Canon EOS M5 Hands on

Canon vs Nikon: mirrorless cameras

  • While the future of the 1 system remains unclear, Nikon wins for the creativity it has applied to its mirrorless cameras. But Canon is a dark horse in this race.

While Nikon was hardly a pioneer in this market, you could argue that Canon’s late – and clumsy – foray into compact system cameras is the company’s one mistake in an otherwise stellar phase of development over the past 15 years.

The Canon EOS M and Nikon 1 ranges

When the EOS M launched in 2012, Canon became the last manufacturer to enter the compact system camera market. The EOS M, however, didn’t follow Nikon’s 1 series of mirrorless cameras by very long.

While initially the Nikon 1 series employed a smaller, 1-inch CX-format sensor than the M’s 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, the EOS M was widely criticised for its slow autofocus (since improved by a firmware update, poor battery life and a lack of lens support.

Canon has released some subsequent iterations of the EOS M that have improved upon the original. And the current EOS M5 looks to be Canon’s attempt at rectifying some of those early criticisms of the EOS M.

Canon EOS M5

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, as it has a 0.39-type OLED Electronic Viewfinder with 2,360,000 dots built-in. And it’s really good.

One of our main gripes about the other Canon EOS M cameras is that their autofocusing system isn’t fast enough and the AF area isn’t precise enough. Worse still, we experienced an unacceptable number of occasions when the camera said the subject was sharp, but it very clearly wasn’t.

We’ve now tested the M5’s autofocusing system and it is fast, even in quite gloomy conditions and it allows you to use a small AF point. It uses the same technology as the Canon 80D in live view and video mode, and it proved very capable in our tests. So this could be the M that puts Canon on the mirrorless map.

 

Canon EOS M6, M100

Meanwhile, Canon has also launched the EOS M6 and an entry-level M100. The Canon EOS M6 has a nice AF system, but lacks a few of the features you may have expected from a CSC in its class, such as an EVF and 4K video recording.

We’re still testing the M100, which so far appears to be a sturdy camera for beginners, but like other cameras in the M range lacks some of the inspiring features you might find in competing CSCs in its class.

Nikon 1 V3, AW-1

Nikon, on the other hand, has shown a bit more commitment to developing its Nikon 1 range since the maiden trio of J1, S1 and V1, boosting performance significantly with the V3 and going off in new directions with the waterproof AW-1. Nikon split its mirrorless range into three sub-series:

Nikon also offers a wider range of Nikkor 1 lenses exclusive to its mirrorless cameras, which range from a wide-angle 10mm pancake lens to a 70-300mm zoom enabled with Vibration Reduction. What’s more, the company offers a mount adapter so you can attach any Nikkor F-mount lens to your 1 series CSC.

Nikon has also boasted a number of firsts in the mirrorless market too, such as the world’s fastest continuous shooting frame rate (around 20fps with autofocus on the 18.4MP Nikon 1 V3) and the first waterproof and shockproof interchangeable lens camera (14.2MP Nikon 1 AW1).

The former has since been usurped, but the achievement stands and demonstrates Nikon’s creativity in R&D and commitment to developing this range further.

Rumours of a full-frame Nikon 1 mirrorless camera have abounded for some time, and Nikon even recently told us that a full-frame mirrorless camera was in its future.

Some have called the demise of the Nikon 1 system, but we wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Nikon debut a high-spec full-frame Nikon 1 camera in the next year.

SEE MORE: Best mirrorless cameras in the world

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