Canon M5: Hands-on First Impressions

Let me preface this by apologising to Canon.

Misguided, directionally lost, and often lumbering you may be, but the M5 has some astoundingly good features that makes it almost unique in the market.

When we heard initially that Canon had put out a new mirrorless camera without 4K, we choked back a smile, coughed politely twice, and then ended up breaking out into a guffaw. Even Fujifilm, with notoriously bad video performance, has upped its game with 4K video and F-log in the X-T2. Olympus now has 4K with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, Panasonic is making a sonic leap to 6K with the GH5, and Sony has been the industry leaders for the last few years. Nikon…we don’t talk about Nikon’s mirrorless cameras.

So right – no 4K, since that’s reserved for the 5D Mark IV (at a paltry 30 fps), a price of around US$1,000, and a severe lack of lenses (using an EF to EF-M adapter doesn’t truly count). What’s the big deal?

But when we got to the Canon booth at Photokina 2016 and actually got to try out the M5, we were incredibly impressed despite its shortcomings.



Let’s be clear – it’s not as “worth it” as the Sony A6300, which is actually cheaper and far more powerful – but the camera’s touchscreen is a technological marvel. We used the new built-in 2.36M-dot EVF, which was fast and responsive with a good refresh rate, and then tested out the touchscreen AF, which can be adjusted for either left or right-handed photographers. The AF touchscreen area can be customised in menu, but allows for one to easily look through the EVF while adjusting focus.

When coupled with Dual Pixel AF and a fast DIGIC 7 image processor, we could focus in with a long lens and shift the focus so easily between foreground and background. It’s remarkably intuitive, and I think that people who buy the M5 (many won’t be experienced photographers), will learn to love the feature. Even for the DigitalRev team, this aspect of the M5 was hugely impressive. We can’t wait to see how this gets pushed onto other cameras soon, since there’s no way the other mirrorless manufacturers will let this rest. The question is however, if they can make this experience as seamless as how Canon has done it, rather than Olympus.

Lok compares this to Apple in the mobile industry – like Canon, the company rarely actually innovates, but its implementation of technology is superb. While Olympus was the first to implement this touchscreen AF in its cameras, Canon has mastered it with the M5 and actually made it viable. Olympus’ touchscreen AF was never quite as convenient or intuitive as this, although we hope they learn something from Canon for the upcoming OM-D E-M1 Mark II.


Other positives aren’t new to the M5, but we do appreciate the compact size of the camera for the quality it offers, although obviously this isn’t meant to be for professional work.

Some members of our team thought the M5 was ugly as usual from Canon, soulless and bleak. On the other hand, I quite enjoyed the humble size and colour of the camera, although that is also linked to the continual main disadvantage of the system.



Before the M5 came out, many users lamented Canon’s lack of respect for the mirrorless market. They came too late, and with too little, and even after the M5 was released it’s hard to shake the sense that is a camera built with many intentional limitations.

Like the 5D Mark IV and 80D, Canon has not tried to cram in all the technology that we know it could has, and as a result, all three of these 2016 releases have felt a very underwhelming. This isn’t Canon’s finest hour, and during the company’s Photokina press conference, all they essentially did was confess their panic and confusion in the market. They spoke about how they were losing market share, and how they didn’t know what to do next.


On the other hand, every other company was optimistic, exuberant, and confident. Sony especially was practically gloating about how powerful the a99 II is. If the M5 had 4K, even at 30 fps, it wouldn’t be a laughing stock in the video world. Let’s face it – photographers love light video cameras (we certainly do) – and if Canon is worried about sabotaging its other cameras, the company should simply make fewer models.

As it stands, Canon continues to introduce EF-lenses, but no EF-M mount lenses. They should know that there’s no easy way around the fact that if you make a new mount, you need new lenses that fit the mount.

We tested out multiple EF lenses on the M5, because the M5 simply doesn’t have good glass. The EF lenses worked acceptably, but they were bulky, heavy, and completely out of place on the M5.



It’s a huge shame that the disadvantages of Canon’s mirrorless system outweighs the advantages of the M5. The camera is truly quite good, and we appreciate the speed and ease with which it operates. I absolutely love the touchscreen autofocus, and I think the M5 is as close an extention of the photographers’ mind as is currently available on the market.

However (and this is a big however), if Canon only took APS-C mirrorless as seriously as Fujifilm do with the X-mount series, maybe they wouldn’t be suffering so badly. Give us a better body, 10 new lenses including some EF-M L glass, 4K video, and some dials for ease-of-use, and Canon will win big in 2017. It’s not even like they have to work for market share. Despite our review of the M5, or anyone’s for that matter, Canon will ship many models of the M5.

If meeting the expectations of the average consumer is good enough for Canon, they’ll soon find out it’s not good enough for amateur and enthusiast photographers. Not a single photographer I know actively uses any EF-M cameras, even if they were previously devout Canon shooters.

When Canon start showing that they are serious about mirrorless, only then will cameras like the M5 get their due.

Until then, it’s a shame because this isn’t an ecosystem we would recommend photographers to buy in to. The M5 is a great camera, but Canon is doing its best to prevent us from wanting to use it.