What makes a good travel camera? I’ve taken a Nikon D80 to Chicago, a Nikon D700 (plus lenses) to Nepal, a Fujifilm X100 to the Sasquatch! Music Festival, and a Nikon Coolpix A to Japan. Basically, I made room in my luggage for whatever my best, smallest camera was at the time. But I don’t think any of them were really ideal for me.
Years ago, I got so used to carrying my D700 around with me everywhere that it didn’t seem a burden the way it does today. Today I crave something as small, light and unobtrusive as possible. Something with Wi-Fi so I don’t need to bring a card reader or a computer with me.
The Canon EOS M100 is the first camera I’ve reviewed and then subsequently bought.
But I don’t want to compromise substantially on image quality, and since I still don’t fully enjoy photography on a smartphone, the latest Pixel or iPhone are both counted out. Oh, also, it can’t cost the earth, since traveling is expensive enough already.
A month or so ago, I picked up a second-hand Canon EOS M100. It’s the first camera I’ve ever reviewed and then subsequently went out and bought, and I brought it with me on a short trip to Mexico to attend a wedding. And though it’s far from perfect, this trip cemented the fact that it’s a really good fit for me right now for casual travel photography.
Why it works for me
Notice the heading says for me. I’m allowed to have an opinion. It says so right in the URL – ‘opinion’.
Anyway. The EOS M100 is among the smallest and lightest cameras with an APS-C sized sensor inside of it. It’s not the absolute smallest, but with the EF-M 22mm F2 pancake prime lens (literally the only lens I own for it), it’s still just about pocketable. But I hear you: There are other options I should consider!
Get the new Ricoh GR III, you say! Same resolution, more dynamic range, image stabilization, and even tinier! Sure, the GR III has its virtues, and I like it. But I like the tilting screen, the 35mm-equivalent field of view, the F2 aperture, and the longer battery life on the M100 better. Plus, I had an original GR until dust got on the sensor – I could see it at every aperture. It broke my heart, and I still haven’t forgiven the GR series for it (although to Ricoh’s credit, the GR III has a sensor cleaning system). If dust gets on the sensor of my M100, I just take the lens off and blow.
But what about a 1″-sensor zoom camera, like the Sony RX100-series, Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II or Mark III, or Panasonic Lumix LX10? Well, I want something bigger than a 1″-type sensor, something that I can get a shallower depth-of-field with, and oh, I don’t need a zoom when I’m going on vacation. So those are out.
But the Fujifilm X100-series – surely, that would be perfect? It’s true that I used to own the original X100, and I loved it, quirks and all. I should totally have just gotten the Fujifilm X100F – except that it costs quite a bit of money, is bigger than I want, and attracts too much attention because it looks awesome.
I could go on, but instead, let’s hop over to what isn’t so hot on the M100.
What I’d change
The biggest issue for me on the EOS M100 – and in fact, all of Canon’s EOS M cameras – is the lack of USB charging. So instead of just using a single charger and cable for my devices, I need to bring the M100’s specific wall adapter and maybe an extra battery along. It’s not a huge inconvenience, but I still don’t know why these tiny cameras, with tiny lenses, that are great for traveling, can’t charge up on the go without plugging a dedicated power brick into a wall.
The biggest issue for me on all of Canon’s EOS M cameras is the lack of USB charging
Ideally, I’d love to see the M100’s successor come with a screen that also tilts down. I’d also like low-light AF to be a little less hunt-y. It’s far better than earlier M-series cameras and my old X100 and Coolpix A, but I figured Dual Pixel AF and an F2 lens would do a bit better when the light levels drop.
And… well, that’s about it. Could it be weather-sealed, have a rear dial, a pop-up viewfinder and shoot 10+ fps bursts? Well, that’d be nice, but then I wouldn’t expect to have purchased it for less than a third the cost of even a secondhand Fujifilm X100F.
Everyone has different ‘wish lists’ for cameras, even if they’re looking at the same use-case. There are those that can’t imagine not bringing a full-frame camera body and several lenses on vacation – and believe me, I understand. I used to be that person. I may be that person again, some day.
But the real message here is just to take your time, and find the camera that is right for you, and that you enjoy using. After all, these days, most cameras are more than good enough. It’s really about finding one that encourages you to take more photographs, and to have fun while doing it.