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 EOS M
Canon EOS M
An overall sensor score of 65 is good but it’s some way behind the Sony imagers in the competing NEX hybrid models

A total sensor performance score of 65 places the EOS M in 79th place overall in the DxOMark rankings, just ahead of Canon’s most recent DSLR the EOS Rebel T4i/Kiss X6i/650D. This is predictable given the two are said to share the same sensor unit. The slight differences in the sensor performance (which is somewhat exaggerated by the number of competing cameras scoring similar results) can be attributed to tweaks in the image-processing pipeline rather than variations in sensor architecture. Remember these results relate to sensor performance only, and are not indicative of any other aspect of the camera’s capabilities.

For a hybrid camera (aka mirrorless type) the results are good and it comes just within the top-ten models (at the time of publishing). However, it should be noted the EOS M follows just behind the older APS-C Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3 models, which have scores of 69 and 68 respectively, which are in turn behind the smaller 4:3 format Olympus OM-D and E-PM2. Sitting at the top above the new NEX-6 and Pentax K 01 with sensor scores of 78 and 79 respectively is the NEX-7 with a score of 81. Those two models likely share the same Sony 16MP sensor while the NEX-7 has an even higher 24MP resolution sensor, showing that higher resolution doesn’t routinely restrict dynamic range and color information or produce higher noise levels. It’s also worth bearing in mind that all of the Sony APS-C sensors have slightly larger surface area than the Canon imagers.

Canon EOS M

With a value of 11.2 Evs and a Color Depth of 22.1 bits the EOS M has around one stop (1Ev) dynamic range and 0.5 bits less than the popular Olympus OM-D E-M5 / E-PM2 models and quite a significant 2.2 Ev and 2 bits less than the Sony NEX-7 at base sensitivity. Although the dynamic range of the sensor in the EOS-M is slightly disappointing, most enthusiasts will be adopting ND filters for their landscapes. Anything over 22 bits Color Depth is considered excellent, so we can’t really criticize there however, it must be said, files with more detail in the shadows and highlights is never a bad thing.

If we look at the Sports (Low-Light ISO) scores, the EOS M fairs a bit better and comes 48th overall with a reasonable 827 ISO score. It matches the 4:3 OMD E-M5 and comes very close to the full-frame Leica M9 (at 884 ISO) but still a little behind the NEX-7 with its 1079 ISO threshold. The best in the hybrid camera group was the Pentax K01 at 1135 ISO. In real world use there’s not much between those figures.  Canon’s best is the full-frame EOS 1DX with a score around the 2800 ISO mark.

Canon EOS M
Canon’s aging sensor design means that it trails behind the best APS-C sensors as well as smaller 4:3 chips such as that found in the E-PM2