On paper, the EOS M5 will likely disappoint keen video enthusiasts with its lack of 4K capture or zebra exposure warnings. These are indeed striking omissions, considering the sheer number of direct competitors that offer them, but what the Canon lacks in specification it more than makes up for in outright usability.

Sample reel and usability

The touchscreen is incredibly well-implemented for video work. If you leave focusing decisions entirely up to the camera, it fares awfully well, focusing smoothly as objects of potential interest enter the frame at different depths, although you don't have any direct control over the speed at which the camera will refocus (this also goes for tapping to rack focus from one point to another in the scene).

Of particular interest is how well the camera handles face detection. If the M5 loses track of the face of your subject, it will intelligently move to pure subject tracking (take a look at the sample video on our autofocus page), and continue tracking the portion of the scene where the face used to be. So, if your subject turns away (for example), the camera will continue to track his or her head. And as mentioned earlier, if there are multiple faces in your scene, you can drag from one face to another to specify which face you prefer the camera to track. 

Image stabilization is also highly impressive, offering a mix of optical (in-lens) stabilization and digital stabilization. There is a penalty in cropping and detail for enabling these more advanced modes, but the resulting footage is incredibly smooth.

Video Stills

So while the EOS M5 lacks 4K capture, which is a shame, there's a pattern emerging as shown in our studio scene - cameras that are capable of very, very good 4K capture are, in essence, 'phoning it in' with regards to their 1080p capture (the Sony a7S II is included as an example of just how nice 1080p output can be). This makes a degree of sense, in that you can always film in 4K and downsample later, but for those that don't necessarily have the time for that extra step or don't want to pay for extra storage, 1080p can still be an important option.

So right off the bat, we can see that false color is well-tamed on the M5, and that it shows more detail than the a6300, and is a bit softer when compared to the Panasonic G85. To be expected, performance degrades noticeably with the digital image stabilization enabled (though it is likely worth the trade-off for smoother footage), and the trend continues with the smoothest 'Enhanced IS' setting.

Other video notes

Interestingly, your only options for shooting videos are fully automatic and fully manual, though thankfully, Auto ISO is available with exposure compensation in the latter mode. This is crucial if you want complete control over the shutter speed and depth of field for your footage, but still would like the camera go 'gain' up or down if you move from one set of lighting conditions to another.

The Canon EOS M5 also offers HDMI out (Full HD), as well as a microphone port that the tilting (versus fully articulating) screen won't hamper your usage of. You do get focus peaking if you prefer to focus manually, but there is no zebra patterning to warn of overexposure, nor can you view an electronic level or histogram during recording - only before you begin. Thankfully, rolling shutter is well-tamed while shooting 24p, and almost non-existent if you choose to shoot in 60p.

In all, the EOS M5 is a bit of a video conundrum. It's far from state-of-the-art in terms of specifications and video-shooting aids, and yet, allows for incredibly easy capture of smooth, properly focused footage with excellent color that Canon's become known for. As for us, we continue to believe that well-shot 1080p footage is eminently more watchable than poorly shot 4K, and if you don't need the higher resolution, the M5 is a capable, casual video companion.