Canon EOS-M hands on review

With the introduction of the EOS M, Canon have finally joined the Compact System Camera market. It seems to have taken forever for Canon to join the party, but it should be noted that the main drivers of the CSC business to date have been the Panasonic, Olympus and Sony who, with the exception of Sony, don’t have to worry about the effect that a new smaller, lighter interchangeable lens system range might have on their market-leading DSLR business.

Fast, accurate focusing

Anyway, considering many of their rivals are on their 5th or 6th generation of product, the EOS M has a lot going for it. It shares lots of the features of the EOS 650D, including its innovative Hybrid AF CMOS sensor. The majority of CSC’s use the same contrast detection autofocus system used by compact cameras. For the most part this is quick and incredibly accurate, but it’s not as quick as the phase detection system used by most DSLR’s, including Canon’s EOS system. Unfortunately, since phase detection relies on a mirror assembly to work, most manufacturers have been unable to harness its potential in a mirrorless camera, with the notable exception of Sony.

Canon’s innovative approach is to utilise dedicate AF pixels within the CMOS sensor itself, that can provide data for the AF system, which means that focusing is both fast and accurate. Whilst there’s  still room for improvement, for the most part focusing is fast and accurate, with the added advantage of being able to use almost the entire sensor for focusing – photographers are no long constrained by the 9 or more AF points in the camera.

Small and stylish
Design wise, the Canon EOS M is compact and stylish, well built with a fairly minimalist design. Paired with lenses like the EF-M 22mm f/2 STM Pancake lens, it really is a diminutive package that you can take anywhere. Larger lenses do of course upset this balance to an extent, but Canon have introduced a range of EF-M Mount lenses specifically to partner to EOS-M. They’re smaller and lighter than the EF and EF-S equivalents, and also feature stepper motors, which provide fast, silent focusing even in movie mode, so your movie footage won’t be spoilt by the sound of lens motors whirring.

For customers with an existing collection of EF and EF-S mount lenses, the optional Mount Adapter EF-EOS M can be used to mount lenses and still retain AF capability.

The button configuration and menu system will be immediately familiar to Canon owners, and is well laid out and easy to navigate. What’s more, the EOS-M’s 7.7cm screen is also touch sensitive, which means that many settings can be changing quickly and easily just by touching the screen, which can also be configured to fire the shutter too.

The screen is a very high resolution at 1.04m dots, and fares well with framing and for image playback, where swiping the screen to move to the next image is a quick and intuitive way to review your shots.

Speedlite in the box
The diminutive body means there’s no room for a built-in flash. Instead Canon include their new Speedlite 90EX unit in the box. It works well and provides good illumination, with the added benefit of being a little further away from the imaging plane when mounted on the hotshoe, which gives more flattering results and reduces the likelihood of red eye, compared to most compact models. It’s powered by three AAA batteries, and is small enough to take with you anywhere.
The camera can record both RAW and JPEG to SD cards, and with an ISO range of 100-12800 (expandable to 25,600) it can produce great shots even in low light, something which can often trip up smaller cameras.

Canon’s Scene Intelligent Auto mode can determine the best shooting mode for any given situation whilst for users looking to take control, the usual PASM modes are available.
Overall there’s lot to like with the EOS M. It’s by no means revolutionary in terms of features, but it’s a compact, responsive camera that can capture stills and movies with impressive detail. Whilst this is Canon’s first foray into the mirrorless world, there’s no evidence of it being a first attempt – it’s a great camera in its own right that stands up to comparison versus the majority of the existing CSC models well. With the lens range from both Canon and third parties only going to increase, it’s a great camera capable of capturing high quality results – and small enough that you can take it with you anywhere.

The EOS M is available in two versions; with the EF-M18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens in a choice of black, red, silver and white, or with the EF-M 22mm f/2 STM lens and Mount Adapter EF-EOS M in black only.

We Love

High performance sensor with great low-light capability
Brilliant touchscreen makes control and playback quick and easy
Optional EF-EOS MMount Adapter gives full creative freedom


Anonymous said...

I bought an EOS-M just before christmas even though reports said its focussing was "relatively slow". I have not found this to be a problem to date though I have not, for example, tried using it to photograph F1 type action. I like the build quality, compactness,feel, and handling, and its certainly up there with its DSLR like features. Over New Year I was impressed by its ability to record fireworks at night while being hand held and I have already ventured into monochrome again after many years absence. To me it has everything that an enthusiatic amateur would want - why do the mags always compare cameras to what a pro might require day in and day out?
I think it has been worth the wait for Canon to produce this.

Unknown said...

I've had one for a little while and I am very impressed. I use a Canon EOS 5D MkIII for my main camera, but often this is too bulky to carry, and I like to have a light camera that will do most things to carry around on days when I'm not going out to take photos, but would like to take the opportunity when it arises. The camera is very solidly-built and doesn't feel cheap and plasticky like many cameras.

In terms of usability, although it doesn't have a viewfinder, I don't find this much of an issue, as the screen is very good. If you use Canon already, the menu systems are very easy to pick up. The touch screen is very easy to use and works even if you have gloves on. The ability to select your autofocus point by tapping on the screen is extremely helpful.

In terms of image quality, I am blown away. It really is extremely good, and both lenses are pin sharp and work brilliantly. Comparing with the 5D3 with L-series glass, the images hold up extremely well, as does the performance at high ISO (although not as good as the 5D3, it is still very good).

The autofocus is slower than a full SLR - but not as slow as my Fuji X100, for example. It would struggle with rapidly-moving subjects or sports, but for most photography, particularly with static subjects, it really isn't an issue.

The little flash works well, in so much as I have actually used it.

It is a camera I have with me all the time. It is small enough to carry around the woods with me while I'm working, to carry to the shops, to carry out on walks, and to take to events. Obviously, if I am going out to take pictures, I take the 5D3, but if I am going out and spot something, the EOS-M is always with me. And the adapter means if some disaster were to befall my 5D3, then I can use the EOS-M, and it would do very creditable job too! I have found it particularly useful for documentary photography, for example at an event, where you don't want to be too obtrusive with a large camera.

As to my level, well I am semi-pro (that is I sell some photos, run photographic workshops) and my specialty is wildlife, macro and landscape photography, but I do all sorts when required.

I was waiting a long time for this, and am very happy with it now it is out. I just want a long telephoto/zoom and true macro lens for the EOS-M and I'll be happy!

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