Canon EOS-M – One Month On

I’ve now owned my Canon EOS-M for about one month and thought that it was time I included some of the best shots I’ve taken and give a bit more of an opinion about this little camera.

Since getting the EOS-M, I’ve picked up the following pieces of equipment:

  • Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM Lens
  • Viltrox EF to EF-M Adaptor
  • Canon FD to EF-M Adaptor (Unbranded eBay)

I’ve used the EOS-M with each of these pieces of equipment and have had enough time to form some proper opinions on the camera.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the image quality that this little camera delivers, and after basic processing, the results are virtually indistinguishable from the results I’m getting from the much more expensive EOS 70D.

Its true that the AF system is never going to give an SLR a run for its money, it is a bit sluggish and does struggle in low light, but with either of the STM lenses attached or even an EF lens with full time manual focus, it is easy enough to adjust the focus to roughly the right distance and the camera then normally locks on, failing that you can tweak the focus manually if the camera fails to lock on to the subject.

Manual focussing is a bit tricky, as there are no focus aids to assist you, and although you can zoom in by 5x and 10x this requires you to tap the magnifying glass logo on screen, which I don’t find all that easy to do when I’m trying to hold the camera steady. There is a way around this, although this involves installing the Magic Lantern firmware which adds a couple of focussing aids to let you know which parts of the image are in focus, but that does involve hacking the firmware, and will invalidate the warranty.

The EF-M 20mm f/2 STM lens is a real beauty, I’ve been very impressed with the results I’ve got from this lens, and the setup is really small, compact and unobtrusive, which is what I wanted from this camera. Since I’ve owned this lens its rarely been detached from the camera.

On the other hand, I have to confess to being rather disappointed with the Speedlite 90EX which is supplied with the kit. On a positive note, the flash is tiny, will act as a wireless Master Flash and is fully compatible with the standard wireless ETTL II and therefore works with my other Speedlite units. However, when it comes down to it, the flash is somewhat unpowered, only having a guide number of 9m.

In use, I’ve found the Speedlite 90EX to be insufficient unless you’re really close to your subject. It doesn’t have sufficient power to provide adequate fill in flash in daylight, and I find myself leaning towards a Nissin i40, though I need to save up for a while first. I have used the EOS-M with both both my Speedlite 550EX and 430EX, but both units are rather large for the EOS-M and make it rather top heavy.

An alternative I’m also considering is the Meike MK-310C, which is rather smaller than the Nissin i40, but has a fixed head, so is not quite as flexible as the i40 but for a price of about £50 it’s about three times more affordable than the i40.

After using this camera for a couple of full days of photography, I have found the battery life to be a bit on the short side. I guess this is only to be expected as its a relatively small battery, and unlike with an SLR, there is no alternative to using live view. The battery is rated at only 750mAh, but a quick search on Amazon revealed batteries by Opteka which claim 2000mAh and seem to get positive reviews and at only £15 each they’re affordable enough, so I’ll be getting a couple of them in the near future.

Overall, I have to confess that I’m falling for this little camera, and am feeling confident that when Manda and I go to Iceland in March that I’ll only be taking the EOS-M, though I’ll probably have a few of my EF lenses with me.


Canon EOS-M & EF-M 22mm STM Pancake Lens – First Shots

I’ve had the EOS-M for about a week now, and haven’t really had chance to play with it much.

I have to confess that with the 18-55mm kit lens attached the setup is still a bit bulky for my liking so I managed to get a EF-M 22mm f/2 pancake lens, which really brings this setup into its element.

Today, I spent my lunchtime at Titchfield Abbey, and fired off a few shots to test the setup.

I’m really pleased with the 22mm pancake lens, it’s lovely to use, really compact and light and judging from the shots below, really nice and sharp, see what you think.

Canon EOS-M – First Impressions

A few days ago, I made a bit of an impulse purchase of a Canon EOS-M kit from Argos.  I’ve been thinking about getting a CSC camera for a while, as although I’ve been carrying a Lumix TZ30 as a backup camera, I have to confess that I’m still reluctant to leave to SLR at home as I’m a bit of a control freak and don’t like not having the backup of shooting RAW files.

The EOS-M was released in 2012, and the camera with the original firmware was widely slated for having incredibly slow AF, though the image quality was impressive, and an adaptor was available to allow the use of EF or EFS mount lenses, although this makes the camera considerably more bulky.

When I last looked at the EF-M kit with 18-55mm lens and Speedlite 90EX flash, I’m sure that it was retailing for around £450 meaning that I just couldn’t justify investing in it.

However, lately I’ve been getting fed up with the bulk of the SLR kit when I go away on holiday or travelling, and seeing the same kit for £199 made me think about it again.

I did a fair bit of research beforehand and discovered that Canon issued v2.02 of the firmware which provided a considerable improvement to the AF speed, but also found that the Magic Lantern Firmware was available for the EOS-M (see separate post on Magic Lantern Firmware) so I decided to get myself one.

