Dade Freeman
Photographer & Trainer
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Canon EOS-M vs 5DMKII

In my continued quest to find the best mirrorless system, Martin Dance brought his brand new Canon EOS-M out to play on the streets of London.

The Canon EOS-M compact camera is Canon's entry to the mirrorless world. Considering they are the last big camera manufacturer to release a mirrorless camera, I was hoping for big things (as they would have seen and heard in what areas other manufacturers had failed). Sadly, to be honest, I was a little disappointed with what they had come up with.

For full disclosure, I must point out that Martin has only had this camera for 24 hours so wasn't 100% familiar with it. Although the camera and menu system operate very much like the rest of the Canon range (something Martin is more than au fait with) it still managed to confuse him (and me). Straight out of the box, the matt-black magnesium alloy look of the camera is strong and it was interesting to see they hadn't tried to replicate older-looking cameras (although I do rather like that).

The screen on the back was wonderfully vibrant and crisp and it was like constantly using a proper functioning version of Live View, giving you a real-time preview of what you were looking at. While this may be a good thing for the user, it was a massive battery drainer as we quickly found out - the battery died after only a few hours and with very little warning! There is no pop-out screen option, minimal buttons, and the touch screen has a few more problems than you might expect. While it does offer the kind of multi-touch screen facilities you see on an iPhone, such as swipe, pinch to zoom and touch controls to focus and take the picture, it is still missing several key features and Martin frequently changed settings without realising it, which is not great. The menu and button systems are a little fiddly and, if you are used to the more manly dials as on the 5DMKII, they might frustrate you. Even knowledgeable Canon users will be scratching their heads as they search through menus, buttons and screens trying to find the settings they need.

Martin's EOS-M came with the EF-M 22mm f/2 prime lens, a kind of 'pancake' lens. This really helps to keep the camera small and discreet. Not building image stabilisation into the camera or the lens seems a little lazy on Canon's part. The camera appeared to offer no option to manually focus the lens! However, I found out later that to enable this option, you have to change a setting within the menu system. It seems that Canon assume you will never need this option - it just so happened that we did :/

There are currently only two lenses available for this camera which, given Canon's vast range, is very disappointing. Martin told me that it's possible to buy an adapter ring so you can use your other lenses with this body. I do think that kind of defeats the object - having a stonking great lens on a tiny camera body that is supposed to be discreet. It would be good to see a new range built specifically for this camera.

It has no built-in flash, but instead a hotshoe on the top plate, which I am sure is a welcome feature for higher end users. The auto focus beam can easily get blocked if you are not careful as we found out while doing some shots in low light, and Canon's not-super-fast focusing system still has not been improved upon. Shooting in low light, we found that although it can shoot higher than ISO 3200, the picture was breaking up quite badly in the darks at ISO 6400. In my opinion, the Canon EOS-M is a camera that, rather than being something for DSLR users to adopt, is more something the point and shoot users will progress to.

As for the built-in effects, the camera seemed to stutter when applying them to an image, and with no built in WiFi you are unable to immediately share your creations - this seems like a backwards step from what most of us expect these days. I would like more in-camera options that allow for a preview of an effect on an image before actually taking the shot, alternate crop options and why not have integrated social media functions? These cameras are built for snapping and sharing, I wouldn't want to import my images and edit them as I do with my DSLR, so why not team up with a company like VSCO and build in their effects?

One MAJOR gripe I have with Canon is their impractical straps! If people are going to shell out decent money to invest in a system then why not supply something far more suited to each individual model (preferably without branding!)? A nice hand grip or wrist strap would have been much more suited to this camera, but instead it comes with a long stringy neck strap that ends up being wrapped around and around the wrist :/

Martin's feedback pretty much mirrored my own findings and he added:

Benefits:- Small, compact, capable features like target tracking for stills and film, in-camera processing, feels robust, inconspicuous with its use, good low light ability. Lots of modes including manual, aperture priority, shutter priority and touch screen.

Negatives:- Lacking WiFi, few native lenses, slow to focus, fiddly, no built-in flash, battery life really sucks and you only get the usual crappy Canon strap to secure it, touch screen (this is annoying, I reconfigured my camera at least twice without knowing I had done it).

However this camera will always be with me, and I can't say my 5D MK2 always was.

His final point above is probably the most important. Overall, I do think the camera lacked the impact of the Olympus OM-D (see my post here). I would say that the Canon EOS-M's most redeeming feature is the price. At £350 it won't break the bank, and it is a nice mirror-less camera.

Here is a handful of Martin's EOS-M shots from our photowalk in the UK's capital ...

... and here is a selection of my street photography shots on the 5D MKII from our day together.


Dade Freeman is a Brighton photographer producing portraits and headshots for actors, musicians, corporate business and other professional industries.