Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Canon EOS M Verdict and Video Review

Big things come in small packages. Consider the new mirrorless Canon EOS M as a Rebel in a Powershot body and you have yourself a wolf in sheep's clothing. Underneath the hood of Canon's first entry in the mirrorless digital camera market is an 18 megapixel APS-C sensor with DIGIC V processor like its bigger Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D brother.

For a retail price of $800, the Canon EOS M with EF-M 22mm f/2 STM kit lens does not come cheap when compared to other mirrorless brands like Sony, Panasonic and Nikon. The high price pays for the large APS-C sized sensor like in the Canon EOS Rebel T4i and the rest of the Canon cropped sensor lineup such as the Canon 7D. The Canon EOS M is a big sensor in a compact form factor with a new interchangeable EF-M lens mount.

The Canon EOS M shares many features of the similar priced Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D except an actual SLR view finder, a swivel screen and a pop up flash. The differences stop there. The Hybrid AF system with continuous auto focus during video recording comes to the Canon EOS M. The AF Servo works in conjunction with STM (stepper motor) lenses for smoother lens movement in photo or video mode.

The touchscreen feature comes back to the Canon EOS M with open arms. I am not a big fan of limited tactile controls but the Canon EOS M combines real buttons with an intuitive touchscreen. The limited landscape at the rear LCD forces you to use the touchscreen at times. The on demand buttons of ISO and white balance of the Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D are gone and replaced by a press of the "Q" menu button for the touch interface. Old school button pushers rejoice, the multifunction controller remains intact for the meantime.

With big APS-C sensors come dreamy bokeh and fantastic image quality. The included EF-M 22mm f/2 STM kit lens is fast and sharp with bursting color rendition. Now for the bad news...the autofocus is slow like turtle slow! Gone are the fast and accurate 9 AF points of the Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D with a real DSLR viewfinder. The Canon EOS M is a point and shoot camera with a point and shoot AF system. The Canon EOS M takes a good one second to lock focus on a sunny day. Poor lighting conditions give way to the external focus assist light to help out if needed. Sports photographers (aka soccer moms) in need of AI Servo for fast action shots will be disappointed.

Long time Canon photographers can use their extensive EF and EF-S glass with the Canon EOS M with the optional Canon lens mount adapter. The optical possibilities are unleashed like my Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L prime lens paired with the Canon EOS M above. Do not hold your breath when it comes to AF speed. The point and shoot AF speed of the Canon EOS M is the same with mount adapter and EF glass. Bummer!

Aspiring photographers do not be afraid of all the technical jargon. The Canon EOS M has entry level Scene Intelligent Auto and Basic Zone modes with the addition of Creative Filters for beginners just like the Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D. There is an even a fool proof Face Detect AF mode for people photos. A bad picture is not in the Canon EOS M vocabulary.

A clean ISO 3200 will make you smile and freeze your manually focused indoor sport action shots. Just like the Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D, ISO all the way up to 3200 is for everyday use with no problem. ISO 6400 is grainy but can be cleaned up in RAW post processing. Anything higher like ISO 12800 is a crime against nature on many levels.

Just like the Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D, the Canon EOS M video quality is outstanding in all video resolutions such as the 1080p video shot at 29.97fps shown above. Just like the Canon 5D Mark III and T4i/650D, the Canon EOS M has an extended video recording capability up to 29 minutes and 29 seconds without the FAT32 memory card limitation. Do not expect to record hours of footage with the LP-E12 battery. With no viewfinder, the LCD Live View along with any image stabilized lens drains the battery very quickly. Buy spares!

The Canon EOS M in video mode has full manual control over exposure and audio levels for ultimate creativity. The Canon EOS M has integrated stereo microphones and a mono microphone input port on the side that allows external audio devices to be connected for audio capture. DSLR filmmakers can now have a primary or secondary discreet camera for multiple camera shoots.

The continuous AF during video recording from the Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D makes it over to the new Canon EOS M with all its disappointment. As you can recall, the Hybrid AF system allows objects or people to be continuously tracked in focus during video recording. With Canon's new EF-M STM or stepper motor lenses, the Hybrid AF system allows smoother lens focusing when compared to USM and non USM EF lenses. Everything sounds good on paper but ultimately an epic fail in execution. Just watch the video below and judge for yourself...

