When someone's late to the party -- arguably the guest of honor, at that -- you expect them to make more of an entrance than Canon has with its expensive mirrorless interchangeable-lens (ILC) Canon EOS M. Because, with the exception of the combo phase- and contrast-detection autofocus capabilities, it seems a lot like it's covering the same ground Sony trod two years ago when it delivered its first Alpha NEX model. And even Nikon dug up the dual-technology autofocus system ground when it launched the Nikon 1.
The EOS M is based around the same hybrid CMOS sensor as the Canon EOS Rebel T4i, which includes both the contrast autofocus sensors, the type of autofocus used in camcorders and other video AF systems, and the traditional phase-detection sensors you find in dSLRs. That's nice, but autofocus performance in ILCs has become extremely good of late, even in contrast AF-only models. dSLRs need the hybrid capabilities to enable autofocus during video capture; ILCs don't have that problem, and all the manufacturers have developed a line of similarly "silent" lenses for use with video capture. If it enabled video autofocus with a wider range of Canon lenses that would be great. But it doesn't.
The camera uses the same STM-technology lenses that Canon announced with the T4i. But since the shallower flange back of the mirrorless model requires a new lens mount -- voilà, EF-M. Canon plans to ship an adapter to allow the camera to use standard EF-mount lenses, so that you're not stuck with just the the 22mm f2 and 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 OIS lenses that are available at launch, but that puts it in the annoying small-body-big-lens category. That type of solution only makes sense for enthusiast-level cameras, not the entry-level camera that this seems intended to be, given the predominantly touch-screen operation and no option for an electronic viewfinder.
Canon managed to pack that largish sensor into a body about the same size as the Micro Four Thirds-based Olympus Pen E-PM1. That's nice, but I would argue that shaving a few decimal points off the dimensions has become trivial at this point.
Here's a piece of the competitive landscape the EOS M has entered (9/18/12: updated with comparisons from cameras announced around Photokina)
|Canon EOS M||Nikon 1
|Olympus PEN E-PL5||Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5||Samsung NX210||Sony Alpha NEX-5R|
|Sensor (effective resolution)||18MP hybrid CMOS||10MP CMOS||16.1MP Live MOS
|12.1MP Live MOS||20.3MP CMOS||16.1MP Exmor HD CMOS|
|22.3 x 14.9mm||13.2 x 8.8 mm||17.3mm x 13mm||17.3mm x 13mm||23.5mm x 15.7mm||23.5 x 15.6mm|
|Sensitivity range||ISO 100 - ISO 12800/ ||ISO 100 - ISO 3200/6400 (expanded)||ISO 200 - ISO 25600||ISO 100 - ISO 6400/12800 (expanded)||ISO 100 - ISO 12800||ISO 100 - ISO 25600|
(60fps with fixed AF and electronic shutter)
|8fps (with AF/
19 JPEG/15 raw
unlimited JPEG/4 raw
11 JPEG/8 raw
15 JPEG/11 raw
|Autofocus||31-point contrast AF||73-point
phase detection, 135-area contrast AF
|35-area contrast AF||23-area contrast AF||15-point contrast AF||99-point phase detection, 25-area contrast AF|
|AF sensitivity range||n/a||n/a||n/a||0 - 18 EV||n/a||0 - 20 EV|
|Shutter speed||30-1/4,000 sec; bulb; 1/200 flash sync||1/3 - 1/16,000; bulb; 1/60 sec x-sync||60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync||60-1/4,000 sec; 1/160 flash sync||30-1/4000 sec.; bulb to 4 minutes; 1/180 x-sync||30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync|
|Metering||n/a||n/a||324 area||144 zone||221 segment||1200 zone|
|Metering range||n/a||n/a||n/a||0 - 18 EV||0 - 18 EV||0 - 20 EV|
|Flash|| Optional |
|Yes||Included optional||Yes||Included optional||Included optional|
|Image stabilization||Optical||Optical||Sensor shift||Optical||Optical||Optical|
|Video||H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ ||1080/60i /30p, 720/60p H.264 MPEG-4 QuickTime MOV||1080/30p @ 20, 17Mbps H.264 QuickTime MOV||AVCHD or MPEG-4 QuickTime MOV |
1,080/60i @ 17Mbps
|1,080/30p; 1,080x810/ ||AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/ 24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1,440x1,080/ 30p @ 12Mbps|
|Audio||Stereo; mic input||Stereo||Stereo; mic input||Stereo||Stereo; mic input||Stereo, mic input|
|LCD size||3-inch fixed touch screen
|3-inch fixed 460,000 dots/
3-inch fixed 920,000 dots
|3-inch tilting touch screen
|3-inch fixed touch screen
|3-inch fixed AMOLED
|3-inch tilting touch screen
|Wireless file upload||None||None||Optional Bluetooth||None||Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi|
|Battery life (CIPA rating)||n/a||230 shots||360 shots||330 shots||320 shots||430 shots|
|Dimensions (inches, WHD)||4.3 x 2.6 x 1.3||4.2 x 2.4 x 1.2||4.4 x 2.5 x 1.5||4.2 x 2.6 x 1.5||4.6 x 2.5 x 1.4||4.4 x 2.4 x 1.6|
|Body operating weight (ounces)||10.5 (est)||9.7||11.5 (est)||9.3||9.5 (est)||9.3 (est, without flash)|
|Mfr. price||n/a||n/a||$649.99 (body only)||n/a||n/a||$649.99 (body only)|
|$799 (with 22mm lens)||$549.95/ $649.95 (with 10-30mm lens)||$699.99 (with 14-42mm lens)||$599 (with 14-42mm lens)||$899.99 (with 18-55mm i-Function lens)||$749.99 (with 18-55mm lens)|
|n/a||n/a/$899.95 (with 10-30mm and 30-110mm lenses)||n/a||$749 (with 14-42mm power zoom lens)||n/a||n/a|
|Ship date||October 2012||October 2011/ |
|October 2012||June 2012||May 2012||October 2012|
The irony is that I think if Canon had stuck a good fixed lens on this camera, added a mode dial, and priced it the same way, this would kill the compeition in the compact enthusiast market. As it is, it's got a tough road ahead. Assuming it manages to achieve best-in-class photo quality -- and that's a big if, given what we've seen from Samsung and Sony sensors -- it still faces an uphill climb with rolling out a decent selection of lenses. While users of, say, an NEX-7 might be willing to load up the camera with adapters and non-E-Mount lenses, in this market they're looking for small, small, small.
And if you plan to buy one of these cameras and stick with the basic meh zoom-and-a-pancake-prime option that lots of manufacturers offer, these are all pretty similar. It offers the same set of multishot HDR and noise-reduction modes, as well as special-effects filters. Canon emphasizes the video capabilities, such as full-time AF (which Canon calls Movie Servo AF) and manual controls, but the only possibly rare features are the ability to adjust sound levels and the clip-based Video Snapshot feature that debuted in its camcorders and has since made its way throughout the rest of the cameras.
In fact, it looks like the only configuration Canon could think of that wouldn't cannibalize much of its other lineups. It's pricier than the PowerShot S95 and S100, and without a viewfinder or hard manual controls won't eat into the G series or the Rebels. Yes, it's probably the first of a line, but I think the company chose the wrong market segment for its debut. Especially at the disappointingly high price -- and that's without a flash!
Maybe this is a camera that improves upon acquaintance. I certainly hope so. Check back for my review of the EOS M once we can get our hands on one.