My impressions of the Canon EOS M camera

What’s this? A camera review?Well, not really, more of an opinion.

I  generally keep the gear talk to a minimum around here but I thought I would give my impressions of the Canon EOS M camera and 22mm f2 lens. That’s right, a very timely look at a camera that was released a couple of years ago ;-)  and basically put on the back burner by its maker shortly thereafter, at least here in the USA. It was released with the 22mm lens and a 18-55 kit lens. The original releases are the only things available in the USA. Canon also released a 11-22mm wide zoom, an updated M2 body and recently a 55-200 telephoto zoom. None of which are available new in the US to my knowledge, except through ebay and sellers through Amazon. One prime and some slow zooms. Nothing to brag about but I guess that’s how Sony started out with their mirrorless system. There is also an adaptor to use Canon EF and EF-s lenses on the camera with full function. The body and 22mm lens combo can be had for around $300 new, which is a bargain in my opinion. I purchased mine used on eBay.

Canon EOS M, 22mm f2 © David Guidas

Canon EOS M, 22mm f2
© David Guidas

First some specs:

New EF-M lens mount (optimized for APS-C sensor size)

  • 18MP APS-C ‘Hybrid CMOS’ sensor
  • Continuous autofocus in movie mode with subject tracking
  • 14-bit DIGIC5 processor
  • ISO 100-12800 standard, 25600 expanded
  • 4.3 fps continuous shooting, 3 fps with autofocus tracking
  • 1080p30 video recording, stereo sound (with 25p or 24p options)
  • External microphone socket and adjustable sound recording level
  • 1040k dot 3:2 touch-sensitive ClearView II LCD (capacitative type, multi-touch support)
  • Standard EOS hot-shoe for external flash (no built-in flash)
  • ‘Creative Filters’ image-processing controls, previewed live on-screen

Looking at the specs you can see that it can be a capable camera, and it is, although there are plenty of newer mirrorless cameras that “out-spec” the Canon. It’s a fine solid little camera that puts out nice images but falls short in the general operation and autofocus where it gets a little aggravating. But before I talk too much about the body I just want to point out the 22mm f2 lens. The lens is the reason I found the package attractive for my use. A fast semi-wide (35mm equivalent) field of view is great for all around photography. A favorite of street photographers for many years, the field of view is a little wider than “normal” but not too wide. A happy medium, so to speak. And this particular lens is very useful even at f2 where it is sharp practically edge to edge. There’s nothing worse than a fast lens that doesn’t get sharp until you stop down 2-3 stops. What’s the point in that? Sometimes I get tired of being there at f8 and I want to be there at f2. With this lens I can. The lens has decent close focusing ability also, down to around 6 inches, great for capturing smaller details. Throw in the pancake compactness and it’s an all-around winner that fits my needs for a smaller camera perfectly. This lens doesn’t have any Image Stabilization (IS) like the zooms do though. Not too big of a deal but something I have to be aware of when shooting in lower light.

Canon EOS M, 22mm f2 © David Guidas

Canon EOS M, 22mm f2
© David Guidas

Okay, now back to the body. As I mentioned it’s a solid little chunk of a camera. Nothing attractive, crazy or “vintagey” about the styling, just pure Canon roundish simple design. It gets the job done. For my biggish hands I find the slightly heavy weight satisfactory and the controls are few and small but maneuverable. The shutter button is surrounded by a three-way switch to select fully auto stills, stills, or video. Next to that is a separate on/off button. Most of the control of the camera takes place on the touch LCD screen. That’s where you change shooting modes, AF mode, metering, shutter, aperture, etc. There’s a control wheel with four-way select to the right of the screen that controls parameters and selects shot modes, exposure compensation, AF/AE lock and custom function, which I have set to ISO.

For most of my use I use Aperture Priority, which I select on the touch screen. I then can select the aperture using the control wheel, Pretty simple. If I want any EV compensation I just right-click on the wheel and dial in my compensation and click again to go back to Aperture or it will default on its own. For focusing I usually use single point which is selectable by touch just about anywhere on the clear vivid LCD screen. You can easily set the screen to AF and shoot by single touch or just AF.  I usually just use the touch AF because I’m not good at holding the camera steady by triggering the shutter on the screen. I prefer to use the shutter button. The AF is slowish compared to most current generation mirrorless cameras but is swift enough for my needs. Think second generation micro four-thirds AF. I found that it works fine in about 80% of my use and the other times it either misses the subject or hunts a bit too much before giving up. Usually a slight adjustment on my part by selecting a wee bit different area to AF helps it out and I’m back in business. So, yes, it can be stumped, but I can deal with it.

