"It's better late than never," said one camera to the other. In the case of the Canon EOS M, this statement couldn't be more apt.
The EOS M is an interchangeable lens camera (ILC) that offers a similar range of controls and shooting options as an SLR, but without the weight and complexity. Canon is definitely the last to arrive at the party with the EOS M, a year after Nikon and nearly four years after Panasonic and Olympus joined the throng.
Design and features
The EOS M has, in many ways, an uphill battle to fight, given that it has taken such a long time to mature and come to market. It's inevitably going to be compared to all the other contenders that are vying for your buying dollar, stacked up neatly on shelves and online storefronts in an attempt to woo you with its cute-looking chassis. Canon is positioning this camera toward non-professional photographers, hobbyists and anyone who is more concerned about capturing the moment than fiddling with complex settings.
In terms of overall design, the EOS M fits this brief perfectly. A hybrid between Canon's compact range and its SLR cameras, it borrows bits and bobs from each to make it as easy as possible for users to pick up and start capturing photos. Externally, though, you could be excused for confusing the rear panel with any number of Canon's compact cameras.
Click through for more first impressions and photos of the EOS M. (Credit: CBSi)
A three-way switch at the top of the camera alternates between intelligent automatic mode, program/scene mode and movie mode. For photographers who want to delve into the world of manual exposure, it's present on the EOS M, but hidden behind the program mode component of the dial. Fortunately, the excellent capacitive touchscreen lets you change shooting modes easily.
The camera comes in three colour options (black, red or white), and is compact enough for comfortable one-handed shooting. The EOS M is just 298 grams with a battery and memory card, and if you add on the 18-55mm lens, the total package is 508 grams. Like other Canon cameras, image stabilisation is performed through the lens rather than in the body.
Most of the internals (the 18-megapixel APS-C image sensor, Digic 5 processor and 3-inch touchscreen) are shared with the EOS 650D. The EOS M has its own lens mount, though, which means it is not automatically compatible with existing Canon EF lenses — for that, you will need an optional extra, the EF-EOS M adapter.
All the additional shooting modes available in the 650D make their way over to the EOS M, including the handheld night-scene mode and HDR backlight control.
Full HD video recording at 30, 25 and 24 frames per second (fps) is available, along with a built-in stereo microphone and 3.5mm jack. The EOS M is compatible with all regular EOS accessories, including Speedlites. There is a dedicated new flash unit for this camera to make the most of its small size, the 90 EX. Unfortunately, there's no way to attach an electronic viewfinder to the EOS M.
Like the EOS 650D, the EOS M comes with creative filters. These effects are applied to images after they have been taken, through the playback menu.
Filters include options such as black and white, fish eye, art bold and water painting. You can also choose between three intensity levels of each to change the effect on the photo. Images are saved as copies, rather than replacing the original file.
Connectivity on the EOS M includes USB and HDMI out, as well as a 3.5mm microphone jack.
|Sony NEX F3||Panasonic Lumix GF5||Canon EOS M||Olympus E-PL5|
|16.1-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor (APS-C)||12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor (Four Thirds)||18-megapixel CMOS sensor (APS-C)||16-megapixel Live MOS sensor (Four Thirds)|
|3-inch, 921,600-dot flip-up LCD||3-inch, 920,000-dot touchscreen LCD||3-inch, 1.04 million-dot touchscreen LCD||3-inch, 460,000-dot flip-up, touchscreen LCD|
|25-area AF||23-area AF||31-area AF||35-area AF|
|Full HD video (AVCHD/MP4, 1080i)||Full HD video (AVCHD/MP4, 1080i)||Full HD video (MPEG-4, 1080p)||Full HD video (MPEG-4, 1080i)|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Start-up to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- RAW shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
Olympus Pen Lite E-PL5
Panasonic Lumix GF5
Canon EOS M
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)
Olympus Pen Lite E-PL5
Panasonic Lumix GF5
Canon EOS M
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Canon claims that the EOS M can shoot at 4.3fps in continuous mode, or at 1.7fps with tracking focus using the 18-55mm lens, and 1.2fps with tracking focus and the 22mm lens, both of which come in a kit configuration with the body. These results were consistent with our testing figures.
