Canon EOS M5 Review

Is the Canon EOS M5 the Canon MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera) that you have been waiting for? The short answer is ... perhaps!

When Canon introduced their first mirrorless ILC, the EOS M model, we had the great Canon DSLR image quality we have grown to love in a tiny camera body. While the M's image quality per square inch (cm) and per lb (g) was a home run and that nearly Canon's entire lineup of DSLR accessories were available for it was another, there were some aspects of this camera that left many of us wanting more. I purchased and still own an M.

Subsequently, an M2 model became available in some locales and the EOS M3 was (eventually) released globally. The M3 brought about some welcome changes, including multiple dials on the top making some settings changes easier and faster, an improved AF system, a tilting LCD, a built-in flash and a better grip. Canon offered me an M3 for long term loan just prior to leaving for a photo trip in Alaska, and I used it a good amount there and in many other locations since that trip. It packs very compactly and delivers excellent image quality. While the improvements were quite positive, I still struggled with it in some aspects.

Even though faster than the EOS M, the M3 still seemed a bit slow and lacking in responsiveness. Using the LCD for composition in bright sunlight was very difficult and the increasing need for reading glasses added to my challenge even in good light. Not having the eyepiece against my eyebrow made handheld shooting less steady. While using the M3's optional EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) significantly improved the LCD composition issue, I never got around to buying an EVF of my own.

An M10 also hit the streets around the same time as the M3, though the M10 was positioned below the M3.

The Canon EOS M5, the new flagship M model, is the upgrade I (and many others) was looking for. If was only a matter of time before Canon's excellent, fast, imaging-sensor-based phase-detection AF system made its way to the M series and a DIGIC 7 processor driving 7 fps high-speed continuous shooting exceeds the capabilities of many full-sized DSLRs. A high quality OLED EVF takes care of my mentioned issue regarding LCD composition. Plus, a further-expanded set of controls on top provides DSLR-level access to camera settings and a more significant grip improves control of the camera. I'll add more improvements to this list throughout the review, but ... this camera is definitely worth taking a closer look at.

I often discuss the product name at the beginning of a camera review, trying to help readers better understand the lineup available to them. Hang with me here because ... the M names are not making the most sense to me yet. "EOS" of course refers to Canon's interchangeable lens camera models and the "M" line refers to the mirrorless variants. However, beyond the "M" is where the naming convention trouble starts. The "M2" and "M3" came in succession. To this point, it appeared that number would simply be incremented and higher numbers were better. I can follow that. Then came the "M5" and "M10", which could still make sense if the "M5" was not the higher end camera model. Then, not long after these two models came the "M6".

I am told that, among the current models, lower numbers are better models. Perhaps I'm missing something obvious here, but ... a good product naming scheme should be a high priority for a marketing team ... unless for some reason confusion is actually helpful in this market. There seems to have been some foresight missing in the released-to-date M model naming conventions (or lack of).

Regardless, the M5 is, as of review time, the flagship EOS M model and, it is a great little camera. Here is a summary of sum of the features and improvements found in the M5:

Summary of EOS M5 Features

  • 24.2 megapixel Canon APS-C CMOS imaging sensor
  • DIGIC 7 image processor
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC (Near Field Communication) and Bluetooth capabilities
  • ISO range of 100-12800 (expandable to 25600)
  • Touch screen 3.2", approx. 1,620,000 dot, tilt-type (85° up/180° down) Clear View LCD II monitor
  • 7 fps high-speed continuous shooting (up to 9.0 fps with AF Lock)
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF for smooth, fast and accurate autofocus for video and stills
  • Touch and Drag AF allows users to easily adjust the AF frame directly on the LCD panel including while looking through the camera’s EVF
  • Focus peaking allows in focus area to be highlighted
  • 1080/60p Full HD video to capture brilliant results in MP4 format (for easy movie sharing on select social networking sites)
  • Easily accessible Main Dial, Top Quick Control Dial, Dial Function Button, Exposure Compensation Dial and Rear Quick Control Dial for quick settings adjustments
  • Digital IS with 5-axis image stabilization when shooting movies plus increased image stabilization with both lens optical IS and in-camera digital IS when shooting with an IS lens
  • Built-in high-resolution (approx. 2,360,000 dots) OLED EVF (Electronic Viewfinder)
  • Shorter camera startup time and interval time between each image capture for a more efficient shooting experience
  • Very compact, light and fully-featured APS-C camera

Sensor and Image Quality

Following is a chart that shows several sensor specifications for the many of Canon's recent DSLR offerings.

ModelFOVCFSensorPixel SizePixels/MegapixelsViewfinderDLA*
Canon EOS M51.6x22.3 x 14.9mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.2 .59x100%f/6.0
Canon EOS M61.6x22.3 x 14.9mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.2 opt100%f/6.0
Canon EOS M31.6x22.3 x 14.9mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.2 opt100%f/6.0
Canon EOS M101.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 opt100%f/6.8
Canon EOS M1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0  f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel T6 / 1300D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 .80x95%f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 .87x95%f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel T7i / 800D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.2 .82x95%f/5.9
Canon EOS Rebel T6i / 750D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.2 .82x95%f/5.9
Canon EOS 77D1.6x22.5 x 15.0mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.2 .82x95%f/5.9
Canon EOS Rebel T6s / 760D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.2 .82x95%f/5.9
Canon EOS 80D1.6x22.5 x 15.0mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.2 .95x100%f/5.9
Sony a7R II1.0x35.8 x 23.9mm4.2µm7952 x 530442.4 .78x100%f/7.2
View the full Canon EOS M5 specifications to compare additional cameras.

I expected the image quality results for the EOS M5 were going to be a cut and paste from the 80D review because, basically, the same technology is found in both. While the results from these two cameras are indeed basically the same, the results with the same processing settings are not quite identical. I'll circle back to this point.

