The new Canon R6... Worth the Wait
Updated: May 17, 2021
The new Canon R6, which was released alongside the flagship EOS R5, has been somewhat overshadowed by its 8K-recording big brother, but it is likely that the R6 will find its way into the hands of more photographers.
Despite having a polycarbonate body rather than the more durable magnesium-alloy body of the EOS R5, the Canon R6 provides the same amount of weather-proofing as the EOS 6D Mark II and 5D Mark IV DSLR cameras. As a result, it is both lightweight (598g body-only) and completely weather-sealed (680g with both a battery and a memory card installed).
Its dimensions are 138.4 x 97.5 x 88.4 mm, slightly larger than the EOS R and particularly the tiny RP, presumably to accommodate the new IBIS unit.
The Canon R6 has a very deep handgrip that easily accommodates four fingers, which is something that many mirrorless cameras don't have.
The minimalist front plate has only one control: the classic Depth of Field preview button, which lets you see how your images would look before you take them.
A porthole for the AF assist light and a lozenge-shaped button for releasing the lens are also included.
The EOS R6 is powered by a 20-megapixel sensor that's similar to the one used in the flagship EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR camera, but with a less sophisticated low-pass filter. The only real question I have about the Canon R6's sensor is whether it has enough resolution for the camera's general enthusiast target market, particularly if you like to heavily crop your images in post-production.
The ISO range is 100 to 102,400, which is one stop higher than the flagship EOS R5. This can be increased to ISO 204,800 and decreased to ISO 50.
The Canon R6 features 5-axis In-Body Image Stabilization for the first time in the EOS series (alongside the EOS R5) (IBIS). Both the EOS R and RP omitted this much-desired element.
It was created to work in tandem with the IS device used in many RF-mount lenses, with the lens and sensor working together to correct pitch and yaw while the sensor corrects X-Y and roll movements. With certain lenses, this intelligent stabilisation device offers an impressive 8-stops of stabilisation, enabling you to hand-hold the camera for up to 4 seconds while still getting razor-sharp results.
Because of the huge 54mm diameter of the RF Mount, even non-stabilized lenses like the RF 85mm F1.2L USM or RF 28-70mm F2L USM provide 8 stops of stabilization when mounted on the EOS R6. The Canon EF-EOS R mount adapter allows the EOS R6 to stabilize older, non-IS lenses, such as any EF lens that is attached to the R6 through the Canon EF-EOS R mount adapter.
Some manufacturers' lenses will also operate with the stabilisation system; simply enter the focal length into the camera's menu system. In practice, the Canon EOS R6 and the RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM lens that I was sent for testing offered up to an eye-popping 8-stops of stabilisation, making it possible to hand-hold this combination at previously unthinkable slow shutter speeds while maintaining critical sharpness. If you're purchasing the EOS R6 and don't already own any Canon lenses, the fact that you can do this with the inexpensive and powerful 24-105mm kit lens immediately elevates it to our top recommendation.
Another standout feature of the Canon EOS R6 is its ability to shoot continuously at up to 20 frames per second (fps) with the silent electronic shutter or 12 frames per second with the mechanical shutter, both with full auto exposure (AE) and auto focus (AF) monitoring.
When shooting at 20 frames per second, there is a small amount of blackout in the viewfinder and LCD between each frame, but it's barely noticeable.
The Canon R6 can capture 1,000 compressed raw images at 12 frames per second before its buffer fills up, nearly three times as many as the flagship EOS R5. The size of your memory card effectively limits the number of images the EOS R6 will take in a single continuous series.
Obviously, the megapixel count differs significantly, but the EOS R6 clearly wins out in terms of shooting speed and buffer depth.
The R6 is the first Canon camera to use the next-generation Dual Pixel CMOS AF II focusing system, alongside the EOS R5. The camera, which is billed as having the world's fastest autofocus, can focus in as little as 0.05 seconds. With 100% frame coverage, it has 6,072 selectable AF points, which is slightly more than the EOS R5.
The Canon R6 impresses by being able to focus in light levels as low as -6.5EV (when using an F1.2 lens), which is 0.5 stop better than the EOS R5.
The EOS R6 has the same deep-learning based automatic face, eye, and animal AF tracking modes as the R5 thanks to its brand new Digic X processor. The Canon R6 can now recognize and track eyes from a far greater distance than previous versions, and subject tracking works for humans, dogs, cats, and birds, including those in flight. In practice, I found the latest eye AF and animal subject tracking systems to be on par with those found in Sony Alpha cameras, which have long been the market leaders in this field, so Canon deserves credit for catching up so quickly.
The latest Canon EOS R6 combines the rear panel from the EOS R5 and the top plate from the EOS RP in its exterior design.
So instead of the LCD status panel and Mode button found on the top-right of the EOS R5, the R6 has a much more traditional shooting mode dial, which we really prefer and hope a lot of photographers would prefer instead of the LCD status panel and Mode button found on the top-right of the EOS R5.
