Aestas – Still Life Series I
After toying around with the mirrorless camera world, I got to appreciate the conveniences – what I call the throw-it-in-the-car effect. Mirrorless cameras like the Fuji X100 are light, small, and not prone to bang into things with a lens sticking out of the front.
Just $300 for a small, portable camera with a prime pancake lens and a Rebel T4i-caliber sensor. Touchscreen controls. Firmware update that speeds up the autofocus.
The only bummer? The white one was discontinued. Otherwise I would’ve (and believe me, I tried) purchased that one in a heartbeat.
As it was, with just the black model, I did think about the purchase for a few days. Did I need this camera? Would I put it to good use? Was the quality enough that I wouldn’t be frustrated with it?
No, yes, and maybe.
After the Canon EOS M arrived, it was pretty fun to unbox it. There’s lots of stuff that Canon packs in that box – and the minority of the material was the actual camera.
The camera itself is a solidly-built little instrument. It feels dense, but not heavy, so that it feels like a good, quality hunk of camera.
The 22mm lens is light and well-built as well, although I’m not a fan of the sound it makes as you screw it into the camera. It feels like it’s rubbing or scratching agains something it shouldn’t be.
The back screen is large and bright enough to be seen in most situations, although with screens of this type, it does get tough to see what you’re shooting in bright sunlight (more on this later).
Canon includes a thin camera strap with little metal hooks that slide into the rivets on the camera – a nice system. Putting the EOS M around my neck helped me appreciate how small and light it is.
Touring around with the Fuji X100, and my Canon T1i, I had weak expectations for the image quality on the EOS M.
Happily, this camera beat those low expectations handily.
Bright scenes, dark scenes, color and contrast – they’re all great, and I was shooting mainly JPGs. I found the image files flexible enough to grab the details I needed in Lightroom.
The 22mm focal length is a bit wider than I like, but it does make the M flexible for most situations: landscapes, architecture, street-type scenes, macro, even portraits. Pairing the EOS M with a quality 35mm or 40mm prime lens would be perfect for the way I shoot.
So the quality of images isn’t where this camera gets annoying. Not at all.
I felt it was a good exercise to get used to the camera, and to learn its ins and outs.
Given that, this thing was perfect as an everyday carry-around camera. I could swing it over my shoulder heading out the door, throw it in the front seat, and carry it with me wherever I went. When I did go out and shoot, it was light and small enough to not get in the way.
The pancake lens simplifies things, too. Just one focal length, with a wide enough aperture to do what I like to do. All I have to think about is taking the lens cap off.
It’s not quite iPhone camera simple, or point-and-shoot simple, but it’s more simple than choosing a lens, lugging the DSLR around, etc. My DSLR is a pro tool that gets me exactly what I see in my head. The EOS M is what I carry around with day to day that’s convenient enough to be useful.
That’s been the breakthrough for me with this camera, and the Fuji X100 before this. The portability, the convenience, and the image quality make these mirrorless cameras the equivalent of the iPad: in between the iPhone’s race car and the Mac’s utility truck lies just the right touch of Good Enough.
And, it’s fun. It’s a lot of fun to carry this thing around and just have it there, being simple, and grabbing nice images.
I’ll say that my number one issue with this camera is the random exposures it takes because of the touch shutter. In the bottom left of the screen is a Touch Shutter Enable/Disable button – but seemingly at random, it switches modes. It could be because of an accidental touch, but I get enough random exposures from the camera bumping into me that it gets annoying. Quickly.
If I could turn off that entire area of the touchscreen, I would.
Also, the 22mm lens will sometimes search endlessly for focus, especially for macro-type shots. I find that switching the camera off and on again helps, but sometimes it doesn’t and I need to take the lens off the camera.
Finally, the touch-screen buttons seem randomly and frustratingly placed. I have to stop and think about where I need to put my finger to change the white balance, say, whereas with DSLR canons my fingers can go automatically to some dial or button for instant access.
More On the Touchscreen
Yes, the touchscreen is hard to see in bright sunlight (especially if you wear sunglasses). And yes, that touch-to-take-a-phone feature is a downer for me.
Overall, the touchscreen is just a big ball of frustration. Touching to focus, so easy on an iPhone, is cumbersome on this thing. I find the focus point randomly moves around because of accidental touches, and changing settings like aperture and ISO are clunky.
And trying to focus on something below or above you, with the screen barely in view? I agree with others: make it a swivel display and you could solve a few of these problems.
Hitting the “Info” button, I’ve learned, helps to help with some of those accidental touches, since the “buttons” on the screen disappear. And pressing the delete button on the scroll wheel helps place the focus point back at center.
But trying to do all this while holding and the camera and pressing the shutter button – maybe it’s just going to take some getting use to. I find I often take too many accidental exposures fumbling with the settings and getting the camera ready to shoot.
The Canon EOS M was the first step for Canon in the mirrorless world, and with a few needed firmware updates, they’ve made their initial product a decent one – especially at $300.
I can see going fully mirrorless someday, should these cameras become as practical and fast to use as a DSLR (and if they stick around). Until then, these cameras are a lot of fun to use – and I think that counts for a lot, especially for a hobbyist like me.
Adding a nice portrait-length prime lens to the EF-M lineup would be killer, especially fast lenses in the f/2 range like the stock 22mm.
Rumors are that a new EOS M model is headed our way, so we’ll see what Canon does. I’m happy that I pulled the trigger on this first model, no matter what comes.
