• Price: £642 plus VAT (with 18-55mm image stabilised zoom lesns)

  • Company: Canon

  • Pros: Smaller, more portable body than many competing models. Compatible with a wide range of accessories from the world’s biggest camera brand. Combination of sensor and Canon’s optical excellence delivers sharp images that don’t disappoint.

  • Cons: Have to buy £130 adapter for access to wider range of Canon EF lenses, so-so battery performance. Lacks a decent handgrip for a steady hold with longer optics. No optical or electronic viewfinder built-in.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 7 out of 10 We rate this 7 out of 10

Canon’s first compact camera system (CSC) model has been an absolute age coming and, as the 18 megapixel EOS M arrives a full four years after some rivals’ first, it has high expectations to fulfil. Though the compact immediately ticks one box in featuring a large APS-C sized sensor for theoretically better image quality than a typical pocket snapper, design wise it owes more to a consumer-end Canon PowerShot than an EOS digital SLR.

Nevertheless, as the ‘EOS’ in its model name indicates, the ‘M’ provides the ability to use Canon’s digital SLR range’s 70+ EF lens line up, albeit via an optional adapter.  Only competitor Nikon’s ‘1’ camera system comes close to accessing as many optics.

A pricey £750 buys you the Canon body, which is more compact than Samsung and Sony APS-C sensor rivals because it lacks a built-in flash and proper handgrip. As standard it comes bundled with a jack-of-all-trades 18-55mm zoom lens, equivalent to 28-88mm in 35mm terms. This provides the same sort of focal range usually bundled with an entry-level digital SLR, and imagery is reassuringly sharp.

Though the 3-inch back screen here is fixed – perhaps a vari-angle LCD is being saved for the 2nd generation – it keeps up with the times by being a responsive touch screen. A Digic 5 processor as found in Canon’s digital SLRs also ensures the EOS M’s swift off the blocks, with split second shutter action. It appears that the manufacturer has followed the CSC pitch of ‘DSLR performance from a compact body’ to the letter. Even automatic sensor cleaning’s built-in.

A battery life of a maximum 230 shots from a single charge feels underpowered however, and, a smaller body, while practical in terms of transportation in a pocket, does look a bit dwarfed when zoom lens is then attached – the same being true of the Sony NEX. Canon has obviously decided to keep its first CSC very easy to use as the mode dial shows just three settings: Scene Intelligent Auto, which as it sounds recognises common subjects and adjust camera parameters for you, Creative Auto, which gives access to digital effects such as fisheye, toy camera, miniature and the ability to achieve a shallow-depth-of-field de-focused background look, plus 1920x1280 pixels video at 25fps.

Though it isn’t immediately obvious that this is a touch screen model until you discover that a flick of finger and thumb will enlarge a portion of an image as on your phone, the sense here is that Canon, rather than deliver a breakthrough product has competently delivered enough to get it in the game, with real innovation to follow.