Goondu review: Canon EOS M100

March 25th, 2018 | by Wilson Wong
Goondu review: Canon EOS M100

PHOTO: Handout

With mirrorless camera sales soaring, it is little wonder that Canon is starting to build on its own mirrorless offerings, like the the new EOS M100.

In the past, the focus had always been on DSLRs, the cash cow of the Japanese camera maker. Then, there’s the fear of cannibalising existing product lines, which has always held back Canon as well as rival Nikon.

Now, the tune has changed, with smartphones overtaking the sales of compact cameras and more buyers ditching DSLRs for smaller mirrorless systems. For Canon, the M series represents its belated entry to the field.

For sure, it is catching up, after Olympus, Panasonic, Fujifilm and Sony have gained significant and firm footholds in this market. But you can say Canon is at least still trying and the M100 is one such offering to bring users closer to its orbit.

PHOTO: Handout

The M100 is undeniably a machine built for the average consumer, rather than the demanding semi-pro or pro user. You won’t find a dedicated aperture dial or shutter dial – instead a single dial just below the shutter button lets you change settings.

The three available modes on the mode selection dial are only Scene Intelligent Auto, Hybrid-Auto and Movie, which I consider anemic. You get more modes can for quick and direct selection even with an entry-level Canon DSLR.

On the M100, I have to get on the Hybrid-Auto mode first to choose the more advanced modes. That’s a hassle that can be prevented.

The Scene Intelligent Auto is the automatic mode of the camera. It will take the scene you are trying to capture and match the scene to the camera’s database of possible scenarios and the required settings needed to capture the image successfully. This is similar to how the camera on your smartphone works, which is handy.

Shot at ISO640 with 1/60 of a second and f3.5 aperture. Accurate colours, sharpness and details are evident even though such stage lights are a nightmare to photograph for any camera. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

The mode works for most situations, too. However, to really gain the best image quality possible with the 24.2-megapixel APS-C sized sensor, you should use the Hybrid-Auto mode instead. It gives a bit more control to get the improvements you want.

If you are still learning, there are familiar Scene Modes that help. There’s one for sports for faster shuttering and one for portraits where you have a wider aperture to gain more bokeh in the background. Plus, there is a food mode – Singaporeans’ favourite, surely.

Braised duck. Colour representation is good. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

For seasoned photographers, there are, of course, the Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Full Manual and the Program Mode, for those days when you feel a little lazy to set everything.

With shutter speed available to you from 30 seconds to 1/4000th of a second under Shutter Priority and Manual modes, the flexibility is there for most genres of photography. Pity the Bulb mode, which offers long exposures, is not here.

One limitation of Canon’s M100 is the lack of lenses for the EF-M system. Right not, you have a 11-22mm f4-5.6 lens for landscapes, 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 for general photography and 55-200mm f4.5-6.3mm for close-ups or the occasional wildlife shot.

Don’t forget the M100 has an APS-C sensor so you have to consider its 1.6x crop factor. Plus, the M lenses can cover 17mm to 300mm based on the full-frame sensor equivalent. Of course, these lenses have to be purchased separately.

The EOS M100 is able to swing 180 degrees upwards with the screen for a more accurate selfie or wefie. The touchscreen also helps with quick shots. PHOTO: Handout

The wefie taken is definitely of much higher quality than any smartphone. However, with a much larger sensor, the depth of field is much shallower. At ISO6400, the image is easily usable for sharing but there is still some perceivable hand shaking as the shutter speed is at a slow 1/25 of a second. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

Because the M100 can take selfies like smartphones, thanks to its swivel screen, the M100’s 15-45mm (23-67mm full frame equivalent) f3.5-6.3 kit lens is wide enough to accommodate your selfie or wefie. It is also very useful for landscapes as well.

I do want lenses that are a bit more sensitive to light though and Canon so far has the 28mm f3.5 for macro and 22mm f2 for general or street photography for the native EF-M mount.

I can also use lenses made for Canon DSLRs as possible alternatives but that would require the use of an adapter and the heavier glass upfront will not make the camera comfortable to use for long periods of time.

White balance is good. This is the exact colour I saw at the i Light Marina Bay art installation. Pretty sharp too! PHOTO: Wilson Wong

No, the M100 won’t beat a smartphone for size or portability, but it sure captures better images than your everyday gadget and when compared to other cameras, it brings improved ergonomics.

The dials and touchscreen help me get to where I want to go on the M100. Though it also doesn’t have a viewfinder, I use it like a smartphone but with the added benefit of having a thumb grip and the shutter button to ensure that the camera doesn’t shake as much.

Of course, I would very much prefer to have a viewfinder. It helps me frame pictures better and not worry about shaking too much.

On the whole, the M100 and the kit lens work as expected if there is sufficient light. During my tests, most of the images from the APS-C sensor were sharp and well exposed.

When I was shooting a street procession at night, the Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus system was generally up to the task. It’s s pity I did not have a fast zoom lens to go with the camera to “freeze” a subject.

Shot at f4.5, ISO 800, 1/80 of a second. Very good noise control. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

“Freezing” the movement of the dragon dance would require a much faster lens. This was shot at f5, ISO 800, 1/40 of a second.  PHOTO: Wilson Wong

If I zoomed in on a subject, the aperture would decrease – due to the lens’ design – and force the use of an even slower shutter speed. This would result in blurred trails for fast-moving objects, which you can’t “freeze” it in time.

To counter this, I increased my ISO to use a much faster shutter speed to reduce the chance of motion blur. The trade-off is more noise, thanks to the higher ISO setting.

To be sure, the images are very usable at ISO 4000. However, For a better snap, I’d rather go with a better lens with a wide aperture – f2.8 or more – to reduce the need for such a high ISO setting in the first place.

The miniature effect is fun too. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

At S$799, this camera is priced to compete with advanced compact cameras with fixed lenses. It will be a good buy if there are more lens native to the Canon M system, instead of making people buy an adapter to fix on Canon’s DSLR lenses.

To be fair, the M system lenses have most of the focal lengths you need but there is room for improvement.

For instance, a wide-angle lens with an f2.8 aperture will be great for capturing the Milky Way at night, because it lets me use a much lower ISO for better image quality.

Shot with the Huawei Mate 10 Pro @ f1.6, ISO 100, 13.9 seconds. Unedited, Night Mode. The quality of this image is more than sufficient for use on social media and it can be printed out well. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

Shot with the Canon M100 @ f11, ISO100, 15 seconds. Unedited, Manual Mode. The quality of this image is definitely superior if you go extreme pixel peeping. It can also be a bit brighter to match the Huawei shot with post processing. If the image is just for sharing on social media, both a smartphone and a mirrorless camera are up to the task. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

The M100 and other system cameras still have a huge advantage over the smartphone. Images such as this can only be done with lenses that has manual zooming capabilities. PHOTO: Wilson Wong.

For sure, the M100 is a well-made mirrorless camera that will suit most users seeking better image quality. However, it has to win over consumers picking up smartphones that have improved by leaps and bounds in the last two years.

For some genres like landscapes, images from smartphones can match up to mirrorless cameras, if they well taken.

One big advantage of a camera system is the ability to change lenses for various subject matters, but first, there must be enough native lenses without the need for an adapter, which adds hassle and cost.

If you buy a camera like the M100 but end up not able to get the right lens for a great shot, then you’re better off buying a better system with more lenses available. Or simply go back to a smartphone and live with it.

Either way is no good for Canon. For the M100 to do well, the camera maker needs to come up with more native lenses to complement it.



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