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Gear & Apps

Why Small Mirrorless Bodies Are My Best Friend as a Low Budget Shooter

By Anthony Thurston on August 27th 2014

I have talked time and time again about my love for these small Canon EOS-M bodies (of which I just got a 3rd one). You simply can’t beat – in my opinion – the performance to cost ratio that these provide. They aren’t the only great deal on small mirrorless bodies either, but they are the one I prefer due to my familiarity with the Canon menu system in combination with Magic Lantern.


Today, I wanted to talk about why I chose to ditch my full frame Canon body in favor of having multiple small EOS-M bodies, specifically in relation to my video projects. The fact is that I sat down and took stock in what I was actually spending time doing, and taking pictures with my DSLR was not high on that list.

In addition to my writing here on SLR Lounge, I also write and manage a local soccer specific site in the Portland area. As part of that, I write articles, but I also produce simple video content for local soccer fans to enjoy. What sold me on using these small EOS-M cameras over a big DSLR was mainly size savings to be honest. I can pack two EOS-M bodies and 3-4 old manual focus Olympus lenses in my UNDFIND 13″ One Bag and still have room for my audio equipment and such.


Basically, these are easier to store and travel with, and I still get great quality video – and stills for that matter – out of it. All of my videos go online, pretty-much exclusively to YouTube, so I don’t need the absolute best, and these little cameras are plenty capable of producing great quality video for web circulation.

This is the case for many small mirrorless cameras, like Sony’s now abandoned NEX line, which you can pick up for a great price. For me, it’s all about price vs performance, and it’s hard to beat that with the M. That is not to say I don’t need, or find myself wanting that full frame rig back every now and then for action photo purposes, but in those cases, I can rent.

My Current Run-N-Go Kit


Nothing special, but for me, it gets the job done while keeping things as simple as possible in the storage and travel department. The above kit allows me to get virtually any shot that I need (with the exception of far distances, need to grab myself a 200 or 300mm). The best part is it all cost me less than buying one DSLR body (~$500 for the M Bodies, ~$200 total for the lenses, and $100 for the mic), and instead, I have a kit capable of doing multiple angles and handling various shooting situations. I love it.

This may not be the case for you. You may need a bigger rig, or a nicer setup to do what you want to do. The point of this post is not to try and convert you, but just to share what it is that works for me, and maybe show you that a lot more can be accomplished with some cheap mirrorless bodies and old manual focus lenses than you think.


What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree that price to performance is one of – if not the – most impressive aspects to these cheap mirrorless bodies? Leave a comment below!


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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. Michael Moe

    i want a canon m as a back up camera! this will perfectly fit my budget!

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  2. Matt Haide

    I just ordered an EOS M based off your newer post ( and am really interested in trying out some manual focus lenses with it as well. Can’t wait to have such an affordable and great quality second angle! Thanks for the advice!

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  3. Ian Moss

    I gave up on the DSLR for most of my shooting when I discovered the Oly OMD-M5. A fraction of the weight and a much, much smaller back to lug around.

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  4. Rafael Steffen

    Thanks for this great article. It would be nice if the made the viewfinder just a little bigger.

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  5. Anthony Thurston

    Steven. Nope, that is not a standard windscreen on the Rode. It is custom made for the VideoMicGo by a company called Micover, I also have the Rode Deadcat one, but prefer the Micover because it performs better and was actually designed to fit the VideoMic Go, where as the Rode DeadCat was designed for the VideoMic Pro and Doesn’t quite fit as well as I would like.

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  6. David Lara

    I totally agree. You should get the what you need to get the job done. Why spend on a D4s when a 7100 might be more than sufficient.

    I’ve recently purchased a used Nikon P7000 and found it and awesome travel companion and in fact has even fully replaced my $600 macro lens (which i’m now selling) for weddings.

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    • Steven Pellegrino

      I completely agree with you, especially since I just picked up a D7100! I don’t need a DSLR all the time as my main kit is a couple of Fuji X cameras. The D7100 is something like $5,000 cheaper and is a really great camera.

