A well kept secret: the Canon EOS-M HDSLR

A well kept secret: the Canon EOS-M HDSLR
A well kept secret:
the Canon EOS-M HDSLR


Whether you’ve been shooting with an HDSLR for years, or you haven’t jumped into the HDSLR world yet, you’re probably aware of all the films, shows, music videos and commercials shot on HDSLRs like the Canon 5D or 7D. But what if we told you that you could get a camera body with the same sensor as the 7D for $300??

As you know the DVcreators philosophy is to spend money on the things that will make the biggest impact on the quality of your delivered project.

Let’s say you’ve got $3,000 to spend.

If you buy a $300 EOS M body, and use the remaining $2700 to buy quality lenses, a nice tripod, a light kit, a Beachtek audio adapter and a Rode shotgun mic, your projects will look (and sound) infinitely better than if you had spent $3,000 on any camera on the planet.

Awesome Image Quality

The EOS M boasts an 18MP APS-C format sensor and a DIGIC 5 processor. This should sound familiar to anyone who owns any of the several Canon models that use the same sensor and processor. The primary difference is the EOS M is mirrorless.

Horror 2 shot

It shoots 1080p at 24, 25, and 30fps and 720p at 50 and 60 fps. The ability to shoot “over-cranked” at 60fps and slow down to 24fps in post is awesome if you want some smooth, great looking slow-motion shots.


The color and contrast is everything you’d expect from a 7D or the other Canon HDSLRs with the same chip.

Touch Screen

The EOS M doesn’t have a viewfinder, but its 3-inch touch-screen display has a slightly higher resolution screen than the 7D’s display (1,040k dots compared to the 7D’s 920k).

We think it’s cool to be able to navigate around menus on the touchscreen rather than the other controls (though you can use those too!). In addition to monitoring and menus, the touch screen also has a unique feature for auto-focus.

When originally released, the EOS M was $800. But it had terrible autofocus. In fact, the autofocus got so many bad reviews on Amazon, it kind of killed the product, and wholesalers started selling them off for cheap.

Then, quietly, Canon released an update that improved the autofocus dramatically. All of a sudden it was on par with most other HDSLR’s autofocus, but the cheap prices stayed. So that’s why it’s such an amazing deal right now.

The EOS M has continual auto-focus in movie mode. Does it work as well as the Dual Pixel AF in the Canon 70D? Definitely not. But it works as well or better than other cameras in its class, and in many run-and-gun shoots, it will probably do a better job than most camera operators trying to keep focus on a subject with unpredictable movement.

Why? Because with the EOS M you can simply tap the touch screen display on the subject you want to focus on, and the camera locks focus to that subject! Tap a closer or further subject, and the camera will do a rack focus. It works especially well with faces, where the EOS M’s facial recognition kicks in.

Now, keep in mind this feature isn’t perfect. Sometimes the camera fishes around for focus before it locks. But it’s still a useful feature, and we were able to do perfect, repeatable rack focus and follow focus moves with this technique.

We look at the continuous autofocus as a nice extra. You can always just set it to manual and pull focus yourself.



Yes, you can set audio record levels manually — a necessary feature for us — and there’s a stereo mini input for XLR adapters.
There are only two “native” lenses for the EOS-M: a nice, fast, wide 22mm f/2 prime and an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom.

But, you can also get an EF adapter to use the wide array of Canon EF lenses.

What lenses you get depend on the type of shoots you do. We love primes, because you can get faster lenses for less money. Faster lenses get you better light gathering, lower noise, and shallower depth of field.

EOS M DVC Bundle #1

22mm lens


EF-M Lens Adapter

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50mm lens

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Bang for your buck

Our advice for a basic package is:

  • the EOS M kit with the native 22mm prime
  • the EF adapter
  • the Canon EF F1.8 50mm prime

Getting the combo of the camera body + 22mm lens saves you money over buying them separately, and then you have a nice fast native wide lens.

The 50mm is a great deal for an f/1.8 lens, and with the two primes, you have both a wide and portrait lens. Because the EOS M has an APS-C sensor, the 50mm is actually equivalent to an 80mm, which is a nice focal length that could be portrait or a little telephoto. You could easily shoot projects for years with these two lenses. (At least until you needed a fisheye, long telephoto or zoom lens!)

The total of this bundle today is about $575 at the time we wrote this article.

I would challenge anyone to beat this bundle for image quality, low light performance, and shallow depth of field for anywhere near this price! Remember, you have an f/2 22mm and a f/1.8 50mm. Most other people would have to settle for a slow f/3.5 lens for any sub-$1000 DSLR package.

