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Hands On With The Minuscule Canon M5 Mirrorless | First Impressions

By Holly Roa on February 28th 2017

I’ve had the tiny and adorable Canon M5 mirrorless camera in my possession for a few weeks now and today I’ll give you a little teaser before the full review – a first impressions post.

The M5 sits in a curious place in the Canon M series lineup – it’s the fanciest and priciest one, and the only one that includes a built-in EVF, but numerically  it falls between the M3 and the newly released M6, which is basically a stripped-down M5.

Now, Canon has gotten a lot of flack for being a ‘day late’ and a ‘dollar short’ to the mirrorless party, but I think the M5 should clear up some of that smack-talking chatter. This is a very capable little camera.

Upon unboxing, the aesthetic and form-factor jumped right out. This thing is cute. It’s a baby version of Canon’s full frame offerings, physically; it’s covered with an attractive, leather-ish texture which feels rubberized and the dials are all aesthetically pleasing black metal with textured sides.

5D Mark II & The New M5 | Soulmates #slrlounge

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Picking the M5 up, I was pleasantly surprised by it’s weight, and the grip felt wonderful in my (small) hand. It’s possible someone with larger hands might not feel as comfortable with it, but I found it to be a great fit. It’s a solid little camera; nothing about it comes off as cheap, unlike some of Canon’s lower-end APS-C models.

It has a built-in electronic viewfinder with a sensor sitting next to it which tells the camera when to use the EVF vs the LCD by noticing when something is covering the eyepiece.

The EVF has 2.36M dots and looks perfect. The LCD display has 1.62M and similarly, there is really no complaint to be had with images displayed being bright and crisp. Speaking of the LCD, it flips out to use for shots above and below eye level without contorting to get a shot, and can be flipped all the way around for one of today’s most important types of photography, the selfie. It does not, however flip out to the side.

For the purpose of the review the M5 will be paired with 2 lenses: The 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 EF-M lens, and the 22mm f/2 EF-M. The 22mm has hardly left the body, except whenever it occurred to me that I should use it in order to have something to say about the kit 14-45mm or I wanted something a little wider or with a little more reach. The 22mm is tack sharp and fast enough to grab low-light shots, particularly in combination with the M5‘s capable high ISO handling. The other, well, it’s a kit lens. It’s not awful for what it is, I just have something more fun to play with so I’ve been fairly disinterested.

To current Canon shooters, the menu and button layouts will feel very familiar and intuitive, bearing a strong similarity to models you may already own – with one caveat that would make the camera feel more “right” in a Nikon shooter’s hands – there is a dial on top of the camera for changing settings with your thumb rather than a thumb dial on the back, in addition to a front dial meant to be accessed with your index finger.


The index dial controls the variable in semi-automatic modes (shutter in Tv, aperture in Av) while the rear dial is used for ISO or white balance – toggled by pressing the DIAL FUNC button in the center of the dial. In manual mode, however, the front dial is for shutter and the DIAL FUNC button cycles between aperture, white balance, and ISO for the rear dial. There is yet another dial next to the rear dial dedicated to EV adjustments – an indicator along with the “scene” modes that it’s a novice-friendly camera.

All in all, it’s been a really fun take-anywhere camera that I was fortunate to get the day before leaving for a vacation. I took it everywhere with me and certainly took a lot more photos than I would have, had I been lugging around a full frame DSLR.

As a Canon shooter, it’s nice to have something little that’s still “in the family.” In some ways I preferred it to my 5D Mark II, though it’s not new. I’d be lying if I said I won’t be sending it back just a little begrudgingly.


ISO 100, 22mm, f/6.3, 1/1000

ISO 100, 22mm, f/2.0, 1/800

ISO 100, 22mm, f/6.3, 1/1250

ISO 250, 22mm, f/4.0, 1/640

ISO 250, 45mm, f/6.3, 1/4000

ISO 1250, 22mm, f/2.2, 1/100

ISO 1250, 22mm, f/2.0, 1/100

ISO 100, 22mm, f/2.0, 1/400 Image processed in-camera and transferred to iPad via the M5’s built in wifi.

So, there’s a small taste of the Canon M5 experience, much more to come in the full review – coming soon! What are your thoughts on Canon’s mirrorless lineup? Are you ready to add one to your kit?

