Canon EOS M3 Review – Bridges compact cameras with its solid entry-level DSLRs

In addition to single-lens reflex cameras (SLRs) and point-and-shoots, Canon has been selling mirrorless cameras since 2012, which is a fact that many people are unaware of. Both the entry-level EOS M10 and the step-up EOS M3, which will be discussed in this article, are being marketed more aggressively in the United States as part of Canon’s EOS M system, which offers two different models to select from.

The EOS M3 is very much like a Rebel T6s that has been compressed into a body that is smaller and more similar to the company’s PowerShot products.

It has a touchscreen LCD, Wi-Fi with NFC, and the same Hybrid CMOS AF III 24.2MP CMOS sensor that is found in the T6s. Additionally, it has a Digic 6 CPU. In contrast to EOS DSLRs in general and the Rebel in particular, EOS M bodies utilize the EF-M lens mount; however, EF lenses may be utilized with the help of an extra adapter.

It might be difficult to determine a place for the EOS M3 within the current landscape of mirrorless cameras. The Fujifilm X-A2, the Olympus E-M10 II, and the Sony a6000 may be considered its most direct competitors in terms of price and features. Nikon 1 cameras have been omitted from the list since we think that the series is no longer being produced.

The Fujifilm, much like the EOS M3, does not have an electronic viewfinder (EVF) integrated in and instead features an LCD that can be rotated upwards by 180 degrees. Both the Olympus E-M10 II and the Sony a6000 feature electronic viewfinders, but neither has a “selfie” LCD.

The EOS-M system

Canon only offers six different EF-M lenses, despite the fact that the system has been around for more than four years. They consist of two prime lenses as well as four zoom lenses (11-22 F4-5.6, 15-45 F3.5-6.3, 18-55 F3.5-5.6, and 55-200 F4.5-63). (22mm F2 and 28mm F3.5 macro). Tamron and Samyang/Rokinon are only two examples of third-party manufacturers that produce lenses (which are the manual focus).

You may utilize an extra adapter, which costs around $80, to gain access to the whole array of Canon EF and EF-S lenses. This will allow you to choose the lens that best suits your needs. It turns out that there are adapters for virtually any lens mount imaginable, from Leica to Olympus OM. Some examples of these adapters are shown below.

Body & Controls

The Canon EOS M3 is a mirrorless small camera with a body that is ever-so-slightly rounded and a grip that is pleasantly curved. However, it is not pocketable. The magnesium alloy exterior and stainless steel chassis contribute to the camera’s reassuringly robust sense of build quality.

Although the dials and controls on the back are made of plastic and have a cheap feel to them, the mode and exposure compensation dials are made of metal and blend in with the body.

Both the front grip and the rear thumb rest are superb, which enables one-handed photography (at least when using smaller lenses). Additionally, both the main dial and the exposure compensation dial are within reach without having to move your hand.

However, in order to alter the exposure settings, you will need to switch the position of your hand in order to access the rear control dial. Because of this, you cannot make adjustments quickly. Another thing that annoys me about the camera is that the buttons for video and playback are flush with the body of the camera, so you can’t even tell when you push them.

Tilting LCD

The LCD of the M3 may be tilted, just like the majority of mirrorless cameras on the market today, which includes the M3. For better selfies, it can also be flipped all the way up to 180 degrees from its normal position, which tilts downward by around 45 degrees. The screen is 3 inches and is packed with 1.04 million dots. We observed that the visibility outside was far higher than usual.

The touchscreen interface of the Canon is both snappy and intuitive, despite the fact that it does not introduce any groundbreaking new features.

Tapping the screen allows you to focus or take a shot, just as you might think. You can navigate through the menus and swipe through the photographs, as well as pinch-to-zoom or double-tap to get a closer look at anything.

Optional EVF

Even though the M3 does not come with an integrated electronic viewfinder, Canon does provide an optional accessory that can be attached to the hot shoe of the camera. The electronic viewfinder, also known as the EVF-DC1, features a conventional LCD display with 2.36 million dots and can be tilted upward by around 90 degrees.