If you are considering the EOS M for capturing photos of your children or of fast-moving subjects and you rely on autofocus, prepare to be disappointed. This camera has one of the slowest results in AF tests that we've seen for some time in the ILC category, which is disappointing. More often than not during the testing period, we missed several spur-of-the-moment shots, because the camera was just too slow to lock on and choose focus. We're not talking milliseconds of delay here — there are several seconds involved when the EOS M is hunting for focus.
As you can see, the shutter lag averages 1.8 seconds, which is the time taken between pressing the shutter button and the camera locking on and taking the shot. This is pretty unacceptable for a camera of this class. Even when it did grab hold of a target, on many occasions it was incorrect, focusing instead on something in the background rather than the foreground, or vice versa. This was even with the subject in the centre of the frame, regardless of the AF mode selected.
However, the shutter lag can be reduced to 0.1 second by using manual focus, which obviously does away with the AF lag. However, for most users, particularly beginner photographers, manual focus will be too time consuming.
While the EOS M shares the same hybrid AF system as the 650D, without the fallback of an optical viewfinder, the reality of shooting with this camera is much less fluid than with an SLR. We sincerely hope that Canon issues a firmware update in the near future to address this issue.
Canon rates the battery life of the EOS M at 230 shots, which is below average for a camera of this class.
Given that the EOS M shares all the same internals as the 650D, it's no surprise that image quality is almost identical between the two models. Naturally, the lens performance is slightly different, given the change in optics and also the lens mount.
Expect full, vibrant colours when shooting on default settings and JPEG images, with good tonality and dynamic range. Like the 650D, the EOS M does tend to overexpose highlights ever so slightly when shooting in automatic mode. It can hit a native sensitivity of ISO 12,800 or extend farther, but at 6400 and 12,800, shots do have a lot of visible colour noise.
Overall, though, the EOS M delivers the closest SLR-like images we've seen yet from an ILC, and few users will be disappointed with any component of its image-capture quality.
The EOS M shares pretty much all of its imaging traits with the 650D, including how it processes its RAW and JPEG images. There's slightly more detail to be had in its RAW files, as well as scope to bring back detail lost in highlight areas.
The touchscreen allows for options like tap to focus and touch shutter, which will automatically take an image once focus has been achieved.
Continuous autofocus (Canon calls this Movie Servo AF within its menus) is a tad twitchy when seeking focus, and seems to be less smooth than that on the 650D. As you can see from the video below, shot with the 22mm f/2 lens, the EOS M does seek focus quite a lot when Movie Servo AF is activated. The twitching appears to be less prominent on the 18-55mm kit lens.
Manual exposure control is available during video recording, as well as exposure compensation if you choose to stay in automatic mode. One quirk of the recording system is that you need to position the dial into the movie recording position in order for the record button at the back of the camera to function. So if you're in automatic mode and want to suddenly capture a spontaneous video, you need to move the switch and then hit record.
Like the 650D, the best results for continuous focus come from Canon's STM lenses. STM means the lens is equipped with a stepping motor that makes it focus quietly, which is particularly useful when shooting video.
With the EF mount adapter, the EOS M can achieve continuous focus in video with other Canon lenses, but the results are nowhere near as smooth, and the motor action is quite noisy.
Exposure: 1/125, f/5.6, ISO 3200
Exposure: 1/50, f/5, ISO 1250
Exposure: 1/160, f/6.3, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/80, f/2.8, ISO 800
Looking for SLR-like image quality in a compact body? The EOS M offers the best of both worlds, with the added benefit of interchangeable lenses. However, its sluggish autofocus may deter point-and-shoot upgraders.
Suffice to say, the EOS M had so much potential to disrupt the ILC market. Unfortunately, it doesn't stand out enough for us to wholeheartedly recommend it over other, more nippy models in its class.
While Canon Australia no longer issues official RRPs for its products, it will most likely fall in between the price bracket of the 600D and 650D, in the region of AU$799.
The following body and lens kit configurations will be available:
EOS M body and EF-EOS M lens adapter
EOS M body (black) with 18-55mm and 90 EX Speedlite
EOS M body (black, red or white) with 22mm, 18-55mm and 90 EX Speedlite.