Canon turned up late to the mirrorless party. Very late. In fact, by the time it finally arrived in mid-2012, four years after Panasonic’s ground-breaking G1, every other major manufacturer was already in the game. Canon’s first CSC, the EOS M, wasn’t the barnstormer everyone had hoped for, leaving many questioning whether the DSLR giant was fully invested in the mirrorless revolution. Until now, it still hasn’t convincingly answered that question, releasing just two more CSCs and five more lenses in the past four years. So the question is, how will the new enthusiast M5 measure up, and will it be the statement of intent we’ve been waiting for?
The M5’s 24.2MP APS-C sensor is very similar to the one in its enthusiast 80D, although it introduces ‘gapless micro lenses’ for reduced noise. It trumps the 80D for processing power too, boasting a powerful DIGIC 7 engine. This facilitates a range of impressive features including 7fps continuous RAW shooting with AF tracking, or 9fps with manual focus. At full tilt, the buffer will hold 26 JPEGs before the shooting speed slows down. Compared with the M3’s 4.2fps and M10’s 4.6fps, the M5 is clearly much better equipped to shoot sports and wildlife photography.
The new processor also enables ISO 100-25,600, 14-bit RAWs, and other extras such as in-camera Diffraction Correction, improved noise reduction and Auto Lighting Optimiser.
The M5’s focusing system is equipped with the Dual Pixel CMOS AF found on some Canon DSLRs, which means that every pixel can be used for phase detection focusing as well as collecting light. There are 49 focus points – the same as the M3 – though only nine of them are manually selectable. We found the AF was pretty fast, even in low light.
The M5 can record Full HD movies at 60fps, allowing for smooth slow mo. There’s an external mic port for recording decent audio, though no headphone jack for monitoring it. 5-axis digital stabilisation is built in for steady handheld footage, and there’s highlight tone priority too. It’s slightly disappointing that it doesn’t have 4K.
One of the thorns in the side of this palm-sized mirrorless camera is its limited lens range, of which there are only seven models to choose from. This pales in comparison to Olympus or Panasonic, for which there are 60 compatible lenses. That said, a lens adapter is available (£99), allowing you to mount any of Canon’s DSLR lenses. Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth are built in.
Build & handling
With its deep grip and protruding viewfinder, the M5 looks and feels more like a DSLR than its predecessors. So Canon DSLR users should feel at home using this camera. At 427g (body only), it’s very light and comfortable in the hand, and the external controls and internal menus are intuitive. The large 3.2in 1620k-dot screen offers tilt and touch functionality, and can be used for fingertip focusing and shooting. And its 0.62x OLED EVF boasts a 2360k-dot resolution, like other similarly-priced CSCs.
After a series of slightly underwhelming releases, Canon has finally delivered a very competitive CSC that offers a real alternative to DSLRs. With similar image quality and functionality to an enthusiast model like the 80D, but in a compact body, it’s sure to appeal to many. The stumbling blocks are the battery life (295 shots), lack of 4K and price. At £1399 for the kit, there are better value cameras available, though as the price drops the M5 will become an increasingly attractive camera.
- Camera: Canon M5
- Lens: 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3
- Effective resolution: 24.2MP
- Sensor: 22.3x14.9mm APS-C CMOS
- Processor: DIGIC 7
- LCD: 3.2in 1620k-dot tiltable touchscreen
- Viewfinder: 2360k-dot EVF
- Autofocus: 49 points
- ISO: 100-25,600
- Shooting speed: 7fps
- Video: Full HD at 60fps
- Pop-up flash: Yes
- Other features: Dual Pixel RAW
- Battery life: 295 shots
- Card type: SD
- Size (WxHxD): 116x89x61cm
- Weight: 427g
- Web: www.canon.co.uk
This review was first published in the December 2016 issue of Practical Photography - download back issues here.