Canon EOS M Review

 
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Canon EOS M Video Recording

Despite being Canon's smallest EOS camera, with more of a resemblance to a point-and-shoot camera than an interchangeable lens one, the M still features high definition video recording capabilities to match its sibling Rebel-series cameras. The EOS M's video system is pretty capable for its price point, and includes most of the standard set of video features seen on recent Canon video-capable DSLRs like Movie Servo AF, 1080p Full HD resolution at 30 and 24 fps plus 720p60 recording formats as well as manual audio level adjustments, and an external mic input.

With the exception a few things such as aperture- or shutter-priority exposure control and the generous selection of frame rates and compression types found on some higher-end cameras, the EOS M packs a fairly healthy feature set into its diminutive body. Here's a quick rundown of its video capabilities, along with our usual selection of sample videos at the bottom.

Canon EOS M Basic Video Specs

  • 1,920 x 1,080 (Full HD / 1080p) at 30 & 24 frames per second, 1,280 x 720 (720p) at 60 frames per second, and 640 x 480 (VGA) at 30 frames per second
  • TTL (through the lens) matrix metering using the main image sensor
  • MOV file format, with H.264/MPEG-4 AVC encoding with variable bitrates
  • Autofocus can be triggered during movie recording by pressing the shutter button, or continuous AF can be enabled; Manual focus also available
  • Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity can be controlled in Manual exposure mode, both before and during recording
  • ISO sensitivity can also be controlled automatically in Manual exposure mode
  • Simplified Movie exposure control options: either automatic exposure or full manual exposure
  • Exposure compensation can be adjusted prior to or during recording
  • Video recording can be started and stopped with dedicated movie button or optional RC-6 remote control
  • Seven-step LCD brightness adjustment available 
  • LCD brightness must be adjusted before capture starts
  • 16-bit, 48KHz, Linear PCM audio from internal stereo microphone or an optional external 3.5mm stereo jack
  • Automatic or fine-grained 64-step audio sensitivity adjustment available, including level display with peak hold indication (note: the level meter is only displayed when in level setting menu screen)
  • Still images can be captured while in video recording mode, but doing so pauses recording for a little over two seconds
  • Must be in Movie Mode to shoot video. In stills mode, the dedicated record button is non-functional
  • Movies can be "trimmed" in-camera, selecting just the portion you want and optionally saving it as a new file
  • Video Snapshot feature lets you record quick video clips in 2, 4 or 8 second durations, which can be joined together in Video Snapshot Albums and be set to music
  • If an attached Canon flash unit has an LED light, it can automatically enable it in low-light shooting in autoexposure mode
  • Video duration limited to 29 minutes, 59 seconds maximum
  • File size restricted to 4 GB maximum; automatically and seamlessly spans movie capture across a second file if needed
  • If sensor temperature threshold is exceeded, shooting may stop before either limit is reached; camera warns before threshold is reached
  • Single SD memory card slot. Uses SD, SDHC, SDXC cards.
  • Requires minimum Class 6 SD card speed for HD video recording
  • Histogram is available in manual mode, but only before capture starts
  • Two grid displays (3x3, 4x6) are available, but only before capture starts
  • "Clean" HDMI output not supported. Live view feed is only about 50% of screen, surrounded by black area containing readouts.

Canon EOS M Video: Image Size, Frame Rate, and Encoding

The Canon EOS M offers three different video resolutions and three frame rates. When set to NTSC mode, the combinations shown below are available:

Canon EOS M Video Options
MOV files, H.264/MPEG-4 encoding, variable bitrate
Resolution
Aspect Ratio
NTSC Mode Frame Rate

1,920 x 1,080

16:9

30p
(29.97 frames per second, progressive scan)

1,920 x 1,080

16:9

24p
(23.976 frames per second, progressive scan)

1,280 x 720

16:9

60p
(59.94 frames per second, progressive scan)

640 x 480

4:3

30p
(29.97 frames per second, progressive scan)


Full HD movie. The EOS M has the standard set of video resolutions as the other current set of Canon Rebel-series cameras.

