Canon EOS M10 Review: Field Test

The M10 is an easy to use, affordable mirrorless camera

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 07/13/2016

187mm equivalent (Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 117mm), f/5.0, 1/800s, ISO 100.
Click for full-size image.

Introduction

The Canon EOS M10 marks the first time that Canon expanded its mirrorless camera lineup to include more than one current camera. Joining the higher-resolution and more sophisticated EOS M3, the M10 is best described as the entry-level model in Canon's mirrorless lineup. The M10 provides a simple, user-friendly experience while still offering more advanced photographers a number of creative opportunities, although limited in some respects.

Canon EOS M10 Key Features

  • 18.0-megapixel CMOS APS-C sensor
  • Mirrorless
  • Compact 10.6-ounce body with simple controls
  • Tilting 3.0-inch rear touchscreen display
  • Native ISO range of 100-12800, expandable to 25600
  • Hybrid CMOS AF II with on sensor phase detect, 49 AF zones
  • 1080/30p video
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC
The Canon EOS M10 shown here with the optional grip accessory attached.

The Canon EOS M10 offers a simple but decent camera body

The first thing you'll notice when you pick up the Canon M10 is that there are not very many controls. There's a control dial around the shutter release on the top of the camera, a movie record button next to that, a switch to toggle between video, stills and full auto, and a couple of buttons and a directional pad on the rear of the M10. Without many buttons, there are times when controlling the camera can be a little deliberate and slow. You'll come to rely on the touch-screen-friendly Quick Menu a lot for changing numerous camera settings.

The control dial has a nice feel to it, but it would be good to have a second one somewhere on the camera, even if it were around the directional buttons like there is on the EOS M3. You'll notice that there's not a traditional mode dial on the M10; selecting modes like Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual requires the use of the touchscreen. This isn't too bad, however, because the touchscreen works really well. The 3.0-inch display has 1,040,000 dots, and the 180-degree upward tilting mechanism moves smoothly and feels surprisingly robust.

Notably absent is any sort of electronic viewfinder or hotshoe for attaching an external viewfinder. The lack of a hotshoe (and resulting inability to attach Canon's optional EVF-DC1) is a rather large difference between the M10 and its more capable sibling. The rear display works well in most situations, but a viewfinder is hard to beat when it's sunny out or when you're using a longer lens.

Despite the price, the EOS M10's build quality is quite nice, and it feels very solid in the hand. On its own, the slim, candy-bar shape is very compact but can be a little slippery to hold. For under $30, you can purchase an optional Grip GR-E3 for the M10. I highly recommend doing so because the grip doesn't add much weight to the body, but it makes the M10 much more comfortable to hold.

Overall, particularly with the optional grip, the M10 offers a comfortable camera body that won't overwhelm novice users with complicated controls. It's a very simple camera to operate and the touchscreen interface works well. Fortunately, it doesn't eschew more serious shooting controls, it just puts them in the Quick Menu.

24mm equivalent (Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 15mm), f/3.5, 1/250s, ISO 800.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

The EOS M10's APS-C sensor does a fine job

With about six fewer megapixels than the M3, the M10's 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor still captures high-quality images. Eighteen megapixels is plenty for most uses and the image quality is good. Paired with Canon's DIGIC 6 image processor, the M10 is designed to offer a full two-stop improvement in high ISO performance compared to the EOS M2, at least for JPEG images. The new processing doesn't apply to the camera's RAW images. On the plus side, the M10 can record 14-bit uncompressed RAW files, which is nice.

Dynamic range is a weak area for the M10. DxOMark found that the sensor has only 11.4 EVs of dynamic range, which is a fair bit less than some other competing APS-C sensors out there. I found that I was still able to make quite a good level of exposure adjustments to RAW files from the M10, but the files certainly provided less leniency than other cameras I've used -- including some with smaller sensors.

EF-M 15-45mm kit lens is okay, but has a lot of distortion

The M10 is sold with an EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM kit lens, which offers basically a 24-72mm equivalent focal length. It's a compact zoom lens (it's only 1.76 inches long), and works well for landscapes, portraits and general shooting. The lens does exhibit a lot of distortion and vignetting at the wide end, so keep that in mind. It's unfortunate that it's so slow at the telephoto end (f/6.3) -- though it does have image stabilization to help compensate -- but overall, it's an okay kit lens.