An eye sensor makes the transition between the LCD and the electronic viewfinder (EVF) automatically; nevertheless, there is a very slight delay. Take into consideration that the cost of this EVF will be around $200.

Customization

The Canon EOS M3 features seven programmable buttons in addition to a menu that may be altered. The shutter release, both dials, the ‘down’ direction on the four-way controller, and the M-Fn, Movie, and AE lock (*) buttons are the controls whose functions may be changed. Other controls that can have their roles reassigned include the four-way controller.

There is a good number of settings accessible for the other buttons, in contrast to the shutter release button, the dials, and the AE Lock button, which have fewer possible options.

In the primary menu, there is a section labeled “My Menu” that is tinted green and in which you may save up to six of the menu items that you use most frequently. After that, you will have the option of making the My Menu the default location that is accessed whenever the menu button is hit.

Auto ISO

The EOS M3 only has the most basic Auto ISO system available. You have the ability to set the highest possible ISO, and that’s all. You have no say in the shutter speed at which the camera decides to adjust the ISO; you can only put your faith in the camera’s judgment.

The one advantage of shooting in manual mode is that you have the option to employ exposure compensation in conjunction with auto ISO. This setting allows the camera to automatically change the ISO setting while still maintaining the aperture and shutter speed that you have selected.

Autofocus

We anticipated that the performance of the EOS M3 and the Rebel T6s would be comparable given that both cameras employ the Hybrid CMOS AF III technology. This system consists of 49 phase-detect sites, which cover 80% of the horizontal frame and 70% of the vertical frame respectively.

This is not the same as Canon’s Dual Pixel technology, which can be found on their more expensive cameras such as the EOS 7D II and 80D. First, before we tell you how well the camera worked, let’s take a short look at the several AF modes that are available.

You have the option to choose between One-Shot and Servo AF in the section labeled “AF operation.” These modes are analogous to Single AF and Continuous AF, respectively; from this point forward, we will refer to them as AF-S and AF-C, respectively. Face Detect + Tracking and 1-point AF are the two ‘AF techniques,’ which relate to the AF area. Face Detect + Tracking is the default setting.

You may boost the speed at which the camera can focus by instructing it to continue to do so even after your finger is removed from the button that controls it. This function, which Canon refers to as “Continuous AF” (not to be confused with the continuous “Servo AF” mode), reduces the amount of time that a battery can hold its charge.

The first test that we run demonstrates the capabilities of the camera when set to AF-C + 1-point mode. This would be analogous to maintaining your subject’s position under the center point of the frame as they move closer to the camera in real life.

As you can see up top, the subject was maybe in the spotlight one-third of the time. The performance is far less spectacular as a result of the significant slowdown in the burst rate, which drops to barely 1.5 frames per second. We would ordinarily display 15 frames from a run, but due to technical difficulties, the camera was only able to shoot nine photos.

Shooting in a Constant Stream

In single AF mode, our tests produced results that were quite near to the 4.4 fps burst rate that Canon claims the M3 is capable of achieving. You are able to take photographs in JPEG format at a rate of 4.3 frames per second.

In Raw mode, the camera only shoots a pitiful five pictures at 3.9 frames per second, and then there is a delay of four seconds before you can access the menu. If you shoot in Raw and JPEG simultaneously with the M3, it will only be able to produce four photos at a rate of 4.1 frames per second. Additionally, there will be a wait of four seconds while the buffer is emptied.

When you switch to AF-C mode, your burst rate will drop significantly, to around 1.5 frames per second (depending on your subject). When traveling at those speeds, the ‘lockup’ delay is only a few seconds.

Battery Capacity

The EOS M3’s short battery life is one of the most significant problems we’ve seen with the camera. The battery life of the M3 is the poorest of any camera in its class, according to the CIPA rating of 250 shots per charge. This rating places the M3 in a tie for the worst place with the Nikon 1 J5.

