Points in Focus Photography

Image: Canon UK

The EOS M3: Sadly Not destined for America

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I’m one of the few people in the US that bought an EOS M.

Objectively it wasn’t the best mirrorless camera on the market. It’s AF was slow, it’s image quality was middling at best, and it was quirky and a bit undersized to be really comfortable–especially with a big EF lens on it. Faults and all, though, I still like the camera.

Unfortunately for me, the rest of the US market, who are notoriously not into mirrorless cameras anyway, were even less enthusiastic about the EOS M and sales apparently were below awful. Or at least that’s the story that seems to make most sense. In the US, we got the initial model, a firmware update, and that was it.

Part of the problem with the M in the US was likely that it was a mirrorless and there still seems to be a very strong preference for DLSRs here. The other problem was probably that it was initially very expensive for what it offered. I certainly didn’t buy one when they were released, and almost certainly wouldn’t have had the price not been cut as much as it was. Functionally, Canon was asking entry-level DSLR pricing for what really was a high-end compact camera that just happened to have interchangeable lenses and a big sensor.

The M2 update wasn’t especially interesting from my point of view, even if it had been released in the US. It added wireless and improved the AF performance, but didn’t really change the fundamentals of the camera’s ergonomics and usability.

That brings us to now. Right on the heels of the EOS 5DS series announcements, at least everywhere else in the world but the US, Canon also announced the successor to the EOS M line the EOS M3. Since it won’t be marketed in the US, it’s unlikely we’ll see a tremendous amount of information about it. Even DPReview’s hands on preview is extremely limited at this point.

That said, even just looking through the product literature from Canon UK, it’s hard not to see where Canon has made huge improvements to the camera.

Fundamentally the EOS M3 appears to be a Rebel T6i/750D with the optical viewfinder and associated supporting systems removed. It uses the same new 24.2 MP APS-C sensor, has a very similar frame rate (4.2 FPS instead of 5FPS) and similar video capabilities.

Okay, sure, I would argue that at £599.99, $913.99 at the current exchange rate, the M3 is still expensive for what it is. On the other hand, it very clearly looks like a real step up from the EOS M and M2. Moreover, at least so far as I can tell looking at pictures and specs, Canon has gone a long way towards fixing the usability and ergonomics issues I had with the EOS M, which is what I’m most interested in.

On the usability and ergonomics front, Canon has made 3 changes that make the camera really stand out to me.

To start with Canon has put an actual grip on the M3, as show in the top view below. It’s not big, but big isn’t always necessary. What is necessary is enough grip surface to not feel like you’re going to drop the camera when you’re holding it. The lack of a grip on the M and M2 makes using the camera very frustrating to me. Even with a small lens like the EF-M 18-55, it feels precariously close to falling out of my hand. Even a small grip, the increased contact area will go a long way towards making the camera feel more secure in the hand.

m3-top
Top of the EOS M3 – Canon UK

Further improving the situation, Canon has dumped the silly mode-dial/ring around the shutter release from the original M and replaced it with an actual standard looking mode dial. More importantly, at least according to DPreview’s hands on, they’ve apparently repurposed the dial around the shutter release into a programmable control dial like it should have been in the first place. The added dedicated exposure compensation dial on the back is also an extremely nice boon for usability.

Between the two dials on the top of the camera, you should, in theory at least, now be able to work the camera for basic things like an proper camera, instead of having to touch the scree all the time. That is have the shutter or aperture bound to the dial around the shutter release, controlled by your index finger, and the exposure compensation set by your thumb on the back of the grip. If you can void going to the rear dial to make changes to the shutter/aperture, then you can keep a much more solid grip on the camera and keep things much more stable.

Finally, they’ve made the hot-shoe compatible with their EVF-DC1 electronic viewfinder, also used by the PowerShot G1X. A viewfinder, in this case the EVF, gives you a 3rd point of contact when holding the camera (grip, lens, eye) which in turn should make for a much more stable platform.

The combination of grip, controls, and EVF, go a long way towards making the M3 something that I think a real serious photographer would want to use. Or maybe I’m just speaking for myself. All of those points specifically address issues that bothered me with the original M and made it hard for me to want to use the camera for any length of time.

Unfortunately, for those of us in the US, getting an EOS M3 is probably going to be an expensive, risky, and potentially difficult position. The lack of an American release is surely going to limit the depth and breadth of reviews that show up in the US, and the camera is going to have to be imported from other markets which the associated risk and shipping costs.

On one hand, I certainly can’t blame Canon for not releasing the EOS M3 in the US if they think it will be a big money loser. On the other hand, it’s a camera that I find very interesting, enough so at least to pique my interest in importing one if they aren’t obscenely expensive. Sadly, I think Canon is probably right, and there just aren’t enough people in the US that are interested in a camera like the EOS M3 to support releasing it.

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