The Curious Case of the Canon EOS M

3 Ninjas-1The Canon EOS M.  The manufacturer’s first foray into a mirrorless world dominated by Fuji is largely considered an abysmal failure commercially.  BUT. This little gem went UP in value after it was discontinued.

Why?

After its maker gave up on it, retailers started slashing prices heftily, almost giving them away. Then something odd happened…a camera that was yesterday $600 was now only $300, then $250, and finally dropping as low as $150 for the body only some places. People started to take note, and find a use for them.

Here’s the thing. In my opinion, the EOS M is a terrible camera. The original auto-focus is atrocious – this has been fixed with version 2.2 of the firmware. Much snappier now. Secondly, it’s probably the most poorly designed body ever conceived. There’s simply NO WAY to hold the tiny thing.  If I try to hold it like a normal camera, the palm of my hand presses all the buttons on the back. It’s no wonder this thing flopped.

Which is a damn shame because while it’s perhaps the worst camera in the world, the EOS M is the best damn lens accessory I’ve ever seen.

3 Ninjas-2Here’s the beauty of the M. Inside the infuriatingly unfriendly body is an 18mp sensor with a DIGIC 5 processor – same sensor as the 60D with the processor being one generation better. The body is only 9 ounces.  It has a brilliant 3″ touchscreen on the back that can control everything. The video it shoots is absolutely gorgeous.

So what you do is this…you get the adapter ring to put EF/EF-S lenses on the M. Then you mount the M to a tripod or some other video rig.  Problem solved, advantage gained. Lightweight, agile, and cheap.

The most horrible part of the M as a camera – the too small to hold size – becomes an asset when you aren’t actually holding it.  When you’re using the M as a video back mounted in a rig, everything changes.  The large touch screen on the back makes a great monitor and allows for one to easily adjust settings and literally touch exactly where you want the camera to focus – though be sure to turn AF SERVO off, it’s incredibly annoying.

At $150 for the body, $60 for the Vello adapter, with the image quality of its big brothers, the M became the best choice for a video back in the DSLR filmmaking market.  I originally bought it to use as a second camera.  A back to put on the luscious glass sitting in my bag while the primary camera was recording. Something to make use of good lenses and get another angle in the process. Something that didn’t add much weight when slipped in an already full camera bag.

Instead, now it’s become my main video set up, and I own three Ms to cover my filmmaking needs.

It’s all about proper technique and using a little thought to overcome the problems of the M to bring out its true strength. Beautiful video from a lightweight, agile, mobile body.

That being said, there are a couple more things to watch out for.

1) Dust. Dust is ever the enemy of camera gear, the M is especially susceptible to dust as there is no mirror to protect the sensor when changing lenses. Be careful and carry a blower. Check your footage regularly.

2) Battery life. It’s horrible. I get maybe 90min-120min of runtime out of one charge. That crisp LCD screen is on all the time, sucking down juice.  Have some spare batteries.

3) White Balance & ISO. Unfortunately the M lacks fine white balance controls out of the box, you can’t dial in the color temp, only set to the defaults. It also lacks fine ISO adjustments, only your standard stops.  To get more control, you have to use Magic Lantern.

All in all, the EOS M is a handy little back when used properly. The value of it comes from its being undervalued though. It’s a strange creature. Now that people have taken notice of it, you can hardly find them.  If you see one for under $300, grab it.  That’s the top end of what it’s worth though.  More than that and you’re better off sacrificing the slight weight increase for the finer control of a used DSLR.

Here are some samples of the results.

Cutting the Stitches: The Scarecrow Speaks

Let’em Live Upstate

Silent Soul – Neil Lee Griffin

 

It’s not about the size of your camera, it’s about how you use it.

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