So I bought the Canon EOS M, here's my review (Part 1)
How I learned to stop worrying
and love the M
The Canon EOS M came under my radar about two years ago. After the mirrorless ILC (interchangeable lens camera) market was already 4 years old, Canon finally came out with the compact EOS M, which had a relatively large 18 megapixel APS-C sized sensor, but only 2 lenses to choose from.
Not only were they late to the ILC party, the camera they finally did release was met with less than stellar reviews. In fact most people hated it for the slow and inaccurate focusing system alone.
It wasn't until a firmware update was released a year later that the camera began to receive some goodwill. It was based on those new reviews of the updated M that I began to want one.
I've been wanting a smaller alternative to DSLRs for a while now. I have a Canon Powershot S90 but I prefer the quality I get from my Canon EOS 6D, or T2i. Unfortunately it's a pain to carry a big camera around, especially for snapshots or street photography. There's my phone, but I don't feel the quality is comparable. Sorry Instagram. Sadly the updated EOS M models such as the M2 and M3 were never released in North America. I could buy them new online but there are warranty issues and the M3 is around $1500 CDN for a kit.
So one day, on a random craigslist browse, I saw the discontinued EOS M with 22mm lens and adapter, and I thought, "how cool would it be to have a tiny little camera with a DSLR-size sensor that could actually use (with the adapter) all the lenses I already own?"
Pretty cool I think. Plus it was only $400. I figured I could even toss it in my camera bag as a another backup body for still and video.
The sensor is the same size and comparable quality as many Canon DSLRs such as the SL1 and 70D. Because of the APS-C size sensor it is of phenonemal quality for such a compact camera. I find it tends to get a little bit noisy at ISO 800 but is usable all the way up to ISO 3200, with some noise reduction in Lightroom. ISO range can be pushed to an obnoxious 12,800, but is not really usable in any serious situation, unless you must absolutely get the shot.
The ISO performance is a blessing, because there is no onboard flash on the M. It was originally sold with the tiny 90ex speedlite, but the guy I bought it from didn't sell the flash. If I find it on craigslist for a decent price I may pick it up. In the meantime I plan on attaching my 430ex speedlite to this little guy.
The 22mm f2 pancake lense is equivalent to a full frame 35mm, which is perfect for the snapshots and street photography I want to use it for. It's sharp and it's fast and it's tiny which keeps the camera size way down.
Canon definitely went with a clean and simple design. I find it to be a hybrid between a DSLR (for its quality), a compact (size) and a smartphone (touchscreen). The lack of a flash or optical viewfinder really help to keep the camera tiny and gives a very basic appearance.
The controls are very spartan, and most settings, including focus can be made via the touch screen. The interface is really not that different from the typical Canon camera, except you can now access the setting by tapping its icon on the screen, which then brings a second menu with finer controls. You can also use the control dial to navigate if you hate the touchscreen. If you have a smartphone reviewing photos on the EOS M will be very familiar to you. Focusing and viewing are the typical tap, swipe and pinch we all know and love.
Unfortunately, it doesn't have wi-fi, being manufactured before that feature became standard on most Canon cameras. I guess I could always get a EyeFi card if I miss it too much
One great feature I didn't anticipate is the macro capability. Because the sensor is so close to the lens I can focus just a few inches away. Great for product photography and detailed closeups.
Does it suck? Well compared to my EOS 6D, maybe more than a a little bit. While the sheer quality of the sensor is high, the focusing is definitely a bit quirky. Not great for action shots or low light focusing. The manual focus feature does comes in handy, but works best when the camera can lock focus first. In some low light situations with no contrast, autofocus can search and search. If I'm using an EOS EF lens with the adapter there's a simple switch right on the lens. With the tiny 22mm lens that came with the camera there's no switch so I have to go into the menu to set it to manual focus. Ugh. Very cumbersome. Manual focusing is not a dream either, but there is an up to 10x digital zoom in the display for spot focusing which is a big help.
This is a quirky camera that will take some practice to use really well. I don't feel it's a deal-breaker, but it will take some real usage to shoot efficiently with the EOS M.
Nevertheless, being able to carry around a tiny camera capable of such high quality photos far outweighs the quirkiness for me. It's just barely larger than my smartphone and the difference in image quality is enormous. It doesn't take up much space in my man purse, and looks much less intimidating at parties.
Using it with my Canon lenses is pretty great, even though the size of the camera makes it look a bit silly attached to some of my lenses. Still, using my 50mm f1.4 on a compact camera is quite awesome. My strobes work perfectly with it too, but also look a bit silly. Nevertheless, I plan on testing it with my 10-22 f3.5 EFS Sigma lens and my 430ex flash, probably in a party situation.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of "So I bought an EOS M" when I show you the photos I've shot so far with the camera.
(Click on photos to zoom)