Canon EOS R6 Review
December 9th, 2020
While it was the Canon EOS R5 (my review here) that grabbed my attention personally (it is very close to being a perfect camera for my uses), it was the Canon EOS R6 that was even more interesting to others due to the R5 being overkill for many photographers in both resolution and price. Canon’s initial branding strategy with the EOS R and then the RP were a bit muddled, as while the EOS R inherited the sensor of the 5D Mark IV and the RP the sensor of the 6D Mark II, neither of those camera were really mirrorless equivalents of those cameras. Canon seems to be reconciling their branding to their traditional 5 series and 6 series lineups with the R5 and R6, though both cameras have moved upscale in terms of performance and price alike.
The market position of the original EOS R relative to the R6 is a little murky, as while the R6 has a number of clear advantages (IBIS, much faster burst rate and tracking capabilities, dual card slots, much better video specs), the EOS R has a few upscale features withheld from the R6 (top plate LCD screen, higher resolution). It’s obvious that the EOS R6 is the more complete camera, however, and it is priced accordingly. It retails for $2499 USD, about $200 higher than what the EOS R did at launch. The new EOS R5 is considerably more expensive, however, with a MSRP of $3899 USD, making it one of the most expensive cameras in its class. Ironically, however, it feels like it is the EOS R6 may have a slightly more difficult time justifying its price, as in many ways the EOS R5 combines the resolution of Sony a7R series and the performance of the a9 series. It is more expensive than what the 5D Mark IV was at launch ($3499), but is also has a number of class leading innovations along with higher performance. The $400 premium over the 5DIV feels somewhat justified to many 5 series photographers (who are more likely to be either working professionals or more affluent amateurs…and many of us thought it would be priced even higher!), but the EOS R6 happens to land in a lull where market forces have driven down the price of direct competitors like the Sony a7III or the Nikon Z6 to the $2000 USD (or less) range (those cameras can currently be had for considerably less than $2000). The original EOS R can be had for around $1800 at this point. Photographers in this price range are far more likely to be concerned with price and less likely to be deeply invested in one particular camera brand in terms of lenses and/or accessories. It is fairly easy to position the EOS R5 as the best in its class; can the same be said for the EOS R6?
The 20Mpx of resolution may give some potential buyers pause, however, as they wonder if even the difference between the 20Mpx of the EOS R6 and the 24Mpx of competitors like the Sony a7III or Nikon Z6 is going to be noticeable. We’ve already determined that the EOS R6 can’t really compete on price, so it will have to compete on merit. In many ways the EOS R6 is (like the R5) a joy to use. It has great ergonomics, a good sensor, and a great autofocus system. In fact, the tracking abilities of the camera may be the single greatest reason to consider one. But is the EOS R6 the camera for you? Is it worth $500 more than its main competitors? Read on to discover that answer, or you can watch my long-format definitive video review or shorter standard review below:
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Canon EOS R6 Features and Specification
Here’s a quick look at the main bullet point specifications of the EOS R6.
- Sensor: 20MP full-frame CMOS 36 x 24mm
- Image processor: Digic X
- AF points: 5,940 Dual Pixel CMOS AF II | 100% coverage
- Sensitivity: Down to EV -6.5 with F1.2 lens, Video down to -5 EV
- ISO range: 100-102,400 (expandable to 50-102,400)
- Stabilization: 5-axis, up to 8 stops
- Max image size: 5472 x 3648px
- Metering zones: 384
- Video: 4K up to 60fps, 1080p up to 120fps 10-bit 4:2:2 with Canon Log or HDR PQ, Internal Recording in all Formats, with Auto Focus
- Viewfinder: 0.5-inch OLED EVF, 3.69M dots, 100% coverage, 0.76x magnification, 120fps refresh rate
- Memory card: 2x UHS-II SD/SDHC/SDXC
- LCD: 3.0-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 1.62M dots.
