Canon EOS R6 Mark II review
Written by Gordon Laing
The Canon EOS R6 Mark II is a full-frame mirrorless camera with a new 24 Megapixel sensor and uncropped 4k up to 60p. Announced in November 2022, the EOS R6 Mark II arrives just over two years after the original model and shares a similar starting price. In my in-depth review video below I’ll show you everything I know about the EOS R6 II for photography, and I hope to add a second video in the future all about the movie capabilities. If you prefer to read a written version, keep scrolling!
Here’s the R6 II on the left alongside arguably its biggest rival, the Sony A7 IV on the right. Price-wise the A7 IV has the benefit of being launched a whole year earlier, allowing Sony to offer discounts and undercut Canon on price a little, although conversely the extra year has allowed Canon to further refine its AF system as we’ll see.
A newer rival is Panasonic’s Lumix S5 II, here on the right, launched a couple of months after the R6 II in January 23, but priced much cheaper at around $2000 or pounds. As you’ll see the R6 II does outperform it in some regards, but in others they’re remarkably close and there are also some benefits to the S5 II that might make it a better choice for you.
For more information on either model, check out my Sony A7 IV review and Panasonic Lumix S5 II review, but for this review, I got hold of both rivals again in order to make a bunch of direct comparisons against the R6 II. So if you’re looking for a full-frame hybrid camera, you’ve come to the right place!
Ok, so here’s the original R6 on the left and the new Mark II version which replaces it on the right, and at first glance they look pretty similar, sharing the same core design, build quality and weather sealing.
From the front there’s no longer an IR remote sensor on the Mark II grip and from the rear, there’s a mildly redesigned multi-controller joystick.
So far so similar, but from the top there’s a few more obvious tweaks. First, the old power dial on the left is now used to switch between stills and video. So like the R7, this means the main mode dial can now be used to select the exposure mode for photo and video, rather than delving into menus for the latter.
Second, the power control on the Mark II has been relocated to a new collar switch around the upper thumb wheel and includes a position to lock the wheel if desired.
The Mark II mode dial now has extra positions for an Auto Movie mode, Effects and Scene presets, the latter including a panorama option inherited from the R7.
The camera also features Canon’s latest Multi Function Shoe, sporting the additional pins to work with more sophisticated accessories as well as traditional flashes.
In terms of composition, the R6 II shares the same 3in 1.62 million dot screen as the R6, along with its side-hinged flip mechanism that can twist up and down, forward to face you or back on itself for protection.
The viewfinder is also the same as before, so you’re getting a 3.69 million dot OLED panel with 0.76x magnification that runs at 60 or 120fps. In these respect it’s similar to the A7 IV and S5 II.
Also inherited from the R6 are twin SD card slots, supporting UHS-II speeds, albeit not embracing anything faster like CF Express. Again this is the same approach as the Lumix S5 II, making the Sony A7 IV the only one of the three to support anything faster, in its case with a dual-format top slot that can alternatively accommodate CF Express Type A cards for quicker flushing of the buffer after a burst.
The ports are the same as before: so you get 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks, USB-C and Micro HDMI, along with an E3 type remote terminal. Canon continues to infuriate videographers with Micro HDMI, versus the Sony A7 IV and Lumix S5 II which both sport the much more robust full-size HDMI ports.
The USB-C port can be used for charging and operation with a compatible power delivery source and since the R6 II supports UVC, you can also use it as a standard webcam. I successfully charged and powered it with my MacBook Pro charger.
Like most Canon bodies, the R6 II also supports wired or wireless tethering to a computer or smartphone as standard, a useful feature we often take for granted but one that’s not always broadly available on rivals.
The battery unsurprisingly remains the same LP-E6NH, although Canon now claims to squeeze slightly longer life out of it with 580 shots under CIPA conditions with the screen or 320 with the viewfinder. If you’d like longer, the optional BG-R10 grip accommodates two batteries while also providing portrait controls.
Like all Canon EOS R bodies, the R6 II employs the RF mount, allowing it to use Canon’s growing range of native RF lenses, as well as adapting older EF DSLR models.
