Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Review: Canon Eos M - Part One

Actually its more of a 'first impressions' as I have only had the camera for a few days.

And its much better than I expected...

Read part one of my review.

NB : My new review of the 'Eos 6D, Two weeks in Cape Town' is now up here at: http://thelazytravelphotographer.blogspot.com/2014/01/my-canon-eos-6d-review-part-1-image.html  

































Why?

Since its launch the Eos M has been lambasted in the press for it slow AF. For that reason and also the relatively high price I have not given the camera much thought, but recently the prices for Eos M kits have been marked down considerably. This price reduction and the fact that it will integrate seamlessly with the rest of my Canon kit, made me give the Eos M a closer look. I was hoping for an inexpensive backup camera that's small enough not to take up extra space in my camera bag, but also has good enough quality to keep up with my 5Dmk2. I phoned around and found a dealer that had a kit in stock. I immediately got into my car and drove over to have a look...

Initial impressions were favourable and throwing caution to the wind, I bought the Eos M kit that included the 22mm Ef-M F2 lens, mount adapter for EF to Eos M and  the 90ex speedlite flash that can also work as a 'master' to control my other Canon Speedlites. The price I paid was R6300-00/USD700(considerably less than anything else...  the Leica X1 retails for R24000-00/USD2600! )

I also have two shift lenses a 24mm and 50mm. Having an aps-c size body will give me two extra focal lengths of 38mm and 80mm respectively. As these two lenses are both MF there is no AF to worry about! I am also hoping that the18mp sensor is also much closer in quality to my Eos 5Dmk2, than my existing 'backup', a Eos 40D. And I can clean my sensor.... doesn't sound like a big deal but with my Leica X1 it has to go back to the factory for a sensor clean!

The thing is that with these small cameras there are always advantages and disadvantages. With the disadvantages one just has to find a way to work around them. The Leica X1 also has slow focus,  I think it might even be slower than the Eos M,  but I learned to work around this and eventually the slow AF was no excuse!


The Eos M with a Optical viewfinder from Leica made for the Leica X1 camera. Works just perfectly on the Eos M and the Ef M 22mm F2 lens.



Auto Focus.

So lets first start with the main point of concern, the AF.

There are three different ways to do Af..

1. Face recognition + Tracking
2. FlexiZone - Multi
3. FleziZone - Single

So in the short time that I have had the Eos M I have found that the workflow described below works for me. Of course this may change as I get to know the camera better...

When I use the optical viewfinder (OVF) I use the 'Flexizone Multi' in the 'Scene Intelligent' auto setting. Because there is no indication in the OVF where the focus point is I need something that will find focus on a larger area. The FlexiZone Multi covers the whole area of the image and it will find some point to focus on. Outdoors in bright light it is quick enough. There is a slight hesitation, about .5 sec and then the beeper lets me know it has acquired focus. Shutter release is instantaneous.

The fastest focus so far seems to be with the Flexizone -Single. Here I can also move the focus point around by merely tapping the screen and it works well. The problem with using the single focus point with the OVF is that when my nose touches the screen the focus point moves away from the the center, and its better to use the Fexizone - Multi. 

Another way is to use face recognition with the OVF. Sometimes its fast but sometimes its very slow to find the face...

Of course when I don't use the OVF, which is more than I would like to admit, then any and all of the above work. The trick is to find which settings work faster, bt that i will only find out with more practice. 

What doesn't work is to press the shutter all the way down, in other words, focus and shutter release all at once...that does seem to confuse the camera and the whole process can take a very long time whilst one wonders what is happening....first pre-focus and then when you hear the focus confirmation 'beep', press the shutter,  this is also  the way I use my Eos5d2 and I have never really used a camera any other way.

In the few days that I have had the camera the focus has not been much of a limiting factor for the type of photography that I do. 
The Leica OVF costs half as much as the whole Eos M kit put together.! Unfortunately the Leica is only plastic as opposed to the solid metal body and lens of the Eos M



Body.

The body is surprisingly small even with the lens attached. It feels very solid and I am sure it will  survive a fall, not that I will ever test it! It is heavier than it looks which contributes to the feeling of 'solidness'.


The grip, imo, is not quite adequate and I think the grip was sacrificed for size.  I use a strap around my neck all the time so it is secure. In any case I always use two hands even with this tiny camera...but it will be nice if some third party manufacturer can make a small grip for the Eos M. 

As an old timer I wish it had more direct control buttons, but I realize that the camera was probably not aimed at me...not sure why because it makes a lot of sense as a backup camera for the type of photography that I do, which involves a lot of tripod work and slow exposures.



Eos M with Adapter and 40mm pancake. The lenshood from the Ef 50mm f1.8 fits perfectly on the pancake with no vignetting.



Screen.

This is my first touch screen camera and I am still getting used to it, but its detailed enough to focus manually without 'focus peaking'.  Of course hand holding the camera without an I/S lens and trying to MF at the same is impractical. It also feels that the shutter is less responsive in MF mode. Touch focusing also works surprisingly well and the screen is very quick and responsive in this regard. Having used the touch screen only for a few days I actually wish my 5Dmk2 also had something similar as an option...its definitely much easier and faster than using the joystick when in Live view. Touchscreen, like live view are great features to have and once used the initial aversion fades away...

Menu.