The EOS M features the standard set of video recording formats many Canon DSLRs have, all of which are progressive scan formats. It offers full 1,920 x 1,080 HD video at both 30 and 24 frames per second. The 60 frames/second frame rate available in 1,280 x 720 mode is great for capturing smooth-looking action, but won't be as good in low-light situations, because the camera can't use a shutter speed longer than 1/60 second. The 720p resolution also introduces a greater risk for moiré and aliasing, which we will get to further down.

The 24p mode is a popular mode for many filmmakers and cinematographers because 24 fps is the frame rate used for cinema, and it gives videos more of a "film look." The lower frame rate can look choppy, though, particularly when shooting in bright light with fast shutter speeds. Note that the Canon EOS M records video at 25p and 50p instead of 30p and 60p respectively when PAL video mode is selected.

The Canon EOS M saves its video files in the MOV format, using H.264/MPEG-4 encoding. Unlike more advanced, newer Canon DSLRs, the EOS M doesn't feature the higher bitrate video formats like ALL-I compression.

The Canon EOS M also features Canon's Video Snapshot feature, which lets users take quick 2-, 4- or 8-second video clips, then stitch them together and set them to music in Video Snapshot Albums, all in-camera. It's a little like quick-and-dirty video editing meets photo slideshows.

Canon EOS M Video: Image Quality

The EOS M produces nice, high quality video that looks similar to what we've seen from Canon DSLRs. Video has crisp detail and accurate color rendition. Scenes shot in bright daylight can look a bit too contrasty to our eyes, though, with shadow areas being pretty dark when using the Standard Picture Profile. Users wanting to get more dynamic range out of their clips should use a custom picture style with decreased contrast. In low-light scenes, the EOS M did a good job, with nice detail overall and decent shadow detail. While there was visible high ISO noise, particularly chroma noise, in our nighttime test videos, it wasn't severe enough to significantly degrade the image quality.

We saw a fair amount of moiré artifacts in the standard problem areas like window screens, roof shingles, and fine patterned fabrics. Moiré and aliasing were even more pronounced in 720p video, which has been the case with most Canon DSLRs we've seen in the past. Overall, moiré artifacts look very similar to those seen on Canon DSLRs (with the exception of the 5D Mark III). This isn't a deal breaker by any means, and while it could be a deciding factor for professionals or high-end video shooters, most users should just be careful where they shoot, and be on the lookout for problems with the patterns in people's clothing, etc.

Below you can see our standard array of sample videos for the EOS M:

Canon EOS M: Video Samples
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 24 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MOV, Progressive, 60 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second, Night, Auto ISO
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 24 frames per second, Night, Auto ISO
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MOV, Progressive, 60 frames per second, Night, Auto ISO
Download Original

 

Canon EOS M Video: Focusing

Unlike the Canon SL1, the EOS M still uses the older Hybrid CMOS AF (rather than the new Version II), which only has a small area of phase-detect sensors on the imaging sensor itself. This seems to make the continuous AF on the EOS M slower and more prone to hunting.

  • By default, the EOS M uses Movie-Servo AF, but you can disable this and opt for manual or single-servo autofocus instead
  • Single-servo autofocus focuses when the shutter button is half-pressed; movie-servo AF focuses as the camera deems necessary during recording
  • STM (all EF-M) lenses are practically silent when autofocusing
  • AF area mode options:
    • Face-priority + Tracking
    • FlexiZone - Multi
    • FlexiZone - Single
  • AF point can be selected by gently tapping on the touch screen, letting you subtly change focus between different subjects without moving the camera
  • Movie Servo AF can be excruciatingly slow if the camera is unable to lock focus; it will slowly rack focus back and forth attempting to focus (note: tested with EF-M 22 f/2 STM lens).
  • Autofocus via the shutter button can be disabled, which is useful if you want to capture still images during movie shooting without causing the camera to refocus as well
  • Manual focus is also available during movie recording
    • Note: you have to half-press the shutter button an hold it down for manual focusing to work

Canon EOS M Video: Exposure Control

  • Exposure. The EOS M provides a much simpler choice for movie exposure control; it's either fully automatic or fully manual.

