. It remains a compact despite being larger and heavier than its predecessors, but the increase in size is due in part to its built-in electronic viewfinder and more sophisticated controls.

We were impressed by the EVF, which is a 0.39-inch type OLED display with 2.36M dots. It is sharp and worked well. Prior M cameras have had optional electronic viewfinders which could be attached via the hot shoe, but having it built-in is important to many photographers. The display was upgraded as well, going from 3.0 to 3.2 inches and having 1,620,000 dots versus 1,040,000 dots of resolution. The touchscreen display worked well in the field, although it proved slightly difficult to use in bright light, but the ability to tilt it helped some with that.

With a variety of controls, including a twin-dial design, the Canon EOS M5 behaves like a downsized DSLR. It is much more compact than a DSLR, but this APS-C mirrorless camera puts a lot of controls at your fingertips. Overall, we think that the EOS M5 is the best mirrorless body, both in terms of functionality and usability, that Canon has released.

Summary: Canon's best mirrorless camera so far

The Canon EOS M5 offers image quality comparable to many other APS-C cameras, and the body itself offers a lot of physical controls plus (for the first time in the EOS M series) a built-in electronic viewfinder. Dual Pixel CMOS AF and a DIGIC 7 image processor combine to help the M5 deliver good performance across the board. Despite a few shortcomings, including a sparse EF-M lens lineup (although you can use EF/EF-S lenses with a separate adapter) and lack of 4K video, the EOS M5 is the best mirrorless camera that Canon has produced so far and easily earns a Dave's Pick.

Canon EF-M 55-200mm: 200mm (320mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/100s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

Pros & Cons

  • New 24-megapixel sensor offers much improved dynamic range compared to the M3
  • Good high ISO performance for its class, though not quite as good as some of its APS-C competition
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF system works well in most situations
  • Excellent color and hue accuracy
  • HTP and ALO useful in high-contrast scenes
  • Fine Detail Picture Style offers a lot of control over sharpening
  • In-camera HDR modes
  • Fast startup
  • Very fast single-shot autofocus
  • Low prefocused shutter lag
  • Fast single-shot cycle times
  • Fast 9 fps burst mode
  • Decent buffer depths even when shooting RAW files, much improved over the M3
  • Good buffer clearing times
  • Built-in high-res EVF with very good coverage
  • Tilting 3.2-inch touchscreen display
  • Built-in flash and hot shoe
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth
  • Twin-dial controls work well
  • Compact body
  • Great touchscreen
  • User-friendly interface
  • Microphone input
  • Compatible with EF and EF-S lenses (via an adapter) and Canon Speedlites
  • Dynamic range still not as good as some APS-C rivals
  • Default JPEG processing could be better, especially at higher ISOs
  • Auto and Incandescent white balance settings too warm in tungsten lighting
  • Auto white balance a bit cool in daylight
  • Otherwise good autofocus system can struggle in low light with slower lenses
  • Shooting speeds limited to 7fps with continuous autofocus
  • Video features are lacking
  • No 4K UHD video recording
  • No headphone jack
  • Native EF-M lens selection is very limited
  • Weak flash with very narrow coverage
  • Below average battery life

 



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