Canon EOS R6 evaluation: a mirrorless DSLR diehard

“With the ergonomics of a DSLR but the advantages of a mirrorless one, the EOS R6 is a convincing hybrid.”

Sharp photos and videos

Smooth auto focus

Fast recording speed

Excellent stabilization

Good performance in low light conditions

Comfortable grip

A bit bulky

Puffer struggles with long outbreaks

Animal Eye AF under-fulfilled

Short 4K recording due to overheating

Canon had a certain identity crisis, which made it possible to switch to a mirrorless full screen with the throttled budget RP and the good but not very competitive EOS R. However, the company’s second set of mirrorless full-frame cameras seems to promise more of what Canon DSLRs were known for, and a few more, with image stabilization in the body, 12 fps bursts, and the next generation of dual-pixel autofocus in the Canon EOS R6 and R5.

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The R6 is the cheaper of the two newly announced cameras. It costs about $ 2,500 for the body only, and features a lower-resolution 20.1-megapixel sensor, a plastic housing instead of a magnesium alloy, and some of the biggest features of the R5 8K video. Although the feature list is shorter, the R6 still manages to offer the same stabilization in the body, the same burst speed and a similar autofocus system.

Recording with the R6 feels like recording with a DSLR – with the exception of the electronic viewfinder – down to the handle, control scheme and uniform size. This could be enough for the DSLR holdouts to make the switch without sacrificing ergonomics, image quality, or performance. But is the R6 enough for Canon to survive in an increasingly crowded mirrorless full-screen market?

A mirrorless camera in a DSLR-like housing

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Recording with the EOS R6 feels like working with a DSLR – until you hold the camera to your eye and the electronic viewfinder eliminates the lack of a mirror. The case is closer to an APS-C DSLR than a mirrorless full-frame camera. Nevertheless, the width of the camera, including the handle, is almost an inch larger than that of the Sony A7 III and more than half an inch larger than that of the Nikon Z 5. The R6 is even slightly deeper than the Canon EOS 7D Mark II (one such APS-C DSLR), albeit a little shorter and narrower.

It is important that the R6 is comfortable to hold.

That means the R6 won’t give you a big size advantage if that was your main reason for switching to mirrorless. Canon may be aimed at photographers who prefer the ergonomics of a DSLR over a mirrorless camera. It is important that the R6 is comfortable to hold. And while you’re about the size of a DSLR, using the R6 saves you having to carry an additional 5 ounces over a DSLR similar to the 7D Mark II.

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The control scheme also channels Canon DSLRs through to the auto focus joystick, which is annoyingly disabled until you browse the menus to find the option to turn it on (a startling decision). Despite the additional real estate and non-entry title, Canon was unable to install a second LCD screen at the top. The switch to change the LCD screen from still images to video is also missing, although the record button continues to start a movie from any mode. To switch focus mode or change the burst speed, you need to dig in the quick menu or reassign part of the area of ​​the camera using the custom button options. However, the rest of the controls should be familiar to Canon DSLR users right down to the depth of field preview button.

The familiar controls – and the menu system – create a mirrorless camera to which Canon DSLR holdouts can be easily adapted. Users who switch from another system have to get used to some special features, e.g. B. Navigating the menus with the three steering wheels instead of an arrow keyboard. In fairness, you can always use the touchscreen.

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The R6 is equipped with an EVF with 3.69 million points – it’s not the highest quality we’ve seen and not as detailed as the EOS R5, but it is sufficient and comparable to other cameras for a similar price. The viewfinder turns black while recording, but the burst speed is fast enough so it is not particularly difficult to track what is happening in the viewfinder once a burst begins. The rear touchscreen with a resolution of 1.62 million points can be folded to the side for viewing from any angle, also for selfies and vlogs, while the camera is on a tripod.

The R6, which is missing from several mirrorless models, gratefully offers two SD card slots. The battery life is 510 pictures with the monitor and 380 with the viewfinder. But like most cameras, the CIPA rating is a gross underestimation – I took 2,500 photos with a mixture of LCD screen and viewfinder, including many long series, before the battery warning started to flash.

Stabilization in the body

Composed in Photoshop from a series of RAW bursts recorded on the Canon EOS R6 in 1/10 second, 1: 1.8, ISO 2000. Hillary K. Grigonis / Digital Trends

Canon disappointed many when it released the original EOS R with no body stabilization, and the EOS R6 offsets it with a 5-axis stabilization system designed on paper for up to 8 stops in combination with a specific lens set . The sensor stabilization is a reason for Canon shooters with a DSLR medium level to switch to the medium level R6.

The stabilization system is ideal for wide-angle shots in poor lighting conditions and to reduce the shutter speed for longer lenses. I shot fireflies with the 35mm f / 1.8 lens on a tenth of a second handheld at dusk, and most of my shots were still sharp.

