What Should Canon Do About Its Other Mirrorless System?

What Should Canon Do About Its Other Mirrorless System?

Canon's RF mirrorless line has been making lots of waves for its spectacular lenses and the astoundingly powerful upcoming R5 camera. But did you know Canon has had an entirely separate interchangeable lens mirrorless system for the past eight years? What is next for it?

History

Back in 2012, long before mirrorless had really taken hold (a year before the first Sony a7 model was even announced) and years before the RF system was on the horizon, Canon introduced a new lens mount and mirrorless system, the EF-M. The EF-M mount featured an 18 mm flange distance and 47 mm throat diameter and was designed to be used with APS-C sensors. 

The original EOS M. Make more red cameras, Canon! 

The system had a very slow start, with no EVF and slow autofocus, though many applauded its ability to adapt EF and EF-S lenses and its compact build and decent sensor taken from Canon's DSLRs. The other issue was native lenses for the EF-M mount. An 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 and a surprisingly good 22mm f/2 came in 2012, but as of 2020, there are only eight Canon brand EF-M lenses available. Five of those are variable aperture zooms. One is a rather neat macro lens with a built-in ring light, one is the aforementioned 22mm f/2, and the final is the 32mm f/1.4. This leaves no constant aperture pro zooms and only three prime focal lengths: 35mm, 45mm, and 51mm (in full frame equivalents). Third party options have become available, but the system still has a relatively limited lens selection.

The EOS M5

The bodies slowly began to improve, with the M5 representing the first highly capable camera in the system. However, by the time it was released in late 2016, both Sony's a7 series and Fuji's X series had made serious strides, and the M5 felt a bit late to the party. Nonetheless, the EF-M line marched on, and by the end of 2019, 10 bodies had been released. Many M line owners have noted that they make fantastic travel cameras or extra landscape bodies with their compact footprint and ability to adapt EF and EF-S lenses. They have also gained some popularity among the vlogging community, where Canon's lauded DPAF combined with the small size of the bodies and lenses make them great on-the-go devices.

Niche or Popular?

I'll admit I have never seen an EOS M camera in the wild. They don't seem to be particularly popular here in the U.S. However, in Japan, they are wildly popular. In fact, in mid-2019, the EOS M50 was the most popular mirrorless camera by units sold, having sold almost twice as many as the next closest, the Sony a6400. And the EOS M100 occupied the third spot. It seems that Canon has found a good niche in creating compact, affordable enthusiast cameras with well-priced lenses to match.

What's Next for the EF-M System Then?

Business as Usual

The EF-M system may not be particularly exciting for gear-heads, but it has evolved into a solid and portable system for enthusiasts that is quite affordable (you can get a new camera and lens kit for around $500 right now). Given the very iterative changes from model to model and slow release of non-extreme lenses, I doubt the line is costing the company much in terms of research and development. And given its success overseas, there is probably no reason to discontinue it. Canon saves even more money by sourcing sensors for the line out of its APS-C DSLRs, but as the DSLR era comes to a close, that could present an issue, though even if Canon were to stop making new DSLRs today, they could still get a couple years' mileage out of the latest sensors before they felt really out of date in the EOS M cameras. 

Canon Discontinues the EF-M Mount and Pushes Users Toward the RF Mount

The EOS RP

Canon has shown through the remarkably affordable EOS RP and their upcoming lens releases that they are building out the RF mount and accompanying cameras to provide a range of price points depending on users' needs, and that could make a good exit point for the EF-M system. I personally would not be surprised to see an APS-C RF camera at some point, and given the EOS RP's price that currently hovers around $1,000 (originally released at $1,299), I would not be surprised to see an APS-C RF camera that pairs nicely with a lens like the RF 24-105mm f/4-7.1 IS STM at around $1,200 for the kit on release or below $1,000 for the body only. Canon may want this path, as it becomes a gateway to push users toward the more premium RF options. One thing I do not see happening is the introduction of an RF-S mount akin to the EF-S mount. 

