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Canon EOS M3 Review - Best VLOG And Stills Mirrorless ILC Under PHP 35K?

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Stills and video logging has grown popular as capable stills and video cameras become more affordable and accessible in tandem with the rise of YouTube and Twitch.
Canon EOS M3 Review - Best VLOG And Stills Mirrorless ILC Under PHP 35K?
Canon EOS M3 review!

Canon, one of the leading camera manufacturers has been expanding their line of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Some have even speculated that the reason why the DSLRs that Canon released in recent years like the 5D mark IV, 6D, 80D and 77D have been lacklustre is because they have focused their efforts on their mirrorless line. 

So we wanted to see how Canon's mirrorless cameras and lenses performs relative to their competition. Admittedly, we know that the EOS M3 is nearly two years old but it remains to be popular. We reviewed the Fujifilm X-A3 that is priced similarly as the EOS M3 and like it and we also wanted to see if Canon can beat it.

Note: We received the camera from Canon Marketing Philippines with box, body, battery, two lenses, lens caps, body cap, USB cable, documentation and battery charger.

Build Quality / Design

Solid build!
Solid build!

Out of the box the camera is pretty. The textured dark grey texture with its unique curves is eye catching and the solid feel of the body has this heft that is not normally found in mirrorless cameras in this price range.

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Solid feel of the body and this heft that is not normally found on mirrorless cameras at this price range!

What I like about the EOS M3 right away is the placement of the four main dials (aperture, drive, exposure compensation and directional dials) are all easily accessed by your right thumb and right pointing finger but due to the small body, this may be troublesome for people who have big and long fingers. It's perfect for people with small hands.

The shutter button is surrounded by the aperture dial and beside the two is a customizable function button.

The record and review button are on furthermost right part of the thumb rest which forces me to loosen my grip in an awkward manner that made me feel like I may drop the camera. Otherwise, the ergonomics of this camera is good.

The included kit lens the EFM 18-55 f/3.5 to 5.6 kit lens is small, lightweight but has the same hefty dark gray textured outer shroud similar in build with the body. As such we get that feeling of reassurance that this lens body won't scratch or break easily. Because of its lightweight it balances well with the EOS M3 body which is great for one handed operation.

If you are coming from a Canon SLR, the controls and workflow are similar enough that you won't need a huge time to adjust. 

I however am not a fan of how Canon and Nikon are moving the aperture ring away from the lens and into one of the dials in the body. I like the ability to see my aperture without looking at the LCD and the ability to switch it a labelled aperture ring. I understand that they chose this for their reasons but I find myself to be more efficient when I can turn the aperture ring on the lens with labels on it. Otherwise the aperture dial on the body is of no problem.

Display Quality

Colorful!
Colorful!

It is equipped with an 3-inch 1,040-dot tilt type Touch LCD monitor and is your live viewfinder. 

The colors and resolution on the screen is very good. We almost never experienced visible lag with the screen nor did we experience in accurate color rendition. The touch screen on here is smooth, accurate and responsive. This is one of the better touch screens on a mirrorless camera on the market now. 

It has a tap to focus option where you can tap anywhere on the screen and it will focus on as best as it can. It focuses 8 to 9 out of 10 times which is a pretty good number. It does struggle in low light or when there is little contrast on the subject.

Battery Life

Rated at 250 shots in one charge!
Rated at 250 shots in one charge!

Specs sheet say that it is rated for 250 shots with the LP-E17 which is nearly half of the 410 rated shots for the Fujifilm X-A2 and X-A3. This maybe so if you were shooting with RAW + JPEG and if you were constantly changing settings or always checking your pictures via slideshow (chimping). 

Our experience on day one was that the battery died quickly because we were still learning the camera so we were always fiddling and looking for the settings, the menu or the features we wanted, but after we got use to the camera, we would get around 300 to 400 shots shots per charge. This is with occasional 2 to 5 minute video recording.

If you are however recording video for an extended period, expect the battery to run out faster.

With the OEM charger we would get from empty to full within an 90 minutes. So it doesn't take to long. What we were looking for is the USB charging capability that was present in the Fujifilm cameras. We hope Canon will follow suite.

Performance

18-55 kit lens and 22 mm prime both made in Taiwan!
18-55 kit lens and 22 mm prime both made in Taiwan!

The camera is quite capable and can be either full auto or fully manual. What we liked even more is that the ISO is quickly accessible from the directional dial.

My personal settings are partly-full-manual mode. Depending on the subject, I adjust my ISO, aperture and shutter speed when the subject isn't moving quickly. If the subject is unpredictable then I set the camera to aperture priority where the aperture is set by me and the rest is set by the camera. 

Of course, you can choose to go full Auto. To turn this on, you will have to go to the drive dial and select the scene intelligent auto where the camera will determine everything for you or hybrid auto where it will still try to determine but you can intervene with your own settings. Full auto works 7 to 8 out of 10 times. It struggles with fast moving objects. As such I go full manual or shutter priority.

HDR, landscape, portrait, Manual Video modes are also available just like most cameras today.

It's easy to adjust if you come from a Canon DSLR, and the more you use it, the more it grows on you.

I took it out for several photography runs. I went out with friends, took pictures of the people I care about, the food I ate and the places I went to. I even took 1080p videos at 30 fps, but unfortunately, this camera cannot take 1080p 60 fps.

Autofocus speed is quick on body side and when coupled with the EFM lenses, it is good. The EFM 22 mm F2 when focusing however is a little noisy. It's not loud but you can hear the parts moving when focusing.

Autofocus accurately focuses 7 to 8 out of 10 times. Those two to three times are when it struggles with subjects with little contrast and with subjects in low-light. I just switch to manual focus for these situations. What is amazing about this camera is its focus peaking. It is accurate and easy to use. We hope all Canon cameras get focus peaking in the future.

