The Canon EOS M5. So much to love, but…

This is a camera I was looking forward to – a camera I was looking forward to very much.  As you may have noticed from reading my other articles, I have a particular passion for Canon Mirrorless cameras. I loved the EOS M3 even though it was flawed.  And as soon as I heard about the EOS M5 I knew that I would need to get one.

But first I hit a slight problem. I was going to Myanmar, and I really, really wanted a new travel camera before I went. Several coincidental things happened and I ended up taking a Sony A7RII – a superb full-frame Sony mirrorless camera.  One of the main reasons I had been trying to avoid temptation in going down the Sony MILC route was that I knew, if I started doing that, I’d have to start buying Sony FE lenses as well as Canon Lenses. I even gave away my old Sony A6000 to avoid just this problem. And an addiction to lenses for a single system is dangerous enough.  So. Six months later I have managed to avoid buying all but four of the Sony FE lenses, and I will no doubt talk about the issues with those in a later article. Oh, and I reclaimed the A6000 (temporarily) too.

2017 creeps around and I’m thinking again and again about the EOS M5.  I am also sorely tempted by an offer to convert my EOS M3 to full-spectrum.  I like my infra-red converted EOS 1100D, it produces great shots, but it’s a real pain to use outdoors in sunlight because you can’t preview the infra-red image through the viewfinder. This is one thing that mirrorless cameras with an EVF are ideally suited for.  So my plan was to buy the M5 and send the M3 in for conversion, figuring that clearly in every way the M5 is going to be a better camera than the M3.

This article isn’t going to list all the features of the M5. You’ve already read the articles that tell you this. You’ve read the reviews where a reviewer has been playing with it for 30 minutes and then has to write three pages. You’ve read the reviews where some “independent” reviewer has been given one for free by Canon and strangely enough loves it.

I bought this camera with my hard earned money. And I switch from loving it to hating it every single time I use it.

First of all, let’s list the things I really love about it.

  1. Focus speed.   It’s by far the fastest focusing Canon Mirrorless camera ever. The DPAF (Dual-Pixel Autofocus) system inherited from the Canon 80D clearly brings a whole new world of focus speed and quality to the EOS lineup. One could argue that Canon shouldn’t have even bothered with previous cameras and waited for this before starting with mirrorless. But then one could easily say that the three-year-old Sony A6000 still focuses faster than the M5, and they’d be right.   But that’s really picking hairs. The focusing on this is absolutely fast enough for almost everything.

  2. Touch and Drag AF on the rear touch screen – But please note this is also on my list of hates. When it works this is incredibly useful. Drag your finger around on the touchscreen to select a focus point while you’re either using the touchscreen or, if you’re careful, the viewfinder.

  3. The rear screen is big and nice. Compared to the A6000 which has a tiny screen it’s a major improvement. It’s even better than the screen on the EOS M3, which I really liked.  It doesn’t fold forward if that’s a big thing for you though.

  4. It has a proper on/off switch! This was, for me, the biggest failure of the M3. And I said before that I wouldn’t buy an M5 unless this was fixed, and Canon, fearful of losing my sale, caved in.

  5. It looks like a mini EOS DSLR.  It looks like someone’s made a scale model of a normal Canon EOS camera. Alternatively, when I’m shooting with it, it makes me look like I have really big hands. This is a great thing.

  6. No 4K video. Wait? What? I’m listing this as a positive?  Yes. Because the video on the M5 is good. And one thing that is for certain, based on every other camera that shoots 4K, is that there are compromises that have to be made to make 4K work – usually involving heat dissipation. And you don’t have to guess what that also means for battery life. I’d rather Canon wait until there was a faster, more efficient, and less energy-hungry solution.

Ok. So if you’re a Canon fanboy you can stop reading now (unless you already stopped reading when I mentioned the A7RII.)

I’ll even give you some fake scores you can pretend are my real results:

Features: 92%   Usability: 95%   Overall: 94%  Five out of Five stars.

Thats it. Nothing more to read. Please don’t leave me angry messages.

Right. You’re still reading, which either means you’re not a Canon zealot or you just can’t follow simple instructions.  Here are the things I dislike about the M5. Some of them drive me absolutely bezerk.

  1. Touch and Drag AF on the rear touch screen – This invariably ends up as ‘randomize the focus point with your nose’ in the default settings, however this little complaint can mostly be dealt with if you change the setting for Touch & Drag AF settings to ‘Active Touch Area: Left’.

  2. Startup-time – I’m really glad the EOS M5 has a decent power on/off button as it makes controlling the power usage so much easier. But the startup time on the M5 is actually fractionally slower than on the M3, and about twice as slow as the time it takes for the Sony A6000 to start up.  A camera is no good at all if you’ve missed the shot in the time it takes to turn it on.

  3. Ergonomics – I’m looking here for a polite word to say instead of ‘shit’.   Ok. The ergonomics of this camera are somewhat disappointing. I could write a whole book on how badly Canon have screwed up the ergonomics of the M-series cameras. Every single one. Including this one.  I’ll start off with an easy one to resolve on the M5 though. The video record button can be easily triggered by accident. No big deal, this can be disabled in the menu.  And the Sony A7RII has exactly the same problem with it’s video record button. But when you have to turn off a default button because it keeps getting triggered by accident you have to chalk that one down to a design fault.

  4. Ergonomics, again – The menu button. That damn menu button is in the wrong place. It is far, far, far too easy to trigger with your hand when holding the M5 – especially when you have a heavier EF lens attached with the EF-EF-M lens adaptor. Contrast this with the Sony A6000 which is only slightly wider, but wide enough giving all buttons more room – and the nearest button to the bottom right is the photo delete button, so generally has no effect when you’re actually taking shots, only when you’re reviewing them later. And guess what – the menu button is the only one you can’t reprogram or disable in the M5 menus and this is the one that needs to be changed the most!