Canon Reinvigorates Its Development Alongside the RF Mount

With the EF mount on its way out, at least as far as new development goes, Canon might decide to devote some resources to the EF-M mount. After all, it has a strong foundation in Japan, and Canon may want to keep that edge over rivals like Sony. And if the company eventually produces an APS-C RF camera, they can share sensors with EOS M cameras. 

What Is Most Likely?

Personally, I do not see Canon aggressively developing the EF-M mount while also pouring tons of resources into the RF line. It seems they have a good handle on what the EF-M line is and more importantly, what it is not. However, given how aggressively Canon is pursuing its RF line, I would not be surprised to see the EF-M line eventually shuttered once Canon has released more budget-level RF lenses and an APS-C body to match, as this would provide a similar setup to what has made the EF-M line successful while consolidating the company's resources into a single system and giving them the ability to push users toward the more premium RF products whenever they are ready to upgrade. From the users' perspective, it would give them a clear path of growth within the Canon ecosystem without the costly and tedious task of switching mounts. 

Of course, I can only make educated guesses about the future of the EF-M mount. Do you think it will stick around, or is it on its way out?

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31 Comments

Ryan Mense's picture

Discontinued by way of never speaking about it again. The Sony A mount way.

Deleted Account's picture

Probably this.

Alex Cooke's picture

The what mount?

Deleted Account's picture

With the RP, it seems that Canon might just push full frame down to a price point where APS-C become irrelevant.. Sensors are only going to get cheaper and you can always use older sensors to create affordable entry-level bodies. A sub-$1000 full frame already encroaches severely on APS-C price points so there wouldn't me much room down there for them to survive. The only link that's currently missing is a slew of cheap lenses, but that'll come soon enough.

VINICIUS YUZO ZUCARELI's picture

Don't forget that there are markets where the 300 to 500 dollars cameras reign supreme.

I do work with my trusty m50, and my SL2.

My whole setup, 6 lenses, 2 bodies, 3 speedlights, soft box, some eneloops, bag, wireless flash, etc. Cost me less than 3k dollars. I could never afford a 1000 dollar camera now.

When you can hire decent wedding photographer for about 300 dollars, 1000 is a lot.

Tony Northrup's picture

Even in the US, people buying there first camera most often say "$300-$500." The problem those buyers have worldwide is that the camera will be more difficult to use and produce similar or worse results compared to their smartphone. There is no starter camera to convert a smartphone user into a ILC enthusiast.

VINICIUS YUZO ZUCARELI's picture

I don't understand. Are you saying no camera under 500 can produce images better than a smartphone?

You are a very knowledgeable guy and know better than that. I know that because I watch your videos and even bought your digital book.

I *know* there are sub 200 dollar cameras that will produce better images than any smartphone can.

David Kinnear's picture

I made the mistake of buying the M5 when it first came out, together with the 15-45 mm zoom, the 22 mm and EOS M-EF lens adapter. I expected that Canon would add more quality lenses in the future. Boy, was I wrong.

This experience has soured me on Canon altogether.

Pradipto WP's picture

EOS M series is quite popular in Asia, including in my country. In tourist attraction i often see millenials (mostly girls) with an EOS M 100 (or may be M10 or M200).

My fellow photographer mostly use M3 or M50. I my self own the original M (glued with EFM 22mm) and M50 (glued with EF 50mm F1.4).

Geir Anders Rybakken Ørslien's picture

The one advantage of APC-C sensor based camera systems, is that the lenses doesn't have to be nearly as large – as the sensor they need to cover is only 38% the size of a full frame sensor. Here is the RP with a 35/1.8 macro, and the M5 with a equivalent focal length, the 22/2.0.

I struggle to see why and how Canon would implement APS-C within the RF mount, which is way bigger than needed. Rumor has it that the EOS M5 MkII will have IBIS and be a significant upgrade from the old M5. Looking forward to see. I have the M5 as a travel companion when I don't need my full frame 5Ds – and really like it.

Tony Northrup's picture

Check out the Canon 40mm f2.8, or every disposable 35mm film camera. Sensor size doesn't have a huge impact on lens size when comparing equivalent results in our experience. it's definitely very possible for them to make small FF lenses, and I hope they do!

