It’s a fraction of the size of the Canon EOS 80D DSLR, yet it has the same sensor and many of the same features. It also has a built-in viewfinder, for the first time in a Canon EOS M mirrorless camera – aka CSC (Compact System Camera) – so does the EOS M5 do enough to tempt users away from Canon’s mainstream DSLRs? This is Canon’s flagship CSC, replacing the M3 at the top of its line-up – though the M3 continues, as does the entry-level E-M10. Canon says the aim with this camera is to provide enthusiast photographers with the speed, quality and handling of an EOS camera in a much smaller body. It’s a tiny camera, but it still packs in a 24.2Mp APS-C sensor. The resolution is the same as the existing EOS M3, but the M5 has the more advanced Dual CMOS AF system found in the EOS 80D, where each photosite is split into ‘left’ and ‘right’ parts to offer on-chip phase-detection autofocus. This AF system also works across 80 per cent of the width and height of the frame – a much larger area than regular DSLR autofocus sensors. This sensor is matched with a DIGIC 7 image processor which offers in-camera diffraction correction for sharper images at super-small apertures and, according to Canon, improved noise reduction.
The EOS M5 can tackle action too, at an impressive 9 frames per second if the focus is locked on the first frame, or 7fps with autofocus. The specs don’t mention the buffer capacity, but Canon has posted a video introduction quoting a buffer capacity of 20+ Raw images. The M5 doesn’t shoot 4K video (is Canon missing a trick here?) but it can shoot full HD at up to 60fps, for smooth 2x slow-motion effects. It also has 5-axis digital stabilization – that’s not the same as proper optical image stabilization, but it should improve handheld footage whether or not the lens being used has image stabilization.
EOS M cameras use a different lens mount to the regular EOS range. There are just seven EOS M lenses at the time of writing and they’re designed principally for beginners and enthusiasts rather than pros, but they do collectively cover a range of focal lengths from 11-200mm, and they all come with Canon’s STM stepper motor autofocus technology for smooth operation while filming video.
You can also use Canon’s EF-EOS M mount adaptor, which enables you to fit regular Canon EF and EF-S lenses without any loss of function. While the EOS M5 has Wi-Fi and NFC built in, it also incorporates always-on Bluetooth LE technology. The camera and your smart device maintain a constant low-energy Bluetooth connection, so that when you launch the Camera Connect app on your smart device it can automatically start a Wi-Fi connection for image transfer and remote camera control.

Build and handling
For such a small camera, the EOS M5 handles remarkably well. There’s not a lot of room on the top plate, but Canon has still found room for a good-sized mode dial on the left, two control dials on the right and an EV compensation dial.
One of the control dials is for customizable camera functions. You press the central button repeatedly to choose the function and then turn the dial to change the setting. It works really well, but you have to dig pretty deep in the custom settings menu to find out how to add more settings.
Round the back is a rather small and lightweight combined navigation pad and control dial. This is pretty fiddly to use, especially if you’re wearing gloves, and it’s a bit of a low spot in the otherwise excellent controls. If you don’t know where to find a particular shooting setting, chances are it’s on the camera’s Q Set screen, which displays a row of settings icons down the left and right side of the screen – and they don’t obscure your subject while you’re shooting either.
It’s not all sweetness and light. The memory card and battery sit next to one another under a door on the base of the camera – a bit of a nuisance when changing cards, but a common compromise in small camera bodies – plus the lens retraction button on the 14-45mm kit lens is fairly flush with the lens barrel and a little fiddly to operate. This lens has a plastic rear mounting plate, which isn’t unusual on low-cost kit lenses, but it’s a bit disappointing to find the more expensive 18-150mm kit lens option also has a plastic mount. Both lenses feel a little cheap. They’re not especially fast, either, since both have a maximum aperture at telephoto end of f/6.3. In program mode, the M5 often chose shutter speeds slower than we liked. The iOS app works well, though, and offers a painless way of simply transferring photos to your phone.

The touch-screen focus works well, but if you use the viewfinder and the touch-focus feature on the main screen at the same time, it’s all too easy to touch the screen accidentally with your nose and focus on something you didn’t mean to. While Canon’s Dual Pixel autofocus is undoubtedly better than regular (and slower) contrast autofocus, it did seem to hunt and fail sometimes in low-light situations where we’d expect an EOS DSLR to focus without any trouble. In good light, though, the autofocus works fine. With the 15-45mm STM kit lens, it felt almost but not quite as snappy as a mid-range EOS DSLR. The results are very good, though the response of the Evaluative exposure metering system proved a little hard to predict. Very bright subjects led itto underexpose now and then; we had to dial in some positive exposure compensation.
The dynamic range proved good but not exceptional in both our lab and real-world tests – the camera tends to cut off the brightest areas fairly abruptly. The high-ISO performance is impressive, though. At ISO1600 the EOS M5’s images look crisp, colourful and relatively noise-free. They’re a little noisier and softer at ISO3200, and more so at ISO6400 – which is probably about as far as you’d want to go if quality was important. The results at ISO12,800 are still okay, but at the maximum setting of 25,600 the combined effect of noise, smoothing and general softness is excessive. To its credit, the EOS M5 matches the image quality of an EOS DSLR in a package almost half the size – this little mirrorless CSC certainly doesn’t lack power.