You won’t be affected by this if you only want to take a few shots when you’re at a get-together. On the other hand, it is strongly advised that you carry an extra battery with you if you are going out for the day, if you want to take a lot of videos, or if you plan to use Wi-Fi.

Image Quality

The most recent version of our test scenario emulates photography in both daytime and low-light conditions. You may switch between the two by pressing the ‘lighting’ buttons that are located at the very top of the widget. For the low-light testing, the camera is left in its default Auto setting, but the daytime scene’s white balance is manually adjusted so that the resulting grays are neutral.

Raw files require human editing to rectify errors. We provide three distinct viewing sizes, which are referred to as “Full,” “Print,” and “Comp.” The latter two viewing sizes allow “normalized” comparisons since they use matching viewing sizes. The ‘Comp’ option selects the camera with the highest possible resolution that is also shared by the other cameras being evaluated.

JPEG

The JPEGs have an abundant amount of detail that has been generated accurately, and the color rendering appears to be quite well balanced. There is a tiny warmth, but there is no trace of magenta. Even while it can’t quite catch and render fine details as well as the Sony a6000 can, it still looks fairly excellent in comparison to the majority of its competitors.

The noise reduction that is applied at higher ISO settings is a little bit prone to smoothing away fine information, and it isn’t aiming to maintain edges as much as some of its rivals, which increases the possibility that the entire image may appear a bit softer than it actually is. The performance as a whole is quite solid overall.

RAW

Taking a glance at the Raw data reveals that a significant degree of information is being recorded despite the camera’s relatively low ISO (if you overlook the rather high levels of chromatic aberration being produced by the 22mm lens). In order to extract the most amount of data possible from the sensor, it seems as though there is no anti-aliasing filter since there is a distinct color moiré evident in high-contrast details.

Even when re-scaled to a more typical viewing size, the high ISO performance is not very spectacular and lags a bit behind that of its competitors.

Video Quality

The EOS M3 is capable of recording video in Full HD at 30p, 25p, and 24p. However, in order to record video at 60p, you will need to reduce the resolution to 1280 x 720. Your options for exposure are either automatic or completely manual; there is no between ground. When using manual mode, you may adjust the brightness by turning the exposure compensation slider when auto ISO is engaged. Rack focusing may be accomplished with relative ease with the touchscreen and Servo AF.

Focus peaking, an adjustable audio volume, and a wind filter/attenuator are some of the features that are available on this camera. In addition, there is a 3.5mm mic jack for recording audio separately from the camera. You will not, however, locate zebra patterns for checking exposure or a headphone jack for monitoring the audio volume. Neither of these features is there.

The quality of the video is satisfactory, although there is space for advancement. The hues, much as the stills, are quite stunning. Because there is apparently not an AA filter present, everything seems a little grainy, and there are instances where moiré patterns can be seen. You’ll see in the demonstration video that the automated wind filter doesn’t do a very good job, which is quite normal for cameras that have microphones already built into them.

This is a pretty wet example video, and just for good measure (no pun intended), we’ve included a little bit of baseball in it.

Conclusion

In a world full of incredibly fine mirrorless cameras, the EOS M3 just isn’t up to par with its competitors who are considered the best in their class. Canon deserves praise for doing an excellent job designing the body and user interface, as well as for providing a comprehensive range of features in their products.

It’s a nice touch that the LCD can be tilted, and the fact that you can also have an electronic viewfinder is a definite plus. The variety of mount adapters is sure to please those who collect vintage lenses. The image quality is satisfactory while not being mind-blowing; nevertheless, the lack of clarity in JPEGs causes them to appear to have a PowerShot-like appearance.

