Canon EOS M3 Review
|Full model name:||Canon EOS M3|
(22.3mm x 14.9mm)
|Viewfinder:||No / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 12,800|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Shutter:||1/4000 - 30 sec|
|Max Aperture:||3.5 (kit lens)|
4.4 x 2.7 x 1.7 in.
(111 x 68 x 44 mm)
|Full specs:||Canon EOS M3 specifications|
EOS M3 Summary
The Canon EOS M3 brings significant and welcomed improvements over the original EOS M model. There's a better sensor, better AF performance and better ergonomics to suit the more advanced photographer. Image quality is very good as is high ISO performance, thanks to the higher-res sensor and faster image processor. The Canon EOS M3 is undoubtedly a much improved, more advanced mirrorless camera than the original M, but it still feels lacking in some important areas. Is this the mirrorless camera many Canon fans were hoping for? Read on to find out!Pros
DSLR image quality & resolution in a mirrorless body; Higher-res 24MP APS-C sensor; Much improved AF performance; Better ergonomics with full PASM dial; Built-in Wi-Fi & NFC; Tilting LCD.Cons
No built-in EVF; Limited native lens selection; Slow burst mode; Shallow buffer depth with RAW files; No 60p video frame rate or 4K video option.Price and availability
The Canon EOS M3 began shipping in the US in early October 2015 in three configurations: Body-only for a suggested retail price of US$679.99, kitted with the EF-M 18-55mm IS STM for US$799.99, or a dual lens kit including the EF-M 18-55mm IS STM lens and the EF-M 55-200mm IS STM lenses for US$1,049. The body in the 18-55mm kit is available in a choice of black or white, while other configurations are black only.Imaging Resource rating
4.5 out of 5.0
Canon EOS M3 Review
by William Brawley
Last updated: 01/25/2017
08/27/2015: Added US availability, posted First Shots
09/22/2015: Performance test results posted
10/16/2015: Field Test, by Jeremy Gray posted
01/15/2016: Image Quality Comparison and Print Quality posted
01/18/2016: Review Conclusion posted
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Sporting a new design as well as a better sensor and faster AF, the EOS M3 is a significant upgrade over the original Canon EOS M, especially for more advanced photographers. Yet, the new EOS M5 aims to more directly address the needs of enthusiast-level photographers who want Canon quality in a mirrorless package. Check out our Canon EOS M5 review here.
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Canon is sticking to their guns in the mirrorless camera game with the introduction of the new Canon EOS M3 compact system camera. Sporting a new exterior design, higher-resolution sensor, beefier processor, better autofocus and a number of other new features, the Canon M3 shifts the focus more towards an enthusiast-level mirrorless camera and away from the more point-and-shoot-styled look and functionality of the previous models. Announced by Canon's overseas headquarters back in February 2015 for the European and Asian markets, Canon U.S.A. has announced it will also make it to North American shores, unlike last year's EOS M2 revision.
The original EOS M struggled to make a serious dent in the mirrorless camera market, due in part to the massive success of the options from other brands such as Olympus, Panasonic and Sony to name a few. The EOS M's acceptance was also hampered by limited native lens support as well as lackluster autofocus performance. Even with additional firmware updates, the EOS M still fell short in AF performance compared to its competitors.
With the release of the Canon 70D and its Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology, many Canon fans were hoping that this tech would find its way into a Canon mirrorless camera and provide it with serious AF horsepower. However, the minor update to the EOS M2 did not see this occur, and now with the new EOS M3, Canon's Dual Pixel technology is still noticeably absent. Though it's not all bad...
The Canon EOS M3 does in fact get new autofocus technology, in the form of their new Hybrid CMOS AF III system also used by the newly-announced Rebel T6s and T6i DSLRs for Live View mode. Making use of 49 AF points -- up from 31 points on the original M -- that span 80% of the frame vertically and 70% horizontally, the new hybrid system of on-chip phase detect and contrast-detect AF is said to be 6.1 times faster than the original M. Combined with the much faster DIGIC 6 image processor (the original used DIGIC 5), the phase detect AF pixels work for quick focus measurements, followed by fine-tuning using CDAF. While this isn't the same as Dual Pixel CMOS AF, the updated AF performance of the EOS M3 is vastly improved and a much-welcomed feature.
