Canon EOS M Hands On Preview

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(Video above shot by Gordon Laing of CameraLabs.com shows a test of the Canon EOS M’s autofocus while locking on to the ‘Canon’ logo of the 1D X DSLR – is this performance going to measure up to the competition?)

Gordon Laing of CameraLabs.com got his hands on a Canon EOS M and posted his thoughts about the first mirrorless offering from Canon in his Hands On Preview.

Here are Gordon’s final thoughts for now

Canon is the last of the big names to launch a mirror-less system camera with the EOS M coming a considerable four years after Panasonic brought the G1 to market. As a first-generation model the EOS M is inevitably a little rough around the edges and lacking some features enthusiasts hoped for, but equally it delivers what many others have been wanting for ages: a small body with DSLR quality and EF lens compatibility.

Compatibility with the existing EF and EF-S lens catalogue is undoubtedly the strongest benefit of the EOS M over the competition. Sure it may only have two native lenses at launch, but with over 70 ‘legacy’ models to choose from with the same field-reduction as a normal APS-C DSLR, who cares?

Except it’s not quite that simple. As far as I understand it, the EOS M does not support continuous AF with EF and EF-S lenses, and I also expect the single AF speed to be similar to live view focusing on existing DSLRs. As such you may be able to autofocus with EF lenses, but the handling will be considerably different from mounting them on a traditional DSLR.

As to the success of the camera with native EF-M lenses, a lot depends on how well the hybrid AF system works when used as the exclusive focusing technology. I can’t really say anymore than that until I test a final production model, but it is worth noting companies like Panasonic, Olympus, Sony and Nikon have all nailed extremely quick single AF performance on their latest generations, while Nikon additionally offers a very good continuous AF option.

Looking at the other features, much has already been said about what the EOS M doesn’t have: there’s no traditional mode dial and the bare minimum of physical controls, there’s no built-in flash, there’s no built-in EVF nor any means to connect one, the screen is fixed in position and there’s no built-in stabilization either. While it’s not surprising to find Canon opting for optical lens-based stabilization, the absence of an EVF or any means to connect one is possibly the EOS M’s greatest failing for many enthusiasts. I can live without mode dials with such a good touch-screen interface, but the reliance on the screen as the only means of composition will be a deal-breaker for some. The lack of a built-in flash is also annoying, even if the neat Speedlite EX90 is supplied as standard in some regions, and the continuous shooting remains unremarkable.

So if you’re looking for a small mirror-less system camera with an EVF option, built-in flash and manual control dials, look no further than much of the Panasonic and Olympus ranges which also enjoy the broadest range of native lenses in this category and blazingly quick single AF modes; go for an Olympus and the lenses will also all become stabilized. You’ll additionally find articulated screens on many of the EOS M’s rivals including some of Sony’s NEX models which additionally share the APS-C sensor size but support optional EVFs and squeeze out much faster continuous shooting. I could go on, but you get the message: the EOS M’s rivals comfortably out-feature it in many respects.

But while there’s certainly a lot of negatives it’s important to also look at the positive sides of the EOS M system. First is obviously having compatibility (with some limitations) to the entire EF lens catalogue which makes it extremely tempting to existing Canon DSLR owners. Second is having a decent sized APS-C sensor with performance that’s identical to an existing EOS DSLR. Third, for me anyway, is also sharing the movie capabilities of EOS DSLRs including a decent array of frame rates, full manual exposure control, audio level adjustment and the chance to connect an external microphone. Fourth is the standard hotshoe, which can accommodate any of the Canon Speedlites, and fifth is the decent touch-screen interface which includes pinch and swiping gestures. As for the hybrid AF system, this could become a big plus point or a negative depending on its performance in practice.

Ultimately that’s all I can say until I complete my tests with a final production sample, but I’d love to hear what you think either in the Cameralabs forums, or via my social media channels. Is the EOS M too little too late, or the mirror-less system camera you’ve been waiting for?

As a side-note it’s interesting for industry observers to see how Canon would describe this camera category. Sony has standardized on Compact System Camera, CSC. Panasonic is now encouraging the use of Digital Single Lens Mirrorless, DSLM. Olympus seems to prefer pushing its brands or standards with PEN or Micro Four Thirds. Meanwhile Canon Europe appears to have gone for Digital Interchangeable Lens Camera, ILC, while Canon USA’s specs quote Digital single-lens NON-reflex, so we’re no closer to a widely accepted term across all manufacturers. I guess the only good news to come out of all this is that Canon North America have resisted the opportunity to brand it a Rebel-M, so at least we’re all calling it EOS M around the world.  (Read Full Preview and View Sample Images)

Our Take:  While there are some nice features on the Canon EOS M, most notably the ability to use Canon Legacy Lenses and a mic input, we can’t help but feel that Canon’s first foray into the mirrorless world is somehow incomplete. We’ll reserve final judgement until we get our hands on a final production model, but for now (as we’ve said before) it appears that Canon is only dipping it’s toe into the mirrorless pool. It will be interesting to see what they can come up with if and when they decide to dive in.

What do YOU think?  Leave a comment below!

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