Conclusion

Pros Cons
  • New 24MP sensor offers much-improved dynamic range
  • Dual Pixel autofocus is both quick and accurate
  • Excellent direct controls with good customization options
  • JPEGs offer typically good 'Canon color'
  • Touchscreen interface is approachable and very well thought-out
  • Improved burst rates of 7 fps with continuous AF and 9 fps with AF locked
  • Solid build quality
  • Adapted EF and EF-S lenses work as well as they do on an EOS 80D in Live View
  • Video image stabilization and autofocus work very well
  • Native lens lineup is sorely lacking
  • No 4K video capture
  • 1080p video capture lacks detail
  • Viewfinder blackout is very long
  • Low light image quality significantly worse than peers
  • Shutter button lacks responsiveness
  • JPEG noise reduction and sharpening are behind the competition
  • Limited buffer for burst shooting
  • Ergonomics may trouble left-eyed shooters
  • Auto ISO almost unusably limited
  • Raw dynamic range still lags behind the competition 
  • Auto white balance strays to the cool side by default

Overall conclusion

The Canon EOS M5 is, quite frankly, what we've been waiting for from Canon since the release of the original EOS M four years ago (which was itself released four years after the first mirrorless ILC: the Panasonic G1). The original EOS M was unabashedly aimed at more entry-level users, offering solid Canon image quality and the ability to adapt EF and EF-S lenses in a nice, svelte package. It was even coat-pocketable when paired with the 22mm F2 pancake prime, which, four years later, is still the only fast-aperture prime in the native lens lineup (the 28mm Macro was a nice addition, but at F3.5, hardly 'fast').

What users also got, unfortunately, was a sluggish user experience with disappointing AF performance that seemed almost a bad joke coming from a company whose large, white lenses are omnipresent at high-speed, fast-action sporting events the world over. The following EOS M3 and EOS M10 made some improvements, but the system still wasn't what many expected from one of the world's preeminent camera companies.

Enter the EOS M5. The M5 sits atop the EOS M lineup, offering a new 24 megapixel sensor with Dual Pixel autofocus (likely lifted from the EOS 80D), as well as an extensive array of customizable external controls in a package that is still appreciably more compact than the company's lineup of DSLRs.

The EOS M5's Dual Pixel tech allows it to work far better with adapted EF and EF-S lenses than its predecessors. Processed and cropped to taste in Adobe Camera Raw, Canon EF-S 24mm F2.8. ISO 100, 1/100 sec, F2.8. Photo by Carey Rose

The EOS M5 is the fastest, most refined and most usable EOS M camera yet, and is evidence more than ever that Canon is looking to take this segment of the market more seriously - but they've still got some work to do. Let's see why.

Body, handling and controls

The EOS M5 comes with an all-new body design that looks, well, a bit like a DSLR - only smaller. There's room for a grip that's a good size given the camera's weight, plenty of control dials (including a dedicated exposure compensation dial, which we're always fans of), and an incredibly robust touchscreen interface that is not only intuitive to use, but powerful as well.

That touchscreen is pretty responsive just about any way you slice it, though it still can't match Panasonic's implementation in terms of outright fluidity - it's very good for playback and navigation through the main and quick menus, and it's market-leading when it comes to autofocus control, particularly when you have your eye to the finder.

Don't want to lug your 5D out for coffee? The EOS M5 is a much more compact, casual companion - especially with the 22mm F2 pancake, or a small adapted lens like the 50mm F1.8 STM. Processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw, Canon 50mm F1.8 STM. ISO 1000, 1/125 sec, F1.8. Photo by Carey Rose

That's because with what Canon calls Touch-and-Drag AF (Touchpad AF, as Panasonic calls it), you can use the touchscreen to control your autofocus placement while using the viewfinder - and you can specify whether you want to use the whole screen, half the screen, or even a user-selectable quarter of the screen depending on your preferences. You can also specify whether you want to drag the point around, like a computer trackpad, or use it as an absolute measure of where the AF point should go, like a digital pen (or 'pencil') on a high-end tablet.

And while Canon has made excellent strides in customizability, offering a good set of (consistent) options for button customizability on the M5, they've also completely crippled Auto ISO, with the only user-controllable provision therein being the maximum ISO value the camera is to use. It may seem odd to ask for more control with an 'automatic' setting, but being able to specify the full range of ISO values as well as the slowest acceptable shutter speed and the rate at which that shutter speed should change are incredibly helpful - and also present on the closely related EOS 80D.

The petite size of the EOS M system makes it an excellent choice in tight situations. Processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw, Canon EF-M 11-22mm F4-5.6. ISO 12800, 1/125 sec, F5.6. Photo by Barney Britton

Autofocus and performance

With regards to autofocus, the EOS M5 is remarkably similar to using an EOS 80D or 5D Mark IV in Live View mode, and overall, that's a good thing. You can tap the touchscreen to initiate tracking on a subject (which proves very 'sticky'), or even drag between multiple faces in a scene to tell the camera which to focus on (even if they're at dramatically different distances from you). And with a full-on Dual Pixel AF setup, just like the 80D and the 5D, EF and EF-S lenses work just as well on the EOS M5 also. An added bonus - Dual Pixel AF has been shown to be extremely effective in very low light scenarios, but make sure you've also got a fast lens to give the system all the light it can get.

As far as performance, the EOS M5 is solid, if not exemplary. Startup time averages around a second, the burst shooting speed is at least competitive, and though battery life comes in with a below-average CIPA rating, those users who eschew flash use and constant 'chimping' will see a single battery last them through a day of moderate shooting. 