Now for the awkward handling part. I find the exposure values display to be too super tiny to see most times. The parameter that can be set is highlighted by little green brackets that are not always easy to notice and you have to be aware of what parameter is in use. I found myself more than once accidently hitting the EV Comp button and changing it when I wanted to change the aperture. The work around for the AF accuracy is a little magnifying glass icon on the bottom right of the screen that you have to hit twice for a 5x magnified view of wherever your AF point is. You can hit it another time for 10x, which makes for an extremely accurate small AF area to focus. However you have to hit the button again to get back to 1x view to recompose by which time my finger would be off the shutter button, which means I’m back to square one. :-( A work around for that is to shift the AF lock to the AF/AE lock button and just use the shutter button for AE lock. Doable but awfully clumsy in practice. So I’ll probably stick to not doing that unless some extreme shooting situation warrants it, but I doubt it. I can always manual focus after AF but without any focus aid such as peaking it’s not always easy to see what is in focus on the screen without the magnification.

Canon EOS M, 22mm f2 © David Guidas

Canon EOS M, 22mm f2
© David Guidas

All-in-all I find the camera to be a decent first attempt by Canon but lagging far behind current mirrorless cameras in design and operation. I had a Lumix GX-1 that was even smaller than the Canon and also had touch screen ability, but I found working its controls way easier and more intuitive. I never had a problem with the Lumix when I needed fast accurate AF or a quick magnified view of the AF area while shooting. Yet I like the image quality I am getting out of the Canon. The RAW files are not as pliable as the files from my Pentax but I can work with them and haven’t come across an image that wasn’t usable and I have been purposely shooting some contrasty, high dynamic range scenes just to test the camera. Noise levels are fairly low at higher ISO and I don’t believe I have processed any photos using noise reduction yet as what noise is there doesn’t bug me. For the kinds of stuff I shoot, noise is generally not an issue. However, one of my favorite features of the camera has to be the smudge proof  LCD. I wish my phone screen looked so good after using it! :-)

There you have it. My first camera review that wasn’t really a review. It will probably be my last though because that was a whole lot of typing. I’m more of a one paragraph kind of guy.

 

Camera testing in antique stores

Last post I briefly touched on the fact that I purchased a Canon EOS M camera and was in the process of testing it out. What I didn’t mention was the reason for the purchase. Regular readers would know that I use Pentax DSLR cameras and I am quite happy with them. I’m used to the way they operate and I like the images I get out of them. However, I have an upcoming vacation trip and I decided I didn’t want to carry too much camera gear with me but I still wanted to be able to take somewhat quality photos on occasion. I could easily take my Pentax K-3 and lenses but I don’t want to carry them around while I am vacationing. The trip is more about down time, not photography, so I need to set my priorities.

So the dilemma came up about what small camera to take. I wanted a camera that could provide good image quality for capturing details of my location. The phone does a decent enough job of grabbing vacation snapshots that I can share so I can leave that job to it, but I like to do at least a little serious photography when I’m in a different environment and a “good” camera is a must.  Since Pentax doesn’t really have anything to offer in the small camera area besides the Q, which has too small of a sensor for my needs, I had to look elsewhere. Since I am fine with some sacrifices in order to save space, I decided a LCD viewing only camera would suffice. I can work with no viewfinder, optical or electronic, I have done it before, but if I am going to have only an LCD to work with I do like the touch interface models a little better. Just easier to work with, as long as they’re not too touchy!

As I shopped for cameras I soon realized the models I liked best and that fit my needs were not cheap. The Fujifilm XM1 and Lumix GM1 were the top contenders but they cost a little more than I really wanted to spend at this time. The Samsung NX300 also tossed around in my head before I thought of the Canon. I remembered reading some time ago that the price dropped dramatically on the M after Canon basically gave up on it, at least in the USA. It has been called a flop by some. But I read up on it and, more importantly, looked at photos by some talented photographers using the camera and I liked what I saw. So I searched around on eBay and sure enough, they were downright cheap with the included 22mm f2 lens. After reading quite favorable reviews of the 22mm lens, which would be a nice all around focal length, I thought I would give one a try.

The camera certainly is compact with the 22mm lens. I like the fact that the lens is highly usable at f2 since I plan on using it wide open as much as possible. The 35mm equivalent focal length works well for all around use though I would like a wider angle at times. Canon also has an 11-22mm wide zoom as well as an 18-55 kit zoom for the M, both of which also test well and are good sharp lenses that are worth having. I could pick up either of  those lenses as well, and I may at some point, but I decided I would go totally minimal on the trip and only work with one lens. I like to push myself creatively and the single lens thing is “creative challenge 101″ when it comes to photography.