- Max burst: 12fps mechanical shutter, 20fps electronic shutter
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi 2.4GHz, Bluetooth 4.2, USB-C (USB 3.1 Gen 2), micro HDMI (type D), microphone, headphone, remote
There will always be areas where each manufacturer makes choices to distinguish their camera lines, and so I’ve worked to go through and categorize the areas where Canon has chosen (or their sensor resolution demanded) a distinguishing of specifications or performance along with the areas of similarity. Here’s that summation:
Differences between the R5 and R6:
- Sensor: 45Mpx (New) vs 20 Mpx (Similar to 1Dx III)
- R6 has deeper buffer (240 RAW vs 180 RAW)
- EVF (R5 has 5.76M dot vs R6 3.68M dot)
- LCD (R5 has 3.2” 2.1M dot vs R6 3” 1.68M dot)
- Video (R5 can do 8K/30p and 4K/120p vs R6 4K/60p with slight 1.07x crop)
- Video 2 (R5 has full range of video exposure modes; R6 has only P and M)
- Video 3 (R5 gets DCI aspect and All-I encoding options)
- Top plate LCD on R5; traditional mode dial on R6
- Full size remote release on front of R5 vs 2.5mm on R6
- Flash sync port on R5; none on R6
- More metal in R5 and 5 series weather sealing (6D level in R6)
- CFexpress and SD UHS-II (R5) vs 2 x UHS-II (R6)
- R6 has a mild advantage in low light – -6.5 EV vs -6 EV (-5 EV video vs -4)
- Slightly better battery rating for R6 (380EVF/510LCD vs 320/490)
- R5 has 2.4 + 5GHz wi-fi radios; R6 has only 2.4 | Only R5 can use wireless grip
- R5 has Bluetooth 5.0 vs R6 Bluetooth 4.2
- Dual-Pixel RAW only for R5
- $3899 USD vs $2499
- R6 is lighter at 598g vs 650g
- Overheating issues less pronounced with R6
- Slightly expanded native ISO range in R6 (100-102,400 vs 100-52,600)
Similarities between the R5 and R6:
- Same IBIS System
- Same burst rate (12 FPS M| 20 FPS E)
- Both EVF’s can run at 120Hz
- Both have 100% coverage and newest DPAF
- 1/250th flash sync speed
- CLOG + HDR PQ 10 Bit
- Larger capacity LP-E6NH battery (14% more energy)
I feel like most of these areas of distinction feel natural and justified, with only something like R6’s limited video exposure modes feeling cheap and arbitrary. The tracking capabilities and particularly the burst rates are easily better than competing cameras, however, so there are few areas where the EOS R6 feels non-competitive with other cameras in its class. Like the R5, the EOS R6 feels great in the hand (my hands, at least), feeling more like a DSLR than a square mirrorless body without enough grip to hold onto. This is going to be an area of disagreement for some of you, obviously, as there are those who prefer their mirrorless cameras to be as compact as possible. Small and compact was not the chief priority here, though surprisingly the end weight of the EOS R6 isn’t much different than, say, the Sony a7III. Here’s a comparison of physical differences of competing cameras:
At 680g (1.5lb) with memory cards and battery, the Canon EOS R6 is slightly heavier than most competing cameras, but I would personally take that trade-off for the more functional grip that doesn’t immediately scream for a grip-extender and/or L-bracket for those of us with bigger hands. The EOS R6 feels great in my hands; it has that easy, natural ergonomic design that Canon has often excelled at and Sony hasn’t yet quite achieved. The physical specifications of the R6 are essentially identical to the R5 at 138 (W) x 97.5 (H) x 88.4mm (D). There is little to distinguish the two models from most angles, though the top line of the cameras is the exception to that rule.
The EOs R6 sports a more traditional mode dial which sits in the position that the LCD screen on the top of the EOS R5 sits. There are both pros and cons to this. The pro is that the mode dial remains the quickest, most logical way to change modes on the camera. The EOS R5’s system requires multiple steps – pressing the Mode button activates the selection process either on the top or rear LCD screens, and I personally find the simplest way to choose a mode is by touch on the rear LCD screen. Switching to video modes requires a third step in the process. On the EOS R6 you can just twist the dial to your desired mode and you’re done. The downside is that the top mounted screen does give you additional information at a glance, which can be useful. At the end of the day, however, I suspect that most users will do just fine without the top mounted screen.
The EOS R6 also lacks the little button to light up the top LCD screen for obvious reasons (namely that it doesn’t exist!) There’s one other minor difference that many won’t spot but has come into play for me. If you’ll look at the photo above, you’ll note the there is a slight cutout on the top line section moving towards the front dial and shutter button on the EOS R6 to accommodate the video record button. This is necessary because the button sits a little lower on the R6 and needs that cutout to give more access to it…but it isn’t quite enough. The record button on the EOS R5 sits high enough that I can access it more easily (even with gloves on; it’s winter here!), but the button on the EOS R6 requires me to shape my finger to press down more with the tip to access the button…and I found it essentially impossible when wearing gloves…even thin ones. That’s going to be a bit of a liability for those who operate in cold weather. I would recommend going into the menu and allowing a full depress of the shutter to begin video recording when in video mode; that function is disabled by default. At least there is a workaround!
There is another minor difference found on the front of the camera in that the EOS R5 has a three-pin shutter release port. That port isn’t on the R6, but there is the smaller (and frankly, more standard) 2.5mm jack on the left side of the camera. That space on the EOS R5 is occupied by the flash sync port; a feature that the EOS R6 lacks.
Most people use wireless triggers for flashes at this point, but there will probably at least a few shooters that will miss out on not having that option. You’ll also find a micro-HDMI port, USB C (USB 3.1 Gen 2), along with a headphone monitoring jack and microphone input. The EOS R6 can be charged via the USB-C connection, but, like the EOS R, it requires a charging source with “Power-Send” technology, which unfortunately severely limits what you can use to charge the camera. This is an area where I prefer Sony, as they can be charged from just about any source.
The original EOS R already had what was arguably one of the best ergonomic designs of any mirrorless camera, though the inclusion of a new “innovation” Canon called the “touch bar” proved to be highly polarizing. I was personally never a fan.
Canon avoided that pitfall here, and the two biggest ergonomic improvements on the EOS R6 are the replacement of the touch bar with the standard 5 series joystick (a welcome addition!!) along with replacing the D-Pad of the EOS R with a standard 5-series wheel. The latter makes a big difference, as it gives you three functional control dials PLUS the control ring on the lens. That’s four potential control dials, which gives you a lot of physical control…and you can customize the functions to suit your personal workflow. I really, really enjoy the physical control scheme here. Everything is well situated, moves wells, and just generally works.
