It’s been a long wait, but finally Canon has launched its first really serious SLR-style mirrorless camera. Andy Westlake finds out how it stands up in this competitive market
Canon EOS M5 review: Build and handling
The Canon EOS M5’s body is primarily polycarbonate rather than aluminium or magnesium alloy, but it still manages to feel sturdy in your hand, aided by a nicely shaped, if somewhat small rubber-coated grip. Indeed, it handles remarkably well for a small camera that measures just 115.6 x 89.2 x 60.6mm and weighs 427g, although those with larger hands may well find it all a bit cramped. The impression of quality is maintained by the attractive gunmetal top plate and beautifully knurled metal dials. These manage to combine being well placed and easy to use, but difficult to knock accidentally, which sadly can’t be said of all cameras. Unfortunately, Canon doesn’t claim any level of weatherproofing, which is disappointing at this price point.
While the design and control layout are an evolution of the EOS M3’s, with an exposure compensation dial and main electronic dial around the shutter release, Canon has added an additional thumb dial on the top plate. This has a Dial Func button in its centre, pressing which cycles the dial through controlling various functions including ISO, white balance and (in manual-exposure mode) aperture setting. You can choose to add further settings to the list, such as metering, drive and focus modes, and configure the dial separately for movie shooting. This all turns out to be a excellent way of putting lots of control at your fingertips, allowing you to change key exposure settings without having to take your eye from the viewfinder. Indeed, in some regards it works better than any of Canon’s DSLRs, such as when shooting in manual-exposure mode with Auto ISO.
The d-pad on the camera’s back provides direct access to ISO, flash mode and manual focus, and is surrounded by a somewhat fiddly fourth control dial that is mainly used to change secondary settings and in playback mode. Sadly, the d-pad can’t be set to move the autofocus point around the frame directly, as on other similar cameras; instead you have to press the AF area button on the camera’s shoulder first, which can be difficult to locate by touch and easily mixed up with the auto exposure lock button. The focus point can be placed almost anywhere around the frame and two sizes of AF area are available, the smaller of which is handy when dealing with finely detailed subjects. But other brands such as Panasonic and Fujifilm offer considerably more flexibility in this respect.
A button on the front plate is by default set to toggle the touchscreen AF area selection function on and off, while on the top plate there’s a configurable M-Fn button that oddly is set to do nothing at all. But practically all of the button functions can be reassigned to functions of your choosing, so most users should be able to set it up to suit their shooting. Add in the comprehensive on-screen control panel and customisable Q Menu, plus two user-configurable Custom modes accessed from the main mode dial, and you should rarely have to dip into the menus while shooting.
The rear screen is touch sensitive, and thanks to Canon’s excellent interface it complements the physical controls very well. Not only can it be used to change almost any setting, it’s also available for selecting the autofocus point, even when using the electronic viewfinder. We’ve seen this on plenty of cameras before, but the EOS M5’s implementation allows you to choose the area of the screen you wish to use. You can either use the whole screen, left or right halves, or any of the four quarters. If you set the Position Method to Relative, the camera won’t reset the focus point if your nose contacts the touchscreen while shooting, either. Together these options make the EOS M5’s touchpad AF point selection more usable than many of its rivals, although it’s still no substitute for a dedicated control.