Body & Design
The EOS M features a clean, simple design that's clearly designed to look as much like a compact camera, and as little like an SLR, as possible. The rounded edges and angled area around the shutter button go some way to softening the somewhat boxy profile, and the main body panels are made from magnesium alloy. There's no handgrip as such, just a minimalist fingergrip on the front and a slightly-contoured rubberised thumbpad on the back.
The overall layout is notable for its simplicity - the front of the camera features just the lens release button and vertical window for the autofocus illuminator and IR remote receiver. The back of the camera features a red movie record button, combined four-way controller and dial, and Menu, Info and Playback buttons. The SET button in the centre of the 4-way controller also brings up a Quick Menu for on-screen access to an array of functions - this is fully controllable via the touchscreen.
The Delete key can be configured to control one of a limited range of options during shooting. By default it returns the AF point to the centre of the screen, but if you prefer it can be set to control Depth-of-field preview, ISO, Flash exposure compensation, or temporarily increase the LCD brightness. The latter should be useful when shooting in bright sunlight.
One detail worth pointing out is that the strap lugs are non-standard: the camera comes with a neckstrap that has special clasps to attach onto them. This has the advantage that the strap attachments rotate freely, allowing the camera to hang with the lens pointing either forwards or, for heavier optics, downward. Fortunately it look as though the clasps should be transferable to different straps if you don't like the one that comes with the camera.
Top of camera
The top of the EOS M is pretty simple too. On the left of the hot shoe is a pair of stereo microphones for movie recording, and to its right the power button and shutter release. The latter is surrounded by what looks like a control dial but is in fact the Ixus-esque three-position mode switch. There's also a tiny grille for the camera's internal speaker.
The A+ position on the mode dial gives access to the camera's fully automatic modes (Intelligent Auto, Creative Auto, scene modes and Creative Filters), while the central position gives manual control over stills shooting via the usual P, Av, Tv, M or Scene modes. The third point is for movie mode, and the dial has to be set here for the red record button on the camera's shoulder to work. But while you can't record movies in stills modes, you can capture stills in movie mode with a full-press of the shutter button (at the cost of interrupted video).
In your hand
The EOS M is part of the wider EOS system, which means its compatible with a wide range of existing accessories, including the Speedlite flash system and all of Canon's EF-mount SLR lenses. These have to be used via the new Mount adapter EF-EOS M, which retains full functionality in terms of autoexposure, autofocus and image stabilization. Just don't expect AF speeds to match those achieved by the EOS M with its own STM lenses (Canon DSLR owners who shoot in live view mode will have a good idea of what to expect, in terms of focus times).
|The tiny new Speedlite 90EX will be bundled with all EOS M kits (in EU markets at least - we've yet to receive confirmation beyond this). It has a guide number of 9m at ISO100, covers the same angle as an 18mm lens (28mm on full frame camera body), and runs off 2 AAA batteries. It can also act as a wireless commander for Canon's off-camera flash system.|
|This is the Mount adapter EF-EOS M. It allows all of Canon's existing EF and EF-S mount lenses to be used on the EOS M with full functionality (although AF speeds are unlikely to be anything to write home about). The slider switch on the side releases the lens, and there's a detachable tripod mount foot for use with larger lenses.|
|The availability of a mount adapter gives EOS M owners access to Canon's huge lens range. As usual, though, the mirrorless model's compact size means that it's better suited for use with relatively small lenses, such as the EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM or the recently-launched, tiny EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake...|
|...however it starts to look less well-balanced, and more like an oversized rear cap with large lenses such as the EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM.|
|The EOS M can also be used with the hot-shoe mounted GPE-2 GPS receiver, allowing you to geotag your images as you shoot.|
Use with adapted lenses
One of the great attractions of mirrorless cameras is their ability to use all manner of old manual focus lenses, and and we'd fully expect manufacturers such as Novoflex and Kipon to start making adapters for the EOS M mount more-or-less immediately. There's a tell-tale 'Shoot without lens' option in the menu that will need to be enabled to allow their use, and onscreen interface allows easy magnification of the live view display for critical focusing. However there's no 'peaking' display to assist manual focus, as seen on mirrorless cameras from Sony, Ricoh and Pentax.
One quite appealing aspect of the EOS M is that its shutter sound is relatively quiet and discreet, in part due to its use of an electronic first curtain; many entry-level mirrorless cameras are surprisingly noisy. It's perhaps not quite as refined as the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (arguably the current leader in this regard), but then again it's a fraction of the price.
It's difficult to give an impression of the shutter volume without some kind of standard to compare it to, but you can watch the video below to get some idea of what it sounds like.