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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 Lensrentals.com. 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
  • Joel Slade

    I get it.
    It needs an EVF.

    I would like it to be an integrated EVF so the body style would be like a NEX6, Fuji XE-1, or Nikon V1.

    I also agree that an articulating screen would be very nice.

    So this raises a real question for Canon. Is there an imaging sensor with phase detect sensors in the plans. A hybrid contrast/phase detect AF system, like the Sony NEX 6 or Nikon V1 would “fix” the slow AF. It would then allow the T4i to be upgraded. At that point, I can see four versions of this camera.

    1) T4i upgrade with either a pentamirror or pentaprism and hybrid contrast/phase detect AF in live view.
    2) T4i upgrade with an integrated EVF using the hybrid/phase detect AF.
    3) EOS-M version with the new lens mount
    4) EOS-M with integrated EVF with the new lens mount.

    This is all very possible economically since it would based upon the same R&D and manufacturing. Best of all, the marketplace would decide which configuration would be most popular at relatively little risk to Canon.

    This would be a direct challenge to NIkon and Sony. I would be shocked if it did not happen.

  • Roger Cicala

    Yes, you can shoot manual.

  • Jeffrey

    Obvious question but maybe I missed it: Can you shoot manual focus with EF lenses?

  • Roger Cicala

    I can’t comment on the battery much, except to say we took a couple of hundred photographs, used the LCD a lot and it was still half charged. It’s a small battery, though, and the camera is LCD dependent, so I wouldn’t expect miracles.

    I haven’t found a bulb setting (full disclosure – I haven’t read the manual. My story is I want to see what it will be like if I’d received it as a rental. But reality is I use the manual as a last resort.) The menu has one oddity for a real photographer, the camera settings like Av and M are just in the list along with the green-box settings like ‘landscape’, ‘portrait’ so I’m thinking bulb is probably not there. But it could be nested soemwhere obscure.

  • abi74

    Hi Roger, thanks for the review. I am interested in this camera+adapter+10mmEFS for landscape so that I do not have to carry my beloved 7d and the 10mmEFS. I am a bulb shooter and shoot sunrise in the 10 minutes exposures from start of twilight until when the sun just rises. I am wondering is there a bulb setting and most importantly how does the battery perform because I do not see the availability of extra batteries or remote release. Thanks

  • Really wish Canon fix the slow focusing via firmware update.Else this will be a very good camera for vacation and casual photography.Being tired caring around my 5dmk3.

  • Phil

    So for non-action, smaller than my 1Dx or 1Ds MkIII work – the M or G1X?

  • Nick Roberts

    Great summary, and for me, far more useful than any number of pseudo-scientific tests. I had a play with one at the weekend, and was actually rather impressed. Yes, AF is deadly slow, but it really is a lot smaller than I expected and feels rather nice with both lenses, so it would be a great backup camera for me for most things. My usual travel setup involves 5D II, 8-15 L, Sigma 12-24, 24-105 L and 70-300 L, 600D and S90. I’m dreaming of a lot less weight with just the 5D II and the M plus lenses and the adaptor, or even 6D and M plus lenses. I reckon you’re right; a firmware update and a price drop, and I would definitely buy one – it’s much better than I expected in most ways.

  • Roger Cicala

    Oops, no. Typo fixed on the IS II. But I’ve heard from a number of sources there were prototypes.

  • griesi

    Roger, do you happen to have a prototype 24-70 f/2.8 IS II lying around somewhere or is that a typo? CR thinks that there actually ARE prototypes with IS around..

  • Brian

    I can’t believe how small it is. From the spec sheet it seemed larger…but it is the tiniest of those bodies shown!

    May wait a year or two and see where this goes…I like the concept. Could be a great back up, and excellent pocket sized in place of a P&S.


  • Roger Cicala


    I think that’s a fair call. With the firmware update it’s reasonable. Hopefully the EOS-M will be too.

  • Roger Cicala


    That’s the OM-D with the slowest focusing lens we know of on it. Most other mirrorless lens-camera combinations would still be faster. If someone was walking briskly toward you from 20 feet, for example, I’m not sure you’d ever lock focus.


  • Any word or rumblings or perhaps “armcharing” about wider lenses to come ?

  • richard

    thanks for the review! Especially with the sigma 😀

    Part of the comments on AF speed – so with the 18-55mm zoom even though not USM / SLR speed it’s certainly capable and in line with other mirrorless options? I found it surprising that with the 18-55 it was close to the same speed as the OM-D.

    that actually sounded pretty good to me.

  • David M

    How does this compare to the Fuji X-Pro1 (firmware v2) in AF speed? Am I correct to assume that they Fuji is somewhere between the OM-D and the EOS-M?