    Defaults to fully automatic exposure, but exposure compensation adjustment is available
  • Changes in exposure compensation take effect gradually, avoiding abrupt jumps in brightness. (Nice when you want to change exposure while a recording is in progress.)
  • Auto-ISO limit set in still capture mode doesn't affect video recording
  • Simplified video exposure control with two choices: "Movie Auto Exposure" or "Movie Manual Exposure" modes
  • Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity can be adjusted before and during exposure in Manual exposure mode just like Canon's other EOS cameras
    • The three exposure variables can be adjusted through touch screen or the control dial
      • Shutter speed and aperture are controlled via the control dial (press right on the 4-way controller to toggle between shutter and aperture control).
      • ISO must be changed via the touch screen
    • Adjustments in shutter speed, aperture, or ISO sensitivity are instant and make noticeable changes in exposure level, even with auto ISO. (Here, the exposure level dims or brightens slightly, then returns to the original level.)
    • Available shutter speeds range from 1/4,000s down to 1/60s for 60p, and down to 1/30s for 30p and 24p
    • Sensitivity can be set from ISO 100 to 6,400 (or 12,800 with ISO Expansion enabled), or to Auto. The latter lets you dial in your chosen shutter speed and aperture, while letting the camera handle the exposure level by changing the ISO.
  • Full range of Picture Style settings apply to movie recording. (Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, and User Defined 1 - 3), and each can be adjusted. Picture Style adjustments include sharpness and contrast, plus saturation and color tone for color styles, and filter / toning effects for monochrome.)
  • AE (auto-exposure) lock is supported in video mode, both before and during recording
  • Evaluative metering is always used for video recording, regardless of metering mode selected for still shooting
  • If an attached Canon flash unit has an LED light, the camera can automatically enable it in low-light shooting in autoexposure mode

Canon EOS M Video: Audio Recording

  • Internal stereo microphone
  • Defaults to automatic level control
  • Manual level control available via Movie Settings menu, with 64 levels available
  • VU (audio level) meter available only when adjusting recording level (no option for it on-screen before or during recording)
  • External stereo mic input - use external mics for better sound quality, control over stereo effect / directionality, and to eliminate camera / lens noise
    • Thankfully, the EOS M features a touch-screen allowing for silent adjustment of camera functions during recording (exposure compensation, aperture, shutter speed, etc.)
  • Audio can be disabled entirely

Canon EOS M Video: Rolling Shutter Artifacts ("Jello effect")

Pretty much every still camera on the market distorts moving objects, or the entire scene, if the camera is being panned quickly. The technical term for this is "rolling shutter artifacts," but many users simply call it the "Jello effect," because the image can jiggle and sway like Jello as the camera is moved. This occurs because the image is captured and read out line by line, so the bottom of an object may no longer be underneath the top of it by the time the camera gets around to capturing that part of the frame.

The EOS M does a nice job of controlling rolling shutter distortion. At the 1080p resolution, rolling shutter distortion was noticeable but still minimal, and even less so at 720p. Overall, the M seems evenly matched with recent Canon DSLRs in this regard, putting it well within the upper range of all DSLRs when it comes to rolling shutter. As long as you are mindful of this effect, and avoid quick pans or back-and-forth motions, particularly around objects with vertical lines like trees and buildings, you probably won't notice the rolling shutter distortion at all.

Canon EOS M: Rolling Shutter Artifacts
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 24 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MOV, Progressive, 60 frames per second
Download Original

 

Canon EOS M

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