Canon EOS M review: At least a generation behind

Even though the flash uses its own pair of AAA batteries, after firing two shots with the camera's battery level at 3/4, the camera battery dropped to blinking red. And it has a subpar battery life to begin with.

Design and features
The compact, magnesium alloy body is well designed, with enough of a grip and thumb rest area to make it easy enough to shoot single-handed. As long as you're not looking for a lot of physical controls, the interface operates in an intelligent and straightforward manner. On top are the power button and a three-way switch for auto, movie, and what I think of as the kitchen sink mode -- a single setting on the switch from which you access all the other shooting modes via onscreen menus. Those include the usual manual, semimanual, and automatic modes .

On the back are menu, review, and info buttons; info controls what displays on the screen. The button locations on the adjustment dial offer autoexposure lock, exposure compensation, and drive modes. The bottom button can be programmed to set the center autofocus point, a depth-of-field preview, ISO sensitivity, or flash exposure compensation, or to toggle LCD brightness. A movie record button sits to the right of the thumb rest. All the controls provide nice tactile feedback.

The EOS M has an easy-to-use and responsive touch-screen interface.

The touch-screen LCD is similar to that of the T4i/T5i, responsive with an interface laid out for quick access. It's very nice for shooting video; you make silent adjustments while you're shooting, which is really convenient.

  Canon EOS M Nikon 1 J3 Samsung NX300 Sony Alpha NEX-5R
Sensor (effective resolution) 18MP hybrid CMOS 14.2MP hybrid CMOS 20.3MP hybrid CMOS 16.1MP Exmor HD CMOS
22.3mm x 14.9mm 13.2mm x 8.8mm 23.5mm x 15.7mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.6x 2.7x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 12800/ 25600 (expanded) ISO 160 - ISO 6400 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600
Continuous shooting

1.7/1.2fps depending upon lens
(4.3fps with fixed AF)

15fps
n/a
(60fps with fixed AF and electronic shutter)
8.6fps
n/a
3fps
11 raw/15 JPEG
(10fps with fixed exposure)
Viewfinder None None None Optional
Autofocus 31-point contrast AF 73-point
phase-detection, 135-area contrast AF
105-point phase-detection, 247-point contrast AF 99-point phase-detection, 25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity range n/a n/a n/a 0 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/200 flash sync 30 - 1/16,000; bulb; 1/60 sec. x-sync 30-1/6,000 sec.; bulb to 4 minutes; 1/180 x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec. x-sync
Metering n/a n/a n/a 1,200-zone
Metering range n/a n/a n/a 0 - 20 EV
Flash Optional
$149.99
Yes Included optional Included optional
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical Optical
Video H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/50p 1080/60i/30p, 720/60p H.264 MPEG-4 QuickTime MOV 1080/60p/30p; 1080 x 810/24p; 720/30p H.264 MPEG-4 AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/ 24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1,440x1,080/ 30p @ 12Mbps
Audio Stereo; mic input Stereo Stereo; mic input Stereo, mic input
LCD size 3 inches articulated touch screen
1.04 megapixels
3-inch fixed 920,000 dots 3.3-inch tilting AMOLED touch screen
768,000 dots
3-inch tilting touch screen
921,600 dots
Wireless file upload None Optional
(with WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter)
Wi-Fi Wi-Fi
Battery life (CIPA rating) 230 shots 220 shots n/a 430 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 4.3 x 2.6 x 1.3 4 x 2.4 x 1.1 4.8 x 2.5 x 1.6 4.4 x 2.4 x 1.6
Body operating weight (ounces) 10.9 7.1 (est.) 10.9 (est.) 9.7 (without flash)
Mfr. price n/a   n/a $599.99 (body only)
$649.00 (with 18-55mm lens) $599.95 (with 10-30mm lens) $749.99 (with 20-50mm i-Function lens) $699.99 (with 18-55mm lens)
$599.99 (with 22mm lens) $849.95 (with 10-30mm and 30-110mm lenses) n/a n/a
Ship date October 2012 September 2012 March 2013 October 2012

From a features standpoint, however, the EOS M is pretty blah.  The only uncommon features are the ability to adjust sound levels during video and the clip-based Video Snapshot feature that debuted in Canon's camcorders and has since made its way throughout the rest of Canon's cameras. It's got a handful of special effects, but doesn't render them with any novelty, and you can't layer them or use them during video shooting. There are two multishot modes, a four-shot handheld night scene and a three-shot HDR backlight control mode. It's got a hot shoe, but the only flash is extra-cost and bulky relative to the size of the camera (although it's pretty powerful).

The camera uses the same STM-technology lenses that Canon announced with the T4i. But since the shallower flange back of the mirrorless model requires a new lens mount -- voila, EF-M. Canon offers an optional adapter to allow the camera to use standard EF-mount lenses, so that you're not stuck with just the the 22mm f2 and 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 OIS lenses that are currently available, but using it puts the camera in the annoying small-body-big-lens category. While it works fine with other lenses -- I used it with a Canon 24 f1.4 L lens -- that type of solution only makes sense for enthusiast-level cameras, not the entry-level camera that this seems intended to be, given the predominantly touch-screen operation and no option for an electronic viewfinder.

Conclusion
The Canon EOS M's image quality is good, but not better than the Sony Alpha NEX-5R's. And given the paucity of native lenses, poor performance, and unexceptional feature set, it's hard to declare this more than an average interchangeable-lens camera. And you might even find some fixed-lens models a better option. I suggest you check out the EOS M's ILC and advanced compact competitors before you buy.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Sony Alpha NEX-5R
1.8 
0.6 
0.6 
0.8 
0.4 
Samsung NX210
2.7 
1.8 
2 
0.6 
0.6 
Canon EOS M (18-55mm)
2.9 
2.1 
2 
2 
0.9 
Canon EOS M (22mm)
2.9 
2.2 
2.1 
2.5 
1.3 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Canon EOS M
6.6 

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 18.0 Megapixel
    18.0 Megapixel
  • Optical Sensor Size 14.9 x 22.3mm