Changing the shooting mode with an external dial is undeniably faster than pressing a button and navigating through an electronic menu.
The key disadvantage is that the new camera settings are not visible by simply looking down at the top-plate LCD. A shooting mode dial and a top-plate LCD screen would be perfect, but the EOS R camera bodies are simply too small to fit both.
The majority of the other controls on the EOS R6 are identical or somewhat similar to those on the EOS RP. So, on the top-left, there's a tiny On/Off button, and the camera comes to life almost immediately.
The six controls on the top-right, in addition to the shooting mode dial, are the same as on the EOS RP. The tiny M-Fn is hidden behind a small but sensitive shutter release button at the top of the handgrip. This gives you easy access to ISO, continuous shooting, AF, white balance, and exposure compensation, among other camera features.
A flat, red one-touch movie record button sits proud of the camera frame, behind which is the front control dial for primarily setting the aperture or shutter speed. On the latest Canon EOS R6, the Lock switch on the EOS RP has been replaced by a Lock button. This locks the two control dials on top of the sensor, as well as the rear control wheel, to prevent unintended changes to the camera's key settings. The rear control dial, which is best positioned for thumb action, completes the top of the camera.
Overall, the top-plate of the Canon EOS R6 is a good continuation of the design philosophy that Canon used on previous EOS RP and EOS R cameras, with the key differences being a shooting mode dial instead of an LCD panel and a Lock button instead of a Lock switch.
The Canon R6 has a number of controls on the back that will be immediately familiar to anyone who has used an EOS 5-series DSLR camera before, including the classic Canon control wheel. In place of the controversial Mfn bar found on the EOS R, there's also a very welcome joystick.
A new Rate button has been added to the Menu bottom on the far left, allowing you to give star ratings to your photos when they are being played back (Off, 1-5 stars). Although not as well-specked as the one on the EOS R5, the EOS R6's 0.5-inch 3.69-million-dot EVF is still impressive to look through, running at up to 120 frames per second for minimal lag while shooting fast-moving subjects. The new thumb-operated joystick is located to the right of the electronic viewfinder.
This means that the ground-breaking / divisive (delete as appropriate) Mfn bar, w
hich debuted on the EOS R, is conspicuously absent from the new EOS R6, as well as the new EOS R5.
We doubt the Mfn bar will ever appear on another Canon camera, so if you're a fan, the EOS R is the only camera you'll ever need.
Although the joystick is a welcome addition, we were taken aback by how high the joystick is placed. It's almost in line with the center of the viewfinder, rather than where the Magnification button is, which appears to be rather high and difficult to locate at first glance, particularly when compared to most other cameras with this key control. I eventually grew accustomed to the higher position, but I can't shake the feeling that it was originally lower.
The EOS R6 also features the return of the classic Canon control wheel with the SET button at its middle, which was previously absent from the EOS R and RP versions. Anyone who has used a Canon EOS 5-series DSLR camera before will be immediately familiar with this.
The one on the EOS R6 is probably less useful than the one on the EOS 5-series, simply because there are already two control dials on top of the camera for setting the aperture and shutter speed, as well as one on the RF lenses that can be used to control the ISO speed, among other things. As a result, the traditional Canon control wheel is primarily used for quickly scrolling through menus and during image playback.
Since the camera also has a touch screen, all of these functions can be operated more easily and intuitively by touch, which begs the question of why Canon included the control wheel in the first place. Maybe it's nostalgia?
The EOS R6 comes with a 3-inch vari-angle LCD panel with 1.62 million dots that tilts out to the side and faces forward for easier vlogging and selfies. It can also be folded flat against the back of the camera to cover it in a camera bag when in transit. Directly underneath the viewfinder is a proximity sensor that automatically switches between the EVF and the LCD screen. The EVF is intelligently switched off when the LCD panel is swung outwards. A tilting LCD screen encourages shooting from unusual angles and makes the EOS R6 suitable for filmmaking.
As previously mentioned, the LCD screen is touch-sensitive, allowing you to monitor everything from AF point selection and shutter release to menu navigation and image searching during playback. It's a nimble, sensitive device that's a pleasure to work with.
The AF-On button, for people who prefer back-button focusing, the Auto-exposure Lock button (denoted by a star), and the AF region selection button, which makes it easier to adjust the autofocus point while holding the camera to your eye, are all located alongside the rear joystick.
A cluster of three buttons sits underneath the AF-On button: the Magnification button, the Info Button, and the Quick button, which activates the Quick Control panel, which gives you immediate access to ten main camera settings. The Playback and Delete keys, which are positioned underneath the rear control wheel, round out the back of the EOS R6.
The memory card compartment is located on the right side of the camera. The EOS R6 has dual SD UHS II card slots, which puts it ahead of the EOS R, which only has one slot, and you can opt to record to both cards at the same time.
Three rubber flaps on the left side of the camera house five separate contacts.
