- 24.1MP APS-C sensor
- ISO 100-51,200 (extended)
- 10fps continuous shooting
- 2.36m-dot electronic viewfinder
- 3in fully-articulated touchscreen
- 4K video recording
About the Canon EOS M50
*** Note : £1 = $1.40 (correct at time of post)
Canon’s new EOS M50 is an entry-level mirrorless camera that features a 24.1MP APS-C sensor, along with a built-in electronic viewfinder and fully-articulated touchscreen. It’ll come in black or white, and cost £649.99 with a 15-45mm lens, or £539.99 body only.
While Canon has been making mirrorless cameras for almost six years now, it’s generally given the impression that it’s not completely convinced by the idea. In particular, it’s appeared to shy away from making models that might compete directly with its own DSLRs. Aside from the top-end EOS M5, it’s concentrated on producing small viewfinderless designs, and there are still only seven native EF-M mount lenses in its line-up.
Now, though, we have the EOS M50, and perhaps things are starting to change. Canon calls it a ‘premium entry-level’ model that slots into its range between the super-simple EOS M100 and the more advanced EOS M6. However it has an SLR-like design with a built-in central electronic viewfinder, along with a fully-articulated touchscreen. It offers a similar degree of external control to the firm’s ultra-compact EOS 200D DSLR, and crucially, comes to the market at a similar launch price. So for the first time, Canon is offering first-time interchangeable-lens camera buyers a genuine choice between DSLR and mirrorless.
It may look like just another faux-DSLR, but inside the EOS M50’s unassuming little body, Canon has packed in a surprising number of firsts. It features a new generation of the firm’s Dual-Pixel CMOS AF sensor, which is capable of phase-detection autofocus across a wider area of the frame. It also debuts the latest Digic 8 processor, promising better-looking image files along with extra features such as eye-detection AF.
There’s a new CR3 raw format, which like the current CR2 format is capable of storing 14-bit data, with the same image quality and in a similar file size. But it adds a space-saving full-resolution C-RAW option that promises file sizes 30-40% smaller, depending on the ISO. As with the conventional raws, C-RAW can be re-processed in-camera after shooting, to correct any settings errors or impart a different look to your shots.
Canon has also included a completely silent shooting mode that uses a fully-electronic shutter – the first time this has appeared on a EOS camera. But frustratingly, it’s only available from a fully-automated mode that’s accessed from the SCN position on the exposure-mode dial. The electronic shutter can’t apparently be selected in any other shooting mode, which feels like a missed opportunity.
Some interesting new connectivity features are included, courtesy of the built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. In addition to the usual remote control and image-transfer options, it’s now possible to have all of your images copy automatically across to your phone for sharing on social media using the Camera Connect app – a feature we’re increasingly seeing added across all brands. But in addition, the EOS M50 can sync images automatically to PC or Mac computers that have Canon Image Transfer Utility 2 installed. I suspect a lot of enthusiast photographers will find this more useful, compared to clogging up valuable storage space on their smartphones.
Incidentally, the EOS M50 isn’t compatible with Canon’s older wired or infrared remote releases, which in effect are made redundant by the ability to simply use your smartphone instead. It can be used with Canon’s optional £40 BR-E1 Bluetooth remote, but this doesn’t add anything extra that you can’t do for free using your phone.
Core specifications are very competitive, with the EOS M50 offering a sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600 that’s expandable to ISO 51,200 if necessary. Shutter speeds range from 30 – 1/4000sec, with an electronic first-curtain shutter employed to minimise any risk of vibration spoiling your shots.
Canon’s exclusive Dual Pixel CMOS sensor means every sensor pixel is capable of being used for phase detection, allowing fast autofocus almost wherever the subject is situated within the frame. The EOS M5 can employ a maximum of 143 focus points laid out in a 13 x 11 grid, although with some lenses this is reduced to a smaller 99-point array. The AF system is sensitive to -2EV, which means the camera should continue to focus in extremely low light.
Metering is handled by a 384-zone evaluative system, and if Canon’s other mirrorless models are anything to go on, I’d expect it to be exceptionally good at judging exposure. Continuous shooting is decently quick, thanks to the new Digic 8 processor, at 10fps with focus fixed, or 7.4fps with focus adjusted between shots. You can expect to shoot 10 raw frames in burst, or at least 33 JPEGs, before the camera slows down, which is quite respectable for this class.
Better late than never, the EOS M50 becomes the firm’s first consumer-level camera capable of shooting 4K video. The caveat is that this is recorded using a native 3840 x 2160 region at the centre of the sensor, bringing a field of view crop of 1.6x, or even more depending on the mode selected for the 5-axis electronic video stabilisation. So if you want to capture sweeping vistas in 4K you’ll need to buy the EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lens.
Unusually at this price, however, you do get a built-in 3.5mm stereo microphone socket. In combination with the dual pixel CMOS AF, fully-articulated touchscreen and Wi-Fi remote control capability this could well make the EOS M50 popular for video shooting, particularly with vloggers.
Build and handling
As expected at this price point, the EOS M50 is constructed with a polycarbonate rather than metal body shell, but it feels robust enough. Canon has become very adept at building decent handgrips onto small camera bodies, and crucially has left a well-defined space to place your thumb.
As a result, the M50 fits quite nicely in your hand and is surprisingly secure when used one-handed. Obviously though it doesn’t handle as well as the higher-end EOS M5, and neither does it have the tactile retro charisma of its closest competitor, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III.
In terms of operation, the EOS M50 uses a single electronic dial for changing exposure settings, coupled with small set of buttons giving direct access to key functions. This is a formula Canon has used successfully on its entry-level SLRs for decades, since well before digital cameras first appeared, so it’s no surprise to see it again here. However it now feels a touch complacent with the likes of Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic all offering twin-dial mirrorless cameras at this level, which are invariably nicer to use.
Fortunately though the physical controls are complemented by Canon’s superb touch interface, which is one of the best in the business. It includes the firm’s results-oriented guided user interface inherited from the EOS 200D and 800D DSLRs, and designed to make the camera easy to get to grips with for new users. When using the viewfinder, Canon’s touch-and-drag AF is available for moving the focus point around the frame.
Viewfinder and Screen
The viewfinder itself appears to be similar to that used in other recent Canon models, being a 2.36-million dot, 0.39-type OLED unit. It’s a reasonable size for the price, and can display lots of useful information such as gridlines, an electronic level, and a live histogram – including Canon’s unique RGB version.
Beneath the viewfinder, the fully-articulated design of the 3in 1.04m-dot LCD is great for shooting at unusual angles. Unlike any DSLR, the M50 can seamlessly switch between viewfinder and LCD shooting without and difference in behaviour or functionality.
At first sight, the Canon EOS M50 looks like a really well-judged little camera at an attractive price. It’s got a decent specification, handles pretty well, and should deliver fine image quality. Of course it’s only fair to point out that there are some very capable older models still on the market available for less, such as the Panasonic Lumix G7 and Olympus E-M10 II, and prospective buyers should also be aware of the limited native EF-M lens range available.
On the other hand, one considerable point in the EOS M50’s favour is its ability to work with any EF-mount SLR lens using the Canon EF-EOS M mount adapter. With Canon’s huge brand-recognition behind it, I think there’s every chance the EOS M50 could be a real hit when it goes on sale in March.