© David Guidas

© David Guidas

In the past week of using the Canon I found that it has it’s good points and bad points, mostly in the handling department, of which I’ll expand on in another post. For now I want to show some photos I took in some antique stores the other day. I wanted to see how the camera handled low light in a real world environment and, since I like to photograph old things, the antique stores were perfect for my tests. I shot most of these pictures at f2 -2.8 since the light in the stores is dim at best. I didn’t do any noise reduction on these either. They were all shot in the roughly 400-1000 ISO range

The photo above is my favorite of the outing since it reminds me of an old masters painting. I love finding theses kinds of still-lifes in antique stores. The warm tungsten light really adds to the mood and I wanted to keep it that way instead of “correcting” the white balance. Of course the food is all fake but it sure looks good! I think the Canon really pulled through in this kind of situation and I think it will work out OK.

Time to take care of business again

Unfortunately summer has come to an end here in the northern hemisphere. It’s that time again for chilly nights and pumpkin beer. ;-) I have to say although I do like some aspects of autumn I’m just not feeling it this year. Summer seemed all too short. The weather never really got “summery” until late August so I was just starting to get in the mood.

This past Saturday was a beautiful day and since it was the last Saturday of summer, my wife and I took the opportunity to just hang out on the deck, relax, and enjoy the day.  A nice end to the season. While I was manning the charcoals on the grill, I played around with a new to me Canon EOS M camera that I purchased on eBay. Just trying to get the hang of the cameras operation, I snapped a photo of my wife’s well-worn flip-flops (mostly because there wasn’t anything else handy).  I didn’t plan on using the shot for anything beyond my own test shot references but since I didn’t head out for any other photography the past week  I thought it would make an apt end of summer image.  If there is anything that represents summer, the flip-flop always seems to be at the top of the lists.

But seeing this photo makes me realize I need to get back out there and do some serious shooting. I’ve been in a kind of limbo with my creativity and I need to give myself a jolt. But I guess that’s what autumn is for – getting back to business.

© David Guidas

© David Guidas

Much anticipated follow up

Man, this week has been flying by! I’ve been so busy that I forgot I wanted to follow up my last post with some color photos of the flowers. As I mentioned last time, I wasn’t super thrilled with what I shot but, considering this will probably wrap up any flower photos for this year, I figured one last blast won’t hurt.

Short on words but here goes…..

Down, but not out (until Saturday)

I got hit with yet another cold this past week. I think that makes at least three weekends this past year that I was sick and the symptoms from last weekends cold are still sticking around this weekend. I have my energy back for the most part but there still is that lingering “just not right” feeling. It didn’t help that I had a public speaking engagement last week for my employer and I’m not too good at those in the first place. I did manage to get through it without coughing and clearing my throat but I was a bit dry by the time I was done.

Besides obligations for work I didn’t spend much time doing anything else that required much effort until yesterday when my wife (who got sick after me, of course) and I managed to get out of the house a little a take a few photos at the local conservatory lily pond. It’s a good time of year for the water plants and I like to visit every year when I can to photograph the flowers and try to outdo myself from the previous year. Plus it didn’t take much physical effort which was just what I needed. Enough activity to help me recover but not enough to wear me down again.

It was a wonderfully cloudy day on the way over and I was hoping the soft light would stick around. Unfortunately the sun came blazing out by the time I had arrived, along with it’s harsh directional light. My early shots were a disaster from too much harsh, contrasty light so I waited patiently for a cloud to cover the sun and grabbed whatever shots I could when the light eased up. All in all I managed to get a few good photos on this excursion but nothing that really excites me. That happens on occasion and I’m sure I wasn’t on top of my mental game either. This black and white lily image was one of my favorites and I kept it simple with a square crop. The color image is equally, if not more, impressive and I’ll show it next post with a few other shots.

Until then….

© David Guidas

© David Guidas

It’s all about sharing

When I’m shooting large amounts of photos, which I try to do when I am out purposely taking photos, I tend to process a few of the ones I like after the shoot then share them here and on Flickr, or even Facebook on occasion, and the next thing I know I am moving on to the next batch. Sometimes good photos get lost in the shuffle. A sign of these fast-moving times I guess – “here’s a pic of my baby. NO! forget that, here’s another newer pic of my baby, from today!!“. All about sharing. :-)

Sharing is what I imagine the bee coming up in the background has in mind in this photo I shot way back in June. It was one of those shots I forgot about. The fact that June is “way back” and it’s nearing autumn again is a little sad since it only really began to feel like summer the past few weeks. Maybe a little too hot and muggy, but I kind of like it and it will be a bit of a downer when the first cold rainy autumn morning greets me at the door as I am heading out with my jacket on.

By the way, this photo is a bonus larger file size than I normally post, so go ahead and click on the image for the best larger view!