30mm equivalent (Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 19mm), f/4.0, 1/50s, ISO 100.
Click for full-size image.

The touchscreen display makes the Canon EOS M10 enjoyable to use

The camera offers a lot of options to the user, but it doesn't have a lot of buttons or dials to worry about. Offering a good user experience, the Canon M10 feels like a camera designed for users who are becoming more serious about photography and want the ability to change lenses. Many features are accessible through the touchscreen, which is very user-friendly and easy to understand. I like that the camera body itself is so straightforward, but enthusiasts who want fast access and more physical controls for settings might not be satisfied with this simple design.

Metering

The M10 provides strong metering performance through its evaluative, partial, center-weighted and spot metering options. Partial meters approximately 11% of the center of the frame, and spot metering meters approximately 2.8% of the frame. Spot metering is, unfortunately, locked to the center of the frame and does not move based on the AF point.

320mm equivalent (Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 200mm), f/6.3, 1/315s, ISO 125.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

When the camera doesn't meter as expected or you desire exposure compensation, you can press up on the directional pad on the rear of the body and access up to three EVs of compensation. Auto white balance worked well in my experience, providing consistently good results in a wide variety of situations, although the camera did have a slight tendency to reduce naturally warm tones in a scene.

Shooting Modes

It is clear by the lack of a mode dial that the camera is aimed at users who will often use the camera in a fully-automatic shooting mode. The camera works well in a fully-automatic shooting mode due to its reliable metering and autofocus performance. If you want to utilize P, A, S and M shooting modes, you need to access them via the touchscreen. When in aperture and shutter priority modes, the control dial on the top of the camera works perfectly well for adjusting your settings. When shooting in the fully manual mode, however, the camera body's limitations become apparent, and you have to toggle between which setting (aperture or shutter speed) the dial is controlling, making manual shooting quite tedious.

Touch-screen and menus

When shooting, the display can be set to show you a variety of settings and options. In the top left corner is the shooting mode (M, Av, Tv and P). The top right has the "Q" menu which lists eleven settings, six on each side (the top right corner is "back" to go back to the shooting screen) of the display with the central area dedicated to describing the setting and providing additional information. The settings are AF method, AF operation (One Shot versus Servo), image quality, video quality, drive mode, self-timer, white balance, picture style, auto lighting optimizer, metering and aspect ratio. None of these settings are accessible via physical buttons on the camera.

Along the bottom of the display is the aperture or shutter speed (or both when in manual mode), exposure compensation, ISO, zoom and a touch shutter toggle. By pressing up on the directional pad (which is otherwise an exposure control button) you can cycle through which of shutter speed, aperture and exposure compensation is controlled by the camera's control dial. This is true in aperture and shutter priority as well, although you're only cycling between two options.

35mm equivalent (Canon EF-M 22mm f/2.0 STM lens), f/2.0, 15s, ISO 1600.
Click for full-size image.

The touch-screen works quite well in most cases, providing quick and accurate performance, however I found it to become a little sluggish when selecting between shooting modes. Otherwise it worked well, including for the camera's system menus. A few of the on-screen buttons are small, so I found myself opting for a combination of touch and the physical buttons for system menu navigation. On the topic of the menus, they're generally well-organized and straightforward. As a note, you can navigate the quick menu with physical buttons as well; it is not exclusively touch-based, although touch-based control is definitely faster.

It is worth noting that the camera doesn't have a built-in focus scale on the display, so night shooting that requires manual focus (such as shooting the night sky) is a tricky task that you must perform using live view and a lot of patience. It was at times immensely frustrating to work with at night, but it can still capture pretty good night shots.

Overall

I'm usually a proponent of cameras with a lot of physical controls because I find them faster and easier to work with, but I generally liked shooting with the M10. Its simple, streamlined approach worked well given its strong metering and decent autofocus performance (more on that shortly). Sure, it's not a high-end enthusiast camera, but it does seem well-suited to photographers who want something small and easy to use or are just getting started with their first non-point and shoot camera.

