Washington State is known as the Evergreen State, a slogan that is emblazoned on automotive license plates from Seattle to Spokane. New York is the Empire State. Montana is Big Sky Country, and Florida is the Sunshine State.
What about Idaho? Famous Potatoes.
|Seems to me there’s a lot more to Idaho than just potatoes. Processed and cropped to taste in Adobe Camera Raw using the Camera Landscape color profile. Great exposure in full automatic mode.
ISO 200 | 1/250 sec | F2.8
While on a recent road trip through Idaho, this topic of state slogans came up with a few traveling companions who happen to live in the state capital, Boise. In all fairness, it does look like there is an updated slogan. “Great Potatoes. Tasty Destinations.” Eh. Somehow, it still fails to capture any sense of the awesome beauty that I experienced on my first trip through the north-western part of the state, along the Snake River and Hells Canyon and through the Clearwater Mountains.
The primary reason for this trip was to get some more shooting time in with the Canon EOS 6D Mark II. But I also threw the new, beginner-friendly Canon EOS M100 with the 22mm F2 pancake prime into my jacket pocket for capturing some of the lighter moments on the trip.
And given just how much of a thing I have for large-sensor compact cameras with prime lenses, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I really, really enjoyed it.
What Canon got right
|Not a bad parking spot. Processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw using the Camera Neutral profile.
ISO 100 | 1/250 sec | F5.6
The most important thing that Canon got right with this camera is that it’s just fun to use. With a good full Auto mode, and an easy switch over to Program Auto or Aperture Priority, it was easy to just yank the M100 out of my pocket, take a quick shot, and put it back in at a moment’s notice. This was especially handy on, say, the top of a mountain with failing post-sunset light.
Despite the fairly serious guts in the M100, which include Canon’s newest 24MP APS-C sensor and Digic 7 processor, the M100 doesn’t feel like too ‘serious’ a camera to use. While it sometimes seemed overkill to take out the 6D II for some photos of late-night photo editing or a trip to the pool hall, the EOS M100 just seems made for such photographic opportunities.
|Image processed to taste in-camera using tuned monochrome settings, with increased sharpening and contrast – still another good exposure from full Auto mode.
ISO 6400 | 1/40 sec | F2.8
It’s also true that default sharpening and noise reduction values aren’t really our favorites on Canon’s recent cameras, but if your main purpose is getting better photos than what your cellphone can capture and then uploading to Instagram, it doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem. Speaking of cellphones, the built-in NFC on the M100 (which the older M10 also has) makes pairing with Android phones an absolute breeze.
And if you find yourself needing to tweak your images, the M100 is one of the few entry-level Canon cameras that allows for in-camera Raw processing, which is a really nice touch. It also makes it easier to find your preferred settings.
Lastly, the tilting touchscreen combines with the excellent Dual Pixel AF to make shooting from the hip a really addictive experience.
|Smartphone cameras are steadily improving, but there’s no way my phone could handle this sort of thing. Processed and cropped to taste in Adobe Camera Raw.
ISO 2000 | 1/60 sec | F2
Things to consider
Of course, there’s also a couple things Canon could improve. I mean, look at this USB port. Just look at it.
|What’s wrong with this picture?|
First off, that’s a mini USB port, not the far more common micro USB port, so good luck finding a cable should you need to transfer over USB. The bigger issue is that the USB port included on the M100 does not support USB charging – something that’s also true of Canon’s EOS M5 and M6.
These cameras, particularly the tiny M100, practically beg to be travel cameras, at least with the pancake prime. Even if I’m traveling ultra-light, I’ll need a charger for my phone, and being able to share that between the phone and camera means one less power brick to lose. Plus, if I do lose it, a generic USB charger is damned near ubiquitous compared with something that works specifically with Canon’s LP-E12 batteries. And if you already have a bigger Canon kit with its own chargers, do you really want to carry another dedicated charger?
Besides that, I do wish that the M100 came with the M6’s screen mechanism. The fact that the screen only flips up makes shooting top-down difficult, but it’s better than a screen that doesn’t tilt at all, particularly given the M100 lacks a viewfinder. Of course, a more complex screen mechanism would likely mean a bigger physical size, so there’s no free lunch here, I suppose.
|Tilt-up screens – great for low angles with pets and kids, lousy for high angles of whatever it is you might be eating. Out-of-camera JPEG in auto mode, cropped to taste.
ISO 200 | 1/250 sec | F5
Lastly, there’s no getting around the limited native lens ecosystem for Canon’s EF-M mount. Seriously, I love the 22mm F2, but it’s the only compact, fast prime they’ve released in five years. The 35mm macro option is great to have, and the 11-22mm wide-angle is of high-quality, but is it too much to ask for a native fast 50mm equivalent? Given the system’s size, packing an extra lens or two isn’t going to be too much of a stretch for people who are into photography, but there just aren’t great options out there right now.
This Idaho roadtrip got me thinking. We did, of course, do a lot of serious photography with the Canon EOS 6D Mark II, including some portraits with Canon’s gorgeous new 85mm F1.4L IS as well as some off-road action with something called an RZR. For the more serious stuff, the 6D Mark II was far and away the better tool.
But after a full day of shooting, when I’d stumble across some nice light or a casual moment I wanted to capture, I found that having the M100 in my pocket was a godsend, especially if it was my main option while the 6D II’s batteries were charging, or files were backing up, or I simply didn’t want to carry a full-frame DSLR with me out to dinner.
|The EOS M100 was great for when I wanted to unwind from using a full-frame DSLR all day, but still have the capability to snag some nice photos. Out-of-camera JPEG.
ISO 4000 | 1/60 sec | F2
For the serious photographer, the M100 doesn’t make much of a case for itself as that user’s only camera. But for someone looking for a fun second camera, or a smartphone user looking to get into more serious photography with an excellent and easy-to-use touchscreen interface (i.e. the camera’s intended audience), the EOS M100, with its updated sensor, processor and autofocus system, is definitely worth a look. And sure, it’s just another ‘entry level’ model, but kind of like Idaho and it’s ‘famous potatoes,’ you may find there’s a lot to like in the M100 when you start exploring it – or better yet, exploring with it.
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