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EOS-M First Impressions

Published October 30, 2012
Connie hates having her picture taken, so we used that as a threat to get some EOS-Ms and lenses checked in fast.


OK, the usual applies. I am not a reviewer. I don’t even play one on TV. There are already some in-depth reviews out on the new EOS-M and more coming daily.

But I handle a lot of equipment and test a lot of equipment. When something new comes in I spend a day handling it and testing it. Hopefully this will give you a quick overview and maybe fill in some things that actual reviewers don’t get to tell you about. (They’re more thorough than I am, but they don’t have the advantage of comparing 25 copies). We got a bunch of EOS-M cameras, a bunch of the 22mm lenses, a couple of 18-55 kit lenses, and a single EF-EOS-M adapter.

For those who don’t want to read this but do want to tell everyone what I said later, here’s the summary: It is the best of mirrorless, it is the worst or mirrorless, it is the camera of wise choices, it is the camera of foolishness, it is the epoch of accurate autofocus, it is the epoch of slow autofocus. In other words, I’ve got mixed emotions.

The Camera First

I try to disclose my personal feelings first, so you can later use that to discount everything I say that you disagree with. It just makes it easier on both of us. I was predisposed not to like the camera because it doesn’t have a viewfinder. I like viewfinders. If I can’t have a viewfinder, then at least give me an articulating LCD. This has neither. So on the front end I definitely was planning to not like this much.

However, I have to admit this is one small camera. Looking at the specs and pictures online I didn’t realize just how small it was. Comparing it to a bunch of other mirrorless cameras, though, gives a better idea.


Left to right: Sony NEX 7, Panasonic G5, Canon EOS-M, Olympus OM-D, and Fuji X-Pro


Being a pessimist, my first thought was it’s too small to hold. I’ve got big hands and even those other cameras can be a bit difficult for me to hold. That was very true when I tried to hold it like an SLR.

But not at all true if I just let my middle finger use the little rest thingie Canon put on there to hold the camera. It was actually quite comfortable this way. This does leave two fingers relatively unemployed, but that’s OK. I think going forward we should all refer to this grip as the “Roger grip technique” just to avoid any confusion.

Anyway, I did find the camera quite comfortable, the LCD was nice quality, and the touch screen actually worked quite well. I usually turn the touch screen off first thing, but I kept this one on most of the time. I especially like the pinch-and-spread movements to enlarge and shrink images on the display. I’ve found myself doing that with other cameras that don’t have that feature, and it makes me feel stupid.

Overall, except for my wanting a viewfinder and articulated LCD, the camera is quite nice and remarkably small. So small that I’ll give them a pass on the no viewfinder thing. Not so much the LCD, that wouldn’t have made the camera any bigger, would have been very useful, and just isn’t that expensive to do. But I could literally put the EOS-M and 22mm lens in a jacket pocket.

The Lens Second

The 22mm pancake lens that comes as a kit lens is really excellent. It’s totally silent when focusing. It’s exceedingly sharp in the center, and (for a pancake) still quite good on the edges even wide open at f/2.0. I’m talking really good, with center resolution of around 870 line/pairs image height, average resolution around 680, and even far corners nearly 400. It gets just a little sharper at f/2.8, particularly in the corners, but really doesn’t improve much past that.

I was hoping it would be equivalent to the 40mm pancake lens Canon released for SLR cameras. Well, it’s at least that good and perhaps better. I have one concern, though. Of the first 20 copies that we received, two were clearly a bit softer than the others. This isn’t a very large sample, of course, but it’s something we’ll definitely watch going forward. On the other hand, even the two ‘bad’ copies were still fairly good. They would be as sharp as a 17-55 f/2.8 IS lens, for example. I may just be overly picky.

Addendum: Nope, I wasn’t being overly picky. Aaron, the resident artist of lens sharpness has already disassembled one of them, found the optical adjustments, and corrected it. So one of the two soft ones below now is rocking just like the others. Anybody want to guess what lens gets taken apart in our next blog post? 


Imatest results from 20 copies of the 22mm pancake, showing 2 are a bit out of sorts. Don’t worry about what the numbers mean other than higher is better.