Canon continues to employ the very valuable protection screen over the sensor while changing lenses (I rarely have to use a bulb cleaner on my EOS R sensor, but have to blow my Sony sensors off every few days). Canon has added a button in the position often occupied by a “depth of field preview” button on 5-series cameras, though in this case you can program that button to a wide variety of functions (I have it set up as a quick access to APS-C mode).
There were a lot of complaints about the single SD card slot on the EOS R, but Canon has avoided that pitfall here. There are two UHS-II compatible SD/SDHC/SDXC slots beneath a nicely engineered door on the right side of the camera. The EOS R5 replaces one of those with a CFExpress slot, but the lower resolution of the EOS R6 makes that unnecessary. I’m personally using Sony Tough cards for both the CFExpress and SD cards. These have been my cards of choice for the past few years, and I’ve had nothing but flawless performance from them. Staying with the SD card standard will save you money; you are more likely to have the cards already, and, if not, they are relatively inexpensive. I noted in my EOS R5 review that the logistical issue with a new memory format is that unless manufacturers really coalesce around one particular format, it will be some time (if ever) before we see CFExpress card slots on laptops or in monitors and other such devices that make our workflow simpler. SD has been incredibly convenient for a long time for this very reason.
One of Canon’s key advantages over competitors is in its truly excellent articulating LCD touchscreens. More and more new cameras are moving to this standard, but Canon still does them the best. Canon’s touchscreens are particularly well executed, with high responsiveness and often higher resolution than competitors. The LCD screen on the EOS R6 is slightly smaller than the one on the R5 (3″ vs 3.2″) and a bit lower resolution (1.62M dot vs 2.1M dot). It is still nice, however, and remains very responsive to touch compared to screens from Fuji, Nikon, or Sony. The menu design has touch in mind, and I find it very easy to navigate the menus by using using touch alone or some combination of touch and the joystick. The ability to rotate the screen to face the front is a genuine advantage over my Sony cameras, as I can actually see if my videos will be ruined by poor framing.
The EVF is also an area where Canon has distinguished between the R5 and R6, as, while the viewfinders are equal size (0.5″) and have the same magnification (0.76x), the resolution is lower at 3.69M dot compared to the 5.76 million dot on the EOS R5. You would note the difference in resolution if you looked through them side by side, but I still find the viewfinder to be very good, and it still higher resolution than what you’ll find on competing models from Sony. You have an option to choose a high refresh rate (120FPS) for smooth, fluid tracking of action. This comes at the cost of some battery life, but it’s easy to just engage the additional refresh rate for the moments when you need it.
Canon was slow to the party in adopting In-Body-Image-Stabilization (sensor stabilization). They kept making the argument that lens-stabilization was superior as it could be tailored for the unique needs of that particular lens. There are probably merits to that argument, but the point was often moot, as about half of Canon’s early RF-mount lenses didn’t have IS (Image Stabilization). My long experience with Sony’s IBIS is that some stabilization trumps no stabilization every time. Canon has found a way to effectively marry their sensor stabilization (IBIS) with the lens stabilization (IS) on their lenses and deliver truly incredible amounts of stabilization. The following is taken from an article on “The Phoblographer” as it details Canon’s ratings on their existing RF lenses when used with the EOS R5 or R6:
The following lenses will give users of the Canon EOS R5 and the Canon EOS R6 up to 8 stops of image stabilization.
- Canon RF 24-70mm f2.8 L IS USM
- Canon RF 24-105mm f4 L IS USM
- Canon RF 85mm f1.2 L USM (both variants)
- Canon RF 28-70mm f2 L USM
- Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM
The following lenses will give users of the Canon EOS R5 and the Canon EOS R6 up to 7 stops of image stabilization.
- Canon RF 15-35mm f2.8 L IS USM
- Canon RF 35mm f1.8 IS USM
- Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM
The following lenses will give users of the Canon EOS R5 and the Canon EOS R6 up to 7.5 stops of image stabilization.
- Canon RF 70-200mm f2.8 L IS USM
The following lenses will give users of the Canon EOS R5 and the Canon EOS R6 up to 6.5 stops of image stabilization.
- Canon RF 24-240mm f4-6.3 IS USM Lens
The following lenses will give users of the Canon EOS R5 and the Canon EOS R6 up to 6 stops of image stabilization.
- Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM Lens
Anything beyond 6.5 stops is essentially unheard of, and to hear that a few unstabilized lenses can achieve 8 stops based just on the sensor stabilization is truly incredible. I quickly picked up on the fact that the Canon IBIS was more effective than Sony’s equivalent system, particularly when using lenses outside the comfort zone. The EOS R6 will give you slightly better real world results than the EOS R5 for the simple reason that the lower sensor resolution makes motion blur less obvious (blur occupies fewer total pixels). High resolution bodies really punish motion blur, so the IBIS system gets a bit of a break here.
There’s still a practical limit, however. I get few well stabilized results at shutter speeds approaching one second or longer, even though theoretically that is possible. This shot is reasonably good at 0.5 seconds, 70mm (using the RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS), though not perfect.