© David Guidas

© David Guidas

Here’s (over)looking at you, Wheeling

The last time I visited Mount Wood Overlook in Wheeling, WV was in 2011 in the middle of my 365 photo project. I was working in the area at the time and during a rainy day break from work I remembered the overlook from visiting in my teenage years back in the early 80’s and wondered what it looked like. I didn’t have too much of a memory of the site from my youthful visits but it all came back when I parked in the “lot”, which is really like a paved entrance off the public road. How we even found this spot when we were young is beyond me. It’s not in any convenient location, not off a main road or near anything or anywhere we would normally travel to and it’s over 30 miles from where we lived. I guess someone heard about it from someone else and thought it was a worthwhile spot to check out. Huh, imagine that, in the pre-social media days we were able to find out-of-the-way places just by talking to one another. ;-)

When I was there in 2011 I knew I wanted to visit the place again when I had a wider angle lens to better capture the structure. As soon as I purchased my Vivitar 13mm I knew I wanted to re-visit the overlook and see if my wide-angle visions were correct. I wanted to go on a cloudy day with muted light to avoid shadows since I was thinking black and white to focus on the structure and when my wife and I started the 30 mile trip down the highway we had just that, nice dark clouds. Unfortunately the clouds got darker and darker on the way eventually turning into a heavy thunderstorm. Besides making for a not fun highway drive I feared the storm would clear up just as we got there and the sun would come blazing out. Sure enough, that’s what happened.

So the light wasn’t quite what I had in mind but at least is was warm afternoon light. But the structure was still intact as I remembered but with some new, colorful graffiti. The graffiti was even more elaborate than my last visit and prompted me to think in color and to us the graffiti as part of my compositions. That also meant I didn’t focus as much on the structure as I originally had planned. I did think a few of the shots still worked better in black and white so I mixed them in.

The light didn’t turn out like I hoped but it wasn’t a total wash. I got a few good photos of the overlook and the old cemetery across the street was worth an exploration also. I took a few shots there on this outing but I’ll have to visit the cemetery on a gloomier day.

 

Local newscast on the site.

One more from the bicycle museum

This shot didn’t fit in with the vintage shots from the last post, it needed its own space!

Bicycle Heaven

© David Guidas

© David Guidas

I’ve been to Bicycle Heaven and back

Taking a little break from the wide-angle black and white shots this time around. Not by choice, mind you, I did want to get out and shoot some but the sky wasn’t working with me of late. I like bold clouds for nice dramatic backgrounds but they just weren’t around when I went out to shoot. I was only blessed with clear blue skies, LOL. Bummer ;-)

Being that I was still on staycation, I thought it would be a good time to explore something new. When I stay home for vacation it’s usually chore time at the house but I do like to get away with my wife and try something different, like a restaurant we haven’t been to or, in this case, a museum we haven’t visited, just to make it feel like we are on vacation, even if for a day. The Bicycle Heaven museum in Pittsburgh is a place I didn’t even know existed until recently and I took the opportunity of a warm day off to pay a visit.

Besides “WOW”, another word I would use to describe this place is “impressive””. Located in a warehouse district, the museum has two floors of display space and workshops intertwined throughout. It seems to be a work in progress kind of place but the collection of bicycles and related parts and memorabilia is astounding. Every vintage bike imaginable (or unimaginable) is here!  I don’t remember how much time we spent there but I know I could have spent a few more hours and still not see everything. I walked past displays over and over and always found something new. These photos are just a sampling of what I shot and I still didn’t shoot all that I saw there. A repeat visit is a definite must!

Even though I don’t ride a bike anymore (mostly because the roads and drivers around here are awful) I do like them and am a fan of vintage ones. I always try to take photos of old bikes when I see them on the street but I found out getting good photos of bicycles is quite a difficult task. The sheer nature of their spindly designs makes a good capture elusive. Instead I try to focus on details and hope for the best.

Staycation – let’s see what I can do with it

Ah. a week off from work with nothing planned! :-) Well, nothing fun planned, :-( I do have some house things to do but no trips, no events on the horizon. Considering this is turning out to be an actual summer weather feeling week for a change I kind of regret not planning anything now. Oh well, I have another week in autumn and maybe I can make it up then.

What I will do though is try to make the best of my usual surroundings and try to do some local photo explorations. I think shooting in familiar places takes an extra effort because you have to look at things subjectively as if it was for the first time. I often say I like to shoot what other people don’t notice and here is a good time to shoot what I normally don’t notice. Or shoot things that I had in the back of my mind to try someday when I have the time. No excuse now, I have the time!

These are few shots around Point State Park in Pittsburgh. It was a beautiful Sunday evening for my wife and I to go for a stroll and since we haven’t been around the Point in a while, I thought it would be a good place to give the wide angle lens another workout. Yes, I am still in the wide-angle mode and I almost force myself to use it exclusively lately just to milk out if it what I can. The different viewpoint is refreshing – but not as refreshing as a beach vacation. :-(

 

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