Canon M50 Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly below mean saturation levels with excellent hue accuracy.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured at base ISO. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Click image to load a larger version.

Saturation. The Canon M50 produces images with mean saturation levels that are a little below average these days. Dark reds are boosted the most, with dark orange, dark green and dark blues pushed just a little, while cyan, light green and yellow are slightly muted. The mean saturation of 105.1% (5.1% oversaturated) at base ISO is a bit lower than the 110% average we normally see, but colors appear natural-looking and pleasing to the eye. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Canon M50 produces pleasing, natural-looking Caucasian skin tones in our tests when using auto white balance (manual WB was a bit warmer). Darker skin tones show a small nudge toward orange, but lighter tones are more pinkish. Very good results. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. As we've come to expect from Canon, the EOS M50's hue accuracy is excellent when manual white balance is used (as it always is for these results), and is much better than average. There are the usual shifts in cyan toward blue (though actually quite small), red toward orange, orange toward yellow, and yellow toward green, but all are fairly minor. Mean "delta-C" color error at base ISO is only 3.98 (lower is better) which is excellent, among the better scores we've recorded to date. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Auto and Incandescent white balance settings both struggled with household incandescent lighting, though Manual worked well. Above average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance (Default)
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance (White Priority)
+0.7 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.7 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.7 EV

Indoors, under incandescent lighting, the Canon M50's default Auto and Incandescent white balance settings struggled quite a bit, producing very orange/yellow color casts. The M50's new White Priority Auto WB option produced better results, though with a magenta tint. The Manual setting produced the most accurate and neutral results. The M50 required +0.7 EV exposure compensation for this shot, which is a little higher than the average of +0.3 EV required among the cameras we've tested. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Nice colors, though a tendency towards high contrast under harsh lighting. Slightly below average exposure accuracy.

Auto White Balance,
+1.0 EV

In simulated daylight, the Canon M50 produced pleasing skin tones with Auto white balance and overall color was generally very good. The Canon M50 required +1.0 EV exposure compensation to keep the mannequin's face reasonably bright, though the image is still a bit dim. That's a little higher than average for our "Sunlit" portrait shot. The Canon EOS M50's default contrast is pretty high, producing some washed-out highlights and dark shadows under the deliberately harsh lighting of the shot above, though the camera's Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone Priority settings help with high contrast scenes like these. See below for examples of this.

Resolution
~2,800 lines of good detail from JPEGs, about the same from RAW.

Strong detail to
~2,800 lines horizontal
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,800 lines vertical
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,800 lines horizontal
ACR Converted RAW
Strong detail to
~2,800 lines vertical
ACR Converted RAW

Our resolution chart showed fairly sharp, distinct line patterns up to just under 2,800 lines per picture height horizontally and to just under 2,800 lines vertically. Some may argue for higher numbers, but lines begin to merge at this resolution, and some aliasing artifacts in the form of moiré patterns can be seen even at lower resolutions. Extinction of the pattern occurred between 3,400 and 3,600 lines. An Adobe Camera Raw converted .CR3 file produced about the same resolution as the in-camera JPEG, though it contains more false colors. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

Sharpness & Detail
Somewhat soft images at default sharpening, but with visible sharpening artifacts. Minor to moderate detail loss due to noise reduction processing even at low ISOs.

Using default sharpening
settings, the Canon M50's JPEG
files are slightly soft, yet with
some minor sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of
the model's hair here.

Sharpness. The Canon M50's 24-megapixel sensor captures very good image detail when coupled with a good lens, though JPEG images are a bit soft at default settings. (Keep in mind Canon has decided to keep an optical low-pass filter in the EOS M50 to reduce aliasing artifacts at the cost of slightly reduced sharpness, unlike some competing models which have gone the other way.) Yet the EOS M50's default sharpening setting generates visible edge-enhancement artifacts in the form of visible though fairly minor sharpening haloes around high-contrast edges, as shown in the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows some minor detail loss due to noise suppression in darker areas and in areas with low contrast, perhaps just a little more than we're accustomed to seeing from leading APS-C models at base ISO. Still, a good performance for a 24-megapixel model. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

In-Camera JPEGs: Standard vs Fine Detail Picture Style setting
The EOS M50 offers the relatively new Fine Detail Picture Style first seen on the Canon 5DS R and 5DS DSLRs. Below is a comparison with the default Standard Picture Style.

