NOTE: In order to properly compare image sensors with different resolutions, we downsample/resize images from both sensors to 10 MP. This is the only proper way to assess noise performance. If you want to compare images at 100% crop, then you can use the images from the previous page and compare them to images from other reviews. For example, to compare the pixel-level performance of the Canon EOS M with the Sony NEX-5R, download images from the “ISO Performance” page from this review and then grab the ones from the same page in the Sony NEX-5R review. We do not provide 100% crops for all camera comparisons in individual reviews.
Canon EOS M vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 Low ISO Comparison (ISO 200-800)
Let’s take a look at how the Canon EOS M compares to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 with a Micro Four Thirds sensor. The base ISO of the Olympus sensor starts at ISO 200 and it can go all the way to ISO 25,600. Please note that the Olympus OM-D E-M5 was not very accurate with the sensor ISO – it consistently produced slightly underexposed images when comparing image sensors at the same aperture, shutter speed and ISO (by about 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop). That’s why the below images from the Olympus appear darker. Here is a comparison of both cameras at ISO 200 (Left: Canon EOS M, Right: Olympus OM-D E-M5):
Both cameras look very clean at ISO 200, with no difference in noise characteristics.
The same is true for ISO 400.
As we increase ISO to 800, we start to see more noise on both cameras. But I can’t say that one is better than the other – despite a smaller sensor size, the OM-D has impressive image quality.
Canon EOS M vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-25600)
At ISO 1600, there is still very little difference between the two.
Both cameras add plenty of noise at ISO 3200, but despite its smaller sensor, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 shows less noise and artifacts in the shadows.
The difference is even more obvious at ISO 6400 – the OM-D clearly produces a less noisy image. Take a look at the shadow area and compare the two…
At ISO 12800, there is too much noise on both cameras, but the OM-D still has the upper hand. The Canon EOS M looks a tad sharper, thanks to its high-resolution sensor, but it has more noise artifacts throughout the image.
Canon EOS M vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 Summary
Judging from the above comparison, the Olympus OM-D produces better image quality than the Canon EOS M at high ISO values above ISO 1600. It has cleaner shadows and fewer noise artifacts throughout the frame. This is rather surprising, because the Canon EOS M has a bigger 1.6x crop factor APS-C sensor, while the Olympus OM-D E-M5 has a 2.0x crop factor Micro Four Thirds sensor. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 also has better dynamic range, as evidenced from the first page of the review.
Unfortunately, it does not stop there for the Canon EOS M. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 has the best in class autofocus performance that is way ahead of the Canon EOS M, much better ergonomics, a built-in viewfinder, more customization options and above all – smaller lenses. The only area where the EOS M shines is its cool touchscreen LCD, which is not even that relevant for serious shooters anyway…
Canon EOS M vs Sony NEX-5R/NEX-6 (ISO 100-800)
Physically, the sensor on the EOS M is a little smaller than the ones on the NEX-5R/NEX-6 (1.6x vs 1.5x crop factor), as shown on the first page of this review. Since both the NEX-5R and the NEX-6 have exactly the same sensor, I will only provide crops from the NEX-5R.
As usual, there is no difference in noise characteristics at such low ISO values. The Canon EOS M looks much sharper, because its 18-55mm lens is excellent, while the Sony 18-55mm resolves much less detail in comparison (as explained in the first page of the review).
The same goes for ISO 200 – both cameras show no noise, even in the shadow area.
At ISO 400 we start to see some grain on both cameras.
ISO 800 looks equally good on both.
Canon EOS M vs Sony NEX-5R/NEX-6 High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-12800)
Boosted to ISO 1600, the Canon EOS M seems to produce a little more noise in the shadows, but the difference is very small.
However, at ISO 3200, the shadow area on the EOS M certainly looks grainier in comparison.
At ISO 6400, the EOS M shows more noise, especially in the shadows. There is also a loss of detail and colors in the shadows.
And at the maximum ISO of 12800, the EOS M definitely shows worse performance, with more artificial colors throughout the image. Overall though, both are pretty close in performance, with perhaps 1/3 of a stop advantage on the NEX-5R/NEX-6 at very high ISOs.
Canon EOS M vs Sony NEX-5R/NEX-6 Summary
Despite the 2 MP resolution difference (the EOS M has an 18 MP sensor), the NEX-5R/NEX-6 showed impressive performance, surpassing the EOS M at high ISOs. All three are very similar in performance at low ISOs, but the NEX-5R/NEX-6 certainly performs better at ISO 3200 and above. I would not judge the performance of these cameras by just looking at images though – the NEX-5R is a more mature camera, with a much better autofocus system and other neat features like focus peaking, while the NEX-6 has an electronic viewfinder, a standard hot shoe, and much better ergonomics. Where the NEX-5R-NEX-6 are both a little behind, is the touchscreen LCD – the one on the Canon EOS M is much better in comparison.
