Monday 20 May 2019

Tech Review: Canon's M50: the 'M' may as well stand for 'meh'

Canon Eos M50, €679 or €759 with 15-45mm lens

Canon Eos M50
Canon Eos M50
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Like the photographic equivalent of an oil tanker, Canon is ever-so-slowly turning itself around to focus more prominently on mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras. It has no real choice.

Mirrorless cameras are starting to blow traditional DSLRs away among ordinary people who want high-quality cameras without the bulkiness involved. And both Canon and Nikon are now playing catchup to brands such as Sony, Fuji and Panasonic, which have all prioritised mirrorless models (and better quality lenses to fit them) for several years.

This will culminate in Canon announcing a full-frame mirrorless camera (plus matching lenses) later this year. In the meantime, it's still putting out new models within its smaller mirrorless 'M' ecosystem.

The newest is the Eos M50, which I've been shooting with for a month.

It's a capable, neat little camera with some natural advantages over direct competitors, as well as one or two drawbacks.

In my experience, its two biggest advantages are its flip-out rotating touchscreen and its superb autofocusing system. The first of these lets you take all sorts of photos and videos without guessing whether you have the right shot. Meanwhile, the dual-pixel autofocusing system means you'll rarely miss a shot whether taking a photo or recording a video. It's absolutely excellent.

Both of these features, incidentally, make the M50 a serious option for video bloggers. The camera's 4K video recording (a real rarity for Canon, which is way behind the curve on this score) and 3.5mm microphone jack are also important here, although there's no headphone jack to turn this into a cut-price rival for something such as Panasonic's video-supreme GH5S.

I found its electronic viewfinder to be excellent, emphasising a real benefit that mirrorless cameras have over DSLRs.

Otherwise, it has a decent 24-megapixel APS-C sensor and, with a processor that's far more powerful than entry-level DSLRs and can shoot up to 10 frames per second. (The same relatively powerful Digic 8 processor that makes the 10 frames possible is also responsible for the camera supporting semi-slow motion at 120 frames per second in 1080p high definition.) It also has 5-axis stabilisation which helps shoot in poor light or steadies things up when you're zoomed in on something.

As for day-to-day use, it's all fairly easy to handle. So for a casual photographer or vlogger that wants decent quality with little fuss, the M50 fits the bill just fine.

For more ambitious photographers who want to invest in a system, it's hard to recommend the M50 over similarly-priced rivals such as Panasonic's GX8 or Olympus's OMD E-M10.

For one thing, the M50 is aimed squarely at casual users who want to shoot mainly on 'automatic' mode. It has a paucity of quick controls (dials, knobs or wheels) to let you manually adjust things quickly. That's fine for many people but is likely to turn enthusiasts off.

But the main drawback for those thinking of building their photo future around the M50 is the relatively poor range of lenses. Canon really has treated the development of its 'M' range of lenses as a second-class priority because it has only made seven of them. All but one of the seven available lenses is f3.5 or above, meaning they're of limited use in low light conditions. Compare this to the stellar lens lineup you get with Panasonic, Olympus or Fuji for their similarly-priced mirrorless cameras and Canon's 'M' series looks like a questionable investment. Sure, there's an adapter to make the camera work with Canon's bigger (and superb) DSLR lenses, but this is a little awkward.

To be fair, a great many people don't look at it like this and simply want a decent camera with a decent lens, or maybe two at the most, for holiday photos or casual videos. And it is also worth saying that Canon 'M' lenses are all relatively cheap compared to some of the high-priced (though much better) lenses for mirrorless rivals.

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