An EOS M for $299, is it a bargain?

Canon EOS M

There’s a lot of deals out there but is it truly a deal? I shoot enough photographs and use enough cameras to get a sense of what works and doesn’t in the real world. I like to pass these little tidbits of knowledge or opinions to you.

I noticed this at B&H today. You can get a Canon EOS M with the 22mm pancake lens for $299. The kit with the 18 – 55mm zoom is $349. Great prices, to be sure. But are these a bargain?

I was temped for a few minutes until reality set in. I did a mini-review of this camera, when it was introduced and I basically predicted its demise. I was being charitable in the review. Basically the camera is a turd. But stop the presses! There is hope. A couple of things are different now which actually makes this camera worth considering, for some people.

First there is the extremely discounted price. You get a very well-built but boring camera with great image quality for a really low price. The image quality will run circles around any point and shoot. And the size of the camera is not much larger in some cases. The main knock against the camera is the extremely slow focusing speed. It’s like watching paint dry. However, Canon just came out with a firmware update that improved things, a lot!

That’s the second bit of news. The new firmware makes the previously, mostly unusable camera into something decent. It’s not the fastest mirrorless out there but it appears to be usable in practice. Take a look at these before and after videos. The first video is the one without the new firmware.

Here’s the thing. I realized after a bit of checking the the Olympus E-PM2 that I already have is a much better camera. It has better image quality, focuses faster, even with the firmware update and it’s smaller. The Olympus is part of the micro 4/3 standard which has a huge lens selection. The EOS M only has 3 lenses. So overall, in my book, the E-PM2 is a better camera all around.

A brand new Olympus E-PM2 costs $424 at Amazon right now. You can get a factory refurbished E-PM2 for $369 at Cameta Camera. So for a little bit more, I think most people will be happier with the Olympus. The Olympus comes with a standard kit zoom that is equivalent to the EOS M with the 18 – 55mm lens which costs $349. So the price differential is even smaller.

So who should consider the Canon EOS M?

If you are a Canon DSLR owner who wants to use their EOS (both EF and EFS) lens with autofocus, consider the EOS M. You’ll need to get the EOS M Mount Adapter but this will allow you to use all the Canon lenses. It could make for a really small kit and for a landscape photographer, it might be all you need.

For people who like prime (non zooming) lenses, like me, the 22mm f2 lens is the better option. So if you squint hard enough, and perhaps take some mind altering substances (strictly legal ones) you can compare the Canon EOS M to the Fujifilm X100. After all they both have APS-C size sensors and 35mm f2 equivalent lenses. Yes, I know the interfaces are quite different and one looks a helluva a lot better. Yes, you will need to squint hard. But, a used X100 runs $700 or more and a X100S is $1300. It makes $300 a helluva nice price. For the record, I know the X100 has better image quality too but you can’t change lenses on it or use your Canon EF lenses either.

Is anyone surprised that Canon is dumping the EOS M? Introduced about a year ago for $800, the actual discount is more like 62.5% discount. The slow focus doomed it. But perhaps with the firmware update and the spectacular price, it can be salvaged. I’m a price performance guy and may be you are too. If the price is good enough and there is a need, it might be worth considering.

Canon’s pain is your gain I guess. Let’s hope the next version will use the sensor from the 70D. Now that might be something.

7 thoughts on “An EOS M for $299, is it a bargain?

  1. I’m at the point of trying to not duplicate stuff I already have. This one doesn’t offer anything I don’t already have several other cameras. I need a superzoom that focuses in less time than it take a swan to finish building a nest, diving for dinner, then swimming away! My Oly superzoom is a slug. The S100 does fine for most grab shots, but the lens (like the XZ-1) is just a 5X zoom — no good for birds on the other side of the pond. I need a quality (faster focusing!) long zoom. Maybe I’ve found one. I’ll let you know. I am seeking so I’m likely to find. There’s always a compromise involved, though. There’s something I don’t get in exchange from something else I want.

  2. I got one, simply b/c it’s so cheap & the 35mm equiv lens is supposed to be awesome and it can take all my canon lenses with an adapter (cheap 3rd party ones available). I have an OMD, but the 35mm lens for the OMD is 499, 200 more than a 35mm equiv on the EOS-M. Plus, I like new toys.

    I think I’ll use the EOS-M as a fun carry around camera if I only want 1 lens, or maybe my dedicated underwater camera if it works well with my Dicapac case.

  3. Thanks for this thoughtful piece. I just bought an EOS M for the $300 for a couple of reasons. The firmware update made it at least worth considering, the budget price made it less of a risk, and I see some uses for it. As a 35mm equivalent (the ugly person’s X100, as you said), and also as a backup to the Canon 5D II I have. With the 50mm f/1.4 attached, you get near enough a 85mm f/2.2 field of view and (crucially for me) depth of field. We’ll see if that gives my OMD +45mm f/1.8 a run for its money.

  4. Hey Andy, gosh there is more than I thought for me to catch up on your blog!

    Anyway, I have an EOS-M, bought it just before the flurry of discounts that have been seen by most. Here in Aus a retailer decided to stop carrying them and discounted them quite a bit. Not only that, but on the day I went in there they were having 20% off DSLRs and the M got included in the mix. Lastly Canon Australia at the time were having a $150 cash back program on the M – So before B&H and everyone else started doing deals I managed to snag an EOS-M + 22mm + 18-55mm + 90ex for $330 AUD.

