Canon EOS M5

Canon’s latest mirrorless system camera is the best CSC it’s produced so far, but can it compete with recent models from other manufacturers? Find out in our Canon EOS M5 review.

30 second Canon EOS M5 review…

The Canon EOS M5 is the first Canon mirrorless system camera to feature a viewfinder. It’s also the first that seems designed to appeal to enthusiast photographers.

While it looks like a small DSLR, its control arrangement is similar to a Canon G-series PowerShot compact camera, and it works very well with excellent use of the touch-sensitive screen.

The 24.2million pixel sensor is the same as the one in the Canon 80D, which means that it’s a Dual Pixel CMOS device, enabling phase detection autofocusing.

This delivers the best AF performance that we’ve seen from a Canon mirrorless system camera, and it can be used to shoot moving subjects, but it lags a little behind the AF systems in competing cameras like the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II.

Image quality is generally high from the M5.

Canon EOS M5 Key Features

Camera type    CSC
Date announced    15th Sept 2016
Price at launch    £1,049/$979 (boody only)
Sensor size    APS-C (22.3 x 14.9mm)
Effective pixel count    24.2 million
Processor    Digic 7
Lens/Mount    EF-M
Viewfinder    0.39-type 2,360,000-dots OLED EVF
Sensitivity range    ISO 100-25,600
Reflex AF system    N/A
Live View AF system    Dual Pixel CMOS AF system with 49 points
Monitor    Touch-sensitive 3.2-inch 1,620,000-dot ClearView II LCD
Max shooting rate    9fps with S-AF for up to 26 frames in JPEG, 7fps with C-AF
Max video resolution    Full HD (1920 x 1080)
Storage    SD, SDHC, SDXC (UHS-I compatible)
Dimensions    115.6 x 89.2 x 60.6 mm
Weight    427g (including battery and card)

I’m going to nail my colours to the mast straight away; I’ve been pretty excited about most of the Canon EOS M variants that have been announced over the last few years, but while their image quality has always been very good, they’ve been disappointing in the flesh.

On this occasion, Canon seems to be making more effort to attract serious photographers, so perhaps it’s the one worth getting excited about.

On the inside the M5 has quite a lot in common with the Canon 80D, the APS-C format 24.2million pixel sensor, for example is the same. However, Canon has teamed it with a Digic 7 processor rather than the Digic 6 unit of the Canon 80D. In the M5 this combination enables a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600 (ISO 100-6400 for movies).

It’s also possible to shoot at up to 9fps (frames per second) for 26 jpeg images with fixed focus or 7fps with continuous autofocus.

One of the major complaints about the EOS M, EOS M3 and EOS M10 is that they don’t have a viewfinder. That’s been sorted for the Canon M5, it has a 0.39-type 2,360,000-dot OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) built-in.

There’s also a 3.2-inch ClearView II Touchscreen LCD  with 1,620,000 dots. This can be tilted 85 degrees up and 180 degrees down.

Another gripe about the other Canon EOS M cameras is that their autofocusing systems aren’t fast enough and the AF area isn’t precise enough. Worse still, with the M3 I experienced an unacceptable number of occasions when the cameras said the subject was sharp, but it very clearly wasn’t.

The Canon M5 has a 49-point Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus system. That means there are phase detection AF points built into the sensor. That’s a step-up from the M3’s Hybrid CMOS AF III autofocus system and we’ll see how it performs later.

Canon has given the M5 built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth technology to enable easy connections to smart devices for image transfer and remote control.

SEE MORE: Best mirrorless cameras in the world in 2017

Canon EOS M5 review: Build and handling

Canon EOS M5 Build and handling

Although it’s a mirrorless camera, the Canon M5 looks like a mini-DSLR as it has bump in the middle of the top-plate where the viewfinder sits (with a pop-up flash and hot-shoe above)  and there’s a pronounced grip on the front.

That said, the control arrangement of the M5 is similar to Canon’s recent PowerShot G-series cameras like the PowerShot G5 X. There’s a healthy collection of dials and buttons that give you pretty quick access to most features.

In addition an exposure mode dial, the top-plate has an exposure compensation dial (in 1/3EV steps across the range +/-3EV) within easy thumb-reach and a Dual Function button surrounded by a substantial dial. This button can be set to reach up to four settings via the custom menu. Pressing the button toggles through the options on-screen, while rotating the dial adjusts the setting.

In the default settings the Dual Function button toggles between sensitivity and white balance in shooting mode. If you wish it can also be set to access autofocus, drive and metering mode. It’s a really quick and convenient way of changing settings and can be used with the camera held to your eye.

In addition, the Canon has given the M5 a touch-screen and it’s well implemented so that you can do just about anything you want via the screen. It’s even possible to set the AF point by touching the screen while you look through the viewfinder.

Canon allows you to customise the area of the screen that you use to set the point. This means if you don’t want to use the whole area, you can select to operate it via one of the corners of the screen. It’s useful if you find that your nose often does the point selection for you.

In normal lighting conditions the electronic viewfinder provides and good clear view and its refresh rate is high enough to make it possible to shoot and follow a fast moving subject. However, when I used it at night I noticed some flickering which made movement look stilted. It’s not a major issue, but worthy of note.

As it’s constructed from polycarbonate rather than metal, the M5 lacks the sturdiness of a camera like the Fuji X-T2, but it nevertheless feels well put together and the knurled dials on the top feel particularly nice.

SEE MORE: Canon vs Nikon: how to choose the best DSLR for you

Canon EOS M5 review: Performance

Canon EOS M5 Performance

Because of issues with the autofocusing of earlier Canon EOS M-series cameras I was keen to investigate how the Canon M5’s AF system performed. I’m pleased to say that it’s much better than past systems and in normal daylight conditions it’s good. In fact I even had some success shooting geese as they flew overhead. However, when light levels fall it becomes a bit more uncertain and slow.

When the Canon EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM kit lens is mounted, light levels don’t need to fall very far before the autofocus system starts to slow. But with brighter lenses such as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM mounted via the EF-EOS M Mount Adapter, the focusing is nippy until the conditions are very dim.

To put the M5 into context, it has the best autofocusing system in a Cann EOS M camera to date, but it’s not up to the standard of the systems  in cameras like the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II, Fuji X-T2 or Panasonic G80.

As it has the same sensor as the Canon 80D, it’s not really a surprise to discover that the M5 produces high quality images. Out of focus areas can look a little mushy at 100%, but at normal viewing sizes, everything looks good.

Noise is generally well controlled up to around ISO 6,400. Shooting at sensitivity settings above this can result in images having a more painterly appearance at 100% on screen. Images taken at lower sensitivity settings have a good level of detail on a par with that from the Canon 80D.

As usual, Canon’s Evaluative metering system is very good, producing consistently well exposed images in a range of situations. As you’d expect the exposure compensation control is occasionally required, but only when you would expect to need it.

The M5 also produces attractive colours in the default settings. The automatic white balance system performs well, but in overcast conditions the the Daylight setting usually produces more attractive results that are a little warmer.

Canon EOS M5 Sample images

Canon EOS M5

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SEE MORE: Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II vs Canon EOS M5

Canon EOS M5 Verdict

I was excited when I first read the specification of the Canon EOS M5 and I’m pleased to say that it’s a good camera. Its control arrangement is very good with a superbly implemented touch-screen and the screen and viewfinder provide a good view in the most common shooting conditions.

It’s also capable of producing high quality images. However, although the autofocus system is fairly good, it’s not quite up to the standard of compact system cameras from Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony, and the launch price is very high compared with similarly specified competition.