Canon EOS M review: Canon finally joins the mirrorless party

By Kevin Carter - Friday January 04 2013

Sensor Review
Introduction | Canon EOS M sensor performance | Canon EOS M versus competition | Conclusion

Canon was the last major maker to embrace the hybrid or ‘mirrorless’ camera market. As a somewhat sober debut, designed for those who are new to photography, the EOS M adopts an 18-megapixel APS-C format in a compact body but boasts a number of advanced features including a 31-point hybrid AF system for stills and video and a touch sensitive 3-inch LCD. While it’s clear this camera doesn’t compete directly with the firm’s DSLRs, how does it stack up against the competition that don’t have the same volume of DSLR sales to protect?

As one of the major innovators in digital cameras over the last decade, it is somewhat ironic that Canon has been the last major maker to introduce a ‘mirrorless’ or hybrid model. The first of the new series, the EOS M is an easy-to-use entry-level camera unashamedly aimed at amateurs. The lack of a viewfinder optical or otherwise is an obvious omission, but the design objectives to produce a camera that was genuinely compact and yet built around the APS-C format sensor of the firm’s EOS Kiss/Rebel650D DSLRs were clear at the onset. 

The fact that the EOS M adopts an 18-megapixel Hybrid CMOS AF system implemented by the EOS Rebel T4i/Kiss X6i/650D (depending on the locale) with Digic 5 image processor and a maximum sensitivity of ISO12,800, expandable to 25,600 suggest Canon feel comfortable with the low-light performance.

As well as performing image capture this sensor performs contrast-detection AF like rivals but also boasts embedded pixels used specifically for phase-difference AF which allows faster focus detection during live view as well as continuous AF during movie capture.

While not a new technology, (it is used by several cameras including the Nikon I system models, and current Sony NEX/Alpha series) the EOS 650D SLRs and EOS M are the first to feature it from the firm. Like rivals, Canon has had to redesign lens drive systems to accommodate the smooth autofocus required during AF tracking for movie capture, resulting in lenses with a STM designation.

The EOS-M features a new lens mount requiring a new range of lenses, however the Mount Adaptor EF/EF-S to EOS M allows use of Canon’s FF and APS-C format lenses on the new camera. Other features of note include a touch sensitive rear LCD screen, continuous maximum shooting at up to 4.3fps at full resolution and a release time lag of just 0.05 seconds.