The EOS M5, like all of the other EOS M-series cameras, features an APS-C (1.6x) sized sensor. EOS M cameras natively mount EF-M lenses and, with an EF-EOS M Adapter, all of Canon's EF-S, EF, TS-E and MP-E series lenses become compatible. Note that, as with all APS-C format cameras, a selected lens focal length will frame a scene similar to that of a 1.6x longer focal length mounted on a full frame sensor camera (including when using EF-M and APS-C-only lenses such as the EF-S series).

Sensor Size Comparison

Obviously, the APS-C format is huge relative to the size of the imaging sensors in mobile phones and point-and-shoot variety cameras. Image quality, especially in low light, is a huge advantage they bring.

You will notice that many of the current model APS-C DSLRs share identical sensor specs, perhaps most notably the 24.2 megapixel resolution figure. Twenty-four megapixels has become Canon's APS-C standard issue at this time and this resolution is very high (higher than in many of Canon's full frame models to date). There is, however, more than one variation of 24.2 mp imaging sensors found in these cameras.

While the EOS M3 shares this megapixel count, it does not have the Dual Pixel AF feature found in the M5 and some of the other models, so there is an obvious difference among these imaging sensors. To be specific, the M5 inherits the excellent imaging sensor found in the EOS 80D (shared also by the 77D, T7i and M6).

Having the same imaging sensor, my expectation was that the M5 and 80D resolution results would look the same and, as seen in the EOS M5 vs. 80D comparison, they are not far off. But, there is a difference in sharpness showing. The 80D image, processed identically to the M5 image, is slightly sharper. Hold onto that thought – I'll come back to it soon.

This is a good time to build your own camera resolution comparisons. Use the just-provided link referencing the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM Lens (with some older camera models are represented by the Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM Lens) to select other comparison cameras (I suggest using f/5.6 for the aperture).

With APS-C 24.2 mp imaging sensors having a 3.7µm pixel pitch, diffraction begins impacting sharpness when apertures narrower than f/5.9 are selected. Results at f/8 begin to show very modest softening and at f/11, you are going to see the difference in your images. This is not to say that you should not use f/11, but you should be aware of the penalty being paid for using narrower apertures and be discerning with your exposure choices. Use the tool to learn how diffraction affects sharpness and you will be prepared to make a knowledgeable decision in the field.

Another consideration for the use of cameras with pixel-dense sensors is the shutter speed required to stop camera or subject motion. Because the pixel density in camera sensors has been increasing over the years, blur and a loss of pixel-level sharpness are increasingly likely due to camera and subject motion causing subject details to cross over pixels at a faster rate on the more-dense sensors. That is unless a faster minimum shutter speed is used for handholding (image stabilization also plays an important role) and for photographing fast-moving subjects.

The old 1/(focal length * 1.6) rule to determine one's shortest shutter speed for handholding an APS-C camera (without the aid of image stabilization) may not be adequate for everyone. While this formula uses the easy-to-use 1.6 factor that matches the APS-C sensor angle of view difference, the pixel density of the imaging sensor is the real reason the faster speed has been needed. You may prefer to use the 1/(focal length * 2) as a better base estimate for handholding the M5.

A nice sharpness-aiding feature of mirrorless cameras is ... the lack of a mirror, eliminating that potential source of vibration. Another consideration for getting the most from a high resolution camera is the quality of the lens placed in front of it. Increased resolution will magnify any lens aberrations present. As always, the better the lens, the better the image quality.

Increase resolution without any other technological improvements and noise increase is to be expected. Fortunately, gains continue to be made in this regard and the 80D results were slightly improved over its lower resolution 70D predecessor. With the same imaging sensor as the 80D, I expected no change in noise levels in M5 images. I would say that expectation was slightly exceeded, though this determination depends on one's preference for grain.

Canon EOS M5 ISO Noise Comparison

The Kodak Color Control Patches shown in the standard ISO noise test results are generated from RAW images with (this is a key) no noise reduction (unless specifically indicated by the result set). These evenly-colored patches are brutal on sensor noise, making it readily apparent when it exists. Keep in mind that many real world subjects are more detailed and better hide noise – these samples represent a worst-case scenario.

Ctrl-click on the previous link to open the M5 vs. 80D comparison in a new tab. At ISO 3200, the differences are noticeable. The 80D's results have a grainier but sharper appearance while the M5 has a smoother, softer appearance. There is a entire algorithm-filled imaging pipeline involved in the capture of photons ending up in a final converted image. While we can't change what is captured in the RAW file, the RAW converters can be adjusted for each camera and the processing parameters photographers apply using the RAW converters can easily be adjusted.

The 80D's results appear sharper in the site's image quality tool and the grainier 80D results seen in the noise test indicate increased sharpening being applied at the standard processing settings (sharpness set to a very low "1" in Digital Photo Pro). Changing the sharpness setting is simple and, with a setting of "2", we see the M5 noise looking very similar to the 80D noise. Change the sharpness to "3" and the M5 results appear slightly grainier than the 80D results.

So, if the M5's sharpness setting is adjusted to visually match the 80D's results, these two cameras deliver essentially the same image quality. Many additional comparisons are available in the noise tool. Find the camera you are familiar with and compare it to the M5. Unless it was a recently introduced model, you will not likely find an APS-C model matching the M5, especially at high ISO settings.

Digging into the noise a bit deeper: as the ISO setting increases, noise becomes more apparent. This is and always has been the rule. How apparent is the difference between camera models is the big question. If you can't see the difference, you will not likely discern it in your images either.

The M5's ISO 100 results are very clean – this is the norm for EOS cameras. Noise levels steadily increase as higher ISO settings are used until I reach my personal tolerance for noise at ISO 3200. Results at ISO 6400 are noisy, but can be usable. More of a last resort is ISO 12800 and a significant percentage of the details get lost in the low signal-to-noise ratio at ISO 25600.

Noise reduction results for the M5 are not included in the tool, but noise reduction is available in-camera or during post processing. Noise reduction can make a big improvement in noise levels, but the tradeoff is destruction of image details and reduced sharpness. I typically use no noise reduction for low ISO-captured images and a low amount for higher ISO-captured images. Like the amount of sharpness selected, you can adjust noise reduction to your personal preference.