The stabilization system is ideal for wide-angle shots in poor lighting conditions and to reduce the shutter speed for longer lenses.

The R6 has a stabilization system that is great for a full-frame camera, but it doesn’t necessarily outperform the competition. While the Nikon and Sony systems are only designed for five f-stops, the Z 6 handheld allowed me to shoot at a similar shutter speed – 1/8 second that supports my elbows on a table and 1/20 second without support. The R6 was only slightly better at 1/10 of a second without support.

Although Olympus listed a maximum of 7.5 stabilization stops and Canon claimed 8 stops, it was still more stable than the R6 when it came to comparing apples to oranges by contrasting a full-frame Micro Four Thirds camera. After I pushed the R6 under a tenth of a second and reached the exposure times of seconds, the pictures were no longer sharp. With the OM-D E-M1 Mark III, which still came out sharply, I took hand exposures longer than six seconds. Canon’s stabilization is excellent, but it doesn’t offer the great advantage over other stabilized cases that it seems to offer if you just look at the specs.

Fast autofocus and bursts

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The autofocus of the R6 was able to focus impressively even at dusk, provided the autofocus point was placed in an area with a slight contrast. The autofocus system even managed to tie itself to a glass – albeit slowly – at dusk, a subject and lighting conditions that have traditionally been a challenge for most cameras.

The continuous autofocus kept up well at maximum speed and only occasionally dropped the focus. The autofocus seemed to keep up well with the subjects that were moving in one direction parallel to the camera, as well as the subjects that were approaching me.

Eye AF is included and keeps up quickly. The R6 has managed to keep its eyes sharp for almost every shot of an energetic 7-year-old running towards the camera. While the Eye AF does an excellent job, it’s not quite as smart on some systems where I’ve tried to focus on partially obscured eyes – the R6 has had a tougher time with faces facing away and some systems will impressively focus on eyelashes and closed eyes, the R6 does not.

Although the eye AF is good here (though not quite the best), we cannot say the same for the animal face and eye tracking. Unlike our experience with the EOS R5, Eye AF didn’t work at all on the R6 in my chocolate lab and instead wanted to focus on her nose. I only had animal eye AF work once on my cat, which has more contrast on the face than a brown dog with brown eyes. Note that the animal tracking feature is impressed on the R5, which offers more pixels for the dual-pixel autofocus system. This may have something to do with the significantly different results that we have achieved between the two systems.

The auto focus system struggled the most with black and shadow. The R6 struggled when the AF point was placed on a darker portion of the picture, although the camera snapped into place with identical lighting seconds later when the exposure compensation lifted these shadows out of the black tones. This is not a problem for most images with a properly illuminated subject, but the camera has problems with scenarios such as silhouettes and focusing on black objects.

Excellent stabilization and mostly great autofocus are combined with a fast burst mode with 12 frames per second and a burst mode with 20 frames per second using the electronic shutter. The buffer is sufficient for a mid-level camera with 63 pictures that take RAW + JPEG, regardless of the set burst speed before the speed is slowed down. Once some of these images are deleted, you can continue recording. Annoyingly, the quick menu is locked while processing these images, making it difficult to adjust settings quickly (a problem that has been a problem with other Sony mirrorless cameras in the past, for example). It takes a good 30 seconds for a full burst to be completely cleared before you can access the menu. Only set to JPEG, the buffer is cleared almost immediately.

picture quality

The EOS R6 contains the same sensor as Canon’s flagship DSLR, the 1DX Mark III: a 20.1 megapixel full-frame sensor. This is not as detailed or robust as the R5’s 45 megapixels or competitor models like the 24 megapixel Nikon Z 6 or the Sony A7 III, but the compromise for fewer megapixels is often less noise when shooting in low light conditions.

The blend of ISO performance and stabilization makes the R6 an excellent option for shooting in low light.

This theory holds water with the R6, with its excellent handling of noise at high ISO. The noise starts to reach more noticeable values ​​at ISO 3,200 together with some color noise, but only becomes disturbing when cropping or printing at full size at ISO 8,000. If I reduced the noise of the RAW files until just before the start of sharpness, I would even call ISO 12,800, which is still good enough to share on Instagram or make small prints, and even up to ISO 32,000 if necessary push. Some streaking will occur if the ISO value is increased further, but the noise will still result in poor image quality. Of course, this is possible under ideal conditions, including shooting with a tripod and without exposure corrections in the post. Nevertheless, these results are particularly impressive.

