In praise of the M3


Nov 3, 2012
In the light of the fuss about the new M5 and some implied and direct criticism of the M3, I'd like to report quickly on my experience with the M3.

My wife and I had long planned a hiking trip across Switzerland. We ended up walking 460 km (285 miles) through the Alps over 26 days and this included a cumulative 32,000 m (over 100,000 feet) in altitude gain. A significant criterion for us was to reduce the weight in our backpacks. My photo gear was an important consideration, seeking to optimise weight, flexiblity and image quality.

I sold my 7D, which never really enthused me, except for sport photos (e.g. windsurfing) in bright iight. It also weighed more than my 6D and both were too heavy to take on this trip. So I sold the 7D and bought a M3. Tests quicklly showed that image quality was comparable to that of the 6D, although I lost about a stop in low light and in dynamic range. I could live with this.

I bought a 11-22 mm to complement the 18-55 mm and 55-200 mm that came with the kit. I only took the 11-22 mm and 55-200 mm on the hike, both fitting into a Golla "Mirrorless" camera bag. I also took a Canon 250D close-up lens, three 32GB cards, two spare batteries (and charger) and a Manfrotto pixie tabletop tripod. All up weight 1570g (just under 3 1/2 pounds). This is same weight as just my 6D and 24-105/4 without bag, charger, tripod, spare batteries, yet covered much of the range from 19mm to 320mm (35mm equivalent).

So what was my experience?
* Size does matter - the M3 plus lenses and bag were comfortable over my shoulder and were noticeably less bulky.
* Image quality was completely satisfactory - I'll post some photos soon. For example, I was able to produce a satisfactory Milky Way image at 30 seconds at f?4 and ISO 6400 at 11mm. Sure the 6D with Samyang 14mm would be have been better, but I could not conceive of taking that lens on the hike (weight for one, but focusing a previous version jammed during a Europe trip a year before)
* Focusing for the most part was satisfactory. The M3 and 55-200mm did struggle at the long end, especailly in low light and in low contrast conditions. On the other hand, it was great to have focusing points covering much more of the imaging area. I did wish that focus area was smaller as it could be difficult to focus on fine details.
* I quickly adapted to composing on the screen rather than the optical viewfinder of the 6D. The flip down and up screen was brilliant, especailly for low level and overhead shots. I really missed this when shooting with the 6D a couple of days ago.
* The screen was fine in most situations, but of course washed out in direct sunlight. Holding the Info button boosts screen brightness to maximum, which is a nice touch. Did I miss the electronic viewfinder? On occasion yes, but I would prefer to have a less bulky camera and the ability to slip the viewfinder on and off. Have I bought a finder? Not so far.
* I loved the 11-22mm lens and took most of the photos with it. Signficantly wider than the 24mm on the 6D. Unlocking the collapsed lens became second nature. Sharpness and flare-resistance is great. f/4 at 11mm is okay, but it would be nicer to have a faster lens at 22mm. I may get a 22mm f/2 prime.
* The 55-200mm lens was surprisingly good, even at 200mm. I have some nice photos of ibex and chamois that I cropped from 200mm. Much better than 105mm on the 6D. Macro is mediocre on the 55-200mm so I recommend the 250D close-up lens. I took quite a lot of close-up photos with 22mm at MFD, which gives a nice perspective of mountains behind flowers.
* Battery life was just adequate. A bigger problem was that the battery goes from 2 bars to nothing very quickly. So I ended up always taking a spare battery everywhere I took the camera.
* The camera seems robust enough, but I took care and avoided photos in the rain. Would be nice if the camera and a lens or two would be sealed. But I never had any dust issues and I changed lenses many times each day.
* Frame rate was adequate for the photography I did on the trip and a burst of 5 RAW files was fine. However, the speed of exposure bracketing is simply not satisfactory. 1 fps or so when bracketing is just too slow. I did not lose too many merged photos if the subject was static, but for any movement, this was hopeless. I cannot see why 4 fps is not possible when bracketing. Although dynamic range is much better than on the 7D, it is not as good as on the 6D and I bracketed quite a few difficult photos.
* I missed the GPS built into the 6D. However, I took a Garmin Etrex 20X along and was able to get Lightroom to import GPS data into the image files from the tracklog.

Coming home I took my 6D and 24-105mm f/4 for a stroll along the beach. The weight and bulk of the camera was noticeable. I missed composing using the screen at the back (I never thought I'd admit that) as focusing on the 6D is glacial and the screen does not tilt. It is clear to me that the M3 will be my camera of choice, unless there are particular reasons (e.g. using wide apertures, low light or action). And I've used (d)SLRs since my Canon TLb in the mid-1970s! We just need some fast primes.


