Image Quality

Our test scene is designed to simulate a variety of textures, colors and detail types you'll encounter in the real world. It also has two illumination modes to see the effect of different lighting conditions.

The EOS M50's 24MP sensor is found in virtually every modern APS-C Canon camera, DSLR or otherwise. However, the M50 is the first to use the Digic 8 processor, which may impact JPEG image quality.

Raw

At base ISO the EOS M50's Raw image is essentially the same as the EOS M6 and M100 in terms of detail capture and color. When comparing high ISO performance between the M50 and M6 you'll find that there's virtually no difference. Sony's APS-C offerings show slightly less noise at high ISO, while the Fujifilm X-T20 has a sizeable advantage over both Canons and the Sony (though it's unclear how much of this is due to chroma noise reduction in the demosaicing process). Noise reduction in Raw kicks in above ISO 12800 on the M50 (and above ISO 6400 on the a6300).

JPEG

Colors in Canon's JPEGs have always been pleasing and the M50's yellows are noticeably less green than on previous M-series models. The reds, on the other hand, are a bit duller in our studio scene, though this was not reflected in real world shooting. In addition, auto white balance in low light is a bit warmer than on the M6 or M100. Fine detail capture at base ISO appears to be a bit higher on the M50 than the M6 but, again, only if you look closely. Both the Sony and Fujifilm retain finer detail better in their respective JPEGs.

The M50 is a bit better at high ISOs than the M6, though again Fujifilm's X-T20 looks cleaner and sharper, while Sony's context-sensitive approach arguably yields the best results. It seems Canon continues to avoid context-sensitive noise reduction, which leads to more noise and less low contrast detail, which is a sort of 'worst-of-all-worlds' approach.

ISO invariance

A camera with a very low noise floor is able to capture a large amount of dynamic range, since it adds very little noise to the detail captured in the shadow regions of the image. This has an interesting implication: it minimizes the need to amplify the sensor's signal in order to keep it above that noise floor (which is what ISO amplification conventionally does). This provides an alternate way of working in situations that would traditionally demand higher ISO settings.

Here we've done something that may seem counter-intuitive: we've used the same aperture and shutter speed at different ISO settings to see how much difference there is between shooting at a particular ISO setting (and using hardware amplification) vs. digitally correcting the brightness, later. This has the advantage that all the shots should exhibit the same shot noise and any differences must have been contributed by the camera's circuitry.

The M50's sensor is not strictly ISO invariant, though it's come a long way since the Rebel T6s days. Shooting at base ISO and brightening the image adds more noise than just using the higher ISO required to achieve proper midtone brightness. Better performing sensors like the Nikon D7200 show less of a performance gap between shooting at high ISO vs. brightening lower ISO shots. If the M50 were invariant then you'd be able to shoot at a lower ISO and brighten while retaining highlight data that's otherwise lost at higher sensitivities. Canon's continually improving things in this department though, so if you shoot at ISO 800 and brighten your Raw by 2EV, you'll get roughly the same results as shooting ISO 3200 - with the same focal plane exposure - in-camera. The former affords you 2 extra stops of highlight data in post, though.

So while dynamic range and ISO-invariance isn't class-leading, the M50 turns in a respectable result, especially given the challenges of the split pixel design of the Dual Pixel AF sensor.

Exposure latitude

In this test we look to see how tolerant of pushing exposure the EOS M50's Raw files are. We've done this by exposing our scene with increasingly lower exposures, then pushed them back to the correct brightness using Adobe Camera Raw. Examining what happens in the shadows allows you to assess the exposure latitude (essentially the dynamic range) of the Raw files.

Because the changes in this test noise are primarily caused by shot noise and this is mainly determined by the amount of light the camera has had access to, the results are only directly comparable between cameras of the same sensor size, like the Fujifilm X-T20 and Sony a6300. However, this will also be the case in real-world shooting if you're limited by what shutter speed you can keep steady, so this test gives you an idea of the amount of processing latitude different formats give.

Sony's sensors are known for being quite malleable, meaning that you can brighten shadows without a large increase in noise. The a6300 holds an advantage over the M50 when pushed 4EV or further, but more reasonable pushes of 3 EV or less show negligible differences in performance.

Our particular camera showed some magenta-colored banding when the scene was pushed 5 stops and above, which is something that the average M50 buyer will probably never do.