Last summer Canon announced the EOS M, their first interchangeable-lens compact digital camera. Now that it is available in a two-lens kit, let's take a closer look. Plus, we'll look at two new lenses Canon announced today for its DSLR and EOS M system cameras.
Finally, after sitting on the sidelines for the four years since Panasonic introduced the world's first MILC, Canon this past summer announced that it had joined the MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Compact) camera fray, and now, the Canon EOS M is available at Adorama bundled either with the EF-M 22mm f/2 STM lens, or in a kit with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM zoom lens. Let's take a look at Canon's new system.
But before we do, however, a news flash from Canon:
The Canon EOS 24-70mm f/4L IS USM, available for pre-now for the Adorama price of $1,499, is designed for full-frame DSLRs like the Canon EOS 6D. With 2 aspheric and 2 UD elements, the EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM is said to deliver high- quality images with excellent detail throughout the entire zoom range. A 9-blade circular diaphragm should produce pleasingly soft backgrounds. It offers a minimum focusing distance of 1.25 ft./0.38m across the entire zoom range and has a macro mode at the telephoto end with up to 0.7x magnification (minimum focusing distance becomes 7.87 in./0.2m) and is easily accessible with a one-touch switch. It features a Hybrid IS system with up to 4 stops of stabilization, compensating for both angular and shift types of camera shake, delivering effective stabilization even in macro. Inner focusing and ring-type USM deliver, fast, quiet AF, and full-time manual focus is available for manual focusing even while in AF mode. The durable EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM is sealed for excellent dust and water resistance plus has fluorine coating on the front and rear elements reducing smears and fingerprints.
The Canon 35mm f/2 IS lens, available to order now at Adorama for $849.99, is a modern day update to a versatile, compact and lightweight wide-angle Canon classic. The EF 35mm f/2 IS USM offers image stabilization, and what Canon says is image quality and construction designed for use on any EOS digital camera. With a redesigned mechanical and optical structure, the EF 35mm f/2 IS USM features a GMo aspherical lens element for high image quality with improved performance in the periphery. It incorporates a rear focus system and ring-type USM for faster, more precise autofocus performance. Full-time manual focus enables manual focusing while in AF mode, a micro-stepping drive provides quieter operation and a low speed focus drive delivers optimal results for video shooting. Canon Optical Image Stabilizer system delivers the equivalent effect of 4 stops and can detect normal shooting or panning, and automatically switches to the optimal IS mode. Compact and lightweight, the EF 35mm f/2 IS USM has an 8-blade circular aperture diaphragm for soft backgrounds, a minimum focusing distance of 0.79 ft./0.24m, plus optimized lens coatings for minimized ghosting and flare.
Both lenses will work with all Canon DSLRs (full frame and APS sensor based) and will also work with the Canon EOS M via an adapter. More on that later. For now, let's delve into the Canon EOS M's features.
Canon EOS M Key Features
- 18MP APS-C CMOS Sensor (22.3x14.9mm)
- 35mm equivalent: 1.6x
- ISO range 100-12,800, extendable to ISO 25,600
- JPEG & RAW Still Image Capture
- Shutter speeds 30-1/4000 second
- Hybrid AF system using contrast and phase detection
- 3-inch, 1040k dot touch display LCD monitor
- Burst rate 4.3fps
- 1920x1080/30p video capture
- MPEG-4, AVC/H.264
- Video Servo AF
- HDR Backlight Control
- Multi-shot noise reduction
- Creative Filters
Canon is emphasizing the EOS M primarily as a movie-making tool and secondarily as a still camera. It has a built-in stereo microphone (with manual audio adjustment), manual exposure control and multiple resolution frame rates, as well as a video snapshot mode with touch-screen editing. The Movie Servo AF mode, which is the camera's default setting, is claimed to be able to track moving subjects. The two new lenses introduced with the EOS M use STM (Stepping Motor Technology) for virtually silent autofocus that won't be picked up by the camera's internal microphone.
The Canon EOS M features a hybrid CMOS AF system that employs both contrast detection and phase detection autofocus techniques. In competing systems this hybrid approach has allowed for minimal focus time, and indeed, Canon claims speedy snap to focus for the M system with reduced shutter lag. Face Detection, Tracking AF, Multip-Point AF with 31 autofocus points as well as single-point AF are all user-selected focus options. Touch-screen operation activates subject recognition and tracking; users can use touch-screen to navigate the menus for both still and video.
