Canon’s EOS team still largely consists of rock-solid, reliable DSLRs, but there’s now a genuinely exciting mirrorless flair player in its ranks – the EOS M50.
Exciting…really? Yep, it’s not just wishful thinking this time – the M50 is a real tie-loosening moment for cautious Canon. Rather than nervously testing the mirrorless waters, it’s donned some Hawaiian shorts and jumped straight in.
Aimed at smartphone-upgraders rather than dial-loving DSLR fans, the M50 brings a host of firsts for a Canon mirrorless cam: 4K video recording, a vari-angle touchscreen, a silent shutter mode, and its new Digic 8 processor.
Not bad for a snapper that costs less than the viewfinder-less EOS M6 and many of its mid-range CSC rivals, such as the Sony A6300.
Is this the breakout Canon mirrorless camera we’ve been waiting for? I had a brief play with one at its launch event to find out…
DESIGN: SIMPLE PLEASURES
Canon’s mirrorless cameras come in two flavours. Its more ‘serious’ models (the EOS M5 and M6) have a range of dials and buttons that will be comfortably familiar to those coming from DSLRs.
And then there are those like the M100 and now M50, which replace physical buttons with more smartphone-like touchscreen menus.
This means the top of the M50 has just one main menu dial, alongside a customisable multi-function button and an electronic dial around the shutter. DSLR fans who like lots of manual controls may scoff, but it’s a simple setup that’s right for its target audience.
This audience is clearly YouTube bloggers, because right next to the M50’s shutter is a video button. Clearly, Canon expects M50 owners to be shooting a lot of video, and why not when it can shoot 4K at 24p and HD at 120fps?
Not that the M50 is overly focused on video. We criticised the M100 for stripping things back too far with its lack of viewfinder, but the M50 has a bright, hi-res one plus a vari-angle touchscreen, which means you can tilt it up and down as well as out to the side. In other words, you won’t be short of options for framing your shot.
The M50’s polycarbonate build means it feels quite light in the hand, if a bit less premium than some of its metallic rivals. Some may bemoan the lack of weather-proofing, but it’s hard to complain when it’s a feature even the £1000 Fujifilm X-T20 lacks.
Unless you’re a fan of meaty grips and dials galore, the M50’s design looks to be a bit of a crowdpleaser – and that theme continues when you check out its features list…
Features: in cruise control
One of the strengths of Canon’s beginner-friendly DSLRs like the 80D is that they make it pretty difficult to take bad photos – and it’s the same with the M50.
It has up to 149 autofocus points (depending on which lens you’re using) and Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus for quickly locking onto subjects, although this is only available up to Full HD resolution in video (for 4K it switches to the less reliable contrast detection).
Still, it does at least shoot in 4K at 25fps, which is a first for a Canon mirrorless cam, and that’s not the only new feature on board.
For starters, you get new type of five-axis image stabilisation, which combines information from the lens with the camera’s giros in a similar way to Olympus’ system.
There’s also a silent shutter mode to help avoid startling pets and, alongside Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth, a new automatic transfer function that lets the M50 send shots to the Canon smartphone app, if you have it running in the background.
If the M50’s standard range of focusing modes isn’t enough, you can also choose ‘Eye Detect’ autofocus. This (you guessed it) lets you choose which eye of your subject or pet you want to be in focus, in much the same way as Sony’s Eye AF.
Been nominated as the official snapper for the office five-a-side tournament? The M50 can also rattle off shots at a decent 10fps too, for up to 33 frames (or 10 frames if you’re shooting in RAW). Talking of which, there’s a new C-RAW option that promises to crunch RAW files down to 30%-40% the size of a standard RAW file.
The M50’s ‘Touch and Drag’ AF function, also seen on the M5, might also come in handy here, as you can adjust autofocus on the screen without taking your eye from the viewfinder.
In short, the M50 doesn’t hold back for a sub-£600, APS-C camera – if you want something to shoot video and stills, and do much of the thinking for you, it’s a very promising new option.
It’s too early to judge the M50’s stills and video performance, but the early signs from its 24.1MP, APS-C sensor are good.
Its autofocus was quick to lock onto subjects, even in dimly lit rooms, while the ‘Eye Detect’ mode worked well during my brief play with it.
The viewfinder was bright and crisp, and it was also good to see Canon’s ‘Guided Interface’ on board too – this provides little photos and explanations for each mode to help fledgling snappers along.
WHICH LENSES CAN I USE WITH THE EOS M50?
The M50 uses Canon’s M-mount, which means it’s compatible with its range of EF-M lenses.
These are generally very affordable, if slightly lacking in prime options that are rumoured to be coming out later in 2018.
Still, if you already have a stack of Canon lenses from your DSLR, you can also buy the £99 EF-M adaptor to make it compatible with the dozens of EF and EF-S lenses out there.
Canon EOS M50 early verdict
It’s taken a few years, but Canon seems to have finally overcome its mirrorless camera reticence and nailed a great all-rounder in the M50.
With its touchscreen controls, lack of dials and video focus, the M50 is more likely to appeal to smartphone upgraders than DSLR traditionalists. Then again, even EOS 5D owners might find its feature list enticing enough to make it a fun stand-in camera for travelling light.
We’ll bring you our full verdict before it goes on sale in March 2018.