Jul 30, 2010
Thanks for this nice personal report. From my point of view, Canon needs some EF-M prime with IS. The low light capability of 22mm f2 is the same as the 11-22 mm, due to the lack of IS. I hardly use my 22mm except when I need a pocket able M.


Mar 8, 2015
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the M3, Frodo - that's a great little review.

I picked up one earlier this year, and it's taken a while for me to grow to like it. To begin with, I was expecting to be able to use it the same way I use a DSLR, and was obviously disappointed when I couldn't achieve the results I expected. However, with some practice and slight adjustment to my approach, I'm starting to like it a lot more now.

I'm looking forward to trying to M5 when it's out - I think it'll be a bit more suited to what I want, but at this stage I think I'll keep the M3 even if I purchase an M5.



5% of gear used 95% of the time
CR Pro
Frodo said:
* Frame rate was adequate for the photography I did on the trip and a burst of 5 RAW files was fine. However, the speed of exposure bracketing is simply not satisfactory. 1 fps or so when bracketing is just too slow.

Agree with everything you have said, but highlight this because it is a real pain. I'm perplexed as to why the camera can shoot at 5 fps, yet when it has to change the exposure it takes ages. In live view the 2009 5DII does three bracketed frames in about half a second, yet this one from 2016 goes at snail's pace.

I know that the term "crippling" causes much controversy, but I do find that Canon are experts had adding little features to their cheaper cameras that are specifically designed to frustrate me !


Mar 5, 2015
I read all the reviews and determined the things most people were complaining about didn't really worry me so I bought it anyway. Glad I did!

I find it to be a wonderful little camera and when combined with the 22mm f/2, I really enjoy it! I took it on vacation along with my 5DSr and found I used the little M3 the vast majority of the time. I only grabbed my 5D when doing wildlife (along with my 500mm f/4). But then again, that was my hope for the M and it worked out perfectly. The M5 will be even more of a DSLR replacement so I may be able to use for some things I currently still use my 5D for. I hope so anyway.

So I will pick up a M5 once I see some reviews and everyone says it's as good as we think it will be.

Josh Denver

EOS M6 Mark II
Sep 11, 2016
In praise of the m3:

It gives me the best 1080p image of all the cameras I own (5D3, 60D, 700D, 1100D), the newer 24.2mp sensor gives sharper video with a lot more detail than the usual Canon softness. Resolution is almost full 1080p. I was staggered seeing the image in Sony Vegas side by side the 5D (not raw).

So it's one of the very few Canons with sharp video trust me. Coupled with the large sensor size giving shallow DOF and incredible lowlight (compared to gh4 and such), and the flexible lens mount that can take any lens ever made, is a full fledged cinema camera. You can seriously shoot a theatrical feature film on it and come out lloiking sharp and clean with wonderful colour and s35 film DOF aethetic.

-I use russian manual glass for video which are Zeiss clones at a fraction of price like the Mir-B 37mm f/2.8 and Jupiter 135mm f/2.8, the m3 has focus PEAKING. Yes, first Canon ILC to get peaking! A very precise peaking implementation too.

-When I take the camera off the tripod and want to shoot handheld, I put on the EF-M 18-55mm STM IS. This lens has STRONG stabilization but the trick is that EF-M IS lenses opens up a ''Mode 1'' in the menu which combines electronic and optical stabilization giving 5 axis IS. It's one of the best IS systems I've ever used (note, only talking about this specific lens. I have no other EF-M lenses).

This kind of enormously effective IS opened up to me a whole world of laziness of not carrying a tripod/rig and creativity :D Now I just take the body and kit lens and shoot a gig. Ha.

-The screen is very nice and the tilt is very nice too on a tripod. The touchscreen focusing in video mode with the 18-55mm kit is DEAD on. Just like DPAF. Never misses, never hunts. At first I read the manual to make sure it is not DPAF! Once I knew it's not, I decided to try other lenses via the adapter. I first put on the 50mm f/1.8 STM and it's the same. Incredible. Then put the 24-105mm, and sadly, it's horrible. Hunts and misses. Put on the 18-55mm EF-S and also got mediocre performance. Thay why it's not DPAF! But again the AF is DPAF quality with EF-M lenses and most like STM lenses EF/S.

-I love the body. Love the bundled EVF with protudes far from the body and makes a much more pleasant experience than say the crammed a6000 on the tiny top left side of the front panel! I mean just put it on top geniuses! Quality and refresh rate is better and it's a bigger image too, something nobody seems to mention. Peaking and EVF and IS is just, wonderful. The EVF is just a must have with the M3. Very enjoyable first and useful second!

-Body design is lovely. It's now second nature to control. Colours come out wonderful in the Faithful PS with +2 sharpening, -4 Contrast, -2 Saturation. This gives a sharp neutral colour to start grading from.