But as most of you know, there’s currently no third party RF lenses with autofocus, and no news of that situation changing anytime soon. In stark contrast, Sigma’s range of mirrorless lenses are already available for both Sony and Panasonic mirrorless cameras, while Sony owners additionally enjoy models from Tamron and more besides.
Access to affordable third party native lenses, often with innovative focal ranges, is a key advantage Panasonic and especially Sony owners have over Canon, and if you’re buying any EOS R camera, you’ll need to factor in the price of Canon’s own lenses into the equation. Don’t get me wrong, most RF lenses I’ve tested are very good, but right now, they’re your only choice in the native mount, leaving adapted DSLR lenses as the only budget option.
Behind the mount is a new sensor, boosting the photo resolution from 20 to 24 Megapixels. While this only represents a mild upgrade and still falls short of the A7 IV’s 33 Megapixels, I feel it’s become an easier figure to sell than the original model, especially to EOS R owners who understandably felt cheated losing 10 Megapixels when ‘upgrading’ to a newer body.
24 Megapixels or thereabouts has also become a standard across many cameras, including the Lumix S5 II, and is certainly sufficient for most uses. I’ll show you how the three rivals compare in pure resolving power in just a moment.
But first the image quality options. You can record RAW in Standard or Compressed formats, both at the full 24 Megapixels, but the Compressed version occupying roughly two thirds the file size while still giving you the flexibility of post processing.
Standard RAWs worked out around 30MB each. Note the Sony A7 IV offers three different RAW compression options, while the Lumix S5 II only has one.
Meanwhile JPEG shooters have the choice of four resolutions: 24, 11, 5.9 or 3.8 Megapixels, with all but the smallest available with two different compression levels. Best quality, Large Fine JPEGs measured around 9MB each. Like the Sony A7 IV, but unlike the Lumix S5 II, you can set the camera to record 10 bit HEIF rather than JPEG if preferred.
Under the aspect ratio menu you can choose 3:2 in full-frame or cropped formats – the latter applying the same 1.6x field reduction as Canon’s APS-C models – or the full frame cropped to 1:1, 4:3 or 16:9. The Lumix S5 II takes a small lead here with a pair of panoramic crops, although the R6 II counters with an actual panoramic mode.
I feel the High Resolution mode on the S5 II, which combines eight frames while subtly shifting the sensor between each, really gives it a resolution advantage for those who can shoot in fairly controlled environments.
It’s a useful feature which so far Canon has neglected to implement on any camera I’ve tested, and if you want it on a Sony you’ll need to spend more on the A7R series and also make the composite using software afterwards.
Moving onto dynamic range, here’s a RAW image I took of Brighton Pier with the R6 II, opened in Adobe Camera RAW where you can see the sky is completely blown out. If you take a look at the histogram, you’ll see there’s clipping on those highlights, but if I reduce the exposure slider, those peaks gradually shift back into the histogram, revealing wispy clouds and colour in the sky.
There’s still clipping on the water’s surface, but if I slide the exposure down even further, some of that is retrieved, albeit not miraculously so.
Reducing the exposure has of course now clipped my shadows, but a boost of the shadows slider and a tweak on the highlights brings a balanced overall result with far more tonal detail than the original.
Next for stabilisation with Canon now claiming the R6 II’s sensor-shift IBIS system can deliver up to eight stops of compensation with selected lenses including some with no optical IS of their own.
To show it in practice during composition, here’s the view with the RF 24-105mm f4L at 105mm, first with stabilisation switched-off where the view is visibly wobbly, before switching it on via the lens and enjoying a much steadier view. Note the hand icon at the top with a plus symbol indicating this is both sensor IBIS and optical IS working together for an enhanced result.
In Canon’s system, lenses with optical IS have a switch on their barrels which engages or disables both optical and sensor stabilisation at the same time; there’s no way to have one or the other.
Here’s a photo I took at 105mm using sensor and lens stabilisation at one eighth of a second, the slowest I could handheld with a perfectly sharp result, although the one at one quarter was almost perfect.
I’ll keep this version on the left and on the right show you how a shutter of one eighth looks for me without any stabilisation, where it’s clearly ruined by camera-shake. In fact on the day I needed a shutter speed of 1/125 for a sharp result without any stabilisation, and this in turn means the R6 II and 24-105 were giving me between four and five stops of compensation.