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
Camera JPEG, Fine Detail

In the table above, we compare the M50's default Standard Picture Style setting (left) to its Fine Detail preset at base ISO. Like the 5DS/R, the Canon EOS M50 offers users much more flexibility in sharpening than other EOS models, allowing you to adjust not only the "Strength" (from 0 to 7) but also the "Fineness" (0 to 5) and "Threshold" (0 to 5) operators. We believe these parameters correlate to unsharp mask options for strength, radius and threshold available in photo editing software such as Photoshop, although we don't know what the equivalent units might be.

The Fine Detail Picture Style preset in the M50 keeps the Sharpness Strength operator the same (4 out of 7) while dialing down the Fineness (1/5) and Threshold (1/5) operators to their minimum compared to Standard which defaults to Sharpness: 4/7, Fineness: 2/5 and Threshold: 4/5. The result is slightly improved rendering of fine detail than the default Standard setting, though the difference isn't huge. Noise is however more visible in flatter areas, and contrast is lower, making the Fine Detail image appear to have less "pop". There also appear to be minor differences in color, even though Color Tone, Saturation and Contrast settings are identical between these two Picture Styles presets. Given the flexibility in settings, though, you may be able to find a better combination than the defaults compared above.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above the Canon M50 produces JPEG images with very good detail, but that are somewhat soft yet with visible sharpening haloes. With a good RAW converter, additional detail can often be extracted with fewer sharpening artifacts. See below:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare a best quality in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching CR3 file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 via DNG Converter 10.4 using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (300%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

Looking closely at the images, we can see ACR extracts additional detail that isn't present in the default JPEG from the camera, particularly in the red-leaf and pink swatches where the fine thread pattern is likely treated as noise by the JPEG engine. Fine detail in the mosaic crop is also improved, but as is often the case, the conversion isn't as clean and smooth looking, with much more noise that can be seen in the flatter areas of the bottle crop for example. You can of course apply stronger noise reduction (default ACR NR used here) to arrive at your ideal noise versus detail tradeoff. And, as expected, sharpening haloes aren't as visible as the default camera output. Overall, in-camera default JPEG processing is not bad here at base ISO, but as usual you can do noticeably better by shooting in RAW mode and using a good RAW converter.

ISO & Noise Performance
Good high ISO performance for a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 6400 ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600
ISO 51,200

M50 images are quite clean at ISOs 100 and 200, with just a tiny amount of luminance noise seen in the darker areas, and very little chroma noise. Some blurring of fine low-contrast detail is already visible at ISO 200, though. Noise "grain" is slightly more evident at ISO 400, but detail remains very strong despite some minor blurring due to noise reduction. ISO 800 is of course a little noisier, but fine detail is still very good with a noise grain that's quite fine and chroma noise remains low. At ISO 1600 blurring becomes stronger resulting in a more evident drop in image quality, though a fair amount of fine detail is still left. ISO 3200 is quite a bit softer and grainier with minor chroma blotching, though, but there is still some fine detail left. ISO 6400 shows stronger blurring and noise "grain", but the grain pattern is still fairly tight and not too obtrusive. Noise and the effects of noise reduction working hard to keep it under control really become apparent at ISOs 12,800 and above, with heavier luminance noise, strong blurring and more obvious chroma blotching.

Overall, good high ISO performance for a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, though default JPEG noise reduction and sharpening is not as sophisticated as some rivals which tends to smudge fine details more than we'd like. See the Print Quality section below for our evaluation of maximum print sizes at each ISO setting.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Somewhat high default contrast and unremarkable dynamic range in JPEGs. HTP and ALO options do a good job of dealing with tough lighting. Good low-light AF performance.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