What I DON'T like about the m3:

-The most useful feature on it (Electronic + optical) hybrid IS is NOT available with anything other than EF-M IS lenses. Even with the adapter and IS lenses, it just gives regular IS. Electronic IS with this kind of quality should even work with non IS lenses like m42 glass, 50mm f/1.8 STM, etc.

Looks like they did that with the new M5.

- AF is DPAF quality with ef-m lenses only, again this is solved with the M5.

- EVF is expensive. Again, M5.

- 60p only at 720p. M5 does 1080p

-The image only flaw is slight moire/aliasing harshness on some lines, again, M5 80d chip fixes it.

- If the 18-55mm is SO good and gives exceptional video performance with hybrid IS and flawless touch AF, THEN WHY there is not a lens with a longer range. Why not an 18-135mm STM IS equivalent? The only one M5 doesn't fix apparently!

CONCLUSION: LOVE the damn camera for professional (paid) video and family portraiture in JPEG colour engine.

Strange is that the newly announced M5 seems to fix every single bit I have wih the camera in paid video shooting. That's gonna be a hell of a camera for me! (as a video shooter)

I'll definitely still keep using the 5D3 + ML RAW which gives me FF look at perfect 1080p with 14bit 444 colour. Best image i've ever shot. But will likely sell the 60D, 700D, 1100D as they just don't match the m3/5/5draw sharpness so intercutting is not going to work well.

700D+1100D+60D+M3 should cover the cost of a new M5 and more. Also will be selling the EF-S lenses that I have no need for when using a 5d + m5, like:

3x 18-55mm IS II
1x 18-135mm STM

will just keep the 50mm and adapter because there isn't one for m. It's going to be stabilised too on the M5, a dream come true.

Selling all this should give me excess to buy some beautiful manual glass like the Helios 85mm king of Bokeh swirl (again with GOOD IS?!). And a 10-18mm STM is a cheaper option than buying the ef-m UWA.

- Just remains to see how the m5 will do in real life. WILL not preorder. The electronic IS though of the m3 that I scientifically tested, gives me a high hope of how good it's going to work, it's an insanely precise algorithm and insanely smooth, nothing like Electronic IS I've ever seen, which all were pretty shitty. But will still wait for youtube videos showing manual glass with IS activated to assess the purchase. Won't be a test rabbit again.

Wow I just wrote an entire review of the M3 on the phone on the bus! Hope all this thumb clicking helps anyone getting new information on the cameras!


Nov 3, 2012
The other side of the M3

I had always known that the M3 is no "action camera", but...
This morning I took my M3 and 55-200 to watch my father at his radio-controlled aircraft club. I learned very quickly that the M3/55-200 is completely useless for aircraft in flight. First problem is the large focusing area so that even when the aircraft is in the middle of the screen, the camera will try to focus on the sky. Second problem: there is no simple set-the-lens-at-infinity control (e.g. with the Nikon P900). So I had to focus on hills or trees in the distance and then find the aircraft again. Third: focusing is damn slow even on servo-AF. Fourth: really needs an EVF - this is not a deal-breaker and I doubt it would have compensated for the other problems.
This doesn't change the positives I mentioned in the original post, has reiterated what many have said before that the M3 is not an action camera. I'll take the 6D next time.


If only I knew what I was doing.....
CR Pro
Sep 8, 2012
All read with interest. I want to set the stage for my remarks:
Bought an M1 with the 22mm lens back when the price was a "give-away." Then got the EF-M 18-55 and an adapter (EF to EF-M) hoping it would increase the use of the camera. Every time I tried to find a use for it, I only got frustrated. The firmware update helped but it spent most of its time on the shelf. Still have it because it is almost worthless on the secondary market and maybe someday I will use it to teach my grandkids some photography skills.

Now fast forward to the present. Just got back from a month in Ethiopia and wanted a backup body for the 5Diii if something failed. I struggled with options but decided it would make sense to carry a second body with a Canon mount on this once-in-a-lifetime trip. Just a few days before leaving, I got an M3 and the EVF. I am now glad I did.

What was to be just a backup became a viable camera for times when I wanted to carry smaller or more discreetly. Other times, I'd carry the FF DSLR and the M3 to get two focal lengths over my shoulder without needing to change lenses. Or, when quickly moving in and out of historical structures, I could use the M3 with its flash indoors and the FF with a wide angle outdoors. Finally, the video on the M3 was always an option. Sure, the video on the 5Diii is pretty good but the setup is larger when filming indoors.

