Opinion: The EOS M5 is Canon's best ever mirrorless camera, and a big disappointment
|Canon's EOS M5 is a small, lightweight but powerful APS-C format mirrorless camera, which uses the same sensor and on-sensor phase-detection autofocus system as the EOS 80D.|
What a long, strange trip it's been. Eight years have passed since Panasonic unveiled the Lumix DMC-G1, the world's first DSLR-style mirrorless camera, and for much of the intervening time, Canon has appeared content to let its competitors lead the charge away from traditional DSLRs. In that time, mirrorless cameras have gotten faster, their sensors have gotten bigger and the introduction of 4K video has created a new class of genuine 'hybrid' products that have carved out a distinct technical niche compared to their DSLR forebears.
|Then-Chief Executive Masaya Maeda of Canon - pictured at the Photokina tradeshow in Germany, in September 2014. Mr Maeda has since been promoted to President and Chief Operating Officer at Canon Inc.|
In 2014, Canon's then-Chief Executive Masaya Maeda promised us a serious mirrorless offering 'in the very near future', but until now, the closest Canon has come to delivering on this promise was the EOS M3. Canon has never seemed to know how to market the EOS M series1, and insisted at launch that the M3 would not be available in the USA even as Maeda claimed he was telling the his global divisions to "sell it!" Six months later, they finally decided that perhaps they should.
Now, a year after the EOS M3 belatedly entered the US market, we have the EOS M5 - the '4' having been skipped over, possibly in deference to a rather inconsistently applied Japanese superstition. The EOS M5 is a fine product, and one that I think arguably represents Canon's most sure-footed move in the non-professional space for years. But it is also a massive disappointment.
Let's start with the positives. The EOS M5 basically takes the still and video imaging pipeline from the EOS 80D, and puts all of that hardware into a smaller, lighter body with full-time live view. The 80D's sensor is good – it's not market leading, but it's better in some respects than the sensors used in the 70D and 7D II – and despite the equal pixel count, better also than the 24MP sensor that found its way into the EOS M3.
I called out 'full-time live view' as a positive because perversely, one of the highlights of the EOS 80D's handling experience is its behavior in live view mode, when on-sensor Dual Pixel autofocus comes into play. With the EOS M5, it's all Dual Pixel, all the time, but without having to hold the camera out at arm's length. All of this, plus the full-time touch-screen adds up to a really, really nice handling experience.
So why is the M5 such a letdown? Because this is the camera that Canon should have released at least two years ago, when Dual Pixel AF was first introduced in the EOS 7D II, and when the company still had a chance to really ring the changes in the mirrorless market.
We know that Dual Pixel autofocus is a serious differentiator, and if you've been paying attention to our coverage of Canon's various high-end DSLRs for the past couple of years, you do too. And the M5's touch interface is lovely. But unless they've held and used the EOS M5 (and with more chance of finding a Lapras2 on the streets of your town than a dedicated brick and mortar camera store, a lot of people's first experience of holding a new camera is taking it out of the box), DPAF isn't the kind of function that's necessarily going to grab the attention of a potential buyer. Like – say – 4K video might. Or a super high frame-rate mode, or slow-motion movie capture.
The EOS M5's spec sheet suddenly becomes a lot more impressive if you comb through your memories of the APS-C market segment for the past couple of years, and mentally delete all of the entries under 'Sony'3
Of course as we all know, specs aren't the whole story. Luckily for Canon, handling and performance go a long way. The M5 probably shoots fast enough and well enough for most photographers, its 1080p video probably looks basically fine,4 and it's very nice to use. Although recent Sony cameras have been loaded with an almost unbelievable amount of technology, shooting with one, whether it be an Alpha or a Cyber-shot can sometimes feel unpleasantly like playing chess against a supermarket self-checkout machine5. Canon at least knows how to make cameras pleasant and uncomplicated to use, while many Sonys still feel like they were designed by the same user interface team responsible for this. If you don't remember Sony's late-to-market iPod competitor, don't feel bad – nobody else does either.
