Canon EOS M review - Quality

Quality

 
To compare real-life performance I shot this scene with the Canon EOS M and Olympus PEN E-PL5 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.

The EOS M was fitted with the EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM kit zoom and the PEN E-PL5 with the M.Zuiko 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 kit zoom.

The zoom on both cameras was set to its maximum wide angle, 18mm (29mm equivalent) on the EOS M and 14mm (28mm equivalent) on the PEN E-PL5, providing an approximately equivalent field of view.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

  Canon EOS M results
1 Canon EOS M Quality JPEG
2 Canon EOS M Quality RAW
3 Canon EOS M Noise JPEG
4 Canon EOS M Noise RAW
5 Canon EOS M Multi Shot NR
6 Canon EOS M Sample images

The image above was taken with the Canon EOS M in Aperture Priority exposure mode with the aperture set to f5.6 and the ISO set to 100. At these settings, the EOS M selected a shutter speed of 1/800. At the same aperture setting and at its base ISO sensitivity of 200 ISO the Olympus PEN E-PL5 metered an exposure of 1/1000, to match exposures and produce similar results for comparison I applied -2/3EV exposure compensation on the E-PL5 resulting in an exposure of 1/1600 at f5.6. The JPEG file size was 8.23MB.

The first thing to say about the EOS M is that it correctly exposed this scene. There’s a little bit of clipping of both highlights and shadows due to the wide range of brightness levels in the scene, but the exposure is good. I mention this not becasue it’s worthy of comment in itself, but because the histogram on the camera was well to the left, indicating that the shot was underexposed, when in fact this wasn’t the case.

So, to the crops. The EOS M shares the same sensor as the T4i / 650D so this isn’t the first time we’ve seen results from this sensor, but it is the first time we’ve seen results from it with the new EF-M lenses. There are no big surprises, though, and overall quality is comparable with what you’d get from a T4i / 650D with its kit lens. In terms of processing the crops look typical of those from a Canon consumer model, which is to say that they’ve been processed for a ‘consumer-friendly’ look, nice and contrasty with crisp edge detail.

The first crop shows a good level of detail in the chapel and grassy foreground with no tell-tale noise textures in the sky. In the second crop the lighthouse is a distinct white column, you can make out the lamp room on top and there’s visible detail in the cliffs behind. Some of the windows in the foreground of this crop are a little soft and there’s not quite as much detail in the roofs as there might be though.

There’s also some softness creeping to the third crop from near the edge of the frame and some red fringing down the edge of the drainpipe. Like the T4i / 650D, the EOS M has built in lens aberration correction, by default (and used here) Peripheral illumination correction (vignetting) is enabled and Chromatic aberration correction is disabled. Moving on to the fourth and final crop from the edge of the frame, this is nice and sharp with plenty of fine detail, the balcony dividers are crisply defined and you can make out some detail in the roof tiles and brickwork at the bottom of the crop.

Like the EOS M, the Olympus PEN E-PL5 has a sensor that we’ve also seen before, in the Olympus OM-D E-M5. But I think these reults look quite different to those from the OM-D E-M5 and the difference is in the processing. I called the EOS M crops crisp and contrasty, that can also be said of the PEN E-PL5 crops, only more so. First, take a look at the chapel on the first crop, the doors and windows look sharper and there appears to be more detail on the stonework. In the second crop, as with the EOS M, the windows in the foreground are a little indistict, but there’s more detail in the roof at the bottom of the crop. There’s not much to separate the two in the third crop, and the PEN E-PL5 also suffers from chromatic aberration. In the final crop, as with the first, the PEN E-PL5 crop looks to be sharper with a little more detail. Note the E-PL5 crops also show little evidence of noise in the sea and sky areas at its base sensitivity of 200 ISO

The question is are these differences merely down to processing, or is the Olympus E-PL5 Micro Four Thirds sensor recording more detail than the APS-C sensor in the Canon EOS M? To discover more check out my Canon EOS M RAW results on the next page or see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Canon EOS M Noise results.