  5. Ergonomics, once more – Here’s a challenge for you if you are using an EOS M5.  With your eye to the viewfinder try to review your photos.  Now try and magnify one of them to view the detail. Where’s the magnify control? Not on the front dial which would be obvious (as it is when controlling zoom on manual focus), but on the secondary dial on the top (where you normally set ISO).  It’s a real pain. you have to keep moving your (big) hands and it is not at all comfortable to use. I use the viewfinder almost exclusively for reviewing images when outside at daylight – for me this is one of the major benefits of a mirrorless camera.  It was actually better on the EOS M3 with the two buttons above the arrow dial giving + and – zoom in magnification. I’d have to say if there was one thing about the M5 that I hated more than others, it would be this.

  6. ISO randomization – This is one I haven’t tracked down now. It may be related to the above problems, or it may be something different. But several times now I’ve found that my ISO setting has changed from AUTO to something ridiculous without me noticing. The other day I was taking a bunch of photos outdoors in the sunshine, and half way through I realised the ISO was 16000! I am assuming it’s a control being hit when I’m not noticing. But I haven’t found a way (yet) to lock the ISO to prevent it being changed while shooting. This would be good.

  7. Built-in flash – Maybe I was expecting too much to think that we’d have a meatier built-in flash than the wimpy pop-up unit that comes with the M3. But no, it looks like it’s exactly the same flash unit in just a more traditionally styled pop-up unit. And, having got used to the benefits of having the offset flash on the M3 I’m sad now that the flash is again dead center. I’m sure some people will be happier with that, but I prefer it off-center.

  8. Still, not enough lenses –  What on earth is happening Canon? It’s now 2017 and you still only have seven lenses, of which two are basic kit zooms, one is a wide angle zoom, one is a telephoto zoom, one is a superzoom and only two are primes, a 22mm and a 28mm macro.  Five years and we’ve seen seven lenses. Now, let’s look at the EF lens range. After only five years here’s the list of lenses that Canon had launched for this new mount:

    EF 50mm f/1.8
    EF 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5
    EF 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5
    EF 100-300mm f/5.6
    EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye
    EF 28mm f/2.8
    EF 70-210mm f/4
    EF 100-300mm f/5.6L
    EF 135mm f/2.8 Soft Focus

    EF 300mm f/2.8L USM
    EF 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5
    EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro
    EF 50-200mm f/3.5-4.5
    EF 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 II
    EF 35-135mm f/3.5-4.5
    EF 50-20mm f/3.5-4.5L
    EF 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5A
    EF 24mm f/2.8
    EF 200mm f/1.8L USM
    EF 600mm f/4L USM
    EF 100-200mm f/4.5A
    EF 28-80mm f/2.8-4L USM
    EF 50mm f/1.0L USM
    EF 85mm f/1.2L USM
    EF 80-200mm f/2.8L
    EF 20-35mm f/2.8L
    EF 35-135mm f/4-5.6 USM
    EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro
    EF 70-210mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
    EF 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM
    EF 35-80mm f/4-5.6
    EF 35mm f/2
    EF 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6
    EF 50mm f/1.8 II
    EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6
    EF 400mm f/2.8L USM
    TS-E 24mm f/3.5L
    TS-E 45mm f/2.8
    TS-E 90mm f/2.8
    EF 35-105mm f/4.5-5.6
    EF 100mm f/2 USM
    EF 28-80mm f/3,5-5.6 USM
    EF 14mm f/2.8L USM
    EF 200mm f/2.8L USM
    EF 300mm f/4L USM

    I think you get the point… So yes, Canon, I think you could have launched more than seven EF-M lenses in five years. Or just give up and bundle an EF-EF-M Lens Adaptor with every camera.

  9. Viewfinder – Oh. How foolish I was.  Did you, like I, assume that a built-in viewfinder was going to be so much better than having that ugly EVF-DC1 stuck on top of the camera? Well, It’s not. It’s not even close to being as useful as the optional viewfinder for the M3. Why?  The first problem is just a consequence of it being built in. You lose the flexibility that is so useful with the M3 and EVF-DC1. Being able to use the viewfinder at a 90 degree angle to the camera is extraordinarily useful in the most unexpected times. But, that was to be expected when buying a camera with a built-in viewfinder. And yes, we lose the ability to be able to rotate the screen to do selfies AND use a tripod at the same time.  

    But no, the biggest problem with the viewfinder is that the rubber surround is far too shallow so that a significant amount of light comes into your eyes from the outside world when using it. And you can’t seem to replace it – so no third party fixes are likely for this. It’s worse than the Sony A6000 (of course), and it’s much worse than the EVF-DC1.  Now, Canon could have at least added the contacts in the flash shoe on the M5 so that you could add an EVF-DC1 on top to replace the internal viewfinder when needed. But no, they didn’t.Of course what would probably have been better for me is to have a camera just like the EOS M3 but with the same sensor as the EOS M5. And, of course, news of the upcoming EOS M6 was released exactly on the same day that my M5 arrived. I haven’t tried the M6, but I suspect that it’ll be a better option for many people.

I needed to get all this down and vent my frustration. The annoying thing is that despite its many faults I really do like the photos that I get out of the EOS M5. I have been using it far more this year than either my A6000 or my A7RII. I wanted to love it. I wanted this to finally be the perfect Canon Mirrorless camera. I wanted to be able to take this on trips and not be concerned that I don’t have a bigger EOS with me.

The M5 is far from perfect. But at the same time there is much to love it for.  And when it comes down to the most important thing, it takes great photos.

But please, Canon, listen to me properly next time and make the EOS M7 right!




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