Taking risks, the Fujifilm X100 vs. Canon EOS M

Fujifilm FinePix X100 vs. Canon EOS M

Fujifilm FinePix X100 vs. Canon EOS M

New Flash: Canon EOS M with the 22mm pancake lens for $299. Is it worth it? Here is my analysis.

After reading some online reactions to the Canon EOS M, it seems like many people think Canon made the safe choice. The problem is safe usually means boring. And in may ways, the EOS M is a boring camera. Look at the specs and it occurred to me that this little EOS resembles another camera, which is far from boring, the Fuji X100. Yes, I know the Fuji has a neat hybrid view finder and the Canon has none and yes while the Fuji is mirrorless, it does not have interchangeable lenses. But think about this. Both cameras have APS-C sensors. And with Canon’s prime lens, both have a 35mm equivalent f2.0 optic. In theory, user interface issues aside, the two cameras should be capable of similar image quality. The Fujifilm X100, after nearly 2 years, still sells at $1200. The brand new Canon at $800. So why am I more interested in a 2-year-old camera that costs $400 more but has the same basic imaging specs? (yes, I do know that the Canon is 18MP vs 12MP for the Fuji) Simply, Fujifilm took a risk and Canon didn’t.

Here is my analysis of the EOS M and how it compares to the other mirrorless system cameras

I’m not saying taking risks is always advisable but what I am saying is that to win big, you probably need to take risks and get out of your comfort zone. Think about Fujifim for a bit. Before the X100, Fujifilm was known mainly for low-end, unremarkable point and shoot digital cameras (I’m excluding their film business for this discussion). Their sensor technology was different and they tried to stuff them in Nikon DSLR bodies but they never succeeded. With one bold stroke the X100 put them on the radar for enthusiast digital camera buffs. The X100 spawned the X10 and now the X Pro-1. In once sense, Fuji’s bold stoke reinvigorated the company and put them on a different path. The X100 is not for everyone but they certainly took a risk creating it and their bet paid off.

Let’s compare this with Canon. From the looks of it, the EOS M does not appear to excel at anything, at least on paper. Its only real advantage, it works with the EOS lenses and speedlites. Their safe choice, not taking risks, has basically created a me too product. Perhaps Canon may sell a bunch of these but most likely it will be to their existing base. I sincerely doubt it would elicit the passionate responses that the Fuji X100 receives. And because of this passion the camera still sells at the $1200 introductory price almost 2 years later.

I knock the Nikon 1 because I think it was an opportunity lost. With their reputation and technology, Nikon could have really busted the doors wide open on this mirrorless system camera market. However, to Nikon’s credit, they did come out with new technology and capability specific to their Nikon 1 series. They worked on this camera for years and made real advances in hybrid focusing technologies. Canon, by contrast, slapped existing technology taken from their Rebel T4i and put it into a compact body. It seems like Canon is not taking this market seriously. Some have suggested that they are testing the waters and will come out with a better camera if things look good. This all makes sense from a logical, bean counterish perspective but it hardly makes for an exciting product.

Comparing Fujifilm to Canon is a bit like comparing Apple to HP or Dell. The X100 looks like it came from the mind of one strong leader that was willing to make the bold choices. The EOS M, on the other hand, looks like it was designed by a committee. Apple is a company that takes design and product risks. Compare that with HP or Dell that continues to produce logical but uninspired derivative products. The PC industry has been in decline for the last couple of years and only Apple is gaining market share. Will this play out the same in the camera industry? Who knows, but I appreciate what Fujifilm is trying to do and I’m ho-hum on Canon. That’s why I’m more interested in the Fuji X100 than the EOS M.

Update: I added two more posts related to the EOS M, Of course, boring is perfectly fine and Canon quantifies creativity with the EOS M.

33 thoughts on “Taking risks, the Fujifilm X100 vs. Canon EOS M

  1. In the right hands, that small Nikon can be a powerful tool. Look at Roël, who took the 70-200mm of his D800 plus a 1.7x teleconverter, which on the V1 turned that lens into a 918mm monster. Pretty impressive. But of course, pretty much the same is possible with µ43rds… see Roël’s entry at http://roel.me/nikon-v1-and-ft1-go-to-iceland/

    1. Wolfgang, thanks for the link. Roël has some wonderful photographs and I’m sure he can make great looking images on almost any camera. Having the 2.7 crop factor does help for getting in close, though.

  2. Thanks for this is interesting piece. IMHO, I still think Canon made the most logical choice considering the situation. Better reuse whatever is already available (T4i ) technology and use their limited resources (even for Canon!) to develop native lenses and accessories (EVF?), in an attempt to catch up the m4/3 competition. In other words, their product might not be the most exciting, but it might be the most effective path to financial success.

