First thoughts on Canon’s mirrorless entry

by Callan ~

Canon EOS-M with EF-M 22mm f/2 STM lens

Canon EOS-M with EF-M 22mm f/2 STM lens

The CaKe boys attended the EOS-M Launch event this afternoon; as usual I’m not particularly fond of taking photographs at such events, so I’ll just share my thoughts on it given the little exposure I’ve had with the camera, from the perspective of a working photographer who is looking for a capable camera with a large-ish sensor that is smaller than my 5D Mark II. Since the EOS-M has an APS-C sensor, that seems to fit the bill.

First of all, the build. It is heavier than it looks, at 265g, and feels pretty good in the hand. The EF-M (you’d have noticed the new designation and expansion of the EOS nomenclature) lenses introduced come with metal mounts, and are built well, but not overbuilt. The EOS-M also comes with a standard Canon hotshoe, which is great for studio shooters or those with strobist inclinations. It feels chunkier than a Sony NEX-7, but not as good as an Olympus OM-D E-M5, but it does feel like a smaller cousin of the bog-standard EOS DSLRs, which it is. Canon designed this with the intention of keeping to the overall look and feel of its existing cameras, so in that sense they’ve succeeded.

Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM

Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM

The 18-55mm lens introduced with the camera is also no surprise, being the typical kit lens in Canon’s entry-level cameras. This one, however has STM built-in for quiet focusing during video. Some quick hands-on tests show the AF speed to be acceptable for most uses. The 22mm f/2 lens, though, pleasantly surprised me. It looks like the smaller brother of the (pretty new) EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens. The 22mm is a fast 35mm-equivalent, which is a preferred focal length for me.

Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM

Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM

Unfortunately, the units shown to us were pre-production units, and we were not able to pull any photos taken with them. But I hope the AF speed with production units picks up, especially with the 22mm lens. The quick tests I did were not up to my expectation, given how much they’re touting the phase-detect and contrast-detect hybrid AF. Shades of the Nikon V1/J1, anyone? That’s what it reminded me of, but the AF appears sluggish, and I hope it’s purely because it is a pre-production model. It will be very disappointing if this isn’t the case.

Canon has also introduced an EF-EOS M adapter so you can fit all EF and EF-S lenses on the body, including monsters such as the EF 85mm f/1.2L or the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM lenses on the EOS-M body. It’ll probably look ridiculous, but taking care of backward compatibility and existing EOS users is a nice touch that I applaud.

So am I interested in getting one? No. I’m not even sure if I’ll use it if it were given to me. The ergonomics are ok, but doesn’t quite feel right. The lens lineup isn’t comprehensive enough, and using an adapter for existing EF or EF-S lenses doesn’t feel complete. And of course, there is the one fatal flaw in this system for me, and it’s a deal-breaker — the lack of an electronic viewfinder accessory.

Dammit, Canon, you took the time to put in a standard hotshoe, and make a small speedlight for it, and didn’t bother making a solid EVF accessory? That boggles the mind. To me, shooting at arms length looking at the back of an LCD screen is something I cannot get used to, and until the introduction of EVF accessories, Micro Four-Thirds cameras held no appeal for me. Canon is way behind the curve on this one. Panasonic and Olympus have EVFs. Sony has a whole line of DSLRs with fantastic EVFs. The NEX-7 has an outstanding (though too contrasty for my liking) EVF.

Even the Nikon V1 has an inbuilt EVF, and the by-no-means-cheap-or-particularly-modern Leica X2 has an EVF accessory. Come on, Canon, you must be having a laugh. Bring an EVF to the table, and maybe then I can take it seriously. Right now, the EOS-M is a mere placeholder in Canon’s product line. What it says is “we need a mirrorless camera, they said, so here it is”. It does not look like a statement of intent at all. I’m not sure what they’re doing with this, but they could do more, and they must, if Canon wants to compete in this segment.

If all you want is a replacement for your compact camera, and have EF lenses to play with, or like shooting peering at an LCD screen in full sun, maybe you’ll get one.

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