Daniel Lee's picture

Wouldn't that come down to how complicated they want to make the design (elements and groups)? Samyang have made an amazing AF 85mm f/1.4 that's smaller and lighter than other current offerings so I would agree it's possible too

Geir Anders Rybakken Ørslien's picture

I almost forgot about the disposable 35mm film cameras we used back in the days :-D But I guess they were f/8.0 or something? But yeah, I see your point about pancake full frame lenses, although those are never above f/2.8. The Panasonic 20mm has f/1.7, but it only has a tiny MFT sensor to cover.

Thinking of it: Back in my analog Leica M6 days, I had the Summicron 35/2.0, which was absolutely super small – and yet covered the 24x36mm frame. Why don't we see that kind of lens sizes today? Is it the AF tech that makes everything bigger?

Mike Robinson's picture

Shouldn't this be about Canon's long walk down the wrong road for its product line up? This is the narrative we are reading for such articles relating to Nikon.

Troy Straub's picture

I had a salesman at Best Buy try to talk me into this system instead of micro 4/3. I couldn't see paying more money for a camera that had almost no lenses and less features just because it had a slightly larger sensor when micro 4/3 already had a complete lens lineup from multiple manufactures. I'm still happy with my decision.

Spy Black's picture

I suspect this was Canon's answer to Nikon's 1 System. It didn't seem like either company gave a shit if it succeeded or failed, but both were popular in Asia. As soon as they have an RF version (like Nikon is doing now with their forthcoming cheapo compact Z bodies) this camera system will go the way of the FD mount.

Gerald Perkins's picture

A quick look at Amazon shows that 6 of top 10 selling DSLRs are various Rebel kits priced between about 400-700 dollars. Top selling mirror less was M50 kit. 4 of top 10 mirror less were M50 kits, Again between 400-700 dollars. Canon R was #12 ($1799 without a lens)on the list. Did not see RP in top 50. Until RF mount kit can get to the $400 range then M will stick around. I have an M50 and pleased with the pictures and the size.

Michael L's picture

Finally an answer that isn't camera pro centric. The vast majority of ILCs sold are entry-level kits, whether SLR or mirrorless, with a lens or two and most customers don't buy more.

Canon's M cameras are really small, focus quickly, work just fine with EF glass if you care to get more glass, and (most importantly) are priced right.

Patrick Rosenbalm's picture

I don't see the M going away because of its size, image quality and lens compatibility via the adapter. And, Sales. Yeah, I know the adapter for larger lenses pretty much negates the small size and weight advantage but it does make all but the RF lenses available when size isn't an issue and or you need something that isn't available in the M mount. The only thing Canon has that is similar for image quality and size is the high end powershot cameras. As on owner of an original M since 2013, I am disappointed that Canon hasn't expanded the M Mount lens line up more than they have. Will they? Who knows?
I like mine for street photography and when I don't want to be noticed with a big camera.

Deleted Account's picture

If discretion for street is the issue, wouldn't something like a Fuji or Ricoh be more appropriate, though?

Patrick Rosenbalm's picture

Not for me. Why buy a different brand? My EOS M is tiny, I operates like my other Canon gear and my EF and EF-S lenses will work with it too. I also have the adapter if I want to go that route.

Tell my why a Fuji or Ricoh would be bettter. Other than maybe more native lens selection.

Robert Edwardes's picture

EF-M line like the DX only need a hand full of lens beyond the kit lens for it meet the needs of the market segment they are targeting and they look like they have done it with the wide zoom, the micro, a tele zoom, and some low cost fast primes. Canon just came to the same realization that Panasonic and Fuji had when they skipped a senors size and that is most people don't jump from APS-C to FF like they use to since the difference only comes with 1.5k+ lens

Donald Flint's picture

I don’t care if they keep the M or not, but I really want to see APS-C using the RF system and a line of RF-S lenses started up. Continuity with the DSLR line.

