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The EOS M5: Has Canon finally gotten it?

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By Erick Lirios

The traditional big guns in the camera world, Canon and Nikon, have had a hard time making up for lost time in the mirrorless arena. Sony, Olympus, and Fuji were the early birds and the two strongest DSLR brands just couldn’t seem to catch up. The usual complaints were that autofocus was slow, video wasn’t that good, lowlight performance wasn’t great, and the electronic viewfinder wasn’t good enough.

That was years ago. What has happened since then? Enter the EOS M5.

The M5 comes in the heels of the M3 and resembles a small SLR.Unlike most mirrorless cameras, it has the usual bump on top common to SLRs/DSLRs. It’s smaller than DSLRs but with the price tag, should this be the investment you make?

  • With the lens retracted, this is really a small kit.

  • In monochrome, it’s also quite good.

  • How’s that for dramatic appeal?

  • Delicate details, delicate rendition

  • Low light is not an issue, though it may not be as good as some competitors. Details are sharp and the colors are very good.

  • Sharpness and good color

    When people get started in digital photography, they are usually surprised with the prices. You will easily find yourself staring at a price of around R55,000 to R60,000 with this baby, for example. Compare that to the low-end DSLR which will cost just about half of that price. That alone seems like a hard sell. Consider also that while the M5 is small, it’s not that much smaller than perhaps the entry-level EOS 1300D (though you do lose an movable LCD-screen with such a DSLR). Some people have even called the M5 a shrunken DSLR and it’s not hard to see why.

    Regardless though, the merits of the M5 are quite easy to appreciate. It’s small enough to not be conspicuous and uncomfortable. The image quality is totally topnotch (It’s a Canon, what did you expect?) and the colors are encouraging. The skin tones are very accurate and the overall sharpness is good. These are the most important issues when you start thinking of shooting professionally with a camera. However, there are other issues to be dealt with.

    The kit lens is a 15-45mm zoom lens which is surprisingly sharp. There is a lock that allows the lens to be much shorter when it is stored. It can be a bit annoying though if you’re the type of person who expects to be able to shoot as soon as you take your camera out of your bag. However, the unlocking process is hardly difficult or time-consuming so this is just a tiny potential issue.

    The camera uses the EOS-M mount and won’t use the usual EOS-EF or EOS-EFS lenses. You can buy an adapter that allows all these lenses but with DSLR lenses being bigger and heavier, it seems a shame if you have to give up the totally smaller camera and lens combo. One of the biggest appeals of mirrorless cameras is the fact that they are both smaller and lighter than DSLRs. Using an EOS lens, especially the pro-level L-lenses, will bring back the usual weight issues.

    What this means then is that going with the M5, and any of its siblings, means buying a new set of lenses or being ready to go a little heavy. If you have the money for a new set of glass, well, good for you! Go ahead and buy and please write to us about the experience. People will appreciate it.

    What about the camera’s ability to autofocus? Reports are that it’s much better than any of the earlier EOS-M cameras (I don’t experience with the older models) but if you’re coming from a Canon DSLR, renowned for its autofocus ability, you will find things a bit slow. A photographer using the EOS 80D will definitely be asking whether things are functioning because nothing seems to be happening in the first microseconds after the shutter button is pressed. This is especially true if you’re coming from taking one shot, looking at the frame on the LCD screen, and then shooting again. This is the same when you take a picture and want to look at your shot. With a Canon DSLR, the image is on the LCD as soon as photo has been taken. Not so with this little guy. The camera seems to need some prodding to get it to snap into clear focus or display something on the LCD. It almost takes a good amount away from the fact that it has a much wider area where it can autofocus.

    Also a bit annoying is the video record button. It’s too close to the thumb so that you may find the camera shooting in video mode on its own. I’ve had to turn off video recording a bit too often after an accidental press happened as I walked with the camera in my right hand.

    That said, the M5 is a good vacation and walking camera (just be careful with the video record button). It’s light and shoots very well. You just have to understand how slow its autofocus can be. With the kit lens, things are less imposing so shooting people in public is less difficult. Shoot with say, an EOS 5D Mark III with a 24-70 f/2.8L and you immediately have people a bit more on their guard.

    Perhaps another possible issue for some people is the LCD screen. Though you can move it up or down, with the down position allowing the LCD to face the same direction as the lens to allow selfies, you cannot move it to the side as you would on the 750D. It’s not as versatile in that sense but it’s hardly a deal breaker.

    What about video? It doesn’t have 4K though it does do Full HD. Is that a big loss? Not at this point. Not everyone has been sold on the idea of getting a new TV just to get 4K video so it’s not an issue—yet.

    Should you get it then? Maybe. It’s definitely on the pricey side and if the size is not such an issue with you, maybe a 750D would be better. Also, there are more lenses for it both brand new and used. What do you get with the M5? A handsome body that’s hardly a bother to anyone, with excellent image quality though focusing slightly slower. My hands felt much more comfortable with it, that’s for sure and it felt good shooting with it. The few microseconds that I had to wait all seemed worth it in the end.

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