This camera also has Multi Shot Noise Reduction available. MSNR merges information from multiple exposures taken in an automatic max-frame-rate burst into a reduced noise image. While MSNR shows great improvement (roughly 2 stops at higher ISO settings), it has limited usefulness in real world shooting.

The downsides to Multi-Shot Noise Reduction include: MSNR is currently available only with JPG output (I would like to see this feature added to Canon's Digital Photo Pro software for RAW capture processing – perhaps as another HDR preset). Multi-Shot Noise Reduction is not so useful with moving subjects (or with a moving camera). Long exposure NR, Dust Delete Data, Multiple Exposure and HDR Mode must be set to off to enable MSNR. The M5 reverts back to Standard NR in Auto/Basic zone modes, during video recording and in Bulb mode. Flash is not supported in MSNR mode.

After the multi-shot burst is captured, the camera remains "busy" for a period of time while processing the merged image. So, while this feature is a nice idea, its limitations make it less useful in real-world applications. I am far more likely to use a low ISO setting with a longer exposure when shooting stationary subject from a tripod.

From a dynamic range perspective, expect performance similar to the 80D, Canon's best APS-C model to date.

Regardless of its size, the M5 delivers arguably best-in-class Canon APS-C image quality.

File Size and Media

The following table shows comparative RAW file sizes for a photo of a standard in-studio setup with a moderately-high amount of detail taken with the referenced Canon EOS DSLR body.

Model / File Size in MB @ ISO:(MP)100200400800160032006400128002560051200102400204800409600
Canon EOS M5(24.2)33.834.735.737.139.041.344.746.552.8    
Canon EOS M3(24.2)32.833.534.736.237.940.242.946.750.0    
Canon EOS Rebel SL1(18.0)23.724.224.825.827.128.730.833.437.2    
Canon EOS 80D(24.2)31.231.932.734.035.937.940.643.747.5    
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV(30.4)38.839.139.640.441.643.545.548.051.455.159.8  
Canon EOS 5Ds R(50.6)65.266.467.669.873.077.281.988.4     
Sony a7R II(42.4)82.882.882.882.882.882.882.882.882.882.882.8  
Canon RAW file sizes increase with: 1. Resolution 2. Bit Depth (14-bit is better/larger) 3. Detail (noise adds detail, so high ISO file sizes increase). Memory and disk are cheap - buy more.

High resolution images create large files, especially when captured in (strongly recommended) RAW format (vs. JPG). The Canon EOS M5 writes image files to a SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I) memory card. For an ISO 100 image, you can estimate roughly 1.3MB in RAW file size per megapixel of resolution for a file size of about 31 MB. Fortunately, memory cards have become so inexpensive that large files sizes are a minor problem. Buy plenty of capacity and multiple cards. I recommend rotating memory cards to maintain a backup set until, minimally, you are able to get the images safely into your formal backup strategy (that includes off-sight storage).

If your computer storage is lacking hard drive space available, simply add external storage.

Frame Rate, Buffer Depth, Shutter Sound

The M5 gets a gets a significantly faster 7 fps frame rate over the M3's 4.2 rating. If your application permits One Shot drive mode, an even faster 9 fps automatically takes effect.

ModelFPSMax JPGMax RAWShutter LagVF Blackout
Canon EOS M57/92617  
Canon EOS M67/92617n/a 
Canon EOS M34.210005  
Canon EOS M104.610007  
Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D4.028/11407/875ms 
Canon EOS Rebel T6 / 1300D3.011106120ms170ms
Canon EOS Rebel T7i / 800D6.0190/Full21/27  
Canon EOS Rebel T6i / 750D5.0180/Full7/8  
Canon EOS 77D6.0190/Full21/2770ms 
Canon EOS Rebel T6s / 760D5.0180/Full7/8  
Canon EOS 80D7.077/11020/2560msn/a
Sony a7R II5.0242320msn/a
View the full Canon EOS M5 specifications to compare additional cameras.

To test the Canon EOS M5's 7 fps drive mode (9 fps in One Shot focus mode) and 26 frame RAW file buffer specs, the camera was configured to use ISO 100, a 1/4000 shutter speed (no waiting for the shutter operation), a wide open aperture (no time lost due to aperture blades closing) and manual focus (no focus lock delay). The lens cap remained on for the manual focus testing (insuring a black file and the smallest file size), a freshly-formatted fast memory card was loaded and image review disabled.

Using a Lexar 128GB Professional 1000x UHS-II SDXC U3 Memory Card in AI Servo AF mode (the AF mode typically used with burst mode and in this test, capturing a more-detailed subject), the EOS M5 captured between 18 and 20 RAW frames before filling the buffer in time periods ranging from 2.54 to 2.73 seconds to basically match the rated drive speed with a 7.08 to 7.30 frame rate experienced. Using this card, an additional frame was captured roughly every .56 seconds after the buffer filled. It should be noted that I am using a UHS-II card instead of a rated-for UHS-I card.

Using the same card with the camera in One Shot AF mode, the EOS M5 repeatedly captured 20 RAW frames in 2.075 seconds to slightly exceed the rated drive speed with a 9.64 rate experienced. An additional frame was captured every .35 seconds upon filling the buffer.

These buffer capacities should be considered best-possible for the referenced memory card and your in-the-field results will likely vary, though the speed of the memory card should be expected to make a difference.

A fast frame rate is frequently used for photographing action and photographing action frequently means tracking a subject in AI Servo AF mode, meaning that the 7 fps figure will often be realized. However, there are times when a fast frame rate can be helpful in One Shot AF mode, such as when doing HDR photography in reasonably bright lighting conditions. I say "reasonably bright" because bracketed exposures captured for HDR photography often utilize some frames with exposures long enough to push back even a slow max available frame rate.

I always find it helpful to see a visual sample of a specified frame rate in use. Drag your mouse over the labels under the following image for a visual look at the 7 fps rate at an indoor track meet.