    I should mention I actually HATED Canon with a fiery passion personally and thought they brought out the most dull and money hungry gear imaginable (not so much price – but the way they hold everything back for the next iteration). I bought the M because I was seriously jealous of their 22mm f2 – SO cheap and so very decent. When this deal came up I grabbed it, knowing that I was getting the 22mm and I would be able to use all the nice EF lenses I have at work that would not work with any of my other cameras. Buying this little cheapie put me on a VERY unexpected path…

    I bought it at a time where I still had my E-PM2 with a couple of nice lenses (S19, PL25, Oly45 and a few others). After playing with the M for even just a short time I was VERY happy with it. Not because it was amazingly brilliant, but because it was as good as my E-PM2 with decent lens attached at less than 1/4 of the overall cost of that system. The 22mm was great and the 18-55mm was a huge surprise as well (will come back to this). This was pre- any talk of firmware updates or 11-22mm announcement as well.

    It got me to thinking, for all the kit I had this inexpensive little setup was for the most part just as good, if not better. Ok an E-PM2 costs not much more… But add a 17mm f1.8 to the mix for a 35mm equiv and the price jumps substantially! I had an X100, an RX100, an E-PM2 and a couple of Sony DSLRs that were getting ‘borrowed’ by my partner more and more.

    So I started to ponder. I had the X100 which I loved, for a 35mm fast equiv as it was cheaper to buy than just some lenses on their own (Zeiss 24mm for NEX which is what I was shooting when I bought the X100). I had the RX100 because the X100 sucked at video and wasn’t all that small. I had the E-PM2 because the RX100 isn’t that great at longer FL’s and neither is the X100 (obviously). But this little M could be a 35mm f2, was good at video (with IS lens attached), was small, could have longer lenses on it that were MUCH cheaper (50mm f1.8 vs 45mm f1.8 and 85mm f1.8 vs 75mm f1.8) than what was available for the E-PM2.

    So that was it, I sold the E-PM2 and lenses, the RX100 (which I then bought one for gear stealing partner of mine!), X100, gave my Alpha lenses to the lady of the house along with my A850 and kept the EOS-M. Then I built up a new system with my newly available funds from those three and bought myself a 6D, Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art, Canon 85mm f1.8, Canon 50mm f1.8 (I don’t like 50’s so bought the cheapie as a just in case and for use on the M), got an UWA and a few other bits and bobs. I couldn’t be happier because I planned out the things I needed rather than a bit haphazardly.

    In the mean time Canon announced new FW and a new UWA which made the M just that more useable and the UWA really makes it a great compliment to my 6D kit without having to drag around a 1kg UWA when I want to go light.

    So that is how I ended up going a nearly entirely Canon kit, just from a dirt cheap little bit of GAS… But there was one other slightly unexpected turn…

    I was really liking the M and I have always been a prime shooter, zooms just have never really done it for me. BUT I was actually enjoying having the 18-55mm for the Canon on me! It was pretty sharp and for a carry-all I wasn’t having to change lenses all the time! I don’t mind doing it, but for the first time EVER for me I was enjoying having a zoom…

    I pondered this for a while. Problem was that ‘kit’ zooms aren’t normally very good. Good zooms don’t come in ‘kits’ usually (except 5D ‘kits’ and the like of course). Good zooms tend to cost a good chunk of cash on top of buying the body and usually I would rather sink that into one (or a few) nice primes. The M zoom is quite decent for daylight shooting, but not really fast enough for night handheld.

    So it hit me. I practically RACED out and grabbed an X-E1. I had been missing the controls and feel of the X100, but wanted the flexibility of the zoom on the Canon but with a faster aperture and better high ISO abilities. I also wanted OIS. The X-E1 was the perfect compliment. Basically buying a $700+ lens with body for $1000! Bargain! It is also the only lens I really need for the X-E1, it is fast, sharp, fast AF, OIS and a good all-round FL. The kit together with a high-ish end body, with built in EVF etc and great sensor / controls, WITH a great zoom for the price of an f2.8 zoom for m43’s on it’s own! An E-P5 (as nice as they are) with 12-35mm f2.8 and EVF would have cost well over double. I say that again, DOUBLE. Crazy.

    So now I have more or less my perfect kit. I have my 6D with a few select primes and other things. I have my EOS-M which acts as a nice second (and tiny) body to my 6D, which is really handy to have with UWA attached rather than having to swap lenses. It also acts in the same way when shooting with a light kit of X-E1 and M, can even chuck a couple of the smaller 6D primes in to compliment the setup. But the M compliments both beautifully. The ‘kit’ zoom of the M doesn’t get much use, but it is handy for video which the M does better than the X-E1.

    The M doesn’t do everything well. But it does do a couple of things quite nicely for the price. The 11-22mm is a steal compared to the competition as is the 22mm. The video is better than the photography focussed Fuji’s and is fully compatible with EF lenses from the 6D (and siblings). I have bought and sold a lot of gear over the last couple of years trying to work out the best kit, one for more serious stuff and one for travelling light. I have finally perfected it and apart from the odd GAS’ing for the Fuji 23mm f1.4 (do I REALLY need another 35mm? No) or Canon 85mm f1.2 and occasionally the Ricoh GR – I keep coming back to the overall capabilities of what I have for how much it cost and I am absolutely over the moon and I have the little M to thank for it 🙂

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