The EOS M

The Part Where I compare it to the Fuji X100

I, along with many others, jumped at the chance to own an EOS M (arriving loaded with the latest 2.x firmware) for a deeply discounted price. It’s a nice camera with a surprisingly  well made, good to good plus STM kit lens – I bought the zoom. Canon, among camera manufacturers, seems almost alone in getting touch right. It’s not Apple good but it’s good enough.The few physical buttons are well made and unfussy. It tears though batteries like a Bugatti Veyron gulps premium gasoline.

And I think it’s too small to handle well. Yes I understnd that there is a race to small in this sort of camera but at the expense of utility and handling? Why?

My problem, and I don’t intend to get over it, is that I also own mirrorless done right – the Fuji X100. It has a lengthy list of idiosyncrasies, a lousy LCD and remarkably fussy buttons. It also has a very nice Hybrid viewfinder,  just a bit more size and the prime Fuji lens. I take pictures and the Fuji is better at taking pictures than the EOS M. I suspect that the Fuji (and it’s siblings) is better at taking pictures than any of the Mirrorless herd. It was designed with a cleaver and entirely successful viewfinder.

The hybrid viewfinder separates the Fuji from the rest of the mirrorless masses. Using the rear LCD is optional so batteries don’t suffer from powering the viewfinder, internals and providing camera shooting information. It is possible to set the Fuji X100 up to take more images than it’s battery would seem to allow by powering down all the standard mirrorless displays and using the viewfinder in optical mode.

The EOS M, and by extension all mirrorless cameras that require the rear LCD to do the heavy lifting, all strain their batteries. Add an electronic viewfinder (EVF) and the battery is officially out of it’s depth.

Size Matters – Too Much

The EOS M body is just slightly larger than the S90 we have here (and by extension the S100 and S110). As good as the S90 (and the subsequent s100 and s110)  is it’s  too small to hold correctly. The EOS M, likewise, is not enough larger to hold well – especially with the zoom. One-half inch on the right side with a bit more bump would solve that… it does with the Fuji x100.

To many a mirrorless camera with interechanagle lenses THAT also fits in your pocket is a design goal, But at the expense of proper handling? Really? After some initial enthusiasm mirrorless sales have tanked. The drop in sales is the result of at least three questionable design decisions:

  1. Relying on “live view” aka the rear LCD panel for framing requires that the camera be held out and away from the body. This is a silly way to hold a camera – especially if it has any weight. A mirrorless camera with a zoom lens will always weigh more than a cell phone.
  2. Leaving out the mirror and the accompanying mechanism, found in a DSLR allows for a significantly slimmer camera. It doesn’t require a tiny camera, just a slim one. Pictures are lost with bad ergonomics. A Canon EOS 1D-X is a brute but it’s a joy to hold and shoot.
  3. An advanced level / pro camera requires a viewfinder. Not an optional one, a built in, integrated, included-in-the-sales-price viewfinder. Fuji has my money for their Hybrid viewfinder. Other manufacturers are welcome to offer an alternative but so far the efforts are weak.

It Stays – For Now

The EOS M has some redeming qualities. It was inexpensive, costing roughly what the STM zoom cost as the “clear the warehouses” sale began. Buy the body, get the lens for free or vice versa.  It shoots nice video and the current generation IS is a genuine help when shooting hand held. The STM kit zoom is nearly silent. Focus is quick enough for my style of shooiting. It’s fine at reasonable ISO’s though the sensor shows it’s age above ISO 1600.

I suspect that, despite it’s tiny size or maybe because of it, the EOS M will spend a fair amount of time on a tripod as a video camera. The stills meet my definition of very good all the way out to ISO 1600 so that may, on rare occasions, be handy (though that argues for the 22mm f/2 pancake and not the “starts at f/4 zoom.)

At one pound 2 oz (.51 kg) for zoom and body, it will be a nice hiking camera.

It’s easy to speculate that all digital cameras will have fewer internal parts going forward. Slapping mirrors may someday seem quaint. Someday, just not yet. Maybe not for a while.