Friday, February 7, 2014

It Arrived!

Well, this will be a post potentially dividing my reading audience, in particular since again, I will be writing about stuff outside the box, criticize critics and may even give a commercial recommendation, which I am not payed for...

One of the most controversial  cameras in 2013 was the Canon EOS M. That's for sure. Although enthusiasts have waited for a CSC (Compact System Camera) or mirrorless camera (as other may call those) from Canon for a while, the final arrival of the Canon EOS M was not such a great success, all in all... or was it?!

Personally, I claimed to have never understood the mirror-less movement myself. Wanna point 'n shoot? Buy one! Wish for a changeable lens camera, get an SLR, or DSLR for good measures. I admit, I was an SLR guy for many year, when film was still known and widely available. When times changed, I got myself a DSLR, in the form of a Canon Rebel XT (EOS 350D)... and in landed in a closet for reasons worth another post. Finally, I got it out the closet again, was happy with its results, finally, but hated the weight/dimensions (despite the fact that this was/is one of the smallest DSLRs out there).

Something smaller had to enter my life! Point 'n Shoots play a major role, as you might know, in particular the cheap one from Canon, since an "aftermarket tool" made RAW available. Since the brand Canon seems to appear a lot in this post, I wish to point out that I love my Panasonic Lumix LX7, and are just not prepared yet to spend such an amount of money which would allow me to get a Leica. Pentax is cool too, and so are Nicon and Sony... and Lomo!

Right, that being out of the way, let me focus on what I wanted to write in the first place. My Canon IXUS 140 P&S serves me well recording in RAW when using the CHDK. However, the glass / optics of a P&S is of course limited (by physics). There is just so much one can expect from those tiny zoom lenses.
Also, the sensors in P&S-cameras are not the largest on the market.
So, for 2 particular reasons, I looked into the option of buying the only available Canon CSC, the EOS M:
  1. removable lens (using the camera for astro-photography)
  2. ability to program the camera by scripts (as known from CHDK)
As to point 1: this very obviously matches many brands of CSC.
Concerning point 2: the only scripting packaged, other than CHDK, I am aware of is ML (Magic Lantern), which again, is based on Canon's DIG!C processors.
There we go... a CSC from Canon... one solution only: EOS M.

Here comes the involuntary commercial part of the post. In the Netherlands, the best price for the EOS M w/ the 18-55mm kit lens is about €360. Not bad, seen that my beloved Lumix LX7 (Leica lens!!!) set me back the exact same amount of money. However, a company in Hong Kong, magenta a silver color in the logo, known from allowing a funny guy putting out crazy videos on youtube (digitalrev that is), offers the very same camera with an additional 22mm EF-M lens and the 90EX mini-speedlite for just over €435.- including free shipping. Here in the Netherlands the very same 22mm EF-M lens is sold for an amount of €200-300, depending on the source. The local price of the 90EX speedlite ranges about €100. Do the maths, the supplier in Hong Kong even offers express shipping!
Referring to the title of the post, I ordered 02.02.2014 @ 22:00 (CET). The stuff was delivered 06.02.2014 @ 13:30 (CET)... which impressed me quite a bit!

Now back to substance. The Canon EOS M received a lot of criticism for slow and confused focus action. Under some circumstances, i.e. experiments I did, I can confirm this observation. However, my observations told that the EOS M (both stock lenses in the test) has difficulties focusing on a white eagle flying through a snow storm on a skiing piste or a black cat climbing a heap of coals in night-time. Yep, that went all wrong!
Probably there are faster cameras out there. However, coming from an EOS 350D (Rebel XT), the delay introduced by the EOS M was not too bad at all.
For low contrast situations, the EOS M (firmware 2.0.2) offer a "AF+MF" option, which switches to manual focus when the camera thought that auto-focus was done. Fair enough, I would say.... in the case AF failed, you can manually focus anyway. Good enough for me.

Now to the more creative (hacking) part of matters. The EOS M is supported by the "Magic Lantern" firmware addition. Actually, the ML software can be installed in a really simple manner (google is your friend!). It took me seconds to have my EOS M booting into ML. In other words, scripts can rule the camera now, scripts that are written in C.

And now, to the poodle's kernel, why did I actually spent this amount of money on a camera as "lame" and crippled. First of all, crippled or not, the EOS M will be the cheapest ever camera to run Magic Lantern (same set-up as the EOS 650D). And secondly missing out on an APS-C camera with 2 lenses for that price?! (not even mentioning the mini-speedlite). All together, this was a no-brainer!

Now that I have the camera (and lenses), I must say, that I have difficulties to follow the critics of this particular device. Ignoring the benefits ML provides, my EOS M is not so slow that I would drop any remark. AF works OK, maybe some cameras are better... but there is nothing to complain about!
Concerning the lenses: Image quality is fine. The 22mm prime produces real nice bokeh! No adverse features were spotted using the 18-55mm so far.

Viewfinder? Yes, I do miss a viewfinder! There might be a solution however. The 22mm lens is equivalent to a 35mm lens for full-frame camera (35mm film) lens. 35mm happens to be the focal length on "single use" 35mm film cameras. Sorry about the 35-confusion... it was not my idea ;-)
Oh yes, viewfinders of singles use cameras... they reflect the field of view of a 35mm lens.
My future solution to that problem will be to dismantle an AGFA LeBox and make the optical viewfinder mountable on a flash-shoe, such that it can be mounted on an EOS M (or an LX7, for good measures).


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