A good camera is something I believe every car guy should have. Whether you use it simply for fun, taking your Instagram page to the next level, capturing car shows, documenting a build step by step or even getting started with Youtube – you’ll always have a good use for it.
Last year, I decided to upgrade my camera. I quickly realized that if I wanted to continue to build this website and my Youtube channel, my 10 year old Canon T1i DSLR and GoPro Hero 4 just weren’t going to cut it.
It was important to find a camera that worked just as well for photos and video. Some of the popular cameras for photography aren’t great for video and vice-versa. My old T1i for example actually took decent photos but horrible video. It could barely shoot in 1080p and the autofocus was next to non-existent.
Finding a camera that had everything I wanted for both photos and video was tougher than I expected.
Photography is a huge industry and with that comes a large number of options (and a zillion specs and features to compare). I’m not going to get into all of the nerdy stats of this camera because quite frankly, this isn’t a tech review site.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with jumping straight to a higher end camera. If you’re a photography nut or just like to spend money on nice things, feel free. Make sure to check out some of my tips in this post about car photography while you’re at it.
Personally, I wanted to find a camera that offered the perfect balance between photo and video capability with plenty of room to grow in the future. The catch was that I didn’t want to spend any more money on it than necessary – after all, money spent on a camera is money not spent on car parts. For me, the Canon M50 is the perfect tool for the job and here’s why:
You’d think any modern camera would be great at taking pictures, so why even mention that here? Not all of them are great at taking still photos. There are a lot of great “vlogging” cameras on the market but taking still photos with them can be similar to a low end point and shoot camera. They might take great video but don’t offer any lens options or raw file format. Plus, they feel just plain flimsy in your hands.
Think of the Canon M50 as sort of a mini DSLR camera when it comes to photography. It looks and feels like one, only smaller. It offers all of the usual shooting modes from fully automatic to fully manual (and everything in between). Another nice feature is the built-in electronic viewfinder – something many of the more video-oriented cameras don’t have.
The raw file format is pretty important if you take your photography seriously. In short, shooting in raw rather than jpeg allows you to use editing software like Canon’s Digital Photo Professional to make adjustments to the photo after it’s already been taken. Think of it as a second chance after you’ve screwed up some of the settings.
Of course, there are limits to how much you can fix but shooting in raw format can make the difference between a photo being usable or not. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to fix the exposure or white balance of a photo that I thought was fine when I was shooting a car on site.
Between the different photo modes and the beginner-friendly graphic interface, anyone can pick up the M50 and take a great photo regardless of skill level.
The nice thing is that it isn’t just for dummies – you can turn the interface off and set the camera in full manual mode if you know what you’re doing. Shutter speed, aperture, ISO etc can all be adjusted manually just like any high end DSLR camera.
The M50 has a 24 megapixel APS-C sensor which means it can take big photos with tons of crisp detail. How does that affect a car guy? The higher the image quality, the higher the print quality. That means you can print off awesome posters of your car for the walls of your garage. Heck yeah.
#2 – Video capability
We are learning fairly quickly that the future is in video. People’s attention spans seem to be getting smaller and smaller and as a society, we’ve become rather lazy. Many people are becoming less likely to read books and blogs and are turning to videos to educate themselves on whatever they’re trying to learn.
Don’t believe me? Guess what the world’s 2nd biggest search engine is besides Google – it’s Youtube. The average person is consuming more video than ever before.
The Canon M50 can shoot high definition video in 720p, 1080p, and even 4k. You can also choose from 24 fps all the way up to 60 fps depending on what you’re trying to do. The downside to shooting in 4k is that it crops the image quite a bit and you lose the dual pixel autofocus.
That dual pixel AF is one of the reasons this camera is so great for shooting video. The “tracking” mode for the autofocus allows you to touch whatever you want to be in focus on the screen and the camera will figure it out. For vlogging, this typically means touching your face once and allowing the camera to do its job while you do yours.
Speaking of vlogging, the M50 has a large swivel touch screen that you can point forwards or backward depending on how you’re holding the camera. This is an area where a lot of other cameras fail.
Some screens will flip straight up when pointing forward which can easily be blocked if you have an external microphone mounted on top. Having the screen pointed toward you allows you to see if you’re in frame and in focus while you’re shooting.
The touch screen makes working your way through all the menus and settings easy. You’re able to make changes without having to get behind the camera. It offers plenty of crisp detail for playing back videos as well.
Maybe you’re not interested in starting your own Youtube channel. Shooting video strictly for your own enjoyment can be a lot of fun though, especially for car guys. We don’t often get to see and hear our vehicles from the outside while they’re driving.
Simply throwing the camera on a tripod and doing a few flybys with your new exhaust setup can result in a video you end up watching over and over. And over.
#3 – It’s the perfect size
Judging by photos of the M50 online, you’d expect it to be the same size and shape as a DSLR camera. It’s not. It’s actually quite a bit smaller – and lighter weight too. This can come in really handy for car guys. The small size allows it to be mounted (maybe even with a suction cup, GoPro style?) in tight areas. When trying to capture a picture or video of the interior of a car, every inch matters.
