There’s a hefty gap between smartphone or compact cameras and DSLRs, both in size and performance.
If you’re eager step up your photography/video game but perhaps daunted by the size and complexity of a DSLR, the Canon EOS M50 bridges that gap perfectly.
This mirrorless interchangeable lens camera has proved hugely popular, dominating sales in Japan more than a year after its release… and after a few days traveling and experimenting with it, I can understand why.
The Canon EOS M50 hits a hard-to-reach sweet spot between high performance, easy handling, and affordable price.
It’s been a hugely popular camera since its release among the other Canon mirrorless cameras, but is it the right camera for you? Let’s take a closer look.
Canon EOS M50 Review Summary
The Canon M50 is a mirrorless camera that bridges the gap between smartphone and DSLR. Though smaller, lighter and cheaper than a DSLR, it boasts impressive image quality, 4K video, 10 fps burst shooting, and an advanced autofocus system. It also offers a viewfinder – something many of its competitors lack.
Table of Contents
Canon EOS M50 Review | Specs
- Compactness and portability
- Excellent image quality
- Speed and ease of operation
- Rolling shutter and no Dual Pixel AF in 4K
- Lack of external controls for full manual shooting
- No USB charging
Geared towards those graduating from a smartphone or basic point-and-shoot, the Canon EOS M50 sits somewhere between a compact camera (see guide) and a DSLR.
It’s a lot like a DSLR in shape but significantly smaller in size and weight. It’s simple to use yet boasts a 24.1MP APS-C sensor capable of semi-pro image quality, and advanced functions for those wanting more say in how their images are captured.
Notably, the Canon EOS M50 is the first camera to include Canon’s latest DIGIC 8 processing engine, which enables 4K video, 10 fps burst shooting, and an advanced Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus (AF) system.
Canon EOS M50 Spec Summary:
- 24.1MP APS-C sensor
- DIGIC 8 processing engine
- 36 million-dot OLED EVF
- 0″/76.2mm 1.04 million-dot articulating touchscreen
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF system with 143 focus points
- 10 fps burst shooting
- 4K and Full HD video
- 4K time lapse
- Built-In Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth connectivity
- Supports JPEG, 14-bit CR3 RAW and (compressed) C-RAW format files
Via its interchangeable lens mount the Canon EOS M50 pairs with a growing number of Canon EF-M lenses, including the EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM kit lens used for this review.
Equivalent to 24-72mm in full frame/35mm terms, this compact zoom is a great little all-rounder for travel, landscapes, snapshots and portraits.
Build & Appearance
As mentioned before, the Canon EOS M50 is like a mini, simplified DSLR. The attractively designed body is compact and lightweight (390g including battery and memory card), though it feels solidly built and secure in the hand thanks to a textured, nicely conformed grip.
It balances perfectly with the kit lens, which a nifty latch keeps contracted for safe storage/transport.
At the top centre of the Canon EOS M50 sits a built-in, pop-up flash; an electronic viewfinder with a large, smooth display; and a hot shoe for optional accessories such as an external flash.
There’s an inbuilt microphone and HDMI port (good news for vloggers and video makers) but no USB charging, so you’ll need the battery charger and a wall outlet to stay powered up.
Ergonomics & Handling
The Canon EOS M50 is an entry-level camera so, as you’d expect, it’s incredibly user-friendly.
The menus are easy to navigate and include guides (which can be turned on/off) to help novice shooters select the right mode/function for their desired results.
The fully automatic (‘Scene Intelligent Auto’) shooting mode does an impressive job of tailoring the camera’s settings to your chosen scene.
You can also specify the type of picture you’re taking (from close-ups to night scenes) in Special Scene mode; apply assorted Creative Filters (like fish-eye or toy camera effects); or assume more control using Shutter Priority (Tv), Aperture Priority (Av), or full Manual mode.
Apart from the initially tricky video record button (see more under ‘Video’) all the buttons and dials are easy to operate.
The rear touchscreen responds quickly to taps and swipes, which can be used to navigate menus and review images as well as set focus and fire the shutter.
You can easily flip out and/or angle the screen, which is extremely handy for shooting selfies/vlogs or composing from tricky angles.
All in all, beginners should find the Canon EOS M50 very accessible. The camera has just enough buttons and dials to let point-and-clickers gradually assume manual control, if they want to.
On the other hand, experienced shooters accustomed to using full manual settings will likely appreciate an extra dial or two so they can quickly change aperture, shutter speed and ISO.
One of the Canon EOS M50’s biggest strengths is Canon’s new and improved Dual Pixel autofocus (AF) system, which I found to be fast and accurate.
It was also simple to adjust using the Touch and Drag AF feature. With this enabled, I could easily tap the screen to move my autofocus point/area without looking away from the viewfinder.
