I use my camera every. Single. Day. I don't wish to think about how many frames I take on a daily basis. This means that after 8 months without a break, I was starting to question if I really wanted to take my DSLR over to Malaysia for my holiday.
This was my third time to this fabulous country. Had it been my first, the 5DIII would have been coming without a doubt.
I was very fortunate to be loaned a CanonEOS M5 get stated kit. This consisted of the M5 body, 15 - 45mm lens and EOS M Mount Adapter.
This was the perfect opportunity to be brave and travel light!
I decided to pack my 50mm 1.2 lens, my tiny Manfrotto PIXI tripod and go 'off duty' as full time photographer and embrace the lightweight mirrorless travel photographer lifestyle (even if all the way to the plane I was convinced I had left my bag somewhere!).
This isn't going to be a technical review. You can find those all over the internet. I'm going to share with you my thoughts on this strange new concept of traveling light and embracing mirrorless!
I decided not to read the manual. Firstly, I don't read manuals and secondly I wanted to jump right in and see just how easy this was to operate.
After a 13.5 flight to Kuala Lumpur and some fun jetlag, we decided to head to the Batu Caves. This would be my first time taking the camera out. So far, so good. It almost felt like using a phone at first as I was getting used to the 'touch & drag' autofocus but it was really quite fast and surprisingly accurate.
At first I used the kit lens. I was always dubious of what the little thing would produce. I shouldn't have been. Below is a detail shot of the full res file. Impressive.
My partner, Nate Zeman, did have all his usual gear with him including several lenses, filters, his 5DIII plus tripod etc. I have to say, I felt pretty smug holding the little M5 as we climbed the 272 steps in the 34 degree heat!
Halfway up the steps a family of Macaques were ready to mug any passing tourist. I decided to use the M Mount and attach my 50mm as I wanted to shoot at a lower aperture. One thing I hadn't considered - Crop factor. This was new. Now I effectively have an 80mm.
As it goes, this worked in my favour as I was able to shoot this portrait of one of the Macaques. I was actually amazed how quickly the M5 focused, so much so the first thing I did was check to be sure it was as sharp as I hoped it was.
One feature which was really quite fun was how I could transfer the shot straight to my phone via wifi back at the hotel and put it straight out on to social media.
Evening came and it was time to get those Petronas Towers at blue hour. I definitely had a challenge trying to find somewhere to shoot as I needed to be sure to fit them in the frame yet my 'travelling light' mantra meant I had to shoot down at floor level.
Here's where I really found the articulated screen useful. I could position the camera on the ground and using the flip out screen, I could still see what I was doing and could control my exposure.
A trip to the Chinese temple and the Islamic Arts Centre would test the dynamic range of the M5. Again, I have to say, I was impressed.
Another benefit which I hadn't considered was just how inconspicuous the M5 appears. Not that I would have felt unsafe with my SLR as in a city like KL, everyone is using one. There is something nice though about having a smaller camera which I could put straight into my handbag and having that feeling like I can blend in with everyone else.
A quick flight up to Penang meant the beach would provide some stunning sunsets every evening.
Schoolboy error 101 would occur on the first night. Good old air conditioned hotel room to ridiculous humidity causes for some impressive lens fog! No shots tonight!
I felt that a trip to Georgetown was where I was so grateful that I had the M5 and not my normal kit. In 35 degrees and 90% humidity it was seriously hot. I was so glad I could pull this little camera out of the bag to photograph architecture, street art or the various colours and lights of the night market.
A trip to the botanical gardens was where I have to admit that I cheated. We were fortunate to find some dusky leaf monkeys hanging out in the trees. My kit lens couldn't really get close enough. After he got his shots, I asked Nate if I could steal his 70-200mm. This allowed me to get so much closer to the monkeys than even he could due to the crop factor.
That's what I love about this system. With the adapter, any of our lenses will fit straight on to this little camera.
I did find that I had to use the digital viewfinder when shooting with this lens as I couldn't hold it steady with arms outstretched. The M5 has a sensor and will switch the display from the LCD screen to the viewfinder automatically if you hold it up to your eye.
I know this is technically cheating under this 'travelling light' rules but I couldn't resist seeing what the M5 could produce.
After returning home to the UK, I couldn't resist taking a shot in the studio. I decided to bolt my 85 1.2 on the front using the adaptor and shot a few frames at the end of a shoot to see how it would perform. This is the only time I felt like I couldn't get used to the M5.
There is something about the weight of a DSLR and that reassuring clunk when you hit the shutter. Whilst the image above was taken with the M5 and is very impressive in the quality department, I just can't imagine shooting a whole session with it.
Overall, I absolutely loved the M5. I wasn't sure if I would regret not taking my SLR away with me but I honestly didn't miss it this time. The only time I felt I may have been frustrated was if I didn't have the 70-200 for the monkeys and would have had to be limited to 45mm with the kit lens or at a push 80mm with the crop factor of my 50mm.
Would I take it again? Absolutely! I am a huge fan and a camera like this feels like it was made for travel photography or just for having something you can put in your bag which had the ability and control to produce some wonderful results.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely. I will be getting one for myself very soon.
Thank you once again to Canon for lending me the kit.