If you are used to zoom lenses, remember that with primes, you will have to always move the camera to frame your shot, or swap lenses. If your shooting situations are not compatible with this, then you’ll want a zoom lens.

Zoom Lenses

So now let’s look at a package with a zoom lens. We have two options:

Low budget zoom lens choice: the native EOSM 18-55mm zoom

We found some new ones for around $100, so it’s a pretty good deal. The only downside is that at f/3.5, it’s not very fast, meaning you’ll need more light and it won’t get as shallow. But if you shoot outdoors at mostly the telephoto end of this zoom, why worry? Just save the dough!
If this deal is gone, please let us know and we’ll update the product recommendation.

18-55mm Zoom


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Higher budget zoom lens choice: the Sigma 17-50mm zoom

The EOS M zoom is the budget choice, but it’s not very fast, so we would lean towards this Sigma 17-50mm lens. At f/2.8, it’s fast and the variable focal length gives you enough room to get a wide variety of shot sizes. Remember you’ll need an adapter to use this lens on an EOS M.

Sigma 17-50mm

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The exceptional portability of this camera is both a plus and a minus for shooters.

It’s fantastic if you’re traveling.  You could stick the magnesium alloy body in your pocket forget it’s there. It’s only half a pound without a lens on it.

But if you’ve ever used a lightweight camera before, you know how shaky your footage can get if you’re shooting handheld.

This is why many operators prefer a camera with some heft to it. Sticking a hefty lens on the EOS M makes it front-heavy as well, which adds to the difficulty of shooting handheld with this camera.

Our conclusion? If you’re shooting with the EOS M, stick it on a tripod or other stabilizer.


eosm-top controls
The lack of controls on the camera is an issue for me. Personally, I like to be able to adjust camera settings with the flick of a finger and not have to dive into a menu, and a deep one at that.

That having been said, it’s not really that bad, and for a beginner it’s probably better. The exposure mode dial I’m used to on Canons is here, but it’s only got three positions. Not that big of a deal, I’m rocking Manual most of the time.

On the top right, there’s a dial to change from auto, photo, or video mode. On the back, you’ve got the usual menu, playback, and info button. Between them is a five-way toggle to navigate menus, control the shutter mode, shutter compensation, rifle through images in preview, and the good old trash can to delete.

Connectivity and Storage

The EOS M has an A/V out for your external monitor in case the 3-inch display isn’t quite enough. An HDMI mini output sits right under the mic input.

As far as storage goes, it uses SD/SDHC/SDXC cards that are swapped out under the camera where the battery is housed. This can be a problem if you’ve got the camera on a quick release plate, since you have to remove the camera from the plate to swap out the cards.

Battery life
The battery life on this camera isn’t great, topping out at about 90 minutes of video footage or 230 shots if you’re doing any still photography.

Definitely buy a couple extra batteries or an AC adapter like the one to the right. The battery itself is smaller than the ones found on Canon’s other DSLRs, even though its powering a sensor and processor the same size.

AC Adapter

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Because of the minimalist approach to controls on the camera, these options get relegated to the numerous menus, which are a bit ridiculous at first, but not so bad once you’ve done a tour around menu-town.

This is where the touchscreen really shines. It makes navigating the menu a breeze compared to poking around with buttons.

The menu will give you access to everything I mentioned above — auto and manual settings for focus, audio record levels, exposure, and the finer details you might want to control.


Here’s where this camera shines:

  • Incredibly affordable
  • Fantastic image quality
  • Portable
  • Ability adjust settings manually

This is why, to me, this thing is an ace up the sleeve. For the price point, you really can’t beat it. My T4i is collecting dust while my EOS M gets paraded around town, so the proof is in the pudding.

If you have questions or comments, feel free to comment on this post, or check out our Group for the EOS M on the DVC site.

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  1. Mike Helm 8 years ago

    So I took your advice to check this camera out.
    With the 18-55mm lense & flash, it came to $450.
    I used it on vacation taking photos & shooting video to New York.
    This is a phenomenal camera! You were bang-on in your assessment.
    It is a little powerhouse! I’m going to buy the lense adapter, so I can use the lenses from my wife’s T4i I bought her last year.

    Thank you so much for the tip!
    I’ve been following you since I met you at NAB in 2005, when you were demo-ing how to get good lighting with the XL-2.
    I’ve bought a few of your instructional DVDs over the years, and have always found the tips super helpful.
    Keep it up! Very much appreciated.

    • Ryan 8 years ago

      Thanks Mike! Glad to hear you enjoyed the post and the camera. Do you have any of your footage from the EOS M online? Would love to see it. We’ve got a new course coming up featuring the EOS M.

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