Hello all,

Hope you’re all well?  After editing and publishing our honeymoon images, which were all shot on the Canon EOS M5 and Samyang 50mm f1.2 . I thought I’d share my thoughts on this combination as a working photographic tool.  Those that know me know I have a tendency to talk a lot, so I though for the sake of clarity I’d put this together in concise[ish] sections.

Well, against my original irrational scepticism I’m genuinely impressed.  I’ve wanted a mirrorless for a while, but have been put off my many factors, some of which have been fixed – will go into those later – main one was a decent, useable viewfinder.  This is the first electronic viewfinder [EVF] to be found on Canon’s mirrorless, or M range.  As a Canon user I was reluctant to go over to Fuji [bizarre menus], didn’t fancy Sony, I was tempted by Olympus’ new range, but the main stopper was glass – didn’t want to invest in new glass if there was the opportunity to use all my L lenses on this body – ironic considering I bought a dedicated M mount lens, but never mind!  A good friend of mine Dani had an M3 a few years back, was nice and light, manual control, shot RAWs but no EVF and as no-one seems to be able to build a screen that can work in any kind of sunlight so it wasn’t for me.  It did however come with an adaptor for the smaller M mount to EF so that was promising.  Along came the M5 around the time the mirror fell out of my [very] old 5D mkII – yes literally fell out – so thought I’d be brave and get it as a back-up for my 5D mkIII.

This whole review is going to come from a slightly warped point of view as this is really aimed at the keen amateur market and I’ve pressed it into use as a working camera as part of my kit. However I don’t buy into labelling kit, if it does the job and you can use to pay the rent, it does it’s job.  I will be un-avoidably by subconsciously comparing to the 5D mkIII as this is my work horse – possibly somewhat unfair considering the construction, intended use and price point – however I figure if it does well that’s probably going to be a very good thing it’s favour.

 

M5
First impressions
I like this camera a LOT.  If you’re familiar with Canon’s EOS line you’ll find it a very familiar piece of kit to work with – mostly all of the buttons are were they should be, same with menus etc.
It does feel a bit plasticy and there are few squeaks and rattles and the build quality isn’t amazing.  That all aside it it is all about the images and how well it works – and after a few days I was sold.  I bought it a part of a kit with the 15 – 45mm f3.5 – 6.3 lens – which isn’t the best.  If you’re looking for a lightweight, hi-spec camera as a good step up from a phone or point and shoot, but with a very easy handling/shooting experience, you won’t be disappointed.  The lens is light and I mean really light, is made entirely out of plastic but it works well with the body, closes down very small and does the trick – however the lack of a fixed maximum aperture and being very slow at telephoto I soon decided it really wasn’t for me.  I’ve been using the camera for a few months now, and it has seen use on a few paid commissions so I think it has passed the first test as my working back-up.

Handling
Really pains me to say it but Canon have clearly built this on a budget, sad but true.  Saying that if you want a weather sealed, mag alloy camera that will stand up to a lot of abuse for around similar/less money you probably want an 80D [same sensor and shares a lot of the important image making internals], but that really misses the point of why you’d want a mirrorless as the 80D is a lot bigger and heavier.

I’m assuming the bulk of the weight saving came from using a lot of plastic, which is a lot tougher than people give it credit, but this saving does make it feel cheap – but after a 12 hour shooting day I’d take that weight saving anytime with the compromise it comes with.  The buttons all feel nice and in no way cheap, same with the dials – nice positive click and no wiggle.
The fold-out rear screen is good, although I do feel Canon missed a trick with only having it only fold through one axis – back to the same problem, if you wanted that probably should’ve bought an 80D.  It does work well for video though and sneaky street photography – assuming the sun isn’t shining and you can actually see the viewfinder screen of course!

The rear screen is touch enabled so you can access useful functions there as opposed to digging into the menu via the normal button route.  It does have a very cool function whereby you can select, drag and toggle your focus point and face detection AF functions.  The focus point can be literally dragged around the whole area of the AF array [prob 80% of the screen dimensions] and this can be preformed while you have you eye to the EVF which, with practice, can make focus section very quick and intuitive even for a centre focus point luddite as myself.   You can also toggle the auto face detection on and off – not used that a great deal for stills to be honest.  This is VERY, VERY useful for video work if you’re in a situation where you want the camera to track a face – such an interview situation where the subject may move a little.  The AF in good conditions is good, possibly as quick as my old 5D mkII, in lower light the cracks do appear…  It’s a limitation of the hardware so not a lot we an do about that.