Canon EOS M5 7 fps Burst Example - Indoor Track

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens was used via the EF-EOS M Adapter for the above images (155mm, f/2.8, 1/800, ISO 4000).

Canon has not published a shutter lag spec for this camera. With no mirror flipping up to start an exposure and with an electronic first curtain shutter (shutter sound is made at the end of the exposure), the perception (vs. reality) of the shutter lag duration is increased.

Canon EOS 1D X Mark II Camera Sound

The M-series cameras are very quiet to use. The quietness feature is welcomed by photographers when wanting to avoid attention, such as when they are photographing wildlife or a quiet event. Following are links to MP3 files capturing "The Sounds of the Canon EOS M5".

Canon EOS M5 One Shot Mode
Canon EOS M5 Burst Mode
Canon EOS M5 One Shot AF
Burst Comparison: Canon EOS M5 and 80D

Camera sounds are recorded using a Tascam DR-07mkII Portable Digital Audio Recorder with record levels set to 50% at -12db gain and positioned 1" behind the rear LCD.

Autofocus

I have been waiting for Canon's excellent Dual Pixel AF system to make it to the M-series and with the EOS M5, it has arrived.

While the M5's AF system remains just shy of Canon's conventional DSLR phase detection AF systems in speed, it is quite fast and considerably faster than the EOS M3's AF system. As you noticed in the frame rate example above, I photographed an indoor (low light) track meet using the M5 and 70-200 f/2.8L IS II lens combo. The AF system performed quite well in this situation. At least until the runners approached very closely (where I also had trouble following them around the turn using the electronic viewfinder), the AF system stayed locked on.

AF accuracy in One Shot mode has been excellent and the technology behind this camera's AF system make getting in-focus images easy.

Live View and Movie focusing modes include what has become the Canon standard for Dual Pixel CMOS AF: Face Detection with Tracking, Smooth Zone AF (no longer FlexiZone Multi), and 1-point AF (no longer FlexiZone Single). The AF zone covers 80% of the frame. All work very well, and the face detection tracking combined with the ability to influence which face is selected is especially impressive.

The M5's capacitive touchscreen allows for Touch Focus during both Live View still photography and before/during video recording. Just tap your finger on the LCD where you want the camera to focus and it happens – smoothly. It's just that easy.

New with the M5 is Touch & Drag AF, permitting the entire LCD or a specific portion of it to be used as a trackpad to position the AF point. As with any major new feature, it must be trained into one's workflow and ... I'm not finding this one hard to adjust to. By touching and dragging on the LCD, the active AF point can be very quickly repositioned, either absolutely based on the touch location within the LCD (or selected portion of the LCD) or moved relative to drag direction.

Like most, I use my right eye in the viewfinder and find that my right thumb most comfortably reaches the top right corner of the LCD. So, I selected the top right area for Touch & Drag AF, disabling nose-focusing (which didn't appear to be a big problem for me even with the entire LCD activated). I am currently using the "Relative" option vs. "Absolute". Note that your thumb tip should be used on the LCD to avoid poking your eye, which realistically can happen if using your thumb pad.

The speed of use provided by the Touch & Drag AF feature is great and, overall, the M5's AF system is a huge asset.

Video

With each new camera that Canon has introduced since the ground-breaking EOS 5D Mark II, creating high quality videos has become incrementally easier. The M5's video feature set builds upon its traditional DSLR and mirrorless EOS predecessors with the inclusion of Dual Pixel CMOS AF and a brand new in-camera 5-axis stabilization system (more on that later).

The M5 offers video recording in .MP4 format using the MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 codec, with audio being recorded in AAC (.MP4, stereo) via its front microphone or the 3.5mm stereo input jack. Sound recording levels can be set to Auto, Manual (64 levels) or Disabled entirely. Wind Filter and Attenuator options can be set in the sound recording menu.

Available frame rates and compression include:

MP4:
1920 x 1080 (Full HD): 60 fps (59.94 fps) / 50 fps / 30 fps (29.97 fps) / 25 fps / 24 fps (23.98 fps)
1280 x 720 (HD): 60 fps (59.94 fps) / 50 fps

Movie recording modes are fully automatic or manual with auto ISO and exposure compensation available for a balance of manual and automatic control.

Recently introduced video features such as HDR and Creative Filter capture have been omitted from the M5, but Time-Lapse Movie creation is supported.

Time-lapse Movie Mode was first introduced in the EOS 5Ds / 5Ds R and was later included in the EOS 80D. However, the time-lapse movie feature implemented in the EOS M5 is slightly different. Time-lapse movies can be created only in Movie mode and are enabled via the camera's menu system along with the time-lapse variables, scene preset, shooting interval, exposure preferences (fixed/variable) and number of shots. As you would expect, the recording session time will be dictated by the shooting interval and number of shots, but surprising is that the maximum recording time will be limited by the Shooting Scene preset specified. For instance, the max recording time with the Scene 1 preset is 1 hour, while Scene 2 and 3 allow for a max recording time of 2 hours. With the Custom Scene setting chosen, a recording time up to 7 hours is available.

Sound recording is not available during Time-Lapse Movie capture. Time-lapse movies are recorded in .MP4 format at 1080p, 30 or 25fps.

Movies that have been recorded can be compressed via the menu system by sacrificing frame rate and/or resolution. For instance, a Full HD 59.94p movie can be compressed to HD 29.97p.

The EOS M5's ability to capture high-quality video is greatly aided by its Dual Pixel AF CMOS sensor with improved AF tracking. Also aiding video quality is Canon's newly developed in-body 5-axis image stabilization system, combining in-lens optical stabilization with in-camera digital image stabilization. This system can be set to one of three settings (Enabled, Enhanced and Disabled) and can provide stabilization for non-stabilized lenses or increase the stabilization capabilities of lenses featuring traditional IS systems. Maximum stabilization is achieved using one Canon lenses featuring Combination IS (at review time, only the EF-M 18–150mm f/3.5–6.3 IS STM and EF-M 15–45mm f/3.5–6.3 IS STM).