The blend of ISO performance and stabilization makes the R6 an excellent option for shooting in low light. With high contrast lighting, the R6’s RAW files were able to restore a considerable amount of detail from the shadows and even an easy restoration of lights and whites. On the other hand, the RAW files can also be easily edited for additional contrast. Check out how backlit golden hour images look right from the R6 in a raw JPEG compared to a RAW file that was edited to restore shadows and the same RAW file that was edited for drama and contrast:

canon eos r6 review 1i6a1636 original Original JPEG Hillary K. Grigonis / Digital Trends

edit canon eos r6 review contrast 1636 RAW edited for contrast Hillary K. Grigonis / Digital Trends

canon eos r6 review shadow recovery 1636 Edited RAW for shadow restoration Hillary K. Grigonis / Digital Trends

The R6 was also impressively sharp across the entire ISO range. While the lens plays a bigger role in image sharpness, the images from both 35mm and 24-105mm HF lenses were excellent. The sharpness around the eyes in portraits was particularly impressive when shooting with both eye AF and single point AF.

The colors of the R6 were exactly what I expected from a Canon. I think the Canon colors are a bit cool – but that’s both completely subjective and easy to adjust afterwards.

While the R6 isn’t as detailed as a sensor with more megapixels, it does offer excellent image quality for a mirrorless mid-frame full-screen mode. The sharpness is solid, the noise reduction is excellent, and the colors were the level I expected from Canon DSLRs.

Video quality

The R6 took up less space in the headlines than the R5’s 8K, but the video is still impressive as it comes from the R5’s cheaper sibling. The R5, with its 8K, oversampled 4K, 4K, and RAW slow motion videos, is more ideal for serious videographers than the R6. However, the R6 offers several solid video functions.

Videos can be recorded at 60 fps in 4K in 10-bit. While the R6 is not the 8K value of the R5, the R6 oversamples the video, which means that data from across the width of the 5K sensor is used to create the 4K video. The result is that videos are wonderfully detailed, and stabilization provides a big boost for shooting handhelds. The autofocus has a smooth transition, but the camera often searches for the focus, a remnant of the previously mentioned problems with the autofocus.

The video length of the R6 is limited to approx. 30 seconds, but the recording in 4K 30p can immediately continue for another 10 minutes. 4K 60p requires a cool-down period after recording a 30-minute video, and recording at temperatures above 73 degrees leads to shorter recording times. This is due to the lack of a fan. According to Canon, this is a decision to keep the camera body smaller.

Our opinion

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The Canon EOS R6 is the mirrorless camera that owners of the company’s medium-sized DSLRs have chosen. The camera feels like working with a DSLR, but it provides body stabilization and the electronic viewfinder of a mirrorless camera without sacrificing performance or image quality. And of course it works with Canon lenses (with adapter). It’s a little bulky, the buffer locks the quick menu a little too long, the eye AF isn’t quite as good as the competition, and the animal AF didn’t work at all, and videos have to be short to prevent overheating – but it there is still much to love.

The R6 is an excellent camera – and the best option for using Canon lenses on a mirrorless camera without damaging the R5 – and eventually competes with other brands. Although the R6 is now competing well, Canon is more equal than other mirrorless competitors. Sony and Nikon’s options are significantly smaller and offer more megapixels. Canon has more physical real estate, but it lacks some controls that we really wanted. The image stabilization of the R6 only looks much better on paper and in real tests did not offer a great advantage over 5-stop systems.

Is there a better alternative?

If you want to keep your Canon lenses, the Canon EOS R5 is the only better alternative with similar features, but a higher resolution and a tier AF that is actually quite impressive. For photographers who have not yet invested in a lens system, the R6 may not offer enough incentives to switch. The Sony A7 III is a few megapixels cheaper, but the ergonomics and menu can be frustrating for photographers who are used to DSLRs. The now replaced A7R III has 42.2 megapixels for an identical price and offers larger images, but has the same problems as the A7 III. The Nikon Z 6 costs $ 500 less, has a slightly higher resolution, a smaller housing and a secondary LCD screen, but does not have two card slots and the autofocus in poor light conditions is inferior to that of the R6.

How long it will take?

In contrast to the R5, the R6 has a polycarbonate housing – the type of plastic that is usually used when getting into mid-range DSLRs. While not as sturdy, it feels firm in your hands and is weatherproof. Aside from catastrophic failures, the R6 should last a few years. Since Canon is a newbie to mirrorless full-screen mode, we wouldn’t be surprised if new features in two more years will cause you to upgrade before you have to.

Should you buy it

If you are a Canon DSLR shooter ready to flip the mirrorless switch and can’t afford to opt for the high-end R5, then buy the R6. Pictures and performance are excellent, and the R6 feels like a Canon DSLR. If you want a mirrorless camera that is significantly smaller than a DSLR, or you are looking for features like exceptional animal AF, or if you need a fast buffer to shoot, the best thing to do is look elsewhere.

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