 
Canon EOS M
 
Oympus PEN E-PL5
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO


Canon EOS M
results : Quality / RAW vs JPEG / Noise / RAW Noise / Multi Shot NR

Canon EOS M RAW Quality

 
To compare real-life RAW performance I shot this scene with the Canon EOS M and Olympus PEN E-PL5 within a few moments of each other using their RAW mode.

The zoom on both cameras was set to its maximum wide angle, 18mm (29mm equivalent) on the EOS M and 14mm (28mm equivalent) on the PEN E-PL5, providing approximately equivalent fields of view.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

  Canon EOS M results
1 Canon EOS M Quality JPEG
2 Canon EOS M Quality RAW
3 Canon EOS M Noise JPEG
4 Canon EOS M Noise RAW
5 Canon EOS M Multi Shot NR
6 Canon EOS M Sample images

The image above was taken with the Canon EOS M in Aperture Priority exposure mode set to f5.6 and the ISO set to 100. At these settings, the EOS M selected a shutter speed of 1/800. At the same aperture setting and at its base ISO sensitivity of 200 ISO the Olympus PEN E-PL5 metered an exposure of 1/1000, so to match exposures and produce similar results for comparison I applied -2/3EV exposure compensation on the E-PL5 resulting in an exposure of 1/1600 at f5.6. The RAW file size was 24.5MB.

I processed both files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. To further reduce any distracting visual differences between the crops I also set custom white balance to 5500K and tint to 0. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what’s really going on behind the scenes.

These crops from the RAW files processed in exactly the same manner are quite revealing. The Canon EOS M crops show more detail and are sharper with cleaner edges than those from the in-camera JPEGs. You might find it helpful to open the JPEG results page in another browser window so you can compare them side-by-side. In the first crop you can clearly see more detail in the chapel stonework and the doors and windows are sharper. The same goes for all the other crops, though the RAW processing also reveals noisiness which is most evident in the sea and sky areas of the lighthouse crop. In the final crop there’s considerably more detail in the balconies, the tiled roofs in the foreground and the hill and buildings in the background. All this is very encouraging for anyone who chooses to shoot RAW with the EOS M as it shows there are very good prospects of achieving better quality results than when shooting JPEGs.

The comparison with the RAW crops processed in the same way from the Olympus E-PL5 also makes interesting viewing. Now there is much less of a gap between the two in terms of sharpness and detail resolution. In crops one and four, from closer to the middle of the frame, there’s really very little to tell them apart, though the PEN E-PL5 crops look to be a little bit noisier. The E-PL5 crops from closer to the edge of the frame look to be a little softer though.

Now, it’s time to examine their high ISO performance, starting with a JPEG comparison in my Canon EOS M Noise results.

 
Canon EOS M
 
Olympus PEN E-PL5
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO


Canon EOS M
results : Quality / RAW vs JPEG / Noise / RAW Noise / Multi Shot NR

Canon EOS M Noise RAW

 
  Canon EOS M results
1 Canon EOS M Quality JPEG
2 Canon EOS M Quality RAW
3 Canon EOS M Noise JPEG
4 Canon EOS M Noise RAW
5 Canon EOS M Multi Shot NR
6 Canon EOS M Sample images

To compare RAW noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Canon EOS M and the Olympus PEN E-PL5 within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The EOS M was fitted with the EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM kit zoom and the PEN E-PL5 with the M.Zuiko 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 kit zoom

The zoom on both cameras was set to its maximum wide angle, 18mm (29mm equivalent) on the EOS M and 14mm (28mm equivalent) on the PEN E-PL5, providing an approximately equivalent field of view.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

The image above was taken with the Canon EOS M. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode with the aperture set to f4 and the sensitivity was set to 100 ISO. The EOS M metered an exposure of 2 seconds at f4 and the Olympus PEN E-PL5 selected 1.3s at its base ISO sensitivity setting of 200. The file size was 5.59MB and, as always, the red square in the image above shows the cropped area, which is shown below at 1:1.