In my limited tests, DPAF tracking and in-lens IS work extremely well and the digital IS feature left me unimpressed. Perhaps I just needed more time to fully figure out this feature, but ... the in-lens IS was all that I needed anyway.

Overall, the EOS M5's video-specific features make it a less compelling option for videographers when compared to the other cameras such as the EOS 80D, which offers .MOV recording (in addition to .MP4), user selectable compression, Video Snapshots, more time lapse movie options and infrared remote recording compatibility. However, the EOS M5 delivers excellent video quality and makes getting great videos very easy.

Viewfinder

If you have not already done so and are not completely familiar with EVFs, you will likely find the Comparing Electronic Viewfinders to Optical Viewfinders article worth reading.

From my perspective, the addition of a built-in high-resolution 2.36M dots OLED EVF to an M-series camera is a huge advancement. With an EVF, I find this camera much easier to use, especially in bright light, than any of its predecessors without their optional accessory EVFs in place. And, the built-in version of the EVF, although making the M5 slightly larger than the sans-EVF models, is both convenient and compact relative to using the optional EVFs. The built-in EVF also leaves the flash hot shoe available for use and is likely more durable.

The quality of the M5's EVF is very good with a very high resolution. I do not notice pixilation and seldom see the pixels appear to flicker as I pan the camera around a scene. The size of the viewfinder image is comfortable and the rear-extended position of the eyecup is also comfortable.

One of the specific negative aspects of an EVF vs. an OVF (Optical Viewfinder) is that the dynamic range is limited. Yes, it is limited in the RAW file also, but I'll share an example of how the viewfinder limitation affects real world photography.

On this morning, I had just spent two hours in the tractor cab taking care of snow removal duties and was then able to concentrate on capturing some fresh snow images. My studio overlooks a valley and a small mountain ridge. The snow came with a strong wind from the opposite side of that ridge and above the ground line of the ridge, the windswept trees were bare. Below the wind elevation, the trees remained heavily snow-laden. The snow/no-snow line was strong and I was drawn to the contrast.

As the mountain was roughly 1,500 yards (1,500 meters) away, I needed a telephoto lens to isolate specific areas of forest. My choice was to mounted the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens to the M5 via the EF-EOS M Adapter. The storm was clearing and periodically, the sun was shining through breaks in the clouds. Wherever the sun was directly hitting, the snow became especially bright and the partial illumination created additional interest in the scene. The EVF problem I encountered was that I struggled to see where the sun was and was not hitting. With an OVF, my eye would have immediately known where the breaks of sunlight were rapidly moving through.

Canon EOS M5 Sample Picture

Of course, I would have struggled much more to use the rear LCD without a hood of some type if the sun was shining directly on me at the same time. And, with the brightness of the light changing dramatically, the in-viewfinder histogram made it easy to ensure that my exposures remained correct.

Another mentioned issue that I specifically encountered with this EVF was the blackout time/stop-motion view through the viewfinder when shooting at the high frame rate. When photographing runners at the track meet, I could nicely frame them as they approached on the straights, but as soon as they began turning, I had to guess where they might be. The viewfinder was not keeping up with the scene while capturing images. For this reason alone, I would not recommend this camera for serious action photography.

Especially useful to me is the dual axis electronic level helping me keep horizons level. Great also is the amount of additional information available for display and that this information is highly customizable. The EVF proximity sensor does a nice job at turning on/off the appropriate LCD based on how the camera is being used.

Important is that this EVF has a diopter, but this one is not so easy to use in its under-the-viewfinder location. But, it is also harder to inadvertently change.

While EVFs have some drawbacks relative to OVFs, I greatly appreciate this camera having an EVF over the rest of the current EOS M models.

Tour of the Canon EOS M5

The EOS M line is all about delivering big camera image quality from a tiny package and next we will look closer at the physical attributes of the camera. While the original M had very few controls, subsequent models have been adding them and the M5, as of review time, has the most.

The usefulness of a camera relates in part to your ability to control how it works. While the defaults for all of the provided dials and buttons are very well thought out, the M5 features a high level of programmability, making the ideal-for-you customized setup available. A large number of the M5's button and dial functions can be programmed for a different function or limited to a specific set of functions. For example, I programmed my top quick control dial's function to be limited only to adjusting the ISO setting. Over time, I'd be enabling more functionality to this new dial, but at this point, I wanted quick access to the ISO setting and now it is at my fingertip.

This is the list of functions available for many of the buttons:

  • Movies
  • Manual focus
  • Flash firing
  • Touch & drag AF
  • ISO speed
  • Auto Lighting Optimizer
  • White balance
  • Picture Style
  • Drive mode
  • Self-timer
  • AF method
  • Metering mode
  • Still Image Aspect Ratio
  • Select Raw or JPEG
  • AF operation (One Shot or Servo)
  • Touch Shutter
  • Peaking
  • Depth-of-field preview
  • Switch between VF/Screen
  • Eco Mode
  • Display off

Back of the Camera

While it has the most controls, the M5 does not have the most controls on the back. From the back perspective, ignoring the EVF, the M5 looks very similar to the M6 and, ignoring some button function changes, also very similar to the M3.

Camera Back View Comparison

M5 | M6 | M3 | M10 | M SL1 | T6 | T7i | T6s | T6i | 80D | 77D

To compare the M5 with many more Canon EOS camera models, use the site's camera body comparison tool.

The buttons provided on the back are plentiful, useful, well-labeled and nicely located with space remaining mostly for the LCD. The buttons are dense enough that, a few times initially, I inadvertently pressed the menu button with the palm of my hand when gripping the camera. I quickly learned to avoid this.

The M5's Rear Control Dial is great. It has a crisp edge that is easy to grip and the directional switches within it are easy to use without much finger movement. It is not as easy to tactilely find the four flush-mounted buttons surrounding the Rear Control Dial and it is especially hard to use them with gloves on.