That’s better than the three stops I experienced with the Sony A7 IV, but not as good as the six I enjoyed with the Lumix S5 II.
Next for autofocus, one of the highlights of the EOS R6 Mark II, with the Dual Pixel system inheriting the deep-learning algorithm of the R3 and now adding horses to the animal detection menu, as well as vehicle recognition for aircraft and trains.
Perhaps best of all though, a new Auto option will try to detect the subject type, saving you from manually switching between people, animals and vehicles. Of course in the case of multiple subject types you can still manually override, but for general-use it could become your default option if it works. Let’s find out.
First let’s have a look at some of the options. In terms of AF area, the R6 II offers spot, single area, two expanded areas, three flexible zone options which can be customised, or the whole area, where you leave it to the camera to decide.
Ok, so let’s start with a single area test using the RF 24-105mm f4L at 105mm f4, where you can see it pulling focus between the two bottles almost instantly. This is incredibly quick, although to be fair this lens is a fast focuser and there are slower ones in the system. But a great first result here.
But single autofocus with a single point is easy, so now here’s the R6 II’s Human subject recognition in action with the full AF area selected. So this is the camera working out where I am on the frame, and I’m using the RF 24-105mm at 50mm f4.
The camera spotted me immediately and once the shutter was half-pressed, stayed locked-on with a blue box throughout the clip. When my face is visible, the camera finds my nearest eye and easily sticks with me in full profile without skipping a beat.
But what makes the R6 II better – or at least cleverer – than the A7 IV and S5 II, is that it continues to recognise me as a human subject when I turn or walk away, tracking my head at close range and switching to my torso when more distant. Unlike its rivals, it never once loses subject recognition here.
Let’s try it again, but this time indoors in much dimmer conditions where you can see the Auto ISO now up around 2000. But as you can see, still no problem for the R6 II and RF 24-105 at 50mm f5, where the combination stays locked on me throughout, whether I’m in profile, turned away or even on the other side of my room.
But the R6 II isn’t just confident when it comes to tracking humans. Here it is with Animal selected in the subject menus where it maintains eye-detection on the dog throughout most of this clip.
Unlike Sony which separates animal and bird in the A7 IV menus forcing you to choose between them, Canon and Panasonic group them together for easier deployment.
As I move around the pigeon though, note how the R6 II stumbles and loses the eye for a bit, albeit still concentrating AF areas over the body.
But wait I’ve not been completely honest with you, as this isn’t with the R6 II set to animal. It’s been using the new Auto subject detection during this clip, and while not 100% perfect I’d say it’s still doing a pretty good job.
Manually selecting animal as the subject in the menus now allows the R6 II to narrow its algorithms, and stay locked onto the eye of the pigeon even under conditions when it stumbled with the Auo option.
I was impressed by Auto though, so wondered how it would react to a more extreme test.
So here I’ll point the R6 II at people where it’s successfully identified the closest and tracked their face, but now let’s try a car, and you’ll see it successfully place a box over vehicles driving towards or away from me. Remember this is in Auto subject detection, and that neither the A7 IV or S5 II even offer a manual option for vehicles.
And back again to people, cyclists, people again, more cars, albeit sadly no birds or other animals in this clip, but you’ve already seen how well it dealt with that pigeon using Auto mode in the earlier clip.
For me, Auto subject detection is the holy grail of algorithms, as while human, animal, bird and vehicle detection may be individually impressive, I don’t want to have to always select between them in day-to-day use. Ideally I’d like the camera to figure that out unless I tell it otherwise, and the R6 II is the first to do so.
Sure if you’re photographing portraits or events – well, human events anyway – I’d manually select people as the subject type as this will deliver quicker recognition and greater overall success.
Likewise if you’re concentrating on, say, vehicles at a race or animals at a zoo, then select them in the menus. But for general use the Auto setting worked so well I simply left the R6 II to its own devices and forgot all about it.