As to the 18-55 kit lens, I didn’t have a lot of samples to test, but it was shockingly sharp, too. Tested at 22mm (because that’s what we were set up at) and f/4 it was nearly as good as the 22mm prime was at f/2.0. That’s quite a good showing for the kit lens. I would mention, though, it has a breathtaking amount of barrel distortion at the wide end. Not quite a fisheye zoom, but you’ll notice it, no question.

The Adapter Third

My favorite part of today’s tests, though, weren’t the lenses. It was the EF-EOS-M adapter. No one has done adapters better. No one. We shot a variety of Canon EF lenses on it and they all were flawless. Autofocus like a dream, at least as fast as the native EOS-M lenses (more on that later), automatic vignetting control works perfectly, it was wonderful. Even some third-party lenses adapt rather nicely, like our new favorite Sigma.


No, that’s not a lens cap, it’s the EOS-M on an adapter. Kenny obviously disapproves.


The EOS-M also looks quite nice on the 800 f/5.8 IS, and the touch-screen shutter-button feature is most convenient when handholding that combination.

Does it work? Hell, yeah, it works. The following are all shot with the EOS-M from the same place. First with the 22mm f/2.8 lens.

Now at 200mm f/2.8

And at 500mm f/2.8

And handheld at 800 f/5.6 (Aaron got a bit shaky with this one).

For those of you who don’t have a Sigma 200-500 and a Canon 800 f/5.6 lying around, there there are several really nice, small Canon EF lenses that will be quite useful on the EOS-M. The 40mm pancake, of course, looks quite natural.

EOS-M mounted to 18-55 kit lens (left) and to EF adapter and 40mm f/2.8 (right)


Even the 24-70 f/2.8 II isn’t too huge. Seen from the side, though, I do have more understanding about why there’s no viewfinder  — some of these lenses would be blocking it.


About the Focus Speed

OK, all of this has been fun, the camera is tiny, and the lenses are great. But you’ve probably heard the autofocus speed is, how do I say this, total crap. You heard correct.

We thought we’d compare it to what we consider a rather leisurely lens-camera contrast-detection AF combination: the Olympus OM-D (which is quite quick) mounted with the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 (which isn’t). We chose that combination because m4/3 shooters tend to find it acceptably fast, but only just acceptably.

We did a simple test: we focused the OM-D and the Canon EOS-M to minimum focusing distance, aimed at a good infinity distance target, and pushed the focus buttons simultaneously. We could hear the focus-confirm beeps quite clearly and thought we’d be able to notice a significant separation. Oh, boy, did we ever. The Canon took almost exactly twice as long as the Olympus to focus. We tried it the other way, too, from infinity to close up. Same result. Exactly twice as long.

One important thing to note, though. This seems more about the lens than the camera. When we did the same test with the 18-55 kit lens on the camera it was basically a tie with the Olympus, or just a bit longer, but very close (there was a little variation with focal length).

However, it’s not just about the lens. We did the same thing using the Canon 24-70 Mk II. On a 5D II it focused in a heartbeat. On the EOS-M with adapter, it was again, about as fast as the Olympus. It also was very apparent the lens travelled to infinity quickly, then there was a bit of hesitation while the camera confirmed focus. The Olympus confirmed just ahead of the 24-70 on EOS-M.

Is it an issue? Absolutely. The camera obtains focus quite accurately. It will be fine for landscapes, portraits, etc. You aren’t going to do any street shooting with it, and certainly nothing moving faster than a turtle race. The camera includes a Servo mode. I have no idea why.

So if you were thinking about the EOS-M as an SLR replacement or even an alternative to high end mirrorless for all-purpose shooting, then you’ll be disappointed. As a go everywhere camera to take stills and portraits, you’ll be quite happy.

As an aside, because I tend to a rather high degree of cynicism and paranoia, I had a thought I’m sure many of you would never consider: could Canon possibly have made the AF this slow on purpose, making sure no one who might buy an SLR would instead grab an EOS-M? I know, I know, I need to get back on my medicine. What company would ever willfully disable a camera’s features?

But to humor myself, I went and grabbed a T4i and a couple of prime lenses and did the same test with the Olympus. Paranoia off now, the T4i using Live view contrast detection was exactly as slow as the EOS-M. If you want to see how slow the EOS-M is, just borrow a T4i and the 40mm pancake, 24 f/2.8 IS or similar lens. Hit the live view button, focus on your hand and then to infinity.