Canon EOS M vs Sony NEX-7 Low ISO Comparison (ISO 100-800)
Let’s take a look at how the Canon EOS M compares to the high resolution NEX-7. Here is a comparison of base ISO 100 on both cameras:
While both cameras produce impressive, noise-free images at ISO 100, the Sony NEX-7 produces slightly sharper images. This is due to downsampling – the NEX-7 has more resolution to play with.
ISO 200 again looks impressive on both cameras.
We start seeing some noise at ISO 400, but there is no clear winner here – both cameras produce about the same amount of noise at the same resolution.
At ISO 800, the Sony NEX-7 appears a tad cleaner in comparison.
Canon EOS M vs Sony NEX-7 High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-25600)
The NEX-7 looks slightly cleaner and sharper.
Both seem to tie at ISO 3200, with noticeable grain and noise artifacts in the shadows.
At ISO 6400, it is hard to say which one looks better. Both cameras show plenty of noise, although the Canon EOS M seems to retain the shadow colors a little better.
ISO 12800 looks terrible on both cameras, but the Canon EOS M definitely retains the colors better (see the shadow area).
Canon EOS M vs Sony NEX-7 Summary
When comparing images between sensors with different resolutions, the only proper way to do it is to downsample images. Otherwise, sensors with bigger pixels (lower resolution) are always going to show better noise characteristics (assuming both are of similar generation/technology). In this case, the Canon EOS M has an 18 MP sensor, while the NEX-7 has a high resolution 24.3 MP sensor. A 6.3 MP difference can play a huge role when comparing sensors. The NEX-7 has the advantage of a high resolution sensor and its images retain excellent detail even at very high ISO values. It starts out pretty strong at ISO 800-3200 but certainly does lose to the Canon EOS M in the shadows at the highest ISO levels, resulting in visible artificial colors in the shadow areas. But keep in mind that this is just a single comparison that shows ISO performance between the cameras. We are not looking at the whole picture here, because the Sony NEX-7 has features that are nowhere to be found on the EOS M. The NEX-7 is Sony’s high-end mirrorless offering with a best of the class electronic viewfinder, better ergonomics and superior design, better AF system, built-in flash and more. In short, the EOS M cannot directly compete with the NEX-7, it is more along the lines of the Sony NEX-F3 or NEX-5R.
Canon EOS M vs Nikon 1 J1/J2/V1 Low ISO Comparison (ISO 100-800)
Lastly, let’s take a look at how the Canon EOS M compares to the Nikon 1 system. The Nikon 1 J1, J2 and V1 share the same sensor, so do not wonder why I am comparing the EOS M to the J2 below. Here is a comparison of base ISO 100:
Again, sensor size and resolution win big time here – the Nikon 1 looks noisy in comparison to the EOS M even at base ISO of 100.
No need to repeat the same words – the EOS M looks very clean and practically noise-free at ISO 200 and 400 in comparison.
At ISO 800, there is a little bit of grain on the Canon EOS M, but it still looks very good compared to the J1/J2/V1.
Canon EOS M vs Nikon 1 J1/J2/V1 High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-6400)
Again, the much larger and higher resolution sensor of the Canon EOS M does make a difference here – it performs very well at high ISOs, even at ISO 6400 when downsampled.
Canon EOS M vs Nikon 1 J1/J2/V1 Summary
As I have numerously talked about before, the only proper way to look at sensor performance is by down-sampling. While the J1/J2/V1 looks great at the pixel-level, it certainly disappoints when its competition is down-sampled to the same resolution. The Canon EOS M looks very good when its images are at 10 MP – those extra 8 MP help reduce noise and bring out the sharpness of the image. At the same time, don’t forget that the sensor of the EOS M is also 3 times larger than the one on the Nikon 1 system. A larger size sensor also means larger lenses – and that’s a general weakness of any APS-C camera. On the other hand, a large sensor also means two things: shallower depth of field and better dynamic range – two major factors that work in Canon EOS M’s favor.
One area where the Nikon 1 system is way ahead currently, is autofocus. As I have previously pointed out in my Nikon 1 V1 and J1/J2 reviews, Nikon designed an excellent hybrid AF system that works quickly and accurately not only for stationary, but also for moving subjects (its AF-C mode is still the best in the market). If Canon EOS M had as good of an autofocus system as on Nikon 1, it would have become a popular camera very quickly…
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