The Canon M50 Mark II could be one of the best (and most unexpected) cinema camera options for under $1000. I had a chance to shoot with it recently, and am sharing my initial thoughts here along with a free color grading LUT for Canon EOS filmmakers.
I first discovered the M50 II when seeking out low-cost mirrorless options for an upcoming multi-camera shoot that I am producing. The project needs 3 – 4 camera kits to capture some very simple creative setups, and the technical requirements are fairly minimal.
Buying a bunch of Lumix GH5s, Fuji X-T4s or similar cameras would be overkill for the needs of the project, and wouldn’t justify the cost given the circumstances. So for the first time in a while, I did some digging around on the entry level to see what was out there.
When I came across the M50 II, it immediately caught my interest. It had all the right specs I would need for this multi-cam project, and was priced aggressively at just $599. It even included some bonus features (like focus peaking) that I would not have expected to find on such a low-cost body.
And the core of the camera was an APS-C sized sensor, which is my favorite format since its so close in size to 35mm motion picture film.
The camera obviously had its shortcomings as well, and wasn’t nearly as feature rich as some of the competition, but given the price point and the unique needs of this project, I thought I’d give it a try.
I purchased a Canon M50 Mark II last week to run some camera tests before investing in additional bodies.
Through some fairly extensive testing, I got to see what the M50 II was capable of by pushing the camera to its limits in a variety of circumstances. To optimize my results, I created a LUT in post-production (which I’ll share below), to squeeze the most out of this little camera.
Below are my first impressions after shooting with the M50 II. Keep in mind this is written through the lens of a filmmaker, and is predominately focused on video. If you are a stills shooter, much of this may not factor into your decision to purchase.
Design & Build
One of the things I like most about this camera is its size. The M50 Mark II is about the smallest you can get with a mirrorless body before it becomes uncomfortable to operate.
The camera feels solid in your hand, much like a bigger Canon DSLR. But next to my Canon 6D, the M50 II looks tiny. For me, this creates a best of both worlds in terms of size – small enough to take anywhere, big enough to still operate with ease.
The camera has a nice flip-out LCD screen, which is very sharp, bright even in sunlight, and seems to be incredibly color accurate. The same goes for the built in EVF, which is really sharp and easy to focus with. While shooting, I would almost always use the EVF because it produced such a vivid image.
There aren’t many manual controls on the body, which is something I could always use more of. I love Fuji cameras for that very reason.
On the M50 II, you are limited to a scroll wheel on the top, your stills shutter, a dedicated video record button, a function button, and the main panel on the back of the camera –
The camera has a Micro USB and Micro HDMI output, as well as a standard 3.5mm audio input for an external mic, covering the basic needs of most filmmakers.
It also features an EF-M mount, which can be paired with a variety of native lenses, or used with the EF-M to EF adapter to use with your standard Canon glass.
All in all, the build is solid. Good size, good design, decent integration of physical buttons, with some noted room for improvement.
Recording Options & Functionality
There are three main reasons why most filmmakers won’t consider the M50 II.
First off, the camera doesn’t shoot in Log, so you have to use one of Canon’s other color profiles. For many filmmakers who are accustomed with working in a flat/log color space and workflow, this can be a negative.
Secondly, the frame rate tops out at 24p in 4K resolution. To shoot in 60p for slow motion, you have to step down to full HD 1080. Again this, might be a major consideration, depending on how much slow-mo you shoot and whether 4K is critical for you.
And finally, the camera adds an additional 1.5x crop when recording in 4K (on top of the APS-C crop of 1.6X), making the field of view even tighter than a Micro Four Thirds camera. Obviously for filmmakers looking for more of a full frame look, this can be problematic.
For me, none of these factors are deal breakers.
As for Log – I often avoid shooting in Log on certain mirrorless/DSLR cameras as it is. Unlike an Arri Alexa or RED, many prosumer-level cameras simply don’t grade as well with log footage as they do with Rec 709 footage.
To really make the most out of Log, you need a camera that has a high enough data rate to be able to sustain the Rec 709 conversion in post, and many entry level cameras simply don’t produce enough data to do this well.
To compensate for the lack of Log on the M50 II, I set up a custom picture profile and turned the contrast and sharpness all the way down. This gave me enough latitude to work with in post, even without having the Log recording option.
In terms of 60p, that is a feature I would like to see on the camera, but for the price I really can’t complain. I don’t shoot much 60p personally (and won’t need to on my multi-cam project), so this wasn’t really a deciding factor for me.
By the same token, the fairly substantial crop in 4K mode never bothered me. If anything, I saw it as more of an asset than a drawback.
I have long loved the Super 16mm look, so smaller sensor areas don’t scare me away. I like the nostalgic look they can create with deeper depth of field, and love having the ability to use a wider variety of glass, including some of my Super 16mm lenses.
Functionality-wise, the camera is fairly easy to work with once you get used it to its quirks. It’s really simple to access all your main settings through the quick menu, so changing white balance, resolution, or other key settings is super intuitive.
Autofocus & Image Stabilization
I’ve never been one to use autofocus when shooting video, but was curious to try it out on the M50 II, specifically because it has DPAF (dual pixel autofocus).
Unfortunately, DPAF only works in HD mode on the camera, which is a tease. It works so well in 1080p that I would consider using it even in a narrative situation.
But in 4K, you have to use the non-DPAF autofocus which is completely unusable in any professional context.
