Jul 252012

Here are four images taken Monday. A wall, a bicycle detail, a fence and that peculiar arrangement of four miniature manhole (mousehole?) covers.

What else? Ahh yes, the mountain has moved. Canon finally has an EOS-M, a mirrorless version of their current entry level DSLR. They share sensor, electronics and at least part of their autofocus system.

If you haven’t already done so, have a look at the detailed preview over at Digital Photography Review, spend some thoughts on this camera, and then please come back.

Isn’t this odd? They are even later to the show than Nikon, their entry is at least as timid as theirs, and if you ask me, it completely misses the point of why people love mirrorless cameras.

Granted, the image quality seems excellent, maybe it’s even better than the OM-D’s or the Fujifilm X-Pro 1’s. But really, even if it were better, how much better could it be? The OM-D is already excellent and certainly “good enough”.

Is it better? I have just done some serious pixel peeping using the studio scene comparison widget at dpreview.com. I have compared the Canon EOS Rebel T4i (EOS 650D / EOS Kiss X6i) with the Olympus OM-D E-M5, the Nikon D7000 and the Fujifilm X-Pro 1. The Fuji clearly comes out on top, but the other three are more or less on par. Maybe you see much of a difference, but honestly I don’t. For me they all play in the same league. That’s what the current generation of top-tier sensors is capable of. No more, no less.

And what else? There are two lenses, one of them the incredibly boring (and slow) 18-55 kit lens that everyone has. Really?

The second lens, a 22/2.0 pancake is actually quite nice and that’s it. If you want more, you are expected to use a 200$ adapter. This adapter is pretty nice as well, because it allows for autofocus with regular Canon DSLR lenses, but have you ever used a DSLR lense via an adapter on a mirrorless camera? I have, and I can tell you that it completely defeats the purpose. DSLR lenses are big and heavy, and using them with an adapter makes them look only bigger. As much as I like my Sigma 150/2.8 in certain situations, it would be absurd to use it all the time. My manual focus Nikon lenses (24/2.8 AI-S, 50/1.2 AI-S and 85/1.4 AI-S) are smaller than the Sigma, but they are all heavy as hell. No, being able to use legacy lenses via adapters is one of the strengths of mirrorless systems, but an adapter can not make up for a native lens lineup.

The fact that Canon chose the APS-C sensor format is not helpful either. Just look at how grotesque an 18-200 superzoom looks on a Sony NEX or on a Samsung. The bigger the sensor size, the bigger the lenses, the more sheer volume of glass, the more weight. With the 22/2.0 Canon deliberately debuted the camera with an extra small lens, but there is no use denying physics: most other lenses will be bigger. Much bigger than the 22/2.0 and much bigger than their m4/3 equivalents.

There are more problems though. Just take the lack of an electronic viewfinder or any option to add an external one. That’s devastating. You are reduced to composing on the rear LCD. Not that I don’t like to do that with the OM-D as well, I do it fairly often, but as soon as there is bright sunlight, using the LCD gets painful. Maybe the EOS-M has a much better LCD than the Nikon D200 and D300, the Olympus E-P2 and OM-D, the Panasonic LX5 or any other camera that I have ever tried, but I guess it won’t be substantially better than that of the Samsung Galaxy S2. That’s the phone that I have, and although it has a marvel of an OLED display, you can simply forget it in bright sunlight.

It’s not only composing though. The EOS-M has the ergonomics of a point and shoot camera. It has almost no external buttons or dials. You are supposed to use the touch screen on the back. Remember: that’s the one that you can’t see in bright sunlight!

All in all I think Canon’s entry into the mirrorless market lacks any will to dominate, maybe even to succeed. It’s a lackluster me-too performance, and the camera is not even cheap.

The Song of the Day is “Four” by Miles Davis. Hear it on YouTube.

  3 Responses to “2105 – Four”

  1. I just came back from traveling, and it seems I missed all the fun (?) of the Canon announcement. Your posting put things nicely in perspective. Well, Canon had to do something, and I guess this was a way to try to attract some customers without destroying their existing market.

  2. Andreas, thanks for your “rant.” This does put things in perspective for me. I was considering going with Nikon’s 1V little camera with interchangeable lenses, because also – yes, for an expensive adapter – I could still use my Nikon-mount lenses. But you are so right when you say that it’s counter productive to use the old DSLR lenses on these newer and smaller cameras. The major reason for moving to a smaller camera body, for me, is weight reduction. Using the older larger lenses defeats part of that purpose.

    Also, Nikon’s little one has an even smaller sensor than the micro 4/3rds cameras do. Even tho the image quality is said to be very good, I am having 2nd thoughts about the sensor size being so small.

    So you like the Fuji X-Pro-1 best of all the “pixel comparisons? Well, I do like the X100, so perhaps going with the next generation of Fuji would be best for me. Sigh – but I do LOVE a few of my Nikon-mount lenses and would just hate to give them up.

    So – Plan B is to just wait a while, lol. See what Fuji does next. LOL

    • Well, I do like the Fuji images, but they are problematic for other reasons. In the comparison widget at dpreview.com the RAW quality of the Fuji is exaggerated. The problem is, that Fuji files already have some color noise reduction before the data is even stored as a RAW file. Thus the advantage is not that big. That’s not the problem though. The problem is, that their peculiar sensor pattern is extremely hard to demosaic without producing artifacts. At the moment the camera is supported by Adobe, but their demosaicing quality is really bad.

      Add to that the other problems that people report, AF, user interface problems, responsiveness, add the price and the small number of lenses available, and suddenly the X-Pro 1 is not that exciting any more.

      The reason why I am so satisfied with the OM-D is, that it is outright excellent in all areas that I need, without having any major faults in any other area.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.