My Hybrid AF conclusion is the same for the Canon EOS M and the Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D. I give it a big thumbs down. Canon needs to do its homework on AF Servo technology because it simply does not work well at all! My old school policy of good camera work is manual focus, manual exposure, manual audio and lots of practice.

For all those Final Cut Pro 6 and 7 fans out there, I have an Apple NLE treat! Just like the modified .plist of the Canon E-1 Movie plugin of the Canon Rebel T4i/650D, I hacked the .plist again for the new Canon EOS M. With this .plist modification, you can automatically log and transfer your Canon EOS M .mov files to AppleProRes422 instead of manually transcoding. Just read the above .plist and follow my links in my last Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D Video Test for detailed instructions.

The force was strong this weekend, just like my Canon EOS M verdict. I was at the premiere of LEGO Star Wars Miniland at LEGOLAND Florida snapping away LEGO pics with my Canon EOS M around my neck. My Canon EOS M conclusion? The image quality out of this Rebel in a Powershot body with interchangeable lenses is outstanding. I always wanted a Canon Powershot G1X with a DSLR sized sensor. Now my mirrorless dreams have come true. Of course, any good dream has to end and the disappointing Hybrid AF is definitely from the dark side of the force.

Nothing says cool like a hot pink trike and glitter shoes! The new Canon EOS M is the perfect compact travel companion with the flexibility of interchangeable lenses and the ease of use of a Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D. Despite the slow point and shoot AF for pictures and disappointing AF servo during video recording, the Canon EOS M shines as a portable powerhouse with DSLR image quality.

You can view more eye candy photos and videos in my Canon EOS M Verdict and Video Review Gallery. I have more videos, ISO comparisons and images shot with a variety of EF/EF-S lenses from the Canon EOS M mirrorless digital camera.

Hit the streets of NYC like at Times Square at night with the Canon EOS M paired with the Rokinon 8mm T3.8 Fisheye Cine lens. The small form factor combined with the full array of Canon EF glass with EF-M lens adapter make a fabulous duo.

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  1. I'm looking at this as a GH2 alternative, as I missed out on buying a GH2 for $600 like my friend. have you tried C-mount lenses on it?
    thanks. great review.

    1. Unfortunately, I have not tried C mount (micro 4/3) lenses with EOS adapter on the Canon EOS M. According to past reviews on this matter, the distance from lens to sensor might be problematic in focusing.
      Thanks for the compliment BTW.

      Sincerely, chad soriano

  2. Could tell me how good it is in low light?
    Having a Digic V processor, i can expect a good low light performance as ggod like the other new Canons?
    And did you heard about the new firmware? Seems like the AF was improved!

    1. Samuel,
      The Canon EOS M has equal low light performance when compared to the other Canon Rebel cameras such as the T4i, T5i and the new SL1. The Canon EOS M limit with tolerable ISO noise is ISO 3200 for stills and video with fast lenses.
      The new firmware is exciting and I am waiting to try it out when it is released.

      Sincerely,chad soriano

  3. Excellent review! Thanks for posting this useful information- it's greatly appreciated. I do have a quick question though- has the new 2.x firmware helped with continuous video autofocus, face detection, etc.?


    1. ShinyStufflsShiny,

      Thanks for the compliments. I have been real busy and I had only time to download the new firmware to my desktop. The new firmware looks promising but I would not hold my breath for any miracles. The new Canon 70D Dual Pixel technology looks interesting though...we will have to wait until September 2013. As soon as I get some EOS M firmware tests, I will post on my Facebook Fan Page.

      Sincerely, chad soriano

  4. This has to be one of the best EOS-M reviews out there! Thanks for putting forth such great time and effort for this! You've helped me out! I also found/followed you on facebook

    1. Hi Ces,

      Thank you for all the compliments and following me on Facebook! The EOS M is a hidden gem of a compact camera.

      Sincerely, chad soriano

  5. Replies
    1. bradford mckenzie,

      What questions do you have for the Canon EOS M? Maybe I can help you...My update is hindered by my upcoming Canon EOS 70D reviews but I can definitely answer your questions...

      Sincerely, chad soriano

  6. Thanks for your review. Even a year and a half later, it is still a valuable read (and watch). The "streets of New York" video is excellent. So, just that: thank you.

  7. Great camera my T3i collects dust now as well.