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Gear Reviews

The EOS M: Canon’s Loss Is your Gain [Mini Review]

By Anthony Thurston on February 16th 2014

The EOS M: A Case Of Too Little Too Late

Back when Canon first announced and then released the EOS M, back in late 2012, the photographic community was happy to see Canon finally enter the mirrorless market. But joy with the camera ended there. The camera was marred with a plethora of issues at launch, most notably a painfully slow, almost to the point of unusable, autofocus system.

The reviews came in and the reviews were unanimous, the EOS M was a dud. It had lots of advantages and bright points, but its flaws were tragically fatal. Most reviewers, and users, of the camera wrote it off and filed it into the do not buy category – especially at its original list price.

Canon-EOS-M-Black

Fast forward several months and Canon finally released a firmware update addressing several of the flaws in the camera, namely the terrible autofocus performance. After the update to firmware 2.0.2, the autofocus speed improved dramatically, to the point of being usable in most situations – with exception to probably fast moving sports. Sadly though, it was too little too late, the damage had already been done and there were already better mirrorless offerings on the market. So, the majority of the photographic community again wrote off the camera, and filed it again under the ‘do not buy’ category.

Christmas 2013 rolls around, and with it a significant decrease in the price of the EOS M. Canon, and the retailers decided to cut their losses, and hoped to recoup what they could from the failed mirrorless camera. Prices were as low as $200 for the body only at some places, with the kit starting around $350ish. People began to take notice of this powerful little APS-C mirrorless camera again. I was one of those people.

Why I Bought an EOS M

Up until purchasing an EOS M of my own, my only camera – besides my phone camera – was my main body, a Canon 6D. A great full frame camera that I love and use for everything. But as part of my job here at SLR Lounge, I review lenses and other camera accessories, and it’s hard to take a picture of a lens or accessory on my camera when I have to take the picture with that same camera. I was in need of a second camera, not only for still images, but also for video.

Canon EOS M

Upon looking at the market, I was sure that I wanted an APS-C camera, and I wanted something small. Also being as my primary camera was and is my Canon 6D, I did not want to spend a ton of money on a camera that I would not be using a lot. I just needed it for product shots and as a second angle for my videos. That was when I noticed the price of the EOS M, and it was hard to ignore.

Canon EOS M EF Adapter

I looked into the EOS M some more, and I found out that the AF speed was crap, but that was not a huge issue for me. Most of my product shots are manually focused anyways, and video is all manual focus. I took a look again at the market and the cheapest Canon DSLRS that I would even think of buying were up in the $600-700 range. When compared with the paltry $200-$300 I could spend to get the EOS M, It was not a hard decision.

Canon EOS M with EF Adapter

I quickly decided that I did not want to bother with any of the special EF-M lenses, and so I opted to purchase the Canon EF Adapter. This would mean I could use all of my current lenses on this camera and not have to invest in more glass. I also found a great deal on the adapter and my total cost for both the camera and adapter were just under $300 – half of what I would have paid if I went with one of Canon’s entry level Rebel DSLRs.

Why I Love My EOS M

The price is what got me to consider the EOS M, but using the camera is what has me loving it so far. When I received the camera, I was fully prepared to “deal with it” rather than enjoy it, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Canon EOS M with Sigma 50mm F/1.4

Is it a camera I would use in a professional setting like a wedding or a sporting event? No. I understand the limitations of the camera. That said, for my personal needs, this camera offers everything I needed for a great price. Not only that, but the image quality is great, as is the video quality.

Canon EOS M with Sigma 50mm F/1.4

I actually took the EOS M out to the wildlife refuge with me, alongside my Canon 6D and the Sigma 120-300mm F/2.8 lens that I am reviewing. I shot my 6D until my first battery died, and so I gave the 6D a break and threw the EOS M on that beastly Sigma lens. Once I got over how comical it was having such a small camera on such a monster lens, I took some images with then EOS M.

Shot With Canon EOS M

One Shot With Canon 6D and One with EOS M, Both Using Similar Settings and Shot with the Sigma 120-300mm F/2.8 @ 300mm (lens review coming soon)

Shot with Canon 6D

When I got home, and processed the images, I could not tell (visually – obviously looking at the metadata gave it away) which images came from the EOS-M and which from the 6D. This is what really sold me on the EOS M for my uses. It may have flaws, but the majority of those flaws do not affect me and so long as I am aware of the camera’s limitations and use it within its comfort zone, it will serve me well.

Who Should Consider The EOS M

Obviously, as most reviews of the EOS M state, this is not the camera for everyone. If you are looking for a primary camera, then I would suggest going a different route. But if you are looking for a cheap second or third body, or something to just take out on the town or on a family vacation, then I would really consider this camera.

Canon EOS M with EF Adapter Connected

This is especially true if you are already a Canon user and have Canon EF glass. Simply skip the EF-M lenses and buy the EF-Adapter. You can get those for a little over $100 new or there are quality knockoffs available in the $50 range.

In conclusion, I got this camera fully expecting to not like it very much.  This camera got a bad rep, but while its limitations prevent it from being as awesome as it has potential to be, it is still a very capable camera in many situations.

If you consider it, just keep in mind what your intended use for it is. If you can live with those limitations, as I can, then you will not find a better camera on the market for under $300.

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Frank Feng

    Don’t adapt DSLR lenses if you don’t want the plastic mount to break.

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  2. Stephen Mitchell

    I like this article because I could have written it word for word: I bought the EOSM for the same reasons, also with only the extender and without the standard lenses. But today I finally bought the 22mm – and have also noticed how quiet it is for video footage and is comparatively better than my similar sized older lenses.
    Thankfully I purchased mine after the firmware updates, so they were included. (I checked the Canon site to make sure!) Thank you for posting a succinct article!

