The First Canon Mirrorless: The EOS-M

SamC

The original Canon EOS-M. Trying to look serious, but this camera is fun. Serious Fun! 🙂

With today’s introduction of the EOS-M10 I thought it would be a good time to take a look at Canon’s first mirrorless camera, the EOS-M.

The EOS-M is an 18 megapixel mirrorless, interchangeable lens camera introduced by Canon in 2012.

I got the “M” sometime in 2013 when they were having a closeout on these cameras with a huge price reduction.

IN THE HAND

The EOS-M is physically the size of any average digital point and shoot. It is remarkable that inside lies an 18mp APS-C sized sensor, possibly the same or a variation of the venerable 18mp sensor Canon has used in a number of cameras including the 7D and SL1.

The camera feels light, but the body is surprisingly solid thanks to a magnesium alloy body.

The camera controls are spartan. On the top right by the shutter release you have a mode dial for play, camera, and video. There is no dedicated “P/S/A/M” dial they must be accessed through the menu. The menu thankfully will be a familiar one for EOS users. There is a hotshoe for dedicated flash units, but no built in flash.

The camera does feel a little slippery to the touch and could benefit from a hand grip. I don’t believe Canon makes one for the EOS-M, but you can get a hand grip for the camera from third party manufacturers.

PERFORMANCE

The main complaint people had about the original M is the slow autofocus, which they did not expect from a modern Canon digital.

Canon attempted to rectify this with a firmware update, which was version 2.02 which was to improve AF in one shot mode and also supported the new 11-22mm f/4-5.6 STM.

Yes, the people were right, the camera was slow. And yes, the AF did improve after installing firmware 2.02, but it is still slow by today’s standards. I would put its AF on par with the original Fuji X-100.

I originally thought this camera would work for my street shooting, but it’s a tad too slow for on the fly street work. I now use it as a fine stills and family camera 🙂

12052465_10206889611671173_219641290945445510_o

“M Love” 2015. Canon EOS-M, EF-M 22mm f/2 STM. I originally intended to use the EOS-M as a street cam, and it’s fine for stills, but a tad slow for on the fly street shooting. I do love it for family pics if and when the kids are not on the move 🙂

One of the best features of the EOS-M is the touch shutter. This is a feature we’re used to on our phones, but still not quite the norm on “real” cameras.

IMG_0216CokeCAM

“Legend” 2015. Canon EOS-M, EF-M 22mm f/2 STM. Just a test of the EOS-M’s AF system. In auto, the lens would rack back and forth looking for a target due to the white background. But when switched to the touch shutter, it found its mark easily and accurately. Not super fast, but fast enough.

I became a big fan of touch shutter after using it on the Olympus OM-D EM-5. On that camera, it was incredibly fast and effective, especially for street shots. Sad to say, it’s not that fast nor as effective on the M, but hey it works.

I’m not knocking down the M, the AF is very accurate, but it takes its time and I’ve gotten used to that.

High ISO images are good to about ISO 3200 which is a bit grainy depending on the light, but still usable. Higher than ISO 3200 I would say is good for “artistic” purposes 🙂

Another feature I loved on the M are the built in creative filters. I’m not a big fan of novelty filters, but the filters on the M are quite effective and fun to use. The effects include Toy Camera, Fish-Eye, Miniature, Art Bold, Water Paint, Soft Focus and Grainy Black and White.

I got the M as a fun to use camera, and these filters are a big part of what makes the camera fun. It helps to negate the slow AF and other issues I might have with it. However, these filters are for photos I like to look at myself and not necessarily post because the novelty of these filters wear out quickly.

151859933.nCpjeYH5.IMG_0045JJZoe

“Hey You Mini Me” 2013. Canon EOS-M, EF 22mm f/2 STM. A shot using the “Miniature” effect, one of seven Creative Filters found on the EOS-M.

IMAGE QUALITY

The saving grace for the Canon EOS-M is this…

When paired with the EF 22mm f/2 STM, the image quality is excellent to superb, especially at lower ISO settings and favorable conditions. The lens which is equivalent to 35mm on full-frame is quite an amazing performer on the time tested Canon 18mp sensor.

At low ISO’s you can count on clean, colorful, and detailed images with this combo. The image quality is several notches better than the Nikon V1 (with its much smaller sensor) which I also reviewed some time ago. However, the V1 makes up for its sensor disadvantage by having much faster autofocus, which could make the difference between getting the shot or not.

IMG_0230AutumnEOSMCA copy

“AutM Leaves” 2015. Canon EOS-M, 22mm f/2 STM @ around f/5.

I have not tried any other lens with EOS-M. Actually, I believe I did try some manual lenses with it using adapters, but as the M lacks focus peaking it was neither fun nor productive which brings us to another complaint about the M, the lack of native lenses for it. As of this writing, the lenses available are the EF-M 22mm f/2 STM, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, the 11-24mm f/4-5.6 IS STM, and the 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM.

To their credit, Canon makes an EOS to EOS-M adapter for using your EOS lenses. I have not used it so I cannot comment. I should have mentioned it earlier, but to be clear you CANNOT use standard EOS lenses on the EOS-M without this adapter.

BOTTOM LINE

The original EOS-M was discontinued and replaced by the EOS-M2 which was basically the same 18mp camera with faster AF and then the EOS-M3 which was much beefier and featured Canon’s new 24mp sensor.

Both these cameras and the new M10, I imagine would offer better AF performance than the original M. However, I like cheap, and the original M is probably your best chance to get a Canon mirrorless cheap 🙂

Used prices for the original M or M2 are trending at $200-300 and they are usually bundled with the 18-55mm zoom or 22mm f/2 STM. If you’re lucky, you might find the body alone for around $150-175.

Although the M and M2 are older models, you can still find them abundantly either used, refurbished, or if you’re lucky, new old stock.

Canon (and Nikon as well) have not shown, until recently, a great dedication to expand or promote their mirrorless division which is why you don’t really think of Canon or Nikon when you think of mirrorless.

The original Canon EOS-M is an enigma from Canon, one of the Camera Legends of photography. On one hand it offers slow and sometimes frustrating AF and ergonomics. On the other hand it offers superb imaging possibilities.

Mirrorless was a relatively new market to Canon and the original M shows that even a giant like Canon will make some mistakes when entering a market pioneered and dominated by Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony.

However, based on the image quality I have seen with the EOS-M, I believe they have just scratched the surface of what they could achieve in this market with a little more love and dedication. If Canon got into this market full throttle, I believe they could have a best selling mirrorless Camera Legend on hand and that would be a great addition for all of us camera lovers.

WHERE TO BUY

You can pre-order the new EOS-M10 with the 15-45mm IS STM lens in BLACK or SILVER. Or go all out with the EOS-M10 plus 15-45mm IS STM and the 55-200mm IS STM from our friends at ADORAMA. Actually, if you’re looking for the original EOS-M, profiled in this post, you might want to check out their “USED” section. There’s a good likelihood that the camera would show up there.

You can also preorder from everyone’s super-store AMAZON with their wide selection.

Anyway you do it, I believe any variation of the EOS-M will bring lots of FUN to your life and a good reason to leave that bulky DSLR home 🙂

Note: I will be updating this post later with more pics from the EOS-M. Just so much to do and so little time tonight. Thanks for stopping by!