Canon M5 Review

Introduction

Initially released fall of 2016, Canon’s M5 is a mid-range mirrorless camera that replaces the previously released M3. It’s a camera that Canon aims to compete with Panasonic’s G85, Fujifilm’s X-T10, Nikon’s D7200, and Sony’s a6300. Canon markets this camera primarily towards multimedia content creators desiring a compact solution to shoot both stills and videos. It comes with a 24.2MP CMOS sensor and the Digic 7 image processor. Canon promises significant improvements over the M3. And, on paper, this camera looks quite promising indeed. However, are these improvements enough given the stiff competition this camera faces? And is this camera still relevant today? Let’s find out.

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What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Canon M5?

Pros:

Image Quality

It features a 24.2 MP CMOS sensor along with the Digic 7 image processor, which combine to offer virtually identical performance to the 80D. With that, images offer fantastic color rendering and contrast. The dynamic range also provides superior flexibility for post-production recovery and displays minimal banding and moiré.

It delivers continuous shooting speeds of 9 fps without autofocus and exposure locked after the first frame. Or, up to 7 fps with autofocus and tracking. And it also has a respectable 27 shot JPEG or 17 shot RAW + JPEG buffer. Overall, these results make it a capable option for some sports and wildlife applications, if needed.

Video Quality

It shoots 1080p Full HD video up to 60 fps and supplies a 35 MBPS data rate in the web-friendly and highly compatible MP4 format. While the footage isn’t the sharpest and is slightly softer than the competition, it provides the acclaimed Canon colors and artistic appeal. The camera also doesn’t suffer from rolling shutter, and the footage is free from artifacts, so overall video quality remains good.

Recordings are limited to 29 minutes and 59 seconds, the industry-standard for cameras in this class.

The camera provides a clean HDMI out for use with external recorders

Low Light Performance

Low light performance is excellent and virtually identical to the 80D. It features a native ISO range from ISO 100 to 25,600. And users can expect usable images up to ISO 3,200 or 6,400, where minor post-production noise reduction is required.

Focusing Performance

Focusing performance is excellent, and the subject tracking is incredibly tenacious, even when subjects move erratically throughout the frame. It features a very similar the 49-point all-cross type system with Dual Pixel CMOS AF that covers 80% of the entire frame.autofocusing system as the 80D. In this case, The addition of Dual Pixel AF makes it the first Canon M-series mirrorless camera to obtain this feature. The system also accompanies face-detection and subject tracking, though eye-detection is missing here. Nevertheless, it delivers a smooth and confident performance overall, even when using the EF-M to EF adapter. And with the addition of a touchscreen display, users can perform sophisticated rack focusing and tracking with a single finger.

It also features helpful manual focusing aids like focus peaking and focus magnification to help make manual focusing effortless.

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Display & Viewfinder

It features a 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen LCD with a resolution of 1.62M dots. The articulation offered here is similar to the Nikon Z50 in that it tilts 85° upwards and 180° downwards for front-facing selfies or vlogging. Its articulation is also helpful for low-angle shooting. This display sports touch focus, drag focus, pinch to zoom, and full menu navigation.

It features an electronic viewfinder with a resolution of 2.36M dots, another first for an M-series mirrorless camera. And, overall, it delivers an excellent viewing experience. It also supports a vertical display option, which rotates when shooting in portrait orientation. With that, it looks like Fujifilm is no longer unique with this particular functionality.

User Interface

It features traditionally designed and structured Canon menus, similar to many of their DSLRs. Both newcomers and existing users will find the navigating experience on this camera quite intuitive and easy to master. The user interface is also fully touch-enabled, and navigating using this format is very intuitive. With this iteration, the touch functionality and capabilities far superseded the competition, and Canon’s touch experience is incredibly extensive. Virtually the entire user interface is touch-enabled, and it delivers best in class navigation.

The camera also features a total of seven customizable buttons, delivering extraordinary versatility and customization.

Physical Layout & Ergonomics

It features a lock on the Mode selection wheel to prevent accidental changes during transportation. The mode dial also provides an extensive selection of options to include two custom shooting modes, C1 and C2.

It features dual command dials, one on the front to change aperture, and one on the rear to change the shutter speed.

It has a function (Fn) button, which alters the functionality of the rear command dial for added versatility.

For more advanced users, the camera delivers exceptional manual controls over settings and exposure. It features a dedicated exposure compensation dial, perfect for quick changes when shooting in Aperture or Shutter Priority modes. And, overall, the physical interface rivals several fully-featured Canon DSLRs twice its price.

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Niche Features/Extras

It features 5-axis digital image stabilization, which also pairs with optically stabilized lenses for added stabilization. And, unlike some of the competition which employs similar technology, this system works incredibly well and is free of the typical Jell-O like effects. The only slight drawback is it crops into the frame slightly during use. Otherwise, it works quite well.

It features a dedicated Wi-Fi button for immediate access to the camera’s wireless and connectivity settings.

It features an Auto Lighting Optimizer, a useful option that extends the cameras dynamic range for both stills and video.

It features a microphone input, and you can also adjust the microphone input sensitivity.

It features movie time-lapses, for convenient time-lapse recording.

It features an extensive playback suite and in-camera editing, allowing users to process and apply effects to RAW images.

In addition to built-in Wi-Fi and NFC, it also features Bluetooth connectivity, making it the first Canon M-series camera to provide this feature. With Bluetooth, the camera now maintains a low powered always-on connection to a smartphone. This connection allows users to turn on the camera and initiate file transfer remotely, and it also provides a fully lag-free remote shooting experience.