It also makes it easy to carry around with you whether you’re at a car show or even bringing it along with you to take pics of your motorcycle. At just 390g, it adds almost no noticeable weight to a backpack. The M50 is easy to travel with regardless of what you’re doing.
#4 – There’s plenty of room to grow
You don’t have to worry about outgrowing the Canon M50 unless you plan to really take things seriously in the future. Even in the event that you choose to invest in some high dollar equipment, the M50 will make a great backup camera.
One of the ways you can take your photos or videos to the next level is by upgrading the lens. Yes, unlike many popular “vlogging” cameras, the M50 has a detachable lens. This is a mirrorless camera so technically it’s supposed to be used with Canon’s EF-M line of lenses.
The cool thing is that you can buy an adapter that will grant you access to the full line of regular Canon lenses as well as some from other manufacturers too. This opens up a ton of options.
Having the choice between automatic and manual modes also gives you the ability to grow. If you’re new to this whole thing, you’ll probably want to stick with the auto functions. As time passes and you learn more, you’ll find that you’re wanting more control over adjustments. All of those menu items are just a click away.
#5 – Great value
Pricing for the M50 varies depending on where you buy it and whether you get it with the 15-45mm kit lens or not. I found while I was shopping that this camera came in around $500 cheaper than the Canon 80D yet offers a lot of the same features (at least the ones that were important to me).
Having been on the market for nearly 2 years now, it’s possible to find a good deal on one. They tend to pop up on sale online from time to time. Even at full price, the M50 stacks up really well against the rivals in its price range. You get a lot of camera for the money.
Under $1k CAD is what I’m comfortable spending on something like this which means this camera falls easily into that category. Again, less money on a camera = more money for car stuff.
You can pick up a Canon M50 for yourself right here:
Canon M50 Accessories For Car Guys:
If you’re going to be using the M50 for automotive photography and video, you’ll need a few accessories to make your life easier. Here are a few that I feel are important:
If you plan on taking high quality photos at night time, you’re going to need a tripod. You’ll need to use a slow shutter speed in dark lighting and that can result in a blurry shot if you’re doing it by hand. I’ve been using this Neewer tripod and pan head for a while and they do everything I need them to.
One of the most common gripes people have with the Canon M50 is its battery life (or lack thereof). This isn’t a problem for me because I like to get a few spare batteries for whichever camera I’m using. That way I can always have at least one more charged up and ready to go.
Canon brand batteries are pretty expensive though. Aftermarket battery/charger kits like this one from Newmowa work great for a fraction of the price of one Canon battery.
If you plan to shoot video, audio quality is important. It’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll need to use some sort of external mic (although I’ve found the onboard mic on the M50 actually works pretty well as long as there isn’t any wind). Canon has you covered with a hot shoe mounting point up top and an external mic jack on the side. You can even dial in the gain adjustment in the menu.
Rode microphones are very popular with Youtubers and for good reason. They work well. I went with the VideoMicro in an effort to keep the camera’s overall size down as much as possible. It includes everything you need like a suspension mount and deadcat to block wind noise. This mic is powered by the camera so there’s no extra battery to worry about.
Filters for your lens aren’t required but they’re nice to have. An ND filter will allow you to run the proper shutter speed for video (in general, double your frame rate) without affecting the brightness of the image.
A polarizing filter is another great one to have, especially for automotive photos and video. This allows you to adjust how the reflections look in the paint and glass of the vehicle. Ever wonder why some people’s photos look like they’re better quality than yours, even with the same camera? They’re probably using a polarizing filter.
An added bonus to having a filter attached to the end of your lens is the protection it provides. This will take any impacts or staining from contaminants rather than the lens itself. Some filters can be pretty expensive but still cost a lot less than a new lens. In my case, I picked up this cheap set of filters and they’re doing the job just fine.
This one is more a matter of personal preference. It can be difficult to hang onto your camera while vlogging and these make it much more comfortable. Gorillapods seem to be popular but I’ve read quite a few stories of them breaking prematurely.
I decided to go with this one from Manfrotto and it’s been great. I love being able to kick the legs out quickly before setting the camera down instead of having it sit directly on the ground. As car guys, we’re often working in dirty areas or have greasy hands. I’d rather clean up my tripod than my camera.
If you plan on taking your photos and videos seriously, you’ll need a way to edit them. There are a lot of options out there depending on what you’re willing to spend. Adobe has a great range of editing software for both photo and video. Photoshop has been the industry leader for many years and Premiere is a well known favorite for video.
There are free editing programs available as well like Gimp for photos and Shotcut for video. They won’t do what the other programs will do (at least not as well) but they can usually handle the basics. These are enough to get you started – you can always upgrade later on.
Tim is the creator of Canadian Gearhead. His experience with auto detailing and working for Toyota shows through all of the articles posted here. He runs the Canadian Gearhead site and YouTube channel full-time now and currently owns a 2007 4runner, 2006 Tacoma, and 1991 MR2. Read more about Tim: