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Harsh But Beautiful Landscapes: EOS M50 Hands-on Review in Patagonia

How does Canon’s new mirrorless camera, the EOS M50, fare in image quality, speed and noise handling? Landscape photographer and Canon Philippines Ambassador Edwin Martinez took it on his trip to Patagonia (Chile and Argentina) and shares his impressions in this hands-on review. (Photos and text by: Edwin Martinez)

Mountain and river landscape shot, Patagonia

 

The rugged beauty of Patagonia: A great place to put cameras to the test!

Patagonia is a sparsely-populated region located at the southern end of South America and shared by Argentina and Chile. It contains not only mountains (the southern section of the Andes mountain range), but also deserts, pampas and grasslands. Such rugged conditions make it a great place to test a camera for travel and landscape photography.

On my most recent trip there,  I had the opportunity to take the Canon's latest mirrorless camera, the EOS M50, with me thanks to Canon Marketing Philippines. The EOS M50 boasts some of the best features found on Canon’s DSLR cameras, including the new DIGIC 8 image processor (including a new RAW file format CR3), an improved Dual Pixel CMOS AF system with 143 AF points, and 4K video (read more about the features of EOS M50 here). I managed to put it to the test, and the result is this review, which focuses on image quality, speed and noise handling.

Most the photographs you will see in this article were taken with the EF-M18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM and EF-M11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lenses, with minimal editing for colour grading, exposure corrections and resizing for web.

 

1. Weight and portability

One key reason to choose a mirrorless camera is the weight factor. To that regard, the EOS M50 was perfect as a secondary camera. Its compact size and portability made it handy to carry around on long hikes as I roamed around Chile and Argentina, especially when paired with an excellent travel lens such as the EF-M18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM. Using the two together results in one of the lightest interchangeable camera–superzoom lens combinations possible on Canon equipment.

 

2. Image clarity and sharpness

The EOS M50 is the first Canon camera to feature the DIGIC 8 image processor and CR3 RAW data format, C-RAW, which results in a smaller file size even as it retains full image resolution. I immediately noticed that the outputs were sharper than the EOS M6 even at 150mm, which is the softest focal length on the EF-M18-150mm lens.

Waterfall with autumn leaves

EOS M50/ EF-M18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM/ FL: 24mm (38mm equivalent)/ Manual exposure (f/8.0, 4 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

Colours are more vibrant with the default Adobe standard profile. Noise at ISO 800 has also been improved. I found that I could recover shadow details by almost 2.5 stops without any degradation to other details. Personally, I felt that there was no difference between editing this and editing a RAW file from the EOS 5D Mark III.

 

Vertical shot of mountain and reflection in water

EOS M50/ EF-M18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM/ FL: 11mm (18mm equivalent)/ Manual exposure (f/11, 6 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

3. Noise handling

Low ISO

The photo below was taken during civil twilight, which is the part of dawn where the sun is just below the horizon. From ISO 100-200, the EOS M50 shines with minimum to no luminance noise.

 

ISO 100

Seascape with wooden posts and clouds shot at ISO 100, 112 sec

EOS M50/ EF-M11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 12mm (19mm equivalent)/ Manual exposure(f/8.0, 112 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

ISO 200

Seascape with wooden posts and clouds shot at ISO 200

EOS M50/ EF-M11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 17mm (27mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8.0, 30 sec, EV+0.3)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto

 

High ISO

I used ISO 800 to 1600 when shooting with telephoto lenses, especially at focal length 100mm and above. The photos below were taken handheld at ISO 800. You can clearly see how clean and crisp they are.

 

ISO 800

Mountain vertical view (telephoto) at ISO 800

EOS M50/ EF-M18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM/ FL: 84mm (134mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8.0, 1/2500 sec, EV-1.3)/ ISO 800/ WB: Auto

 

Mountain wide angle vertical shot at ISO 800

EOS M50/ EF-M18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM/ FL: 18mm (29mm equivalent/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8.0, 1/1600 sec, EV-1)/ ISO 800/ WB: Auto

The following image is a 6 vertical panoramic shot of Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina, shot at ISO 1600. It is not obvious when viewing onscreen, but I found that for printing, the threshold for noise was between ISO 800 and 1600. When you edit an ISO 1600 RAW file, luminance noise could become more visible when if you try to increase exposure, but this can be corrected in post-processing.