The Canon M50 produces images with moderately high contrast with some washed-out highlights and deep shadows under the deliberately harsh lighting of the test above. The mannequin's face was much too dim at the default, +0.3 and +0.7 EV exposure compensation settings so we preferred the image with +1.0 EV, though even that one is a bit dim in the eyes. This resulted in some clipped highlights in the shirt and flowers, a bit more than we're used to seeing from an APS-C sensor lately, indicating mediocre dynamic range in JPEGs compared to the best of recent competitors. Shadow detail is however pretty good, though very deep shadows are a bit noisy and discolored. Bottom line: while dynamic range isn't bad, the Canon M50 didn't do as well with this difficult shot compared to some recent state-of-the-art peers. As expected, though, the blown highlights and dark shadows in the +1.0 EV were easily recoverable from the matching RAW file, indicating the sensor offers decent dynamic range, similar to prior EOS models like the M5 and M6.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)


Highlight Tone Priority
The Canon M50 offers two Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) options, D+ and D+2. This is the first EOS M model to offer two HTP options. Mouse over the links below to load the associated thumbnails, and click on the links to load full resolution images.

Highlight Tone Priority (+0.7 EV)
HTP
Setting:



Off


D+


D+2

All three shots above were captured at the same exposure, the only difference being that HTP was enabled for the HTP shots which necessarily increases the ISO to 200; part of how HTP works. Very few highlights were blown at default exposure so we cranked exposure compensation up to +0.7 EV to cause some minor highlight clipping, however we should have cranked exposure up even higher. Still, comparing the HTP shots to the one with it disabled, you can clearly show a reduction in highlights when HTP D+ is enabled, and a further reduction in highlights with the D+2 setting, although the latter setting reduced midtone and shadows a bit too. If you look closely at shadows, you'll notice an increase in noise is the price you pay when ISO is boosted from 100 to 200, although noise is pretty low in the shadows from the M50 at ISO 200.

Automatic Lighting Optimization
Like previous Canon EOS models, the M50 offers three selectable levels of Automatic Lighting Optimization (ALO), plus Off. In fully automatic (Scene Intelligent Auto) ALO is automatically enabled and it's available in P, Tv and Av exposure modes. Mouse over the links below to load the associated thumbnails, and click on the links to load full resolution images.

Automatic Lighting Optimization (0 EV)

As you can see above with images taken with no exposure compensation, ALO has the effect of shifting shadows and mid-tones, brightening the overall image while preserving highlights, although in this case, it could have boosted overall exposure quite a bit more. ISO is not boosted for ALO so increased noise is not an issue, though it may be slightly more visible in shadows that have been boosted significantly.

Face Detection
Just like most cameras these days, the M50 has the ability to detect faces, and adjust exposure and focus accordingly.

Face Detection
Aperture Priority
Face Detect: Off
0 EV
Aperture Priority
Face Detect: On
0 EV
Auto Mode
0 EV

As you can see from the examples above, it works quite well, as the center image with face detection enabled is much better exposed for the face than the left image where face detection was not employed without having to use exposure compensation. The camera did this by dropping the shutter speed from 1/60s to 1/30s. Full Auto mode (right) performed even better, producing a well-exposed, more balanced image. It selected a wider f/2.8 aperture with a much faster shutter speed of 1/250s, and used the standard Auto Lighting Optimizer setting for improved contrast.

HDR Modes
The Canon EOS M50 includes a couple of High Dynamic Range modes, which take three continuous shots at different exposures and merge them together to create an image with wider tonal range than would be possible with a single exposure. There's an HDR Backlight Control scene mode, plus included in Image Effects (Creative Filters) there is an HDR mode that offers four Artistic effects: Art Standard, Art Vivid, Art Bold and Art Embossed. Mouse over the links above to compare the effects, and click on the links to access the full-res versions. This is a nice feature, but notice the resulting image is cropped compared to the standard (Off) off.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Unfortunately, DxOMark has not yet tested the M50. We'll come back and fill in this section after they do. In the meantime, Photons to Photos reports that M50 dynamic range is very similar to that of the M5 and M6, which is good, but lags behind most recent APS-C rivals.

Low-light Autofocus
The Canon M50's autofocus system was able to focus on our legacy low-contrast AF target down to about -0.5 EV unassisted with an f/2.8 lens which is a bit disappointing, however it was able to focus on our newer high-contrast AF target down to -3.7 EV which is pretty good, and much better than its specification of -2.0 EV with an f/2 lens. Be aware we perform this test on a sturdy tripod, so hand-held results may be different. The Canon M50 also has an AF assist illuminator, which allows it to focus complete darkness when the subject is with in range and has sufficient contrast.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Large sensored cameras like the Canon EOS M50 do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects.