A closer look
Based on an examination of the Canon EOS M's external control layout it is clear this is a simplified camera designed primarily for snapshooters and first-time interchangeable-lens camera users. Measuring 4.3x2.6x1.3 inches (without lens) and weighing a mere 10.5 ounces (body only, with battery), the camera is small and travel-friendly.
The top of the camera, from left to right, features left and right microphones, a flash/accessory mount (yes, you can mount the Canon GPS system), an on/off switch, and a shutter release surrounded by a rotating switch that lets you choose Auto+, still camera or video modes; choices within each mode can be found within the menu structure. A nice design element: The shutter release is nestled in a comfortable tilt within in a carved out wedge. With the flash mount so close, this makes sense because it reduces the likelihood that your shooting finger will bump up against the bottom of the mounted flash.
The back of the camera is dominated by the 3-inch LCD monitor which is built in and doesn't rotate, but which boasts a very high 1.04 million dot resolution. A menu button accesses menu controls, while a preview button lets you look at stills and videos. A "Q" button also doubles as a feature set button, and is surrounded by a four-way circular toggle switch to control burst rate and self-timer, EV control, image delete, and an assignable function option indicated by an asterisk. An info button lets you control what information appears on screen during shooting or preview modes.
On the left side of the camera a door opens to reveal AV/Out digital and HDMI ports, as well as an external mic jack, and the front of the camera simply has a small grip protrusion, the lens mount and release button, and the infrared focus aid. There is no eye-level viewfinder option.
Despite its simplified layout, the Canon EOS M is solidly built. Its chassis is constructed of magnesium and stainless steel, and Canon says the body can, via the EOS lens adapter, be fully integrated into the entire line of Canon DSLR lenses.
Based on a handful of still and video files posted on Canon's Japan-based web site, image quality promises to be spectacular, but we won't know for sure until the camera has been lab- and field-tested under a variety of situations and its full range of ISO settings. We can expect similar image quality to that of the the recently-introduced Canon T4i. Look for a full test of the Canon EOS M in the near future.
Canon sat on the MILC camera sidelines for as long as it could, and that may have been a smart idea. In the four years since Panasonic introduced the first MILC, a lot has changed. Smart Phones, led by the Apple iPhone, have improved their picture-taking capabilities while their wireless image sharing abilities have rendered stand-alone compact cameras a dying category. Meanwhile, MILCs have become the fastest-growing category of stand-alone cameras. Camera companies are either dropping compact camera lines entirely or adding features to their compact cameras that aren't available in camera phones. Clearly, Canon had this in mind when designing the EOS M.
The camera is designed for snapshooters who want the flexibility of interchangeable lenses in a small package. Unlike the Nikon 1 series, which has a small sensor and small, compact lenses but sacrifices pro-level image quality, the Canon M features a full-sized APS-C sensor that should deliver image quality that should equal that of the Canon EOS T4i, one of the highest-rated sensors on the market. Its main competition is most likely the Sony NEX-F3, which also houses an APS sized sensor, but Canon holds a competitive edge over Sony because, via the Canon adapter, the Canon M is immediately and fully compatible with the largest selection of DSLR lenses on the planet. Likewise, the Pentax K-01 has an APS sensor and is compatible with Pentax's extensive line of lenses going back decades, but many photographers may balk at its bulky design.
I look forward to getting my hands on the Canon EOS M and putting it through its paces, but initial impressions are that Canon may have saved the best MILC introduction for last.
Lenses: New and Familiar
A new camera mount and short flangeback design (which brings the rear lens element closer to the surface of the sensor) means a new lens system based on the EF-M mount, and the EOS M arrives at birth with two lenses, an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM kit lens (35mm equivalent: 29-88mm) and the EF-M 22mm (35mm equivalent: 35mm) f/2 STM pancake lens. Owners of Canon EOS DSLR systems can also rejoice: Canon also announced the Mount Adapter EF-EOS M (shown above), which allows you to mount any Canon EOS EF and EF-S lens. With over 70 lenses currently available, the Canon M becomes another part of the Canon EOS ecosystem.