By: Liza Gershman
January 25, 2018
I’ve been an SLR (and later DSLR) user for more than twenty years, and was skeptical about using a mirrorless camera when asked to give the M100 a try. Like many DSLR users, I have become accustomed to the durability that my “big” camera provides, and I know that I can rely on it for nearly any occasion and any shooting condition that presents itself.
So, I took the M100 on the ultimate road trip through the Middle East to see if it could measure up, and much to my pleasant surprise, by the end of the travels, I had left my “big” camera in the safe at the hotel, and found myself using the M100 all day.
Highlights of the M100:
- Compact and lightweight design
- Interchangeable lenses
- RAW image capture available
- HD 1080p video
- Manual and other controls
- Built-in Wi-Fi©, NFC and Bluetooth
- Beautiful image quality, even at night
- Easy to use
- Touchscreen focusing
As a seasoned travel photographer (51 countries under my hat), I really rely on gear that works, and am often dependent on only one body when I set out for a difficult shoot.
Gear can greatly weigh me down, and the ability to be discreet absolutely plays a part in my decision on what goes with me, and what stays in the hotel. I wasn’t afraid of getting robbed, and didn’t feel like I was flaunting my ability to have a camera in the faces of those who cannot even afford clean water.
The compact and lightweight design of the M100 is exceptional. On my 5’3” frame, I never tired while carrying this camera around. Even when I needed to tuck the camera away into my day bag, I was still as discreet as I could be, without cumbersome gear around my neck (which can draw too much unwanted attention and can add an element of danger in certain places around the globe).
The M100 and interchangeable lenses are very light. Carrying the body and two lenses with me was roughly the same weight as my DSLR with one lens. The wide-angle, telephoto, and macro choices from the EF-M line of lenses gave me such versatility and I never worried about missing a shot. In the stalls of markets the wide-angle was perfect, allowing me to photograph the dangling fabrics, muddied floors, spice merchants and more.
I used the telephoto zoom for portraiture, and when I was on camelback the little body and lens let me capture the Great Pyramids as if I had a tripod and DSLR set up the way I might have photographed them before. In case you are wondering, you really cannot carry a tripod successfully on the back of a camel!
The 18-55mm lens was my perfect companion when I wanted to photograph night scenes, and the Bedouin Camp in the Sahara desert was such a memorable place to experiment with the camera and lens. With only light from a few torches and the full moon above, I was able to capture expressions on everyone around. The range of luminosity on the camera was stellar, and the images came out very clear with little to no digital noise. This was the moment that converted me and made me fall in love with the M100. If you need a bit of extra light, the camera has a pop-up flash easily at hand.
Of course as a professional it is so important to have the ability to shoot in RAW, and again this little magic camera impressed me there too.
Autofocus on the M100 is surprisingly fast, which is so important on any camera to ensure that you never miss a shot. Floating down the Nile, boys lasso the board in their canoes and sell goods to passengers aboard. I’ve never seen anything like this, and with the help from the quick autofocus on the camera I was able to capture the moment that quickly floated by.
The ability to use Manual and other controls is an added value, and another reason why leaving the “big” camera in the room and using the M100 instead worked for this sort of trip. Control is everything in an image, and with RAW and Manual you can get every shot that you want.
Ability to shoot in RAW is so crucial to me. Having grown up in the darkroom, I learned to "expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights" when I studied Ansel Adams’ tried and true film technique, the Zone System. Now, most digital photographers expose for highlights and develop for the shadows. Travel photography still looks so much richer when you use the original method. Information in the shadows is so crucial to telling a story of a place that really doesn’t have much electrical influence (i.e. no city lights, narrow passageways, dark corridors in ancient cities). The M100 allows for this and has an exceptional range for shadow photography.
Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth are perfect for instant backup when I’m traveling in far lands, and the quality of transfer on the camera is beyond the smartphone, but easy to use like smartphone technology, with the help of a touchscreen and touch menu as well. Additionally, the M100 has incredibly easy physical controls, and touchscreen focusing that allows you to quickly manipulate settings onscreen in Auto mode when you are on the move. Again, this saved me on the bumpy camel time and time again. The minimal buttons make the camera so easy to use if you aren’t a gear head, and even if you are, the touchscreen menu items on the back make everything easy and fast to find.
The camera has the same size sensor as the EOS 7D Mark II – as good as mid-range DSLRs and far better than smartphones, and its Autofocus system helps to track moving subjects and faces, so it is exceptionally easy to photograph people (or animals, or even sports) as you are on the go.
One review says, “The M100 is aimed squarely at smartphone photographers looking to get their first 'real' camera, and its polished touch-centric control scheme reflects this. It's small, it's light, and because of the large APS-C sensor, is almost always capable of better photos than any smartphone. Appropriately given the target audience, there's even a dedicated 'Wireless' button to make it as easy as possible to get your images from the M100 to the wilds of Facebook and Instagram.” Even as a long-time professional, I fell in love with this camera for my traveling needs.
The Middle East is such a mystery, with dimly lit spaces, wide scenes, and textures galore. It is filled with compact areas, where one can overwhelm others if taking out too much gear. Sometimes it is best to put the camera away and just be part of the moment. With the M100, I could rely on “auto” mode for a quick shot, and then continue to stare in awe at whatever marvel lay in front of me.
Also, I wasn’t holding up my travel companion fidgeting with excess gear or exposures, which as you know is usually part of the experience traveling with a high-end DSLR.
The M100 has a moveable LCD screen, which lets you take that perfect selfie in front of the Great Pyramids, and trust me, you WANT that shot. The M100 is again perfect for travel!
With 24 megapixels (incredible!!), images from the M100 could certainly be used for a website, that great travel blog, or even a large print.
Another bonus? Online you can find a series of fun colorful grips to add some personal style to the camera, and that makes it even more fun to use.
All in all, I love the M100 and couldn’t really imagine traveling without it as an essential part of my job.