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 – Performance
When it comes to operational speed, the EOS M is a reasonably quick performer, powering up in a second or so and responding instantly to control changes. Shot-to-shot times are a little sluggish, though. It won’t allow you to shoot two in quick succession, always requiring a delay of a second or two. This is a small thing, but it can get in the way of catching just the moment you want.
Continuous shooting is one area where the EOS M lags behind its competitors – at 4fps it feels downright sluggish compared to the Samsung NX500’s 9fps, or the Sony Alpha 6000’s 11fps. Indeed it’s more akin to other cameras’ low-speed continuous modes. But whereas these normally bring the advantage of a live view display between shots, Canon just displays recently-shot frames instead. Likewise, while its competitors can provide continuous AF at full speed, the EOS M3 slows down further when asked to track focus on a moving subject. This all just feels very outdated.
In terms of image quality, Canon’s new sensor certainly delivers on resolution. It’s not quite as sharp as 24MP cameras that have no low-pass filter, but in practice the difference isn’t huge. Metering is impressively accurate, generally doing a good job of maintaining highlight detail, and auto white balance is invariably well judged. Out-of-camera JPEGs offer pleasing, punchy colour that’s maintained exceptionally well at high ISO sensitivities. Indeed, I got perfectly acceptable results shooting up to ISO 6400 at least, allowing handheld photography with the kit zoom in twilight after the sun had set.
With the new 24MP sensor, Canon appears to have adjusted its JPEG processing to use much lighter luminance noise reduction. This allows much better rendition of fine detail, with little smudging of low-contrast areas such as grass or foliage. The penalty is higher luminance noise, which is visible in even-toned areas of the image at moderate sensitivities such as ISO 400, but this has little negative impact on the image as a whole. Careful raw processing can, of course, give even better results.
One area where Canon sadly doesn’t seem to have improved, though, is dynamic range at low ISOs. The EOS M3’s sensor has relatively limited leeway for pulling up detail from the shadows in raw processing, allowing just 2 or 3 stops of detail to be recovered before being swamped by noise. In contrast, cameras like the Sony Alpha 6000 and Samsung NX500 give at least an extra stop of recoverable shadow detail. Canon does at least give you tools for getting the best of the sensor’s dynamic range, with Highlight Tone Priority mode giving an extra stop of detail in the highlights, and Auto Lighting Optimiser adapting JPEG processing to show more detail in the shadows.
I was also surprised to see that, while Canon has lens aberration correction options for vignetting and lateral chromatic aberration, it doesn’t correct geometric distortion in-camera. This is decidedly unusual from a CSC, and means that the 18-55mm’s pronounced barrel distortion at wideangle remained visible in my horizons on landscape and seascape shots.