Canon hasn’t exactly made waves in the compact system camera market, not having released anything in Europe since the original EOS M in 2012. The M2 was limited to Japan too, meaning there was nothing outside of the company’s DSLR range in terms of interchangeable lenses. That changed earlier this month when Canon revealed the EOS M3, a major upgrade over the original model.
The EOS M’s major undoing was its woeful AF performance, but Canon says the M3 is up to six times faster. It was certainly rapid during our hands-on time with the camera at the Photography Show in Birmingham this weekend, locking and re-locking focus with the speed we would expect from a high-end CSC. With that concern out of the way, we can move onto more headline-worthy specs: inside the camera a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor is capable of ISO 100-12,800 shooting, extendable to ISO 25,600, while the Hybrid CMOS III autofocus system provides 49 AF points across a 384-zone metering system.
That’s essentially on par with some of Canon’s entry-level digital SLRs, and the refined design means controls and usability give the larger cameras a run for their money too. A chunky grip on one side gives you something to hold onto firmly while still putting the important controls within easy reach. A command dial, dual control dials, and a touchscreen mean all the important settings are easily accessed. It feels like a premium product too, with none of the cheap plastics we remember from the original EOS M.
There’s no electronic viewfinder, which may disappoint some. The way you hold the camera made us raise it to our eye on more than one occasion, so an optional external EVF may be a must-have addition for enthusiast photographers. You can also use the standard hot shoe mount to add a more powerful flash if the built-in one isn’t strong enough. It can be tilted, however, to bounce light when shooting indoors.
The 3in display tilts both upwards and downwards, for up to 180-degree shooting – essentially the ideal selfie situation. It’s an unavoidable fact of life that manufacturers have to add these modes in order to appeal to the smartphone crowd, but they can at least prove useful for creative shooting if the idea of selfies sends you batty.
Despite the compact dimensions, Canon has still found room for integrated Wi-Fi and NFC for quick smartphone pairing. The companion app lets you transfer photos from camera to phone, upload directly to social networks, or control the shutter remotely.
In addition to compatibility with the 11-22mm f/4-5.6, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, 55-200mm f.4.5-6.3 and 22mm f/2 prime EF-M lenses, Canon expects a significant number of users to invest in an EF adapter and use their existing EF lenses. That would certainly give it an advantage over the likes of Sony, Fuji and Samsung in terms of lens variety, particularly if you’re already invested in the Canon ecosystem.
Video isn’t exactly the focus for the M3, but support is still fairly reasonable, with touch AF support for quick, quiet refocusing and Full HD video recording at up to 30fps.
The EOS M3 is a revelation compared to the original EOS M. Canon has clearly focused on what the EOS M struggled with and the result is a much more user-friendly camera. It feels very similar to some of Canon’s premium compacts, but the addition of interchangeable lenses could be a turning point for customers. We’ll have to wait to see final image quality samples and deliver a final verdict, but we’re excited to put it up against the Micro Four Thirds and CSC competition.
Canon customers that are eager for a competent CSC won’t have long to wait; the EOS M3 will be arriving in the UK from April with a bundled 18-55mm kit lens, with prices expected to start around £650. We’ll be taking a closer look in order to bring you a full review nearer the official launch.