That’s 5 1/3 stops of assistance, and it took me three tries to get a result that good. In theory I should be able to get down to 3.2 seconds with this combo, which is never, ever going to happen (at least for me). You can get slightly better results focusing on a more distant subject, but even a one second exposure is going to be rare, in my experience, and I’m still very stable with my hands.
The IBIS works well for video, particularly when you are trying to frame static shots handheld. It works to compensate when moving, but don’t expect footage while moving to be as smooth as working from a gimbal. There are still limits to any IBIS system, but having some stabilization for all of your lenses is fabulous. You can even input the focal length for stabilizing lenses without any electronic communication, which means I can shoot with my vintage Takumars and have image stabilization!
This shot (of the SMC Takumar 35mm F3.5) was taken with the SMC Takumar 50mm F1.4 wide open on the R6, and it remains a fun lens to pull out on occasion. Getting stabilization with it (the shot above was taken at 1/40th of a second) is a welcome bonus. Canon’s IBIS is nicely executed and is arguably better than competing systems.
There’s some minor physical differences from the EOS R5, with a few different texture patterns and slightly different lines, but the EOS R6 very closely resembles its much more expensive big brother. There’s a little more polycarbonate in the build and less magnesium alloy (read more plastic and less metal), and the weather sealing is (fittingly) like the 6D line rather than the 5D line, though I suspect it is probably still better than what you’ll find on equivalent Sony bodies. All told this is a nicely built camera with fantastic ergonomics. There are relatively few places where the camera feels “crippled” relative to the R5.
Canon EOS R6 Autofocus
While the EOS R6 is an excellent camera on many levels, I believe that its chief advantage relative to the competitive has to be in its focus and tracking capabilities where it is truly impressive. The EOS R in many ways had a very impressive focus system as well, with 5655 “selectable” (probably a bit euphemistic) AF points that cover essentially the whole sensor (100% of the vertical area and 88% of the horizontal). It had a fantastic low light sensitivity of down to -6 EV with certain lenses (at -6 EV you can scarcely see your subject). Focus speed was blazingly fast with good lenses. It was held back initially be an awkward “Pupil Detect” that didn’t work with Continuous AF (kind of pointless!), though that was later solved and improved via firmware. What really held things back, however, is that while the EOS R had a fantastic focus system, that focus system was paired with a truly lackluster ability to track action with any kind of speed. Best case scenario was 5FPS with AF, though if you wanted the “Tracking Priority” mode you got a truly pathetic 3 FPS. I once was out on a shoot with a Sony a9 with the FE 200-600G lens mounted, and happened to have an EOS R with the 24-240mm with me. I made the mistake of switching over from the a9 to the EOS R during the action (just to get in a few shots with the 24-240mm that I was testing), and I thought I had died and gone to hell. The tracking itself was okay, but the burst rate was so slow by comparison that I felt like I had gone back a few decades.
The EOS R6 is the quantum leap forward, though, and while the focus specs are shared with the EOS R5, and the EOS R6 is arguably the better camera for tracking action due to having lower resolution (and avoiding some of the complications due to pushing dozens of high resolution files through the pipeline in a burst). We’ve got a 5,940 AF Point, Dual Pixel CMOS AF II system with 1053 available AF zones. It has the EOS ITR AF X deep learning AI focus harvested from the top of the line 1Dx MKIII, and now has both human and animal eye detect that making tracking action so effortless that it hardly requires skill anymore. I’m not saying that in a negative fashion; using a camera like the EOS R6 or EOS R5 makes you feel like a hero. The EOS R6 can focus in as little as 0.05 seconds, which is a class-leading figure for a full frame mirrorless camera. Autofocus is also functional in light levels as low as -6.5EV (slightly better than the EOS R5’s -6 EV), which is roughly the same illumination as is provided by a half-moon, but they’ve also increased the headroom from +18 EV to +20 EV (incredibly bright conditions), which means that the EOS R6 can theoretically focus in an unbelievable 26 stops of lighting conditions. Add to this that the EOS R6 can also focus with maximum apertures as small as F22 (remember when the 5D Mark IV’s F8 was a big deal?), allowing teleconverters to be used with very slow-aperture lenses like the new RF 600mm F11 IS STM and RF 800mm F11 IS STM. I’m not sure how important those marginal performances are to most people, but what it really means is that there are basically no “normal” situations a photographer will find themselves in where the EOS R6 will not be able to effectively focus.
My torture test with the EOS R6 was tracking our King Charles Cavalier Spaniel while she chased a ball at speed (in the snow) towards the camera. She is very dark around the eyes (providing additional challenges), but the ability to track her action was mostly effortless. I had sequences with dozens and dozens of frames where each frame was perfectly focused.
And that was using the Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS USM II, a lens that is theoretically adapted to the RF system (though truthfully it has never worked better!) It is the essentially perfect adaption of EF lenses that helps ease the sting of transitioning to the EOS R cameras.