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  3. Ivory H

    I wonder.. will the new firmware update for the Canon M work on the Canon M3? The latest for M3 is 1.0.1 and I feel the autofocus still hasn’t improved.. or maybe it has.. Still, it’s as slow as a turtle.

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  4. Ernesto Borges

    it is a great all around camera when you just wan to go out with your friends and enjoy life thanks for the awesome review!

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  5. Patrick Thornton

    It’s a great camera. Probably the best camera purchase I ever made (when considering price). Once you know it’s limitations and how to work with them, you can take some memorable photos. Also, the 22mm lens has a very distinct look. Several of these photos were taken with the EOS M and 22mm lens: http://500px.com/patrickwthornton

    I’m thinking of getting the lens adapter and picking up a 50mm lens. The rumor mill suggests that a new EOS M will be out this year, along with new lenses.

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  6. Ollie

    Hi, I have just picked up the EF adapter for the EOS-M however I have noticed that the autofocus when using the Sigma 30mm sort of ‘judders’ and I am worried this might be harmful for the lens.

    Did you notice any juddering/noise when using the EOS-M and Sigma 30mm?

    Cheers
    Ollie

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  7. Derek Schwartz

    I’ve owned an EOS M for a couple of months now, and I’m really enjoying it. I learned of a really interesting tidbit today through some of my own testing – the Canon GP-E2 GPS add on unit (which I use on my 7D often), will talk to the camera directly through the hotshoe. So, for those of you you might want to use the little bugger for travel photography, this might be an interesting feature that I haven’t seen noted anywhere.

    Hope that’s helpful for someone out there!

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  8. Emiliano Zapata

    I purchased the EOS M for the same reason you did, bad reviews reduced the price of a very nice camera. I purchased it because it is compact and light. I travel a lot and a DSLR is too large, heavy and bulky to carry very much. I also have Canon glass.

    I just returned from Méjico from a month-long excursion with many exposures which I cannot tell apart from my other cameras….I have to check the exif to make sure.

    I have a lot of exposures at 12800 iso and, with minor noise tweaking, the results are completely usable. The EOS M may become my primary camera because it is so light and small. I hate being an equipment burro..

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  9. Kim

    Just bought the eos-m, the adapter, and the 22/2 on eBay. Use it with my three eos lenses (40/2.8, 50/1.4, 85/1.8) as well as the excellent 22. My husband and sister both use the eos m as well. It will back up my 5d MkII, and backs up my sister’s 20d. My husband got his as a replacement for an older (very old) canon digital. He has bit the 22 and the 18-55. It is something of a secret club, the eos-m club!

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  10. Bill W.

    Read this article, went to eBay, bought a new EOS M, 22mm lens , and lens adapter for $250. Really happy with it, super for walking around, and it is also a great, last ditch back-up in my bag. Thanks for the great advice!

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  11. rtwpaul

    does it the facility to do bracketed photos for HDR? or some type of multi shot mode for HDR

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  12. Guy

    Okay, you convinced me. I just bought one on Amazon, with the Fotodiox EF adapter and a pair of 2200 may batteries, for $325, and a used 22mm lens from KEH for $99. Clearly, you wrote a great review! LOL

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  13. Matt

    Now, would you recommend the EOS M or the price slashed NEX 3N?

    I’m loving the idea of picking one of these up as a vacation shooter. I recently returned from a trip to exuma Bahamas, and I didn’t even take my d7000 out of the bag! I used my iPhone the entire time, but the quality is just not the same as an aps-c size sensor.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      I have not used the NEX-3N, so I can’t speak to it from personal experience. But from what I have heard it is as good or better in every way with exception to video (where the EOS M is great). If you shoot Canon I would stick to the EOS M because you will already know how to use it and navigate the menus easily. If not, then go with the NEX-3N.

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  14. Caleb Pike

    Great article Anthony! Couldn’t agree more. Killer affordable cam for video or stills.

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  15. Brian

    Anthony,

    Having had the EOS M for quite some time, I completely agree with you; the EOS M is a great going out on the town camera. The one part I think you are missing though is the value of the 22mm pancake. It is a great lens on the EOS M and with all the specials, it is truly a bargain.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Yeah, that is what I am hearing. Ive found several deals on that lens for under $100 by itself. I am thinking I may grab it and give it a shot myself.

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  16. Klaus

    If you consider a camera in this pricerange and you really like photography, make it a Gf1/Gx1.

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  17. Drew Gardner

    Can you change the aperture, shutter speed, and FPS in video mode?

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  18. Humberto Yoji

    Please, don’t just skip the EF-M lenses. The 22/2 STM is a hell of a lens, excellent IQ and the pancake fornat is simply amazing! Give it a try, you won’t regret at all.

    Very nice review, BTW!

    Cheers!

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    • Alex Corona

      Totally agree! there’s no EF or EF-S equivalent, the lens is an absolute stunner and for $100 it’s a terrific deal.

      ISO performance was not mentioned but it’s great from 100-6,400, it can go higher but I haven’t had a need to. I shoot at 5,000 all the time and rarely have to do any noise reduction.

      (PS to shoot at 5,000 you need magic lantern I highly recommend it and have a youtube video on how to install it.)

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  19. Jonathan

    I’m still waiting for the folks of Magic Lantern to crack it and give it more useful features such as focus peaking.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      There is a Magic Lantern Alpha which is compatible with the EOS M. I have used it a little bit and have not had any issues. Though I have heard of a few bugs and glitches (to be expected from an alpha).

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  20. Herm Tjioe

    Gotta like what you write about. Your series of budget-friendly articles hits the sweet spot for me.

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