In fact, despite its comparatively pedestrian feature set, given the choice, I'd take an EOS M5 out with me over a Sony Alpha any day of the week. But I really believe that this shouldn't be an either / or thing.
I don't think that photographers should be required to choose between a sensible, well-designed but feature-limited camera or a cutting edge, highly advanced but annoyingly fiddly one. For videographers who started out on EOS DSLRs this is a particularly irksome choice.
Behind my nagging feeling of anticlimax with the M5 is a principle, which is this: Companies that take risks, and deliver new technology to as many people as possible should be given credit. And companies that do not should be held to account. Take the Samsung NX1 – an APS-C format camera so far ahead of its time that even now it has arguably yet to be bettered. In short, it was a vastly more capable camera than it probably needed to be. As such, the NX1 (which benefitted from an aggressive and effective series of firmware updates) encapsulated the best qualities of the company that made it, just as its premature discontinuation, along with the rest of the NX line, could be said to reflect the worst.
The EOS M5 is undoubtedly Canon's best mirrorless camera yet, and at least in terms of core stills photography it should prove competitive against cameras like the Sony a6300. But as a former Canon user and a long-time Canon watcher, I can't help feeling let down.
|The Canon T90 from 1986 (left) and 1992's EOS 5 (A2E in the USA). Both incredibly innovative, game-changing SLRs in different ways. And both released a very long time ago.|
Canon, after all, is the company that first put a microprocessor into an SLR. It cemented autofocus as a professional feature, not a gimmick, and later created the first multi-point AF systems. Canon introduced optically stabilized SLR lenses, too. It was Canon that gave us the first large-format CMOS imaging sensor, the first sub-$1000 DSLR, and the first practical full-frame digital camera6. Hell, arguably the first practical digital camera. Canon is the company that created the still-gorgeous T90. And Eye-Control autofocus, for heavens' sake, which – granted – didn't always work, but still feels like science fiction7 even today.
How many of those innovations date from within the past ten years? Not one.
Before you jump to the comments section and start flaming me, I'm not saying that Canon has stopped doing cool things. That's a common refrain of habitual Canon brand-bashers on DPReview, and one that I don't agree with. Apart from anything else, it's perfectly logical that in a maturing market, paradigm shifts will occur with less frequency. And let's be fair here - Canon can, and does, innovate. If you take a look at Canon's camera and lens lineup from PowerShot to Cinema EOS, it's clear that the company is capable of formidable technical achievement.
For all that, many of Canon's biggest contributions to the consumer digital imaging market in recent years have taken the form of iterative refinement, not wholesale reinvention. And in my personal opinion, this is a shame. Because reinvention used to be what Canon did better than anyone else.
1. It's a Pokemon thing. Ask your kids, assuming you can locate them.
2. Early press briefings on the EOS M were memorable for the unwavering insistence on the part of Canon's PR team that the M was being marketed primarily to women and smartphone camera upgraders.
3. I write this in the full knowledge that there are some of you who do exactly that.
4. We shot an entire video with the EOS 80D earlier this year. It's fine.
5. Try it. The machine will persist in maintaining that you didn't make your last move, when you definitely did, and after going back and forth a few times making you pick up your piece and put it down again it summons a teenager to assist you.
6. No, I'm not counting either the Kodak DCS-14n or Contax N Digital.
7. Eye Control AF was introduced in the EOS 5, in 1992, almost a quarter of a century ago. I like to think that if Canon had persisted with development we could be shooting with mind-controlled cameras by now.
|walkersons fields by George Veltchev|
from -Waiting for Autumn- (in Full Colours Only)
|A smile is worth a thousand words by alberto_b|
from Fill the frame
Nikon's Sendai factory in the Tōhoku region North of Japan has been churning out cameras and lenses since 1971. We had the opportunity recently to visit Sendai during events to mark the launch of Nikon's new Z mount.
There's no mistaking the Nikon Coolpix P1000 – with a 24-3000mm equivalent zoom, it really is in a class of its own. It's a conspicuous-looking superzoom with one main job: getting you really close to far away subjects. We've put together a gallery showing the kind of results you can expect from it.