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Seattle based photographer with a side of videography, specializing in work involving animals, but basically a Jill of all trades.
Instagram: @HJRphotos

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Barry Johnson

    Longtime Canon FF user here who last year tried the Olympus Pen F for a travel kit. I went away disappointed. The noise over 6400 was atrocious. I went for the M5 and used it on a recent trip to Kauai with the 11-22, 22 and 18-150. The 22 stayed on my body for 90% of the time and the only thing I missed was an adapted 50 for a 80 equivalent. (I wish Canon would continue with the 22 f/2 mold and finish the Prime Trinity for EF-M)  I am blown away at my images, especially in low light and long shutters speeds. I did quite a bit of ICM and Bulb shots which most came out close to my experiences with the 5D3. Very happy with the EVF and DPAF using the 1/3 of the screen for thumb focusing. Happy! 

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  2. Geert Peeters

    Thanks for the review!

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  3. adam sanford

    Nice review, Holly, thanks.

    The M5 is effectively a tiny 80D without a mirror.  Critically, it’s Canon’s first ‘complete’ mirrorless setup in that it marries DPAF + EVF to create a proper working mirrorless rig. 

    Everything that came before with EOS M lacked an integral EVF and lacked the peppy AF handling SLR’s enjoyed in LiveView with DPAF, so it always handled and felt like ‘cell phone photography with a nice sensor’.  The M5, however, handles like a proper camera.

    It needs more native small EF-M lenses, but with Canon reliability/quality and the EF portfolio to back it up, I expect this rig to sell well even when out-spec’d by the a6500s of the world.

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  4. adam sanford

    Correction:  An M6 is just an M5 without an integral VF or as chunky a grip.  The internals are the same.  It is not stripped down.

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    • Holly Roa

      Or, it’s literally stripped down, physically. ;) I like the EVF and the chunky grip personally and prefer the M5 to the M6. I like having a mini-me to my full frame on hand. It’s cute. Very good points in the post above though!

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  5. David Hodgins

    I had an M3, and the only reason I got out of the system wasn’t the body, but the lens selection. First, though, with the M system, I think you have to consider it for what it is, and not what it isn’t. It is NOT a Sony A7-series, and not is it a GH5.

    Right now, I feel there are too many compromises in the system overall. You can do a lot with it, but it means adapting EF or EF-S mount lenses, or 3rd-party.

    The variable aperture lenses for the system are slow. If Canon brought out an 12mm f/2 (and since Rokinon has something similar, it’s possible, just need to add AF), a 50mm f/2 and a 100mm f/2 in the M-mount (not adapted, as mentioned above) all to go along with the 18-150, you’d have a small, very capable system. Even adapted, the Canon 85/1.8 or 100/f are still small. But it means using an adapter, which adds a point of failure. Would also be nice to see IBIS for stills.

    Also price. At $599 with the adapter, currently the M3 isn’t bad. It’s not a $1k camera. I don’t think the M5 with a kit lens is a $1k camera, especially when the Rebels for the same capability are much less. Sony and Fuji are significantly more advanced in this price point.

    There’s a lot of potential in the M system, including the M5, but Canon need to work on the rest of the overall system before bringing out yet another body.

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    • Holly Roa

      Hi David! The M5 is definitely not comparable to a Rebel, closer to an 80D as Adam noted above, but considerably smaller and lighter, with four more focus points and a 2fps faster burst rate. And much shorter battery life – probably my least favorite thing about mirrorless. The M5 really does handle like a baby DSLR in a good way – I recommend trying one out before judging it in comparison to an M3. As for the adapter, I think it’s a bit pessimistic to call it an added point of failure. Canon does make their own which I will be testing with the M5 this week and I’ve yet to have something they made fail on me.

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    • adam sanford

      David, I agree that more/better EF-M lenses need to happen, but remember that adaptors do a few nice things:

      1) Adaptors bring in hordes of EF and EF-S lens owners to the platform, who might be reluctant to opt in without such an adaptor.  So those adapters bring volume and dollars to the brand, which only spurs Canon to invest in it further. 

      2) Developing EF-M lens portfolio will take many years, so an adaptor is a temporary on-ramp to let you use any EF or EF-S lens you want on day one.

      3) Adaptors give users the option to upshift to more professional optics with faster USM focusing that a tiny platform like EF-M will likely never offer. 

      And these adaptors are doing a lot less heavy lifting optically than a teleconverter, and I rarely hear of reliability problems there.  I don’t expect a Canon adaptor to Canon glass to be problematic whatsoever.

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