Canon EOS M Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Solid, compact build and attractive, sleek design that borrows from Canon's PowerShot compacts
  • 18-megapixel, APS-C sensor delivers great, DSLR-like image quality (similar to the Rebel T4i, T5i and SL1)
  • 3-inch LCD touchscreen monitor is bright and high-resolution
  • Robust video capabilities, including Full HD (1080p) recording at up to 30fps with stereo audio
  • Manual Movie mode allows for setting and changing aperture, shutter speed, ISO and more
  • External mic jack
  • Good kit lenses (22mm and 18-55mm), which both feature STM for virtually silent autofocusing
  • Records RAW and RAW+JPEG files
  • Very fast prefocused shutter lag
  • Currently available at an appealing price
  • Autofocus speed, though now in the acceptable range thanks to a recent firmware update, is still slower than most other mirrorless cameras
  • Navigation and changing settings can be confusing as it's not always intuitive whether to use physical or touchscreen controls
  • Limited creative filters and special effects modes
  • LCD does not articulate (it's fixed flush to maximize compactness)
  • Poor low-light focusing
  • Slow single-shot cycle times
  • Below average burst speed for a compact system camera
  • No built-in flash
  • No electronic viewfinder option
  • Poor battery life
  • New lens mount (EF-M) with very limited lens selection
  • Auto and Incandescent white balance too warm in tungsten light
  • Movie Record button does nothing in still capture mode

 

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 US$800 at launch in October 2012, down to a street price as low as US$300 in recent months. That cost certainly makes up for a lot of shortcomings, and focuses attention back to what the camera does well -- take great pictures and videos.

The Canon EOS M's 18-megapixel, APS-C-type sensor delivers images that rival those of the manufacturer's Rebel T4i/T5i/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 an 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 come 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.

What do we think? Well, we're with our reviewer on this one. Such slow AF is pretty hard to swallow, especially considering the competition, and we miss some of the features (built-in flash, complete Mode dial, tilting LCD) that were omitted for the sake of size. But while we probably wouldn't buy one ourselves (OK, one of us actually did, but he's a diehard Canon guy and the deal was incredible), we'd still recommend it for the right photographer -- either a Canon shooter looking for a compact companion, or someone looking for a steal of a deal. For these reasons, the Canon EOS M squeaks in and earns a Dave's Pick.

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