    As a prospective buyer who is trying to upgrade from the P/S-superzooms in the next 2/3 months, I simply wonder if their native lenses selection is going to match the price/quality of what is already available on the m4/3 side, and, if it is the case, at which pace. Most likely, I will still pick a m4/3 (possibly G3, although your blog sometimes give me second thoughts), which interestingly enough, seems like a “safe choice” for a P/S upgrader with a limited budget like me.

    On a side note, the small Nikon has a really good success in the digiscoping niche. Take a look at the Jerry Jourdan (one of the top digiscoper of the country) review @ http://jerryjourdan2.blogspot.com/2012/02/digiscoping-w-new-nikon-v1-26-feb-2012.html

    1. Laurent, thanks for stopping by. Yes, I agree it is logical but is it exciting or is it good enough to be successful in the market. Let’s hope so for Canon.

  3. The X100 is a camera you keep, forever if the electronics keep going. It’s a feel. It’s glorious in your hands.It’s not for everyone. It’s a camera that sucks you in to the environment around you either as participant or voyeur. It’s a way of seeing.The EOS M is a box. If an opportunity came about to cut a deal on the X100, I would do it. For the EOS M, I am just waiting to see what fleshes out with regards to real world use. I neither love or hate the canon. It comes down here to what works and what doesn’t.

    My own personal wish – Nikon full frame plain Jane with an F mount. No menus or dials cluttered with art filters and face detection junk. Give me a few basic knobs like my old nikon film cameras. Give me one menu to set time/date and format a card. Give me one button for exposure compensation. Video – I don’t care, in fact, screw the video. Give me a manual focus option. Give me some kind of viewfinder – hell I don’t care if it’s a crappy optical tunnel view with frame lines. Yeah, I basically want a Leica M9 without the $7000 price tag.

    On the Nikon 1 – curious but I don’t know if my curiosity is enough to buy. I do like the little pink camera though and I almost pushed the button a few times on the 2 lens kit, but then there was a return to sanity 😉

    1. Libby, I agree with you. Imagine if Canon came out with that camera you wanted Nikon to make. Would it sell as many as the EOS M, may be not but it would have attracted a lot of attention and gotten a loyal following and earned more respect from the serious photographers. AND it would have not cannibalized too many sales from their current DSLR line.

      I think there is a place in the market for a simple camera. The world is increasingly complex. Simple is very inciting.

    2. That’s all i want. a simple Nikon-F that has almost no menu. Full frame. i suspect before end of year there will be a FF Nikon, at a starter price.i want to use my old lenses..the only real way right now is to go to Canon or Olympus/Panasonic. Cheap adapters but not full frame.

  4. Interesting to compare the new Canon with the X100. I’d put it closer to the X-Pro, if only for the sake of interchangeable lenses. The X100 is somewhat of a boutique camera. It doesn’t have the mass appeal of an ICL camera. To those who can work with a single focal length, it is a wonderful tool. I agree with you on Fuji taking a chance – being innovative as I talked about in my last blog about the X-Pro. They seem to be putting image quality first and at least attempting to put out a small camera geared toward photographers. They have a good thing going in the X series, although there are some rough areas. My take is that while they are focusing on building cameras for photographers above the consumer level, they are failing to get input from enough photographers before releasing product. Too much release now, fix the complaints later stuff going on. I’m expecting that the Canon will perhaps be more polished. On the whole though, Canon seems to have phoned this one in. I don’t see anything innovative in this offering.

  5. I waited and waited… I was a Nikon DSLR shooter and wanted to lighten the load. I was missing too many shots because the Nikon and it’s lenses was just too large/heavy to take with me most of the time – mirrorless was my promised land.

    I waited for Nikon to release their mirrorless. The V1 almost had me. I tried it for a month and it is small enough with blazing speed on the autofocus but the small sensor and lack of pro features/operation sunk it. I also wanted Pentax to deliver since I was an old Pentax shooter and still have manual Pentax lenses. The Q is a toy and their K-01 did not include a viewfinder. I am old… I still like to isolate a scene in viewfinder to really concentrate on the composition. And now Canon shows their offering to be lacking of any excitement other than the APS-C sensor.

    I do understand that Canon and Nikon did not design their mirrorless systems for me though. They want the P&S’ers moving up to interchangeable lens systems while protecting their DSLR sales. It is interesting watching the collision of markets/buyers and product philosophies right now.

    Olympus answered my wanting and I am extremely happy with the OM-D E-M5 and it’s prime lenses. But I am with Libby above. I also want Nikon, or Pentax, to build a barebones, digital full-frame camera. Then I would have the holy trinity of cameras: 1)iPhone 100% with me for fun photos/videos, 2)Olympus OM-D – always with me on hiking trips and business trips, 3)Full-frame – when I am out on dedicated photography trips.

