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Testing the Capabilities of the Newly-developed 24.2-megapixel Image Sensor

Canon's EOS M3 is a mirrorless camera that is equipped with an APS-C sized image sensor with an effective resolution of 24.2 megapixels. While the intended users of the existing EOS M are digital camera beginners, the target group has been widened with the release of the EOS M3. The new model is packed with many advanced features that even intermediate-level users who take up photography as a hobby would find useful.
In terms of image quality, a noteworthy point of the EOS M3 is the refined expressiveness, thanks to the revamped image sensor and image processor. In the following photo review, let us take a look at the quality of the test shots. (Reported by: Masakatsu Nagayama)

Testing Distant Landscapes with the Standard Zoom Lens

First of all, to test the depiction of distant landscapes, I tried photographing a bright outdoor scene using the EF-M18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, the standard zoom lens that comes with the lens kit. I took a few test shots at different aperture settings. The photo illustrated below is the one that is most sharply resolved at a moderate f-value.

When I set the focal length to the 18mm end, the depiction was rather soft at the maximum aperture. Sharpness increased as I narrowed the aperture, peaking at the optimal range between about f/5.6 and f/8. Meanwhile, at the 55mm end, the image appeared sharp starting from the maximum aperture. Regardless of the focal length, sharpness deteriorated due to diffraction when the aperture was narrowed beyond f/11.

FL: 18mm (f/5.6)

FL: 55mm (f/8)

I selected "Standard" for the Picture Style, which is a feature that allows you to adjust how colours are reproduced. The "Standard" Picture Style creates natural and well-balanced effect for both saturation and contrast. In the "Auto" Picture Style, which is the default setting, the saturation may turn out more intense than the "Standard" setting depending on the scene.

Checking the image quality for each ISO speed

The EOS M3 comes with an APS-C-sized CMOS sensor that has an effective resolution of 24.2 megapixels, and also a DIGIC 6 image processor. The standard ISO speed ranges from 100 to 12800, which is selectable in 1/3-stop increments and expandable to ISO 25600.

The following are JPEG images taken at different ISO speeds. High ISO speed noise reduction is left in the "Standard" setting. The subject is an artificial flower.

The area indicated in the blue frame is cropped and enlarged to life size as shown in the thumbnails below.

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 12800

ISO 25600

Noise is negligible on the flower petal under direct light, which is in the foreground. In contrast, notice the graininess that begins to stand out in the leaf that is in the shade when the ISO speed exceeds ISO 3200. There is relatively little deterioration in the apparent resolution. I would say that the noise reduction performance of the camera is excellent.

HDR Mode with 5 Selectable Effects

The EOS M3 comes with a new feature, "High Dynamic Range (HDR)”. Three images with different brightness levels are captured each time the shutter is released, after which they are combined automatically to produce an image with a wide gradation range. This mode can also be selected as one of the Creative filter effects, and images are recorded only in the JPEG format.

While a similar feature, "HDR Backlight Control", is available on the existing EOS M, the new HDR mode of the EOS M3 enables users to select one of the five effects when combining the three images. In the shots below that feature a light and a figurine, each of them has a different effect applied.

No Effect


Art Standard

Art Vivid

Art Bold

Art Embossed

Photo Examples

EF-M18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 18mm/ f/8, 1/400 sec., EV-0.7/ ISO100

Making use of the tilt-type LCD monitor, I took a low-angle shot from a low position. I created a simple background using only the blue sky, and chose an angle where the red flowers formed an L shape to direct viewers' attention to their colour and shape.

EF-M18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 50mm/ f/6.3, 1/500 sec., EV±0/ ISO100

Using the newly-introduced Dual Axis Electronic Level to maintain the horizontality, I took a shot where the shadow of the child was at a well-balanced location. I set white balance to "Cloudy" to emphasise the redness of the sunlight.

EF-M18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 32mm/ f/16, 1/160 sec., ±0EV/ ISO200

Casting light directly on the subject creates harsh shadows, so I directed the emitter of the external flash unit toward the white shirt I was wearing to soften the light. Meanwhile, to adjust the colour characteristics using the Picture Style, I set "Contrast" to [+2] to create a stronger contrast.

EF-M18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 55mm/ f/16, 1/800 sec., EV±0/ ISO100

Here, I fired the external flash from the back of the subject to bring out the crystal clear colour of the narcissus petals. It is a bit of a pity that the built-in flash does not come with a wireless remote control feature like on the EOS 700D or EOS 750D. I like the clear colour tone and smooth gradation.

High resolution and clear colours—too good to be a mere sub camera

Through this photo review, I found out that the high apparent resolution is capable of depicting the details of distant landscapes sharply, while the well-balanced colour reproduction stresses the saturation and contrast to an appropriate degree. The camera's high ISO speed performance is also excellent, reducing noise to a negligible level. I am rather satisfied with the image quality of the EOS M3, and also like its expressive power that is the result the new image sensor and image processor.

What I find lacking is the lenses. In this test shoot, I made use of the standard and telephoto zoom lenses from the EF-M lens lineup designed exclusively for the EOS M series. There are currently five EF-M lenses in total, which also include a prime lens and a wide-angle zoom lens. While it is appealing indeed that the wide array of EF and EF-S lenses can also be attached to the EOS M cameras using the special mount adapter, I still feel that the variety of EF-M lenses is insufficient.

Compared to DSLRs, there remains room for improvement in terms of the camera's response immediately after taking a shot, as well as in the AF speed when there is a need to adjust and maintain focus on a moving subject. Nonetheless, I like the highly-portable compact body, easy-to-hold grip, tilt-type LCD monitor that allows for a wide variety of compositions, and also compatibility with the optional EVF.

In sum, the EOS M3 is a mirrorless camera that enables users to enjoy capturing landscapes and snapshots with a greater degree of freedom and in a higher resolution than before. For those who already possess EF or EF-S lenses, this is also an ideal choice as a second or third camera. By positioning the EOS M3 as a sub camera, Canon conveys a clear message that encourages users to make use of a DSLR as the main camera.

EOS M3 Kit II (EF-M18-55 IS STM & EF-M55-200 IS STM)

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Masakatsu Nagayama

Runs an advertising studio, and started being a freelance photographer in 1998, where he has been active mainly in the advertising scene, shooting for magazines and online media. His speciality lies in snapshots of city life.

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