Impressions of The Canon M… A Bridge to the Future

Canon EOS M: hands-on preview of Canon’s first mirrorless EOS: Digital Photography Review.

Canon has, as expected, announced the EOS M – its first mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Based around the same 18MP APS-C sensor as the recent EOS 650D/T4i, the EOS M is the first model to use a new, smaller ‘EF-M’ lens mount. It is launched alongside two EF-M lenses that use STM stepper motors optimized for use with the camera’s hybrid AF system. As we’ve seen before in the mirrorless sector, the EOS M is predominantly aimed at the point-and-shoot upgrader market looking for DSLR quality and makes greater use of a 650D-style touch-screen interface. We’ve been using the EOS M for a little while and have prepared a preview, looking in more detail at Canon’s first mirrorless EOS camera and how it handles.

It may not be all there yet, but there are a lot of promising signs with Cann’s new mirrorless camera. Its actually the route I hope Nikon goes soon, too. Being based around an APS-C sensor that can autofocus with the EOS range of lenses with a simple, passive adapter fitted, there should be a lot of compatibility and no loss in image quality compared to their DSLR range. Yet such a design does bring compromises compared to smaller-sensor digital ranges.

Lets get those ‘dislikes’ out of the way first. An initial body with few manual controls and what looks like poor ergonomics. Reputedly slow autofocus, especially with most existing EOS lenses. No viewfinder, whether opticlal or electronic. EOS lenses will be comparatively large on such a small body and it’s questionable whether people will really want to use them this way, which will mean people need to buy new ones, anyway. With all this, the sensor is probably a generation or two behind the best ones from Fuji or Sony, as used to such great affect in other APS-C cameras. Lastly, the price is high for what looks loke a scooped up compact, even if it isn’t one.

Now let’s see those positives! First of all, there is nothing to stop Canon from fixing practically all these problems in a better body, perhaps one coming out as soon as this Autumn. An attachable EVF, or even a built-in one as in the Sony Nex-7 or Olympus EM-5 could be added and a newer sensor for better quality. The AF, which already has traces of on-sensor PD-AF, which is suitable for legacy lenses and movement-tracking, could be vastly improved. In the form of the G-series of cameras, especially the newest G1X, Canon has a great range with multiple manual controls and great ergonomics to upgrade to this mount with. In fact, many are surprised they didn’t do so already, though perhaps they are ‘testing the waters’ with a simpler model first. If the body is a tad bigger this way, perhaps like the Panasonic G, or GH models, that’s no problem as far as using existing lenses goes, which is surely the biggest advantage of this design choice.

Now it’s true that Sony and others have adapters that can do this, but they arenall flawed in ne way or another, especially by not offering fast autofocus. The Sony one that does is huge and expensive, making me wonder if a DSLR wouldn’t be better for this. The M4/3 ones have really slow AF, due to no PDAF on their sensors. The best AF is probably on the Nikon 1 series… But who wants a 2-7x multiplier in normal use? The inability to control depth of field here is also pretty limited, it’s no wonder most of the cameras targeted at serious users or pros are based around APS-C or larger sensors. Not everyone is looking for a ‘large compact’, leaving aside some of the exotically bright f/0.95 lenses for M4/3 for the moment.

So although this particular model is limited to the point of uselessness for the likes of me, it bodes very, very well for the future. Even the touch screen interface seems to do a lot right, being capitative and multi-touch (like a smart phone), rather than needing hard presses like the Panasonic models I’ve tried. Although I’d like many more manual controls, for the tactile feeling they bring, a good touch screen would certainly beat laborious menus for the increasingly complex features that digital cameras have these days.

Until a better implementation comes along, I’ll stop short of awarding this a Perfect Future award. This does in the longer term seem like the perfect bridge between DSLRs and mirrorless, especially for those with a large investment in glass. Wether it is successful and pans out to more sophisticated models remains to be seen, but with Canon’s success rate, I can hardly imagine it being a failure. And as a great copier of their ideas in so many fields, I’m hoping for a Nikon alternative, one which gets more right from the start, too (anyone for an APSC V1 with more controls… count me in!

Then sooner or later, though probably a bit later, we’ll have the full-frame mirrorless cameras, the first real competition to the stratospherically pricy Leica M9 range. My own view is that if enough fine, bright primes are made for APS-C sensors, this won’t be as necessary as it now seems, as Fujifilm seems to be demonstrating with their new range. We’ll have to see, though, as the is always room for more quality if there’s a market for it that is.

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1 Comment

  1. G’Day! Towardsperfectfutures,
    Thanks for your thoughts There’s the terminology that an individual needs to be familiar with first and foremost when confronted with Canon lenses. Some of the terminology is unique to Canon. Different camera manufacturers have their own too. Canon and Nikon are the most in-demand camera makes. Lenses might be labeled as either prime or zoom lenses. Prime lenses use a fixed focal length. Zoom lenses use a variable focal length. Your financial budget and also the quality of photos you desire will determine the lenses that you’ll purchase.
    All the Best


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