Canon EOS M5 LCD Out

Big on the back is always the LCD and the M5's LCD is a great one. This is Canon's excellent 3.2" Clear View LCD II monitor, featuring capacitive touch and very high resolution with approx. 1,620,000 dots. The LCD tilts up to 85° up and as far as 180° down, the position useful for selfies or self-recording such as when doing on-location recording and interviews. Of course, if self-recording, a tripod will be needed and the tripod mount is positioned in front of the LCD. While the M3 pivots 180° up, that was not an option for the M5 due to the EVF being in the way. At least not an option without additional LCD extension hardware. A benefit of this type of tilting LCD (vs. the side-pivoting Vari-Angle feature found on many EOS DSLRs) is that it does not interfere with cables attached to the left side.

Canon EOS M5 LCD Down

The LCD's touch capability provides great control over camera settings. Pinch, tap, double tap, flick, etc. gestures are supported. I was impressed at how clean the LCD stays with fingers frequently touching it and, when needed, a microfiber cloth simply removed any dirt/oil that accumulated.

Canon EOS M5 Neck Strap

While looking at this view of the camera, I want to point out a change in neck strap attachment design. Prior to the M5 and M6, all of Canon's EOS camera neck straps threaded through a wide loop on top of the camera. The M5 and M6 utilize a U-shaped wire that attaches to the neck strap with a plastic piece locking the connection in place (pg 18 in the owner's manual explains this).

All of Canon's interchangeable lens cameras feature easy-to-use, logically-laid-out menu systems. A series of tabbed menus are especially quickly accessed using the touch screen and the My Menu provides a customizable list of frequently used options.

Top of the Camera

On the top of the camera, especially if the EVF is included, the M5 shows superiority over its siblings.

Camera Top View Comparison

M5 | M6 | M3 | M10 | M | T6 | SL1 | T7i | T6s | T6i | 80D | 77D

The camera body top view comparison tool allows comparison of many additional Canon EOS models.

Like the M3 and M6, the M5 has a dedicated exposure compensation dial and a mode dial. Obviously, the M5's mode dial has moved to the left side from the right. That move displaces the pop-up flash which was relocated to the viewfinder bulge, in front of the hot shoe.

Canon EOS M5 Flash Up

See the new power switch located just below the mode dial? The button on the older M models was not my favorite, but the switch is much better for immediate and sure determination of the power setting. The left-side power switch location mirrors many of Canon's intermediate and pro DSLRs (excluding the 1-series bodies).

The M5 has a full set of shooting modes, ranging from crazy-easy and smart to fully manual with most everything in between covered including a wide range of special effects that can be applied while shooting. Check out page 39 in the owner's manual to learn more about these. Hybrid Auto Mode (the other green mode) creates a short digest movie of the day by recording 2-4 second clips before each still image capture.

New on top of the M5 is the quick control dial, providing adjustment of a range of settings toggled through using the dial function button in the center of the dial. As mentioned, I programmed this dial for ISO adjustment and, with further use, would likely continue to add functions for quick access.

While at first glance it appears that this dial is designed to be used with the thumb. It is indeed usable with the thumb, though it is positioned slightly deep between the EVF and EC dial and only small adjustments (3 to at most 4 clicks) can be made with each swipe of the thumb. In comparison, I can practically rotate the EC dial from one extent to the other in one swipe. Since EC adjustments tend to be small, swapping the two right-most dials might have made sense. That said, I found it even easier to use the top Quick Control Dial with my index finger. While I can only get and extra click or so when using the dial from the front (unless spinning it continuously around from the top), this technique leaves my thumb on place to better control the camera.

The top of the M5 offers a plethora of controls and I am left wanting little that I am used to from the larger models. There is no room for the top LCD of course, but that info and much more is available on the rear LCD or EVF all the time or at the press of the info button.

Side of the Camera

On the left side of the camera, under a flexible port cover that pulls open and rotates out of the way, are the following ports: remote release (E3 style, not N3), A/V digital out (still the slower USB 2.0 standard) and microphone. As you will see below, the port cover is textured to match the camera's grip surface.

Camera Side View Comparison

M5 | M3 | M10 | M | T6 | SL1 | T7i | T6i | 77D

The right side of the camera has an HDMI port and a Wi-Fi button.

Canon EOS M5 Right Side

Size of the Camera

Certainly you've been taking notice to how small this camera is relative to the non-M series models being compared above. Small size and light weight are hallmarks of the entire EOS M series and, while the M5 remains tiny, there is some size and weight penalty for its additional features including the EVF.

ModelBody DimensionsCIPA Weight
Canon EOS M54.6 x 3.5 x 2.4"(115.6 x 89.2 x 60.6mm)15.1 oz (427g)
Canon EOS M64.4 x 2.7 x 1.8"(112.0 x 68.0 x 44.5mm)13.8 oz (390g)
Canon EOS M34.4 x 2.7 x 1.8"(110.9 x 68.0 x 44.4mm)12.9 oz (366g)
Canon EOS M104.3 x 2.6 x 1.4"(108.0 x 66.6 x 35mm)10.6 oz (301g)
Canon EOS M4.3 x 2.6 x 1.3"(108.6 x 66.5 x 32.3mm)10.5 oz (298g)
Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D4.6 x 3.6 x 2.7"(116.8 x 90.7 x 69.4mm)14.4 oz (407g)
Canon EOS Rebel T6i,T6s / 750D,760D5.2 x 4.0 x 3.1"(131.9 x 100.9 x 77.8mm)19.8 oz (560g)
Canon EOS 80D5.5 x 4.1 x 3.1"(139.0 x 105.2 x 78.5mm)25.8 oz (730g)
Canon EOS 7D Mark II5.9 x 4.4 x 3.1"(148.6 x 112.4 x 78.2mm)32.1 oz (910g)
Canon EOS 6D5.7 x 4.4 x 2.8"(144.5 x 110.5 x 71.2mm)26.6 oz (755g)
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV5.9 x 4.6 x 3.0"(150.7 x 116.4 X 75.9mm)31.4 oz (890g)
Canon EOS 5Ds / 5Ds R6.0 x 4.6 x 3.0"(152 x 116.4 x 76.4mm)32.8 oz (930g)
Sony a7R II5.0 x 3.8 x 2.4"(126.9 × 95.7 x 60.3mm)22.0 oz (625g)
View the full Canon EOS M5 specifications to compare additional cameras.