    1. Agreed, Don. I think that has a lot to do with Fuji’s push for conceivably pro level mirrorless cameras. They have no fear of cannibalizing DSLR sales. Canon and Nikon, at least for now, want serious users to buy DSLRs and lenses. The rest of the products are geared towards dabbling consumers.

      1. Yeah but Mike, Fuji doesn’t have any DSLR sales to cannibalize. It is aways easier to cannibalize other people’s DSLR sales 😉

      2. The last of the Fuji DSLRs was the S5 in 2006-07, and then they quietly slipped out of going for the plethora of point & shoots and bridge type cameras. I had the Fuji S2 Nikon mount on loan and I loved that camera. I wish they would have kept up the series.

        I’ll tell you something about the Fujis – Ive been in the retouch game for a number of years (since about 1997) and a client used to send me images from a point & shoot for retouch, Usually they were promo pics, like stuff of their trade show booth. The Fuji files, even back in 2005, were the easiest to deal with, So brand quality goes a long way back. Much unlike images I used to get from the Canon Pwrshot A series, and even the first Canon Rebels, which were basically garbage.

      3. Thanks for the interesting perspective as a retoucher. I actually have an old Fuji f31fd which had legendary image quality for its time. I need to blog about that camera in the future.

  6. Exactly my point, Andy. Fuji currently doesn’t have a DSLR line to “compete” against so they seem to be willing to push for a higher end product beyond the glorified point and shoots that Nikon and Canon have produced in the mirrorless segment. That does cut into the lower and middle DSLR lines of Fuji’s competitors, which is a good thing. They are doing something truly innovative and I’m rooting them on!

    1. We are in agreement. And I’m rooting for Fujifilm too though I’m not as excited as you about the X Pro-1. That’s the challenge for Canon and Nikon. They have large profitable DSLR lines to protect and they are hamstrung by it when coming out with their mirrorless system offerings.

  7. Recently I’ve been leaning towards getting an X100 and now have to consider the EOS M as another option. Although I don’t really want to wait until October to see what the verdict on the EOS M is, the X100’s autofocus is pretty lacking. I’m overseas though where the X100 is available for $900 new, whereas the Olympus OM-D is $1,200. I like the fixed lens, minimal all-in-one package of the X100 as well, 35mm is a perfect focal range for that kind of camera.

    1. Charlie, I have a good fiend that uses a X100 and he claims that with all the firmware upgrades, the system focus great now. Of course the X100 is not a sports camera but the focus seems to be a lot better these days.

      1. With that issue resolved then, I don’t see any reason to not get the X100 now. Thanks

  8. The Fuji F30 and F31fd cameras were triumphs of digital camera making art, not only good in their day but, still highly desirable, even now. You’d have to pry my F30 from my cold dead hands to get it away from me.

      1. People in China are among the friendliest I’ve seen in any country. I’ve been here a long time and speak Chinese though though which helps a lot.

    1. I guess we will see how the EOS M is after it is available and we get to use it. Selecting a camera by specs is like selecting a car by specs. You need to test drive both to see what you like.

  9. There is one point missing here. Mirrorless cameras, like rangefinder film cameras, are able to use non retrofocus lenses, reflex aren’t. Then eos-m is made for using retrofocus lenses. Talking about photography optic is a matter of quality.

  10. I am promoting my idea of a simple Nikon. For that matter a simple powerful camera of any brand. The recipe: 1. Take Nikon FM. 2. Put the largest most powerful sensor available – probably the same one which is in Nikon D800e. 3. Equip with a motor so that old lenses without a motor can work. 4. Put the best and largest LCD available at the back. 5. Mechanical buttons as in Nikon FM. One option A for Auto – the rest of them completely Manual – ISO, f-stop, shutter. 6. Shoots JPG and RAW – no other options. 7. AF and measuring one spot central. 8. Count the costs and make the camera as cheap as possible. If possible, ensure profit for the company only 10 percent. Rationale: I know that there are many people out there who would like to have a robust, simple, cheap, full frame, completely compatible camera. If anything look at the posts in this blog. At least two other people are describing something similar. So, how to persuade major camera makers? Nikon was very close with Nikon Df then they put all these completely unnecessary buttons, menu options, etc and the price is close to the flagship Nikon D800e. So, what is the point? BTW, why Fuji did not provide option to change lenses on Fuji 100s? Why they do not take Leica M concept and make something approximately same but cheap?

    1. I’m sure many will agree with you. BTW, I’ve started shooting film again. I do get a “full frame” camera, really inexpensively and much simpler than the digital equivalents. I get the film developed and scanned to digital. So I’m using film but getting digital output. I know it’s not what you want, per say, but it is an interesting option.

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