The popularity of mirrorless cameras has been exploding ever since Panasonic and Olympus trotted out their first Micro Four Thirds system cameras in 2008. As compact cameras have gotten more fashionable, companies like Sony and FujiFilm have spun up their own entries and heated up the market. Meanwhile, traditional DSLR makers like Canon and Nikon were slow to hop on the mirrorless bandwagon, and their first attempts to make small and powerful interchangeable-lens cameras were a little disappointing.
But Canon’s latest mirror-free model shows it’s ready to compete. The Canon EOS M5 is tiny, but not so tiny as to drop all the knobs and buttons that make DSLRs so wonderful to control. Still, with a slim 22mm f/2.0 EF-M mount lens attached to it, the M5 is almost pocketable.
There’s a sizeable grip on the right side, along with easy-to-access physical controls for shooting modes, exposure compensation, and a jog wheel for user-selected manual settings. Packed inside it is a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, the same size imager you’ll find in Canon’s consumer-friendly DSLRs.
Most importantly, this camera has the blazing-fast Dual Pixel autofocus tech built into higher-end DSLRs such as the EOS 70D, EOS 80D, and EOS 5D IV. If you know about the iPhone’s “Focus Pixels” and the superfast autofocus on the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Google Pixel, this is the same kind of near-instantaneous phase-detection AF in a camera with a much bigger sensor, better lenses, better low-light performance, and deeper controls. The EOS M5 can capture 7 shots per second with autofocus adjusting from shot to shot.
The ISO dials up to 25,600, and like most modern cameras, the M5 finds room in its 2.4-inch-deep body for Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth features. In addition to a 2.3-million-dot OLED eye-level viewfinder, there’s a 3.2-inch adjustable touchscreen around the back that flips all the way down for selfies.
Like many of the latest mirrorless cameras, a five-axis stabilization system is also built into the body. It’s designed to provide ultimate steadiness when used with an optically stabilized Canon M-mount lens.
There are a few tradeoffs compared to the very best interchangeable-lens cameras. The EOS M5 doesn’t shoot 4K video, topping out at 1080p at 60 frames per second. And as is the norm with an APS-C sensor, there’s a 1.6x focal length multiplier/crop factor to think about with EF-M lenses.
The EOS M5 was announced last month, but the pint-size powerhouse will finally be available in a few weeks. Shipping in early November, it’ll cost $980 for the body only, or up to $1,480 with a stabilized 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 zoom lens.