I must be getting old but I do find the menu, contrary to other reports, not all that intuitive. It took me a while to figure out where some basic functions are and even now after a few days it still takes quite long to locate something like 'touch shutter'. There is just so many many functions than I will never use. I must just get to know the essential ones and where to find them.... easier said than done....

Once its set up though, access to important functions like aperture, exposure compensation and ISO is just one turn of the quick control dial away. I shoot 95% aperture priority, and its very easy to select and change,  and the other often used settings like exposure compensation and ISO are also both on hand, just on click away...



Less is More. Canon should really rethink their Camera branding! The camera is way too cluttered with white lettering and logos! The 40mm pancake is probably the most 'natural' Ef lens to fit on the Eos M as its small size compliments the Eos M well...Adapter feels solid.



Lens.

I have only the one dedicated lens for this camera, the  Ef-M 22mm F2. It is tiny with, interestingly, a concave front element. The front element is very small for an F2 lens and its only about a centimeter in diameter. The fact that it is concave and so small means my fingers cant brush against it accidentally and thus it stays cleaner. By comparison my Leica X1's f2.8 lens front element is about twice the size! I really don't have much need for F2, I am more a F4-F8 person but the lens seems sharp at all apertures although I haven't done a thorough test yet. There is quite a bit of CA but it is easy enough to fix via LR4 or DPP, as is the vignetting. 

I normally use LR4 because its just so easy and the quality is superb, but with the Eos M, I have been experimenting with the Digital Lens Optimizer setting that is a very sophisticated tools that corrects for Distortion, CA, Vignetting and the loss of Sharpness from the anti aliasing filter of the camera. An unexpected advantage is that after processing a file with the Digital Lens Optimizer function, the image needs very little sharpening afterwards. ( Digital Lens Optimizer is found in DPP the free Canon software included in the box ) But it is early days and I am still searching for the optimum workflow.... 

Canon Ef- M 22mm f2 lens.ISO 800 f5.6 and 1/90. Focused on chest. available light indoors. Made a nice'n sharp, nose to the paper, 14 x20 inch print...

Tight crop to show image quality at 800iso. Of course it looks much better as a full size tiff file!


Sensor.

So far I am happy with the sensor in that it has good highlight recovery and even the shadows can be pushed a bit. There is definitely some noise in the shadows, like all high megapixel Canons seem to have nowadays but if the shadows are pushed moderately the noise can easily be reduced or eliminated completely. One has to be careful with the luminance and noise reduction otherwise the files can  look very 'digital'. This is my first experience with a high megapixel aps-c Canon sensor, my previous cameras with these smaller sensors were the 20D and 40D, both which have very clean files and virtually noiseless shadows.  But I am still learning how to process these temperamental files. Iso 800 is good and I will use it when needed. I have not tested the higher iso's yet.


ISO 800 F5.6 and 1/60sec. Canon Ef-M 22mm F2 lens. Available light indoors. Used  bleach bypass setting on Nik Colour Efex. Crop below as is from camera...

Tight crop to show image quality at 800 iso and shallow depth of field even at F5.6!



Colour.

I am usually not too worried about colour accuracy, because I usually reduce the saturation and increase the micro contrast, which messes up the 'perfect' colour, but all the reviews state that its fine, and that's all I need to know. I only shoot RAW and thus I can fix everything in post. My usual camera settings are Adobe RGB, daylight and neutral colour . I very seldom use auto white balance, partly because I can neutralize my RAW files in LR4 but also so that I can see what the original lighting looked like...who wants perfectly neutral colour all the time? If I really want accurate colour then I include a QP Card in the scene.

Conclusion.

so far the Eos M has exceeded my expectations! The AF is definitely not as bad as what I expected and not a deal breaker for me. But I suppose having come from the Leica X1 that also has notoriously slow focus, even just a small improvement was welcome! 

I get the impression though that the Eos M is targeted at the younger 'smartphone' set....people that don't really need to know the craft of photography but just want a cool looking point and shoot that can do it all without input from the owner. But if you dig deeper into the sometimes confusion menu then everything that a photographer need can be found. Its just that I sometimes get the feeling that this camera was not designed by a photographer, but by a committee that had a checklist to complete...the Leica X1 designers knew they had a slow AF camera but they gave us a smart 'Zone Focus'  to compensate whereas the Eos M designers also knew they had a slow AF camera but they hoped we wouldn't notice....

Likes so far

Price
Build quality
Ef M 22mm f2 lens quality
Integration with rest of my Canon system

Dislikes

Menu 
AF can hunt sometimes for no apparent reason
No way to set Zone Focus
Short battery life 

Some more images and info...





This image made at f11 and 800iso. F11 on the Ef M 22mm lens is perfectly useable...


The Eos M can even capture some action! It even managed to focus on my Boxers leg...but don't ask me to repeat it, .....yet.


Ef-m 22mm lens. F5.6 1/180sec  Evaluative metering. + 1/2 stop. Flexizone Multi focusing


Ef- M 22mm lens. Ff8 1/250sec. Evaluative metering +1/2 stop.FlexiZone -  Multi focus

My office at noon..Eos M and 17-40L lens at f8, 100iso, 1/200 sec.  I triggered two Speedlights inside my office to lift shadows.  





Regards, Ivan

Please also have a look at my portfolio here at . . .http://ivanmuller.zenfolio.com/