The M50 II also features digital image stabilization, but the results while shooting 4K video were very disappointing. Image stabilization on mirrorless cameras has come such a long way, and done well, it can be a life-saver on set. On the M50 II however, the implementation leaves a lot to be desired.
While the camera can technically stabilize your image quite well, the resulting image (especially in 4K) is extremely soft. The camera is stabilizing the image digitally (not optically), meaning your 4K image – which is already quite cropped – gets cropped even more, which only reduces the detail and sharpness.
The end result is a stabilized but very soft image that looks nearly out of focus. All in all, these are the two biggest let downs of the M50 II, especially in 4K mode.
Despite image quality issues associated with stabilization, the M50 II is capable of producing some gorgeous footage. Like most other Canon cameras, visual performance is where it shines.
Above all else, the M50 II benefits from Canon’s incredible color science. Looking through the viewfinder in both daylight and tungsten settings, the image on the camera is nearly identical to that of your naked eye. That type of color can’t be bought with other brands… Canon just has it baked into their cameras, and the M50 II is no different.
The M50 II performs fairly well in many other areas too, but unsurprisingly is not industry leading in any category – Specifically, in terms of dynamic range, resolution, and low light.
More expensive DSLRs and mirrorless cameras will surely outperform the M50 II in many of these areas, but not necessarily by a long shot.
Take dynamic range for example, which is a strong suit of the M50 II, despite no internal Log recording. Or it’s 4K recording mode, which is softer than some of its competitors, but also much more natural looking. The footage feels less digital and more organic than what you might expect from a Sony or Panasonic.
And the low-light capabilities of this camera are pretty solid too. Not outstanding, but above average. Shooting at 1600 or even 3200 will still yield some fairly clean images, with minimal effect to color balance and dynamic range.
Similarly, shooting at the lowest ISO (100) doesn’t have any noticeable negative affect on color or dynamic range. It’s also a really useful setting to have when shooting in daylight with limited ND filtration.
Ultimately though, I just like the look the M50 II delivers.
The images it produces are inviting, warm, and filmic. The colors are organic with great contrast and nice highlight rolloff. The added 4K crop gives the shots a slightly old-school/analog feel, while still feeling contemporary at the same time.
None of these subjective qualities can be found on the spec sheet, but they are what matter most to me when choosing a camera.
Looking at the footage in post after applying some light color correction, I can’t help but be impressed by the quality. I could easily be fooled into thinking it ws shot on a much higher end cinema camera.
Who Is The Canon M50 Mark II For?
Under the right conditions, and for the right filmmaker, the M50 II might just be one of the best bangs for your buck out there.
What other camera can give you near perfect color science and film-like image rendition for $599?
You do need to work around the camera’s limitations and understand it’s strengths and weaknesses to make the most of it… But for many of us, it’s well worth the effort. Especially those of us who are drawn to the smaller sensor/deeper DOF aesthetic that the M50 II can uniquely offer.
At the same time, the M50 II is not a very versatile camera due its limited feature set and technical limitations, so it will not be right for all production types.
It will never be the jack of all trades cameras for every shooting situation, and many project types (like corporate/commercial productions, event productions, etc.) would certainly benefit from a more feature rich tool.
What the M50 II does well is capture filmic looking images very easily at an incredibly low cost. For some of us, that’s exactly what we need.
And it takes some pretty awesome still photos too. I didn’t get to touch on the stills aspect in the context of this review, but it’s certainly a major consideration for filmmakers who also double as photographers.
If you are looking to pick up the camera, I would recommend buying the body only. You can use this link to purchase through B & H.
I purchased the kit version that came with the 15-45mm Canon EF-M zoom lens, which was not up to my standards. The lens is difficult to operate with due to its size, has no manual controls other than the focus ring, and is extremely hard to pull focus on. It’s also quite slow, opening up to only F 6.3 when fully zoomed in.
There are plenty of other lens options out there for both EF and EF-M, so if you’re going to purchase the M50 II, I’d say save the extra few bucks on the kit lens and invest in some better glass.
Canon EOS Neutral Color Grading LUT
While working with footage shot on the Canon M50 Mark II in post, I decided to create a custom color grading LUT to maximize the image quality.
This LUT is designed to be used with footage shot in the Neutral picture profile, with contrast dialed down to 0.
Although I created the LUT using M50 II footage, it can also be applied to footage shot on nearly any Canon DSLR or mirrorless camera with the same in-body settings.
The LUT works by adjusting the contrast curve to lift shadows, reduce highlights, and increase mid tone contrast, which maximizes the cameras dynamic range, and creates a softer image.
Additionally, the LUT enhances color balance very slightly while adding a touch of additional saturation .
Below are a few before and after examples of the LUT applied to raw footage from the M50 II. Note how the shadows gain far more detail, and the overall image feels more subtle and natural –
CANON M50 II RAW FOOTAGE
CINECOLOR NEUTRAL LUT FOR CANON EOS
CANON M50 II RAW FOOTAGE
CINECOLOR NEUTRAL LUT FOR CANON EOS
CANON M50 II RAW FOOTAGE
CINECOLOR NEUTRAL LUT FOR CANON EOS
There is a surprising amount of detail captured in the native files from the Canon M50 Mark II, especially in the shadows. And the new LUT that I’ve created will help you retain as much detail as possible.
Hope you enjoy!