The built in flash is usually hidden but can be released by a toggle on the left side of the camera. It fires once every second so don't expect to burst fire. It is powerful enough to light up until 5 meters away at ISO 100. It has a maximum Flash X sync speed at 1/200 of a second which means that this camera has very limited options for high speed sync. 

For audio accessories like external microphone for VLOGing for example, it is great because it has a 3.5 mm microphone jack which is compatible with most microphones the down side is that the hot shoe mount is right in front of where the flip screen would be if you flipped it on selfie mode. This means that when you add a big microphone, you won't be able to see the contents of the screen which defeats the purpose. 

There are several work around you can find on the internet. Otherwise, you would have to not use a microphone to see the flip screen or use an external microphone and not use the flip screen.

1. It is not for SUPER FAST Actions like sporting events (Racing, Horseback riding). It will also be a hit or miss when trying to take pictures of your kids running around as at the max 4FPS is without autofocus. You would have to manually set the focus and predict where the subject will be going to. We HIGHLY recommend to use Sandisk Class 10 UHS-I SD Cards to avoid lock-ups and bottlenecks! 
2. The lower frames per second can be overcome to a limited extent by using the flash. When you do turn on the flash, the burst shots become 1 fps as the flash needs to recharge with each shot. 
3. It has limited long exposure features which limits its use for hardcore landscape photography.

Image Quality

Image 1
Click me for Flickr Full Size Image!

For still image quality, the EOS M3 produces good images. The images we liked best were from the EFM 22mm F2 prime lenses as the rendering of the prime is superior in terms of sharpness and color when compared to the kit lens. The EFM 18 to 55mm performs okay as a kit lens. In fact, most people would be happy with the images it produces. We just prefered the prime when we compared them side by side with the zoom kit lens.
Image 2
Click me for Flickr Full Size Image!

If your technique is sound when taking pictures, this camera can take better pictures than most smartphone cameras of today. If you wanted better image quality than your smartphone then this camera is not a bad purchase. It has better resolution, color rendition and bokeh than any smartphone we've had.
Image 3
Click me for Flickr Full Size Image!

Although flagship phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8 have better video autofocus tracking because of the dual pixel technology which Canon has on their DSLRs. We hope that canon can bring those features to their mirrorless line in the future because this affects whether your pictures will be in focus and as sharp as possible.

It has a built in super intelligent flash that automatically adjusts depending on the situation. The specifications indicate that it has a guide number of 5 which explains the limited range of the flash. It is good enough for selfies or intimate group shots but won't be able to crush the ambient light.

Note: Check out this Flickr link for the more unedited camera samples.

Video Quality


The EOS M3 is a capable video camera but it may be lacking for those looking for a advanced amateur to professional grade videography. It is good for those spur of the moment video recording and brightly lit videography. The resolution/sharpness noticeably drops when used indoors and in low light. This is understandable as most cameras are affected by this.

To improve your videos, we recommend bringing a motorized gimbal, the image stabilization is good, but nothing is better than gimbal stabilized footage.

Writer's Note / Recommendations: One of the most important specifications of camera is not in the body itself but the ecosystem. (It's like how Apple's App ecosystem made the iOS dominate the mobile landscape with an app for everything.) The EOS M3 has access to to 10 EFM lenses that cater to most casual use. There is also an Canon EF lens to Canon EOS M mount adapter that allows you to adapt the Canon DSLR lenses to the EOS M cameras. This is only recommended when you adapt the smaller Canon DSLR lenses as adapting the bigger lenses defeats the purpose of a lightweight mirrorless system. It also makes the camera front heavy as the DSLR lenses tends to be heavier than the camera itself.

Competition: The mirrorless camera that competes with the EOS M3 in terms of specifications and pricing is the Fujifilm X-A3. The EOS M3 beats the X-A3 in terms of build quality and access to the Canon SLR lenses at the cost of weight. However, to our eyes (personal taste), the images from the pricier but lightweight Fujinon lenses when attached to the X-A3 have better resolution, color and rendition as compared to the EFM 18 to 55 kit lens and the EFM 22 F2. The X-A3 also can shoot up to 6FPS RAW and 10 FPS JPEG only during burst with access to USB charging. It may sound that the Fujifilm X-A3 is better but its actually a tie. The two manufacturers compromised on different aspects to keep the price affordable.

Pros - Build Quality is solid and hefty, full 3.5mm microphone jack, better touch screen, good right handed ergonomics, native EFM lenses are priced affordably, WiFi and NFC to smartphone transfer
Cons - No USB charging, flip screen on selfie mode is useless when an accessory is on the hotshoe, you have to buy the more expensive Canon SLR lenses for better image quality, 4 fps burst could be faster, no Dual Pixel AF

Verdict

The EOS M3 with the 18 to 55 kit lens is a versatile set up that can be used for advanced amateur grade portraiture, street photography, food photography, travel photography and decent video recording.

However, it has limited functionality for flash photography and landscape photography while the native lenses are far from their DSLR counterparts, Canon continues to develop newer models.

The Canon DSLR EF mount to EOS M mount adapter means you have access to first party and third party Canon EF mount lenses but the bigger lenses would make the camera front heavy which defeats the purpose of a lightweight mirrorless system.

Lastly, the stills image quality and burst rate may not be on par with the competition, but the EOS M3 fights back with NFC connectivity and with hefty and solid camera design. So if you don't need a high burst rate, USB charging, and the absolute best in image quality, the Canon EOS M3 may be for you!

Build - 4.25
Display - 4
Ergonomics - 4
Image Quality - 4
Video Quality - 3.75
Average - 4 / 5
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