The Canon EOS R6 has a microphone port, headphone jack, remote control port, USB-3 port, and HDMI link, which are all essential communication features for any amateur photographer or videographer.
The Canon R6 takes advantage of the LP-E6NH battery, which comes standard with both the EOS R6 and EOS R5 cameras. The LP-E6NH essentially replaces the LP-E6N, with a capacity of 2130mAh and a 14 percent improvement in capacity. In practice, this equates to 380 shots with the EVF and 510 shots with the LCD screen.
It's also backwards compatible with all existing cameras that use the LP-E6 series batteries, so you can use an older LP-E6N in the EOS R6, and a newer LP-E6NH in an older EOS camera that uses the LP-E6N. All of the chargers are also cross-compatible. The EOS R6 is compatible with the brand new BG-R10 Battery Grip if one battery isn't enough for you.
This is the same battery grip that is used on the current EOS R5.
It allows users to use two batteries (LP-E6/N/NH) to power the EOS R6, as well as duplicate controls for easier vertical shooting. It's worth noting that the batteries must be charged while the grip is attached to the camera.
The EOS R6 can be easily linked to a smartphone and networks via built-in Bluetooth and 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, allowing for high-speed file sharing and FTP/FTPS transfer. It's worth noting that the R6 lacks the EOS R5's support for the faster 5GHz Wi-Fi standard. Canon's Camera Connect and EOS Utility apps can also be used to monitor the R6 remotely, and it can be tethered to a PC or Mac via Wi-Fi or high-speed USB 3.1.
Though video isn't the EOS R6's main focus (unlike the 8K RAW recording EOS R5), it does have the amazing ability to capture uncropped 4K UHD / 60p / 10-bit footage internally for up to 30 minutes with dual-pixel auto-focus and auto-exposure. There's also full 1080 slow-motion recording at up to 120p with autofocus (but no sound), which is something the flagship EOS R5 doesn't have.
Canon Log gamma is eligible for color grading in post-production, giving you more options.
During movie shooting, Canon has also added a zebra display that can be used as a guide for exposure adjustments, especially for highlights. This headline specification would be more than enough for many videographers' needs, and it represents a significant improvement over the video recording capabilities of the EOS R and RP cameras.
Overall, the new Canon EOS R6 effectively implements a lot of the "classic" Canon handling that DSLR owners are familiar with, while providing a well-balanced specification that vastly improves on the EOS R. The EOS R5 may be the center of attention right now, but the R6 offers nearly all of the features that most photographers want at a much lower price.
This camera produces noise-free JPEG images from ISO 50 to ISO 12800, with noise first appearing at ISO 25600, thanks to its modest 20 megapixel sensor. Although the faster settings of 51200 and 102400 show a lot of noise, they're still good for making small prints and web images. At a press, ISO 204800, the fastest extended mode, can be used.
The EOS R6 excelled in low-light circumstances, with a maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds and Bulb mode enabling you to catch enough light in any situation, and the camera's -6.5EV rating allowing it to auto-focus even in near-dark conditions.
The various Picture Styles and the ability to create your own, as well as the HDR settings and multiple exposure mode, are all useful features that can be previewed prior to taking the shot. While support for the new HEIF 10-bit file format is restricted, it can provide some future-proofing.
If you don't need 8K footage, the latest EOS R6 is the best full-frame mirrorless Canon camera to date, and it's the camera that mid-range DSLR owners should purchase if they want to move to mirrorless.
While the flagship R5 is currently receiving a lot of praise (and some criticism) for its world-beating video specs, the Canon R6 is a much more affordable option that still provides almost all an enthusiast photographer or videographer might like.
Although the first-generation EOS R and RP cameras were a significant and ultimately flawed departure from Canon's established handling and ease of use, the new EOS R6 is a welcome return to form, combining the best of Canon's DSLR and mirrorless user interfaces into a largely coherent whole. The Canon R6 is clearly one of the most customisable cameras I've ever tested, with three control dials and wheels, a joystick, and a touch-screen LCD, not to mention the control ring used on RF lenses. The EOS R6's feature set is well thought out, more than strong enough to take on the competition but not so overblown as to be financially out of reach for most would-be buyers.
Thankfully, the Canon R6 lives up to its full potential in most ways, with the latest AF, IBIS, and continuous shooting systems standing out. This model represents a significant step forward for Canon cameras as a whole, surpassing what the 5-series DSLRs and previous mirrorless cameras could deliver and achieve.
That's not to suggest the EOS R6 is a flawless camera. Some photographers might believe that 20 megapixels is insufficient for their needs, whereas videographers might lament the need to let their camera cool down after shooting a long 4K UHD 60p film. The sheer number of controls available can be daunting at first, and the camera is undeniably larger than its main competitors.
It's also a brilliant decision that this is the first Canon full-frame mirrorless camera to feel like a DSLR, almost definitely in response to the EOS R's criticism.
Overall, the latest EOS R6 is the long-awaited mirrorless camera that the majority of Canon owners have been waiting for.
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