Canon M50 Conclusion

Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM: 15mm (24mm equiv.), f/7.1, 8s, ISO 100.
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Canon's latest M-series mirrorless camera marks a couple of important firsts -- one of them for its series, and the other for a Canon camera of any kind. The first M-series model with 4K video capture, and the first Canon camera with a DIGIC 8 processor, the M50 is an affordable mid-range model aimed at smartphone photographers ready for a capable, interchangeable-lens upgrade.

The most affordable EOS mirrorless with DIGIC 8, 4K, or an EVF

Approachable yet versatile, the EOS M50 will fit the bill nicely for many photographers in need of a compact, affordable interchangeable-lens camera that'll give them plenty of room to grow. It's not quite the lowest-priced EOS mirrorless camera of the moment, but it's not far from it, with a current street price on the order of US$630 body-only. By way of comparison, the most affordable mirrorless model in Canon's lineup -- the EOS M100 -- has a street price of about US$450, although that admittedly includes a 15-45mm lens. But just another US$20 or so is enough to add that same optic to the M50 kit, for a final pricetag of just US$200 more than the entry-level model.

Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM: 200mm (320mm equiv.), f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO 1250.
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Good handling and a generous feature set for its price

So what do you get for your money? Quite a bit, as it turns out. For one thing, there's a clear, sharp and vibrant built-in electronic viewfinder, something you won't find on any other Canon mirrorless camera under the US$1,000 point. There's also a versatile side-mounted, tilt/swivel LCD screen, rather than the more basic top-mounted hinge used on more affordable models.

Handling is good, with the solidly-constructed Canon M50 providing a lot of control without overwhelming its users. There are a fair selection of dedicated, physical controls which are well laid out and feel good in use. There's also a sensitive and accurate touch-screen overlay on the monitor, which makes it quick and easy to select a subject, or to swiftly navigate the well-designed menu system.

Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM: 11mm (18mm equiv.), f/6.3, 1/60s, ISO 160.
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Very good image quality overall, although raw shooters will get the best results

Image quality is also very good overall, with the M50's 24-megapixel sensor and DIGIC 8 processor together yielding pleasing color, plenty of detail and good high-sensitivity performance. Dynamic range does trail the best of the competition somewhat, though, so you may find it offers a little less latitude to recover blown highlights and blocked-up shadows in post processing.

And you'll want to shoot raws for the best results at higher sensitivities, because the in-camera JPEG processing has a tendency both to miss a little of the very finest detail that's present in raws at or near base sensitivity, and also has a tendency to smudge out some less-fine details at higher sensitivities with noise processing that's a bit too heavy-handed.

Further, we did note some issues with overly-warm white balance under incandescent light sources, both for the auto and incandescent white balance modes. It's easy enough to correct for this with either manual white balance or by tuning the other modes to your tastes, though, once you know of the behavior.

Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM: 200mm (320mm equiv.), f/7.1, 1/500s, ISO 400.
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Excellent performance for its class, but the buffer's still a bit tight for raw

In most respects, the Canon M50 offers excellent performance for its class, but there is one caveat. Startup is swift, and so too is autofocus, with the M50's AF system capable of beating not only most mirrorless cameras, but also many professional DSLRs in this respect, too.

Shutter lag was also minimal, and with a lab-tested burst capture rate of 10 frames per second, the M50 actually bests the higher-priced M5 by around one frame each second. Its advantage over the M5 falls to just 0.4 fps if you enable autofocus and exposure adjustments between frames, but at 7.4 frames per second, is still very swift and manages to beat the pricier camera once again, even if only by a smaller margin. (We should note that we don't test burst rates with continuous autofocus enabled, however, and are hence relying on manufacturer ratings here.)

Really, the only fly in the ointment is a buffer that's still a bit on the small side for raw shooters, although things can certainly be mitigated somewhat if you can live with Canon's new lossy C-RAW file format, which provides a hybrid of the advantages offered by both JPEG and raw files. JPEG shooters will likely be fine with a burst depth of around 36 frames in our in-house testing, but at around ten frames for raws, those of you who need more versatility in post-processing will be limited to around a second of shooting before the buffer fills up.

