Western lifestyle photography (or any photography) is a lot less about make and price of your camera and a whole lot of understanding the “ingredients” of available lighting, emotional connection, creative composition and knowing what in-camera-exposures you need to translate your vision into a “better picture.”
That being said, the Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless is the perfect blend of affordable price and quality function for both the amateur seeking a (significant) upgrade from their phone and the seasoned professional wanting something a little (or a lot) lighter for the “off days.”
When it was released early 2018 I read the specs and saw the price tag on the Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera and I saw “diaper bag sized ranch camera” written all over it.
While there are a billion and one camera’s to choose from. I chose the Canon over competing Sony (also some great little cameras) or Fuji (super classic look for a premium price) brands because with some hands-on comparison, a ton of researching specs and way too many youtube reviews…I feel like the Canon M50 is the best…FOR THE PRICE. Plus everyone pretty much agree’s it’s got a faster auto-focus. Which is important in my fast paced ranch life full of running kiddos and horses horses.
Worth noting. I do NOT need another camera. Yet I’ll be the first to raise a really painful hand (and wrist and elbow and shoulder) at the end of my busy photography seasons and admit that the big cameras are massive BEASTS. I sadly tend to avoid lugging around when I’m not working.
Which means I have an iPhone full of “I wish I’d had my camera then” pictures of my kiddos and day-to-day ranch and western lifestyle stuff. (Speaking of which. Look how big my iPhone 7 Plus is next to the M50 Camera.)
I was already recommending it and friends were telling me it was exactly what they needed. So I finally came up with the excuse that I’d buy it for myself so that I would REALLY “try it out.” You know, to see JUST how much I’d recommend it as an under $1000, lightweight, compact, entry-level camera.
Warning: If you don’t know much about the technical stuff and don’t have any interest in it, don’t get lost in the over-abundance of info I packed into this blog. If you just want to hit the highpoints, they’ll be in bold. If you are an aspiring photographer then there’s going to be some Homework and lots of links to articles explaining some great game-changing stuff you can sink your teeth into. If you are a pro…don’t read this cause then you’ll want one for your purse too.
Do you have to be a pro to get great pictures with the Canon M50?
I get a lot “What camera do you recommend” questions from non-pros who just want a nicer-than-cellphone camera they can pull out of a box and get automatically great photos.
So the first thing I did was take the Canon EOS M50 camera out while weaning calves and shot it for 3 days on out-of-box auto settings. Minus the beep. HAD to turn that annoying thing off. Oh. And I did make sure I was shooting RAW, not Jpeg (more on that below.)
Lemme tell you. It’s been a while since I’ve had a non-pro camera and approximately 9 years since I’ve shot in “automatic.” In the past when someone handed me a rinky-dink little camera and asked me to “take a few photos” I would get so irritated by my inability to take full control because auto was just not capable! (Usually at events or gathering where I intentionally left my equipment at home so I wouldn’t have to work…don’t do that to your photographer friends.)
But not with this little thing. The smarts and automatic exposures of this camera are fantastic, especially considering the price. Color me impressed.
THIS CAMERA IS WHAT YOU NEED…even if you never intend to take it off auto mode and care NOTHING of the technical aspects of manual exposure, raw vs. jpeg, APS-C vs. Full Frame or blah blah blah. Scroll past everything else and at the bottom I’ll help you choose the lens kit option that will work best for you.
That being said…
If auto is great, more manual exposure control is SOOOOOO much better!
So I get the MOST “What camera do you recommend” questions from hobbyists or aspiring pros who are on a little budget and have little to no clue what they are getting into…but they are hungry to get their hands on something they can grow with.
The beauty of the Canon EOS M50 is you actually have the option to learn and grow SO MUCH as you tap into the full potential of your little camera!
Homework: Exposure is the mix of changeable shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings that tell your camera how to use available light, your camera, and your lens together to capture a properly exposed image or create varying effects. Click those links for some fantastic articles I’ve found for you that will break each facet down for you.
What do I think of it as a professional?
I’m keeping it. And so far I’ve used it multiple times every single day…and not because I knew I was going to be writing this blog, but because there’ve been so many every-day-ranch-mom moments when I reached for my iPhone and then remembered I could do SO much better.
I’m not going to shoot on this professionally. As wonderful as it is (and it really is), this is a $699 entry-level camera setup. At a professional photo shoot or wedding I’m easily working with $10,000+ (also think 100lbs) worth of professional level camera bodies, lenses, and equipment.
Now can I, using my skill and experience, use the Canon M50 to and create quality and professional looking images. Absolutely! Will I do it “professionally”…nope.
I love that I can still have a little bitty camera that allows for shooting RAW (more below on that), lets me have easy touchscreen access and full control of all the standard/important aperture, shutter speed, ISO settings for the best exposure. PLUS allowing me to manage White Balance, choose the same metering and drive modes that I use professionally, and has a hot-shoe mount for my speedlites…etc etc. All with a menu that looks and feels like my pro-camera, so I already feel at home.