I noted that what really held back the EOS R was the very poor burst rate while having tracking, but the EOS R6 has no such problem. It’s mechanical shutter is capable of an effortless 12FPS while tracking across the frame, and you can switch to an electronic shutter for an even faster 20FPS with tracking. The latter has no blackout in the viewfinder, and the electronic shutter is so silent that you hardly know you are taking (many) photos. This puts the EOS R6 essentially on equal playing field with the Sony a9 series, with similar burst rates and lack of blackout. The buffer is even more robust, too, with the capacity of up to 240 RAW (500+Compressed RAW) vs 239 RAW (a9II) or 180 RAW for the EOS R5 (240+ CRAW). Those numbers drop a bit when using the 20FPS electronic shutter, but are still high enough that buffer depth will rarely (if ever) be a problem. One can easily get close to 200 RAW images even when using 20 FPS. There isn’t much of a practical limit for JPEGs at all, and boredom will most likely kick in before the buffer fills.
I went through my hard charging sequences and found that even when using 20 FPS electronic my frame rate never dropped. I always got the 20 FPS, which hasn’t always been true with my Sony a9. What’s more, I would look down after a sequence and expect to see the buffer clearing, but always found the camera ready to go. Most of these bursts were 45-70 shots deep.
Unlike with the EOS R5, where I felt like I got mildly better focused results with Mechanical vs Electronic shutter, the EOS R6 delivered equally good levels of focus using both methods. I literally went through sequences of fast action involving 50+ shots and found every one of them perfectly focused. That’s not to say that every one of the 500+ shots that I took during the session were all perfect, but misses were rare and typically not by much. They often occurred when there was a quick cut to the side by my subject and I didn’t react quickly enough. But even when she dived into the snow after the ball, tracking was typically great in those moments.
Eye AF works a charm, with instant real-time lock on the eyes that stays locked on as you move the camera around or your subject moves. It makes shooting portraits, events, or even video so easy. For the shot below, I had my wife (not a professional) take a quick shot where I deliberately used a hood to both add challenge and give a quick shot more mood. I also set an 85mm lens at only F1.6, so depth of field at this range was very shallow. You can tell that focus is nailed, however.
Bottom line is that in every metric, this is one of the best focus systems in the world. It’s fast, flexible, accurate, and easy to maximize…just like the EOS R5, but arguably a bit better due to having less data to have to process. The focus system, burst rate, buffer, and tracking capabilities of the Canon EOS R6 are all top notch. This is a camera equally good for portrait, event, wildlife, and sports photographers. When have you been able to say that?
EOS R6 Video Specs and Performance
It is on the topic of video that the Canon EOS R5 (and, to a lesser extend, the EOS R6) has actually been most divisive. In many ways the EOS R6 has superior video codecs and framerates to the majority of its direct competitors, but in true Canon style there are still a few controversial points.
I was a couple of months late to the EOS R5 , and even later getting to the EOS R6, and by this point the invariable “Canon Controversy” that comes with every new major Canon launch has already crested and started to recede as the drama kings and queens of YouTube have moved on to other controversies. The controversy this time is on the subject of overheating; a place that Sony knows well from a few years ago. Most of the criticisms have been focused on the EOS R5, as it is the camera that really pushes the envelope on resolutions and firm rates, but Canon does acknowledge that there are some limits with the EOS R6 as well, though they remain less confining. Here’s what Canon indicates the limits on the R6 to be:
– 94% sensor width: 30 minutes
– APS-C crop (5.1K oversampled): 45 minutes
– 94% sensor width: not limited by heat
– APS-C crop (5.1K oversampled): 40 minutes
For many photographers, these are not overly restrictive figures, but the bigger problem for others is that heat buildup is cumulative, and both videos and (to a much lesser extent) stills do contribute to heat, meaning that these recording limits might be cut into by previous activity. The camera will need to cool down for a good while before you can expect to see anything near those recording limits again. Bottom line is that if you want to do long periods of high resolution recording (4K60), you might want to choose a dedicated cine camera instead (or at least have a couple of EOS R6 bodies to allow one to cool off in between). I’m testing the camera in Canada in the winter, so external heat isn’t exactly a problem for me. Firmware updates have also helped the camera deal with heat more intelligently, so I suspect most shooters will never have an issue with overheating.
As for recording modes, here’s what Canon says, “Powered by the DIGIC X image processor, the EOS R6 is designed with the video content creator in mind. With oversampled UHD 4K recording at up to 60fps, Full-HD 1080p recording at up to 60fps and Full-HD High-frame rate recording at up to 120fps, the EOS R6 is a versatile camera with options for a variety of different shooting scenarios. Featuring internally recorded 4:2:2 10-bit H.265 Canon Log recording, and 4:2:2 10-bit H.265 HDR PQ recording, regardless what your timeline for delivery may be, advanced users will find EOS R6 capable of capturing confidently even during challenging high-contrast exposure situations. Moreover, oversampled UHD 4K 4:2:2 10-bit video signal at up to 60fps can be output from the HDMI port with a choice of either Picture Style, Canon Log or HDR PQ format, the output can be recorded to another device externally, or the footage can be viewed on an HDR PQ compatible TV. Additionally, high-end features such as Interval Timer, 4K Time-Lapse mode, Mic and Headphone jacks, and Zebras are available to provide advanced-level control and versatility to the video content creator.“
I’ve got only one criticism here, and it is really a criticism of a weird choice to “cripple” the camera. Canon has elected to give you limited control modes for video recording. The R5 gives you the full suite of AV, TV, M, A, etc… modes that you would have for stills, but the EOS R6 arbitrarily limits you to the two extremes: full Program (Auto) mode or fully Manual (M) modes.