As stated above, the kit comes with the following:

  • Canon EOS-M Body;
  • Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens; and
  • Canon Speedlite 90EX.

I’d have preferred the kit version with also included the Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM lens, but this wasn’t available at the time.

Although since purchasing this kit, the weather has been really dull and dreary, I’ve had a bit of a play around with the camera, and first impressions are good.  The camera body and lens feels solid, I was particularly surprised by the kit lens, which actually feels really nice, especially when compared to the rubbish kit lens that was supplied with the EOS 400D.

The flash is absolutely tiny, it has a guide number of 9, which is smaller than the pop-up flashes built into the EOS40D and EOS70D, but the hotshoe is compatible with standard Canon, and I’ve tested it with the Speedlite 430EX and 550EX, and both work well, though the look slightly ridiculous on such a small body.  What was a real surprise though was that the Speedlite 90EX acts as a master flash and will control other Wireless ETTL flashes, I also tested this briefly and found it to work well.

Overall, my first impressions have been good, and I am looking forward to testing the camera properly when we get some better light.  However, it is looking like I might leave the SLR behind when I next go on holiday.

First Attempt at Subtle HDR

This is my first attempt at HDR using Lightroom 3 and the Enfuse plugin.  This is the result of 13 images with 1/3 stop difference in exposure between each image.

I’m quite pleased with the result as a first attempt, and I think that it looks reasonably natural and reflects what I actually saw in the field.

Compare this to the middle exposure of the batch.

This is the unedited mid-range exposure.  In an ideal world it probably needs about 1/2 to 2/3 of a stop more exposure, but I have used this as an example, and as you can see there is much more detail in the tree trunk and shadows.

Cheap Alternative to the Honl Speed Strap

I’ve been considering buying a Honl Speed Strap to attach a Gel Clip that I was given to my flashgun, but think that £8.99 is a bit much for a length of stretchy velcro with a Honl label on it.

Yesterday, I was in Halfords, of all places, and I found some Velcro Stretch Straps (priced at £4.79 for 2 straps), so I picked up a packet and took them home, as I thought that they might make a cheap alternative to the Speed Strap.

First impression is that these straps are much too long (68 cm) for what I intended, and will definitely need to be cut down to be useful on a flashgun.

The plus side is that each strap should make at least 2 straps for flashgun use, so thats 4x straps for about half the price of a single Honl Speed Strap.

However, whilst they are stretchy, these straps are NOT rubberised, and so will not be as secure as the genuine Honl Speed Strap.

Testing the un-butchered straps on my Speedlite 550EX revealed that they are reasonably secure and can be pulled very tight.  However, unless some non-slip matting (that you use to stop things sliding around a vehicle dashboard) is also wrapped around the flash head, then the usefulness of these straps to secure large flashgun modifiers is probably fairly limited, although I haven’t yet put it to the test.

My main requirements were:

  1. To secure a plastic Gel Clip to my flash head without using permanent sticky velcro; and
  2. To secure bare flash gels to another flash head without using sticky velcro.

When shortened to the correct length, these straps perform these functions very well indeed.  I Haven’t yet got around to building a large softbox for my flashguns, so I can’t comment on how well these straps will secure a large’ish modifier, but I hope to complete the softbox in the next month or so.

Canon TC-80N3 Remote Release – eBay copy – Review

The Canon TC-80N3 is an advanced remote release that features a built-in timer that performs the following functions in addition to being a simple remote shutter release:

1) Self Timer – programmable in 1 sec intervals up to 99 hrs 59 mins and 59 secs

2) Long Exposure Timer – programmable in 1 sec intervals up to 99 hrs 59 mins and 59 secs

3) Interval Timer – programmable in 1 sec intervals up to 99 hrs 59 mins and 59 secs

4) Exposure Counter – up to 99 frames

This Canon unit is however rather expensive, retailing for around £120 in the UK.

For quite some time now, I have been wanting to experiment with taking photographs of star trails and found a tutorial that explained the best way to achieve this was to take a number of relatively short exposures (~4 mins) with an interval of 1 second between exposures (to prevent gaps in the star trails when the images are merged).

Using the TC-80N3 this process can be automated, therefore removing the need to be standing next to the camera for the entire duration.

Due to the prohibitive cost of the original, I headed to eBay and located a clone of the TC-80N3 for a fraction of the cost of the Canon unit.

The unit is identical in appearance to the Canon TC-80N3, with the exception that it is branded as “Pickit” and lacks the locking metal collar on the plug that attaches to the cameras remote release socket.  The plug is however a snug fit, and so far, I have had no problems with the switch coming loose.

The remote cable is approximately 80cm long.

The unit was supplied with a user manual that explains (in pidgin english) how to combine the various modes offered by the remote release, and a CR2032 lithium watch battery was supplied as well.

Construction is very good and the unit feels solid, the only potentially weak point is a rather flimsy battery tray, so care needs to be taken when inserting/replacing the battery.

