Canon EOS M review: Firmware update finally makes this mirrorless camera’s AF speed acceptable, but can we recommend it?


posted Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 7:25 PM EDT

Late to the mirrorless camera game, the Canon EOS M wasn't a big hit at launch -- primarily due to reports of its glacial autofocus speeds. (Something we discovered here at IR immediately.) Due to what was considered a fatal flaw, the camera was mostly ignored until recently when Canon finally addressed the AF issue with a much-anticipated firmware update. We're happy to report that this update did in fact markedly improve the EOS M's speed, shaving an average of a half a second off its single-shot autofocusing times. While it's still not as fast as many other compact system cameras, it brought the Canon EOS M back to the acceptable range -- and back to life in the minds of photographers.

Up to this point, demand had been so low for the EOS M that its kit price dropped from an MSRP of US$800 at launch in October 2012, down to a street price as low as US$300 in recent weeks. That cost certainly makes up for a lot of shortcomings, and focuses attention back on what the camera does well -- take great pictures and videos.

The Canon EOS M's 18-megapixel, APS-C-type sensor delivers still images that rival those of the manufacturer's Rebel T4i, T5i and SL1 DSLRs. And the camera has some serious video skills, too, offering Full HD 1080p recording with stereo audio, and manual movie control over aperture, shutter speed, ISO and more. Meanwhile, two very good kit lenses -- a 22mm prime and 18-55mm zoom -- both feature STM (stepping motor) AF for very silent operation while filming.

Add those positives to the EOS M's solid, compact build and sleek design -- plus the fact that the camera can be adapted to accept other Canon EF / EF-S lenses -- and it becomes a very viable option for Canon DSLR owners looking for a second, more portable body without having to change systems.

However, along with the still-slow AF comes a few other missed opportunities -- most notably, the EOS M's lack of a built-in flash and electronic viewfinder, a heavier reliance on touchscreen navigation and settings selection (there are no Program, Priority, or Manual modes on the Mode dial!), and poor battery life. Potential Canon EOS M buyers will have to weigh these negatives against the positives to determine if the camera is right for them.

Is this mirrorless camera -- a veritable bargain just one year after it was announced -- right for you? Read our in-depth Canon EOS M review to find out! You can check out our full test results, including details on its AF times, as well as see our image quality analysis against other cameras in the EOS M's class.