That’s the most egregious example of cutting a common feature just to give you market separation, and it unnecessarily limits what is in many other ways a fantastic video camera. The EOS R6 remains a great video camera in a number of ways, though.
First of all, that amazing focus system remains intact for video work. There is only slightly less active focus points for video (4500), which means that the camera is tracking across the screen. It locks effectively onto eyes and stays rock steady as the subject moves around. While not quite as sensitive for video, we still get a -4 EV, meaning that the camera can track action for video in very low light (as always, that will be somewhat dependent on the lens you have attached.)
Secondly, you get away from that terrible 4K crop on the EOS R. The crop is an essentially unnoticeable 1.07x and gives you nicely oversampled 4K footage that is extremely crisp. You can choose an APS-C mode if you want a tighter framing, shoot high resolution timelapses, and up to 60FPS in 4k (most competitors are still at 30/4K), though you’ll have drop to Full HD if you want to do slow-motion 120p footage. There are less options than the EOS R5, though. You don’t get the option for DCI 4K or the higher resolution All-I codecs. You do have C-Log options for “flatter” footage for grading along with HDR-PQ if you want HDR footage. And the actual footage looks great, so I suspect that most typical hybrid photographers who do some video will be more than happy with what they get outside of not being to shoot in AV mode. There are certainly far fewer compromises than what we saw on either the EOS R or the RP!
Canon EOS R6 Sensor Performance
While the EOS R5 debuted with a completely new Canon sensor, the R6 utilizes the 20.1 MP sensor from the flagship Canon 1Dx MK III. This is a very good sensor, and the kinds of sports photographers who are most likely to buy the 1D series value quality of pixels over quantity of pixels.
The resolution point is lower than competing cameras, obviously, and file dimensions are just 5472×3648 pixels, much smaller than the R5’s massive 8102 x 5462 pixels. Not everyone needs a massive amount of resolution, obviously, and there’s no question this sensor is capable of producing highly detailed images with good dynamic range and a strong high ISO performance.
We’ll explore that performance in some detail here, through the definitive video review may be the best place to really see the sensor performance firsthand.
The EOS R6 has a native range that runs up to 102,400 – higher than most all competing cameras. That’s either confidence or hubris.
Fortunately, it seems much more of the former…within reason. There’s no need to worry about lower ISO values; there is little difference in image quality even up to ISO 6400. You can see a faint amount of pattern noise, but detail, contrast, and color are highly similar to base ISO (on the left).
Even at a pixel level, one must look very critically to find places where the image quality is eroded. I can see some faint pattern noise in the shadow to the right of the timer face.
All things considered, though, that’s very clean.
Moving up another few stops to ISO 25,600 (which I consider the new ISO 6400 these days due to sensor improvements) shows us that while the noise pattern has become rougher and more obvious, there is otherwise little change to the image. The red might be a little less intense than at ISO 6400 due to the pattern noise, but that’s about it.
ISO 51,200 shows a little more of a hit. The noise has become pronounced enough that shadows are raising and contrast is being lost. What I’m not seeing, however, is any kind of color banding, blotching, or a color cast damaging the image.
In fact, if you look at the image globally, it still looks pretty usable for many applications. Impressive stuff.
If I downsample the EOS R5’s image to the resolution of the EOS R6, I can still clearly see that the R6 has an advantage at ISO 51,200. It’s delivering much better contrast and color fidelity, whereas the R5 (a very good performer for a high resolution camera) shows some banding and loss of contrast.
I would easily say that the EOS R6 has a full stop ISO advantage over the R5, which means that it has an advantage over many cameras.
My rule of thumb is that the last stop of ISO performance on most cameras is only there for marketing, and that proves here. There’s a BIG drop-off in image quality if you move on to ISO 102,400:
I would avoid this, obviously, and use ISO 25,600 as your normal limit and ISO 51,200 for your emergency limit.
Bottom line is that between the amazing autofocus in low light and the excellent high ISO performance, the Canon EOS R6 is definitely a low light monster.
Dynamic range is an important metric for evaluating sensor performance, as more dynamic range does you give more tools for controlling the look of images…though it should not abused. I value dynamic range within a camera in two specific areas: the ability to cleanly lift shadows without introducing noise or color banding and the ability to recover highlights without introducing “hot spots” where information has been permanently lost. The value of good dynamic range is in the margins of photography, as eliminating shadows or recovering blown out highlights doesn’t always produce the better image. Having good dynamic range (particularly if you shoot RAW), allows you a lot more creative vision over how the final image will turn out. The site Photons to Photos allows you to compare the sensors of a number of different cameras when it comes to dynamic range, and according to their metrics the sensor in the EOS R6 lacks a bit behind that of the EOS R5. This isn’t surprising, as the R5 is being touted as Canon’s best sensor for dynamic range output to date. The gap between Canon and Nikon/Sony (a bit of shared sensor technology there) used to be quite wide, but in the recent years Canon has managed to close that gap. At most ISO values the performance of the EOS R6 trails that of a camera like the Sony a7III but ever-so-slightly bests the Nikon Z6 (according to Photons to Photos).