I have tested most of the available functions to date, and can confirm that the unit works as advertised with my EOS 40D.

As I do not own the original Canon TC-80N3, I am unable to compare the build quality, but given the price of this unit (approx £20), I would thoroughly recommend it if you are looking for a timer remote shutter release unit without spending big money.

Package Contents

TC-80N3 RemoteRemote Detail

Canon Tripod Ring B (B) – YongNuo Copy – Review

I have wanted a tripod mounting ring for my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens for a long while, but thought that the £163 charge for the Original Canon Tripod Mount Ring B (B) was more than a little over the top.  There are those who say that this ring is unnecessary with the 100mm macro, as it fits very close to the camera body, and therefore does little to improve balance/stability.  This is true, but it does make changing from landscape to portrait orientation a whole lot easier, as the focus point does not change.  Which is not the case when you flip a tripod head from landscape to portrait, then have to completely recompose your shot, and this is the main reason that I wanted this accessory.

Now, I’m not a label snob, but I have tended to be wary of third party products, as I have had my fingers burned in the past, not spectacularly, but burned nonetheless.

However, given that a tripod mount ring is essentially a metallic/plastic ring that goes around the lens barrel and tightens enough to hold the lens securely, I figured that there really wasn’t anything much that could go wrong with this product, so I ordered one off of the hkyongnuophotoequipment eBay store.

  1. Firstly, this is not a faithful clone of the Canon Tripod Mount Ring B (B), which is compatible with both the EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens AND the MP-E65 f/2.8 1-5x Macro Lens.  This ring is not truly compatible with the MP-E65 and YongNuo’s eBay store clearly states that it is only compatible with the EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens.
  2. The original Canon ring is supplied with a sleeve, and has notches cut into the ring that correspond to the 4 raised screws on the outside of the barrel of the MP-E65 lens

In terms of a review, there really isn’t all that much that I can say about this ring.

It’s a metallic split ring that attaches around the barrel of the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens, and the interior of the ring is covered with adhesive velour type material to prevent scratching of the lens barrel.

However, this ring is marginally too large for the barrel of my EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens, meaning that the lens wasn’t held securely and the ring kept sliding off the back of the lens.

However, this was easily remedied by cutting a length of black felt and wrapping it around the lens barrel before attaching the mounting ring around the felt.  This takes up any slack, and the lens is now held securely.

I’ve been using this ring for about a month now, and it really does take the hassle out of switching the camera fromlandscape to portrait orientation, as the focus point does not change.

I will admit that the construction of this item is not going to be anywhere near as good as the genuine article, but first impressions are that it will be good enough for my purposes, and the fact that it cost £6 (approx 1/27) the cost of the original Canon item means that this is a complete no-brainer, unless of course you have plenty of money to burn to get the Canon badged item.

Vapextech VTE-2000 1hr Smart Battery Charger Review

After my faithful Uniross Sprint 30 battery charger finally gave up the ghost in a puff of smoke just after Christmas, I had an urgent need for a replacement fast charger.

I have been using VapexTech high capacity NiMh batteries for a number of years, and have always been pleased with the runtimes that they have given for my high-drain devices, so I decided to purchase their VTE-2000 charger.

VapexTech VTE-2000 Charger

The unit works well, and the charging time quoted on the VapexTech website seems accurate, with my high capacity 2700mAh batteries taking slightly longer than the charge time quoted for 2500 mAh batteries of 4.5 hours.

This is an intelligent charger, with the charging state of each battery being individually monitored.  Essentially this means that the charger stops charging each battery when it is fully charged, unlike other intelligent chargers on the market, which only monitor a pair of batteries, and will keep pumping the full charge into the pair, even if one of the batteries is fully charged.

This basically means that this charger should look after your batteries and extend their usable life.

When the batteries are inserted and the charger turned on, the charger briefly tests for faulty batteries/reversed polarity and determines the charge state of the inserted cells.  Once this has been achieved, the display shows a simple graphic of the cells inserted with a 4 segment charge state indicator for each cell.

Faulty cells are indicated by a flashing fully charged icon for the relevant cell.  I have found that this is sometimes caused by dirty terminals causing a poor connection, and so it is worth checking this before binning the battery.

When charging is complete, the battery icons show the full icon, which is static on the screen.

The unit has been put into regular usage since it arrived, and has worked perfectly.

It did however identify a number of my batteries as being faulty.  This was rather annoying, as it meant that I needed to buy new cells, but in retrospect is no real surprise, as I’m sure that there have been times that I have run a device until the batteries have been completely discharged.

As no two batteries discharge identically, you get charge reversal when the voltage of a single cell drops to a very low level (where current flowing into the cell with the lowest charge, in the reverse direction) which over time destroys the cell.

This can be avoided by charging regularly and not running the device until it dies completely.

At £14.55 including delivery, this is a smart charger that will not cook your batteries, and I think that it represents very good value for money.