This for me is a major upgrade, and the only thing that could make the R6 II autofocus any better is using your eye to actually select between multiple subjects, something, lest we forget, Canon can already do with the higher-end R3. I’m hoping the R3’s tracking technology can be reduced in size and price and make it into all Canons going forward.
Now let’s see how it works for action and bursts. As before the fastest burst speed with the mechanical shutter remains 12fps, but this is still faster than the A7 IV at 10fps and almost double that of the S5 II at 7fps when using its mechanical shutter with continuous autofocus.
In my formal tests, the R6 II seemed happy to keep shooting JPEGs at 12fps for as long as I held the shutter down. I got bored after 21.5 seconds, during which it captured 256 Large Fine JPEGs, confirming the 12fps speed, and with continuous Servo AF too.
Set to RAW, I managed 145 standard RAW files in 12 and a quarter seconds, again confirming 12fps. In this instance the camera took roughly ten seconds to fully clear the buffer which is pretty quick considering it’s using SD memory only.
Here’s a quick demo of the R6 II shooting at 12fps using its mechanical shutter where you can see I’ve fully captured the falling block in one frame and have lots to choose from during the splash.
If you’d like to shoot faster bursts, switch the R6 II to its electronic shutter where it can now shoot at an impressive 40fps, double that of its predecessor, not to mention faster than the 30fps of the S5 II and especially the modest 10fps of the A7 IV when both of those cameras are using their electronic shutters.
In my formal tests, I managed to capture 136 Large Fine JPEGs in 3.4 seconds before the buffer filled, confirming the 40fps top speed.
Set to standard RAW, I managed 63 images in 1.65 seconds before it filled, again around 40fps.
In both cases, it took roughly ten seconds to completely clear the buffer, again pretty fast for an SD system.
In comparison, my electronic bursts on the Lumix S5 II lasted longer for up to 200 frames in JPEG or RAW, but at a slightly slower speed of 30fps.
Note Sony’s A7 IV won’t go faster than 10fps regardless of shutter type and can slow down to 8 or even 6fps if you’re shooting certain RAW formats and recording onto SD cards.
Here’s that splash test again with the R6 II, only this time using its 40fps electronic shutter where I now have four frames with the block falling and way more to choose from the resulting splash.
Also note the R6 II electronic shutter supports shutter speeds up to 1/16000 versus 1/8000 for the mechanical shutter.
Ok now let’s see how it all works together for some basic action shots, starting with some approaching bikes using Auto subject detection, the full AF area and mechanical bursts of 12fps. These were taken with the RF 24-105 at 105mm f4, so not particularly demanding, but the combination still worked well here.
And now for some birds and again the 24-105 isn’t the best tool for the job, but I didn’t have access to anything longer at the time of testing. I hope to retest the R6 II with some longer telephotos, but given its predecessor was already excellent in this regard and the AF has actually improved on the Mark II, I’m confident it’ll do well.
One benefit of using a shorter focal length for testing recognition though was the birds being small on the frame, but the R6 II still managed to find their eyes and follow them.
Shooting side by side against the Lumix S5 II, the Canon felt more confident at identifying and tracking birds in flight, while also delivering much faster mechanical shutter bursts. The Sony A7 IV was also very good at bird detection, albeit only recognising eyes on non-humans, not heads and bodies on that generation.
The R6 II also inherits the RAW Burst mode of the R7. This shoots at 30fps but has a pre-shot option which keeps a rolling buffer of the past half-second’s worth of shots as you keep the shutter half-pressed. Once you fully push, this earlier half second is committed to memory, followed by a short burst afterwards.
Here’s how it works in action. Notice the bar on the left indicating my buffer partly filling with pre-shot frames as I half press the shutter in anticipation. I then fully pushed the shutter down as the block hit the water, knowing I’d probably miss the initial contact but that I already had half a second’s worth of frames in the bag. You’ll see the buffer bar fill in a few seconds before it turns red to indicate its full.
Here’s the view in playback starting with frame 16 of 142, which is the moment I pushed the shutter down. Like normal bursts I can go forwards, but the clever part is also being able to go backwards to the time before I fully pushed-down, where I have 16 frames of action representing half a second.
Here it lets me find the moment the splash began, or even when the block was still in the air, before then letting you extract whichever frames you want as a JPEG, HEIF or RAW file.
