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Canon EOS M review:

Canon EOS M

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Canon EOS M - digital camera 22mm Pancake lens

(Part #: 6609B003)
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The Good Very easy to use for beginner photographers. Offers similar image quality to the EOS 650D. Excellent HD video quality, and sound from the internal mic is good. Lightweight, portable and takes regular Canon EF lenses with an adapter.

The Bad Can't start video recording in any other dial mode apart from movie. No option for an electronic viewfinder. No pop-up flash, though one is included in the box. Slow autofocus, resulting in very long shutter lag times.

The Bottom Line 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.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.9 Overall

"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.

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.
(Credit: CBSi)

Connectivity on the EOS M includes USB and HDMI out, as well as a 3.5mm microphone jack.

Compared to

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
    Sony NEX-F3
    Canon EOS M

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)

  • 7
    Olympus Pen Lite E-PL5
  • 5.5
    Sony NEX-F3
  • 4.8
    Panasonic Lumix GF5
  • 4.3
    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.

Image quality

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.

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