I found that AF faltered occasionally in low light, low contrast and very close-up situations (with the EF-M 15-45mm STM kit lens, at least).
However, in most cases I could get around this by using manual focus with focus peaking enabled.
In my experience, AF tracking did well at following subjects in motion, provided they weren’t moving too quickly, erratically or near the frame’s edges.
Eye AF (available in Servo/continuous AF mode) also performed a good job of detecting and tracking people’s eyes.
While shooting selfies or vlogs in auto mode, the camera focused my eyes automatically, with zero intervention on my part.
Low Light Performance
The Canon EOS M50 does a very respectable job in low light. You’ll see noise at higher sensitivities (up to ISO 6400), of course, but it’s handled well in RAW files and not hugely noticeable unless you zoom right in or, presumably, if you print on a super-large scale.
The Canon EOS M50’s image quality is impressive to say the least. I shot a mix of both JPEGs in auto mode and RAW files in manual, and both captured fine detail with rich natural colours.
Few of my shots needed much, if any, editing, though dynamic range in RAW files was sufficient for me to subtly brighten shadows and rein in highlights without sacrificing much quality.
Like with other Canons, though, I found it best to err on the side of overexposure.
The DIGIC 8 processor makes the Canon EOS M50 impressively fast to start and operate.
It allows continuous bursts of up to 10 fps (frames per second), or 7.4 fps with continuous AF, so you should have no trouble capturing fly-by moments.
(Better still, the shutter can be silenced so you can photograph things like animals or events without drawing attention to yourself.)
The buffer will easily handle stacks of successive JPEGs but, in my experience, needs to clear in between handfuls of standard CR3 RAW files. If you need to continuously shoot an action sequence in RAW, I’d save files in the 30-40% smaller, but very similar quality, C-RAW format.
The Canon EOS M50’s battery life is rated to 235 shots, which I found more than sufficient for a day’s worth of casual travel snaps and video clips, even without using the power-saving mode.
If you rely on the touchscreen display and/or plan to take a lot of photos and video over an extended time, I’d recommend getting a spare battery or two.
As with stills, the Canon EOS M50 makes it easy to capture quality video, either in 4K or Full HD (25p or 50p).
Picture quality is high and there are numerous features, from in-lens (with the kit lens attached) and Digital Image Stabilisation to a 4K time lapse function, to benefit both new and experienced shooters.
If you’re in ‘Scene Intelligent Auto’ mode, recording movies is as simple as pressing the red video record button. (This took me some practice to get right, due to the button’s small size and angled position.)
Manual movie mode is a separate option on the mode dial and offers access to more advanced features, such as a wind filter and attenuator for reducing mic distortion.
On the downside, Dual Pixel AF – which performs similarly well in Full HD as it does with photos – isn’t available in 4K. Full HD might be the better option if you’re reliant on autofocus.
There’s also a 1.6x crop and noticeable rolling shutter in 4K. I’d therefore suggest using a wider lens (the widest available being the Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM) for vlogs or other wide-angle work, and Full HD mode for panning.
Value for Money
Compared to other mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras of similar style and price, the Canon EOS M50 offers very reasonable bang for buck.
It’s significantly faster than the Fujifilm X-T100 (released shortly after the Canon EOS M50), offers higher image quality than the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II (2015) and Panasonic GX80/85 (2016), and is much simpler to use than the Sony a6300 (2016).
It doesn’t have as many lens options (for now) as any of the above, or as solid video performance as the Panasonic or Sony. This shouldn’t matter to most photographers, though.
The Canon EOS M50 does give you one of the best value combinations of image quality, features and usability in its price range.
Canon EOS M50 | Conclusion
If you’re after maximum value and image quality with minimal fuss or effort, it’s hard to go past the Canon EOS M50.
In many ways—from image quality to shooting speed and accuracy—this mini mirrorless rivals, or even betters, an entry-level DSLR. Unlike most DSLRs, though, it travels like a charm and should take most people very little time to learn.
On top of that, the camera’s excellent feature set means beginners shouldn’t outgrow it too quickly.
Those with more serious ambitions would, I think, be better off with a DSLR or more advanced mirrorless camera that offers greater lens options, battery life, manual controls and (if it’s a priority) pro video capabilities.
The Canon EOS M50 isn’t quite 100% perfect, but it is perfect for beginner/casual photographers and video creators.
It’s also great for experienced shooters looking for a fun travel or everyday camera. If I didn’t already own too many cameras, the Canon EOS M50 would be a serious prospect for my off-duty kit.
Gear from CameraPro Australia | Food by Mason Wines Mt Tamborine
Belinda Crossman is a commercial and lifestyle photographer based in Brisbane, Australia.