There you have it, my second great invention of the day: Roger’s EOS-M AF speed simulator. If you can live with that, you’re all good to pick up an EOS-M. Actually, all sarcasm and cynicism aside, that’s a pretty reasonable test to do. Because some people are going to be just fine with the EOS-M AF speed, and some are going to scream like schoolgirls at a Justin Bieber concert about it.

So Who is Going to Like It?

Oddly enough, I do. I’m all about image quality above all other things. This camera gives me great, great image quality in an amazingly small package. It had me at 870 line pairs / image height.

Will it replace an OM-D or SLR for my everyday shooting? Absolutly not; its AF is too slow and there aren’t many native lenses yet. But will I tuck it in my wife’s purse when we go to holiday parties, and  take it on trips for snapshots? Sure. Sometimes those kind of shots are great and with this image quality I could easily make a large print if I wanted to.

If they fix the AF speed with a firmware update I would probably use it a lot more, though, because of all the Canon lenses it gives me access to. I love the adapter. I could see having an EOS-M, 22mm, and the adapter as my backup camera a lot of times.

When I reviewed the Fuji X-Pro 1 I said it was a firmware update and a price drop away from being a great camera. I think the summary applies perfectly for this camera, too.



Roger Cicala

October 2012

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in New Items
  • Your links at the beginning of this article are broken.
    So is the link from to Rent the Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens.

    Can you fix the links please?

    “We got a bunch of EOS-M cameras, a bunch of the 22mm lenses, a couple of 18-55 kit lenses, and a single EF-EOS-M adapter”.

  • +1 to a updated review! I want to see this on some nice high end l glass like the 133 L or the 85 L also.

  • David

    There was a firmware for OES M. Will you review the EOS M with updated firmware?

  • Mike Barber

    There is a bulb mode. Using an infrared remote, a timer will run on the lcd for total exposure.

  • Roger,

    There is a bulb setting for shutter speed when set to Manual.

    Thanks for the non-review, works for me.


  • Rudi Venter

    I see many people have lots to say about this camera, a lot of them not so well informed….

    I have used one now for a while along with my normal Canons and all I can say is that it is an amazing little camera. It might not be perfect, no camera is, but the IQ is great, the AF not bad at all, more that good enough for non action photography, the AF is always spot on and the little 22mm lens is amazing.

    Add to that a great user interface once you are used to it, access to all EF/S lenses with great video (must see the tracking AF in video to appreciate it!) and you have a winner!

    But for me the one thing that stands out is the IQ, as good or better than a 60D/7D, larger sensors count…….. I have tried most of the other cameras in this class and they all failed on IQ for me, I want something with IQ as good as my DSLR just a lot smaller, and that is what the M is!

    Well done Canon!

  • abi74

    lots of second hand EOS-M for sale at Clubsnap Singapore, I wonder why?

  • Matt

    >What company would ever willfully disable a camera’s features?


  • Roger Cicala

    Hi Leonard,

    I don’t think you’re comparing apples and oranges at all. I’m looking at those two myself. I love the Sony, it’s awesome. For me, the ability to put on a different lens (albeit with an adapter at first) and the price might swing me to Canon. I’m not sure yet. I’d also suggest taking a look at the Sigma Merrill DP2 (I can’t believe I’m saying this), but I’ve been really impressed with it. I’m still in the “where’s the catch” phase of evaluating it, but it has some nice features and a reasonable price.


  • Leonard Coyle

    I am clearly in the minority here, so probably am looking in the wrong direction as usual. I am not looking to replace my DSLR, I am looking for something better than the SD110 as something to throw into my fishing vest, or daypack, or pocket when I don’t want to carry my 5D. I don’t want to consider something much bigger, as then it wont fit in my pocket. I was considering the EOS M versus the RX100. I have tried the RX100 and it looks like it would make a great upgrade in a small package to the SD110. I haven’t tried the EOS M. Am I comparing apples and oranges here?

  • Phil

    Enjoyable and helpful review. Thanks.

    Shaw? No.

    Dickens. Yes.

  • Joel Slade

    “I just wish Canon hadn’t worked so hard to retard the performance. I can understand not having some features and more advanced options it order to “protect” their pro and higher end consumer spaces, but performance shouldn’t be what is hampered in order to differentiate the mirrorless line from the others.’

