Canon EOS-M Mirrorless Preview

July 29, 2012

Canon EOS-M camera review banner

I was very excited the very first time the Canon EOS M was announced. That put an end to the rumors whether Canon will introduce a new ILC camera or not. Deep inside I new that Canon just couldn’t afford being without a Mirrorless camera. When it comes from the leader in the Digital camera’s market, I’m sure that you are interested to know how good the Canon EOS M is, and how it compares to other competitive models from Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung, Nikon and others MILC camera manufacturers.

 

Canon EOS M mirrorless camera image

Canon EOS M – Why Now?

I’m sure that many of you asked themselves, why Canon waited so long to introduce the EOS-M? – I was wondering the same.  It seems that Canon delayed it as much as it could, and preferred investing more marketing efforts to sell more DSLR cameras. However, the numbers speak for themselves, and Canon clearly saw that MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras) are biting its DSLR market share year after year. A company like Olympus controlling near 29.1% of the MILC market. A company that until a few months ago,  there was some rumors about Olympus going bankrupt.

Olympus has made significant changes in both management and digital production line in order to make the company more profit and cut of loses. According to The Telegraph, Olympus to cut 2,7000 jobs. Olympus is still trying to recover from its scandal that occured on 14 October 2011. Even after all the impact of the management flaws, Olympus has a very strong presence in the MILC market.

In Japan, year 2011, Panasonic leads with 38.7%, followed by Sony 32.2% and Olympus with 29.1% market share. The popularity of MILC cameras continue to grow. In Japan, 40$ of all aold system cameras are mirrorless.

Indeed, Canon has tried its “luck” with the Canon PowerShot G1 X, a large sensor digital camera. Maybe it was an attempt from Canon to try see how large is the demand for such cameras, or maybe not. Large sensor cameras have their own place, but are certainly not a direct replacement for a camera that accepts interchangeable lenses.

Let’s not forget that Nikon, Canon’s direct competitor in the DSLR market, already released its Nikon 1 MILC cameras in 2011, the Nikon J1 and V1 mirrorless cameras.

So how can Canon afford itself not be a part of this growing market? – in short, they can’t.

 

Meet the Canon EOS M

Let’s take a closer look at the new Canon EOS M Mirrorless camera and see what Canon has cooked for us and whether you should be excited about this camera, or maybe not.

 

APS-C Sensor size & EF-M mount

There are many high expectations from Canon. I’ve read many people who were disappointed to see that Nikon 1 utilize a 1-inch sensor, much smaller than APS-C size sensor, and even smaller than Micro Four Thirds. Canon have chosen to go with a 18MP APS-C size sensor. By doing so it followed the same path that both Sony and Fujifilm have chosen. No doubt that a sensor size has a direct implications on the image quality, especially noise performance in high ISO.

Canon EOS M sensor size comparison

Canon EOS M sensor (APS-C) vs Nikon 1 (CX, 1-inch) vs Olympus E-M5 (Micro Four Thirds)

The size of the sensor will have direct implications on how small the lenses of the specific camera system will be.  With a smaller sensor, more compact lenses can be created. For example, the Sony NEX-5N is a very compact MILC camera, but because it utilizes an APS-C size sensor, the lenses aren’t the small, which leads to an unbalanced look and feel. That means that don’t expect Canon EOS-M lenses to be much more compact than DSLR ones. They will be more compact because the mirror has been removed (aka Mirrorless), and therefore lens size will be smaller, but not by a huge margin.

Sensor size comparison pardigram

APS-C, Micro Four Thirds, CX, 1/1.7-inch and 1/2.3-inch sensor size comparison

I personally happy that Canon has chosen to go with APS-C size sensor. However, after seeing the capabilities of newly developed Micro Four Thirds, I start thinking that a smaller sensor might be a better choice, giving camera manufacturers the option to create smaller and lighter camera bodies and interchangeable lenses.

One of the best advantages of larger sensors (apart for better high ISO performance) is the fact that you can achieve more shallower depth-of-field. It depends on the lens specifications of course, but those who come from Point-and-shoot will certainly will learn to respect this feature and how it adds more creative freedom.  Blurring the background will help you separate the subject from a distracting background. Believe me, once you try it, you’ll use it quite a lot at some degree or another.

With the new system Canon introduced a new mount, called ‘EF-M’ lens mount. Canon also introduced two lenses for this mount, the Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM ‘pancake’ prime lens and the Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Zoom lens. EF lenses can also be used with the new EF-M mount, but only with the EF-EOS M mount adapter. That means that you can use your current EF lenses with the EOS-M camera.

This is a good option for people who want to move to MILC camera and those who alerady have Canon lenses. Because Canon only have 2 lenses for the EF-M mount, this is a good option for those who make the switch.  Another advantage is that if your friends or a person in your family have Canon EF lenses, you can use them with your camera – if you buy the adapter.

The EOS M sensor is also referred to as ‘Hybrid CMOS‘ sensor, because it utilize a combination of both Contrast AF and Phase Detection AF for improved AF speed and accuracy for both photos and videos.

