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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Review: EFM 11-22mm STM /4-5.6 IS

When I first bought the EOS M3 for Xiaoqin, I stuck with the prime lenses. First, the EFM 22/2 is very sharp, tiny and light, and the lack of a zoom actually simplifies camera use. It's a great lens. In Japan, however, you're frequently in constrained environments, where the potential to frame the picture by moving your feet is very limited. That calls for a wide angle lens. My preference would have been a 15mm fixed lens, but all the fixed wide-angles for the EOS M system are manual focused, and you really don't want to manual focus while looking at a screen rather than a view-finder.

The EF-M 11-22/4-5.6 STM retails for $400 in the US, but you can get it at a big camera store (Yodabashi had the lowest prices, but Bic Camera is also decent in a pinch) in Tokyo for about $320, sans tax. If you're brave, you can avoid having to go to a store by having Amazon's Japanese site ship to your hotel, but then you'll pay a little bit more, because when they're unable to verify your foreign passport they have to charge tax. The issue with buying from a Japanese camera store is that the warranty is Japan-only, though in practice Canon will typically honor the Japanese purchase. By the way, while you're at it, one of the best deals is you can get a spare battery LP-EP17 while you're at it for about $40, about 30% off from the best available US prices.

Well, the results speak for themselves: one of my favorite pictures from the trip came right out of the lens at 14mm and with it wide open (photograph by Xiaoqin Ma). Note that the lens does vignette, but the modern approach is to let the Lightroom camera profile work its magic and correct for distortion and vignetting. The camera will do it in place if you shoot in JPG mode, but I don't buy high end cameras so I can treat them like a point and shoot.

In combination with the flex-LCD screen on the back of the M3, you can get shots you just can't get on a regular point and shoot or a DSLR (11mm, f/8, ISO 100, fill-flash):

The lens filter ring size is an odd size: 55mm. You can't argue with the IS, which Canon claims to provide 3 stops of hand holdability. Note that at the longest end, at 22mm, f/5.6 is exactly 3 stops from f/2.0, which is what the non-IS prime we have is at. In practice, whenever we went to dinner, I made a habit out of switching over to the prime 22mm. While I missed the IS, stopping the motion of a kid about to do something quickly was more important. Also, when handing over the camera to someone else to shoot a picture, the lack of a zoom actually helped. (Most people are now used to fixed lenses on their smartphones and zooms confuse them)

My dislikes: having to collapse the lens and extend it for shooting. I understand that compactness helps, but the extension makes the lens feel a little flimsy. I would have happily given up a little bit of compactness.

All in all, for the price, you're getting a fancy piece of technology that grants you really wide angles on a compact camera the feels almost too small for your hands. It's not a substitute for an 11mm/2.8 prime (if Canon ever makes one, I'd seriously consider trading up), but the IS isn't a feature to sniff at, and the price is plenty reasonable, especially if you make it to Tokyo and qualify for the tax-free prices. Recommended.

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