Canon EOS M5 Preview – System camera without concessions

Canon is a big name in camera land, but especially in the field of DSLRs and compact cameras. There’s one category that Canon didn’t pay much attention to: mirrorless cameras. The models were often equipped with old technology and for a long time important functions, such as tilting screens, focus peaking and a built-in viewfinder, were missing. Until now, because the new EOS M5 seems to be a true 80D in a smaller jacket. In this preview you can read if he is.


First a brief retrospective to indicate the position of the EOS M5. It all started with the first EOS M launched in 2012. That was four years ago, but at the time Canon entered the mirrorless system camera market quite late. After all, they had existed for four years, since 2008.

The first EOS M was already outdated during its introduction if you compared the camera with competing system cameras. It had no PASM dial, no tiltable screen, a loose, bulky flash, a very limited range of lenses, no EVF and no compact zoom lens. The main stumbling block, however, was the autofocus, which was downright slow, although that was improved some time later with a firmware update. As far as specs are concerned, it was an absolute entry-level camera, but Canon nevertheless put a suggested retail price of 849 euros on it. Because the market price quickly dropped towards 300 euros, the EOS M was still sold nicely.

After the introduction of the EOS M, it remained silent for a long time. It wasn’t until a year and a half later, in December 2013, that the EOS M2 was announced, but it didn’t come to Europe, and was sold mainly in Japan and some other Asian countries. The improvements were minimal; the EOS M2 got the slightly faster Hybrid CMOS AF II system, Wi-Fi and a slightly higher burst rate.

It wasn’t until the introduction of the EOS M3 that Canon seemed to be catching up, as many of the criticisms were addressed. That camera got a new sensor, improved autofocus, a PASM dial, tilting screen, built-in flash, multi-interface hot shoe and even an exposure compensation dial. Still , the speed was disappointing, the sensor lagged and an EVF was missing, although an external version was available at an additional cost of 240 euros.

EOS M5: three times is a charm

What you can deduce from the above is that Canon has – knowingly or unknowingly – not equipped the EOS M-series with the latest technology so far. That was strange, because since 2013 Canon had the lightning-fast DualPixel sensor of the 70D at its disposal, but it was not used for the EOS M series, while this type of camera depends entirely on the sensor for autofocus.

The tide now seems to be turning, as the EOS M5 features the brand new 24-megapixel sensor from the 80D. This is known for the higher image quality, including the dynamic range, and is equipped with the fast DualPixel cmos autofocus. It didn’t stop there, because the new Digic 7 processor is also present, in addition to 1080p60 video and a built-in OLED EVF with a refresh rate of 120fps. The camera has five-axis stabilization, but that is mainly an advertising slogan; it’s a combination of optical stabilization in the lens and digital stabilization on the sensor. Also new is digital stabilization during filming. The M5 now films in 1080p resolution with up to 60fps. Filming in 4k is not possible, by the way.

The burst rate of the EOS M3 was nothing to write home about for a mirrorless camera at 4.2fps, especially as it lacked continuous autofocus, but the M5 has addressed this issue. It shoots 7fps with continuous autofocus and 9fps with single focus from the first frame. Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth are also available to connect the camera to a smartphone. This allows you to operate the camera remotely, but also to send photos. The LCD is tiltable and touch-sensitive, just like that of the EOS M3. It can unfold both up and down and in the latter case even 180 degrees, which is interesting for vloggers. If it is on a tripod, tilting it down is a bit inconvenient.

If you look through the viewfinder, you can choose a focus point with your thumb on the screen and that works quite intuitively. The screen is also freely configurable, so you can choose whether you want to use the entire screen or just the left or right part. The latter is practical, because your nose gets in the way when you look through the viewfinder. Panasonic has had such a function on Lumix G cameras for some time now.

Body and controls

The body has also been addressed. The grip of the M3 had already grown considerably compared to its predecessors, but that of the M5 is even deeper. It holds very nicely. There are also more buttons and dials, which improves operation. For example, there is an extra wheel on top with a Dial Func. button in the middle. This allows you to quickly call up a certain function, such as the white balance or the ISO value, and then switch it with the rotary wheel all around. In practice, this works a lot faster and more pleasantly than via the Quick menu: the Q button on the back.

What setting options you see here can also be configured entirely by yourself. A total of five buttons are programmable, including an M-Fn button on the top and a button near the lens on the front, which replaces the DoF preview button on Canon DSLRs. That is no coincidence, because you can do that with it, although there are many other functions that you can assign to the button. There is also a dial around the shutter button and the d-pad on the back, and there is a dial for exposure compensation, as well as a program dial with two programmable positions.