Cons:

Video Capabilities

It lacks any high frame rates at 1080p, be it 100 fps or 120 fps.

It lacks 4K UHD video recording.

It doesn’t offer any built-in flat picture profiles for flatter footage and an increase in dynamic range. Instead, you will have to use the Auto Lighting Optimizer, which, while helpful, doesn’t work quite the same.

The camera also doesn’t offer the All-I compression method for 1080p. Instead, it features only IPB compression, which compresses the footage more.

The camera doesn’t display audio levels while recording. Instead, you must first bring up the Q menu. And there you can adjust and see the levels. A bit tedious.

Battery Life

Battery life is poor and below the industry-standard expected for mirrorless cameras in this class. Canon rates the LP-E17 battery to deliver 295 shots per charge and 90 minutes of video recording. Thankfully, Canon has installed the ECO mode on this camera, which increases the battery life to 420 shots per charge. But, you will still eventually need extra batteries with this camera.

Display

The design choice for the flip-down screen articulating doesn’t make the camera ideal for vlogging. Unless you are willing to forgo using a monopod or tripod, this articulation is only useful for handheld recording. A fully articulating screen like the Canon 80D is the preferred design, as it offers the best versatility for all situations.

Ergonomics

The video record button is in a slightly awkward position. And it’s location significantly increases the occurrence of accidentally starting video recordings. Thankfully, you can disable and remap the video start/stop using the menus, if it becomes an issue.

Lacking Features

It lacks a headphone input.

It lacks a built-in pop-up flash.

It lacks weather sealing.

It doesn’t support USB charging, nor can it be powered via USB.

Unfortunately, the micro HDMI port increases the likelihood of accidental slipping during use, which can quickly ruin video recordings.

The camera lacks a tally light to indicate to the user when recordings are active. Considering Canon aims this as a vlogging tool, it’s quite confusing to see this feature removed.

Canon’s native EF-M lineup is still lacking and remains the ultimate drawback of their mirrorless lineup altogether. At this time, a total of 7 lenses exist for this platform. And, sadly, the majority of them are slow available aperture lenses. The system is missing any bright, fast lenses. Thus, users will eventually need to purchase the EF-M to EF adapter and tackle the additional expenses involved with that. You will also have to take on the added weight, bulk, and extra form factor as well. Overall, it’s a shame to see Canon continually overlook their EF-M lineup of lenses, as this is a significant component of this ecosystem.

Is this a good beginner camera?

Yes. The M5 makes significant improvements over the predecessor and a far superior camera. In many respects, it’s a more compact version of the 80D, as it offers a similar feature set and much of its performance—all at a price point that is well suited for beginners. The articulating screen, while not 100% ideal, makes it a capable option for a variety of different shooting mediums. And considering the focusing performance and outstanding user interface, it makes for a competent all-rounder.

What are the best lenses & accessories for the Canon M5?

EF-M to EF Adapter:

Canon EOS M Mount Adapter

General Photography:

EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM

Macro Photography:

EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM

Landscape & Astrophotography Photography:

EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

Portrait Photography:

EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM
EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM

Sports & Wildlife Photography:

EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM

Product & Still Life Photography:

EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM

Extra Batteries:

Canon LP-E17 Battery

SD Cards:

SanDisk Extreme PRO 32GB

Is the Canon M5 a good camera for you?

Yes, possibly.

It makes an excellent option for those looking to upgrade from a compact, point & shoot, or entry-level camera. And it’s also a worthy upgrade for existing Canon users, especially those who already own the M3.

It’s also a suitable option for sports and wildlife applications with its strong buffer and fast shooting speeds.

For those looking for a video-centric camera, know it’s capable, but you will have to forgo advanced video features like 4K, vectorscopes, waveforms, and log profiles. It makes a better option for those looking to shoot video more casually, especially for traveling, or as a b camera to your primary camera.

For those looking to vlog, if you’re okay with the flip-down screen, then this is an excellent camera for this purpose.

In the end, this camera comes dangerously close to being the ideal camera in performance and form factor. It packs a surprisingly competitive feature set into a compact form with a remarkably large grip. And while it has a few shortcomings, most notably a lack of 4K, full articulation, and poor battery life, it remains an excellent all-rounder nonetheless. It may have taken some time for Canon to release a mirrorless camera that’s finally competitive and rich enough in features, but we certainly have it here. In many respects, this camera is their mirrorless 80D. Both cameras offer similar specifications, components and are almost identical except for the missing headphone input and weather sealing. Otherwise, image quality, focusing, and low light performance are all the same. Thus, the M5 creates quite an attractive value proposition in the market. It remains one of Canon’s top mirrorless APS-C cameras to date and the perfect step up in quality from an entry-level camera without the complexity, weight, and price of their higher-end cameras.

Overview
  • Image Quality
  • Video Quality
  • Focusing Performance
  • Low Light Performance
  • Dynamic Range
  • Battery Performance
  • Display & Viewfinder
  • User Interface
  • Physical Layout & Ergonomics
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Summary

In the end, the M5 is dangerously close to Canon’s ideal mirrorless camera. It packs much of the performance of the much pricier 80D, into a smaller form factor with only a few shortcomings. It took some time for Canon to release a camera that was competitive in the marketplace of mirrorless cameras. But, with this release, we have that now, and it’ll remain one to watch for the years to come.