After months of speculation, Canon has finally joined the compact system camera market. Here we pit the company's first compact system camera, the Canon M, against the GX1 from Panasonic, the first maker of a mirrorless camera.
We have decided to compare the Canon EOS M with Panasonic's GX1, as they have a similar body form and are similar in price (for the moment at least). Read our Canon EOS M vs Nikon 1 V1/J1 piece for another head-to-head comparison.
Canon M vs Panasonic GX1 sensor
One of the key areas of debate regarding the EOS M was which sensor size the company would choose. In the end it's opted for the same 18 million pixel APS-C size (22.3x14.9mm) sensor as found in the recently launched Canon EOS 650D. This makes it significantly larger than the 16 million pixel Live MOS Four Thirds (17.3x13mm) device found in the Panasonic GX1.
However, it's worth remembering that Panasonic has previously pointed out the benefits that the Four Thirds new design sensor can have, including edge to edge sharpness.
It seems likely that the EOS M will be compared with other systems which also use larger APS-C size sensors, such as the Sony NEX series, but it's also worth considering that larger sensors usually mean larger lenses, thus impacting the overall size of the system.
Canon M vs Panasonic GX1 lens range
Panasonic currently has the largest range of proprietary lenses for its G-series of compact system cameras. It's also worth noting that third party manufacturers such as Sigma is now manufacturing Micro Four Thirds compatible lenses (and Tamron lenses are coming. And, as the company shares the format with Olympus, both Panasonic and Olympus lenses are compatible with Panasonic cameras.
By contrast, Canon has announced just two new "EF-M" lenses, an 18-55mm kit lens and a 22mm f/2.0 pancake lens. However, the complete range of Canon EF and EF-S optics will be usable via the optional lens mount adapter.
It's also interesting to note that Panasonic has a 14-42mm "X" lens available in its range which can act as the standard kit lens. This power zoom lens is able to collapse into an optic around the same size as a pancake lens, making Panasonic cameras smaller and lighter overall.
Canon M vs Panasonic GX1 processor
Both cameras use the latest processors produced by their companies for their cameras, which in the Canon EOS M's case is the Digic 5 processor, while the latest Venus engine can be found in the Panasonic GX1.
Using the best processors available should mean that the cameras are capable of low image noise output and it facilitates full HD video recording at a variety of frame rates.
Canon M vs Panasonic GX1 sensitivity
The Canon EOS M has a native ISO range of ISO 100-6400, but it is expandable up to 12800 and 25600.
Meanwhile, the Panasonic GX1's range is a little narrower, starting at ISO 160 but rising to 12800. Both companies claim low noise output at high ISOs (no surprises there).
Canon M vs Panasonic GX1 screen
Both of these cameras use a touchscreen device, which can be used to set certain functions, change the autofocus point or even fire the shutter.
It's fair to say that on the GX1, the touchscreen is complementary to the buttons and dials on the camera, being used in conjunction with, rather than in favour of physical buttons, as is the tendency on the EOS M.
Interestingly, the two manufacturers have plumped for different screen technology. The Canon EOS M's screen is a capacitive device and it therefore responds to a touch. Meanwhile the resistive screen of the GX1 needs a press.
Generally, capacitive screens are considered to be more responsive than resistive screens.
Neither of the screens are flip out devices, but the EOS M beats the GX1 in terms of resolution, with 1040k dots, compared with just 460k dot on the GX1. Both are three inches in size.
Canon M vs Panasonic GX1 viewfinder
The lack of a viewfinder has been one of the key aspects of the EOS M discussed in the days since its launch.
At present, the company has no plans to create an optional viewfinder to fit into the M's slot. The GX1 meanwhile, doesn't come with an inbuilt viewfinder like other cameras in the Panasonic range (for instance the Panasonic G5), but an optional viewfinder can be purchased, perhaps making it more versatile for those who prefer not to compose on a screen.
Canon M vs Panasonic GX1 autofocus system
When Canon announced the 650D, with its hybrid autofocusing system, we suspected that it might be revealing the technology it would use for its mirrorless camera. We were right, the EOS M utilises the advantages of both phase detection and contrast detection AF in its 31 point AF system.
Meanwhile, Panasonic is very proud of its autofocus system, which it claims to be the fastest in the world. It also commissioned independent research which showed that G series cameras were more accurate than other manufacturers.
Canon M vs Panasonic GX1 flash
In order to keep the size of the EOS M down, Canon decided not to include an inbuilt flash on the camera. David Parry from Canon UK says that he believes fewer people are using flash now, and it was more important for the camera to be small. That said, a flash, with a Guide Number of nine will come included in the box.
By contrast, Panasonic has managed to include a built-in flash into the GX1. Although it has a lower guide number of 7.6, it's a lot handier than having to fiddle around with attaching an external device.
Canon M vs Panasonic GX1 artistic modes
An increasing number of cameras are including artistic digital filters and modes in order to compete with the large number of creative photography apps found on modern smartphones.
Both the EOS M and the GX1 have a good range of digital filters which include on the M Toy Camera, Art Bold and Fish-eye and on the GX1 Expressive, Retro, High Key and Toy Camera.
Canon M vs Panasonic GX1 battery life
Many compact system cameras have a lower battery life than DSLR equivalents as the rear LCD screen has to be on all the time for composing images.
That said, the Panasonic says that the GX1 should provided around 310 shots per charge, which is considerably more than the 220-230 shots that Canon believes the EOS M is capable of.
Canon M vs Panasonic GX1 size
The two cameras are reasonably similar in size, but the Canon body only is marginally smaller.
With a kit lens attached, it's unlikely that you would be able to get either of these cameras in a pocket, but with the Canon's 22mm f/2.8 pancake lens, or the Panasonic 14-42mm power zoom lens, it may fit into a jacket pocket.
The GX1 is slightly heavier, coming in at around 320g, compared with the 298g of the Canon EOS M.
Canon M vs Panasonic GX1 price
At the time of their launches, the RRP of the Panasonic GX1 and Canon EOS M were actually pretty similar.
Back in November when the GX1 was announced, it came with an RRP of £759.99 (with 14-42mm power zoom lens), compared with the Canon's RRP of £769 (with 18-55mm kit lens).
However, after a few months on sale, the GX1 has come down to around £600 ($630), there will surely be many who hope the same will happen with the M.
Weighing up the pros and cons of both these cameras leave us with two devices that are fairly evenly matched.
Panasonic has been in the CSC game for a lot longer than Canon, so it has a lot of accessories and lenses available.
However, for those with existing Canon optics, or just those who wish to stay brand loyal, the EOS M is of course a very interesting proposition - marred only slightly by its current high price.
It will be interesting to see how these two huge players fight it out in what is looking likely to be an extremely competitive area.