The EOS M5 is a good companion for casual shooting, but you may want to look elsewhere if you're shooting lots of fast action, which this admittedly isn't. Processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw, Canon EF-M 55-200 F3.5-6.3. ISO 400, 1/320 sec, F6.3. Photo by Carey Rose

In practice, the M5 can be a bit frustrating for shooting moving subjects with. There's pronounced viewfinder blackout (far worse than the competition), and the shutter can be unresponsive at times; mashing it to grab a fleeting moment won't always fire off an image, as you need to intentionally half-press before every shot for reliable results. The 7 fps burst speed with autofocus is nice, but you only get a few seconds of that before the buffer fills if you shoot Raw + JPEG. There's also no option for a 'live feed' to help you follow the action, as you just get a slideshow of the most recently shot images. Additionally, a slight lag after firing single shots or bursts can result in the Touch & Drag AF functionality 'freezing' for just a moment, which can be disorienting. 

In short, if you see action shooting in your future, it's best to go for the extra bulk of the 80D, which has impressively short blackout in its optical viewfinder, or you can look to other mirrorless shooting options.

Image Quality

It'll come as no surprise that the Canon EOS M5 continues the tradition of vastly improved dynamic range on Canon cameras as of late. With a 24MP sensor that is (likely) borrowed from the EOS 80D, the M5's Raw dynamic range lands roughly halfway between the best that its peers have to offer and the previous generation of Canon APS-C cameras.

As Canon has been making strides in their auto white balance consistency and neutrality, the JPEG color rendition remains a staff favorite. Straight-out-of-camera JPEG, Canon EF-M 28mm F3.5 Macro. ISO 400, 1/60 sec, F5. Photo by Samuel Spencer

White balance on the M5 is consistent and fairly neutral (with an option to preserve warmth in a scene, or be even more neutral), and overall color rendition is still a strong point. Noise reduction and sharpening tend to be comparatively clumsy, but of course this is all only relevant for default out-of-camera JPEGs - for best results, as always, shoot in Raw and process later.

Video

Video capture on the EOS M5 comes with an almost dual personality - it is an exceptionally easy camera to get smooth, accurately focused video with, but at the end of the day, you're left with footage that maxes out at 1080/60p and with a lack of detail that may result in some users left wanting more.

The positives are many, though, with highly effective image stabilization, easy-to-manipulate touch controls and reliably good performance when you let the camera handle the focusing duties. There's even a microphone input for better ambient audio, as well as focus peaking should you need to take over focusing manually. And lastly, you can shoot in full manual, keeping your shutter speed and aperture constant while the camera can 'gain' up or down using Auto ISO depending on lighting conditions.

But there's also the lack of a real flat picture profile for more seasoned users, as well as a lack of other useful tools for controlling your exposure, including zebra warnings or even a histogram during video recording. Thankfully, rolling shutter is well-controlled (particularly for 60p footage).

In the end, the EOS M5 makes for great looking footage if you're not viewing with too critical an eye - but it can't hold a candle to the outright detail and toolkit of some more established competitors. 

The final word

Getting a move on - the EOS M5 shows off some of Canon's most impressive technology in a small package without sacrificing ergonomics. Processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. ISO 250, 1/60 sec, F11. Photo by Samuel Spencer

The EOS M5 is a big step for Canon, and sends out a signal that they're going to be taking the mirrorless market more seriously - or perhaps see it as more high-end - than ever before. At first glance, the M5 is quite the package, with Dual Pixel autofocus, a 24MP sensor with better dynamic range than its predecessors, abundant and accessible external controls, a built-in EVF and a mature touchscreen interface. But as impressive as all that sounds, the EOS M5 still has some room for improvement.

Outright image quality in terms of dynamic range and high ISO performance still lag behind competitors, as does the native lens selection, action / burst shooting behavior and performance, Auto ISO control and video specification. That's a tough pill to swallow when some other cameras can offer a leg up in these areas for substantially less money.

On the other hand, the EOS M5 is impressively usable and approachable, both for Canon newbies and established shooters. It may not capture 4K, but shooting smooth, accurately focused video has never been easier. JPEG colors are still second-to-none, adapted lenses work better than ever, and the camera just feels satisfyingly solid in the hand.

More than anything, the M5 represents Canon's continued commitment to the EOS M system, which we're happy to see, and we should reinforce that for folks who think they may want to get into shooting video as well as stills, the EOS M5 will make that far easier than most of the competition. The M5 is, on the whole, a solid and capable camera for a wide variety of photography. Unfortunately, in the broader context of the mirrorless camera market, we can't help but feel a bit let down by the M5 on the whole, and are already looking forward to seeing what the next EOS M will bring.


Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
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Canon EOS M5
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The EOS M5 has plenty going for it. Shooting smooth, properly focused video is incredibly easy, and the new 24MP sensor has made great strides in overall image quality. Dual Pixel autofocus makes for faster, more precise focusing and really makes the M5 shine with adapted lenses. Unfortunately, it sits in a crowded market and its excellent usability can't quite make up for the fact that you can arguably get more camera for less money elsewhere.
Good for
Users looking for solid, dependable performance for general photography and casual video capture in a compact package with a highly polished user interface.
Not so good for
Action and sports shooters, video shooters needing 4K capture, users concerned with availability of suitably sized lenses.
82%
Overall score

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