A Second Try for the EOS-M

My readers may remember that I purchased an EOS-M last fall. For a number of reasons I ended up returning the camera, a failed experiment.

Tenakee Docks at Night
Fishing boats under sodium lamps haunt the Tenakee docks
With the rumors of a new model or two on the horizon the prices on the original EOS-M dropped. Not just a little either, a camera that listed for over $800 was now available for $360 with the 18-55mm lens. Even less if you wanted the 22mm f/2 lens. For this price would I give the camera a second go?

In the interim a new revision of the camera firmware has addressed some of the major complaints about the camera, including the sluggish focusing. Low price, improved focusing, why not give it a try? I still like the idea of a camera with near DLSR capability, that is small enough to be carried at all times. Fine, I will order it again.

John Hopkins Glacier
John Hopkins Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park
With EOS-M in hand I went on two trips this summer, to Oregon Star Party and a ten day boat trip out from Juneau. On both trips I used the camera extensively, shooting under a huge range of conditions. This includes a fair amount of night shooting under the stars. I also set up the camera on the telescope again.

In Alaska I had four cameras with me… A Canon 60D, the EOS-M, a GoPro Hero 2 HD, and a Canon G12. It was the EOS-M that I used for all of the walkabout shooting on and off the boat.

The only real drawback to the EOS-M is speed, it simply does not shoot fast. As a result I kept the full DLSR ready with the long lens, the 70-200mm L series telephoto. When wildlife appeared I was ready to shoot fast. Whales bubble net feeding, a gizzly on shore, for these it was the Canon 60D I grabbed. For everything else it was the EOS-M in my hand.

Camping Under the Stars
A camper and telescope set up under a starry sky
One of the features I liked about the camera when first trying it was the touch screen. My first thoughts about this feature were not positive, I wondered just how useful it would be. I have come to really appreciate the touch screen and the ease with which some functions can be used. With my heavy use of an iPad and iPhone, the touch gestures are quite natural. There are drawbacks, inadvertent photos with the touch shutter are common. Plus, it is possible to switch a setting without knowing. Many operations such as selecting the focus point or reviewing exposures are much easier with the touch screen. More than once I have found myself brushing fingers on the LCD of my Canon 60D before remembering it is not a touch screen camera.

I have come to appreciate the EOS-M for the reason I originally wanted the camera. It is a great carry camera, small enough to keep with you at all times, ready to get the shot. It isn’t fast, but it does take beautiful photos, providing better quality than a compact and capable of shooting in a wider range of conditions.

Canon EOS-M

DSLR cameras have been the design of choice for professional and serious amateur photographers for over a decade, ever since the era of digital photography began. Big lenses and big sensors made the most of what light was available offering the best possible photographic performance. This performance is a huge jump over what the smaller lenses and sensors of compact cameras offer. A performance gain that makes carrying such a large camera worthwhile.

A DSLR is big because of the demands of the available technology. The swinging mirror directs light into optical viewfinders and phase detection focus sensors. Over the last couple years a new type of camera has appeared, taking advantage of advances in technology to dispense with the bulky swinging mirror design. Fast, high resolution electronic viewfinders and better focus technology allow this transformation. Engineers can create a camera far smaller while keeping the large sensor and interchangeable lens. Better yet, getting the lens closer to the image sensor allows a smaller, lighter, less expensive lens without sacrificing performance. Enter a new paradigm of camera that offers much of the performance of a DSLR in a compact design.

Canon EOS-M
The Canon EOS-M with the 22mm f/2 kit lens
All of the major players have now released their own spin on the mirror-less design. Panasonic and Olympus jointly released compatible designs under the Micro Four-Thirds standard. Sony has released their NEX system and Nikon the Nikon 1 system. A number of lens makers, Zeiss, Tamron, and Sigma now make lenses for these cameras. Canon was the last to release an entry into this new market segment.

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