By: Rudy Winston
February 14, 2017
Canon has been aggressively working to broaden the line of compact, “mirrorless” interchangeable lens cameras during 2016 and 2017. What started as one model has grown into a distinct and appealing lineup of three primary cameras, targeting different users but sharing many common features. The newest addition is the EOS M6, a solid, 24.2 megapixel camera which targets both the current DSLR enthusiast owner (who may be looking for a smaller, interchangeable-lens backup system to his or her primary DSLRs), as well as the new user who may be stepping up to their first interchangeable lens camera. In this brief overview, we’ll review the EOS M-series line, to bring clarity to this camera line and to point potential users in the right direction.
What’s the primary difference between the M-series and conventional EOS digital SLRs?
This may be as good a place as any to begin. The primary starting point is size and weight. Until now, stepping up to an interchangeable lens camera in the Canon line meant a traditional EOS digital SLR. While these models continue to enjoy broad popularity and of course remain the foundation of the Canon EOS system, there’s no getting around the fact that even the compact and lightweight EOS Rebel line means a camera and lens with substantial size. Step up to a mid-range or higher-spec EOS DSLR, and you add weight and even more size.
A camera like the new-for-2017 EOS M6, for instance, weighs literally half (or less!) of what a full-frame EOS DSLR weighs, and is noticeably smaller as well. And, the camera’s dedicated EF-M lenses are significantly smaller than traditional Canon EF or EF-S lenses too.
This portability can be an asset to any category of potential customer, from the casual amateur stepping up from using a smartphone, to the seasoned enthusiast or even working pro looking for a compact system for travel.
One important fact to keep in mind: All current EOS M-series models use Canon CMOS imaging sensors which are APS-C size — the same size as the sensor in cameras like Canon’s popular EOS 80D or EOS 7D Mark II models. So users can expect image quality similar to what most of Canon’s traditional digital SLRs deliver, including noise levels at high ISOs, and so on.
What about lenses?
The key appeal of the EOS M-series models is lens interchangeability — which clearly separates these cameras from compact digital cameras (such as Canon’s popular PowerShot line), and most assuredly is a complete door-opener when compared to using devices like smartphones for picture-taking.
EOS M-series cameras can work with interchangeable lenses in two ways:
- Use Canon’s dedicated, compact EF-M lenses
As of early 2017, there are seven lenses in the EF-M lens lineup, all of which share super-compact design for a very integrated shooting experience with any of these cameras.
- Use existing Canon EF or EF-S lenses, which the current EOS digital SLR owner may now own
Via an optional Canon Mount Adapter EF–EOS M, any Canon EF, EF-S, and even special-purpose TS-E and MP-E lens can be attached to the compact EOS-M cameras. This greatly expands the potential versatility, not only to experienced users who already own EOS DSLRs, but to newcomers who may want or need lenses beyond those in the super-compact EF-M lens line.
Three EOS M cameras, targeting different potential users
With the 2017 introduction of the EOS M6 model, the line takes on a coherent and easily-understood presence in the camera marketplace. The three models, in order of cost and sophistication, are as follows:
- EOS M10 — entry-level model
Super-compact, this is the stepping-stone into an interchangeable lens system. The design clearly targets the customer who will primarily rely on automatic operation. Using the large LCD monitor as the viewfinder will make first-time users, stepping up from smartphones, completely at home. The camera can shoot over 4 frames per second, has a robust AF system, and with the same size CMOS imaging sensor as many Canon EOS digital SLRs, will produce image quality vastly superior to smartphones and most pocket cameras that don’t have interchangeable lenses.
- EOS M6 — advanced yet ultra-compact model
Like the EOS M10, this camera gains much of its compactness by relying on the large, tilting LCD monitor as its primary viewfinder. But unlike its less-expensive M10 brother, the M6 has a full suite of control dials and inputs for the user who wants or needs photographic control at his or her fingertips. Four primary input dials adorn the right side of the camera, allowing the same level of control users may have felt at home with when using traditional mid-range and even high-end EOS digital SLRs. And, if Live View shooting isn’t always your cup of tea, there’s a very compact new accessory electronic eye-level viewfinder, the EVF-DC2, available as an option.
Autofocus on the EOS M6 is with Canon’s superb Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology, reading focus off the 24.2 million pixel image sensor — but unlike competitive systems, using every pixel on the sensor for both AF and image-gathering. Smooth, flexible AF is the result, whether for stationary subjects, following moving subjects, and especially during Full HD video recording.
