Canon EOS M100: A Great Starter Camera for the Beginner [Review]
The Canon EOS M100 is the successor to the Canon EOS M10, released a few years earlier. Canon has a small selection of mirrorless cameras; the M5, M6, M10, and M100 make up the current lineup. The M100 is the new entry-level model. The price tag is in line with other entry-level mirrorless cameras.
For those who don’t know, mirrorless cameras differ from DSLRs in that they don’t have a system of internal mirrors. In a DSLR, the mirrors are used for the viewfinder and phase detection system. A mirrorless camera uses a well designed sensor to handle these functions in addition to image creation. The result is a much more compact camera, though the extra power requirements do lead to poor battery life. The EOS M100 is the next step for Canon’s mirrorless line and we’ll examine it thoroughly here.
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Table of Contents
- MSRP: $599.99 with kit lens
- Kit Lens: Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM. EF-M is a mirrorless Canon lens. IS refers to the in-lens Image Stabilization. STM stands for “Stepper Motor,” which is the autofocus motor type.
- Sensor: 24.2 MP (APS-C sized at 22.3 x 14.9 mm)
- Number of Autofocus Points: 49 Phase Detection autofocus points. Phase Detection uses paired sensors to detect the differences in light reaching them from the subject. The lens can then be adjusted to focus properly.
- Built-in Flash: Yes, with 5.0 m (16.4 foot) range at ISO 100. This ISO level is the lowest level of light sensitivity. Increasing the ISO will increase the effective flash range.
- Continuous Shooting: 6 fps
- ISO Range: 100-25600
- Video Recording Capability: Full HD 1920×1080 (60, 30, 24 fps), HD 1280×720 (60 fps), SD 640×480 (30 fps)
- Image Format: JPEG and RAW. JPEG is the image format most people are familiar with. A JPEG is a compressed file that takes up less space on a device’s memory. RAW is the uncompressed image file created by your camera and takes up more memory than JPEGs. It takes special software to view RAW files off-camera. But they are the best for image editing, as they contain all of the original image data.
- Wireless Connectivity: Yes; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC (Near Field Communication). The camera can be remote controlled using the Canon Connect App available for Android and iOS. You can also use the app to send photos from your camera straight to your smart device for easy sharing. The NFC connection allows for fast pairing to Android devices and Canon’s Connect Station CS100. The Connect Station is a wireless storage device that can hold up to 1TB of data.
- Battery Life (CIPA rating): 295 images per charge
- Weight: 302 g (0.67 lb / 10.65 oz)
- Dimensions: 108 x 67 x 35 mm (4.25 x 2.64 x 1.38 in)
The EOS M100 has a composite plastic body just like the EOS M10. Being a mirrorless camera, it has a compact body to take advantage of not needing a mirrored viewfinder. Once the lens is removed, the EOS M100 can be pocketed until you’re ready to continue shooting again. At 4.25 x 2.64 x 1.38 in, it’s nearly as small as some of the ultracompact point-and-shoots on the market, although it is heavier. The front of the body and thumb grip have a textured quality to the plastic to give it extra grip in your hands.
The 1,040,000 pixel LCD screen tilts up and back in, but is not fully articulating (left to right). Still, the tilting feature gives you a few extra angles to compose photos from. The LCD is also a touchscreen, for menu navigation, autofocus point selection, and taking pictures. However, the EOS M100 does not have a viewfinder. Photos are composed only by looking at the LCD screen. Some people may prefer this, especially if you’re moving from a smartphone to your first interchangeable lens camera. Photographers used to a viewfinder may not like the LCD only option. It also does not have a hot shoe connection, so attaching an electronic viewfinder is not possible.
The EOS M100 has 24.2 megapixels of resolution and an APS-C sized sensor. Both are definite advantages. The average social media-using photographer can get by with far less megapixels. But if you like to crop your photos often, or need to make large prints, then you’ll like having the extra resolution. 24.2 MP is enough for 300 pixel per inch uncropped prints up to 13 x 20 inches in size.
The 22.3 x 14.9 mm APS-C sized sensor is also a definite plus. A larger sensor means more light is being collected to create photographs. More light for the image sensor allows for better dynamic range, and noise control is improved. Dynamic range is the range of colors, bright light, and dark shadows that the sensor can create. Therefore the higher the dynamic range, the richer and more detailed photos can appear.
Noise is probably more familiar; it’s the speckled artifacts that can show up if an image is taken with too little light. Most budget point-and-shoot cameras actually have cheap, tiny sensors that are easily overwhelmed in low light. Beginner or professional, larger sensors are the way to go for good photographs.
Lastly, the EOS M100 does have a low-pass (anti-aliasing) filter. The included anti-aliasing filter helps reduce the chance of moiré patterns from forming. Moiré are complex error artifacts that can occur when photographing repeating patterns like feathers or textiles up close. But the AA filter also slightly reduces the overall resolution of photographs taken.
What additional features does the Canon EOS M100 have?
