The Canon EOS M3: Early Thoughts…

Way back when Canon entered the mirror less camera market (that’s 2012), their first offering was globally panned and rightly so. The top dog camera company launching a camera which, frankly, couldn’t focus and was very expensive was, let’s be fair, doomed to failure. The Canon EOS M  – “Power To Generation M” as Canon claimed, was a damp squib and nobody really cared.

Eight months later, talk about a speedy response, after several fire sales, where the price of the EOS M tanked, Canon released a firmware update for the EOS M, version 2.0.2 which tentatively fixed most of the ‘worst’ criticisms: the autofocus on single shot was at least usable (for slower moving or stationary subjects) after the version 2 firmware. Unfortunately, it was too late. The EOS M had been dubbed a lemon.

Despite those early issues, I have actually owned and used 5 EOS M cameras. I think they are brilliant, very well built little cameras, within their limits. The image quality from the 18MP sensor was quite excellent in my opinion and with Magic Lantern installed, the EOS M became quite a cult with videographers on a tight budget. Bang for Buck, you couldn’t beat the EOS M.

Canon, apparently taking on board the criticisms made of the EOS M, launched the EOS M2, with Hybrid AF II which was claimed to offer faster single shot auto focus. I never found out, because Canon decided to launch the EOS M2 in Asia only.

Fast forward to Spring 2015 and Canon launched the EOS M3, available in Asia and Europe which addressed pretty much all of the initial criticisms of the original EOS M (M Classic as some have chosen to call it). Instead of touch only, the EOS M3 was outfitted with dials and buttons, enough to satisfy most dial and button hungry photogs out there, still keeping the touch screen for some changes not covered by the dials.

I read reviews and most were the usual, mostly negative towards the EOS M3 and to a certain extent, they are correct. There are better offerings out there. I should know I’ve tried several. The Fujifilm X-Pro 1, X-E1, Sony NEX 6, Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the Samsung Galaxy NX and NX300 amongst them.

All had good points but equally, they all had bad points. The buttons for example on the OM-D E-M5 were just too small for my liking, making it a difficult camera to use. The auto focus on both Fujifilm were ‘leisurely’. The Sony NEX 6 was a good camera, but the Sony UI was awful. The Samsungs were really well made and had really good image quality, but not much in the way of software support from the manufacturer. The Galaxy NX was a great camera, excellent connectivity and touch screen with good UI, but it needed future development for that class of camera, support as it turns out, Samsung was unwilling to make. Compared to the Canon EOS M, they were all inferior. The EOS M had a fantastic touch interface and screen, negating button size quibbles and menu structures.

So, three years on Canon launched the EOS M3 and I pretty much ignored it. I did go back and forward from time to time reading newer reviews but most were along the lines of ‘too little, too late’ Sony a6000 comparisons etc. In light of this, I decided to wait for the EOS M4 (assuming there would be one at some point in the future).

The thing is, the EOS M3 kept popping back into my awareness. A new 24.2 MP sensor, better ergonomics and better auto focus. January 2016, I bought one.

It’s early days and I’m still acclimatising to the layout, but the image quality is excellent from the sensor. The ergonomics are almost perfect (given it’s compact size), build quality while not as tank like as the EOS M, is excellent. It’s a Canon and despite not knowing how to get the auto focus right on some cameras, they know how to make a good camera and that is exactly what the EOS M3 is. A very good camera.

Other reviewer’s have compared the EOS M3 to the Sony a6000 which is a premium mirrorless camera, but the comparisons are in my view flawed. The Canon EOS M3 is a much better made camera than the Sony a6000. Now I’m not saying the a6000 is bad, it just feels more ‘vulnerable’ when compared to the EOS M3. The a6000 feels a little more hollow.

Another criticism of the EOS M3 is that there is no built in viewfinder, when the a6000 has one. The a6000 dimensions are approx. 120mm x 67mm x 45mm, weighing in at 344g with battery and memory card inserted. Now compare those to the EOS M3 dimensions, approx. 110.9mm x 68mm x 44.4mm weighing in at @366g. You will notice the EOS M3 is @1cm shorter than the a6000, so there isn’t really very much room for a viewfinder to be fitted, considering the EOS M3 has a pop up flash, standard Canon Hot-shoe and two top plate dials squeezed into it’s diminutive size.

Canon do offer an optional EVF for the EOS M3 in the form of the way too expensive Canon EVF-DC1. I know it costs money to make and the tech is great, but come on Canon, it’s way too expensive for anybody to seriously consider for their camera. An optional accessory which costs almost half the price of the camera it’s intended for is beyond logic.