18mm equivalent (Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lens at 11mm), f/4.5, 1/60s, ISO 400.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

Autofocus performance is not the Canon EOS M10's strong suit

The Canon EOS M10 utilizes a Hybrid CMOS AF II autofocus system, which offers both on-sensor phase-detect and contrast-detect autofocus (hence "hybrid"). The camera has 49 autofocus zones and offers multi, single point and face detection + tracking autofocus areas, and you can use the touchscreen to adjust focus.

I found that the multi area (fully automatic) autofocus area mode worked decently well, although it occasionally missed the mark in terms of picking the correct subject. In these situations, single point autofocus was a suitable remedy and proved to be relatively quick. With that said, this camera doesn't offer blazing-fast autofocus speeds.

98mm equivalent (Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 61mm), f/4.5, 1/2000s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

Continuous autofocus performance is decent, although it isn't particularly fast. The camera can track a subject with some success, so long as it isn't moving quickly and doesn't blend into its surroundings. Using subject tracking occasionally leads to the camera picking up on a somewhat similar-looking object in the scene as the system is not particularly sophisticated. I found that the M10 also had a tendency to hunt for focus.

The EOS M10's autofocus is reliable enough for many general-purpose situations, but it's far from what I would consider useful for action, sports or anything else fast-paced. In fact, based on my experience, I'd classify its overall AF performance as rather mediocre. With that said, one needs to keep the camera's performance in the appropriate context given the Canon EOS M10's price point and classification as an entry-level camera. With that, it strikes me as decent mirrorless camera in terms of focusing for the money, though there are certainly better offerings out there.

320mm equivalent (Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 200mm), f/6.3, 1/1250s, ISO 1600.
This image has been cropped. Click for original image.

Canon EOS M10's performance dogged by slow burst rate & shallow buffer

Performance is about what you would expect from an entry-level camera, which is to say that it is not that great. The DIGIC 6-powered camera is slow pretty much across the board with single-shot cycling times one of the few areas where it's roughly average. Continuous shooting performance on the Canon M10 is sluggish. When shooting JPEG files, the buffer is at least good at over 80 frames captured at just under 4.6 frames per second. However, the buffer situation worsens dramatically when recording raw files, although the burst rate only drops down to 4.2 fps. The buffer sinks to a paltry six frames for raw, and when shooting raw + JPEG the buffer goes down to just five frames. The buffer does clear in roughly three seconds, though, which is quite good.

35mm equivalent (Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lens at 22mm), f/5.6, 1/80s, ISO 160.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

It's unfortunate that the Canon M10 is so slow to record images and that its raw buffer depth is so small, which all in all limits the M10's usefulness at shooting any sort of action or fast-paced subjects. However, as was the case with autofocus performance, the context is important. This is an entry-level camera with an entry-level price, so it's understandable that the M10's performance is not going to be up to the level of a higher-end camera.

Canon M10 does surprisingly well in low light

High sensitivity

Up through ISO 1600, JPEG images straight from the camera look pretty good. At ISO 3200, the situation is a bit murkier as images lose quite a lot of sharpness due to the in-camera noise reduction. The M10 has aggressive default noise reduction, although you can adjust it or disable entirely if desired. It's a staple of many entry-level cameras to place a strong emphasis on reducing visible noise, even at the cost of fine details and sharpness. At ISO 6400, images take on a very digital and processed appearance. At ISO 12800 and 25600, images display a severe lack of fine detail and heavy noise and are best avoided, in my opinion.

Canon M10 Noise Comparison 100% crops from JPEG images straight from the camera.
(Click images for full-size files.)
ISO 100 Full Scene
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800
ISO 1600
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 12800
ISO H (25600)

RAW images look pretty good at ISO 1600, though there's a fair amount of noise. Contrast and detail are still good at this sensitivity, and you can process the file into something completely usable for moderately large viewing sizes and prints. ISO 6400 results in a large falloff in sharpness and a dramatic increase in visible noise, but I could see myself utilizing a processed RAW file at ISO 6400 for web display. All in all, high ISO performance is decent with the EOS M10. Its APS-C sensor does a good job and despite noise reduction being heavy-handed in-camera, its RAW files are pretty good for a camera of its class.