The Canon EOS M100 comes with Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus. The name is unnecessarily long, as nearly every consumer digital camera uses a CMOS type sensor. Dual pixel essentially means each of the 49 pixels in the system is split in half to act as a phase detection pair. Phase detection is complex, but we can quickly summarize it here. It detects differences in the light reaching each pair of phase detection autofocus points. The light detected by the pairs can be analyzed to determine focusing distance to the target. Phase detection is faster than the contrast detection used by many mirrorless cameras on the market now.
Contrast detection is more accurate but works slower. It studies an image to find optimum color contrast. Canon opted for speed with the EOS M100 in its new DIGIC 7 processor. But dual pixel AF is still limited compared to the hybrid systems used by many other manufacturers. Some, like the Sony a6000, combine the best of both worlds to gain both speed and accuracy.
High Contrast Scene is a mode offered by the EOS M100 and it’s exactly the same as the HDR (high dynamic range) photography mode offered by many cameras today. HDR photography involves taking three separate pictures at adjusted light exposure ranges. Then the photos are combined to create an image with a high dynamic range. Details and colors are improved in the shadowy areas, as well as in the brightly lit portions. Architecture and forests are prime examples where HDR photography really shines due to the challenging lighting. The only thing to remember is that because it takes three separate photos, you need to use a tripod. Also, it’s not meant for moving subjects, or the resulting image will show blur where the subject moved.
The M100 also has an HDR art effect filter that mimics true HDR. For a photo with moving subjects or no tripod, this will give a similar result. The M100 also has a Creative Assist menu. Sometimes a beginner photographer may not know exactly what settings will create the effect they want. Instead of needing to know that aperture controls depth of field, they can select the appropriate picture and description of the result they want. The camera will then select settings that will lead to a blurred background and a sharply focused subject. For someone looking to quickly create a certain photo style, the EOS M100 makes doing so very easy.
Focus peaking is another very welcome feature for the EOS M100. When using manual focus, focus peaking can be enabled in the settings menu. Focus peaking activates a colored halo (color chosen by you) around the areas of an image in sharpest focus. Sometimes when looking at a small LCD screen, a target may appear to be in focus to the human eye. But when blown up on a computer screen, you realize you just missed the optimal focus point. When precision focusing is required while using manual focus, focus peaking is one of the best tools you can have.
Disappointingly, the EOS M100 does not have 4K video recording. Given how recently the camera was released, it’s also surprising. That being said, not everyone has a 4K screen yet. Nor are they interested in oversampling 4K videos down to Full HD for better video quality. But the M100 does have some useful features for audio recording. There is an attenuator function that can be activated to reduce audio distortion in noisy places. The M100 also has a wind filter setting for reducing or eliminating excess noise on a windy day. Unfortunately, the EOS M100 does not come with a microphone port for attaching your own mic.
The EOS M100 also comes with the ability to create timelapse movies. Using a preset timer, the M100 will take photos and then stitch them together to create a soundless movie. Gradual changes like the sun’s path over the sky appear to fly by rapidly.
Multishot Noise Reduction is another intriguing photography option. It’s meant to be used with dark scenes where high ISO would normally create a lot of extra image noise. The camera will take four images and then combine them into one image. Similar to an HDR photo, you need both a tripod and a still subject when using MNR. Otherwise, moving the camera or the subject’s motions will cause blur in the resulting composite photo. Effectively the EOS M100 is oversampling and generating four times the image data, then selecting for the best signals. For a low light photography lover, this feature may allow full use of the respectable ISO 25,600 setting. Normally, using maximum ISO results in unusably noisy photos. But adjusting aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to create good exposure, is still the best way to preserve image quality.
The Image Stabilization of the EOS M100 is unfortunately not as impressive as expected. IS is very useful for reducing the chance of photo blur while shooting handheld. Some mirrorless cameras, like the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III, offer built-in image stabilization. But the EOS M100 only offers additional software stabilization that synchronizes with the in-lens IS. But if your lens does not have built-in image stabilization or vibration reduction, then you’re out of luck.
The kit lens does come with IS, but image stabilization is pretty standard in most of today’s lenses. Most in-lens IS provides up to two stops of image stabilization. Say a photographer shooting handheld can’t go any slower than 1/250th of a second without having motion blur in a photo. With in-lens IS, they could shoot up to 1/60th of a second with the same chance of blur. How much additional IS the EOS M100 provides via software when activated, is rather unclear. Canon’s own website and manual are not forthcoming with that information. But some is better than none at all. Notably, the EOS M100 does have 3-axis video image stabilization. While recording video, the M100 will reduce some of the uneven shakiness that comes from shooting handheld.
Being part of the Canon brand has certain advantages. As one of the top two DSLR brands, Canon has a huge variety of gear that’s compatible with the EOS M100. At the very top of that list is lenses. At least, that’s how it should be. Canon’s small mirrorless line is not compatible with Canon’s EF and EF-S mount lenses without the EF-EOS M mount adapter. With a retail price of $199.99, it’s not cheap and really should have been included with the EOS M100. Even a Canon lover won’t be willing to start a new collection of lenses just for an entry-level mirrorless camera.