    Maybe Canon just messed up? I can not believe that they would cripple the performance of their camera just to protect their pro cameras. I think they just do not have the mixed phase detect/contrast detect algorithms optimized, yet. (I am being very optimistic).

    The Nikon 1 has this worked out very well but it has issues as well. Nikon 1 uses phase detect in bright light and focus is FAST. In dimmer light it uses contrast detect with slower focus. Nikon is now introducing faster CX lenses that will use the phase detection in dimmer light… 18.5mm f1.8 and 32mm f1.2.

  • Jack

    Does Canon adapter has the Arca Swiss compatible plate built-in?
    I can’t see this from your pictures, only the plate atached to the camera.

  • Benjamin Anderson

    I’ve been playing with the EOS M today with various EF lenses I have, and the AF performance is a bit baffling. It’s isn’t all that slow with the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM or the 85mm f/1.8, which is weird considering the 50mm isn’t always the most reliable as far as AF. But it’s faster with both primes than any of the L glass I tried on it. Which makes me feel like it’s depending too much on the contrast data, and the wider the aperture the faster it’s able to lock. With all of the 2.8 L lenses I tried with it, it was constantly trying to micro adjust the focus. It was so bad with the EF 24-70 f/2.8 that several times while pointing towards a chandelier it refused to ever lock at all.

    The processing performance is also very slow, loading RAW files for preview and zooming isn’t nearly as smooth or responsive as I’d expect for a new camera, even if it an “entry” level camera. The buffer is only big enough for three bursts in RAW, and it takes forever to write to even the fastest cards. Which made me turn off continuous shooting while in RAW, and I’ve never done that, for any camera I’ve used in the last 8 years.

    The image quality is superb though. For family vacations and a general purpose carry around, the camera is great. And both native mount lenses lenses are really good. It is heavier than I thought it would be, but that doesn’t mean it’s heavy, it’s just a solidly built camera, and so are the lenses. Which makes the performance even more disappointing.

    I still like the system as a whole, I just wish Canon hadn’t worked so hard to retard the performance. I can understand not having some features and more advanced options it order to “protect” their pro and higher end consumer spaces, but performance shouldn’t be what is hampered in order to differentiate the mirrorless line from the others.

  • I second Joel Slade’s question: “The T4i and EOS-M has the new sensor with phase detect sensors. The question is why it is so slow compared to the Nikon 1.”

    It’s bizzare that they have on-sensor PDAF in the EOS-M and can’t get beyond slow CDAF AF speeds especially when Nikon have shown they can do exactly that with the V1. Especially as the seem to have hit quite well on the other features:compact size, a good 35mm eq prime and a decent kit zoom.

    Finally on the comment: “Seen from the side, though, I do have more understanding about why there’s no viewfinder – some of these lenses would be blocking it.”.

    A mirrorless camera that can mount zoom lenses for consumers is never going to have an OVF. An EVF maybe A Canonite PR person ruled out a future EVF in one Photokina report. I can’t see them sticking with that when the E-P5 is released that most expect to have a EVF.

    It seems to be selling well in Japan.

  • Joel Slade

    let me update my comments and my wishful thinking.

    The T4i and EOS-M has the new sensor with phase detect sensors. The question is why it is so slow compared to the Nikon 1. How does the AF speed compare to the Sony NEX 5R or NEX 6. Is Canon using data from both the phase detect sensor and the contrast detection for the AF.

    If the AF speed can be improved to the speed of the Nikon 1 series, then I hope to see a full time live view T4i varient with an EVF replacing the pentamirror. I would like to see this as a EOS-M varient with the new mount.

  • L.P.O.

    Joel: The Canon EOS 650D (aka T4i) _does_ have a hybrid sensor that allows faster AF, as does the EOS M.

    It’s just that for some reason Canon’s first-generation implementation og hybrid AF is very slow. Perhaps this can be corrected with a firmware upgrade like the new features that are added to Canon’s DSLR line (1D X, 5D III, 7D). Perhaps they require 2nd generation hardware. We’ll see soon enough.

  • Nobody

    Any sense to how well the EOS-M manages dust on the sensor relative to the OM-D or Nex-x ?

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