I always say I am going to be content with the photo equipment that I have. And then something new comes along, and I end up purchasing something else. “Just one more thing,” I tell myself. If you have been into photography for very long, you know what I mean.
My latest “one more thing” purchase was a mirrorless camera, also known as an interchangeable lens camera, or ILC. These cameras have been on the market for a few years now, and they have been growing in popularity. Basically, they strive to be like a SLR camera without the mirror. If you are interested in learning more about these cameras in general, here is a Wikipedia article on Mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras.
The camera I purchased was a Canon EOS-M. And the main reason I went with that camera is because the price was right for me at the time. Also, you can buy a lens adapter and use your existing Canon DSLR lenses with the EOS-M, if you wish, although I haven’t done that yet. After the original sale that I purchased my camera through, Amazon.com has matched that price, which is still a good deal, in my opinion.
After my purchase, I was able to use the camera on a trip to Florida a few weeks ago, giving me lots of opportunities to test it out and learn more about it. Here are some of the things I like about it, as well as a few minor drawbacks. Some of these also apply to mirrorless cameras in general, while others may be specific to this camera model. So in case you are interested, it may be worth your time to do some additional research on what you may or may not want.
First off, the main thing I like about this camera is its size. It is quite compact compared to my Canon EOS 60D. Much smaller, much lighter. Canon currently offers two lenses, an 18-55mm zoom lens, and a 22mm f/2.0 prime lens. After much debate, I chose the zoom lens. And while it does make the camera a little longer than the “pancake” prime lens would have, it is still small enough that the size is great for me. And it doesn’t get nearly as heavy after a day of carrying it around.
Also, the photos that the camera takes are quite good, in my opinion. The sensor is actually the same 18 megapixel sensor as in my 60D. Overall, I have been quite pleased with what I was able to capture, both in the daytime and at night. The camera does have several shooting modes, although I mainly leave it set on aperture priority, just as I do with my 60D. It does have an HDR mode, as well as a higher ISO handheld night shot mode that combines three exposures to remove noise; the only drawback to these modes is that they won’t save a RAW file, so a small tripod might be best for those.
Perhaps this is because I am already a Canon user, but the settings on the camera are also easy to use. Everything is controlled by the touchscreen display on the rear of the camera, and things are laid out a little differently than what I might have expected, but it didn’t take long to figure everything out. Just as with a DSLR, you can have as much or as little control over settings as you want.
For the last few years, I have mainly used my 10-20mm wide angle lens. And while I could get the adapter and use that lens with this camera, it would make the size and weight go way up, which somewhat defeats the purpose, at least for me. So I have had to change my style just a bit with the 18-55mm lens. But that really hasn’t been a problem, and in fact zooming in to some things more than I have been used to has been nice.
I do feel that there are a few negatives worth mentioning, although to me they aren’t enough to detract overall from the camera. But here they are, just so you know.
First, there is no optical viewfinder. Some mirrorless cameras do have an electronic viewfinder, but on the Canon EOS-M, you take your photos by looking at the screen on the back of the camera. It really isn’t much different from using the “Live View” mode of my 60D, but I rarely use that mode. Still, while that took a little bit of adjustment, I am fine with it overall. After all, what really matters is the photos you produce instead of how you produce them, right? However, if not looking in a viewfinder makes you feel like less of a photographer, then be forewarned.
Also, this camera does not have a pop-up flash, which to me indicates that it is aimed more at serious photographers than at those just wanting to replace their DSLR with a point-and-shoot camera. However, it does have a hot shoe on top for an external flash, although I have not yet used an external flash with mine. Most all of my photos I take with any camera use available light, so this isn’t a serious drawback to me.
And lastly, perhaps the largest drawback to me is battery life. Because the display screen is always on when you are using the camera, the battery doesn’t last all that long. Depending on how many photos you take, I doubt that it would last a full day in a Disney park. At least, I don’t think it would for me. So your options here would be to either have a backup battery (ideal) or to try to use one of the recharging stations that are starting to pop up in places (less than ideal, but cheaper than a battery).
In conclusion, those drawbacks do not outweigh the good points of the camera, which are mainly its size and the photos that I have taken with it. A friend asked me if that would be my main camera now. At first, I said that it would probably be just a backup camera. But after using it for that week in Florida, I may have changed my mind. Of course, different photos require different camera or lens types. But if I am going out for some general shooting, or even just on a day where I may not have planned to shoot any, grabbing this camera and having it in the car is much easier than grabbing my big DSLR bag. And that is a plus.
Are mirrorless cameras the way of the future? Maybe. Maybe not. But for now, I am certainly enjoying mine!
Note: All photos in this post were taken with the Canon EOS-M, except for the photo of the camera itself, of course. Click each photo for more about it.