My take is that the small size and weight tradeoff for the M5 over the other Ms is totally worth the feature gains. The EOS M and M10 are the smallest, but they have very little grip surface. When the absolute smallest option is needed, these models may be the best choice. However, the increased grip size found on the M5, M6 and M3 make these cameras much easier to hold onto and, if much time is spent with the camera in hand, these models are a better choice for this reason alone. The additional controls these models provide are further reason to take the modest size hit.

Interesting is how the M5's size has crept close to the EOS SL1's size and the M5's weight spec has surpassed this tiny DSLR. While these two cameras retain some significant differences, they are both targeting a similar market – those looking for great image quality and camera performance in a small and light package.

Build Quality

All models in the entire current Canon EOS line (and most discontinued models as well) feature very nice build quality and even the least expensive models appear this way. Construction is tight with dials and buttons that assuredly click affirmation of use. As usual for EOS models, Canon has ergonomically rounded most of the camera and especially the areas intended to be gripped are void of sharp corners. Unless the retro look is what you are going for, you will likely find this design more aesthetically pleasing.

I don't remember ever dropping a camera outside of a case but ... I can no longer say that. The M5 was on my desk and its neck strap (yes, they are sometimes a liability) caught on the leg lock thumbscrew on the bottom of my Really Right Stuff Ground Level Tripod as I went to put it away. The M5 was pulled off of my desk and there was nothing I could do but watch it land solidly on the concrete floor. While I suffered a bit of psychological damage, there was no noticeable damage to the camera. I don't advise trying this test at home just to prove me right, but there is not even a mark on the M5 and no effect on image quality was noticed. Then I began breathing again.

Additional Features

Like many of Canon's recently released EOS model, the M5 has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC (Near Field Communications). Unlike most EOS models released to date, the M5 also has Bluetooth low energy wireless technology included.

These technologies provide easy transfer of images and movies to compatible devices. Transfer images and movies to smartphones and tablets, to web services such as Canon's Image Gateway, to media players such as DLNA-compatible TVs, to PictBridge-compatible printers, to the Canon Connect Station CS100 photo and video storage and sharing device or send them directly to another Canon Wi-Fi-compatible camera.

Smartphone and tablets connect using Canon's free Camera Connect app. In addition to transferring movies and still images, this app provides some remote camera control features and provides a live view display of the scene. Camera Connect has a lot of untapped potential with the current feature set being somewhat basic.

Bluetooth is a new EOS technology feature. However, Bluetooth alone on the M5 is only useful as a wireless remote release using Canon Connect, simply initiating a still photo capture or starting and stopping movie recording. Attempting to access the other Canon Connect App options, including image transfer, initiates a Wi-Fi connection.

Now common is for Canon's latest EOS DSLRs to feature built in RAW conversion to JPG, complete with many adjustments available for doing so and the M5 once again supports this feature. While shooting in RAW format insures the highest image quality, this file format is not so welcomed by many of the wirelessly-connected devices. With built-in RAW conversion, you can photograph in RAW format, create a JPG file and then wirelessly transfer it.

Note that this camera does not feature a built-in GPS. The Canon Connect App is able to serve as a GPS logger, though battery drain will be high on the logging device. While the M5 and M6 do not directly support the Canon GP-E2 GPS Receiver, the GP-E2's logging function can also be used to geotag images later (accuracy depends on the camera's date and time to be accurately set).

Canon EOS M5 No Lens

The EOS M5 has a self-cleaning sensor system, referred to as the EOS integrated cleaning system. I dislike imaging sensor dust greatly and similarly dislike cleaning imaging sensors. Fortunately, the M5's imaging sensor has been staying very clean. If cleaning is needed, the lens can simply be removed and, without a mirror or shutter in the way and with a shallow lens mount depth, the imaging sensor is right there, easily accessible for cleaning.

Canon EOS M5 Bottom

Battery

The M5 utilizes the LP-E17 lithium ion battery pack, the same battery shipping with EOS M3.

This battery is quite small, light and convenient. But, in a mirrorless camera, this battery's approx. 295 shots rating is unlikely to impress you. When shooting the indoor track meet I mentioned earlier in the review, I nearly drained a battery during the 1,500m event alone. There are many factors that affect battery life (including drive mode, flash use and temperature), but enabling the M5's Eco Mode extends the rating to 420 shots. The key is to take enough charged batteries with you to satisfy your needs (and keep an eye on the 4-step battery level indicator to make sure the battery change happens at a convenient time).

Slightly annoying is that the M5's battery slot is not keyed to stop insertion until the battery is nearly fully seated. Just because the battery goes into the slot does not mean that it will fully click into place.

If an electrical outlet is available, the Canon CA-PS700 AC Adapter will provide continuous power to the M5.

Canon EOS M5 with Flash

Accessories

When you buy a Canon EOS camera, you are buying into an incredible family of lenses, flashes and other accessories. The camera body (or multiple bodies) is the base your system is built on and a lens is the next essential piece of kit.

Canon EOS M5 with EF-M 15-45mm Lens

The Canon EOS M5 is available as a body-only kit, in a kit with the very small Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens as seen above or in a kit with the modestly Canon EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens as seen below.

Canon EOS M5 Top

Those opting to purchase the M5 are likely choosing it in part because of its great image quality and small size. To realize the great image quality requires a high quality lens. The APS-C image sensor is large and large imaging sensors require a large image circle to cover them. This means that lenses, at least those with wide apertures, may not be able to scale down relative to this camera's size.

