Canon Eos M3 First Impressions

I think I many be the first person in the United States to get my hands on the all new Canon M3. Sent from Japan across oceans and continents to Ohio. My M3 is the final production model. Other reviewers have commented on pre-production models. I will discuss the final product. I am very impressed with this M3. It’s a huge upgrade to the previous two models and the most “professional” one of all. Find out what I liked the most.
New Sensor
The M3 is equipped with Canon’s newest APS-C sensor. All of the other consumer level Canon cameras have used the same 18MP sensor from back when Clinton was president. This is a brand new 24MP sensor and takes brilliant pictures. The T6i is the only other camera to have this new sensor. It has amazing low light sensitivity and creates magical still and video images. A lot of other mirrorless systems use smaller micro 4/3rds sensors and you just can’t get these types of images with them. The shallow depth of field with larger sensors just looks stunning. And, it’s Canon. Canon’s image quality, color reproduction, and unbeatable features are creme de le creme. Nothing else compares.
Bigger Size
The camera is definitely bigger and weighs more than the previous two models, but not buy much. It weighs 366g, about what a full mug of coffee weighs. It’s all metal and has a very professional feel to it’s heft. The grip on the side is beefier and allows you to hold the camera much more easily, especially, if you have larger lenses attached. It makes it easier to grip in “run and gun” type shooting as well.
Flip out Screen
The screen now flips up and out and allows you to see what you are recording or photographing at multiple viewing angles. This is the one feature that I had really hoped for, and the M3 now has it. For all the “one man show” videographers and YouTubers out there, this now let’s you see yourself as you record yourself. This was almost a deal breaker and I was very close to switching back to large bulky DSLRs like the 70D. I want to be able to see what I am recording, touch the screen, change settings and focus points, and record from low and high angles. The implementation of the flip out screen is brilliant too. It doesn’t flip out to the side, it flips up and down. This keeps the camera’s width small so you don’t have to worry about people running into it, or having it not fit properly in a camera rig. It will fit properly in any type of camera rig and there is no fear of it breaking off, it’s a very sturdy mount.
Superb Autofocus
The autofocus on the M3 is the Dual Pixel AF III with 49 points of focusing. It’s one of Canon’s top autofocus systems. There is no excuse anymore. You can take very fast pictures of moving objects, just like the larger DSLRs. Perhaps even faster, since no mirror has to flip up and out of the way. You will love the speed and accuracy. I’ve already used it in a multitude of fast action settings, and it’s better than my older, larger DSLRs,
Focus Peaking
If you are shooting with manual focus, the screen now shows you highlighted areas on the subject that are the most in focus. It’s a pretty amazing feature. If you are using a lens, like the nifty fifty, that is slow at focusing indoors or can’t latch on fast enough, just set it to manual and use the red colors on the screen. It’s pretty awesome if you haven’t used this before. This will also save battery life if you are using a lens that hunts too much. Also great if you are shooting at a fixed focal length and don’t need to change focus once it’s been set. You will really be thankful you have this feature. You can choose which color you want the focus peaking to be. I have it set to red, it seems to be the easiest to see.
Instant Manual Focus
There is a button on the back dial dedicated to quickly switching to manual focus mode. This is great if you really need to get that shot, but don’t want to keep waiting for focus if the camera keeps hunting. Pressing this button also turns on focus peaking (assuming you have that enabled for manual focus), and you can quickly see which areas are in focus and whether or not you need to change it slightly. It’s so nice to be able to quickly switch to manual. Especially, if you are indoors at a concert or show where it’s dark, and difficult to focus. There are buttons now on the back that turn on and off many features instantly, and you can map them to new functions.
Exposure Compensation Dial
The exposure compensation dial allows you to quickly dial up or down your exposure. You can easily increase or decrease your exposure by up to 2 stops in each direction at the turn of a dial in 1/3 stop increments. Very fast and efficient.
Compatible with all lenses
It doesn’t matter what lens you have, you can use it on the M1-M3. Even old vintage lenses from the 35mm film days. Because there is no mirror or pentaprism, the distance between the lens mount and sensor is similar to what it was with old film cameras. Hence, you can use them all. Even very old ones from 50 years ago (you will need an adapter). This suddenly expands your creativity options significantly. Many of those older lenses are available on Ebay from very cheap.