- EOS M5 — advanced model with built-in eye-level, electronic viewfinder
EOS M5 can be considered the top of the current EOS M-series line, as of early 2017. The primary distinction between the M5 and the more compact M6 is the M5’s built-in eye-level, electronic viewfinder. This adds some additional size to the M5 camera, but at the same time provides an integrated eye-level viewing alternative for viewing during both still image and video shooting. Like the M6, it’s a 24.2 million pixel camera, with an APS-C size imaging sensor (same size as many current EOS DSLRs, like the EOS 7D Mark II, EOS 80D, and so on).
Performance on the M5 and M6 is brisk at up to 7 fps with continuous Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus — even when shooting full-resolution RAW images. Again, extensive user control is possible, making the M5 an excellent step-up camera for first-time interchangeable lens customers who want something beyond an entry-level camera. And, it likewise makes the EOS M5 a great choice as a second camera system for the SLR enthusiast who wants a more compact alternative for some of their photography, especially if they prefer to use an eye-level viewfinder for most of their work.
The EF-M lens series
The promise of interchangeable lenses is met with Canon’s line of dedicated EF-M lenses for any of the M-series camera models. Designed with integrated handling and compactness in mind, the EF-M lenses (as of early 2017) share the same outer diameter, making the tactile experience of working with camera and lens very consistent when one lens is changed for another.
Here are the seven Canon EF-M lenses currently available, as of early 2017:
EF-M 15–45mm f/3.5–6.3 IS STM
The standard lens in the EF-M line, equivalent to a 24–72mm lens’ coverage on a full-frame camera. Very compact, with optical Image Stabilization, and super-smooth STM focus motor for AF.
EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5–5.6 IS STM
An alternative standard zoom, with longer 55mm coverage (equivalent to 88mm on a full-frame camera). Slightly larger than the EF-M 15–45mm lens.
EF-M 18–150mm f/3.5–6.3 IS STM
Long range, “one lens fits all” answer for customers wanting extensive zoom coverage in a single lens package. Equivalent to a 28–240mm lens on a full-frame camera, this single lens can be an excellent companion for travel and a multitude of other tasks. It likewise offers both optical Image Stabilization — extending its usefulness in low-light situations — and Canon’s smooth STM AF motor, which is especially valuable for focus during video recording.
EF-M 55–200mm f/4.5–6.3 IS STM
The telephoto zoom in the EF-M lens line. Coverage and angle of view equivalent to an 88–320mm lens on a full-frame camera, so in a compact form-factor (again, its outer diameter is the same as the other lenses in this list!), it provides the ability to get tight shots of distant subjects.
EF-M 22mm f/2.0 STM
Here’s the first of the EF-M lenses that really targets the serious enthusiast — as well as first-time shooters who value lens compactness. Equivalent to the classic 35mm wide-angle lens (on a full-frame camera), this would be a tremendous option for traditional street shooting, as well as available-light shooting with its “fast” f/2.0 maximum lens aperture.
EF-M 11–22mm f/4–5.6 IS STM
Another lens aimed at the experienced shooter, this is the compact answer to ultra wide-angle imagery. It’s equivalent to about an 18–35mm lens on a full-frame camera, making it an outstanding lens for interiors, travel, and any application where ultra wide to conventional wide-angle coverage is desired.
EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM
One more lens, aimed at both the serious shooter, as well as entry-level users who may need true close-up capability of small objects — anything from documenting hobbies like stamp or coin collecting, to serious macro photography at up to life-size, 1:1 reproduction. It focuses to infinity, so it’s useful as a general-purpose lens as well. And perhaps its number one highlight is built-in LED ring lighting, which can make it even easier to get frontal illumination on close-up subjects.
And remember — via the optional Canon Lens Mount Adapter EF-EOS M, any Canon EF or EF-M lens for traditional EOS D-SLRs can be used, with AF and all automatic exposure operations continuing to operate normally.
Canon’s expansion into the compact, interchangeable lens category hasn’t been as rapid as some competitive brands, but the 2017 launch of the EOS M6 camera rounds out the line and gives a clearly identifiable progression of models, targeting different customer preferences. These can be very effective choices for new customers, especially younger users who until now have relied upon mobile devices like smartphones for their photography — but who realize better quality and more versatility is possible, if they step up to an interchangeable lens camera. Many of the same Wi-Fi® capabilities they’ve grown to depend on for quick image sharing continue to be possible with the EOS M-series models. And, for the more experienced photographer who simply wants a more portable alternative to their DSLRs — with similar image quality, and lens interchangeability — again, the EOS M-series has much to offer them. While in no way replacing Canon’s extensive EOS DSLR line, the EOS M10, M6, and M5 broaden the options for a wide range of potential customers, with performance, features and most of all flexibility.