Does the EOS M50 provide a glimpse of what we can expect from Canon’s upcoming full-frame mirrorless camera?
In not so distant past, the arrival of digital cameras radically changed the photography industry. In the current world of photography, a person using a film camera is just as rare as a shot of a Javan Rhino in its natural habitat. As technology began to change the world, photographers too changed their ways and gave up film cameras for faster, less cumbersome and easy to operate DSLRs.
Things, however, are changing once again. What DSLRs did to film cameras is now being done to DSLRs by mirrorless cameras, as manufacturers are developing technology to eliminate mechanical shutters and mirrors inside the camera body. Although the ‘mirrorless’ camera technology has been around for some time, manufacturers have just now begun to take it seriously. These cameras are smaller, all electronic and much lighter than DSLRs. So, an increase in their demand both from photographers and general consumers is not surprising at all.
As latest generation smartphones have nearly made the entry-level DSLR market redundant, manufacturers rely only on a smaller group of enthusiasts and professionals. Sony saw the opportunity and was able to get a head start in this new and untapped market to the extent that loyalists began to jump ship, despite their premium price tag – benefits of a mirrorless camera are just too good to ignore.
While developing a mirrorless camera requires manufacturers to invest in a market that’s slowly and gradually vanishing, Canon and Nikon just couldn’t allow Sony to force them out of the game, or what’s left of it.
A couple of months earlier Canon introduced their latest mirrorless body called the Canon EOS M50 with an EF-M 15-45 kit lens, which has an official price tag of `61,995. The M50 weirdly is priced higher than the M5, which they refer to as their flagship mirrorless body even though both models are for ‘beginners’. The reason behind this marginal premium is that the M50’s tech is now superior to the M5 on paper. So, we tested the camera to see actual performance in the real world. As the M50 was launched internationally a little while prior to its arrival in India, countless reviews have been published online on numerous platforms. That’s why I’ll try to focus on a hands-on perspective rather than being too technical.
One of the main draws of mirrorless cameras for photographers is their small and compact body. And the M50 is exactly that – it’s small and light and doesn’t feel flimsy. It fits perfectly well even in my apelike awkwardly sized hands which makes it quite easy to travel with. However, to be brutally honest, it does have a few ergonomic issues. First, the video record button is a little too small and lacks feedback when you press it. While using the camera, I had to repeatedly check the screen to see if I’d pressed the button properly. Additionally, the sensor on the electronic viewfinder (EVF) is a little too sensitive and engages even, at times, when you don’t intend it to. Also, Canon could’ve provided an EVF with better resolution.
These few hiccups aside, the M50 is simply brilliant in every other aspect and gets the job done in a way that’s more than satisfactory. It has dual-pixel autofocus, which is arguably the best AF system on the market. And although it only has digital in-body image stabilisation, it is still great if you use an IS supported lens even with the digital in-body system turned off. The M50 only gets an APS-C 1.6x cropped sensor. For video, the M50 is really good – it even shoots 4K, a first for a Canon mirrorless camera, albeit with an additional 1.5x crop. Thanks to its DIGIC 8 processor, the system is extremely fast and responsive. However, if you shoot at a very slow shutter speed, there is some noticeable lag on the screen. In burst mode, we managed to clock seven raw + jpeg shots in one second and 10 frames when set to jpeg. But after 34 Jpeg frames, the buffer did fill out. The touchscreen AF is also quick, but I wasn’t impressed by the touch shutter, so I turned it off.
In terms of battery life, the M50 isn’t the best, but it isn’t bad either. While shooting video in 1080p, it lasted for around five to six hours.
The M50 is capable of capturing good images and offers decent dynamic range if you are shooting portraits, landscape, still life, street or anything under the sun – but only as long as you’re under the sun. In low light conditions, the camera does struggle to focus, though even at high ISO, it isn’t as grainy as I would expect an APS-C sensor to be. Additionally, it failed to focus on fast-moving objects completely, even with face-detect AF on. These issues, however, could also be due to the kit lens.
The M50 comes as standard with a 15 – 45mm M-mount IS STM lens. Kit lenses have never been great, and the 15 – 45mm isn’t much to brag about. With the 1.6x crop, it ends up being equivalent to around a 24 – 70mm. Additionally, it doesn’t come with a fixed aperture. At full wide, it opens up to f3.5, and at fully zoomed in, it drops down to f6.3 – something that should be kept in mind while framing a shot. Even though the lens is not weather sealed, it worked well during a light shower. It’s quite small, so if you clip the focus ring a little too hard, it switches to manual focus, forcing you to go back to the menu to fix your settings. Having said that, for the price the lens is actually not bad, and you realise this when you take a closer look at its images. It’s nowhere near any other pro-lens from Canon, but it captures comparatively sharp images and focuses really quick as well within its capabilities. Therefore, it does what it’s supposed to do, and it does it relatively well.
The Perfect Choice?
Yes, it does have limitations, owing to its restricted lens offerings from Canon. However, Canon does offer an M-mount converter, which allows you to use other canon native lenses, or even third-party lenses, on this camera. Overall, the Canon M50 is very good and simple to operate for an enthusiast or a semi-pro on a tight budget. If you like to take slightly better pictures compared to smartphones with manual controls for Instagram, the M50 is a very good option, given you use a different lens. The 22mm f1.4 prime lens is a great option.
The M50 feels more appropriate for shooting videos. It could even be the perfect vlogging camera. While 4K is offered, the additional crop factor does impede its capabilities, and so does the lack of 120fps at 1080p.
I think that these limitations are mostly deliberate, for Canon wants to keep some of these features for their high-range mirrorless camera, which is expected to launch soon. Although it’s just a hunch, it’s strong enough to make me wait for Canon’s full-frame mirrorless camera and see what it’s capable of.