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    • Steven Pellegrino

      I love your kit Anthony! Those Canon’s look like great cameras and it’s great to see you’re using Olympus lenses. I used to shoot with an Olympus OM-1 & OM-2n and the lenses were excellent.

      It looks like you have a different wind screen on your Rode mic. Is that standard with the mic?

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  7. Petr Kulda

    I am wondering, why you are not going into Panasonic. Your lens will do and video quality is much better. Canon M on other hand was really performance/price killer.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      The Video/Still Quality on the M is plenty for what I need Petr, plus, as I mentioned in the post I am already used to the Canon menu system and Magic Lantern. I could certainly get into Panasonic, but this setup works for what I need, and I like it as is, so why spend more money to switch systems when I am happy with what I have?

      The M was a price/performance killer, I agree, back when it was announced. I mentioned above I think, for the $900 or whatever it was originally listed at I would not be very happy with this camera. But for the $250-$300 that you can get them for now, they offer great price to performance.

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    • Petr Kulda

      Anthony, sorry for my english, i sure agree with you on EOS M having great price to performance ratio. I hope i cleared it.

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  8. Kevin Cucci

    Oh definitely Anthony. I got one off CanonPriceWatch at $249 a little while ago. Wish I would of bought 3 at that price haha. It’s definitely an AMAZING camera for the money.

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  9. Gonzalo Broto

    I use 2 mirrorless bodies as my complete kit, both micro 4/3: GH3 primarily for its exceptional video, and the tiny GM1 for stills, since it’s so small that it travels with me in my small handbag everywhere I go!

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  10. Joram J

    Just wondering how is the back screen in broad daylight? Don’t you miss the viewfinder?
    Any thoughts on the M in comparison to the 40D?

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Honestly, I think the M is a better than a 40D in many ways. It has a better sensor, image quality, and can shoot video. The only advantage the 40D has is better AF and an optical viewfinder.

      As for seeing the screen in broad daylight. On most days it is not so bad, bump up the screen to full brightness and you can still see fairly well. Sometimes though, it can be trouble, especially manually focusing. I don’t have one yet, but I am planning on getting an LCD viewfinder to go over the back of the M’s LCD, which eliminate that problem. I tested one out at my local camera store and it worked great, was very helpful with manual focusing, and if I needed to use the touch screen I could flip the viewer up and use the screen. Only about $100 too for the model that I liked.

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  11. Pete McWade

    Im still considering the A7S for low light video and as a back up to my A7R. Pricy but since I do both it would be great. I do video indoors and sometime when I go to an event the light is just too damn dark for my camera. I love the low light ability of the A7S. Im not concerned with the 4k issue. That will come later.

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  12. Kevin Cucci

    I record videos with my 5d3, 6d, and M in broad daylight and I honestly can’t even tell the difference! The M performs fantastic…. in low light however, that is another story and unfortunately the M can’t hold its own, especially at or above 3200 ISO :( I still love it though and take it places I don’t want my DSLR’s going, such as concerts and rainy days for personal work

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Aye, it doesn’t excel in low light, but that isn’t really an issue for me. I wouldn’t think this is a great deal at the original $900, but for the $250-$300 you can get them for now, a great value.

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  13. Pete McWade

    I think having one of the NEX series cameras would be great for some quick on the go video feeds for your youtube channel. A good wireless lav and a decent lens and a set of charged batteries should do you just fine. Im thinking of that as well as my A7R. They are small and quick to setup.

    Pete :)

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Exactly Pete! Easy to Store/Carry, Quick to setup and use. I love the ease of the system.

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    • Mel Snyder

      Pete – there is no audio input jack on any NEX except the NEX-7 – and that has annoying AGC – so there is no place to plug in a lav mike.

      A7 series has magnificent audio input, so that works. Also, video use negates the need for AF lenses – which can be suicidal if they unlock from a foreground subject and wander to the background.


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    • Pete McWade


      I use my iPhone and an older head set for an iPhone with the ear pieces clipped off. I hot glued a super tiny wood cloths pin to the back side of the microphone and use Voice Record Pro. If I use this personal lav setup I must sync the sound but that is really not difficult to do. I start the recording and put the phone in my pocket and have the lav connected to my shirt. Works great and the quality is quite good as well.

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