Review: Canon EOS M Mirrorless Camera

IMG_5072If you haven’t bought a mirrorless camera yet, you will soon. Yes, that is a pretty bold statement, but let’s face reality here, it is more than “just likely” that ALL cameras will be mirrorless in the very near future. Whether its in the small form factor of the EOS M or Sony NEX 7 or in the shape of a DSLR like the Sony A99, mirrorless is the future of camera design. Where companies are struggling right now is positioning existing models into existing markets. Such is the case with the Canon EOS M, is it a high end consumer camera or a low-end extra camera for advanced users. This is going to be a hard question to answer as we take our look inside the Canon EOS M. To help answer the question for myself, I rented one for the weekend from BorrowLenses.com.

FEATURES AND SPECS

IMG_5078Canon advertises the EOS M as essentially DSLR quality in a small form factor.  That statement isn’t far from the truth. The EOS M features a full APS-C sensor, that same as in the T4i DSLR, so image quality is certainly just as good as Canon’s entry level DSLR. Actually, for all intents and purposes, the EOS M “is” the same as the T4i in almost every way with the exceptions being not having a viewfinder, no built-in flash, and a new lens mount specific to the mirrorless format. [AdsWithin]

  • New EF-M lens mount (optimized for APS-C sensor size)
  • 18MP APS-C ‘Hybrid CMOS’ sensor
  • Continuous autofocus in movie mode with subject tracking
  • 14-bit DIGIC5 processor
  • ISO 100-12800 standard, 25600 expanded
  • 4.3 fps continuous shooting, 3 fps with autofocus tracking
  • 1080p30 video recording, stereo sound (with 25p or 24p options)
  • External microphone socket and adjustable sound recording level
  • 1040k dot 3:2 touch-sensitive ClearView II LCD (capacitative type, multi-touch support)
  • Standard EOS hot-shoe for external flash (no built-in flash)
  • ‘Creative Filters’ image-processing controls, previewed live on-screen

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INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

IMG_5075First off, the EOS M is small, about the same size as most large point & shoot cameras but with an interchangeable lens. While there is no viewfinder, the LCD screen works well and has a nice viewing angle. On a small camera, I am a little surprised there is no built-in flash or a small accessory flash included.

Having had the 20D, 30D, 50D, and 7D, the menus are very familiar but not having any dials and only a touchscreen means there are some changes to how some settings are controlled which takes a little getting used to.

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IMG_1695Initial impressions of the camera were all positive as I snapped a few fun pics around the house. The high ISO performance is quite good and the EOS M performs quite well.

Having had the Sony NEX 5n for a while, not having an articulated screen is a seriously missed feature when shooting from any position besides straight ahead.

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USING THE EOS M

IMG_1770While I generally like the EOS M, the biggest issue, as many people have complained about, is the slow auto-focus. In ideal conditions the auto-focus isn’t too bad but anything short of ideal and the focus can hunt around quite a bit.

While I do like the fact that I can use my 580 EX II flash in eTTL mode on the hot shoe, and you can control some of the flash features but you cannot control any wireless features. So while you get the image quality of a DSLR, you certainly don’t get the full set of features. I find the “DSLR like” comments a little misleading given the stripped down feature set.

In the picture here, I turned the flash to fire sideways into an umbrella but not being able to control a second flash means this is not a secondary camera for a professional if you can’t do the same things as your DSLR can.

SUMMARY

IMG_1745Is the EOS M a good camera, yeah, sure, but is it a $720 camera? I cannot for the life of me understand how a stripped down camera is worth $70 MORE than the DSLR most of it’s components came from, if anything, the EOS M should come in $200 – $250 LESS than a T4i given the missing features. For $70 less than the EOS M you can get the Rebel T41 with:

  • Built-in flash
  • Built-in viewfinder
  • Wireless flash control
  • More controls
  • Articulated screen

IMG_1717Given the features of the EOS M there is simply no possible way to justify the additional cost of the EOS M. For the same price there are better mirrorless cameras with more features.

Buuuuuuuut Kerry, its a Canon, and I can use my arsenal of EF lenses with it, so that adds to the value right? Well..no, in order to use your EF lenses you will need to buy an adapter that will set you back yet another $180 where the T4i can use your EF lenses right out of the box.

As I mentioned earlier, this camera was rented from BorrowLenses.com and is a perfect example of why renting equipment before buying it is a good idea. Sometimes you really need to get your hands on a piece of equipment and see if it really fits your needs to ensure that a large purchase doesn’t disappoint you in the end.

KerryG

Kerry Garrison is a wedding, portrait, and product photographer living in southern California. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 3 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms. Kerry's work can be found at http://kerrygarrison.com and on Facebook at http://facebook.com/KerryGarrison

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