Canon EOS M Review

Raising lots of eyebrows when first announced, the Canon EOS M was a product full of mixed feelings. Rumored for the longest time, it seems that Canon is perhaps a bit too late to the mirrorless interchangeable lens camera game. Yet the Japanese company looked full of confidence of the new EOS M product that it not only comes in different kits but also in up to 4 different colours.

POPCulture’s Kenneth Wong managed to get his hands on the black set on release day here in Singapore and after a good two days of exploring the camera and taking it out on a walkabout shoot, he tells us all about it from an end user point of view.

Handling and Built Quality

The first thing that hits me when I first picked up the black EOS M is how well it is constructed. Sure its no where near the excellent construction of my Canon EOS 1D series camera but the overall feel of the black EOS M is one that feels solid. This of course comes at an expense of being heavier than it looks but in a positive way as it helps to add that touch of stability when handling the camera.

Holding the camera feels good thanks to the solid construction and the little groove for the thumb area on the top right of the camera. Buttons feels nice to press and the familiar wheel that is a common sight for Canon cameras feels just right when turning.

Another thing most photographers who been shooting for a while would notice immediately is the lack of a dedicated mode dial. While the mode selection is still available via the on screen interface, this means that you have to pay more attention to the screen for those who like to know what mode the camera is in before firing off a few shots.

Other than that little (or big depending on personal preference) downside with the lack of the mode dial, the rest of the camera is very user friendly especially for users who been using canon cameras for a while.

The EOS M features a full sized hotshoe that allows you to mount the Speedlite 90EX flash (that comes with Kit 3) and yes for those wondering, it fits Canon’s latest Speedlite 600EX-RT flash as well. Sadly there has not been any sign of a EVF (electronic view finder) unit that will fit onto the hot shoe yet so until Canon says otherwise, its best to leave it at that.

For those who want to take movie (which I will not be covering much in this review since the quality should be around the same as the 650D), the EOS M does 1080/30p and 24p, 720/60p and 50p and 640 x 480 shooting at 30 or 25 frames per second. There are also a common set of HDMI out, Mic in and A/V out (which doubles up as a USB port) ports at the side of the EOS M for your video needs. Just be prepared to remember to change the EOS M to movie mode before hitting the red record button.

Performance

Image quality wise, the EOS M is everything that you expect from the Canon EOS 650D. Featuring the same APS-C sensor and the new Digic 5 chip, images that come out of the EOS M are very usable up to 3200 ISO. With official support from popular post processing software such as Adobe’s Lightroom 4 , looking at the raw files from the Canon EOS M, I expect the RAW to be usable at 6400 ISO with noise reduction fine tuning.

The EOS M built in menu will be familiar for everyone who has used a high end compact such as the least powershot series and even Canon’s DSLRs. From the colour coding of options (red for shooting settings, blue for image settings, yellow for camera settings and green for customised settings), to very similar style and wording of the menu, Canon users will no doubt feel at home.

Perhaps the part that many potential users and those doing their research on the EOS M would want to know before committing to the system is the autofocus (AF) speed. I am sure that I was not the only one who was initially put off by hands on previews that others have posted about the disappointing AF speed when using the pre-production models.

After using the camera both in the day (albeit gloomy thanks to the weather these few days), indoor at the camera shop and outdoors at night at an open air pub while waiting the Manchester United vs Stoke Game, I have concluded that while the autofocus is nothing to shout about, it is not as horrible as people make it out to be. Sure it is not instant lock on like say my 1D series DSLR but it does get the job done and has been accurate so far. But before I get flamed to death, let me offer an explanation.

Firstly I feel the problem is that expectations are not managed when it comes to this camera. It is obvious that Canon doesn’t intend for the EOS M to match up against DSLR models such as the 7D, the 5D mark 3 or even the 1D series. These DSLRs are using what is called Phase Detection AF and is well known to be faster than Contrast Detection which compact cameras and other mirrorless systems are using.

While I am not here to do a scientific test on how slow the EOS M is compared to other mirrorless offering like the OMD-EM5, the GH3 or even the Next 7(which by the way is in another class of its own and cost more), I can tell you that the AF on the EOS M feels about the same with the Sony Nex 5N when I tested it at the camera shop. This in my humble opinion is acceptable considering it is Canon’s first attempt at the mirrorless market.

Conclusion

Overall Canon’s first step into the mirrorless market with the EOS M is an interesting step for the Japanese Company. While the EOS M is definitely not aimed at the enthusiast mirrorless market, it is still a very decent camera. Sure the autofocus is nowhere close to the likes of the Panasonic GH3, the Olympus OMD-EM5 or its EOS DSLR brothers, it more than makes up for it with good image quality.

I believe the target market Canon had in mind for the EOS M are consumers who have been using Canon compacts like the Powershot series or even the IXUS series and are looking to move up to something better. These users also wouldn’t want the weight and size that comes with the Canon EOS DSLRs so something like a bridge in between would be ideal.

This is rather obvious especially looking at the EOS M Kit 3 set which I have with me now. The kit comes with a small flash that is good enough for those group shots at dinner outings, a general 18-55mm lens that good for walk about and a 22mm prime that at f/2, gives the user a chance to play with depth of field and also more options in low light situations.

Of course I still hope secretly that Canon could do something about the AF performance with a future firmware release so that I can ditch my EOS 5D Mark III and bring this small little guy instead to event coverages. But honestly, the “weak” autofocus is far from being a deal breaker and more of something irritating like an ant bite that goes away with time.

Ultimately the EOS M is not a perfect camera that’s for sure and it is definitely not something for the professional photographer on duty. But for everything else that is more towards the fun and casual side, the EOS M is one strong contender when it comes to deciding which camera should I take out of my drybox.

Ratings: 3.5 out of 5 Stars.

by Kenneth Wong
© POPCulture Online 2012, All Rights Reserved.

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