Canon EOS M5: Taking a Step Forward…

 
Canon EOS M5

Canon EOS M5

Shridhar Kunte tests the Canon EOS M5, a camera that seems to be one of the company’s most decisive forays into mirrorless.

Canon made its entry in the mirrorless camera segment way back in 2012. If you look at their previous attempts, you will get the feeling that Canon was keen to keep this lineup floating, somewhere in the middle. I say that because the offerings from Canon were simply not able to withstand the onslaught from Sony, Panasonic and Fuji. This further strengthens my belief that the camera manufacturers who only concentrate on the mirrorless segment are the ones who truly make inroads in this category, as compared to those who try to concurrently make both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. That said, the new EOS M5 seems to bring a cusp of change. Let’s see how it fares.

Features
The Canon M5 has a 24.2MP APS-C sensor that shares more with the 750D/760D, rather than the similarly priced (and excellent) 80D. The Digic 7 processor found in the M5 is faster than previous versions, and holds as much as 14 times the data processing power as the processor in an older camera like the G7 X Mark II. Because of this, the M5 can shoot at 7fps, which can be enhanced to 9 fps with AF lock (with a buffer of 26 frames in JPEG, or 16 in raw). According to the company, the sensor has gapless microlenses, for improved sensitivity. Focus peaking and 14-bit RAW are two other features aimed at serious users.

The camera has an improved dynamic range over its predecessors, and captures good details in highlight and shadow areas. Exposure: 1/2000sec at f/11 (ISO 800). Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

The camera has an improved dynamic range over its predecessors, and captures good details in highlight and shadow areas. Exposure: 1/2000sec at f/11 (ISO 800). Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

Dual Pixel CMOS AF system aids faster and smoother focusing, as observed in consumer-level camcorders. The way this works is that the camera’s Dual Pixel design splits each of the light sensitive pixels into two photodiodes right and left. This permits phase detection for autofocus, thus improving AF over previous EOS cameras, and getting relatively close to DSLR territory. Also, this is the first time that the M series allows one to edit RAW photos within the camera. In addition to this, the camera also offers in-camera correction for peripheral illumination, chromatic aberration and diffractive blur.

On the video front the camera lags behind similarly priced offerings from Sony, with no 4k. The M5 captures Full HD at up to 60fps. There is a provision to connect the external microphone for more serious users. The low energy Bluetooth 4.1 worked well with various smart devices. By downloading the camera app on the smart device and pairing it up with the camera, you can use your device as a simple remote release.

Handling
Though the body is made up of engineering plastic rather than an alloy, it still manages to feel sturdy in hand. Even though the camera is powered by a battery which is smaller in size, the grip is moderate and chunky with a textured coating that makes it feel nice in the hand. Those who have larger hands may find it difficult to fit all of your fingers comfortably on the grip, though.

When you look at the top there is a clear message, this camera is for serious use. There is hardly any similarity between the earlier M series and this new camera. The overall control layout has gone up by a notch compared to the EOS M3, with an exposure compensation dial and main electronic dial around the shutter release. Canon has added an additional dial that can be operated by the thumb on the top plate. The more frequent controls are grouped on the right of the camera and can be easily accessed.

The earlier M series models received a lot of criticism on the focusing abilities. However, the EOSM 5 has improved a lot in terms of focusing. Exposure: 1/25sec at f/8 (ISO 160). Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

The earlier M series models received a lot of criticism on the focusing abilities. However, the EOSM 5 has improved a lot in terms of focusing. Exposure: 1/25sec at f/8 (ISO 160). Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

The addition of the EVF is a welcome change, as while shooting outdoors in a bright environment, one may find it difficult to frame the image. The LCD on the back is touch sensitive and can be tilted upwards, downwards and can also face the front if you fold it underneath the bottom of the camera. This is particularly helpful while taking handheld selfies, but the downside of this arrangement is, it is not workable if you want to mount the camera on a tripod or other stable surface and take a self portrait or group shot. With the help of the LCD, you can control most of the camera settings, and while using the EVF one can also select the focusing area. This is not new, but on the M5 you can select the portion of the LCD, whole screen, left or right halves, or any of the four quarters. This is particularly helpful to overcome accidental taps on the LCD.

Performance
Canon’s earlier mirrorless cameras were noticeably sluggish in terms of AF, in varying degrees, some being completely unusable, in fact. But the M5 takes a whole new leap, thanks to the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system. The focusing speed while shooting static subjects, is at par when compared with the current mirrorless cameras, which is a big step ahead for Canon. The camera comes with an adapter (Canon EF-EOS M mount). I tried a couple of full frame lenses using the adapter and the combination worked very well, with AF being quick and decisive.

24MP presents the potential for a lot of good detail, but the kit lens isn’t able to keep up with the demands of the sensor. In fact, the EF lenses I used for the test (50mm f/1.4 and 70–200mm f/4 IS) showed significantly better sharpness and microcontrast. In low light, the AF struggles a bit, especially while using the adapter, if the EF lens attached does not have USM technology.

One needs to keep in mind that the metering is also linked with the AF point, which can fool the system while photographing scenes that have a large amount of light and shadow play. Colours are true and well balanced, without being oversaturated. The EVF itself is much more contrasty than what the sensor is capable of. AWB works well, apart from under florescent light, where the resultant images are cooler than desired.

Touch shutter makes it easy to photograph waistlevel compositions. Exposure: 1/80sec at f/4 (ISO 1600). Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

Touch shutter makes it easy to photograph waist level compositions. Exposure: 1/80sec at f/4 (ISO 1600). Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

Conclusion
Almost every aspect of the M5, from its design to handling, AF and image quality, has got a major overhaul. The addition of EF lens adapter in the box is a positive step in targetting the serious user, who would want to complement his Canon DSLR with a smaller camera from a similar ecosystem. But at the same time, one cannot ignore the fact that the competition has marched a fair distance ahead. The M5 kit is priced at Rs. 81,995, which is certainly on the higher side as it lacks some features that are there in the competition, like 4k video and a more refined AF system. That said, while there are better options available, the M5 is the first mirrorless camera from Canon that a serious brand loyalist would look at, keenly.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
EVF, Tilting LCD, 14-bit RAW, no 4k
26/30
Performance
Improved AF, average kit lens, good sensor
25/30
Build Quality
Sturdy polycarbonate body, sleek
17/20
Ergonomics
Excellent touchscreen, decent handgrip
13/15
Warranty & Support
Wide service network
4/5
MRP Rs. 81,995
OVERALL 85%
VALUE FOR MONEY 3/5
Who should buy it? Canon DSLR owners who have a lot of proprietary glass, and want a smaller camera that gives a similar colour palette, and packs in a decent amount of power.
Why? The performance of the M5 is very similar to that of
the 760D, in a package that is more convenient.

 

Tags: better photography, Camera, Canon, Canon EOS M5, February 2017, mirrorless, Review, Shridhar Kunte