Tech Review: Canon’s EOS M100: Not Just for Lazy Hipsters

When I first took the EOS M100 out of the box, I was dubious. I saw a top switch with only three auto settings and no manual exposure options apparent, and I thought “what’s the point of a camera compatible with Canon’s full range of mirrorless lenses, but no manual exposure controls? Who would invest almost $900 in what’s essentially a fancy point-and-shoot camera – lazy hipsters?!” But once I took a look through the manual, and the more I used it, the more it surprised me – the M100 ticks all the boxes for both the keen enthusiast who wants a light and convenient kit to carry, and the happy snapper who wants amazing photos without necessarily having to learn how to “work” a camera. This is actually the perfect camera for your mum.

No really, hear me out. When I travel, I usually take a stripped-back version of my D-SLR kit with me – one body and two prime lenses – carry it everywhere with me, and shoot in manual. When I travel with my partner’s family, his mother carries a compact camera. We often take a similar picture of a landmark at the same time, and then she asks me “why doesn’t my photo look like yours?” I tell her it’s because I make better decisions than her camera does.

The issue is usually that her camera has a hundred different scene settings designed for different situations, but cycling through them all is tiresome so she leaves it set to a general auto mode. Lighting conditions (or the lack thereof), or the way she frames her photo combined with the camera’s standard matrix metering mode confuse the camera into over- or underexposing or choosing a shutter speed too long to handhold, and there’s no editing going on in her workflow – she shoots the photo, she shares it on Facebook. There are no steps in between.

Shot on the Canon EOS M100 22mm, 1/200 sec, f4, ISO 160. Click to see the full size version on Flickr!

The more I used the M100, the more I thought I’ve finally found the camera she needs – but she would have to read the manual to get the best out of it, or get a walkthrough from me first. The APS-C sized sensor – which is photographer-speak for almost-as-big-as-a-pro-camera-sensor-but-not-quite, is big enough to allow good image quality in low light and decent bokeh when shooting close details. The colours it produces are rich and its autofocus is speedy, with precise face recognition. It can’t do anything to improve composition – the photographer will always be responsible for their choice of framing – but at this stage, the composition is the only choice the photographer has to make. The M100 comes coupled with it’s included 15-45mm lens that captures plenty of scenery on the wide end and a nice portrait on the closer end.

The M100 has only three settings on its top switch: Scene Intelligent Auto, a completely automatic shooting mode; a program option which houses your manual and semi-automatic shooting modes as well as several creative presets; and Movie Auto Exposure which is exactly what it sounds like – a movie mode that takes care of everything for you. It takes almost no time to switch the camera to the mode you need and get the shot, or start recording.

Shot with the Canon EOS M100. 15mm, 1/40 sec, f4, ISO 3200. Click to see the full size version on Flickr!

I was surprised to find, on digging through the manual, that when your mode dial is set to the second position you can tap the icon in the top left corner to open a menu of shooting modes that will better your chances of taking a great shot. The M100 body I tested was brand new – I was the first to open the box – and the default setting is “creative assist”, which is an auto mode with the option to nudge temperature and tint levels around to get a different white balance. It could be that I’m just not savvy with the trends in cameras with touch-sensitive screens, but before opening the manual it didn’t occur to me to tap the tiny icon in the top left corner – which is exactly what you need to do to access the full range of creative presets. Everything from a smooth skin mode to food to handheld night scenes can be found here, as well as – lo and behold – full manual, aperture and shutter priority modes. The dial around the shutter, which until now I’d assumed to be purely for aesthetic reasons, actually has a purpose – to control the aperture and shutter speed. I was so relieved to find these functions – to have such a powerful and versatile camera without the ability to control your results seemed like such a waste to me, so I’m glad it’s not the case with the M100. Of course, the lack of buttons then confused me once again – how do I control the aperture if the dial is set to control shutter speed? Luckily I learned from the above, and found quickly enough that tapping the aperture or shutter setting on the screen will change what the single dial controls.

Extending the lens might prevent something of a challenge to the older generations – you must simultaneously slide a switch and twist the lens to extend it. It’s all too easy to slide past “extended” and end up at “completely zoomed in”, but it’s part of what makes the camera so compact and light, and it’s worth the adjustment period.

Shot on the Canon EOS M100 19mm, 1/200 sec, f4, ISO 160. Click to see the full size version on Flickr!
In what might be the most convenient feature ever, the touch-sensitive screen reduces shooting to a one-step process: tap the area you want in focus, and the camera will automatically focus (and in auto modes, meter) for that area AND take a shot. For users like my own mother, who routinely chop heads off when they accidentally drop the level of the camera while pressing the shutter, that could be the shooting method they’ve always needed. For the younger crowd who’ve grown up taking photos by pressing a button on a phone screen, touching the camera screen might feel more familiar and comfortable than pressing the shutter. It’s also incredibly handy when you need to put the camera in an unusual position to get a great shot, like very low to the ground or high in the air, and may need to hold the camera in such a way that you can’t reach the shutter easily – just pop the screen out so you can see what you’re doing and tap when you’re ready to shoot.

4K fans, keep moving – the M100 offers four different movie recording sizes, but none of them go larger than 1080p. You can get 60 frames per second out of it though, or 25 if a high frame rate isn’t a consideration for you. The pop-out screen flips all the way over the top of the camera, making it perfect for vlogging – I used it to film several chatty videos in the past few weeks, and its power combo of snappy autofocus and face detection made the process beyond easy. There is, however, a distinct lack of mic input, and while the built-in microphone holds its own indoors you’ll probably need something more robust if you do plan to use the M100 for video on the road.

Shot with the Canon EOS M100. 15mm, 1/40 sec, f4, ISO 5000. Click to see the full size version on Flickr!

The M100 is designed with us Instagram addicts in mind – beyond the common built-in wifi to quickly share your images, which is a standard feature of cameras these days, you can set up a constant Bluetooth connection between the camera and your phone. This way you can collect GPS data about where you took each shot (as part of the image’s metadata), view your photos without even taking the camera out of your bag, or use your phone as a remote control to set up the perfect selfie or group shot.

I found the side covers for the USB/HDMI ports and memory card slot a little awkward to open – the flap extends all the way to the back edge of the camera, and while it’s possible to open them with the screen in place against the camera body, those without long fingernails might find it easier to first lift the screen before prising them open.

Canon’s EOS M100 is a tiny bundle of potential and simplicity, although occasionally its simplicity can be what holds the user back. If you’re a vehement non-manual reader then you might need a while to learn your way around it, but if you’re willing to read the manual first (which honestly, you should be) then this camera will up your photo game and help you get the shots you’ve dreamed of.

Score: 7.5 out of 10

Highlights: Great image quality, versatile, compact, fast autofocus
Lowlights: No 4K video, no mic input, tricky to navigate at first
Manufactuer: Canon
Price: RRP $869 – offering $100 cash back through Canon’s online store at the time of publication
Available: Now