The camera has a native sensitivity of ISO 100 – ISO 6400, which is also expandable up to ISO 12800 and ISO 25600.

 

EOS-M Body Design

The Canon EOS-M camera body isn’t something extraordinary. In fact, if you compare it to Panasonic GF3, G5 or Olympus E-M5, it looks pretty simple.  It’s like a combination of the GF3 body with the E-PL3. a square design but with nice little curves. I kind of likes this design actually: simple, not over sophisticated.

The Canon EOS-M doesn’t have a grip like the GF3 or the E-M5 have.  People with large hands will probably prefer having a grip for better handling, but it’s not a must-have feature in my opinion (you might think otherwise though).

You can take a look at camera size and see how I compare the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 vs Canon EOS M vs Panasonic Lumix GF3 vs Panasonic G5 vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 on camera size.

The Canon EOS-M is around the same size as the Panasonic GF3 (EOS-M: 108.6×66.5×32.3 mm, GF3: 107.7×67.1×32.5 mm). Both relatively compact MILC cameras, and let’s not forget that the GF3 is a micro four thirds camera, while the EOS-M has a ASP-C sensor. Even compared to the Sony NEX-C3, the EOS-M is almost the same size in terms of its width and depth, but 6.5mm taller compared to the NEX-C3.

The EOS-M features a magnesium-alloy body and comes in various colors, including black, white, silver and red.  I am happy that Canon has chosen to go with a magnesium-alloy bod, rather then plastic. It just feels better in the hands and it gives you a feel that you make a good investment and you get a great deal of value for your money.

Canon EOS M, red back

Canon EOS M back (Red model)

 

As you can see from the photo above, the design of the camera and controls is very simple and straight forwards. A camera that looks like a point-and-shoot, not one that resembles a DSLR design. Their are only a few buttons and dials for easy and quick navigation.  At the back you can find a 3-inch 1040k dot 3:2 touch-sensitive ClearView II LCD display with multi-touch support. Certainly a very elegant looks that hides the flexibility and sophisticated features of this camera.

One downside though is the lack of articulating display. I personally think that many people want a tilting screen in their camera. Of course this is just the first model, and I’m sure more advanced EOS-M models will be released in the near future. Unlike Nikon that released two models (J1 and V1), Canon released one model only. I would be happier if Canon have released two models, a simple and more advanced model. Unfortunately, Canon takes it step by step.

Canon EOS M, top view

Canon EOS M (top)

 

At the top you can find a hot-shoe to connect an external flash (compatible with Canon’s Speedlite EX series flashes), a stereo mic, shutter release button with a mode dial and on/off switch.  At the left side you can find a mic jack to connect an external stereo microphone (great!), HDMI-mini and A/V out digital jack.

At the bottom you can find a tripod socket. At the front you also also have AF illumination lamp to help you focus on the subject in dim light. The camera utilizes the Digic 5 image processor, which is Canon’s latest generation image processor.

 

What, No EVF?

If you are an enthusiast photographer, you certainly have notices that the Canon EOS M doesn’t come with an electronic viewfinder (EVF). In fact, most MILC cameras don’t have this feature (ie Olympus PEN). In order to have this you might think to upgrade to a more expensive/advanced model, like the Olympus OM-D E-M5, Sony NEX-7, etc.

In fact, that’s one of the advantage of the Micro Four Thirds as a System. If you bought an entry-level MILC model, you have more options to upgrade. For example, if you bought the Olympus PEN E-PM1 (Mini), you can upgrade to the Olympus OM-D E-M5. If you bought the Sony NEX-C3, you can upgrade to the NEX-7.  Some camera manufacturers offer a Electronic Viewfinder as an optional accessory that you can attach to the camera. Many people find it cumbersome, expensive and an accessory that looks somewhat big and weird when attached to the camera.

The advantage of EVF is that you get more personal with your subject and you can easily shoot in bright sunlight. I certainly prefer shooting with OVF or EVF, but I know that it will make two things: adds to the size of the camera (maybe not too much) and certainly make the camera more expensive. So I can understand that the EOS M is Canon’s first model, one that is targeted for the entry-level market and those who make the switch from point-and-shoot to Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens cameras.

Don’t get me wrong. With today’s technologies you can shoot via the LCD even at bright sunlight.  It’s a personal preference. For some photographers it’s a must-have, for others it’s and optional feature. I guess that many people will want a camera that is in their reach, rather then having a camera with advanced features and one that they just cannot afford. I can certainly see Canon releasing many new interchangeable lenses for the EF-M mount and more advanced bodies so you have something to upgrade to. Just give Canon some time, I’m sure Canon won’t disappoint us.

 

It is a personal opinion, but I really like what I see. I like the fact that Canon kept the the camera design and button’s layout simple. I know many people that eager to get a point-and-shoot with large sensor, but also wanted to invest into an interchangeable-lens system. It’s a compact camera with a large sensor that can even work with current EF lenses (considering you bought the adapter).

