While its big brother is getting all the headlines, the Canon EOS R6 is in many ways a far more fascinating camera – and one that’s going to appeal to a much larger portion of the market.
Although impressive, the Canon EOS R5 is simply too much camera for most people. Its 8K video in particular is the tech of tomorrow, rather than today, and most people simply don’t have the storage capacity or the power on their laptops to handle an 8K workflow – and right now, there aren’t a lot of places where 8K files can even be shared.
Ditto the 45MP sensor. It sounds great on paper but, if you want an everyday camera or you shoot a lot of fast action, handling hundreds and hundreds of massive files often leaves you feeling that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.
Enter the Canon EOS R6, which features much of the same underlying tech – like the blistering burst speeds and the astonishing autofocus – but applies it to much more current, manageable specs. Does its 20.1MP sensor go too far in the other direction, though, or is that resolution enough to satisfy the masses?
There’s no doubt that the R6 is immediately one of the best 4K cameras for filmmaking, and given its parity with the mighty Canon EOS-1D X Mark III in terms of burst speed and sensor resolution it must also rank as one of the best cameras for sports photography.
Following our early hands-on with the camera, here are our first impressions of the Canon EOS R6…
• Head to head: Canon EOS R5 vs R6
Sensor: 20.1MP full-frame CMOS 35.9 x 23.9mm
Image processor: Digic X
AF points: 6,072 Dual Pixel CMOS AF II
ISO range: 100-102,400 (expandable to 50-204,800)
Stabilization: 5-axis, up to 8 stops
Max image size: 5,472 x 3,684px
Metering zones: 384
Video: 4K UHD at 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p / 1080p (FullHD) at 120p, 100p, 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p
Viewfinder: 0.5-inch OLED EVF, 3,690k dots, 100% coverage, 0.76x magnification, 120fps refresh rate
Memory card: 2x UHS-II SD/SDHC/SDXC
LCD: 3-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 1,620k dots.
Max burst: 12fps mechanical shutter, 20fps electronic shutter
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 5Ghz and 2.4GHz, Bluetooth 4.2, USB-C (USB 3.1 Gen 2), micro HDMI (type D), microphone, headphone, E3 remote
Size: 138.4 x 97.5 x 88.4mm
Weight: 598g body only (or 680g with card and battery)
The Canon EOS R6 may sit in parallel with the Canon EOS 6D Mark II in the product line-up, but it actually shares more in common with the flagship 1D X Mark III. For starters it features virtually the same 20.1MP sensor sensor, just without the fancy new low-pass filter (which remains exclusive to the Mark III and the EOS R5).
It also boasts the same top shooting speed, capable of cranking out 20 frames per second when shooting electronically or 12 frames via the mechanical shutter. It also has the same amazing autofocus tech, built around Canon’s Deep Learning AF – the AI-originated algorithm that enables the camera to track eyes, faces and heads on human subjects.
The R6 even one-ups the flagship, as it also features Animal AF that can track dogs, cats and birds in flight by recognizing their eyes, faces and bodies. And along with the R5, this body is the first to feature the next generation of Canon’s core autofocus tech, Dual Pixel AF II.
Its video specs are robust, too, as the R6 can capture 8- or 10-bit 4K UHD footage at up to 60p, with 1080p / FullHD video at up to 120p (the latter not being an option on the R5), with full AF tracking functions supported across all video resolutions and frame-rates.
Low light performance is actually superior on the R6 compared to the R5, thanks to the fewer (and, hence, larger) pixels on the image sensor. Its standard ISO range covers 100-102,400 (expandable to 50-204,800), and it can autofocus down to -6EV – which is the equivalent of a completely blacked-out room illuminated by a single candle.
And of course, it also features the long-awaited debut of Canon’s 5-axis in-body image stabilization system, which offers a CIPA-rated maximum of 8 stops of stability depending on the lens you mount.
Build and handling
The R6 closely resembles the Canon EOS RP in both looks and handling, though it’s notably chunkier to hold. Like the RP it lacks a top OLED panel, and features a conventional Canon mode dial rather than the mode button seen on the Canon EOS R and R5.
The back of the camera features a control wheel, replacing the compass-like D-pad buttons of the R and RP, and it also benefits from a joystick – a very welcome addition that isn’t traditionally found on 6-series cameras.
Being that it is a 6-series body, the weather sealing is on par with the 6D. However, because it’s so much slimmer, the R6 isn’t as substantial as its bigger-boned DSLR counterpart. It’s far from a fragile camera, but DSLRs always feel like you could bash down a door with them if you needed to; this mirrorless body won’t take the same knocks and drops.
In the hand it really is like using the EOS R or RP, as the ergonomics are so similar. Having the control wheel and joystick definitely improves your ability to interface with the camera, menus and particularly the AF, and these DSLR-style inputs will make you feel more at home if you’re moving across from the 6D or Canon EOS 7D Mark II.
Although we couldn’t take any sample images during our hands-on, our test drive of the Canon EOS R6 left us with very good first impressions.
Again, like the R5, if you’ve used the existing EOS R bodies then handling and shooting with this camera will feel very familiar – Canon’s friendly menus and intuitive inputs make navigating modes and changing settings straightforward, enabling you to focus on actually shooting your subject.
Like its big brother, there’s a significant and immediately noticeable improvement in autofocus performance. The AF on the R6 feels much more nimble, adaptable and reliable than current R cameras. The Deep Learning AF engine from the 1D X Mark III makes a huge difference, with the eye, face and head detection proving just as reliable as it was on the flagship DSLR.
The tracking seems much better, too, with AF points feeling much ‘stickier’ and more faithful when the view is interrupted by obstacles or passers by. We found the autofocus system in the 1D X III to be the best we’ve ever used – and if anything, the AF in the EOS R6 is a step above.
At long last we have full-readout 4K video on a Canon camera, and being able to record up to 60fps with all the new autofocus toys – from human head tracking to animal AF – is a very big deal and means that you can film almost anything with minimal effort.
Given that most content creators are still shooting (or, at least, outputting) video at 1080p, the ability to record footage at 120fps in this resolution is very important for some – and this is a trick that the R5 doesn’t possess. All video is limited to 30 minutes, as is the case for most non-cinema cameras, though it’s rare to film a 30-minute take of anything.
While some might feel that the 20.1MP resolution is on the low side, it really comes into its own in service of the continuous shooting speeds; the lower pixel count means that the R6 can buffer almost three times as many JPEGs as the R5.
It can maintain bursts of over 1,000 JPEGs or 240 RAWs, meaning that whether shooting at 12 or 20fps you won’t miss a moment of the action – another big deal, if you’re photographing sports or other fast-moving action, and it really makes the modest amount of megapixels make sense.
And of course, 20.1MP is more than enough for the pros who shoot magazine spreads and front covers, so it should be more than enough for most people. It’s still the case, though, that the R6 one branch down from the top of Canon’s full-frame mirrorless tree, but has lower resolution than the entry level 26.2MP RP – and only two-thirds the resolution of APS-C cameras like the Canon EOS 90D.
The Canon EOS R6 is a versatile all-round camera that can shoot pretty much anything. While the R5’s specs are too much for most people, there’s a question of whether or not the R6’s resolution is too little. However, it makes all the sense in the world if you’re taking advantage of the blistering 20fps burst shooting – and it’s a moot point, when you’re filming crispy 4K 60p video. The fact remains, however, that the entry level EOS RP and even APS-C cameras like the 90D offer greater resolution.
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