Canon M10 RAW samples - 100% center crops from RAW images
using Adobe Camera Raw defaults. (Click to access the .CR2 RAW files.)
ISO 100
ISO 1600
ISO 6400
ISO 25600

Built-in flash

In lieu of having a hotshoe, the M10 offers a built-in flash. It's moderately powerful and is certainly powerful enough to provide good fill flash during the day, as you can see in the images below. I would rather the camera have a hotshoe (or both a hotshoe and a built-in flash, ideally), but it's an entry-level camera so I'm not surprised at the omission.

62mm equivalent (Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 39mm), f/5.6, 1/125s, ISO 800, flash.
Click for full-size image.

Video: What's here is good but what's missing is unfortunate

Video is something of a disappointment with the Canon M10, unfortunately. You can't record any sort of 4K video -- not that surprising, given the other current offerings of EOS models -- and 1080p resolution video is only offered at 24 and 30 frames per second. This is well below what I've come to expect from modern mirrorless cameras. There's no headphone jack, but at least there's a microphone jack -- though no hot-shoe to attach an external mic.

Canon M10 Video Sample #1, 1920 x 1080, 30fps
Download Original (31MB .MP4 File)

Autofocus performance when recording video is okay, but can be somewhat slow. I like being able to quietly move the focus point around the frame using the tilting touchscreen display, though. Exposure performance was consistently good, as was automatic white balance.

Canon M10 Video Sample #2, 1920 x 1080, 30fps
Download Original (55MB .MP4 File)

Movie modes are somewhat lacking as well. Your options are either a fully automatic movie mode (although you can still control autofocus if you so choose) and a manual movie mode. If you start a movie recording while in aperture or shutter priority, the camera enters automatic mode.

At high sensitivities, video looks pretty good through ISO 1600, although it becomes quite soft at ISO 3200. The softness is joined by noticeable noise at ISO 6400, but the 1080p resolution cap masks some of the issues.

Canon M10 ISO 3200 Video Sample, 1920 x 1080, 30fps
Download Original (35.1MB MB .MP4 File)

Overall, the video features that are present work fairly well. I wish that autofocus performance was a bit better, but the camera works quite well for its class in fully automatic mode. Obviously the lack of 4K or even 1080/60p video is disappointing.

Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC work with Canon Camera Connect app

The Canon M10 has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC and can establish a connection via the dedicated wireless button on the side of the camera to both iOS and Android devices. I tested the wireless functionality on an iOS device, which means that I had to go through iOS's wireless settings menu before being able to connect to the camera. Once up and running, though, performance was good. The connection was stable, and the live view display on my phone's screen was close to real-time.

Canon Camera Connect application screenshots

There are quite a few options and controls available in the Canon Camera Connect application, including drive mode and autofocus settings, and the touchscreen works well for selecting focus. It's a relatively standard assortment of features, similar to those with other EOS cameras with wireless capabilities, and offers good remote control functionality; I can certainly see the utility of the app when using the M10, especially for things like family portraits.

Canon EOS M10 Field Test Summary

What I like:

  • Tilting touchscreen display
  • Intuitive to use
  • Built-in flash
  • Price point
  • Can work with non EF-M Canon lenses with an adapter

What I dislike:

  • No available electronic viewfinder
  • Only one control dial
  • Mediocre autofocus
  • Poor continuous shooting performance
  • No hotshoe
  • No 4K or 60fps Full HD video
  • Below average battery life (rated for 255 shots/charge)
24mm equivalent (Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 15mm), f/3.5, 1/60s, ISO 250.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

Offering a simple, effective user experience, the Canon EOS M10 is not equipped to rattle off a big burst of raw images or to record 4K video, but it can easily capture fine images at a fairly wide range of sensitivities. When considering the Canon EOS M10, you need to keep your expectations in check with its entry-level status (and price point). Right now, you can purchase an M10 with the 15-45mm kit lens for only $450 ($150 less than MSRP). Considering its good image quality and intuitive, simple controls, it strikes me as a good option for someone looking to make the upgrade to his or her first interchangeable lens camera, while still keeping everything lightweight and compact.

 



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