 

6 vertical panorama of Perito Moreno glacier

EOS M50/ EF-M18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM/ FL: 18mm (29mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8.0, 1/1600 sec, EV-0.7)/ ISO 800/ WB: Auto

 

4. Speed

In terms of AF speed, the new DIGIC 8 image processor has enabled huge improvements to the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system on the EOS M50. These improvements include:

- A larger coverage area and more AF points with selected lenses
- Up to 7.4 fps continuous shooting with Continuous AF (up to 10 fps with One Shot AF)
- Enhanced subject tracking

I found that the EOS M50 was a joy to use, from powering up all the way to focusing and 10 fps continuous shooting. From capturing wild animals to street scenes on the go, I did not encounter a single problem with the AF. The 143 AF points and Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology worked seamlessly.

Deer photographed on EOS M50

EOS M50/ EF-M18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM/ FL: 11mm (18mm equivalent)/ Manual exposure (f/8.0, 3.2 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

Series of continuous shots (High Speed Continuous Shooting mode)

This series of shots was taken at sunset using the High-speed Continuous Shooting mode. I selected the first shot (below) and made some global adjustments.

 

Bike stunt frozen in action (frame from continuous shooting)

EOS M50/ EF-M18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM/ FL: 45mm (72mm equivalent)/ Manual exposure (f/8.0, 1/500 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto

 

100% zoom

100% zoom of the selected shot from High-speed Continuous Shooting mode

The focusing was spot-on, with the rider in focus all throughout. The details in low-light conditions are also amazing: When you zoom in at 100 percent, you can see the details of the bike.

 

5. Lens options

The main advantage of the Canon mirrorless system is the wide variety of lenses. Canon’s EOS M cameras are compatible with all current Canon lenses, including (with a mount adapter) the EF and EF-S lenses in addition to the native EF-M lenses.

For this trip, I chose to use both the EF-M18-150mm and EF-M11-22mm lenses, which helped me to capture different perspectives of the same scene.

 

At 100mm

Mountains and sea at 100mm

EOS M50/ EF-M18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM/ FL: 100mm (160mm equivalent) / Aperture-priority AE (f/8.0, 1/250 sec, EV-0.7)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

At 129mm

Mountains and sea at 129mm

EOS M50/ EF-M18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM/ FL: 129mm (206mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8.0, 1/640 sec, EV-1)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

At 11mm

Mountains and sea at 11mm

EOS M50/ EF-M11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 11mm (18mm equivalent)/ Manual exposure (f/8.0, 3.2 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

In conclusion

Overall, the Canon EOS M50 excelled as my travel and secondary camera during my expedition. The lightness of the system, amazing focusing capabilities and image quality made me use this camera more during hikes and road travels. Its compact, lightweight size might cause some to underestimate it, but to fully experience its capabilities, users should use it like they would use a normal DSLR.

 

For another review of the EOS M50, also check out:
Tried and Tested: 8 Key Features of the EOS M50

See more of Edwin’s amazing images and learn some tips and techniques from him at:
Capturing the magnitude of landscapes with Edwin Martinez
Photographing Waterfalls: Basic Tips
Designing and Composing Waterfall Photographs: A Visual Approach

 


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Edwin Martinez

Edwin Martinez
Edwin Martinez is widely respected as one of the finest landscape photographers the Philippines has ever produced. His vast experience shooting different locales in his home country and abroad - in Iceland, Canada, The American West, among others - have cemented for Edwin an undisputed distinction of expertise in the field of photography. He is a Canon Philippines Brand Ambassador, a pro gallery photographer for Singh-Ray Filters of America, a National Geographic adventurer contributor and constant presence in both local and international photography publications. Furthermore, he is also major partner in Iceland’s number one photography tour and workshop, http://www.iceland-photo-tours.com. Edwin also co-facilitates the Philippine's premiere landscape photography course, Chasing Light Workshop. He likewise leads photography tours to the most challenging and stunning locations around the world. Edwin is a sought after speaker and instructor and also shoots for several high profile companies. He is an inspiration for this generation's band of photographers and many wait for photos from his next adventures.

https://www.facebook.com/EdwinMartinezPhotography
https://500px.com/EdwinMartinez
http://edwinmartinezphoto.com/