I processed both sets of files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. To further reduce any distracting visual differences between the crops I also set custom white balance to 4500K and tint to 0.These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what’s really going on behind the scenes – as such the visible noise levels at higher ISOs will be much greater than you’re used to seeing in many of my comparisons, but again it’s an approach that’s designed to show the actual detail that’s being recorded before you start work on processing and cleaning it up if desired.

Once again, these files processed in Adobe Camera RAW using the same settings reveal far more about the noise performance of these two sensors than the JPEG results alone. In the absence of the EOS M’s in-camera JPEG processing the results from the two cameras look much closer at the lower ISO sensitivity settings. The PEN E-PL5 crops look a tiny bit sharper, but there’s really very little to choose between them up to and including the 400 ISO crop.

In the JPEG results, 800 ISO was where the EOS M took a definite downward turn and the crop from the RAW file gives a clue to the possible cause, there’s a lot more colour noise in this crop than the previous one and indeed from here on up the sensitivity scale colour noise appears to be more of a problem for the sensor in the EOS M than the PEN E-PL5. As with the outdoor RAW results, these RAW noise results confirm that it should be possible to squeeze a better quality result from the EOS M RAW files than shooting JPEGs, at least at the lower ISO sensitivity settings.

But wait, there’s one more page of results, showcasing the Canon EOS M Multi Shot Noise Reduction mode. Alternatively head over to my Canon EOS M sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Canon EOS M
 
Olympus E-PL5
100 ISO
100 Not available
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
     
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
     
12800 ISO
12800 ISO
     
25600 ISO
25600 ISO


Canon EOS M
results : Quality / RAW vs JPEG / Noise / RAW Noise / Multi Shot NR

Canon EOS M Multi Shot Noise Reduction

 
  Canon EOS M results
1 Canon EOS M Quality JPEG
2 Canon EOS M Quality RAW
3 Canon EOS M Noise JPEG
4 Canon EOS M Noise RAW
5 Canon EOS M Multi Shot NR
6 Canon EOS M Sample images

To evaluate the multi-frame noise reduction capabilities of the Canon EOS M, I shot this scene first of all in Aperture Priority, then again in Multi-frame NR mode at each sensitivity.

The EOS M was fitted with the EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM kit zoom set to its maximum wide angle, 18mm (29mm equivalent).

The image above was taken with the Canon EOS M.The camera was placed on a tripod and the stabilisation was disabled, but otherwise the default settings were used.

Canon introduced the new Multi Shot Noise Reduction feature on the Rebel T4i / EOS 650D and it’s good news that they’ve chosen also to include it on the EOS M. It takes a fast sequence of four shots and combines them to produce a single low-noise image. The crucial thing with Multi Shot Noise Reduction is that, unlike Handheld NightScene, the EOS M’s other low-light stacking mode, Multi shot noise reduction allows you to manually set the ISO sensitivity.

The crops below show Multi shot noise reduction at each ISO setting compared with the single-shot equivalent. As you might expect, you don’t really begin to see any advantage from Multi Shot Noise Reduction until 800 ISO. At the lower sensitivity settings I’d definitely recommend you avoid it as it further softens detail in the EOS M’s already soft JPEGs and there’s really nothing to be gained from a composite at lower ISO sensitivities where the single shot quality is excellent. From 800 ISO upwards, though, there’s a clear quality benefit, probably in the region of one to two stops, to be gained from using Multi shot noise reduction.

