Canon M100 Field Test Part I

Canon's new entry-level mirrorless camera has many nice features

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 12/07/2017

Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM: 24mm (38mm eq.), f/7.1, 8s, ISO 100.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
Introduction

Following up on the Canon EOS M10, the new entry-level M100 mirrorless camera is a solid addition to the EOS M lineup for Canon. The touchscreen-centric M100 does not include a lot of physical controls, but it is affordable, compact and can capture nice images. It is equipped with Canon's excellent Dual Pixel CMOS AF and their latest DIGIC 7 image processor. Let's take a closer look at how the Canon EOS M100 does during real-world shooting.

Key Features and Specifications
  • Compact interchangeable lens mirrorless camera
  • 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Native ISO range of 100 to 25,600
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF
  • 3-inch tilting touchscreen
  • DIGIC 7 image processor
  • Up to 6 frames per second continuous shooting
  • Full HD video at up to 60 frames per second
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth
  • Available for around $500
Camera Body and Handling

The M100 looks a lot like the M10 it's replacing. One immediately apparent difference when using the camera is that the M100 has a gripped surface across the front, whereas the M10 had a smooth plastic surface. While the grip does help a bit, the M100 remains difficult to firmly hold. The camera would be much easier to hold with a small front grip.

The Canon EOS M100 looks very similar to the EOS M10 although it does have a different surface.

Like its predecessor, the entry-level M100 has been designed to be a touchscreen-centric camera. The 3-inch tilting touchscreen dominates the rear of the camera and in lieu of many physical controls, you will be spending a lot of time interacting with the display. The M100 does have a single command dial and a directional pad, but there are only a handful of buttons on the body itself.

The display tilts 180 degrees upward, and the mechanism feels quite sturdy. The touchscreen aspect works well and accurately registers touches. I found the display to be quite hard to see in bright light, however, which is unfortunate as the camera has no electronic viewfinder nor a hot shoe to attach an optional one.

Essentially every aspect of the M100's operation is touchscreen-compatible. While some on-screen buttons can be difficult to press, most menus have been optimized for touch. The Q menu works well, providing access to common settings along the left, right and bottom of the display. These settings include autofocus area, autofocus drive, image quality, video quality, drive mode, self-timer, white balance, picture style, metering, lighting optimizer and aspect ratio.

The M100's back is dominated by the touchscreen display, which you will use frequently when shooting with the M100.

Overall, the M100 looks and feels like an entry-level mirrorless camera. The lack of a viewfinder is disappointing but consistent with the competition. The lack of a hot shoe does limit the flexibility of the M100 quite a bit, although it has a built-in flash. If you want more physical controls, you'll need to step up higher in the EOS-M lineup, but for someone wanting a compact camera with a large sensor and interchangeable lens versatility and doesn't mind a lot of touchscreen reliance, the Canon M100 offers pretty good handling.

Image Sensor and Image Quality

With its 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, the M100 captures good-quality images. The camera has a native ISO range of 100 to 25,600, which bests its predecessor (the M10 topped out at ISO 12,800). The M100's sensor is the same as is found in the more expensive Canon EOS M5 and M6 cameras and has six more megapixels than the M10's sensor.

The M100 captures images with very pleasing colors. I've long been a fan of Canon colors; they are never in your face. The M5 and M6 delivered images with pretty good hue accuracy, and the M100 continues the trend, which should be no surprise given that it has the same imaging pipeline. In the image below, I find the reds particularly pleasing. Red is a very difficult color, and the M100 nailed it.

Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM: 122mm (195mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 3200.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image. Even at a high ISO, the M100 delivers images with vibrant, accurate colors.

As was the case with the Canon EOS M5 and M6 cameras, the in-camera noise reduction processing can be a bit heavy-handed with the EOS M100, in my opinion. The camera actually performs pretty well at high ISO, delivering images with low amounts of visible noise, but this comes at the expense of fine detail. When looking at the image and the close-up crop below (ignore the tripod leg mistakenly placed in the frame) we can see some noise reduction artifacts. Overall, high ISO performance is good, but the M100 at default settings can be a bit aggressive with its image processing for JPEGs.

Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM: 17mm (27mm eq.), f/7.1, 1/60s, ISO 6400.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM: 17mm (27mm eq.), f/7.1, 1/60s, ISO 6400.
100% crop of the above image. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image. You can see that the noise reduction is a bit heavy-handed, but it does do a good job of reducing visible noise while retaining some decent detail in the image.

It is not just noise reduction which can be excessive with the M100, but also sharpening at low ISOs. In the crop below, we see some issues with the pine needles cutting diagonally across the frame. The M100 excessively sharpens these fine edges, which looks good when viewing the image on a screen or medium-sized print, but is problematic when making a large print. You're likely better off processing RAW files yourself and fine-tuning your sharpening.

Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM: 18mm (29mm eq.), f/7.1, 0.8s, ISO 100.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM: 18mm (29mm eq.), f/7.1, 0.8s, ISO 100.
100% crop of the above image. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image. There is quite a bit of aliasing along fine edges thanks to the camera's excessive sharpening with default settings. The sensor itself does not deliver very sharp images and the EF-M lenses are not great, so the camera has to compensate quite a bit via processing.

With that said, the M100 does what an entry-level user typically wants, it delivers sharp images at low ISO and images with low amounts of visible noise at high ISOs. Yes, this comes at the expense of pixel-level image quality, but that is not an issue that would concern most M100 owners.

On the topic of editing RAW files from the M100, there is quite a bit of flexibility with respect to shadows and highlights adjustments. As you can tell in the image below, which has been processed to taste in Adobe Camera RAW, it's possible to bring back a fair bit of highlight and shadow detail.

Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM: 34mm (54mm eq.), f/7.1, 1/500s, ISO 100.
Original straight-from-the-camera JPEG image. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM: 34mm (54mm eq.), f/7.1, 1/500s, ISO 100.
Processed to taste within Adobe Camera Raw. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

With that said, in the following image, I performed +100 shadow adjustments and added one stop of exposure (in addition to -28 highlights adjustment) and while the image looks okay zoomed out, if you zoom into 100%, we see that there are a lot of issues with noise when you increase exposure in RAW files captured by the M100. This is an issue common with Canon cameras as their sensors are typically ISO variant. This means that you are better off increasing ISO at the time of capture and nailing your exposure rather than trying to fix the exposure during post-processing. You face a noise penalty when increasing exposure. ISO invariant sensors don't punish you in the same way.

Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM: 16mm (26mm eq.), f/8, 1/500s, ISO 100.
Original straight-from-the-camera JPEG image. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM: 16mm (26mm eq.), f/8, 1/500s, ISO 100.
Processed in Adobe Camera Raw using +100 Shadow, -28 Highlight, +1 EV exposure. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM: 16mm (26mm eq.), f/8, 1/500s, ISO 100.
100% crop of the above image. Processed in Adobe Camera Raw using +100 Shadow, -28 Highlight, +1 EV exposure. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image. As you can see, there is a lot of visible noise introduced with the shadow adjustments and the exposure boost, even though the original image was captured at ISO 100.

Overall, the M100 captures fine-looking images with good color, pretty good detail, and the camera handles well across a wide ISO range. In-camera processing and RAW file flexibility are the clear downsides to the M100's 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, but it's unfair to expect more from an entry-level camera and most users will be pleased with the M100's image quality. In Field Test Part II, I'll take a closer look at in-camera shooting options, including the built-in HDR mode.

Autofocus

Like its image sensor, the autofocus system in the M100 is the same as that found in the Canon EOS M5 and M6 cameras. The M100 has Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF, which uses on-sensor phase-detect AF for fast autofocus speed. As was the case with the EOS M5 and M6, the M100 delivers quick, reliable autofocus in a wide variety of situations. Its only real shortcomings are with respect to subject tracking, which is okay but cannot handle fast subjects, and low-light autofocus, a situation in which the M100 is fairly inconsistent with its ability to reliably acquire focus. In the vast majority of shooting scenarios, however, the M100 performed well. In most cases, the focus is very quick.

A strength of the M100 is how easy it is to use the touchscreen to move the autofocus point around and also that the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system covers a good portion of the image area. The autofocus system covers all but the extreme edges of the image area; this works really well when trying to focus on something near the edge of the frame as you don't need to use any sort of focus and recompose technique.

Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM: 200mm (320mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO 1600.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM: 200mm (320mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO 1600.
100% crop of the above image. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

While the touchscreen works well in most cases, the M100's reliance on the screen can be a problem when you are wearing gloves, as I do for a good portion of the time here in Maine. If you live in a cold climate, you will have to get used to chilly hands if you want to use the M100. This is true in a lot of ways when using the M100, but it is particularly frustrating when not using a fully automatic autofocus mode. Now, the good news is that there is a special touchscreen mode buried within the settings, "sensitive" touchscreen operation. When using special gloves with "touchscreen-friendly" fingertips, this mode does make a difference. It remains imperfect with registering taps, but it does work and is a very nice addition.

Overall, the M100 delivers good autofocus performance in many scenarios. It's not well-equipped for low-light or fast action photography, but in most scenarios, the Dual Pixel CMOS AF works well.

Performance

The EOS M100 has a DIGIC 7 image processor, which helps provide good overall performance despite its entry-level mirrorless camera category. Not only is the M100 faster than the M10, but it's quite good given its price.

The M100 can capture images at just over 6 frames per second with One-Shot AF and around 4 fps with Servo AF. This is not super speedy, but it's pretty quick for this camera class. The buffer depth is just shy of 100 frames when shooting JPEG images and just under 20 frames when shooting RAW images. Of course, individual experiences can vary depending on your SD card speed.

During my time with the M100, it was mostly quick although it did, on rare occasions, feel a bit sluggish during playback and when processing multiple RAW images at once. It's worth noting again that the M100 does not allow you to perform image playback or adjust settings while the camera's buffer is clearing, which can be frustrating. The buffer clearing times are fairly quick, but it can be an annoyance. The menus are generally snappy and the camera performs quite well. An area of weakness, however, is its battery life. The M100's battery is rated for 295 shots, this is below average for a mirrorless camera. You will definitely want a spare battery if you plan on any full-day shooting.

Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM: 200mm (320mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO 320.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Canon EOS M100 Field Test Part I Summary

Generally good first impressions, but the M100 does have a few weaknesses

What I like:

  • Touchscreen works well in most cases
  • Compact and easy to use
  • Pretty good image quality
  • Quick Dual Pixel CMOS AF
  • Solid performance
  • Good value

What I dislike:

  • Camera is a bit too reliant on the touchscreen
  • Aggressive in-camera sharpening and noise reduction
  • Sensor is not ISO invariant

In the majority of situations, the Canon EOS M100 has thus far been an impressive camera. It is pretty quick, it's very compact, and the camera makes it easy to capture nice images. It is not the most flexible camera, but it isn't meant to be given its entry-level design and very affordable price point. For general use, it's a great camera, especially for someone looking to get his or her first interchangeable lens camera.

Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM: 45mm (72mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO 2000.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

In Field Test Part II, I will look at additional shooting modes, video performance and more before I wrap up the Canon EOS M100 Field Test. Stay tuned to Imaging Resource for more on the Canon EOS M100 mirrorless camera.

 



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