image source : Canon UK

I've always been a firm advocate of Sony's line of Alpha NEX mirrorless compacts as far as mirrorless APS-C based snapper gear goes, this is despite being a long time Canon user. However with a recent significant sharp price drop of the EOS-M (Canon's first and currently only mirrorless compact interchangeable lens camera) it might be time to re-assess what it originally got trounced for in always being slammed for trying to compete with Sony's Alpha NEX range of APS-C based mirrorless interchangeable lens compacts.

Essentially the Canon EOS-M has its own more compact interchangeable lens standard instead of the legacy EOS-EF and EFS lens system despite using the same 18 megapixel APS-C sensor and DIGIC 5-processor (ie. EOS-M lens mount). However Canon DSLR users looking for a more compact secondary solution capable of shooting RAW might want to take note of the fact that you can buy it new as a body only option (ie. Without lens, charger, cables and retail packaging) for around 160-169 quid.  But then you have to factor in an official Canon EOS-M to Canon EOS-EF/EFS lens adaptor which you can pick up for an additional 62-64 quid. It might be worth keeping in mind that a quality 3rd party (as in a none OEM, none native coded and seemingly reverse engineered) electronic  EOS-EF/EFS lens to Sony E-mount adaptor for NEX camera's will cost around 200-250 quid! Meaning for all those who bought an electronic adaptor for each of their Canon lenses beyond their main workhorse Canon snapper box whilst out on a job for use with a Sony NEX camera could have potentially bought an EOS-M and EOS-M adaptor for each of them instead!

(note: the only reason I mention the more expensive 3rd party Canon EOS EF/EFS to Sony E-mount electronic lens adaptors is that they now all feature firmware update features via Bluetooth as well as Sony A7 full frame compatibility. Even these top of the line 3rd party electronic lens adaptors still have compatibility issues with some legacy Canon lenses, and even some of the Canon lenses that actually work with it will still have issues through displaying incorrect aperture setting readouts. I've also tested a cheaper third party adaptor with a NEX-F3 and the plastic melted at the electronic pin terminals before it shorted itself out. Using something like the EOS-M with an official EOS-M to EOS-EF/EFS adaptor means everything is native and all the lens settings will display correctly with native compatibility for all Canon EOS EF and EFS lenses). 

Then again why buy the Canon EOS-M as camera body only when you can get it from Argos with full no quibbles warranty cover and piece of mind for 199 quid which also includes an 18-55mm EOS-M STM zoom lens, charger, battery, cables, and detachable 90EX speed light flash all fully retail packaged with free home delivery? Argos also have an interest free buy now and pay 6 months later option for it too if you already have or apply and qualify for the Argos store card. Obviously those looking to use the EOS-M with Canon EOS legacy EF and EFS lenses will still have to buy an additional official native electronic adaptor which as stated before you can pick up for 62-64 quid. It would certainly save on having to swap out lenses as well as allow for faster ready to shoot preparation whilst on the go if nothing else. But...

…it has a touch screen!

What does this mean? It means that you don't have to screw about when using lenses that have an electronically controlled  focus control system with no direct mechanical means (even when shooting in manual) such as with STM lenses. STM lenses are actually quite responsive, however they feel a little cumbersome and not quite as hands on in terms of responsiveness compared with legacy lenses that have true mechanical full manual override that don't require electrically powered motors to function whilst in manual focusing mode. The use of touch screen and a direct touch to focus system gets round the problem of a slow, buggy, and/or confused auto-focus systems when the camera is left deciding/guessing what the user wants to focus on in the field of view. (also referred to as focus hunt or bounce). 

Obviously its not a speed shooter with maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 and maximum frame burst rate of 4.3 per second RAW (6 RAW frame buffer capacity)if you're working with RAW. However on the JPG only front  it's much more impressive figures wise at 17 JPG per second continuous full res. Then again none of the entry level and mid range DSLR's are really speed monsters on the RAW picture stills front. 

I've never actually used an EOS-M, but I'd hope it has a decent screen that has a large viewing angle which displays well on sunny days in order to compensate for the lack of articulating screen for all those more creative and quirky none standing height eye level snaps.

When the EOS-M was first released it was seriously slammed for having issues with slow auto focus and relatively poor low light performance when compared with the Sony range of NEX cameras as it was put out at a price vastly higher than the Sony NEX C3 and F3, but since then there has been a firmware update released that is said to improve things somewhat on the EOS-M in terms of auto focus performance. However its apparently still not up to Alpha NEX standards. But as mentioned before, what does it matter anyway when you're most likely going to be using the direct touch to focus feature on it via the touch screen?! (which can be used in two modes of either touch-focus-auto shutter release or touch-focus- followed by manual shutter release via the shutter release button as the users discretion once focus lock is acquired).