We tried the camera during the Photokina with the new 18-150 mm f/3.5-6.3. This superzoom is a welcome addition to the somewhat sparse EF-M lens offering. It’s clearly longer than most other EF-M lenses, but for an aps-c format 8.3x zoom lens it’s not disappointing. The lens feels solid, and zooms smoothly and smoothly. The autofocus of the EOS M5 actually seems to have taken a big leap forward thanks to the Dual Pixel sensor. Autofocus tracking also seems to work quite well. This allowed us to easily follow people in the busy Photokina hall after choosing them as subjects on the screen. There is certainly some catching up to do, although a practical test compared to other cameras should show how accurate and fast the new camera really is.

Lens offer

One of the reasons why the EOS M-series hasn’t been taken very seriously as a mirrorless camera platform until now is the limited lens offering. That argument still stands, although with the introduction of the 18-150 mm, a total of seven lenses are now available. If we subtract the two kit lenses from that, there are five lenses left to expand your camera with. Although more than four years after the introduction of the EOS M, this is a meager harvest, it is slowly becoming more complete. So there is now a macro lens, albeit quite wide, and there are a super wide angle, a telephoto and a super zoom. This betrays the target group that Canon has in mind: the beginner and less demanding photographer. All but one of the lenses is not bright, so you can only play with depth of field to a limited extent and are quite limited in low-light situations.

Incidentally, Canon seems to hint at the use of EF glass to tackle this problem. A Canon employee told us that the EOS-EF-M adapter is included for free in the first three months, bringing the entire range of lenses within reach. So the question is whether Canon will ever release more advanced lenses for its EOS M line. After all, that would also get in the way of the more expensive EF lenses, while the two worlds with the adapter are complementary. On the other hand, an adapter is not ideal for the compact size of a system camera, certainly not for daily use.

Here are the EF-M lenses so far:

  • 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 IS STM kit lens
  • 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM kit lens (collapsible)
  • 22mm f/2 STM prime
  • 28mm f/3.5 IS STM macro
  • 11-22 f/4-5.6 IS STM super wide angle
  • 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM
  • 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM superzoom

And further

The LP-E17 battery has long been used in EOS M cameras and also in certain EOS DSLRs such as the 700D. With the latter you can take about 450 photos on a single battery charge, but with the EOS M that is a lot lower. This is mainly because the LCD or the viewfinder is in continuous use, which are major power consumers. The EOS M3’s battery life was around 250 shots, and improvements have now boosted that to 295 shots by the CIPA testing standard. With the eco mode on, that would increase to 420 shots.

Canon EOS M5 specs
Resolution 24.2 mega pixels
Autofocus Dual pixel cmos af
Processor Digic 7
ISO 100-25,600
Shutter speeds 1/4000th to 30 seconds
Flash sync 1/200th second
burst 7fps (9fps w/o off)
Video 1080p60
Stabilization Electronic (5-axis)
Viewfinder OLED EFF (1024×768)
lcd 3.2″ touch-sensitive and tiltable
Connectivity Wi-Fi and bluetooth (4.1)
Battery LP-E17
Dimensions 115.6×89.2×60.6mm
Weight 380g body (427g with battery and SD card)

Preliminary conclusion

These specifications are a small revolution for the EOS M series. The new sensor enables the camera to focus at lightning speed and the image quality is a leap forward over previous EOS cameras. Thanks to the built-in EVF, you have a serious camera in your hands, which in terms of specs is more or less on a par with the Sony A6000, Fujifilm X-T10, Panasonic GX80 and Olympus OM-D E-M10 II. It probably performs almost the same as the EOS 80D, which makes it an interesting and more compact alternative to that camera.

At the same time, the chosen price point of the Canon EOS M5 is quite spicy. With a suggested retail price of 1150 euros, it is in the waters of the Fujifilm X-T1, the Sony A6300, and the Panasonic GH4 and GX80, and the cameras in the previous paragraph offer comparable specifications for a lower price. The limited range of lenses also breaks up the camera a bit, because there is only one bright lens available: the 22mm f/2, let alone a bright f/2.8 or f/4 zoom. Previous EOS Ms have seen their market price fall rapidly after launch, but whether the same will apply to the EOS M5 remains to be seen. It will be on the market in November and we can put it to the test in practice.