Despite the mostly ‘meh’ opinions in the reviews, I bought an EOS M3 just under a week ago and my first impressions are mostly good. The image quality is stunning. It is very very good. More than enough for any need and the high ISO capabilities are perfectly good for ‘normal’ people, depending on printing requirements, but 12,800 from RAW with some carefully applied post noise reduction is perfectly good for a 5×7 print at normal viewing distances. Some reviewers seem to love having their noses super glued to their computer monitors. Some of the greatest pictures taken throughout history have faults, many faults, but you never hear nay body complain about the noise in any of those.

Any way, the EOS M3 is a very well built camera with a reassuring ‘quality’ to the clicks from the dials. The touchscreen is as responsive as the original EOS M. Those coming from the EOS M will have a bit of an ‘oh’ moment since not all settings are done through the touch screen, and in some respects it feels like Canon has taken a step backwards here, buttons and touch combined are usually cumbersome, but Canon have implemented them well.

The ergonomics are great for such a small camera. The grip makes it very easy to use and the built in flash offers enough light for emergency use.

Now, just like the EOS M, the EOS M3 will not fit in a pocket, unless it’s quite a large pocket and again this has been marked against the EOS M3. I couldn’t fit any of the mirror less cameras into any of the pockets I have on any of my jackets and some of those are quite large pockets. None would fit, so it’s not really a fair criticism. The EOS M3 will hang perfectly well round your neck all day without you really being aware of it. Use a small camera bag instead of pockets, it keeps the gear better protected anyway.

As I said earlier, it’s early days for me with the EOS M3 and the weather hasn’t been that great to get out and photograph for real, but the test shots I’ve taken indoors with the built in flash and 18-55 kit lens that came with the EOS M3 have been very detailed, with excellent colour rendition. I for one am very happy with the results. The focus is quicker than the EOS M and I’m more than happy with it.

There are some quirks I’m hoping Canon will sort out with a firmware upgrade, but nothing glaringly obvious. The EOS M3 is a well rounded, competent and easy to use choice for anyone out there. Definitely worth a look and serious consideration. It’s a Canon after all.

Another criticism is the EOS M3 only shoots in sRGB and not Adobe RGB. I’ve had plenty pro level cameras and never shot in Adobe RGB (well I did but had to convert to sRGB for uploading to agencies etc, so to me at least, not having an Adobe RGB option for colour space is no major issue). Besides, very few monitors on computers are capable of displaying Adobe RGB, unless you’re opting for a top end Eizo or something similar. That being the case, you’re probably not in the market for a carry anywhere little MILC like the EOS M3.

Another criticism has been the RAW buffer of the EOS M3. It allows @5 RAW shots before slowing to 1 frame a second, but this is not intended for machine gun photographers. I think the EOS M3 is directed more at photographers who like to take their time, just like the old days of film before auto everything was ‘in’. Taking some time to get ‘the shot’ is in my opinion, always better than a spray and pray approach favoured by some.

For 2016, I decided to set myself a new challenge. 1 camera and 1 lens for the year. Light weight with no excuses for not taking a camera with me. I’ve been losing faith in photography over the past few years and I’m hoping this back to basics approach will remind me what it was I loved about photography in the first place, so I can concentrate on making images with the gear I have, rather than lust after the next ‘new’, ‘better’ ‘even better’ offering from manufacturers. Having looked at all the current offerings, I opted for the Canon EOS M3.

Canon have not paid, loaned or gifted anything to me for this first thoughts piece. I will consider picking up an EVF-DC1 for the EOS M3 at some point. I do like having the choice of viewfinder use for some things, other than that, it’ll be the EOS M3 and 18-55mm kit lens for the year (just to make sure, I have sold all my original EOS M cameras).

For the time being, I am happy with my purchase of the EOS M3. It’s actually very refreshing to have such a light weight kit to take with me. I know the images will be excellent quality, assuming I can sharpen up my techniques, which is no bad thing. They need to be sharpened up a bit.

I have now added a mini review post with images of the Canon EOS M3 and an ISO Test Post with very non scientific examples of the ISO capabilities of the Canon EOS M3.

I have also started including direct links to the Canon EOS M3 product page for additional information or if you’re interested in buying the EOS M3. Amazon will pay me a small commission on each purchase using the direct links, which will help support this blog. Many thanks.

Canon EOS M3 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 STM Lens




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