Canon's EF-M Lenses are very compact and, while I have yet to use the new-at-this-time EF-M 18-150, they are all good choices for this camera. My M5 came with the EF-M 15-45. I appreciated this lens' smaller retracted size and wider angle of view compared to the EF-M 18-55mm lenses I have on my M and M3. To remain as similarly compact as the M cameras, the currently available EF-M lenses have narrow max apertures with one exception – the Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM Lens pancake-style lens.

Canon EOS M5 with Adapted Lens

Via the EF-EOS M Adapter, illustrated above, all of Canon lenses (EF-S, EF, TS-E and MP-E) can be mounted on all of the M models. While only a small percentage of these lenses retain the small size and light weight spirit of the Ms, having them available is a big asset, especially for those already having (or planning to have) a larger EOS model in their kits.

The Canon EOS M5 is compatible with the small, inexpensive Canon wireless remotes including the Canon RC-6 Wireless Remote. Want to be part of your own family picture? Or just don't want to deal with a remote release cord or Bluetooth/Wi-Fi? This may be the accessory you want. The EOS M5 is also compatible with Canon's E3 wired remote releases and, with an adapter, the Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3.

Browse the reviews section of the site to find many more compatible accessories including flash systems, tripods & heads and much more.

Price

The M5 is the flagship EOS M model and its price reflects this status. It is a full-featured camera that performs extremely, but at least initially, it is not inexpensive. Well, not inexpensive until we start comparing it to similarly equipped DSLRs such as the 80D.

At review time, I would call the M10 and M3 bargains (though I don't expect the M3 to be available too far into the future). The M6 is moderately priced and the M5 is premium-priced with both of these models being substantial upgrades over the other Ms.

As one considers all that the M5 is capable of, the price seems more palatable.

Wrap Up

Reviewing one of the feature-filled EOS cameras currently hitting the streets is a daunting, time-consuming effort. One could write many books about using this camera and getting the most from it. Hopefully I've given you the basics needed for decision making.

To dig deeper into this camera's capabilities, I recommend reading the owner's manual (a link to the manual is provided with this review). I know, there are a LOT of pages in the manual, but ... they are small with big print. The manual will tell you all about a huge array of features not even mentioned in this review – including lens aberration correction.

Owning a Canon product gives you access to Canon support and the support I have been provided by Canon's USA division is excellent (sorry, I have no experience with the other Canon divisions). When I call for support, I get an intelligent person who sincerely wants to help me with whatever my question or problem is (I do give them challenges sometimes). Canon repair service, though I seldom need it, is very fast and reliable.

The EOS M5 used for this review was online retail-supplied.

Canon EOS M5 Angle

Alternatives

Is the EOS M5 the right camera for you? That is always a question to answer in a review and, yes, this camera very well could be right for you. But, alternatives should always be considered.

The closest M5 alternative in Canon's lineup is the EOS M6. Check out the Canon EOS M5 vs. M6 specification comparison to fully compare these cameras, but here are some of the EOS M5 advantages (unless otherwise specified):

  • Built in EVF vs. optional
  • Top Control Dial vs. n/a
  • M5 vs. M6 LCD: 3.2" vs. 3.0"(8.0 cm vs. 7.5 cm); approx. 1,620,000 vs. 1,040,000 dots; tiltable 85 degrees up and 180 degrees down vs. tiltable 180 degrees up and 45 degrees down
  • The M6 is modestly smaller
  • The M6 is less expensive

That was easy. These two cameras are very similar and the decision for most comes down to those 5 factors. I would much rather have the M5, but if the EVF is not going to be useful to you, the M6 may make more sense.

Next up on the alternative list is a conventional DSLR, but ... which one? The site's specifications tool is the place to compare all of these, but I'm going to pick the Canon EOS M5 vs. 80D comparison to dive into here. Here are some of the EOS M5 vs. 80D differentiators:

  • There is a huge size difference: The M5 measures 4.6 x 3.5 x 2.4" vs. the 80D at 5.47 x 4.14 x 3.09" (115.6 x 89.2 x 60.6mm vs. 139.0 x 105.2 x 78.5mm)
  • There is a huge weight difference: The M5 weighs 15.1 oz. vs. the 80D at 25.75 oz (427g vs. 730g)
  • The M5 has an EVF while the 80D has an optical viewfinder
  • The M5 has a Top Control Dial while the 80D has a top LCD and more buttons
  • The 80D has slightly faster conventional phase detection AF available
  • The M5 has a shorter AF working range of EV -1–18 vs. EV -3-18
  • The M5 has Touch & Drag AF
  • The M5 has DIGIC 7 vs. DIGIC 6
  • The fastest M5 shutter speed is 1/4000 vs. 1/8000
  • The M5 has a tilt-type LCD with approx. 1620K dots vs. the 80D's vari-angle-type LCD with approx. 1040K dots
  • The M5 has a built-in flash GN of 5 covering a 15mm AOV vs. the 80D's GN of 12 covering 17mm
  • The 80D features an integrated Speedlite Transmitter
  • The M5 flash X-Sync is 1/200sec vs. 1/250sec
  • The 80D has light flicker detection and avoidance
  • The M5 has 5-axis Digital IS
  • The 80D's grip is considerably more substantial
  • The 80D has weather-resistant gaskets and seals vs. unspecified
  • The M5 is modestly less expensive

While these cameras are quite different in many regards, they are surprisingly similar in their capabilities.

Canon EOS M5 Front

Summary

If you have been waiting to jump into a Canon MILC and an APS-C sensor format works for you, the EOS M5 is a great choice.

While one may feel a tendency to treat a camera of this size as a point and shoot model, using it for those still-important snapshot opportunities that pop up (it works extremely well for these opportunities), it really is much more of a camera than this. The M5 has great image quality, an excellent AF system (intelligent, quickly controllable and good speed) and an impressive set of features and controls. While a complete beginner can use this camera simple to capture high quality images with little effort, the advanced user who takes the time to learn this camera's features has great control over their imagery. Whether it is tucked into a pocket in camera case for backup purposes or used as a primary camera, the M5 is a little camera that delivers big in capabilities and performance.

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My Recommended Canon EOS M5 Retailers

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the Canon Store (new)
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