So with all that why is it THOUSANDS of dollars cheaper than a “pro” camera? That’s because, like it’s older sisters, the faithful Canon Rebel DSLRs…it’s still an APS-C (Cropped) Sensor and not Full Frame.
Homework: Go watch Jared Polin explain the different camera sensors, from professional DSLR’s down to cell phones.
If you are an experienced professional, I found this full list of specs. You’ll see what I’m saying about it being pretty loaded with the features us pro’s want to micro-manage.
So what do I think of it as…
THE EVERYDAY PURSE/DIAPER BAG CAMERA
On a scale of 1-10, it’s a ten. And it takes pictures a MILLION times better than my iPhone…as good as the iPhone is.
It’s small and lightweight. Heck, it’s lighter than my squash blossom! I don’t FEEL like I’m packing around a camera.
When I slam on the brakes and dump the contents of my purse into the floorboard, my kid spills her chocolate milk on it, or a mad mama cow chases me up a fence (all #truestories), and something breaks on the Canon EOS M50 or Lenses…oh bummer. But it’s not a $5321.89 OH [INSERT BAD WORD] with a a few tears and an insurance claim headache kinda BUMMER.
I love my purse! Nelson says I have a “Bag within a bag baggery system. It side hustles as a diaper bag/camera bag WONDERFULLY. It’s The Classic Cowhide Hobo from STS Ranch. Best wallet design in the world is also by STS Ranch, The West Tex bought from Savannah 7s).
Also LOOOOVE my cheap amazon prime inserts. The big one was originally intended as an actual diaper bag insert and the little elastic bottle band fits over my camera to hold it in place….so even if I do slam on the breaks the only thing I’m spilling is my lipstick and change! And then the small purse insert is fantastic because not only does it keep the little things organized, and if I want to quickly change out into a smaller purse (I have it down to a science for all my traveling) then all I have to do is transfer this little insert and I know I have everything I need.
A RANCH LIFE CAMERA
When I mean business, I harness up the big boys, roll up my sleeves and photograph a branding like Western Horseman was paying me to do it.
But in this stage of life, I’m a mama with two kids. I push a stroller, lead a mini-horse, the water/food delivery service and I am just trying to keep the boogyman caravan from getting someone bucked off
Don’t get me wrong, I can DO IT ALL with the big equipment. It’s just not conducive to reality sometimes. I beat the snot out of my costly gear way more now that I’m chasing kids too.
I share what camera’s I use professionally and why in this blog: Top 3 Camera’s for Ranch Life Photography
This M50 camera allows me the ability to still take good pictures of the goings-on while being light enough that I’m not weighed down (I forget it’s around my neck) and small enough I can even put it in my coat pocket when I need to get involved and don’t want it swinging around.
For western lifestyle photography, the Canon M50 has two kit lens options. If you get both, it makes the perfect lightweight, under $1000, easy to figure out (or don’t need to figure out at all) camera/lens combos for shooting. Everything from muddy kids in the tiny bathroom, the hubby saddling up in the morning or zoomed in to capture that bull elk coming into water in the (‘cause the dagum blasted fence busters are still fun to get a good shot of.)
More on lenses below.
FOR A WESTERN LIFESTYLE BLOGGER, INFLUENCER, MAKER OR BRAND
Goodness gracious yes! Order it right now! If you struggle to capture quality images that set your brand apart and can’t afford to hire a professional photographer every single time you need a new set of spurs photographed or put together a new outfit, then look no further!
FYI Western Fashion Influencers…You owe me one. I went to great lengths and embarrassed myself in front of the FedEx man pretending to be one of you all. All because I wanted to see how well the Canon EOS M50‘s focus tracking feature worked (that’s right IT TRACKS YOU or your desired subject.)
I set up the camera on the tripod and tested out it’s built-in timer, a cheap Bluetooth trigger and the “Remote Live Shooting” feature in the Canon CameraConnect app on my iPhone. Here’s the link to it on iTunes or Google Play) And it very effectively tracked and nailed the focus even when I was running in circles and doing jumping-jacks.
The Lenses Explained
The Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera is built for interchangeable EF-M Lenses. If you shop on Amazon, you can have the option to buy it with either or both the: EF-M15-45mm or EF-M 55-200mm at a bundled “kit lens” prices. If you got the money honey…get both.
Homework: The letters/numbers describing a lens are going to be how you know it’s camera mount type, focal length(s) and aperture capabilities. This in-depth article about understanding lens terms will explain it well and help you know what you need for different situations.
(Before we go any further and for the sake of keepin it real around here…there’s an affiliate link disclosure/explanation etc at the bottom!)
Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3: It’s ideal for inside spaces where you need a wider shot but still useful for zooming in on something outdoors. This is the kit lens I personally chose because most of what I want the camera for is indoor stuff with my kids or outside ranch life actives at close proximity (like when my kid is on her mini-horse, and I don’t want to walk back 10 feet to get everything in a picture).
Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3: For those wanting to get a zoomed in shot of that bull elk, cowboys gathering in the distance or your grandson playing football, this is what you need. It won’t be ideal for inside/close quarters type stuff.
With the way the two above lenses work, your lens will do much better in low light situations when you have it zoomed out all the way (pulled back/wider) because that’s when it works on a lower f/ (aperture). Zoomed in you start to lose that lower aperture capability.
The cool thing is that Canon makes some pretty high quality lens for the EF-M mounts too! They are still affordable compared to the pro-grade lenses, but they will cost twice as much as the EF-M kit lenses. They’ll also be 100x better if you want to often work in lowlight situations or want to achieve a blurrier background.
Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4: Hello 1.4 aperture capability! This thing will do fantastic in low light situations! But it’s not super small either.
Canon EF-M 22mm f/2: It’s a cute little “pancake lens,” and I’d want it just because it would feel like no-lens. Also not bad in low light.
If I had to choose between the two above…I’d go with the 22mm f/2 because unless you are in a pro situation, f/1.4 is just really overkill. To put it into perspective. I shoot 95% of my portrait and wedding images at a f/2.8. Unless it’s family photos…then it’s 5.6 or 6.3.
Canon EOS M Mount Adaptor: If you already have any Canon EF or EF-S lenses used for the other makes/models, here’s an adaptor that will make it where you can keep using them! I’d buy this puppy and attach ANY of my pro lenses to the Canon M50. But I already have 4 other fully-capable camera’s that those lenses were built for…and the moment I attach a big lens to this Mirrorless body we lose the whole point of “lightweight and small.”
About batteries and accessories…
Just around the house, you’re fine. But any activity where you get serious about taking pictures (branding, sports events, tripod style family photos)…this little thing is a battery eating monster, and you might want an extra close by. I ordered two extra of these cheap, off-brand Wasabi Power Battery 2 Pack Canon LP-E12 Batteries and they’ve been perfect.
In addition to ordering some backup batteries I got these:
Lens Cap Tethers: Because I’m putting this camera all sorts of places, I want the lens cap handy to protect the glass. I’m the queen of loosing these little caps and those suckers aren’t cheap! This slides onto the lens with an elastic band so it’s also super quick and efficient to pull off if I don’t want it swinging around for extended shoots.
Lens Hood: I like these on my pro lens because I’ve busted a ton of them when they’ve taken the brunt of an impact in place of the glass or lens. For compact storage you can flip it around and screw it on backwards. You can still adjust the lens zoom when it’s backwards.
Wireless Remote: All the other remotes were out of stock so I ended up with this one. Works great and was cheaper than what the others were gonna be. So that’s good.
The Raw vs. Jpeg Files, Wireless File Transmission and Editing!
Last but not least!
You get a camera. Take a great photo. Now what?
The whole point of taking awesome pictures is to show them off on social media right away, right? The Canon EOS M50 allows you to quickly transfer all or select images directly from the camera to your phone anywhere, anytime!
My personal process: I snap a photo book worthy moment of my kids on the camera. Drop it over to my iPhone. Edit in the Adobe Lightroom Mobile app. And upload it to my personal Instagram.
It gets better. Then every few months Chatbooks, which is connected to my Instagram, automatically sends me an awesome little photo book of the photos/captions I’ve posted! Before it sends it off to printing, it lets me know, and I can edit, arrange, change captions and add/remove photos on the Chatbooks app on my phone before it goes to print. If we’re friends in real life you’ve heard me rave about them. If you use THIS link to signup, you’ll get the first book free! (Expires 1/31/2019)
Done and done.
When a card is full, I transfer and backup the photos to my external storage hard-drives. I’m a hyperactive photo taker so I’m typically storing thousands of massively sized RAW pictures and my computer drives would bog down in 2 days if I didn’t use external storage hard drives. Something to keep in mind if you have a computer that’s almost full already…
Homework: For the purpose of editing I shoot my files in the RAW format instead of the standard Jpeg. I have the software necessary to process a RAW file. If you do not have the desktop version of Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, and you aren’t interested in getting crazy with editing, keep it to Jpeg. If you are someone (back to the aspiring pros/brands/makers) wanting to push the limits with better editing, read this article about Raw Vs. Jpeg
If you get this camera or found any of this remotely helpful, I’d love to hear! Comment here, email me or find me on social media platforms! You also can use tag @lyndseygarber or #lgp_recommended if you are posting (with a public account) about it on Instagram so I can see you!
Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera for Western Lifestyle Photography // Copyright Lyndsey Garber
*Disclosure: Keeping it real around here. Sometimes (not always) the links in my posts are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. (Like a whopping $0.13 you all.) You will never get charged extra through affiliate links…and sometimes you’ll even get a discount! BUT you can always trust that I link these products or companies only because I BOUGHT them with real money and USE them in real life…and not because of any commission I may or may not receive from your purchases. Whether or not you decide to buy something is entirely up to you.