Canon EOS M Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops comparing the Canon EOS M with the Canon SL1, Nikon J3, Olympus E-PL5, Panasonic G6, and the Sony NEX-3N. We're starting with the base ISO to show the best each camera can do, then moving onto ISO 1600, 3200, and then finer details with ISO 6400 below.

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction.

Canon EOS M versus Canon SL1 at base ISO

Canon EOS M at ISO 100
Canon SL1 at ISO 100

We expected similar results from these two mini-Canons with 18-megapixel APS-C-type sensors, and that's what we got. Virtually identical performances from these two.


Canon EOS M versus Nikon J3 at base ISO

Canon EOS M at ISO 100
Nikon J3 at ISO 160

Nikon tends to do a great job with our difficult red leaf swatch, and the J3 is no exception. But in all other areas of these crops the EOS M far out-performs the smaller-sensored J3 in sharpness and detail. Not really in the same league as the EOS M.


Canon EOS M versus Olympus E-PL5 at base ISO

Canon EOS M at ISO 100
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 200

The E-PL5 has a smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor and lower resolution than the EOS M, and yet clearly out-resolves it in our mosaic pattern. A close call between these two solid cameras, but a slight nod to the E-PL5 for detail and color. The EOS M does outperform the E-PL5 on the red fabric swatch, however.


Canon EOS M versus Panasonic G6 at base ISO

Canon EOS M at ISO 100
Panasonic G6 at ISO 160

The G6 also has a smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor, and yet does slightly better at resolving fine detail in these crops than the EOS M, out-performing it in most every section of the test target, including the mosaic pattern and the red leaf pattern.


Canon EOS M versus Sony NEX-3N at base ISO

Canon EOS M at ISO 100
Sony NEX-3N at ISO 200

The NEX-3N has a similarly-sized APS-C sensor, and even with 2 megapixels less resolution, still out-resolves the EOS M by a slight margin in most areas except for the pink fabric swatch.


Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Canon EOS M versus Canon SL1 at ISO 1600

Canon EOS M at ISO 1600
Canon SL1 at ISO 1600

Once again, very similar results between these two first cousins. A slight nod to the EOS M in the detail of the mosaic pattern perhaps, but almost identical performances.


Canon EOS M versus Nikon J3 at ISO 1600

Canon EOS M at ISO 1600
Nikon J3 at ISO 1600

The small sensor in the J3 really shows as ISO rises. Again, it's clearly not in the same league as the other cameras in our comparisons here, but it is Nikon's current entry at this price level for compact, interchangeable-lens cameras.


Canon EOS M versus Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 1600

Canon EOS M at ISO 1600
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 1600

The E-PL5 shows more noise suppression artifacts in the bottle crop, but is far superior to the EOS M in the mosaic crop in terms of both color and detail.


Canon EOS M versus Panasonic G6 at ISO 1600

Canon EOS M at ISO 1600
Panasonic G6 at ISO 1600

Virtually identical performances from these two here. Not much to add except a slight nod to the G6 for a bit less noise in the shadows.


Canon EOS M versus Sony NEX-3N at ISO 1600

Canon EOS M at ISO 1600
Sony NEX-3N at ISO 1600

The NEX-3N also shows slightly less noise in the shadowy areas and smoother detail in the bottle, as well as a bit more contrast detail in the red fabric swatch.


Today's ISO 3200 is yesterday's ISO 1600, so below are the same crops at ISO 3200.

Canon EOS M versus Canon SL1 at ISO 3200

Canon EOS M at ISO 3200
Canon SL1 at ISO 3200

Again, very similar results between these two. Not bad for ISO 3200, and not much to say in the way of comparison.


Canon EOS M versus Nikon J3 at ISO 3200

Canon EOS M at ISO 3200
Nikon J3 at ISO 3200

The J3 is simply unable to produce any fine detail here, so clearly it's not a camera to reach for in low-light situations where higher ISOs are desired to keep shutter speeds fast.


Canon EOS M versus Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 3200

Canon EOS M at ISO 3200
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 3200

A solid performance here from the E-PL5. There are some apparent artifacts from noise suppression and sharpening, but the images overall are generally superior to the EOS M.


Canon EOS M versus Panasonic G6 at ISO 3200

Canon EOS M at ISO 3200
Panasonic G6 at ISO 3200

You can see aggressive noise reduction going on in the bottle of the G6 crop, producing an odd and unnatural result. The G6 does look a bit better than the EOS M in the other two crops however, so a definite trade-off there.


Canon EOS M versus Sony NEX-3N at ISO 3200

Canon EOS M at ISO 3200
Sony NEX-3N at ISO 3200

Similar results in the first two crops between these two APS-C rivals, but the NEX-3N does far better at resolving some detail in the fabric swatches.


Detail: Canon EOS M versus Canon SL1, Nikon J3, Olympus E-PL5, Panasonic G6, and Sony NEX-3N

Canon EOS M
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon SL1
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon J3
ISO 160
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Olympus E-PL5
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400

Panasonic G6
ISO 160
ISO 3200
ISO 6400

Sony NEX-3N
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. This crop comparison is designed to compare high-contrast detail, and the results from these models range all across the board. The J3 with its small sensor is unable to resolve detail this fine at any sensitivity, so is the obvious trailer of the pack here. The E-PL5 turns in a stellar performance, and along with many of its PEN cousins can deliver better detail and low light performance than many other cameras in this general price range. The G6 comes in second at base ISO, doing a respectable job with the lettering, and both the G6 and the NEX-3N do a good job as ISO rises. Both of the Canon models fall towards the back of the pack in terms of fine detail and higher ISO performance, unfortunately, eclipsing only the far-outclassed J3.

 

Canon EOS M Print Quality Analysis

Overall, very good 24 x 36 inch prints at ISO 100/200; ISO 1600 capable of a good 13 x 19; ISO 12,800 prints a nice 4 x 6.

ISO 100/200 images are quite nice at 24 x 36 inches, with rich detail and accurate colors. Wall display prints are possible up to 30 x 40 inches.

ISO 400 yields a nice 20 x 30 inch print, with wall display prints possible up to 24 x 36 inches.

ISO 800 prints well at 16 x 20. Minor noise becomes apparent in shadowy areas, but still produces a nice printed image.

ISO 1600 is capable of a good 13 x 19 inch print. There is a noticeable drop in contrast in our target red swatch here (typical for most cameras) and some luminance noise apparent in shadowy areas, which is also common for ISO 1600.

ISO 3200 prints a fairly good 8 x 10, albeit with similar issues as seen with the 13 x 19 at ISO 1600.

ISO 6400 makes a nice 5 x 7. Colors are no longer as vibrant, and there is some minor noise in certain areas, but not bad for this ISO.

ISO 12,800 prints a reasonable 4 x 6 with only minor apparent noise in shadowy areas.

ISO 25,600 does not print a usable 4 x 6 and is best avoided.

The Canon EOS M holds its own in the print quality department alongside its newer cousin the Canon SL1, as well as the enthusiast DSLRs T4i and T5i. If you are comparing the M to the SL1, image quality is virtually identical, so you'd do best to choose a model based on other criteria such as size, feel, features and performance. If you are considering getting one as a back-up or sidekick to your T4i or T5i, you can expect similar printed results with no loss in quality due to its smaller size. Its print sizes are also right in step with the Olympus E-PM2 and E-PL5.

 

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