The EOS M3 is Canon’s first CSC to be aimed squarely at enthusiast photographers. Andy Westlake finds out whether it hits the mark
Canon EOS M3 – Build and handling
From the moment you pick up the EOS M3, it’s clear that Canon has thought hard about how to make a small camera that’s still pleasant to use, with the result that it is one of the nicest-handling CSCs of its type. It feels very solidly made, and the handgrip is surprisingly secure, even when shooting one-handed.
The control layout is broadly similar to mid-range EOS DSLRs. A milled metal dial around the shutter button is used to change the main exposure settings, which clicks with pleasing precision. It is supplemented by an exposure-compensation dial that fits perfectly into Canon’s standard EOS control logic, taking the place of the rear dial in P, Av and Tv modes, while also allowing exposure compensation to be applied when using auto ISO in manual-exposure mode. I was pleased to find that this operates in the opposite direction to the G7 X’s, rotating anti-clockwise to apply positive compensation, which means it new matches the dials on other brands such as Fujifilm and Sony. The small rear dial surrounding the D-pad is only needed to set the shutter speed or aperture in M mode (this can be set according to the user’s preference).
Other key functions, such as ISO, focus area, flash mode and manual focus, can be set quickly using their own dedicated buttons on the camera back, with the on-screen Q menu allowing access to a further range of settings. Three buttons are customisable to the user’s preference, namely the top-plate M-Fn button, video record button and the down key on the D-pad. Once these are configured, there’s little reason to dive into the camera’s menus, but when you do, you’ll find they are clearly laid out and attractively designed. Most-used settings can be stored to a useful My Menu.
Canon has also done an excellent job of integrating its touchscreen interface into the overall control system. It is fast and responsive, and should feel like second nature to anyone who uses a smartphone. As usual, it’s particularly good for quickly selecting a focus area while you’re shooting, but crucially it’s always a complement to the physical controls – never a replacement. This is particularly important when you’re using the viewfinder, and don’t want to take the camera down from your eye while shooting. Fortunately, all key controls remain accessible, but the buttons for AF area selection and autoexposure lock are distinctly difficult to distinguish by touch.
A tiny built-in flash is released by a sliding switch in the camera’s side, and has a guide number of 5m @ ISO 100. It’s supplemented by a hotshoe, that accepts Canon EX-series flashguns and third-party E-TTL alternatives, as well as the EVF-DC1 viewfinder. There’s no option for a wired (as opposed to wireless) remote control, but USB and microphone sockets can be found on one side of the camera, and a mini HDMI port on the other. The LP-E17 battery is rated for just 250 shots per charge, and is replenished using the supplied external charger.
Possibly the biggest letdown in terms of design is the lens. At a time when other CSC manufacturers have overwhelmingly adopted compact retractable zooms, often with 24mm-equivalent wideangle settings, Canon’s 6cm-long 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit zoom feels outdated. It adds considerably to the overall bulk of the set-up, and means that the M3 isn’t as portable as its competitors unless you use the 22mm f/2 pancake prime lens.