Let me say right up front: This will not be a technical review. I don’t have the equipment or the patience to measure gammas and betas and lines per millimeter or any of that stuff. So if you’re looking for a lot of technical data on this camera you may want to hit the “Back” button on your browser.
What I AM going to review are some of the salient features of this camera and how they work for my situation. I’ll detail what I perceive to be advantages and disadvantages to the system and how they affect my photography and will offer some opinions. Just keep in mind what they say about opinions..everyone has one and….well, you know the rest. So let’s get started.
The first question to answer is why. Why did I feel the need to get a new camera and why choose the M? Back in 2009 I was getting set to spend a week in Southeast Utah creating images. I had only one SLR body and needed something for a backup that I could transport easily. Being a Canon guy, I decided to spring for a Canon Sureshot G10. It had good specs, the reviews were excellent, and it was one of the few point and shoot cameras with an optical viewfinder. It turned out to be a good choice, filling my needs at the time. The one problem with the G10 has always been noise. At ISO100 it performs really well but as the ISO goes up so does the amount of noise. For the most part, though, it wasn’t an issue for me.
In August I changed jobs with the company I’ve been working for the last 11 years and now am traveling almost all the time. Since September 1 I’ve been to 11 states and 25 cities. I have been carrying the G10 on my travels and have become more and more annoyed by the noisy images so I started looking for something newer with a better sensor. My friend, Bret Edge, had purchased the EOS M and has been quite impressed with it so I figured what the heck. I found a used EOS M kit with both lenses and a flash for a great price and pulled the trigger.
At first glance, especially with the 22mm lens mounted, the M is about the same size and configuration as the G10 but that’s where the similarity ends. The M has no optical viewfinder which was almost a deal breaker for me. Also, the M does not have all the dials for adjustments like the G10, choosing to use touch screen technology instead which was almost another deal breaker. So far it’s G10-2, M-0. But after using the camera during a trip to the Black Hills after Christmas my concerns went away. The camera is very easy to handle, delivers excellent images, resolution of the lenses is top notch, and the controls are very intuitive.
What I like: I was very skeptical of the absence of an optical viewfinder. It’s the main reason I bought the G10 instead of the S95 in the first place but this proved to be an empty fear. The LCD screen of the M is very bright and comprehensive. I can view all the controls easily and quickly so I don’t think I’m going to miss the optical viewfinder.
I also was really skeptical about the touch screen controls but once again, this is not a disadvantage (so far) with using this camera. If you use a smart phone you’re used to operating touch screens so the learning curve is not really too steep. In fact, I think it’s a bit quicker and easier than the standard dials and menus on my Canon 60D. A friend of mine who also has the EOS M says his biggest problem is trying to use the touch screen controls when he switches back to his SLR. Touch the screen of a 5DMIII and…..nothing! I haven’t run into this yet but even if I do I don’t see it as an insurmountable obstacle.
The lenses: My kit came with both the 22mm and the 18-55mm lenses. During my trip I had a chance to shoot with both of these lenses and both performed very well. The zoom lens almost makes the 22mm redundant since it’s covered in the zoom range. I thought about getting rid of the 22mm but there are 2 really good reasons to keep it. At f2 it’s 2 stops faster than the f3.5 maximum aperture of the zoom and it’s quite a bit less bulky. Not that the zoom is a huge lens but it is probably 2 or 3 times as big as the 22mm. For now I’ll keep them both.
The above images show the resolving power of the lenses. Both appear to be very sharp and the new firmware from Canon takes care of the previous slow focus issue this camera displayed.
I’m also impressed by the camera’s ability to meter correctly in harsh backlit situations as well as it’s color rendition.
What I don’t like: At this point I only have one real complaint about the camera and it has to do with the way images appear on the LCD screen while shooting. I was photographing a sunrise with the camera in Aperture Priority mode and was bracketing exposures with the +/- control. The problem with the LCD viewfinder, and I notice the same issue when using Live View on the 60D, is that it doesn’t show the bracketed exposure on the viewfinder until the exposure is made and a preview appears. The camera exposes images correctly but the viewfinder doesn’t make them look that way. As I said, this is a problem that appears to be common to Canon Live View modes so I guess I’ll have to live with the knowledge that what I see isn’t exactly what I’ll get when bracketing exposures.
Finally, I’d like to see more lenses for this camera. There is an adapter available that would allow me to use my EF and EF-S lenses with the EOS M body and I may eventually buy one of those. There is also an 11-22mm zoom that is currently available outside the US and rumor has it that this lens along with an 18-250mm zoom lens will soon be made available which would preclude buying an adapter. We’ll see.
Bottom line is that after about 200 clicks I really like this little camera. The body with both lenses fit into a compact bag that fits easily into my suitcase for traveling and if it were necessary I could mount the 22mm lens and carry the camera with me in my computer bag. It’s a winner in either case and I’m very happy with the kit.
So there it is. At this point I really like this little camera. It’s compact enough to travel with, is far less noisy than the G10, and I really, REALLY like the touch screen controls. If you’re looking for a compact camera that has the ability to produce stellar images you may want to consider the EOS M. It’s currently out of production but there are still units available online and lots of used ones on Ebay and Craigslist.
**Shortly before I purchased the camera it was discontinued by Canon. During my online investigations I read 2 different possible reasons for this. I read that the camera wasn’t a great seller due to lack of available lens choices which would be solved by release of the other zooms here in the US. I also read that it was discontinued in order to release an upgraded model with an optical viewfinder. I think there some validity to both of these scenarios but have no idea which one is responsible for stopping production of the EOS M.