Canon EOS M First Impressions Review
For nearly two years, the rumor of a Canon mirrorless, interchangeable lens camera has spread around the Internet like wildfire. Each time the idea pops up on various blogs, forums, and other places where people have heated discussions about cameras, the wishlist from Canon fans pours out: a retro-inspired design, exceptional build-quality, an APS-C image sensor, and physical controls on par with the Canon G1X amongst others.
The Canon EOS M is that mirrorless camera, but it may be different than what many expected. It's clear from its simple, point-and-shoot design that Canon didn't feel the need to turn the DSLR market on its head; when you own the wheel business, you don't go around trying to reinvent it all the time. We were able to shoot with the EOS M for a short while and found it to be eerily familiar to other Canons we've used.
As asked for, the EOS M is exceptionally well-built, but its design is not culled from the dusty archives of cameras past. Instead, the EOS M is reminiscent of a more contemporary model: Canon's own high-end compact camera, the S100. Putting them side-by-side, the EOS M looks just like the flagship PowerShot, all grown up with some fuzz on the chin and a little extra weight around the middle.
While a bit fatter and heavier than the S100, the EOS M manages to squeeze an interchangeable lens mount, full hot shoe, APS-C image sensor, and a new DIGIC V processor in that little frame. Simply put, the EOS M—lens excepted, of course—takes the guts of a DSLR and puts it in a body you can put in your pocket.
Of course, adding the lens dispels that bit of design magic, but the EOS M is stunningly small—and stunningly modern, if you had your heart set on the Canon mirrorless looking like an old rangefinder. It has just a small rubber protrusion for a grip on the front, no viewfinder of any kind, and a control scheme that looks like any number of Canon PowerShots. It's enough of a grip for the small lenses that will launch alongside the EOS M, including the adapter, but heavier lenses may pose a bigger problem.
While the lack of physical controls and viewfinder will be a disappointment to the enthusiast crowd, those simple looks belie a powerful set of hardware. Indeed, while the economies of scale certainly made sourcing the components simpler for Canon, the EOS M draws most of its spec sheet directly from the just-released Canon Rebel T4i.
In our time with the camera we kept feeling that we were playing with a shrunk down T4i—like the EOS M could simply fit inside the T4i like a Russian nesting doll. That's not a massive surprise when you look at what the two cameras offer on paper; the EOS M has the same image sensor, image processor, rear 3-inch LCD, menu system, on-sensor autofocus system, and touch panel as the T4i. In short, it performs like a T4i, but handles like the S100, with simple point-and-shoot controls anyone can use.
The one major difference between the T4i and the EOS M (besides the size and the LCD not tilting away from the body) is the lens mount. Stripping out the mirror has required Canon to redesign their lens mount for the EOS M. The new mount—dubbed EF-M, in addition to the current EF/EF-S lens mount—launches with just two lenses to start, a 22mm f/2.0 lens and an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens. Both lenses are high quality, with metal mounts. They're quite small and house the stepping motors that allow for smooth continuous autofocus in live view and video that Canon has been touting alongside the Rebel T4i.
The EOS M is a camera for the masses, a simple-to-use interchangeable lens camera that won't intimidate, but doesn't skimp on the components or build quality. Its similarity to the Canon T4i is going to make for some tough buying decisions for many people in the sub-$1000 camera market; for just $799.99 this October, you can likely get all of the T4i's performance in a smaller package.
While it may not reinvent the wheel, the EOS M's announcement is another major player looking to take DSLR quality and shrink it down to a more manageable size. It's not the retro dream enthusiasts have been clamoring for, but it's the kind of low-risk camera with broad appeal that has defined Canon's camera lineup these last few years.