While the EOS R6 isn’t necessarily Canon’s best when it comes to dynamic range, it does deliver a strong performance that allows me to recover information in shadows along with highlights with a little care.
Though I find it a little hard to assign a rating in stops to dynamic range through my tests, I do have a highly repeatable scenario that clearly shows me a camera’s capability to cleanly recover shadows and highlights in a more practical, observable way.
Like most modern cameras, the Canon EOS R6 is fabulous at recovering shadows. You can take a deeply underexposed (four stop) image and recover it completely with little penalty.
Details completely lost in the shadows emerge and black levels don’t become corrupted with discoloration. A strong performance here, and a pixel level look at the shadows show that no discernable noise has been introduced.
Recovering highlights is inevitably a more difficult task for any camera system. A clean four stop shadow recovery is not unusual, but I typically find that the highlight recovery falls apart between about 2-3 stops. That’s true of the EOS R6 as well. Two stops of highlight recovery is no problem, but at three stops of overexposure you can see a hot-spot along the right side of the Veneer book where a blown out area has not been fully recovered. This isn’t bad, though.
If we go one stop further, however, everything falls apart. You can see from the image below that blown out highlights are simply beyond recovery.
If we go back to the three stop recovery for a moment (with a downsampled R5 comparison), we can see that the differences in highlight recovery between the two cameras are very subtle. The R5’s strength is shown in that the recovered image is slightly brighter, with marginally better contrast. A few blown out areas are retained just a tiny bit better…but I’m not sure you’d notice without them side by side…
…and you may not see it from this comparison even with them side by side!
There are similarly mild areas in the four stop recovery where the R5 is better, but I’m not sure in the real world this is going to make much of a difference. My advice for Canon shooters (and most cameras in general!) has always been to slightly underexposure when you want big dynamic range. Recovering shadows is easier than recovering highlights. Canon essentially does this if you use their “Highlight Tone Priority” setting. It sets the base ISO at 200, but then takes the highlights from the ISO 100 image (slightly underexposed) while giving you a normal exposure in the shadows and midrange of the image. This basically gives you an extra stop of highlight recovery…though they warn potentially at the cost of more noise in the shadows. We’ve already seen that shadow recovery is excellent, however, so I don’t really see a big risk there. There are two levels of this: D+ and D+2. Canon is a bit vague on what distinguishes the two, essentially just saying that D+2 attempts to recover more highlight data but potentially at the cost of more impact on the image. I couldn’t discern much of a difference between the two in my tests. There’s not really a lot going on here that you couldn’t do by underexposing and then recovering shadows, but here’s the comparison between the two.
Since you have to use a base ISO of 200, that makes the equivalent 4 stop overexposure figure 0.8 shutter speed rather than 0.4. You are essentially looking at the four stops of overexposure to the image overall, but with only three stops of overexposure in the highlights (which are taken from ISO 100). Reducing exposure by four stops (as I’ve done with both images above) creates a properly exposed image on the right that has much more highlight information available…and I don’t see any damage to the shadows. This isn’t actually increasing the dynamic range of the camera (that is fixed), but it is using a little electronic trickery to give you a little extra. It’s probably worth experimenting with if you want to shoot scenes with a lot of lighting variance, but there’s also this reality: more dynamic range doesn’t necessarily make for better images. Sometimes crushed shadows or blown highlights make for a better image, so you have to learn to utilize dynamic range wisely. Just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean that you should in every situation.
We have entered a phase where cameras are giving us the kinds of resolution that were once only available with Medium Format and beyond. Sony’s recent 61Mpx a7RIV gives an almost silly amount of resolution, and I actually criticized the fact that while that resolution has its uses, Sony has not give photographers options on choosing less resolution when needed. Canon has long included options like MRAW or SRAW (lower resolution points while retaining RAW capabilities). Interestingly, however, Canon has actually moved more in Sony’s direction with the EOS R5 and R6, as you don’t have a MRaw or SRaw option here. Instead, you have a RAW or CRaw option (Compressed RAW). The CRaw option takes up less space (due to the compression), but is actually still 20MP on the EOS R5. Sony also gives you the choice of Compressed or Uncompressed RAW. On average, CRaw will save you about 40% on average in storage size, and, like Sony’s Compressed vs Uncompressed), you are unlikely to spot the difference except in the most extreme of situations.
In my test, the RAW file was 22.2MB while the CRAW was 14 MB, so close to a 40% space savings. In my tests, however, there is little discernable differences between the files even when side by side, though I tend to use CRAW more on the EOS R5 than R6 because, frankly, the file size on the R6 isn’t very big anyway and I would prefer to get maximum bang for the buck. You may feel otherwise, so just know that you probably won’t be able to tell the difference without the images side by side…and maybe not even then.
