A System Guide to Canon EOS M

bythom canon mirrorless

Items on same line indicate model updates. Different lines indicate varying model levels.

EOS M doesn’t have a deep history, dating back to only 2012. Moreover, Canon was clearly tentatively experimenting early on, so we only got a few cameras and lenses early on, and they were not distributed worldwide.

Today, we have a lineup of two current cameras (M5, M6), though two earlier models are still generally available (EOS M3, M10).

Body-wise, I’d say things are relatively simple: buy an EOS M5 if you want an EVF. Perhaps consider the M6 if you’re looking for a body with no EVF. The older cameras aren't up to the levels of the M5/M6.

Lenses aren’t much deeper. We have two primes, five zooms, and the ability to mount Canon EF or EF-S lenses via an optional adapter. That last bit makes the EOS M a solid candidate as a second or travel camera for a Canon DSLR user, as you can use lenses you already own on your EOS M camera. Be careful, though, as putting a big DSLR lens onto an EOS M camera tends to overwhelm it and make it front heavy.

As I write this, you don’t have a lot of choices to make, in my opinion. Here are the top three choices:

  • EOS M5 body — simply the best body Canon has made to date, and highly competitive with the other mirrorless cameras at its price point.
  • 22mm f/2 — this is a no brainer. This small 35mm equivalent lens makes for a really small camera/lens package and is often all the lens you need.
  • 11-22mm f/4.5-5.6 — Smallish and better than expected. Provides you with a really competent wide angle zoom capability (something like 18-35mm effective).

The 28mm f/3.5 is a very interesting lens, but somewhat limited in functionality. That’s because at the 1:1.2 maximum magnification ratio you’re focused at 3.7 inches, which puts your subject right up near the front element of the lens. Indeed, that’s why Canon has put a ring light around the front element, otherwise you’d have a very hard time getting light to your close subjects. However, the 28mm f/3.5 makes a smallish normal lens that’s quite sharp and can focus closer than a normal lens usually does, which is more how I use it.

The various “kit” mid-range zooms are a mixed bunch. The original 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 is the best of the bunch, but “best” in this case is a relative word. I don’t find any of the three mid-range zooms particularly compelling over one another, so pick based on focal length needs.

The one telephoto zoom is quite decent, but also not anything overly compelling. If you need telephoto you either buy the 55-200mm EOS M lens or you use the optional mount converter to put one of your Canon DSLR lenses on the camera.

Since we’re talking about using Canon DSLR lenses, are there any that stand out on the EOS M with the adapter? Yes:

  • EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM — the 22mm f/2 EF-M option is better, but if you already have this DSLR lens, it performs nicely on the EOS M bodies.
  • EF 40mm f/2.8 STM — another really small DSLR lens that fits very well into the EOS M world via adapter. Makes for a reasonable 70mm equivalent option.
  • EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM — the 28mm EOS M macro is just a bit too short of focal length to be fully useful if you’re seeking 1:1 levels of macroness. This is the next option up for an EOS M user.
  • EF 85mm f/1.8 or 100mm f/2 USM — focus performance drops a bit, but these make EOS M-sized 140mm and 170mm effective lenses.

The good news is that Canon has standardized on their DSLR accessories for the M series. So the remote control, the optional Speedlites, even the Rebel DSLR battery are all what the EOS M5 uses. Canon DSLR shooters will find that some of their accessories work just fine in the EOS M world.

The EOS M system is just now starting to expand and offer more options. I suspect in 2017 onward we’ll see a lot more happening in the EOS M world, and I’ll have to update this article often.

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