The compact system camera market has, by some distance, been the fastest growing segment within the digital camera market in the past few years, and while most of the major manufacturers have rushed to get on board and share the spoils the one notable exception has been Canon. That changed earlier in the year when the company announced it was planning to launch the EOS M. From the beginning Canon has made it quite clear that the EOS M isn’t targeted at traditional or existing Canon DSLR users, but rather at attracting new users into the EOS system, with the camera primarily aimed at novice, first-time users.
With many of Canon’s chief rivals having already established themselves within the compact system market, and with a good range of novice-friendly CSC models already on the market has Canon left it too late to claim a share of the market, or is the EOS M good enough to carve out a slice for itself? Let’s take a closer look and find out.
Given the launch of the G1 X with it’s almost-but-not-quite APS-C sized 18.7 x 14mm sensor earlier in the year, many expected any compact system offering from Canon to use the same sensor, however this hasn’t actually turned out to be the case. Instead, Canon has opted to fit the EOS M with a full-sized 22.3 x 14.9mm APS-C CMOS sensor – the same size that’s found inside all of its low to mid-range DSLRs. This is capable of resolving images at 18MP for a maximum output of 5184 x 3456 pixels.
The EOS M also uses Canon’s latest 14-bit DIGIC 5 image processor to supply the processing power. Sensitivity is identical to that of the EOS 650D, with a standard range of ISO 100-12,800, which is expandable by a further stop to the equivalent of ISO 25,600. The EOS M is capable of shooting at a top continuous speed of at 4.3fps, however compared to the 10fps of the Sony NEX-5R's or the 8fps or the Samsung NX210 this isn’t particularly fast.
While the EOS M employs the same image sensor format as Canon’s APS-C DSLR range, it doesn’t use the same EF-S lens mount. Instead it uses the new EF-M mount, which has a flange distance of 18mm (compared to 44mm of EF-S cameras). The upshot of this is that you’ll need to use dedicated EF-M lenses, or shell out an extra £130 for the official Canon EF-M to EF-S lens adaptor. To date, Canon offers two dedicated EF-M lenses – the EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM standard zoom and the EF-M 22mm f/2 STM. The STM refers to the stepper motor used to drive the autofocus, which is designed to be quieter during video capture.
On the back you’ll find a 3in, 1040k-dot 3:2 ClearView II LCD monitor that offers touch-screen control over the camera. There’s no built-in flash, although a small Speedlite 90EX is supplied with the camera, which slots onto the hot-shoe. Unfortunately the hot-shoe doesn’t double up as an accessory port so there’s no way to attach an electronic viewfinder should you want to so you’ll have to rely solely on the rear monitor to frame and review your shots with.
The EOS M employs a 31-point Hybrid AF system that combines contrast and phase-detection AF. The way this works is that the faster phase-detect AF points are used to acquire initial focus, which is then fine-tuned by the more precise contrast-detect system. There’s a generous selection of AF modes to choose from that includes Face Detection, AF tracking, FlexiZone-Multi and Flexizone-Single. The EOS M’s touchscreen functionality also allows you to employ Touch AF, and to do this you simply touch the part of the screen you want the camera to focus on.
In addition to the regular creative quartet of Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual (PASM) exposure modes, the EOS M also offers a number of fully automated modes. Scene Intelligent Auto uses scene recognition technology to adjust the camera settings according to the scene before it, although you can also choose from a range of seven individual Scene modes too. In addition, the EOS M also offers a range of Creative filters that can be used to apply digital effects such as Toy camera, Grainy B/W and Fisheye.
In terms of movie recording options the EOS M can record video at 1080p Full HD, with a choice of 30, 25 or 24fps. Should you want to slow the action down, you can also opt to shoot 720p HD video at 60 or 50fps. Audio is recorded in stereo by default, and there’s also the option to attach an optional stereo microphone via a 3.5mm socket on the side of the camera.