With the launch of the entry-level M10, Canon now has two current models in its CSC line-up for the very first time. Slotting below the enthusiast-aimed M3, it’s the third EF-M mount camera to hit the UK market. While its more expensive brother has a 24.2MP sensor and advanced external controls, the M10 has been scaled back to 18MP and features a simplistic design more akin to the original M. It might lack the bells and whistles of many CSCs on the market, but with Canon’s imaging reputation to back it up, and a highly competitive price, could this sleek and uncomplicated camera be the perfect release to win over newcomers to the interchangeable lens system?
At the core of the M10 is an 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor. This is exactly the same size and resolution as the one found in the M and the brand’s smallest DSLR, the 100D. The large sensor puts image quality on par with many entry-level DSLRs, and in a different league to smartphones and most compacts. This is paired with a DIGIC 6 processor.
The camera’s native ISO range of 100-12,800 (expandable to 25,600) matches that of the M3, and is competitive for a CSC of this price. Its burst mode of 4.6fps isn’t exactly ground-breaking for a mirrorless device, although strangely it’s slightly faster than its older brother. Continuous shooting slows down after seven RAW frames.
For those who have followed Canon’s progress in the CSC market, autofocus performance is likely to be a key area of interest. While the original M was heavily criticised for its sluggish focusing speed, the M3’s Hybrid CMOS AF III system gave the camera a noticeable 6x improvement. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been carried over onto this model. Although rated to a reasonable 1EV for accurate focusing in low light, and featuring 49 focus points, the M10’s Hybrid CMOS AF II system is slower than most competing CSCs. It’s still more than adequate for all but the speediest of subjects, but just don’t expect it to feel instant.
A responsive tracking and face detection mode is present, as is an AF assist lamp. The camera has four metering modes, all of which we found to be accurate, while there’s also the option for exposure compensation via the camera’s Quick menu.
Other features and video
On the rear of the camera is a 3in 1040k-dot LCD. This is bright and responsive, which is essential given the lack of a viewfinder. Selfie fans will be pleased by the ability to tilt it upwards by 180° so that it faces forwards, and it’s also touch sensitive. This touch control can be used to navigate the menu, take a picture and select a focus point, although frustratingly the latter has the tendency to get stuck if a controlling finger moves too close to the edge of the display.
With no hotshoe the camera isn’t compatible with any viewfinder attachment or external flashgun, but an in-built flash can be manually controlled via the menu. As is standard on newer CSC models, the M10 has Wi-Fi and NFC for remote control and wireless file transfer.
As on the M3, this camera’s strength isn’t its video capabilities. Full HD (1080p) is possible at a sub-par 30fps, but with no audio inputs users are restricted to capturing poor quality sound with the in-built microphone. While CSCs commonly fail to match the capacity of DSLR batteries, the M10’s 255 shots per charge is a pretty woeful offering.
The glossy plastic shell of the M10 may not feel as rugged as some rival bodies, but it does help to keep the camera’s weight down to just 301g. Measuring 108mm wide by 67mm high, this camera is virtually pocketable and much closer in shape to the M than the M3. This similarity is also present in the layout of its controls, returning to a simpler design that omits a full mode dial and external exposure compensation control, as well as several rear buttons found on its bigger brother. The result is a CSC that handles more like a traditional compact. This is something that may appeal to those looking for their first interchangeable lens camera, but may alienate more experienced users. Full manual shooting is still possible via the easy-to-operate Quick menu, as are aperture- and shutter-priority modes. Generally speaking, the rest of the camera’s menu is also easy to navigate, but several shooting options found on the M3 such as focus peaking and sound control have been removed. Canon’s Creative Assist mode is on board to help fledgling photographers experiment with some of the camera’s more advanced settings.
With only a small thumb rest, no front grip and an untextured finish, this camera doesn’t feel as secure in the hand as some competing models. With a larger lens attached I’m sure it would be unwieldy, but it’s unlikely to struggle with the five available EF-M optics. This current lens range mainly consists of wide and standard focal length options, with the 55-200mm being the only telephoto available, something that’s likely to disappoint sports and wildlife shooters.
Solid APS-C performance
When it comes to noise control the M10 puts in a very similar performance to both the higher resolution M3 and the original M. Up to ISO 800 image quality is very good indeed, before noise reaches critical mass around the ISO 3200 mark. However, it’s not until the camera’s top native level of 12,800, and the extended 25,600, that shots become particularly unusable. For a camera with a price-tag of only £400 at launch, this is a highly respectable performance.
Kit lens - A well suited combination
The bundled kit lens is a 15-45mm (24-72mm equivalent) standard zoom with a variable f/3.5-6.3 aperture, which is suitable for most day-to-day subjects. Weighing just 130g, its barrel retracts when not in use for easy storage and transport. With an STM (stepping motor) the lens’ quiet autofocus will appeal to videographers, while image stabilisation can compensate for around 3.5 stops of camera shake. Wide open the lens displays some corner softness but good central sharpness. This improves at the lens’ sweet spot of f/8-11, where it puts in
a great, though not astounding, performance. Barrel distortion is strong at 15mm and to a lesser degree at 45mm, and chromatic aberration is also visible, although both can be corrected in post-processing.
At £400 it would be unfair to expect a camera to offer everything. The M10 produces great quality stills and performs well in testing conditions. It’s handling, though simple, is intuitive and well implemented for those taking their first steps with a larger sensor camera. It hopefully also represents a move by Canon to commit to a more competitive CSC line-up, something that up until now the brand has shied away from. But there are no blistering burst modes, impressive video options, or eye-catching features here. It’s very much an essentials-only offering. That won’t trouble those who like to keep things simple, but it’s unlikely to endear the M10 to users who want a fully-featured device. With the M3 keeping things fairly reserved itself, Canon’s M-line sits quite firmly at the lower end of the mirrorless market. Even here though, competition is tough, with the Olympus E-PL7 and Sony α6000 both currently available for similar prices. Overall, the M10 is a great piece of kit with impressive image quality, although there are more complete cameras on the market at this price point that will have broader appeal.
- Body price: £295 (As of July 2016)
- Effective resolution: 18MP
- Sensor: 22.3x14.9mm APS-C CMOS
- Processor: DIGIC 6
- LCD: 3in 1040k-dot tiltable touchscreen
- Viewfinder: None
- Autofocus: 49-point hybrid
- ISO: 100-12,800 (expands to 25,600)
- Shooting speed: 4.6fps for 7 RAWs
- Video: Full HD (1080p) at 30fps
- Pop-up flash: Yes
- Other features: Wi-Fi, NFC, HDMI output
- Battery life: 255 shots
- Card type: SD, SDHC, SDXC
- Size (WxHxD): 108x67x35mm
- Weight: 301g
- Visit: www.canon.co.uk
This review was first published in the February 2016 issue of Practical Photography - download back issues here.