In addition to the new AF system, the EOS M3 provides a jump in sensor resolution over the older 18-megapixel sensor housed inside the M. The M3, presumably, uses the same sensor as the new T6s and T6i and offers a sizable boost to 24.2 megapixels. The new APS-C-sized chip is the highest resolution image sensor of this size that Canon has ever offered. The EOS M3 also shares the same ISO range of 100-12,800 (with an extended high of 25,600). For video recording, the ISO is curbed at a maximum of 6400. Canon says burst performance remains roughly the same at about 4.2 frames-per-second despite the increase in resolution, with a JPEG buffer size of up to 1000 frames, but only 5 frames in RAW mode. (We only managed 4 RAW frames in the lab.)
Of course, aside from the under-the-hood improvements, one of the biggest changes is the redesigned body. Featuring a slightly thicker body, the M3 also includes a protruding, contoured handgrip that's much more akin to a DSLR than the slim, point-and-shoot aesthetic of the original M.
The original M lacked any command dials for the index finger or thumb, apart from the 4-way directional dial on the back. The new EOS M3 does away with the three-way mode dial that surrounded shutter release button and instead uses this space for a true command dial like a DSLR for quick and comfortable settings adjustments. The M3 also provides a handy customizable Multi-Function button up top as well.
Instead of the cumbersome process of using the three-way mode dial (Auto, Photo, or Movie) and then leaving any subsequent mode changes to the touchscreen or menus, the M3 intros a standard PASM mode dial on the top panel, complete with full auto modes, scene modes, movie mode and a single customizable preset mode. There's now an exposure compensation dial near the far right edge of the top deck, as well. The rear control and button cluster is similar, but the M3 features a couple of additional buttons as well as a few button rearrangements. There are now buttons for AF area, manual focus, flash and ISO, the latter doubling as a Wi-Fi button.
The EOS M3 now features for the first time a tilting LCD touchscreen display. The 3.0-inch screen tilts upwards a full 180 degrees and down to 45 degrees, making the M3 easy to use for casual selfies and other angled shots. And for the first time, the EOS M3 includes a small, built-in pop-up flash (GN=5m/ISO 100). Using the standard hot shoe, the M3 is also compatible with Canon's line of Speedlite flashes.
Further tweaks includes video recording improvements, and although it still doesn't offer 1080/60p, Canon now provides manual focus peaking for the first time on an EOS camera, making manual focusing much easier and faster. The M3 also offers Dynamic IS for video image stabilization that makes use of a combination of optical I.S. and the DIGIC 6 processor for digital stabilization to provide stabilization during handheld or on-the-go operation. The EOS M3 also includes a 3.5mm external microphone jack.
On the left side, users are offered a 3.5mm stereo microphone input jack and a Mini-B USB 2.0 port, as well as the manual pop-up flash switch.
Despite the more enthusiast-level orientation of the M3, easy-to-use operation and built-in creative effects are still featured in this camera. The M3 in fact introduces a new Creative Assist mode that's controlled via a touchscreen interface. Users can preview image effects, such as brightness, background blur, contrast and color, as well as special filter effects in real-time, as well as save custom combination presets for later use.
On the right side, the M3 includes a Mini HDMI (Type C) port for stills and video playback.
The M3 also features built-in Wi-Fi and active NFC connectivity -- a first for the EOS mirrorless line. Using Canon's Camera Connect smartphone app, users can both transfer and share images as well as remotely control the camera to further expand creative shooting opportunities. And NFC not only allows for quicker, easier pairing with compatible devices, it also allows the EOS M3 to be compatible with Canon's new Connect Station CS100. Connected to a wireless network, the EOS M3 also allows for auto-sync backup of your images to their cloud-based Irista service, which is only available to European and Australian customers at the time of this writing.
The Canon M3 derives its power from a 7.2V 1040mAh LP-E17 rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and ships with a dedicated LC-E17 battery charger. (In-camera charging is not supported.) Battery life is rather limited even for a mirrorless camera, rated at only 250 shots per charge with 50% using flash. An optional ACK-E17 AC adapter kit is available.
The Canon EOS M3 stores images and videos on an SD, SDHC or SDXC card, and faster UHS-I types are supported.
As with the previous model, the M3 uses EF-M lenses, but is also compatible with EF and EF-S DSLR lenses by using the EF-EOS M lens mount adapter. Additionally, the M3 lacks an electronic or optical viewfinder, but owners have the option of using the hot-shoe-mounted EVF-DC1 electronic viewfinder.