Built-in Flash
Weak built-in flash.

ISO 200
f/4, +1.0 EV
Auto ISO (1600)
f/4, +0.3 EV

Exposure. Indoors under incandescent background lighting, the EOS M50's flash underexposed our standard indoor portrait scene at ISO 200 and f/4, even with +1.0 EV of flash exposure compensation applied. (An average of +0.7 EV is normally needed for this shot.) However with Auto ISO, the camera produced a good flash exposure with +0.3 EV of flash exposure compensation, though the camera boosted ISO to 1600. Both images above have a warm, orange cast from the tungsten ambient lighting.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Very nice 30 x 40 inch images at ISO 100/200/400; a good 11 x 14 inch print at ISO 3200; and a nice 5 x 7 at ISO 12,800.

ISO 100 and 200 prints are quite good at 30 x 40 inches, showcasing nice fine detail and accurate color representation. At the 24-megapixel resolution, you can certainly print larger sizes at these low ISOs as well, and will only be constrained by the resolution itself at your desired viewing distance.

ISO 400 is also capable of delivering a solid print at 30 x 40 inches. Fine detail is not quite as crisp as the prints at base ISO and 200, but it's still a very natural-looking print. If your images need the ultimate in crispness and depending on your print settings and subject matter, it may be best to remain at 24 x 36 inches here, but again we can very much give our "good" seal to 30 x 40 inches at this ISO.

ISO 800 yields a good printed image up to 20 x 30 inches, which is still a fairly large size for this ISO given the class and cost of the camera. There is now a mild trace of noise in some flatter areas of our test target apparent on closer inspection, and a common reduction of contrast detail in our tricky red-leaf fabric swatch, but overall a good image at this size. Critical applications may warrant a size reduction to 16 x 20 inches here as needed depending on your subject matter.

ISO 1600 is capable of delivering a solid print up to a maximum of 16 x 20 inches, which yet again is par for the course for most of the better APS-C cameras these days at this sensitivity. There is a touch more noise apparent in some of the shadow areas behind our test target bottles, as the noise reduction and sharpening algorithms from the DIGIC 8 processor try and work the optimal compromise, but this is a common occurrence for most APS-C cameras at this ISO and print size. Once again, for your most critical applications, moving one size down to 13 x 19 inches will solve most issues you may have here.

ISO 3200 is often the turning point for APS-C cameras regarding image quality, and the EOS M50 is no exception, as we must go down two full sizes here to achieve a good print. The camera can deliver a nice 11 x 14 here, but there is still a mild amount of noise present in some flatter areas of the image. So while the 11 x 14 prints here do pass our good grade, remaining at ISO 1600 and below is your best bet for maximum print quality at this size of print.

ISO 6400 turns in an 8 x 10 inch print that just passes our good grade. There is still full color representation in the image overall, and decent fine detail throughout, but traces of noise are apparent in the flatter areas of our test target. The noise levels are acceptable for good prints, but not likely for your most critical applications.

ISO 12,800 delivers a solid 5 x 7 inch print, which is a fairly good size for an APS-C sensor. The images here won't win any awards, but nor will they be a letdown for gifts to family and friends, as the colors and detail at this size are still enough to earn a good seal.

ISO 25,600 yields a good 4 x 6 inch print, which is a nice feat. The image is similar to the 5 x 7 at ISO 12,800 in that it's not suited for critical applications, but is "good enough" for casual printing purposes.

ISO 51,200 does not deliver a usable print and is best avoided.

The Canon M50 delivers a good showing in the print quality department as expected. The print sizes don't exceed predecessors in the line per se, and the new processor seems to yield a bit more detail in some areas but at the expense of a bit more noise in others. Your mileage may vary depending on your in-camera sharpening and noise reduction settings (we used defaults) if using JPEGs, but for the most part you can expect solid printed images at large sizes up to ISO 1600. Shooting any higher in ISO and you'll need to pay close attention to your print sizes as relates to overall sharpness and noise, so we recommend remaining at ISO 1600 and below for critical printing purposes. But given the reasonable price of the camera and the ergonomically friendly size, this is a strong showing for overall print quality from the EOS M50.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon EOS M50 Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon EOS M50 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!



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