What Do You Want to See in the EOS M System?

Canon EOS M3


I haven’t posted much here recently for two reasons: 1) I’ve been having too much fun with our now 14 month-old baby; 2) when not hanging out with the baby I have been shooting as much photography as possible.

Recently on Canon Rumors a thread was started which posed the question: What do you want to see in the EOS M system? I have been a fan of the EOS M system from the beginning, so here are my answers to this question.

I bought the EOS M as soon as it became available and the M3 as well. I have all the EF-M lenses and a half dozen EF L and non-L lenses as well (macro, fisheye, long zoom, etc.) Canon was running a deal when I got the M3 where they were giving away a free EF to EF-M adaptor, so that was nice (now I have two to play with). Anyway, I’ve given this topic a lot of thought.

Canon’s APS-C EOS M Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera System

What I like about the current system, and want to see in any future M body:

  • small, light, portable (the M3 is definitely easier to hold and operate than the M1 was, especially with EF lenses attached)
  • good enough image quality for the size — never had any complaints
  • small, high-quality EF-M lenses with the option to use other EF lenses for specific purposes
  • tilting touchscreen (fully articulated would be better)
  • tilting EVF (I do a lot of landscape work and this is great for low angle or even chest-level shooting)
  • ability to use older FD lenses via a glassless adaptor just for fun
  • seeing the exact same thing on the EVF and touchscreen
  • Wifi (getting images off for quick sharing without a computer, and been using Cascable to do timelapses recently)

What I don’t like about the M3:

  • the EVF contacts in the hotshoe broke support for the GP-E2 GPS receiver (doesn’t even work attached via USB). I geotag everything I shoot outside, but now I have to use tracks from my Garmin watch.
  • button function assignment is not as flexible as it should be
  • not all menu items are saved in the Custom shooting mode, making it pretty useless
  • autofocus while zoomed in always switches the display to a zoomed out view
  • a lot of other nit-picky things, but I can live with them (no camera is perfect)

I travel a lot and spend a lot of time hiking/skiing or in the back-country on extended trips. I would never carry an SLR body. If weight/space is really an issue I might carry only a G7X, but ideally I carry the M3 with a few EF-M lenses, depending what I expect to encounter. For dedicated shooting days I throw in whatever EF lenses I need as well. I have no problem with the bulk of EF and the adaptor on the M3, but I wish AF performance was better.

I think the original question could be a bit broader, as I consider the M-system and a full Canon mirrorless strategy to be two different things.

For the M-system I would like to see the following in the next body (which might be a higher end M in addition to the M3 and M10):

  • built-in EVF, but still with a 90° up-tilt (can sacrifice the built-in flash if necessary, but EVF centred over lens is better for balance)
  • built-in GPS or support for the GP-E2 (but built-in might kill the battery, so this is optional)
  • very slightly larger body or at least slightly different back button layout (my palm often hits the menu button accidentally)
  • vertical grip option with support for two batteries
  • use the same battery size as M3, please
  • more pronounced back focus button (I use back button focus about 90% of the time and the one I can assign on the M3 is hard to locate by touch, especially with gloves)
  • better than 4 frames RAW buffer (unlimited would be ideal)
  • better than 4 frames per second continuous shooting (7 frames would be better)
  • way faster autofocus

Full-frame Canon Mirrorless System

I think there needs to be a larger sensor mirrorless option in addition to the APS-C bodies. I don’t think the EF-M mount can be used with a 36×24 full-frame sensor (based on my measurements), but it could support an APS-H sensor (1.5x the area of APS-C) which would be acceptable in a body the size of the M3 (not sure the current EF-M lenses project a large enough image circle to cover APS-H though). (Canon actually just announced a 250 megapixel APS-H sensor, so we know they are working on this size.) When Canon introduces a full-frame mirrorless body, it probably won’t be in the M series and it probably won’t have an EF-M mount.

I would still be very interested in a full-frame Canon mirrorless system as a compliment to the compact and portable M-system. The market leader here is obviously the Sony A7 series, so really Canon just needs to be competitive with those bodies.

Full-frame sensor body wish list.

  • Take all the advantages of any of the 1Dx or 5D bodies and remove the mirror, use an EVF, and that ought to about do it.
  • EF-M mount, if possible, otherwise standard EF mount
  • If a new mount with a smaller back flange distance than EF and a larger diameter than the EF-M mount is introduced, then it better support EF lenses at full-speed via an adaptor (Canon seems to be going fast and furious on the EF lens upgrade front so I’m not too worried about this one. I would actually be shocked if a third mount was introduced, but the EF mirror box space is such a waste).

Autofocus seems to be the sticking point technology-wise. Getting mirrorless autofocus to be as fast as an SLR, even in low light and with fast moving subjects will be the Holy Grail. Reduce blackout times as well and SLRs will lose almost any advantage. There are times when an optical view-finder has advantages, but for 99% of my shooting, an accurate EVF and Live View are more useable.

Why Mirrorless?

Some people ask, why make a mirrorless camera that just replicates the best of what SLRs already do (and have been doing for a long time)? The inverse question is the answer: why, if you could build a digital sensor mirrorless body with all the features of current SLRs (minus OVF) would you bother making a body with a mirror box and all the mechanics, noise, vibration, size, etc., that come with it? DSLRs only have mirrors because film SLRs had them, no other reason. Its time to move on.