The Canon EOS M3 began shipping in the US in early October 2015 in three configurations: Body-only for a suggested retail price of US$679.99, kitted with the EF-M 18-55mm IS STM for US$799.99, or a dual lens kit including the EF-M 18-55mm IS STM lens and the EF-M 55-200mm IS STM lenses for US$1,049.00. The body in the 18-55mm kit is available in a choice of black or white, while other configurations are black only.The following Canon E-FM lenses are also available separately in the US:
- EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM wide-angle zoom lens for an estimated retail price of US$399.99
- EF-M 22mm f/2 STM compact prime lens in silver for an estimated retail price of US$249.99
- EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM telephoto zoom lens for an estimated retail price of US$349.99
Canon EOS M3 Field Test
Numerous improvements take the M-series to the next level
After being released in European and Asian markets earlier in the year, the M3 is the first M-series camera since the original to be released in the US. Including the new 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and Hybrid CMOS AF III autofocus from the Rebel T6s and T6i cameras, the M3 is a big improvement over the original M in a few critical ways. The impressive features come in a small package, with the M3 weighing only 12.9oz (366g) with a battery and SD card. For those looking to upgrade from an original M or for those looking to purchase their first Canon mirrorless camera, the M3 brings a lot to the table and merits consideration.
A compact camera body with plentiful controls
The M3 is small, but it does not suffer from many of the compromises that small cameras often make, such as foregoing a front grip and not having command dials. Unlike the original Canon EOS M, the M3 has a fairly deep front grip. While the command dials on the M3 are not exactly like those found on a Rebel, they allow for a similar level of control.
Canon EOS M3 Image Quality Comparison
See how image quality compares to competing mirrorless models
NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved, click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Canon EOS M3, Canon EOS M, Fuji X-A2, Olympus E-PL7, Samsung NX500 and Sony A6000 -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Canon EOS M3 to any camera we've ever tested.
Canon EOS M3 Print Quality
How big can it print?
Sporting a big upgrade in the sensor and processor department compared to the original EOS M, the new Canon EOS M3 has an impressive showing in the print quality department, particularly at lower ISOs. Surprisingly, prints from ISO 100 up to 400 look virtually identical with lots of detail and great colors allowing for very large prints up to 30 x 40 inches. At the middle ISO ranges, the M3 does well to control noise and balance NR processing with a good amount of fine detail. At ISO 3200, the M3 manages a pleasant 11 x 14 inch print, though colors have begun to appear slightly "off" at this point. Even at the tip-top of the ISO scale, the new Canon EOS M3 achieves a usable 4 x 6 at ISO 25,600.
Canon EOS M3 Conclusion
Big upgrades to Canon's key mirrorless model
Big upgrades to Canon's key mirrorless model.
Sadly for Canon, the debut of the first-generation Canon EOS M was met with a rather ho-hum response, at least here in the US. Limited lens selection and less-than-stellar AF performance were major factors, as was the more established success of competing manufacturers in the mirrorless space. Canon, nevertheless, soldiered-on and introduced this noticeably beefed-up EOS M3 model with a new external design, improved ergonomics, a built-in flash, as well as all-new internals, including a higher-res sensor, a faster DIGIC 6 image processor and, indeed, better autofocusing.
Higher-res sensor captures great images.
After using an 18MP APS-C sensor in the original M (and the M2 refreshed model), the EOS M3 makes the jump to a 24-megapixel sensor. Similar to the chip in the recent Rebel T6s and T6i cameras, this newer sensor allows the EOS M3 to capture excellent images. In both our lab tests and real-world Field Test, the M3 earns relatively high marks from us in terms of image detail. The 24MP sensor captures lots of detail, though we found the in-camera JPEGs were a bit on the soft side with the default level of image sharpening resulting in noticeable halos around higher contrast edges. We found much better results using RAW files and controlling sharpening ourselves in post.
In the Box
The Canon EOS M3 18-55mm kit retail box (as tested) ships with the following items:
- Canon EOS M3 body (in black or white)
- EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens
- Front and rear lens caps
- LP-E17 battery pack
- LC-E17/LC-E17E battery charger
- Hot shoe cover
- Body cap
- IFC-400PCU USB interface cable
- EM-200DB neck strap
- Camera Instruction Manual booklet
- Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. Look for at least a Class 4 speed grade card if you plan on shooting video, and consider a fast UHS-I card to minimize buffer clearing times.
- Extra LP-E17 battery pack
- Additional lenses
- External Speedlite flash
- EVF-DC1 electronic viewfinder
- External monaural or stereo microphone
- HTC-100 or other Mini-HDMI cable
- Medium size camera bag
Buy the Canon EOS M3
$599.00 (28% more)
16.1 MP (50% less)
Also lacks viewfinder
$547.99 (22% more)
16 MP (51% less)
Also lacks viewfinder