As someone who is fortunate enough to travel on a regular basis I’m always looking for new ways to cut excess weight from my pack and go lighter. Over the years I’ve actually gotten quite good at packing the minimum amount of gear and taking just the bare essentials that I need on the road. But one area that I continually struggle with is my camera equipment. Obviously I want to document my travels and capture good photos of the places that I visit, but carrying my DSLR and an extra lens or two adds a lot of weight. Sure, you can travel with a good point and shoot, and I usually bring one of them along as well, but there are a lot of circumstances where they just don’t perform at the level you need. For that reason I’ve been considering investing in one of the new mirrorless camera options such as the Nikon 1 series or a Panasonic Lumix G3. These types of cameras fall in between an SLR and a point and shoot, offering you the best elements of both, namely interchangeable lenses in a compact, lightweight form factor.
Up until yesterday there was one big name in the camera industry that was conspicuously absent from the mirrorless market. That was Canon, a company that makes some of the most popular and high quality SLR’s on the market. That changed with the announcement of the new EOS M system however, which is the company’s first entry in the growing mirrorless arena.
On paper the EOS M brings a lot to the table. The new camera features an 18 megapixel CMOS sensor that is on par with Canon’s excellent Rebel T4i and comes with a very nice 3-inch touch screen LCD monitor. It’ll shoot 1080p video, is compatible with Canon’s EF and EF-S line of lenses (with an optional adapter) and promises fast performance in a variety of lighting conditions. The new camera has it’s own specifically designed lens system as well and will ship with a 22mm kit-lens with the option to add a 18-55mm zoom. The body doesn’t include a built-in flash, although an optional Speedlite will be available when it hits the market in October. The kit is expected to retail for $800.
In a lot of ways this new offering from Canon is a fantastic entry into the mirrorless market and in others the company is still playing catch-up with competitors. I have no doubt that EOS M will deliver Canon’s trademark image quality and performance in a compact package, after all the camera weighs just 9.2 ounces (262 grams). But similar offerings from competitors include many of the same features for less money and have a built-in flash as well. Panasonic, Sony and Olympus are all now several generations into their mirrorless systems and over that past few years they’ve refined them quite nicely and delivered great performance at a reasonable price.
That said, consumers now have some excellent compact, interchangeable lens systems to choose from and if you’re already a Canon user, the fact that you can attach your lenses to the EOS M is a nice selling point. Canon’s entry into the market should make for good competition as well, forcing competitors to step up their game further and hopefully bringing prices down.
Why should you care about the EOS M or any other mirrorless camera? Because they are now getting to the point where they offer DSLR performance in a much smaller body. For those of us who like to travel light that is a very important feature to consider. These systems are a fraction of the weight of their big brothers, but offer image quality that is superior to a point and shoot. We all know how limited weight and space can be on an extended expedition and this type of camera, which can also shoot excellent video, can be a real game changer.
I haven’t decided which system I’ll personally purchase yet, but I do know it’s only a matter of time before I do. I have a feeling I’ll enjoy having a DSLR at my disposal for when the demands of trip require it, but on other occasions the lightweight mirrorless option is likely to be next travel companion.
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