I'm not sure why a lot of pro shooters hate the idea of having a touch screen on pro gear with such passion, you'd almost think it undermined everything they were about or something, or maybe it's the fact that it seemingly reduces it to something that was developed as a smartphone control system in terms of the paradigm used. But generally it seems to be the most intuitive way of a implementing a direct focus system for STM lenses that don't have true mechanical manual focus override in order to maybe to quickly negate or take over from an auto focus system screwing up as far as still snaps are concerned in less than optimal lighting conditions. 

After checking out some demo's that used the native EOS-M lenses (of which there are only two, maybe 3)…

If you're coming from a Canon DSLR…

With the way they've got it gimped, it's MUCH faster than using the live view mode for taking still snaps on a DSLR when using native M lenses, but its hardly a touch on the kinds of vastly more rapid speeds that you'd get in none live view mode with a Canon DSLR using the OVF in combo with legacy lenses. The EOS-M 2.0.2 firmware update simply slackens the leash a tiny bit and adds more speed in terms of auto focus locks and cycle times between each shutter release for stills (again when using the native M lenses). Although I kind of think the lack of an easily accessible physical control dial for rapid instant manual adjustments of exposure (whilst not using exposure bracketing for the sake of more flexible faster movement between shutter release cycles without hitting the bracketing lock down threshold, which is especially annoying when moving between lighting conditions or on patchy cloudy days with none flash based photography, or if you don't complete the entire 3 frame exposure bracket) and rapid ISO adjustments between snaps through quick subtle movement without having to dramatically change grip and potentially mess your framing up could be more than a little bit frustrating whilst trying to use it in manual. The lack of EVF (the ideal for me personally at this stage as it gives a much more accurate rendition of how the final image will appear which an optical mirror viewfinder isn't capable of...which my current DSLR doesn't have) if not an OVF might also be a little off putting. 

Other stuff I came across: From another demo I'd seen it seems it suffers from a very long focus bounce whilst in auto focus mode between focus and shutter release with each cycle when using a legacy macro L lens via the touch to focus feature without the 2.0.2 update. Keep in mind the demo was using a macro L lens at distance from a subject, meaning it might perform differently with a different type of legacy lens. The key word there being MIGHT based on a guess since I've not seen any other demo's or personally tested it first hand with other types of legacy lenses myself. Also I've not yet managed to see any demo of how it performs post 2.0.2 firmware update with legacy lenses either. Then again you could potentially negate this by using manual focus override whilst using legacy lenses if it does still remain an issue post 2.0.2 update. (…although I think you might have vastly better luck with the newer EF-S STM lens via the legacy lens adaptor).
From many demo's, very impressive 1080P video with an array of Canon legacy lenses at it's disposal via the official adaptor beyond the already impressive video performance with the native M lenses, obviously it's not 4K but what are people expecting at the price? Auto focus tracking for video and face tracking is also fast and smooth. Beyond the built in stereo mic It even has an external stereo mic input which is even uncommon for entry level DSLR models. Let me put that into perspective, even the Canon 60D which was specifically designed with video use in mind (along with the expectant grade of photography capabilities) only has mono mic capabilities for both built in and external input. But even with the EOS M's seeming video intent its still odd that there isn't any official means of extending mobile power supply with either a battery grip or extended battery for the specific purpose of shooting video away for a tethered constant power source, meaning you'll just have to make do with stocking up on batteries for it before hand for now, which Isn't any different from what I did with compact point and shoots in the past. It's also surprising that there hasn't been any 3rd party battery grip makers. Not sure how long it lasts for video on a single charge, but for stills Canon reckon 200-230 snaps (depending on temperature) on a single charge which sounds quite close to what I'd more realistically get with a NEX F3 despite the official figure being 400 summin' for the NEX F3. 

I didn't expect high speed DSLR start up times from complete power off, but then again it would probably start up much faster than a lot of compact point and shoots. It just would have been nice for it to have had a quick start standby mode like with DSLR's, even the Sony NEX camera's have this feature. 

Beyond that It has a very sturdy stainless steel and metal magnesium alloy body construction. 

If you're coming from most generic compact point and shoots…

It's generally faster than most compacts with the added bonus of having foundation - mid level range canon DSLR image quality which is way better than the vast majority of compact point and shoot camera's (when using the native M lenses). As in DSLR image quality is perfectly achievable with it whilst allowing for the use of point and shoot like controls, and given the recent sharp price drop on the EOS-M it might be worth a go. I almost forgot that its capable of capturing RAW still image files in its OEM firmware state.  

I still don't understand why they can't put a decent LCD screen on all of these cameras (regardless of brand) given that I have a first gen GTN Samsung smartphone that has a screen that is perfectly view-able in strong sunlight for the main part without the need to switch the LCD screen into an over exaggerated display dynamic that’s way over saturated (called "sunny weather mode" on Sony NEX cameras).