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.

 

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