As I noted previously, I actually find the images from the EOS R6 to have great detail. They look fantastic at a pixel level, and I think for most applications the 20MP of resolution is probably enough. What you do lose, however, is the ability to crop very much before you start running out of pixels. You can, for example, shoot in APS-C mode on the R6 (to accommodate EF-S lenses or for more “in-camera” reach), but Canon’s 1.6x crop results in only 7.7MP of resolution remaining; a far cry from the 17MP in the EOS R5’s APS-C mode. That’s not enough resolution to be genuinely useful to me for many applications, though it might still be fine for reportage or in a pinch.
For me the resolution of the EOS R6 is fine if I can frame the image properly in camera. I want any cropping to be minor so I still have enough usable pixels for more applications.
There’s nice, useful detail there, as you can see in the crop.
That’s also true here, where in this landscape scene you can still see a lot of useful detail in the crop.
I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I like having high resolution in my some of my cameras, but I also like to choose the right tool for the job. On the Sony side I currently own a Sony a7RIII (42MP) and a Sony a9 (24MP). I reach for the camera that I think fits my needs in a particular setting. Sometimes I want/need the higher resolution, while other times I don’t want it (events and or sports/action are two examples). I would have preferred seeing 24 MP in the EOS R6 to match the competition, but I vastly prefer the sensor performance of the EOS R6 to the current Canon 24MP full frame sensor found in the EOS RP or Canon 6D Mark II, so I’m glad they chose use the superior sensor here…even if it comes at the cost of a bit of resolution.
I had only one other sensor complaint, and that was that I found a trend towards underexposure in files that was aggravated when using wide angle lenses (just like the EOS R5). I essentially needed to dial in about 2/3rds of a stop of EV compensation when shooting with the Samyang AF 14mm F2.8 RF or Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS to get proper exposure. I also found that images were sometimes more underexposed when I got them into Lightroom than what I could see in camera. There could be a quirk between Canon and Adobe at play as well. I’m sure either firmware or software updates will improve this behavior in time, but it was unchanged from my EOS R5 review until doing this R6 review. Overall, however, the EOS R6 has a good sensor that brings very good ISO performance, and competitive dynamic range results while also giving you the delightful Canon colors that are so widely lauded. I would recommend a visit to the image galleries to see photos taken with a variety of lenses.
While the Canon EOS R5 was my most highly anticipated camera of the year (and one I’ve already purchased), the Canon EOS R6 is also a very compelling model that leverages a lot of the technological strengths both of the Canon 1Dx MKIII and the EOS R5 into a fairly complete package at a much lower price point. There are a few areas when Canon has intentionally “crippled” the camera for market separation, but thankfully they’ve spared us a lot of the typical head-scratching obvious cuts. I find most of the differences between the EOS R5 and EOS R6 to be fairly logical. In most cases these feel like upgrades on the more expensive model rather than intentional gouging of the less expensive model. In almost every way the EOS R6 is fully competitive with offerings from other companies near its price point, and there are certainly areas where it betters them.
While I certainly wouldn’t have minded a whole new sensor like what we saw in the EOS R5, the choice to utilize the very competent 20.1MP sensor from the 1Dx MK III was a sound one. I vastly prefer it to the 24MP one found on the RP. The sensor showed a superior high ISO performance, good dynamic range, and, also always, very pleasing Canon colors.
The IBIS system works well, the ergonomics are excellent, but while these are both superior to the competition, the true greatest advantage has to be in the fabulous autofocus system and deep buffers. This is a sporting camera to rival the a9’s and 1D’s of the world in many ways, capable of brilliantly tracking and capturing fast action.
The EOS R6 has one great challenge, however, and that will be to perceived in the market as superior to cameras like the Sony a7III and the Nikon Z6 (and even the Canon EOS R), as those cameras have had their prices drift ever downward due to being out for a while. This holiday season they will all have deep discounts, while the newly released EOS R6 will have to compete on merit rather than discount. The EOS R5 continues to have a demand that outstrips supply (in December of 2020), but the R6 is widely available here in Canada or in the US. The question for many will be if the advantages the R6 offers are worth the price premium over competing models. Ultimately that is a question that only you can answer for yourself, but I can say this: the Canon EOS R6 certainly has many, many merits that make it worthy of consideration.
- Great ergonomics – easy to learn, easy to love
- Canon’s IBIS system is the best I’ve used thus far
- Fabulous focus system
- Great eye tracking for humans and animals
- Deep buffers that clear near instantly
- Quality viewfinder – option for smooth tracking is useful
- Articulating touchscreen is high resolution and highly responsive
- Amazing low light performance for both the sensor and AF system
- 4K/60P video better than many competitors
- Good ISO performance and dynamic range
- Lower resolution might discourage some potential buyers
- Overheating issues in some situations
- In-camera charging requires a power-send source
- Canon RF lenses are still tilted to the large and expensive end of the spectrum
- EOS R6 more expensive than many competing models
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Keywords: Canon EOS R6, EOS, R6, EOS R6, mirrorless, full frame, EOS R6 Review, Canon R6 Review, Canon EOS R6 Review, Dustin Abbott, Real World, Comparison, Handling, Dynamic Range, Tracking, Focus, Burst Rate, Tracking, Sports, Portraits, Resolution, High ISO, Image Quality, Sample Images, Photography, Dogs, Ergonomics, 20Mpx, Sony a9, RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS, RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS, Canon
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