M3 pros:
-IQ is awfully reasonable
-Focus is relatively quick and was pretty accurate. And manual AF with peaking is nice.
-For my purposes, the video is fine
-The EVF is a nice touch and even when attached the setup is pretty small
-The kit is small and light compared to my FF kit. I've got the M3, EVF, 22mm, 18-55, three batteries, and extra card and the EF-EFM adapter in a TT Mirrorless Mover 10 bag, for example
-Without the EVF or zoom, the M3 + 22mm is small enough to carry discreetly

M3 cons:
-Look, it just is not and will never be a FF 5Diii in terms of IQ, DOF, focus speed etc
-I can find my way around the 5Diii buttons without moving my eye off the viewfinder while, for me, the M3 was a bit more crowded and less discreet (but this might improve as the camera gets used more). I often find myself setting ISO in error when I want to change shutter speed, for example.
-I set the M3 for back-button focus (I love on 5Diii) but found this too problematic so set it back
-Battery life
-I can move the focus points around on the FF from the viewfinder but on the M3 needed to use the touch
screen to do this

So in balance, I am glad I have this camera. and not so glad I have the M1. While the M5 looks appealing, it is a bit bigger and more expensive. I think that if tomorrow I needed to replace one of my camera bodies, I'd upgrade to a 5Div and keep the M3.


Mar 25, 2014
Looks like it can replace 70d in terms of video shooting. How is it with servo tracking and shooting. Can It fallow moving kids with EF 85mm / EFS 55-250mm / EFM 55-200 lens? What about compatibility for third party lens (Sigma 17-50mm) with the adapter. I am trying to see if I can replace my 70d kit with M3 which saves money and space. And looks nice being a mirrorless camera.


Nov 3, 2012
Something I should have mentioned in the first post is price.
Retail for M3 +18-55: NZD 750
Retail for M5 + 15-45: NZD 2000 (estimated)
Retail for Sony A6000 plus kit lens: NZD 1300
Retail for A6300 plus kit lens: NZD 2300

For this price, in NZ at least, we need to be somewhat gentle on our expectations of the M3.
And this highlights what a bargain the M3 is.
May 16, 2016
I did some tests yesterday comparing my 6D and M3. If anyone wants to play with the relevant CR2's, you can copy them from here

Basically, the M3 is (in my opinion) almost as good as a FF for static photos in reasonable light and better than the 6D for focus accuracy.

So, yes, it's a great under-recognised camera.

Nov 24, 2016
alan sh said:

So, yes, it's a great under-recognised camera.


+1 from what I can see at the paper...

I would have bougt it as a small backup landscape camera, but no cable release/intervallometer jack was a no-go...


I am smiling because I am happy...
Feb 17, 2014
Loved everything about the M3 system except focus speed, more to the point AF ability to capture moving targets. My images suffered in comparison to my 6D & SL1 in that regard (to many misses)

Cant wait to test the next rendition(s)
Feb 1, 2017
I read your review above. I also have M3 and you did not mention about the LCD. Since I do not have the EVF (because I think more pricy), I only use the live view and I do have problem when see it under the sunlight.

Stichus III

EOS M6 Mark II
Dec 14, 2012
I am under the impression that most complaints about the M3 are made by people that don't actually own it. I find that there is not much to complain about this camera.

I own the M3 and the detachable EVF. I got a great deal on them about a month before the M5 was announced.

I love the form factor and size. Especially with the EF-M 22mm f/2 pancake lens mounted. I also love the controls on the M3: I find that I never need to go to the menu when I am in the act of shooting, which for example cannot be said of the much more expensive 6D, which forces me to go to the menu to change wb.

The IQ of the M3 is simply what you'd expect from Canon APS-C cameras: not best in class, but most definitely solid. So no problems here.

The only things I don't like about the M3 are:
(1) the speed of the AF. Once in a while the slow AF causes me to miss a shot. But to be honest, this does not happen very often. The M3 is not for sports or bird photography;
(2) no in camera raw processing. Why Canon? Why?

And what about the lack of a built in EVF? The truth is that I only ever used the detachable EVF on the day that I got the camera. This just to make sure that it was working. I never felt the need to use it after that, even though my main camera is a full frame dslr, on which I rarely use the lcd screen to compose. The lack of a built in EVF turned out not to be a real issue for me.

The bottom line is that the M3 is a great camera, if you are not expecting full frame image quality or 7D style AF performance.

Boyer U. Klum-Cey

CR Pro
Dec 27, 2011
Thoughtful review laddie! A Canon M"x" is in my future, when either: a) my SL1 buys the oasis, or b) my grandson inherits it. Thanks again.


Traveling the world one step at a time.
CR Pro
Aug 26, 2014
I do love this little camera for its size and shape and little lenses (22 f/2 and 18-55). As everyone who uses one knows, it's great for stationary objects and I'm as happy with the files as I am with my 7DMII when properly exposed. I do have a question, has anyone discovered a way to do multiple exposures with it? I have not discovered a setting for this in any of the menus.
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