More Manual Buttons and Wheels
All the important functions that you may need while shooting are now accessible through buttons, wheels, and dials. You can move focus or metering points, change the ISO, change the aperture, change exposure, lock focus, switch to manual focus, and do a multitude of other functions while shooting from the physical dials, wheels, and buttons. You don’t have to click through the various menus and sub-menus. You can even set some buttons to have custom functions that you like. This adds a layer of professionalism and functionality that wasn’t there previously. If you are at a soccer game and want to change a setting, you can do it quickly. You don’t have to dig through layers of menu options and sub options.
Touch Autofocus
This is still one of the best features of all the newer Canons. The M started this and the M3 has it too, and it’s much, much faster. The M line of cameras allows you to touch an object on screen while filming to change your focus point. If I am filming a baby in the foreground it will focus on the baby, then I tap the window in the background and it slowly shifts the focus to the window in the background. It looks like very a professional rack focus or pull focus effect from the movies. If you are filming a video and already set your focus, you can tap part of the screen, half press the shutter, and it’ll change the focus to that area.
AF Servo
You can have the camera always setting focus, so that no matter when you shoot, objects will be perfectly focused. This especially comes in handy during sports. It can even predict where your object is moving next and already have focus set. This also works in movie mode, where it can continuously keep certain objects, or faces in focus. You can tap the screen to let it know which object it should track. Or turn on face detection mode. Or, you can tap “Servo AF” on screen to turn it off and maintain current focal length. Very useful features for live event recording. Especially, live events where you need to react quickly, like at weddings.
Wifi and NFC
The Wifi features have been improved even further. You can connect to the camera, do remote shooting, change focus, change camera settings, and change aperture all while shooting. You can record start and stop. And of course, you can download all your pictures.
Record Video at any Time
While in photo taking mode, you can still shoot video. Just press the video record button at any time. The M1 and M2 didn’t allow you to start taking video unless you switched the dial to video mode. And of course all of them let you take a picture while shooting video. This is very useful. If I’m taking pictures of kids and suddenly something funny starts to happen you can instantly start taking high quality video. The M3 will not beep to focus while taking pictures during video filming. The M2 and M1 beep to focus, then take a snapshot with an audible shutter sound. The M3 will still have an audible shutter sound recorded in the movie too, all of them do that.
Custom White Balance
With the M3, you can now shoot a picture of a white card and actually choose a manual white balance as opposed to choosing one of the preset options like, daylight, tungsten, florescent, etc. You can also manually correct the white balance with a nice color chooser grid that allows you to slowly adjust the color towards or away from blue, amber, magenta, or green.
Sound Recording
Audio recording is pretty much the same as the previous models. You can set levels manually and or leave them alone on a pretty decent automatic gain control. Of course, you can plug in a Zoom or Rode mic if you’d like and adjust levels. This is all essentially unchanged since the very first M. The pre-amps on the M line are actually pretty quiet and not too bad. If someone asks you to shoot some video of an event that was unexpected and you don’t have your microphones with you, rest assured, that you could probably wing it just fine.
Auto Mode Continuous Shooting
When in auto mode, you can hold down the shutter at any time to keep taking continuous pictures. You can take about 4.5 pictures per second. You could also do this by touching the screen and holding your finger on the screen. This is great if your camera is on a tripod taking sports pictures, you can just touch the screen and leave your finger on it.
Built in 2 axis Level
The camera can display whether or not your camera is level from side to side and from front to back. This is a very nice professional level feature that was not available on any of the previous models.
Creative Scenes
One of my favorite creative scenes is the night scene. This was also available on the M2. Basically, you can take a picture in pitch black without a tripod, just try your best to hold still. The camera will take 5-6 shots quickly and combine them to improve picture quality, brighten up the scene, and reduce noise. I’ve actually used this mode and the pictures turn out really good. It also still has the food, sports, landscape, and portrait modes. The food one is interesting, it over saturates food colors. Pretty neat. Like the M2, it has a HDR mode that allows you to take great pictures of scenes with varying areas of contrast and exposure. It combines three images into one very nice picture and keeps everything properly exposed.
Other Features
There are hundreds of other features. I haven’t had time to explore all of them yet, but I will be doing so and updating this review over time. If you’d like a complete look at all the features, download the users manual.
Overall Impression
This is definitely a camera you can use in all situations now and one that really doesn’t need anything else. I am confident that I can now put away the big DSLR permanently and use this for all applications. The best lens for this camera is still the 22mm F2.0 lens that takes stunning pictures that are very sharp and the color reproduction is top notch. Don’t hesitate, go on Ebay and order your Canon M3 from Japan today!