Currently, there are only 12 Canon mirrorless lenses available, despite the line being around for years now. But the EF-EOS M adapter is just too pricey to be an afterthought purchase. Not when other mirrorless manufacturers like Sony, Olympus, and Panasonic are fully committed to providing new features and lens options.
How does the EOS M100 compare to the Nikon 1 J5?
Nikon’s entry-level mirrorless camera is the Nikon 1 J5. Both manufacturers are the major players of the DSLR world and are well known by photographers everywhere. With an MSRP of $499.95 with kit lens, it’s significantly cheaper, but how do its features compare?
Advantages of the Canon EOS M100
APS-C Sensor (sized at 22.3 x 14.9 mm) vs 1″ Sensor (sized at 13.2 x 8.8 mm): The Canon sensor has nearly 3 times the surface area of the Nikon sensor. This makes a tremendous difference in noise control, dynamic range, and depth of field. Depth of field controls what portions of an image are blurred and which are in sharp focus. Larger sensors have a much easier time controlling depth of field.
24.2 MP vs 20.8 MP Resolution: At this point, only a photographer who regularly makes large prints will care much about the difference. And a printmaking photographer won’t be buying an entry-level camera. But more resolution is rarely a bad thing to have, as every photographer needs to crop on occasion.
295 vs 250 images per charge battery life: The EOS M100 has slightly more endurance than the 1 J5. But both have fairly poor battery life, as most mirrorless cameras do. So extra batteries are essential for anything more than a brief photoshoot.
Low-Light Performance: The Canon EOS M100’s sensor has a native ISO up to 25,600 compared to the 12,800 of the Nikon 1 J5. With Multishot Noise Reduction, higher ISO values are not entirely useless with the M100. Lastly the larger APS-C sensor collects nearly 3 times the light of the Nikon 1 J5’s for further low light performance.
Advantages of the Nikon 1 J5
Hybrid Autofocus System vs Phase Detection: As an action-oriented camera, the Nikon 1 J5 has a blazing fast hybrid AF system that combines the best of phase and contrast detection. It also has 179 AF points versus the 49 of the Canon EOS M100.
No Anti-aliasing Filter: Because moiré only occurs in very specific circumstances, the removal of the AA filter is usually seen as a positive. For the user interested in a wide variety of photography styles, no AA filter for increased sensor resolution, is better. But a product, macro, or fashion photographer would disagree.
60 frames per second vs 8.5 frames per second continuous shooting speed: At its maximum setting, the EOS M100 can take just over 8 pictures per second. The Nikon 1 J5 is a high-speed photography beast, capable of up to 60 fps. For the action photographer, the 1 J5 offers tremendous potential.
MSRP $499.95 vs $599.99: The Nikon 1 J5 is a full $100 cheaper than the Canon EOS M100. For the budget photographer looking to break into the mirrorless world, the 1 J5 is an attractive option.
Both cameras are attractive for the beginner mirrorless photographer. The Nikon 1 J5 is clearly oriented towards speed and accuracy. So anyone wanting to take action photographs and needing a quick focusing AF system, should consider the 1 J5. The key strength of the EOS M100 is its larger sensor, which will give better control over dynamic range, noise, and depth of field. And the low light performance is much better with the EOS M100. Poor lighting may challenge the 1 J5 with its smaller sensor. But the lenses the photographer has will play a large role as well.
Improvements over the Canon EOS M10
The EOS M100 is a full upgrade over the EOS M10. It has every feature of the M10 and a few new ones added. For starters, the M10 was entirely smooth across the body; the M100 has texture added for additional grip. The battery life has been improved from 255 to 295 images per charge. And the sensor has added resolution; from 18 to 24.2 MP. The M100 can make slight RAW edits like color adjustments and monochrome in-camera.
The DIGIC 7 processor is a new design by Canon, which will lead to comparatively faster image processing and autofocus speeds. The image sensor is natively ISO 25,600 instead of a software boosting to reach that value. And using Multishot Noise Reduction combined with the extra resolution, the higher ISO values will look cleaner and less noisy. Pricewise, they have the same MSRP of $599.99. But the EOS M100 is a clear upgrade with no downsides over the EOS M10.
Unfortunately Canon appears to be holding back in the mirrorless camera development game. The M10 was widely criticized for being a boring camera with little to offer. The M100 mostly improves the base features of the M10 such as resolution and battery life. But even some base features like autofocus, are underwhelming. For example, 49 autofocus points is acceptable but a somewhat low number. And no innate image stabilization or hybrid autofocus is very disappointing. Focus peaking and HDR are nice, but far from unique in today’s highly competitive camera market.
The EOS M100 would be more intriguing if it came pre-adapted to use Canon’s excellent lens selection. Instead it appears to be an attempt by Canon to test the mirrorless camera market using only the brand name as a selling point. Nikon seems to be making the same mistake and risks being outclassed by the features of the other brands. But both brands are still the reigning kings of the DSLR world and seem to focus on that market. The Canon EOS M100 is an acceptable entry-level mirrorless camera with few bad qualities. But for someone looking for standout features, Sony, Olympus, and Panasonic all have better cameras to offer.