The burst mode is VERY quick – I’m not a sports shooter but I do some weddings and a bit of PR work so the occasional rapid burst is a useful option to have – the buffer does clear pretty slowly however if you’re shooting RAWs.  The review is set by default to around 5 seconds I think, this does seem to slow down the whole camera operation even when you hit the shutter release to go back to shooting mode – there is a considerable lag.  I’ve turned this off completely so I manually review when I want and that has definitely helped speed up responsiveness.  One slightly baffling thing is this camera has a mechanical shutter of sorts so it does make a noise when you shoot – no idea why that would be the way forward as surely a big selling point of mirrorless is lack of large, noisy mechanicals.  Am sure there must be a good reason for including a physical shutter as opposed to just turning the sensor on and off…

      The battery door is cheap, not sure how long that will last, it also houses the SD slot – which is a bit of a pain as both are in the way of any tripod plate arrangement I’ve tried out so far.  It’s also got a pop-up flash… Not sure what more I can say on that other than I don’t really use it as the TTL metering seems to consistently make a hash of the flash exposure. On a positive note the grip is perfect for my [slightly small] hands and feels as good as it does on the bigger SLRs.  

 

Output
The RAW files from this camera in a studio situation are as good as the mk II – there I’ve said it!  I’ve shot a lot of files in the studio using the 24-70mm f2.8 mkI and the 70-200m f4 mounted via the free [yes free!] bundled M to EF adaptor and they are very, very good with decent glass.  14 bit RAWs handle in lightroom as you’d expect, decent highlight recovery and the skin tones look nice and smooth. Don Linkley 1/125s f8 24mm [24-70mm f2.8 mkI].

Not noticed a massive difference in depth of field going from full frame to APS-C as I was had worried, probably because majority of the studio work is well lit and at f5.6-f13. You get all the usual options for jpegs etc but only full size RAWs unfortunately – find that I use that more than I thought I would on the 5D mkIII.

 


50mm f1.2

First impressions
What a bargain! I was looking for a lightweight, small, decent fast prime for the M5 – to match the size and weight of the M5. I have owned a couple pf EF 50mm f1.4’s – was good but is prone to damage without a hood and I’ve stripped the focus gears a few times with a miss-placed front end collision. The sigma 50mm art lens is also good, but big an quite heavy. Canon’s own 50mm f1.2 is big, heavy and a LOT of money – couldn’t justify that. Then I saw the Samyang 50 by chance and went for it after a bit of reading-up. On paper it sounded too good to be true. It is built in a variety of mounts, including the Canon M mount. With a list price at WEX of £341 – a whopping £931 cheaper than Canon’s own f1.2 offering and weighing in at 385g it’s 195g lighter than the Canon – more when you have use the EF/M adaptor to mount the canon. I realise these lenses cannot be directly compared; one is a mag alloy constructed, very fast AF L prime and the other is plastic, manual everything Korean prime lens – but you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. The weight and price difference couldn’t be ignored and it looked a perfect match for the M5.

Handling

This is a well made lens, better put together than the Canon 50mm f1.4 in my opinion. It’s built out of high grade polycarb or similar, with a metal lens mount. The whole thing does appear to be plastic so mounting screw in filters probably wants to be done with some care to avoid thread stripping. The hood is good, clicks home with a VERY positive lock – so much so I was a little concerned about the amount of force I had to use to undo it for fear of over stressing the lens mount incase I was turning it he wrong way [got a dymo tape arrow now for help]. The focus ring is big and SMOOTH, reminds me of the Ziess 85mm f1.4. It has a positive stop/start, so very handy for video work. The aperture ring – yes I did say it was manual! – is also nice and positive with just the right amount of resistance. I believe the dedicated video version of this lens is de-clicked to allow for smooth aperture changes mid shot, as well as a focus ring with gears built in for focus pulling.

The mount does have a little bit of play, not a huge issue in my mind as there are no electronic contacts between the body and the lens so nothing to short or fail there. The lack of contacts does mean your EXIF data makes for a short read, no f-stop data at all. This has bothered some on-line, not really a big issue for me as I’m predominantly going to use this in the field as opposed to studio work so reproducing shot set ups from EXIF data isn’t an issue. The manual focus is also an acquired taste. I’ve owned a number of fast MF primes including the Ziess 85mm f1.4, again a MF only lens and with a bit of practice it’s not an issue for me. Does require a bit of effort to get a sharp image wide open – but that’s just suffering for your art right? The red focus outline assist on the M5 does help a bit, if unfamiliar with that it’s a red outline for areas of the image that are in focus. Not 100% accurate when you’re wide open, but a helpful guide. A good Mk1 eyeball is the key…

Output

Shots in the wild have all been shot predominantly on the 50mm f1.2 and fairly open so not much of a – note focus at infinity wide open.  Stopped down this lens cuts glass – as sharp as you like from f2 and up – very impressed. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re still with me after this somewhat long and rambling review and you’re interested in seeing some sample images with the M5 and the Samyang lens you’re in luck! On our honeymoon in Rome that was my lightweight travel setup – here are the results – click here for gallery.

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