I am also thinking how it affects Nikon. I seriously think that Nikon should consider releasing MILC with a larger sensor. People will certainly take a look at the background blur effect and high ISO image quality. I just can’t see how a 1-inch sensor can compete against APS-C or Micro Four Thirds one. Nikon might come up with new features  that will take advantage of the smaller sensor. However, at the end of the day, we want to come home with beautiful images. Most the targeted market might not take advantage of higher burst rate or other advance features.  We’ve chosen MILC because we want better image quality,smaller camera size and have better control over DOF.

Canon EOS M vs Nikon 1 J1, V1

Canon EOS M vs Nikon 1 J1, V1 - size comparison

Canon EOS M is no that big compared to Nikon 1 V1 and J1 mirrorless cameras. Considering the sensor size difference (Nikon CX sensor vs Canon EOS M APS-C), many will prefer having a camera that is a bit larger but enjoying the advantages of the large sensor. Nikon might be able to produce smaller lenses, but even so, it’s not a camera that you can put in your pocket anyway (maybe it is with a pancake camera, still haven’t tried that though), so it doesn’t really that matter. You will buy a small camera bag for your camera + lenses anyway, don’t you agree?

 

Questions & Answers

Is the Canon EOS M offers full manual control?

The EOS M camera features P, Av, Tv and M modes, like any other DSLR camera. This will allow you partial or full manual control on the aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings. Of course you can always shoot in auto+ mode if you don’t want to mass around with camera settings and just use the camera as a point-and-shoot.

 

Will the Canon EOS M will give me the same image quality as DSLR cameras?

Image quality depends on many parameters, including lens quality, sensor, image processor, light exposure, photographer’s experience, etc. In general, you can expect to have very high image quality that its result will leveled with current APS-C DSLR cameras, that also include depth-of-field, considering you use the same lens specifications (aperture, focal length) and distance from the subject.

 

Are EF-S and EF lenses compatible with the new EF-M mount?

Yes, but not directly. You will need to use the EF-EOS M adapter. That will open your camera to the whole range of Canon EF and EF-S lenses. So if you already got come Canon lenses, you will be able to use them with your current camera. Of course the new EF-M lenses will be more optimized for the camera, will be lighter and smaller in size, and even cheaper (will still need to see about that).

 

From when can I buy the Canon EOS M camera?

The EOS-M camera will be available starting mid-September.

 

From where can I download the Canon EOS M brochure?

You can download the Canon EOS M brochure via this link (as PDF).

 

What is the mirrorless market share that Canon’s are targeting for 2012?

According to ntv.com.my, Canon Marketing Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. aims to achieve a 30 per cent share of the mirrorless camera market by end of this year (2012).
In short, what are the main advantages of the EOS-M?

Small size, APS-C size sensor, simple design, Full manual control options, Full HD videos, touch-sensitive high-resolution screen, attach external microphone, Digic 5 image processor and the option to change lenses of course.

 

What memory cards is the EOS-M compatible with?

The EOS-M is compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards and also compatible with the Ultra High Speed (UHS-I) memory cards.

 

How the Canon EOS M shutter sound line?

Dpreview.com made a video that gives us a quick sample of the new Canon EOS M shutter sound.. here’s the video

 

Canon EOS M Sample images and movies

You can view some EOS M sample photos and videos on Canon.jp website here. More info will presented here when it becomes available and the camera is being released.

 

Canon EOS M Preview Hands-on Videos

Here’s a collection of Hands-on preview videos about the Canon EOS M mirrorless camera.

 

Conclusion*

It’s still early to come to a conclusion of course. What I can say that, in my personal opinion, Canon has released a competitive camera. It features the same sensor size as Sony NEX cameras. The camera design is simple and elegant, although some of you might think differently.  It features a hot-shoe, touch-sensitive screen, can shoot at 4.3 fps in continuous shooting mode, and it’s compatible with all Canon EF and EF-S lenses with an optional adapter.

It currently have only two EF-M lenses, a 18-55mm and 22mm prime lens. I personally consider the 22mm for street photography, at least for those who want a compact, fast prime lens.

Canon will suffer for stiff competition from Sony, Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic. All of them have some great cameras with unique features that the Canon EOS M doesn’t have.  Canon EOS M can certainly replace Canon’s entry-level cameras and I believe that it will happen sooner or later. I believe that image quality will be on par with Canon’s entry-level DSLR cameras. This is just the start. With more lenses and more camera bodies, Canon certainly have the chance to live its mark in the mirrorless market. With a great reputation behind it, it’s a matter of time until Canon will bite some big amount of market share from the leading companies in the mirrorless market (Sony, Panasonic, Olympus).

Maybe you might have expected something really unique from Canon and were disappointed to see a rather conventional, not that inspiring camera. As for the time being, Canon will have tough time beating the Micro Four Thirds in its own game.  I am, like you, waiting to see how speedy the AF is.  I also expect Canon to release a more advanced model pretty soon, maybe in Photokina 2012 (saving the best for last?).

Anyways, I want to hear what do you think about the Canon EOS M? – Are you disappointed or excited, would you buy this camera or go with Micro Four Thirds instead? – Share you thoughts by commenting below.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Pre-order the Canon EOS-M from B&H Now!

 

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