Now head over to my Canon EOS M sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Canon EOS M Aperture Priority
 
Canon EOS M Multi Shot Noise Reduction
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
     
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
     
12800 ISO
12800 ISO
     
25600 ISO
25600 ISO


Canon EOS M
results : Quality / RAW vs JPEG / Noise / RAW Noise / Multi Shot NR

Canon EOS M Noise

 
  Canon EOS M results
1 Canon EOS M Quality JPEG
2 Canon EOS M Quality RAW
3 Canon EOS M Noise JPEG
4 Canon EOS M Noise RAW
5 Canon EOS M Multi Shot NR
6 Canon EOS M Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Canon EOS M and the Olympus PEN E-PL5 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The EOS M was fitted with the EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM kit zoom and the PEN E-PL5 with the M.Zuiko 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 kit zoom

The zoom on both cameras was set to its maximum wide angle, 18mm (29mm equivalent) on the EOS M and 14mm (28mm equivalent) on the PEN E-PL5, providing an approximately equivalent field of view.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

The image above was taken with the Canon EOS M.The camera was set to Aperture priority mode set to f4 and the sensitivity was set to 100 ISO. The EOS M metered an exposure of 2 seconds at f4 and the Olympus PEN E-PL5 selected 1.3s at its base ISO sensitivity setting of 200. The file size was 5.59MB and, as always, the red square in the image above shows the cropped area, which is shown below at 1:1.

The EOS M 100 ISO crop suffers from the same softness as was evident in the outdoor quality test, but in terms of noise there’s little to find fault with. There’s no noticeable texture anywhere there shouldn’t be, from the light coloured wall to the dark wood of the memorial panel. At 200 and 400 ISO there is a small, barely perceptible increase in noise levels which you can just about make out as a slight graininess most visible in the panel with the text. This is a great start for the EOS M, you can use the sensitivity settings up to 400 ISO more or less interchangeably with little consequence for the quality.

At 800 ISO there’s a marked deterioration though. It’s not so much that the noise is significantly worse as the processing is becoming intrusive with some smearing of the detail, again, most noticeable in the text panel. At 1600 ISO it’s a little worse despite the fact that the suppression isn’t working so well and the noise is more evident. Despite that, though, the 1600 ISO crop still looks pretty good and I’d have no hesitation making full sized prints from it. 3200 ISO is the point of no return where the noise is concerned, still ok for viewing at smaller sizes, but the 100 percent crop doesn’t look very pretty. On a more positive note, despite the predominance of noisy pixels and clumping, the larger detail looks okay and the edges are holding up well. They don’t start to break up until the next step up the range at 6400 ISO. But by now we really are into ‘must get the shot at any cost’ territory.

Compared with the crops from the Olympus PEN E-PL5, the Canon EOS M crops look softer, but in terms of noise, there’s little to choose between them. The PEN E-PL5 doesn’t have a 100 ISO setting, but its 200 ISO crop compares favourably with the EOS M’s base 100 ISO crop as well as the equivalent 200 ISO one. At 400 ISO there’s arguably a more textured look to the E-PL5 crop, but I prefer that to the softness of the EOS M one.

At 800 ISO the PEN has a clear edge, with cleaner detail and less noise, at 1600 ISO the detail is still there, but there’s a harshness to it and the edges are beginning to look a little clumpy. From there on up, to the 25,600 ISO setting neither looks particularly great. To sum up, the PEN-E-PL5 looks better in the low to mid ISO range, largely as a result of its more punchy JPEG processing and more successful noise reduction.

But the EOS M also offers Multi Shot Noise reduction to produce better quality shots in the mid to high ISO range. You can see the results from that on my Canon EOS M Multi Shot Noise Reduction page. It’ also possible that, once you remove Canons in-camera JPEG processing from the equation, things could look different. To find out how much of a role processing plays in the noise quality in these crops take a look at my Canon EOS M RAW noise results page to see just how much noise is present behind the scenes. Or head over to my Canon EOS M sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Canon EOS M
 
Olympus E-PL5
100 ISO
100 Not available
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
     
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
     
12800 ISO
12800 ISO
     
25600 ISO
25600 ISO


Canon EOS M
results : Quality / RAW vs JPEG / Noise / RAW Noise / Multi Shot NR

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