Sony has spent the last few years smashing out impressive mirrorless models across its APS-C and full-frame Alpha lines, and its flagship APS-C a6500 offering has already won much praise.
Canon’s EOS M line hasn’t quite received as many kind words by comparison, but its EOS M5 is currently its strongest competitor in the mid-range mirrorless arena, and thus a natural rival to the likes of the a6500. Let’s take a look at how they two match up.
Design and ergonomics
The a6500 has a more boxy, streamlined design by comparison, which may well appeal to those after something more contemporary, although a number of buttons around the body can be customised to taste to provide physical access to settings that would otherwise have to be accessed through the menus.
One of the more significant differences between the two is that the a6500 has a dust- and weather-resistant body that makes extensive use of magnesium alloy in its construction, whereas the EOS M5 makes more use of polycarbonate and has no claimed weather resistance.
Both cameras have been designed with built-in flashes that spring up from their top plates once released, and both also sport a hot shoe for mounting external flashguns.
Each camera uses a 24.2MP APS-C sensor to record images and videos, and each sensor has a 100-25,600 sensitivity range, although the a6500 can access extended sensitivity settings up to the equivalent of ISO 51,200.
To help squeeze all the goodness out of the sensor among other things, both also make use of an updated processing engine. Sony has pimped up the BIONZ X engine that featured inside the a6300 with revised image processing algorithms and a new front end LSI chip, while Canon’s DIGIC 7 engine is the latest iteration that has also featured inside the more recent EOS 80D and EOS 77D DSLRs among other cameras.
Although each camera has a five-axis image stabilisation system on board, the a6500’s system is mechanical while the EOS M5’s system is electronic (and only works when recording videos). Both cameras can be used with image-stabilised lenses in their respective lens stables, and these systems can work in conjunction with the built-in ones, but when you look at the overall mix of effectiveness and convenience, it’s clear the a6500’s system has the edge straight out of the box.
As is fast becoming standard on mirrorless bodies, each camera’s sensor has phase-detect AF pixels built into it. Sony’s sensor has 425 of these, and these works with a 169-point contrast detect AF system, while the EOS M5 makes do with 49 phase-detect AF pixels. Each camera uses a tried-and-tested focusing technology, Canon with its Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology and Sony with its 4D Focus system.
At least on paper, the EOS M5’s LCD screen appears to have the edge over the a6500’s. It measures 3.2in in size and has a resolution of 1,62million dots, next to the a6500’s 3in, 921k-dot display. It’s also sized to the 3:2 aspect ratio, whereas the a6500’s screen is the same wide format that provides a smaller view when images are composed at default settings (although this fills up when shooting 16:9-aspect-ratio videos).
Both displays are also mounted on a hinge for low- and high-level shooting, although the EOS M5’s screen tilts 85degeres up and 180degrees down while the a6500’s tilts 90degrees up and 45 degrees down.
Both screens have touch functionality built into them, and this allows the user to specify the focus point and pull focus when recording videos among other things. You can also adjust the focusing point here as you’re using the viewfinder on either model using your thumb.
The two appear evenly matched with their viewfinders, both being 0.39in-type EVFs with a panel containing 2.36million dots. The magnification on the a6500’s viewfinder, however, is a more generous 0.70x (in 35mm terms), next to the 0.62x magnification offered by the EOS M5’s finder.
When set to continuous shooting, the EOS is capable of 7fps shooting with autofocus and 9fps with AF locked to that of the first frame, while the a6500 can shoot at up to 11fps with autofocus and auto-exposure maintained throughout, and 8fps with live view remaining active as this happens.
Both cameras have Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth on board, and both accept SD-type cards through a single port. While the EOS M5 promises around 295 frames per charge of its battery (regardless of whether you’re using the viewfinder or rear display), the a6500 ups this to around 310 with the EVF and 350 with its LCD. You can, however, enable power-saving settings on each camera that should improve these figures.
Here, the two are immediately split by the a6500’s 4K UHD capabilities, and a wealth of supporting technology that we’ve come to expect from Sony. By contrast, the EOS M5 offers a Full HD alternative that records to 60p.
Both cameras have an input for external microphones but neither has a headphone socket to allow audio to be monitored during recording.
Sony has been considerably more prolific than Canon with its mirrorless line, and the success of its previous a6000-series cameras has meant we’ve come to expect great things from the a6500. And in many ways, it is the stronger camera of the two.
The EOS M5 does manage to equal it in a number of areas, and does have a handful of advantages too. Its LCD screen is larger and more flexible, and there’s the option to process Raw images in camera too, something the a6500 lacks. It’s also significantly cheaper too, although you could argue that the a6500’s premium is reflected in a stronger spec sheet.
Overall, the a6500 has plenty to keep it as the victor in this particular battle. From its video and viewfinder specs to its denser focusing system and wider range of native lenses to choose from, it delivers far more for the enthusiast – one with deep pockets, that is.