Canon EOS M review

Compact system cameras (CSC) have been around since at least 2009. That's when Panasonic brought out the Lumix DMC-G1 using the new Micro Four Thirds format it developed with Olympus. Canon has now just released its own contribution to this popular new interchangeable lens camera category. In fact, it's the last major manufacturer to do so. Was the Canon EOS M worth the wait?

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We tested the Canon EOS M with the 22mm pancake lens. It will also accept Canon EF and EF-S lenses with the supplied EF-EOS M adaptor.

First photographic impressions were positive, thanks to excellent image quality  from the impressive 22.3 x 14.9mm CMOS sensor.

Important aspects such as crisp focus right to the corners of images were up to scratch. Noise levels were also pleasingly low and images displayed a considerable amount of detail and sharpness, even at high ISOs. Colour reproduction was also superb with images rendered vibrantly.

Shooting video resulted in a similar high level of quality. There was no evidence of any jerkiness, while maintaining brilliant sharpness and good colours. The main issue we encountered was that while it is handy to use the camera's 3in LCD touchscreen to adjust the point of focus, doing so can cause shakiness unless you're using a tripod.

Unfortunately, ease of use is not the EOS M's strong point. In comparison to the intuitive nature of cameras such as Pentax's K-01, Canon's first venture into the world of compact system cameras takes some getting used to. Some functions are controlled by a few very simple physical buttons while others are performed from complex menus on the touchscreen.

Another problem we encountered was that the camera would occasionally freeze, particularly when reviewing images. There was also some difficulty with the autofocus – at times it could be a little sluggish and frustrating.

The camera itself is tiny at 109 x 67 and 32mm thick, and weighs in at 298g without any lens. In most respects this compactness is a plus point but it also creates issues. When using large lenses the camera became awkward and front-heavy, somewhat precarious and difficult to hold in fact, particularly without the assistance of a decent side grip. However, this is a common problem with the smaller CSCs – Canon is not alone here.

As is standard with mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, the Canon EOS M has no optical viewfinder so images need to be composed on the rear touchscreen. This features an anti-smudge coating but still benefits from a cloth wipe to keep it print free - essential for both composition and viewing your photos in-camera.

While there is a physical shutter release button, you can also touch the screen to focus directly and take photos.

There’s no built-in flash; however there a hotshoe allows an external flash, and all the various lens kit models are supplied with a Speedlite 90EX flash as standard.

Build quality is very good – made from a matt black magnesium alloy, the Canon EOS M does not feel plasticky or cheap. It appears neat and quietly attractive without being overly showy. That said, the plastic external flash isn't especially in keeping with the sleek design of the rest of the camera.

A three-point wheel sits on top of the camera to enable you to choose between auto stills, creative stills and video mode. This wheel has a fair amount of resistance and while this is helpful by ensuring it isn't accidentally knocked, it can be difficult to turn with small or cold fingers.

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