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I liked the Canon EOS M more than I expected -- but less than I should have.
It's got a compact, well-built and well-designed metal body, and a responsive touch screen with a streamlined interface, and it delivers the photo quality you expect from this class of camera. But the feature set is pretty blah, and it suffers from lackluster performance. And the fact that there are only two native lenses for the system, an 18-55mm standard kit and a 22mm f2 pancake, makes it less attractive than the more established systems with which it competes.
As is par for the category, the EOS M delivers excellent photo quality. JPEGs look clean up through ISO 800 and reasonably good through ISO 1600, though raw delivers better quality even at low ISO sensitivities -- better color and reduced edge artifacts. I didn't enable aberration adjustment during testing, however, which may reduce the fringing from the 22mm lens at wide apertures.
As is usual for all Canon's consumer cameras that predate the EOS T5i, the default Auto Picture Style boosts saturation and shifts some hues -- notably reds -- a lot more than I like. Normally I use Neutral on Canon cameras, but even that proved odd in the EOS M. Faithful seems to deliver the most neutral results, but you need to bump the sharpening up a bit.
Exposures are consistent with no surprises, however, and images look appropriately sharp; not too soft and not too crunchy.
|Click to download||ISO 100 ||ISO 800 ||ISO 3200|
Unsurprisingly, the video bears a lot of resemblance to that of the T4i and T5i. It has nice tonality, but even more moiré and aliasing than the video from those cameras.
Let's just call the EOS M's performance...flawed. It's based around the same hybrid CMOS sensor as the Canon EOS Rebel T4i/T5i, which includes both the contrast autofocus sensors, the type of autofocus used in camcorders and other video AF systems, and the traditional phase-detection sensors you find in dSLRs. That's nice, but autofocus performance in ILCs has become extremely good of late, even in contrast AF-only models. And for some reason, it just doesn't work as fast here as it does in the dSLRs.
The autofocus is relatively slow -- the 18-55mm lens has notably faster autofocus than the more popular 22mm lens -- and the camera itself seems just a tad sluggish. It takes 2.9 seconds to power on, focus, expose, and shoot. To focus, expose, and shoot in good light runs 1.3 seconds (22mm) or 0.9 second (18-55mm), which is pretty slow; those times rise to 2.5 seconds and 2 seconds, respectively, in dim light. Two sequential shots run between 1 and 2.2 seconds depending upon lens and file format (raw or JPEG). While it has a seemingly fast burst of 6.6fps for an effectively unlimited run -- during testing it zipped past 20 shots with a 95MBps card -- and raw sustains 5fps for 6 shots, both of which exceed Canon's rated speed, that's without autofocus enabled. I didn't test it with Servo AF, but can tell it's a lot slower.
The centerpoint AF is fairly accurate, but like all fully automatic AF systems it routinely choose the exact wrong subject for the scene. Servo AF operates fine while shooting video, with just a little pulsing when focusing on still subjects. Though the screen magnifies the view for manual focus, like most cameras it doesn't magnify while you're recording; it would be much easier with focus peaking.
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 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|
|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
(60fps with fixed AF and electronic shutter)
11 raw/15 JPEG
(10fps with fixed exposure)
|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 range||n/a||n/a||n/a||0 - 20 EV|
|Flash|| Optional |
|Yes||Included optional||Included optional|
|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 |
|3-inch fixed 920,000 dots||3.3-inch tilting AMOLED touch screen |
|3-inch tilting touch screen|
|Wireless file upload||None||Optional |
(with WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter)
|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.
The Canon EOS M's image quality is good, but not better than the "="" rel="follow">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.
|Time to first shot||Raw shot-to-shot time||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|