Thankfully, buffer clearing speeds are good, so the M50 will be ready to shoot again after a pause of just a few seconds.

Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM: 117mm (187mm equiv.), f/6.3, 1/250s, ISO 100.
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4K video is an EOS M-series first, but it comes with some big gotchas

One of the key changes in the Canon M50, as we noted at the outset, was the addition of 4K video capture to the feature set. Ultra-high definition video capture is an EOS M-series first for this model, and on paper it sounds like a great addition to the feature set. Unfortunately, the feature comes accompanied by some provisos that really limit its utility.

For one thing, there's a heavy 1.6x crop factor for 4K video, as the M50 can't offload data from its full sensor width quickly enough. And that's on top of the 1.6x focal length crop already applicable for an APS-C sub-frame Canon camera. What that means is that you'll have an effective 2.6x focal length crop for 4K video, which is going to seriously limit your wide-angle possibilities. For example, the ultra-wide angle EF-M 11-22 zoom becomes an effective 28-56mm zoom on the M50 when recording 4K video.

That in itself would be problem enough, but it's not all. The EOS M50 also limits 4K video capture to just 24 frames per second, far slower than the 60 fps maximum for Full HD and HD video. And worse still, the excellent Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus system of the M50, which is responsible for the swift performance we mentioned previously, cannot be used when recording 4K video. Instead, you're stuck with contrast-detection AF or focusing manually.

Nor did we find the M50's 4K video quality to be particularly impressive. It was certainly better than Full HD, but not as much so as the increase in resolution would suggest. On the plus side, fully manual exposure is possible and the process of recording video -- especially on the vari-angle touch-screen display -- is quite intuitive, so good artistic results are certainly possible, especially if you've not yet made the move to 4K and don't plan to do so soon.

Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM: 55mm (88mm equiv.), f/11, 1/500s, ISO 100.
Click image for full-sized version. Click here for raw image.

Final thoughts on the Canon M50

Certainly, we wouldn't hold the limitations of its 4K mode against the little EOS M50 too much, because there's still a lot of camera here for the money. For less than US$800 street, you can get both the M50 body and a kit lens, and have yourself a very capable still shooter with good image quality out of the box, and the potential for even more from raw or C-RAW.

And you'll also find great performance and handling in the M50's relatively lightweight, compact body that pairs beautifully with Canon's EF-M lenses, and can also accept the company's many, many years of EF lenses via the optionally-available (and rather pricey) EOS M mount adapter, or more affordable third-party equivalents.

Sure, its 4K video capture -- while arguably still worthy of inclusion for those who can live with its limitations -- is a bit of a miss for more than casual use. But as a still shooter first and foremost, and with only occasional video capture required, the Canon EOS M50 gives you a lot of room to grow, without breaking either the bank or your back.

A worthwhile improvement on its M-series siblings under the US$1,000 point, the EOS M50 is a pretty clear Dave's Pick.

 

Pros & Cons

  • Great handling and well-positioned controls
  • Solid, quality build
  • Versatile electronic viewfinder and side-mounted, tilt/swivel touch-screen display
  • Good high ISO performance for its class
  • Excellent color and hue accuracy
  • HTP and ALO useful in high-contrast scenes
  • In-camera HDR mode
  • Improved Dual Pixel CMOS AF
  • Fast startup
  • Very fast single-shot autofocus
  • Low prefocused shutter lag
  • Quick single-shot cycle times
  • Fast 10 fps burst mode
  • Decent buffer clearing times with fast card
  • Records 4K video at 24p, Full HD at up to 60p
  • Built-in OLED EVF with very good coverage
  • Vari-angle 3-inch touchscreen display
  • Built-in flash and hot shoe
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth
  • External mic jack
  • Supports smaller C-RAW files with minimal loss in image quality
  • Dynamic range not as good as some APS-C rivals
  • JPEG processing could be better, especially at higher ISOs
  • Auto and Incandescent white balance settings too warm in tungsten lighting
  • Poor battery life
  • Shallow raw buffer (only 10 frames, though can be increased to 16 frames with C-RAW)
  • Heavily cropped 4K video capture
  • Dual Pixel AF not supported for 4K video
  • Weak built-in flash (typical for class)
  • No USB charging
  • Limited native lens selection


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