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?

See: more camera reviews.

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.

NEXT PAGE: Macworld UK review >>

Canon’s compact camera system debut has been an absolute age coming and, as the 18 megapixel EOS M arrives a full four years after some rivals’ first, it has high expectations to fulfil. Though the compact immediately ticks one box in featuring a large APS-C sized sensor for theoretically better image quality than a typical pocket snapper, design wise it owes more to a consumer-end Canon PowerShot than an EOS DSLR. Nevertheless, as the ‘EOS’ in its model name indicates, the ‘M’ provides the ability to use Canon’s DSLR range’s 70+ EF lens line up, albeit via an optional adapter.  Only competitor Nikon’s ‘1’ camera system comes close to accessing as many optics. See all camera reviews.

A pricey £750 buys you the Canon body, which is more compact than Samsung and Sony APS-C sensor rivals because it lacks a built-in flash and proper handgrip, plus a jack-of-all-trades 18-55mm zoom, equivalent to 28-88mm in 35mm terms. This provides the same sort of focal range usually bundled with an entry level DSLR, and imagery is reassuringly sharp. Though the 3-inch back screen here is fixed –erhaps a vari-angle LCD is being saved for the 2ndgeneration – it keeps up with the times by being a responsive touch screen. A Digic 5 processor as found in Canon’s DSLRs also ensures the EOS M’s swift off the blocks, with split second shutter action. It appears that the manufacturer has followed the CSC pitch of ‘DSLR performance from a compact body’ to the letter. Even automatic sensor cleaning’s built-in. Take a look at Group test: what's the best interchangeable lens camera?

A battery life of a maximum 230 shots from a single charge feels underpowered however, and, a smaller body, while practical in terms of transportation in a pocket, does look a bit dwarfed when zoom lens is then attached – the same being true of the Sony NEX. Canon has obviously decided to keep its first CSC very easy to use as the mode dial shows just three settings: Scene Intelligent Auto, which as it sounds recognises common subjects and adjust camera parameters for you, Creative Auto, which gives access to digital effects such as fisheye, toy camera, miniature and the ability to achieve a shallow-depth-of-field de-focused background look, plus 1920x1280 pixels video at 25fps. Take a look at Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5 review.

Macworld Verdict

Though it isn’t immediately obvious that this is a touch screen model until you discover that a flick of finger and thumb will enlarge a portion of an image as on your phone, the sense here is that Canon, rather than deliver a breakthrough product has competently delivered enough to get it in the game, with real innovation to follow.

Gavin Stoker

Canon EOS M review

Canon EOS M: Specs

  • Interchangeable lens compact camera
  • 18.5 megapixel CMOS sensor, 22.3 x 14.9mm
  • 22mm pancake lens
  • ISO AUTO (100-6400), 100-12800 in 1-stop increments, expandable to 25600
  • 3in LCD touchscreen
  • PAL/ NTSC video output (integrated with USB port)
  • mini-HDMI output (HDMI-CEC compatible)
  • 3.5mm stereo minijack mic input
  • 108.6 x 66.5 x 32.3mm
  • 298g (body only)
  • Interchangeable lens compact camera
  • 18.5 megapixel CMOS sensor, 22.3 x 14.9mm
  • 22mm pancake lens
  • ISO AUTO (100-6400), 100-12800 in 1-stop increments, expandable to 25600
  • 3in LCD touchscreen
  • PAL/ NTSC video output (integrated with USB port)
  • mini-HDMI output (HDMI-CEC compatible)
  • 3.5mm stereo minijack mic input
  • 108.6 x 66.5 x 32.3mm
  • 298g (body only)

OUR VERDICT

This quietly good-looking camera has some great strong points. The Canon EOS M camera will please if you're on the lookout for brilliant image and solid build quality. It’s a sleek design in a small, lightweight body. A built-in flash could be useful to save fiddling with external adaptors, and autofocus was rather slow. A high price of £529 bodes will for the highest standards, which the Canon EOS M does not quite manage to deliver.

Find the best price