Rumor: New Canon EOS-M Firmware Set For Possible Imminent Release (and some thoughts about the EOS M)

Canon EOS-M Firmware 

The little, so much blamed, so much criticized Canon EOS M! It took Canon a long time to enter the mirrorless market. Indeed, Canon was the last big camera gear maker that released a MILC (Mirrorless Interchangable Lens Camera). You may think that being the last one has given Canon the opportunity to beat all the competitors, to build an amazing MILC. Nope. Canon made a halfhearted effort when designing and building the EOS M. Don’t get me wrong, the Canon EOS M (price & specs) has a lot of good points, its performance is solid, the high ISO/low light performance is among the best in its category, image quality is amazing, the small body is rugged and solid, and there is more (see below for my impressions). But it has one big shortcoming: The Auto-Focus. You can live with it (if you have to), even more if you have some experience with photography. But most of the competitor’s AF system easily outperforms the EOS M’s AF.

But there may be hope for a better AF raising on the horizon. Here comes the rumor, just posted on Canon Rumors. There may be an imminent release of a Canon EOS-M firmware update. And, yes!, it should improve auto-focus, the main failure in the EOS M design. CR writes:

We’re told new firmware for the EOS M will be coming “soon”. Possibly in the next two weeks. The firmware will address various things in the camera, the biggest being improving AF performance.

How much improvement can be expected regarding the much criticized AF? It depends by what is really responsible for the sluggish performance. If it is a hardware design failure, then there will be little improvement. If, on the other hand, it was just poor software engineering (for the firmware), then there could be a dramatic improvement, something that puts the EOS M back in the same league o its competitors. The most plausible improvements the new Canon EOS-M firmware will deliver are: better hunting in low light, better tracking, and generically faster AF.

As I said before, you can live with the EOS M’s AF. I do. It won’t make you happy, but it isn’t as terrible as some reviews suggest. In may very own experience the EOS M didn’t “taking the fun out of photography“, as Ron Martinsen writes in his review. Sure it needs some tweaking, experimenting, and the right lens. AF is fastest with the EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM (sometimes almost acceptable), particularly in Flexizone Single mode, then comes the EF-M 22mm f/2 STM, a lens with very good optical perfomance. When using EF and EF-S lenses with the adapter the AF becomes almost unusable (surprisingly I had some fast focusing with the EF 50mm f/1.8). To get the point: AF sucks when the subject is even slowly moving or when there is low light, the worst case being both conditions given.

A comprehensive review by ephotozine gets the point about the EOS M. It’s the review I agree most so far:

The Canon EOS M has a small well designed body with an easy to use 3 inch touch screen, however the limited number of lenses, as well as the extremely slow focus and short battery life are rather frustrating limitations holding the camera system back. It would be nice to see some of these issues resolved either with a firmware update or a following model and releases, however, until then, other mirrorless cameras offer a much better range of lenses, focus speeds, as well as generally better battery life. However, if you can bear with some of these weaknesses, then the camera has good noise performance, and is cable of taking excellent photos.

Canon EOS M Pros

  • Excellent noise performance up to ISO3200+
  • Excellent image quality
  • Excellent colour reproduction
  • Excellent touch screen
  • Solid body with good handling, despite size
  • Mic socket

Canon EOS M Cons

  • Little warning that the battery is going flat
  • Struggles to focus in low light
  • Extremely Slow focus
  • No built in Panoramic mode
  • Limited number of lenses
  • Short battery life
At least now we know that there will be more EF-M lenses, as stated by a Canon Executive.

As some of you probably know, the EOS M was with me when I travelled Myanmar last year. It was a good travel companion and allowed me to shot some pictures I am happy with (still hosted by a friend on Flickr due to Internet issues while there). I was happy to have a light-weighted camera that delivers APS-C sensor image quality and the creative possibilities of a DSLR. And beside the poor AF, the rest of the experience was positive. I particularly liked the combined use of the control wheel and the touchscreen. Canon made it right here: settings can be changed easy and fast, most settings are just a few touches away. Unfortunately the battery lasts for around 230-250 shots only, and the indicator doesn’t give you a real idea about how close you are to a drained battery. Better to have one or two spare batteries. One last thing: the EOS M made it through extreme hot temperatures with humidity often around 95%, sandy and dusty places, roads, and street parties. It saw rain, I didn’t have a real camera bag, it was simply in my day-pack. I didn’t handle it with to much care, it was the tool I needed while there (a camera is here to be used), and everything always worked, nothing broke, the sensor is still ok (no dust spots). A solidly built camera. The EOS M always worked and did what I wanted. Well, except for some AF issues 🙂

Canon EOS M price check: Amazon | B&H Photo | Digitalrev | eBay | Adorama | Canon USA Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM price check: Amazon | B&H Photo | Digitalrev | eBay | Adorama | Canon USA Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM price check: Amazon | B&H Photo | Digitalrev | eBay | Adorama | Canon USA

  • JanUwe1

    give us some perspective here.

    when we speak about bad AF performance, does that mean worse then the olympus E-PL1?

    i sold that camera after 6 month, because of the sluggish AF system.

    it was a nice camera.. but the AF speed was so bad it made no fun using it.

  • Fred

    Yes. It is slower than the E-PL1. I have been a Canon and Olympus user for a very long time and this is the worst product that Canon has ever brought to market. Apart from the poor autofocus performance, the battery life is very poor and Canon initially was charging $75 for a new battery (compared to $50 for a more powerful Canon 5D Mk2 battery). They have brought down the price to $50 but I still think it is a ripoff considering that it barely manages to get me 200 shots on one charge.

  • peevee

    “its performance is solid,”

    What performance, 4 fps continous shooting (vs 8 and more in all competitors) or glacial-slow autofocus?

    ” the high ISO/low light performance is among the best in its category, image quality is amazing,”

    Really? I thought it is worse than all competitors except Nikon 1. DxOMark high ISO score for Oly E-PM2 is higher, and for Sony NEX cameras even higher. Not to mention their DR and color depth scores which are higher by a good margin.

  • Kennethbeaver

    The thing about this camera is that it is a joy to use. It feels so solid and really well made and the pictures you do get from it, when it focuses are really really great. I took mine travelling with me and was delighted by all the results.
    Very happy, unfortunately mine got stolen, I’m gonna buy another, though am tempted to wait til the next one comes out July is a long way off!

    • Admin

      I agree with your experience. I also took mine on travel.

  • Jensen

    I hope they do release a firmware update that does something to speed up the slow AF. The two available lenses are sharp and the IQ is excellent. The camera feels way more solid than the NEX-7; this is NOT to say the performance compares. Battery life for me was solid, considering I got ~300 pictures before the battery lost a bar. Multi-shot mode probably had something to do with it.