Canon EOS M3 Specifications

Body typeRangefinder-style mirrorless
Body materialMagnesium alloy
Sensor
Max resolution6000 x 4000
Image ratio w:h1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9
Effective pixels24 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors25 megapixels
Sensor sizeAPS-C (22.3 x 14.9 mm)
Sensor typeCMOS
ProcessorDIGIC 6
Color spacesRGB
Color filter arrayPrimary color filter
Image
ISOAuto, 100-12800 (expandable to 25600)
Boosted ISO (maximum)25600
White balance presets6
Custom white balanceYes
Image stabilizationNo
Uncompressed formatRAW
JPEG quality levelsFine, normal
File formatJPEG (Exif v2.3, DPOF v2.0)Raw (Canon CR2, 14-bit)
Optics & Focus
AutofocusContrast Detect (sensor)Phase DetectMulti-areaCenterSelective single-pointTrackingSingleContinuousTouchFace DetectionLive View
Autofocus assist lampYes
Manual focusYes
Number of focus points49
Lens mountCanon EF-M
Focal length multiplier1.6×
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCDTilting
Screen size3″
Screen dots1,040,000
Touch screenYes
Screen typeClearView II TFT-LCD
Live viewYes
Viewfinder typeElectronic (optional)
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed30 sec
Maximum shutter speed1/4000 sec
Exposure modesScene Intelligent AutoCreative AssistHybrid AutoSCNCreative FiltersProgram AEShutter priorityAperture priorityManualCustom
Scene modesPortraitLandscapeClose-upSportsHandheld Night SceneFood
Built-in flashYes
Flash range5.00 m (at ISO 100)
External flashYes (via hot shoe)
Flash modesAuto, on, off, slow synchro
Flash X sync speed1/200 sec
Drive modesProgramContinuousSelf-timer
Continuous drive4.2 fps
Self-timerYes (2 or 10 sec)
Metering modesMultiCenter-weightedSpotPartial
Exposure compensation±3 (at 1/3 EV steps)
AE Bracketing±2 (3 frames at 1/3 EV steps)
WB BracketingNo
Videography features
Resolutions1920 x 1080 (30p, 25p, 24p), 1280 x 720 (60p, 50p), 640 x 480 (30p, 25p)
FormatH.264
MicrophoneStereo
SpeakerMono
Storage
Storage typesSD/SDHC/SDXC
Connectivity
USBUSB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
HDMIYes (mini-HDMI)
Microphone portYes
Headphone portNo
WirelessBuilt-In
Wireless notes802.11b/g/n with NFC
Remote controlYes (via smartphone)
Physical
Environmentally sealedNo
BatteryBattery Pack
Battery descriptionLP-E17 lithium-ion battery & charger
Battery Life (CIPA)250
Weight (inc. batteries)366 g (0.81 lb / 12.91 oz)
Dimensions111 x 68 x 44 mm (4.37 x 2.68 x 1.73″)
Other features
Orientation sensorYes
GPSNone

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • Solid JPEG quality, with pleasing ‘Canon color’
  • Well-built with ‘just right’ front and thumb grips
  • Two control dials plus an exposure comp dial
  • Tilting 3″ LCD with good touchscreen implementation
  • Numerous customizable buttons plus
  • Optional electronic viewfinder
Needs Improvement
  • Sluggish autofocus speeds
  • The mediocre depth and subject tracking
  • Very poor battery life
  • Buffer fills up very quickly in burst mode
  • Burst rate slows to ~1.5 fps when using Continuous (Servo) AF
  • Unsophisticated sharpening and noise reduction smudge away JPEG detail
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
The EOS M3 simply cannot compete with the market's abundance of high-quality mirrorless cameras due to which it was designed. Even though it is well-designed and simple to use, it falls short in essential functions such as autofocus and battery life. It will work well enough for landscapes and portraits, but if your subject is moving, there are other options that are superior.

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Canon EOS M3 Review - Bridges compact cameras with its solid entry-level DSLRsThe EOS M3 simply cannot compete with the market's abundance of high-quality mirrorless cameras due to which it was designed. Even though it is well-designed and simple to use, it falls short in essential functions such as autofocus and battery life. It will work well enough for landscapes and portraits, but if your subject is moving, there are other options that are superior.