A new report from The Verge claims Instagram is currently testing a feature that allows users to re-share posts to their own account feeds.
GoPro has announced its HERO7 camera lineup. The updated action cameras feature new HyperSmooth and TimeWarp modes, as well as improved video and photo specs.
The latest Samsung midrange smartphone offers a super-wide-angle lens in its triple-camera setup.
The Sony 24mm F1.4 is the latest lens to join the company's premium G Master lineup. We've been shooting with one for a couple of days - here's what you need to know.
Apple released iOS 12 a few days ago and some iPhone X users are less than happy with how the new operating system has made their phones look.
Camera bag manufacturer Lowepro has introduced mark II backpacks for its ProTactic AW range with models that are said to feature an improved handling experience as well as a collection of accessories that can be attached to the outside.
Canon has announced its latest superzoom camera, the PowerShot SX70 HS. Compared to the SX60 that came before it, the SX70 has the same lens but offers a higher resolution EVF, 4K video capture and support for Canon's new CR3 Raw format.
Cosina has announced its eighth lens designed specifically for Sony's E-mount system. The Voigtlander 21mm F3.5 lens is due out October 2018.
Sony has taken the wraps off of its new 24mm F1.4 GM full-frame lens, which the company claims is the lightest in its class. Despite its fast aperture, the 24mm F1.4 is remarkably light, weighing just 445 grams (15.7 ounces). The lens will set you back $1400 when it ships next month.
In this episode of DPReview TV we take a look at Sony's brand new 24mm F1.4 GM lens, a desirable focal length for many photographers. How does it perform? Chris and Jordan give us their first impressions.
We've had a little time to shoot with Sony's new wide/fast prime, both close to home and on the water in San Francisco. Check out our initial sample images.
Fujifilm released a firmware upgrade for its X-T3 mirrorless camera that addresses issues with distortion compensation and the mechanical lock on SD cards.
The app's algorithms have been trained using using 200 million cropping data points from real photographers.
Thanks to a software update, the Loupedeck+ editing console can now be used for video editing.
British photographic engineer MTF Services is claiming the world’s first third-party lens adapters for the new Nikon Z system with a collection of four units designed to allow cinema lenses to be mounted on the mirrorless full frame bodies.
Think Tank Photo has updated its line of heavy-duty rain covers and introduced a new, compact version for emergency situations.
The X-T3 is our first opportunity to analyze what's likely to be Fujifilm's next generation image sensor. Take a look at how it performs next to the competition in our studio test scene.
Canon's new normal is seriously sharp wide open. After shooting with it for a few days, we've prepared a gallery of real-world sample images.
Nikon will cease offering Brazil-based customer service and technical support, though the company stresses that it will still offer technical assistance and warranty repairs for valid warranties.
Two years ago, CatLABS of JP announced a plan to save Packfilm from the dead. Now, it's announced it's giving up its efforts to better focus its resources elsewhere.
The GoPro Fusion is designed to make it easy to capture 360-degree video and stills. We took it out recently on a typically hot Seattle summer day to see what it can do.
We've got our hands on a full-production Nikon Z7 camera and have updated our gallery with additional samples.
A new Kickstarter campaign seeks funding for Chroma Chrono, a programmable RGB camera flash that emits multiple colors during long exposures.
Think Tank Photo has launched a new lineup of six dual-access, water-resistant protective lens cases it calls Lens Case Duo.
Canon and Nikon finally entered the full-frame mirrorless market this summer with the brand-new RF and Z mounts. Now that we've had some time with the cameras, we wanted to revisit our earlier predictions and take stock.
The devices' camera specs look pretty much identical to last year's iPhone X but under the hood a number of important improvements have been made.
Blackmagic Design has announced the public beta of its new Blackmagic RAW video codec. The company says the new format combines the benefits of shooting Raw video with the ease of use and smaller file sizes usually associated with non-Raw video files.
Serif, the company behind the Affinity suite, has announced the latest update for its mobile Photoshop competitor Affinity Photo for iPad.