Canon is probably the most reluctant maker of mirrorless cameras. Its first mirrorless interchangeable lens model was launched in October 2012, several years after Olympus and Sony. The EOS M fared so poorly that its successor, EOS M2, never reached our shores.
Now, the new EOS M3 is here.
We reviewed the black model with the EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens. The M3, which also comes in white, looks quite bulky by today's standards, especially when compared with offerings from Sony and Samsung, but its build is solid and feels great to the touch, thanks to its aluminium shell and matte finish.
A nicely contoured grip wrapped in faux leather combines with a pronounced rear thumb rest to give you a comfortable hold.
A control dial hugs the shutter release button at the top right, with a Mode and exposure compensation dials close by. At the back, lined up on the right are dedicated settings buttons (including Menu and AF point), a quick Set button and a clickable control dial. These buttons and dials, all well-positioned, combine to make for great handling.
The touchscreen display can be tilted upwards by 180 degrees for selfie lovers, and downwards by 45 degrees for overhead shots. You can tap on the screen to focus. But, even at maximum brightness, the display is difficult to see clearly when you shoot in bright sunlight.
This is where you really wish there was a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF). You can add an external EVF to use with the M3, but it will set you back another $379.
The camera starts up in 1.8sec, only slightly faster than most of its peers. Using an SDHC card with a writing speed of 25MB per second, it was able to capture six RAW images in 1.8sec before the buffer ran out.
The major pitfall of the original M was its diabolical autofocusing (AF). Thankfully, the M3 is much faster and more accurate. In bright sunlight, it snaps to focus almost instantaneously. In dim conditions, it may take up to 2.5sec. In video-recording, the M3 takes less than 2sec to get a sharp focus when panned to a new scene.
Image quality is excellent, as you might expect from a Canon APS-C image sensor. The resolution is sharp with great details visible. Colour reproduction is accurate. No image noise is visible up till ISO 3,200. It even works reasonably well at ISO 6,400, but nothing beyond that is advised.
On the downside, there is visible barrel distortion at the wide angle with the kit lens - and 4K video-recording, found in many new mirrorless cameras, is absent.
Nonetheless, full high-definition video quality is excellent with minimal pick-up of ambient audio.
At around 250 shots on a full charge, EOS M3's battery life is slightly below the mirrorless camera average of 300 shots.
Currently, there are only four native EF-M lenses. You can use an adaptor for the numerous Canon EF lenses, but then you might be better off using an EOS DSLR if you prefer EF lenses.
The EOS M3 is a good mirrorless camera - what the original M should have been. But it is three years late and still has so few lenses. One wonders if Canon is serious about the mirrorless genre.
This article was first published on May 27, 2015.
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