  • Roger Cicala


    I’m talking mostly about the resolution of the lens. The insides seem to be T4i, and I think everyone knows (or can easily find) the specs for that.


  • David B

    Roger, how about image quality in low light as compared to, lets say, my Oly OM-D, or lets say, a Canon 18MP standard Recent Rebel????? Is the picture flat with no DR at high ISOs? Or when you talk about image quality you are talking about good DR at low ISOs???? Other than you said that IQ is great, you did not explain what you meant?

  • Jay Frew

    So…does that EOS M actually fit into the Sigma 200-500 filter slot? It would be much easier to carry that way. That would be a feature worthy of mention ;~)

    Thanks for the look at this new camera Roger.

    Cheers! Jay

  • How does the size compare to the S100? It looks quite similar.

  • It seems like the pancake lenses resolution figures are very comparable to the Lumix 20 and 14mms. About the same resolution for similar sensor sizes, though we’re warned to never compare these things. Considering the new EPL camera, with built in IBIS and the new sensor from Sony, this camera doesn’t “have me at 870 line pairs/ image height.” Just food for thought for those without a pile of Canon glass laying around (like me) or those whose wives purses need better cameras (like me). Frankly, for the price (and jeesh, what they charge for the adapter) I wouldn’t buy any new camera (once I paid $800 for a perfectly good ugly car) 😉

  • ojb

    > You could use a 1.4x TC, or a 1.6X EOS-M!!

    He he …
    800mm F2.8 vs 700mm F4 anyone?
    (Sigma at 500mm with EOS-M vs same with TC 1.4 on 1dsMK3, say )?

    We know who wins when it comes to AF speed …
    Yet with slight degradation of IQ with TC, could it be a close call when it comes to IQ?

    Someone with the know-how and means could check this, MTF and all … Who could this be?

    800mm f2.8 from a lens cap! One cool test …

  • If you think the AF is slow, wait until you see how long it takes to find the camera in a woman’s purse!

  • Brian

    I think you could use the EOS-M instead of a teleconverter!

    You’re blasting away with a super telephoto and 1DX, and need some more zoom. You could use a 1.4x TC, or a 1.6X EOS-M!!

    Anyone else thought of this?

  • Dante

    800 f/5.8 IS? I thought that photo was showing someone trying to use a megaphone 😉

    You mentioned slipping it into your wife’s purse for use on holiday or in parties, to take snapshots. Will it work well? I thought in those situations most people would want fast AF in those parties, a built-in flash for fill-in or dark situations, and perhaps an EVF for the sunny holiday places when the LCD is not useful. Something like a NEX-6 or OMD seems better, and just as smaller or smaller by the time you add the flash, EVF. Gigantic enlargements or absolute IQ are probably not so important for such casual shooting, but if it is then something like the Fuji X-E1 should be even better. This camera seems fine for people who want to re-use old Canon lenses and who do not mind large lenses on a small body with limited features. However, with such slow AF, perhaps they should consider a NEX with an Canon lens adapter and use focus peaking instead, to get the missing features.

  • Cristian

    Thank you so much for this Roger, this is exactly the first question which popped in my head the day Canon announced it: will it have fast enough AF for street photography? I couldn’t get an answer after watching/reading dozens of (p)reviews, but now everything is clear!

  • Roger Cicala

    Esa, I love the Shaw quote. That is awesome!

  • Esa Tuunanen

    It sure was made to not endanger Canon’s DSLR sales.
    But not because of focusing but because of Canon IXUS’ worth of controls and ergonomics.
    With so strong control of markets with DSLRs Canon simply doesn’t want to rock the boat until starting real transformation to mirrorless is must.

    Fortunately other makers have been cooperative and avoided rocking the boat by offering complete mirrorless system with range of bodies from small compacts to high end DSLR’s controls and ergonomics offering bodies.
    Panasonic is finally showing signs of willingness for that with GH3… Which is first mirrorless to really challenge 2004 Minolta Dimage A2 prosumer in ergonomics. (hurray for camera world for moving so fast…)

    And why would you need medicine?
    That industry is already making enough profit by inventing new diseases needing drugs.

    “The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.” -George Bernard Shaw

  • “I’ve found myself doing that with other cameras that don’t have that feature, and it makes me feel stupid.”

    First thing we noticed when we got iPads for our studio is that we’ve started using “close app” gesture (all finger pinch) on annoying people. Didn’t make us feel stupid though.

  • John W

    I’d rather read this than a DPReview dissertation anytime. And the Sigmnoster shot is a hoot!!! Who woulda thought lenscaps would come with a monitor!!! Too cool.

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