It’s added a new dimension to my hobby that’s been a lot of fun to explore.
View more Canon EOS M photos at my Flickr album.
Renting a camera is the perfect way to try before you buy. It’s also the perfect way just to try – and that’s why I rented a Fuji X100 for two weeks. Just to try.
I also rented it because I was covering a wedding for two co-workers, and thought it would be fun to take it to their destination ceremony in Petoskey, Mich.
There, it performed very well. I had to make sure to keep it on a setting that worked for whatever situation I was in, but from there I just pointed, framed, and shot.
The things this camera can do with mixed light situations, dynamic lighting, and low light is spectacular. And sharpness? Just perfect.
There were times when I felt lost. That feeling probably comes from knowing my Canons so well. I also like having things like ISO and white balance ready at a button push. Too often, with the X100, I had to dive into the menu system to switch up the settings.
I’ve read that people use the X100 as a slower device. Take your time, adjust your settings, frame your shot, click. So maybe throwing it into a fast-paced wedding situation wasn’t entirely fair.
For those instances where I could take my time, it was perfect. The size, too, made it a handy carry-around camera. It’s a throw-it-in-the-front-seat-of-my-car camera – a walk-around-the-neighborhood camera. And it was light enough to feel like a regular accessory to the day.
The film modes are fun (like the Velvia setting above), but were an extra step in the process. I found taking the RAW files and adjusting them was more my style.
At first, I blanched at the idea of using the Electronic Viewfinder. But the rangefinder-style Optical Viewfinder missed focus points just enough to get pretty annoying, so I switched as time went on fairly easily.
Switching to Macro Mode, however, to get those close shots was not easy. I never quite got the hang of it, and would often forget which mode I was in and shoot in the wrong mode.
The picture files? Glorious to work with. Plenty of flexibility to lift shadows or pull back highlights – again, especially in those mixed lighting situations. Skies, especially, were lovely. For a lot of my shots, using the VSCO Film Fuji profiles worked well.
All in all, using the Fuji X100 really was like shooting with a film camera. The photo files had personality, and flexibility, and were a lot of fun to play around with.
The camera itself was an adjustment. I feel like, with more time, I’d get used to its particular quirks. Maybe not.
But sometimes it was nice to set the setting and not touch them, and just worry about making nice photos.
I’m a frequent Instagrammer – usually averaging two photo posts a day. I also try to post a photo to Flickr every day, and some of them are iPhone photos.
So how do I edit my photos to share with the world? Like this:
When taking a photo, I’m not picky. Usually the default iPhone camera app, accessed from the lock screen, does a good enough job.
If I’m not in a rush, and I want to take more time on composition and framing, I’ll usually use one of these three camera apps:
I prefer not to have a camera app store each photo in the app itself. The iPhone photo gallery is usually my go-to place. But sometimes the app doesn’t allow for this kind of photo storage.
I like VSCO cam because the shutter is fast (however, it does have a tendency to corrupt photo files).
KitCam (above) is great because you get a preview of what the film/lens combo will look like before you snap the photo. I tend to like the Brooklyn film and Accent lens presets. But you can have a lot of fun (and get a lot of flexibility) out of various combinations, à la Hipstamatic (another camera app I enjoy using).
And Camera + is a good, all-around camera app to use.
When it comes to editing iPhone photos, my number one editing app is PicFX (shown above). The combination of editing styles and filters – plus the ability to layer effects on top of each other – makes it a killer app.
As shown above, I tend to stick to straightforward filters. The vintage film effects, the PFX 15/150 filters, and the greenish Meadow and Creek filters are my favorites.
PicFX is nice because it crops photos in the square format, too, making it easy to share with Instagram when you’re done editing. In fact, sharing your edited photo with Instagram is as easy as hitting the Share button.
For “problem” photos (like the one above, where it’s a bit underexposed), I try Camera+’s “Clarity” scene preset. It tends to lighten the shadows a bit – although sometimes (as with the photo above) you get a glossy HDR effect. I’m not a fan of this look, so I usually try some of the other scene modes to see what looks appropriate.
Camera+ offers some nice filters as well. I try to avoid the obnoxious ones. The black and white whites tend to be good on certain photos.
My newest editor is VSCO Cam. You can import photos from your default gallery into VSCO, or take the photo from the app, and turn its film-style effects loose on your image. I’m a big fan of VSCO film packs for Lightroom, and you get a bit of that old-school look with this app – especially that faded, grainy look that’s so popular now. A nice, subtle vignette is easy to do with VSCO cam, too.
Finishing and Posting
After editing, I save the finished photo in a photo album called “Instagrammable.” Rarely do I post a photo immediately after snapping it – I usually save it in the album until a certain mood catches me.
My Instagram album is full of photos. I’ll dip in and grab a photo that fits whatever I’m thinking about that day, or fits a song lyric I like, or is weather-appropriate. There’s no hard and fast philosophy.
Often, I’ll take a photo and re-edit it if I find a filter I really like. Also, rarely do I use the standard Instagram filters anymore. Not that they’re bad. I just like a unique look, and I find the third party editing apps do a better job of creating the look I like.
For posting, I do two Instagram posts a day: one in the morning that’s shared with other social networks (Facebook, Twitter, sometimes Flickr). The other one gets posted at night, usually before bed. The evening photo is exclusive to Instagram. It’s also where I play around with styles, and get creative trying out different looks.
Find me on Instagram to see what I’m up to, where I’ve been, and what I find beautiful or interesting in the world.