Helga Nowak's picture

"I'll admit I have never seen an EOS M camera in the wild."
You may have to leave the US and travel a little. In Asia (not only in Japan) and in Europe, EOS M system, despite the small offer of lenses, is popular and it is also very well liked.
The US is not the whole world and you should not draw conclusions about the decisions (and future of the system) of a non-US company, based only on your own market.

Malcolm Wright's picture

The only financial reason to discontinue any product is if you have a replacement product that not only displaces it but is also growing in sales volume so fast that it needs the resources being taken up by the earlier product.

The M series isn't being displaced by the R series, even the EF and EF-S products aren't being displaced that much by the R series. The R series is also not growing in sales volume so fast that it needs the resources being taken up by the earlier products.

Are the M, EF and EF-S series cash cows, you bet they are. Do you kill a cash cow, or do you kill a new resource hungry product that threatens not to turn into a cash cow?

Steve White's picture

A good point. Apple kept selling the Apple // series of computers a LONG time after introducing the Mac. They didn't invest much into the // but they sold them. It was a cash cow and helped Apple sustain themselves while they pushed the Mac forward.

While I don't see the technical point of keeping the EF and EF-S DSLR lines if Canon is going to go mirrorless ILC with the R and M lines, as long as the Rebels sell Canon would be an idiot for leaving that money on the table.

It does say something about the M line that a lot of customers would look at an M50 kit and a Rebel T7 kit side-by-side and choose the latter.

Lawrence Huber's picture

It has no growth path. Unless they keep it as a cult camera. It will go away. Too bad it could not be compatible with the RF mount. It is a sweet little camera system .
Long lenses lacking habe kept me away from it .

Steven Taylor's picture

I am confused. For someone that says "I'll admit I have never seen a Canon EOS M camera in the wild", why do you feel qualified to write about the M mount system to begin with? Would you dare write about the Sony a7riv or even the Fuji x100v and not have tried either of those two cameras? Imagine the comments. I use all 3.

Yes, the M mount "enthusiast" cameras (your words) are beneath many "serious" professionals, but the Canon M6 Mark II paired with the Canon 32mm f/1.4 or one of the 3 Sigma fast primes is pretty awesome. I used a pair of these cameras in the Virgin Islands before Covid. Climbing ladders and wading around the boulders at the Baths in Virgin Gorda made me thankful for the size and weight savings compared to risking a Sony full frame kit with a slip into knee deep water.

Tomorrow I am shooting a protest at a nearby monument that will come down soon. And I will try out the Tamron 70-180mm 2.8 e mount that just arrived. But to save weight and appear a little less conspicuous if possible, the second camera will be the Canon M6 Mark II with a couple prime lenses. At ISO 100, the crop sensor "enthusiast" camera will perform just fine thank you.

This is my first post.

Jeremy Lucas's picture

I bought a second hand m3 for little money as well as the 22f2 it's incredible how small this combo is and how great the images are. It's a fantastic travel camera and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I bought it for the portability and the great reviews I read for the 22mm f2 lens which have delivered excellent images to me in spades. It will be a shame if canon discontinued the line. It's absolutely perfect for what it is, a compact travel companion. Who really wants to lug an slr on vacation? Full frame mirrorless might be the greatest thing ever but it ain't small nor is it light and sometimes it's NOT the right tool for the job. Have fun lugging that 85 mm f1.2 lens and full frame body while at Disney with your kids in the heat of July. I'll just keep my m3 in my pocket thank you. It's a shame more camera makers don't make something like the m line from canon. Anyway I'm glad at least canon has some good ideas. Please. Don't call me a fanboy either, my primary shooter when not on vacation is Nikon and I have several Pentax bodies for 35mm, all my gear is great and fun to shoot. Get out and take some photos, smell the roses, live well, enjoy the sushine, and long live the m mount. Cheers

Frank T's picture

Canonwatch have rumors of both new bodies and lenses:

https://www.canonwatch.com/canon-rumor-a-high-end-eos-m-model-coming-2020/

https://www.canonwatch.com/canon-rumor-5-new-eos-m-lenses-might-be-annou...

If true, my Sony a6300 and many lenses will be replaced with something much more ergonomic.
Happy with the output from a6300, but a nightmare to handle.

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