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Canon gets it right with the EOS M5

The Canon EOS M5's touchscreen feels the most intuitive among the sea of mirrorless cameras.
The Canon EOS M5's touchscreen feels the most intuitive among the sea of mirrorless cameras.PHOTO: CANON SINGAPORE

The series started with uninspiring reviews but the latest version is pretty impressive

When Canon launched its first mirrorless camera - the EOS M - in 2012, it had lacklustre reviews.

Users pointed out its sluggish performance in comparison with its DSLR camera siblings. While some would argue that this is to segregate the two products' line- up clearly, it didn't help that other brands such as Panasonic and Olympus were churning out capable mirrorless interchangeable- lens cameras with very decent performance at the same time.

Despite these factors, Canon pushed on with the mirrorless M series. Now into its fifth iteration, the M5 at last hits the sweet spot with me.

Built and styled like a mini DSLR camera, the M5 body is sized just right. The grip feels ergonomic and my fingers wrapped around it securely. The controls are well positioned and, just to prove that the M5 is aimed squarely at enthusiasts, there are two dials to adjust shooting parameters. Note that even the entry-level EOS DSLR cameras have only one such dial.

The mode dial on the top left can be turned only when you hold down the button in the middle, to prevent unnecessary changes to settings when you sling the camera on the shoulder. Again, it is an implementation seen only in mid-tier EOS DSLR cameras.

At the heart of the M5 is a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, similar to the one used on the EOS 80D. But what really impressed me was the touchscreen implementation, which, by far, feels the most intuitive among the sea of mirrorless cameras. When I held the camera up to my eye, the 2.36 million pixels electronic viewfinder (EVF) kicked into gear and, from here, I could glide my thumb across the rear LCD to set the autofocus (AF) area. If your thumb is shorter, there are options to use just portions of the screen for this purpose. It's a well thought-out implementation that makes the M5 so compelling to use.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $1,449 (body only); $1,669 (with EF-M 14-45mm IS STM); $2,099 (with EF-M 18-150mm IS STM)

    SENSOR: 24-megapixel APS-C sensor

    DISPLAY: Flip-up 3.2-inch LCD display with 1,620k dots; Electronic viewfinder with 2,360k dots

    SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 9 fps with focus and exposure locked

    WEIGHT: 427g (body only, with battery and memory card)

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

As with enthusiasts-grade mirrorless cameras these days, the M5 comes equipped with Wi-Fi capability to transfer your shots to your smartphone. While it doesn't have the quintessential 4K video recording feature, the Canon makes up for it with full-HD video recording at 25 or 50 frames per second (fps).

While capturing videos, the electronic image stabiliser (IS) will work in tandem with the lens' optical IS to offer 5-axis stabilisation. In my test, I zoomed the bundled EF-M 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens to the telephoto end and recorded clips while panning. I must say the stabilisation worked well and the videos looked steady.

In the performance department, the M5 can shoot at up to 7fps continuously, or 9fps with the focus and exposure locked. AF speed was satisfactory for a mirrorless camera, though I noticed that it tended to struggle to lock onto the subject in low-light conditions; the sensor will pick up to brighten the dark scene for the lens to find the area of contrast for AF, though it was a hit-and-miss affair. In broad daylight, I have no complaints about its AF speed.

Image quality of the M5 is very good, which is not a surprise considering that it shares an almost-similar sensor and image processor with the EOS 80D. Needless to say, at low ISO settings, images were clean and free of noise, and colour reproduction was faithful to the scene. I noticed noise creeping in only from ISO 3,200, and the noise-reduction algorithm appeared to be overly aggressive in trying to clean up the image, smearing away fine details in the process. My suggestion is to shoot in the RAW format as much as possible, and control the noise in post-production on the computer.

•Verdict: If you are an existing Canon user and have a stash of EF or EF-S lenses, the M5 should be highly considered, granted that you can use these optics with an adapter with full AF and aperture control.

•Leonard Goh is a photography instructor and a freelance writer who wrote about cameras for CNet Asia.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2017, with the headline 'Canon gets it right with the EOS M5'. Print Edition | Subscribe