Canon enters the CSC fray …

Well, at long last, Canon have announced their compact/mirrorless entry with the EOS-M. There will doubtless be extensive technical reviews. But for now, it’s time for some initial thoughts …

There’s a bit of grousing about how the sensor isn’t that great, but then this is only the jumping-in point. Personally, I think it would be dumb of Canon to release a better spec than their up-range crop-sensor DSLRs.

But the important thing is that the sensor format has been defined – APS-C – and that’s relevant for a number of reasons. Firstly, the EF-S lens range (not the best quality, of course, but not bad) should all be easily convertible. And the fast little pancake lenses could easily be issued with re-engineered mounts. So unlike Nikon with their “1” series, Canon could hit the ground running with support for a full range of lenses.

Canon do run a risk of cannibalising customers for their existing product range, but I’m glad they’ve not gone for an arrogantly hierarchical approach (as in “of course, when you’re ready for a realcamera …”).

A quick aside – it’s always annoyed me that manufacturers produce hierarchical camera ranges, crippling the functionality of the cheaper products rather than optimising for one or more types of photography. We’re just seeing this start to change at the “pro” level – with different high-end models allowing (for example) the choice between resolution and sensitivity. But buying a more expensive camera body doesn’t really make you more important to anyone but the salesman.

I don’t think that’s as big a risk as tanking by bringing out an uncompetitive product in a market where you’ve 0% share. Sales of tiny sensor CSC ranges – such as the Nikon 1 and Pentax Q – haven’t exactly set the world on fire, while the Fuji and Sony (with their larger formats) are getting much more positive feedback.
That may have been a factor in Canon deciding which way to jump. And, of course, system cameras are all about locking in the punters for the long haul – and this format lets Canon sell some glass right now.

So will I be buying one ?

Not this time around. but that’s down to this product rather than the format. Plus points (for me – with my existing Canon glass)

  • I can use existing lenses (with an adapter) – and they ought to behave themselves.
  • It gives me a pocketable backup / second camera, which can produce acceptable quality.
  • It’ll probably give a very usable underwater option
  • Video option
  • The APS-C format means that there should be third-party glass available soon after launch

But – I won’t buy this particular model because

  • There don’t seem to be enough knobs. I like dedicated function buttons, even if it makes things a bit bigger.
  • I feel I’d need the response of an electronic viewfinder (EVF) to get some of my shots – although I’m open to persuasion.
  • (a very personal point) – when I do get a CSC camera, I’ll need it to work underwater. So I’ll be waiting to see what happens with the housing options …

Will it sell ?

Probably. Canon have enough clout to get it onto the retail shelves – which will probably mean that some other brands get pushed out (salesmen don’t like too much choice – confused customers are tougher to close). Let’s just hope they’ve got an idiot-proof User Interface together. So if they can get their USP into the sales (and review) community, they can shift some units.
But I’m sure they’ll do better with new, improved models 6 months later….

One more point – there are already rumours of Canon’s crop-sensor ranges being rationalised, and I think this announcement will make that more likely to happen. There’s not a lot of differentiation between the 650D, 60D and 7D – and, as I said earlier, salesmen don’t like confused customers…