The only downside is Canon stores them all in a single, rather hefty file which you’ll need to navigate and extract during playback. But it’s clear how useful it could be for capturing the moment, say, a bird takes flight or lands on a perch.
There is however the usual big caveat whenever you use the electronic shutter, and that’s potential skewing. Canon claims to have improved the sensor readout on the R6 II compared to the Mark I model, but it’s still visible if your subject is moving quickly across the frame or when panning quickly.
To illustrate this, here’s a pan taken with the R6 II at 70mm using the mechanical shutter where the tower and buildings are vertically upright as you’d expect.
But now here’s the same pan taken with the electronic shutter where the sensor readout speed has resulted in some skewing with the tower and buildings leaning a little to the side. Note the frame intervals are smaller due to the faster burst speed, but this doesn’t affect the result here.
To be fair, these rolling shutter artefacts are roughly similar to those I measured on the Lumix S5 II and A7 IV, and all are a mild improvement over the original R6 in my tests, but equally all of them will show some skewing if the camera or subject are in fast motion.
The only way to avoid, or at least minimise rolling shutter when shooting electronically is to have a sensor with faster readout, such as the stacked sensors in models like the Canon EOS R3, but currently these are very expensive.
If you can’t stretch to a camera with a stacked sensor, be aware of the limitations of electronic shutters or simply use the mechanical shutter instead. And that’s why the R6 II has an advantage over its rivals as it has the fastest mechanical shutter in its peer group.
I should however mention the top burst speeds of 12fps with the mechanical shutter and 40fps with the electronic are only supported in the R6 II’s H+ mode, and that in turn is dependent on the lens, plus you may need a decent amount of charge in your battery too.
All RF lenses to date are compatible, as well as a selection of adapted EF models, typically the most recent or updated versions. There’s a full list in the supplemental information section at cam.start.canon, but I can’t speak for adapted third party EF lenses. Please let me know in the comments if you’ve tried any with the R6 II.
Just before wrapping-up I wanted to mention some other photographic features. Like most Canon cameras, there’s a Bulb timer as standard, allowing you to easily dial-in long exposures without the need for cable release accessories – a handy feature lacking from the A7 IV and S5 II.
The R6 II also has an interval timer, although won’t go as far as to assemble them into a timelapse movie afterwards, something the Lumix S5 II will do.
There’s a focus bracketing mode, like the Lumix S5 II but sadly lacking from the A7 IV – in fact Sony has only just started adding this feature from the A7R V.
But unlike the A7RV and S5 II, the R6 II goes one step further with focus bracketing by inheriting the depth composite option of the R3 and R7 which can stack images in-camera. So no mucking around in software afterwards.
Here’s how it works in action, where you can choose the size of the burst and the focus increment between each frame – you’ll need to experiment with both in order to grab enough frames to cover your subject from the closest to the furthest. I found 80 frames with an increment of 10 worked fine for my coin shot with the RF 100mm Macro lens.
Once you start the process, the R6 II gradually racks the lens focus automatically on each frame. Like the A7RV, Canon uses its electronic shutter during focus bracketing, where sensor readout won’t be an issue but it does mean neither camera can sync a flash at the same time.
This is a limitation for some macro photographers who need to use a flash on each frame. In its peer group, the Lumix S5 II is the only model I’ve tested which can use its mechanical shutter during focus bracketing, in turn allowing the use of flash.
But the R6 II can stack a focus-bracketed sequence in-camera using its depth-composite feature, and you’re looking at the result here in playback. In contrast, both Sony and Lumix users will need to assemble their focus bracketed sequences in software later, like Helicon Focus. You can of course also do this with the Canon bursts if you prefer more control, but the depth-composite option is nice to have.
And if you’re into multiple exposure photography, the R6 II has you covered with an option that can not only combine two to nine frames, but also lets you choose an existing image from your card as the first in the sequence. Not all cameras allow this. In fact neither the A7 IV or S5 II offer multiple exposures at all.Check prices on the Canon EOS R6 Mark II at B&H, Adorama, WEX UK or Calumet.de. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book, an official Cameralabs T-shirt or mug, or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!