The Canon EOS R6 is an upper mid-range full-frame mirrorless camera with 20 Megapixels, 4k 60p video, built-in stabilisation, bursts up to 20fps and a fully-articulated touchscreen. Announced in July 2020 alongside the higher-end EOS R5, it’ll may lack some of the headline grabbers from the flagship model, but actually shares a number of key features that could satisfy most people whether they shoot photos, videos or both.
Canon let me try out a pre-production R6 for my hands-on first-looks review. As an early sample, I can’t yet post images or movies taken with the camera, but in the video below I will show you around the camera, demonstrate a bunch of features in practice, as well as confirming and quashing a bunch of rumours. Remember this review is based on actually using the camera in person as well as having extensive briefings with Canon. If you’re interested in my hands-on experiences with the higher-end model, check out my Canon EOS R5 review, and if you prefer to read a written version, keep scrolling for the written highlights!
Above: Canon launched the R6 alongside the higher-end R5, seen here on the right. Physically the R6 has a magnesium alloy chassis with a poly-carbonate exterior, versus magnesium alloy for the chassis and body on the R5; this makes the R6 slightly lighter and Canon describes both as being weather and dust-resistant but to different levels: the R6 is equivalent to the 6D II versus the 5D level of the R5. You’ll also notice control differences on the top which I’ll cover in a moment. But both models have a bunch of core features in common including built-in stabilisation with up to 8 stops of compensation, 12fps mechanical or 20fps electronic bursts, uncropped 4k up to 60p with dual pixel autofocus, fully-articulated screens, joysticks and dual card slots, albeit twin SD on the R6 vs SD and CF Express on the R5. If you’re interested in the EOS R5 check out my separate hands-on video all about it, but in the meantime it has a 45 Megapixel sensor.
Above: For scale here’s the Sony A7 III on the left next to the R5 on the right – sorry I don’t have a clip showing the R6 with the Sony, but the two Canon’s are pretty similar from the front. Personally speaking I found both Canon bodies more comfortable than the Sony with better controls and user interfaces too, but again that’s a personal choice.
Above: Ok, now for the R6 in more detail, starting with the top panel where it really differs from the R5. There’s no top screen or mode button here, with Canon instead opting for a simple mode dial more in-line with its entry-to mid-range bodies.
Above: From the rear though, the R6 and R5 look very similar and I’m pleased to say the more affordable model still sports an AF joystick and thumb wheel, so three control dials just like the R5.
Above: The screen on the R6 is a little smaller: 3in 1.62 million dot vs 3.2in 2.1 million dot on the R5, but most importantly it remains side-hinged and fully-articulated with the same excellent touchscreen interface – two aspects Canon continues to enjoy over Sony, although I do appreciate some people prefer screens that only tilt vertically. For me though, the side-hinge doesn’t just allow the screen to face forward, but also means I can compose comfortable high or low whether shooting in the landscape or portrait orientation.
Above: The viewfinder on the R6 uses a 3.69 million dot OLED panel with 0.76x magnification – that’s lower res than the 5.69 million dot viewfinder on the R6, but matches the original EOS R while also doubling the refresh rate to 120fps – plus it remains more detailed than the Sony A7 III. Interestingly the R6 viewfinder panel may also be a little less power-hungry than the R5’s, and partly responsible for the few extra shots per charge.
Above: And here is the new LP-E6NH battery that Canon’s developed for the R5 and R6, the same size as – and backwards-compatible with – the older LP-E6N, but sporting around 15% longer life. Canon’s quoting 510 shots per charge with the screen or 380 with the viewfinder, a handful more than the R5 manages. In comparison, Sony quotes 710 shots on the A7 III with the screen or 610 with the viewfinder.
Above: For longer life, the new BG-R10 grip works on both the R5 and R6, takes two batteries and provides portrait controls. When attached to the camera, you can charge both batteries over USB-C.
Above: Speaking of ports, the R6 is simpler than the R5 but still covers the essentials. There’s 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks, USB-C and Micro HDMI, along with an E3 type remote terminal – so the R6 misses out on the N3 remote port of the R5 and its PC sync port for external lighting. The USB-C runs at 3.1 Gen 2 speeds and can be used for charging and operation with a compatible power delivery source, and it’s interesting to see Canon switch from Mini to Micro HDMI. You should also be able to use the R6 as a webcam over HDMI up to 4k, or directly over USB using Canon USA’s beta plugin for Windows.
Above: Canon’s also learned from previous mistakes and fitted the R6 with twin memory card slots, this time dual SD UHS II versus SD and CF Express on the R5. CF Express was necessary on the R5 to support 8k RAW and 4k 120p, but in their absence on the R6, it can get away with SD only which may be preferred by some photographers. Sadly unlike the R5, it’s not possible to record video to both cards simultaneously, but you can use them to backup photos as you shoot.
Above: Ok now onto the sensor, a 20 Megapixel full-framer that’s based on the one in the 1Dx Mark III DSLR but now with a different low pass filter and able to support dual pixel autofocus on uncropped 4k 60p video – remember the 1Dx III made you choose between a crop or manual focus when filming 4k 60.
Above: As a quick aside, you’ll notice the shutter curtain’s closed when powered-down, like the EOS R but unlike the RP and most other mirrorless cameras which leave their sensors visible. On the R5 and R6 you can now choose whether the shutter is open or closed at power-off. When closed, it keeps dust from the sensor, but remember the shutter curtains are actually more delicate and easy to damage than the sensor with its protective filter.
Above: Moving onto photo quality, the R6 captures images with 5472×3648 pixels vs 8192×5464 on the R5, and you can choose to record any combination of JPEG and 14 bit RAW files, with compressed RAW also available. As first seen on the 1Dx III, you can also enable HDR PQ to switch JPEG to the 10 bit HEIF format if preferred, and I have a separate video all about how Canon implements HEIF.
Above: Both the R5 and R6 are fast shooters, able to fire-off long bursts at 12fps using the mechanical shutter – two more than most Sonys – and here’s how it sounds – apologies for the windy conditions. Canon quotes 1000 JPEG or 240 RAW images on the R6. There’s also silent shooting with an electronic shutter up to 20fps with autofocus, although I can’t comment on rolling shutter yet.
Above: The R5 and R6 become Canon’s first interchangeable lens cameras with built-in sensor-shift stabilisation, or IBIS for short, and the company is making ambitious claims with up to 8 stops of compensation depending on lens. It automatically works alongside optical stabilisation on RF and EF lenses with IS, but don’t assume these will always deliver superior results. The unstabilised RF 50mm f1.2 supports seven stops, while the RF 28-70mm f2 claims the maximum eight, both due to their imaging circles. To illustrate the effect of IBIS on an unstabilised lens, I recorded the HDMI output of a pre-production R5 fitted with the RF 50mm f1.2 lens and you can see it in action in my hands-on video above. Now this is pre-production and may improve further on final models, but I was very impressed by the IBIS on the R5 and R6 and it transforms the use of unstabilised lenses for both photos and video.
Above: Canon’s also improved the autofocus capabilities of the R5 and R6 enough to now refer to them as Dual Pixel AF II. The coverage is 100% across the frame, it’ll work down to light levels of -6EV on the R5 or -6.5EV on the R6 given an f1.2 lens.
Above: Face and eye detection have both been improved with the R5 and R6 able to recognise and track eyes from much further away as seen in this clip I filmed using the RF 24-105mm STM zoom; I’ll need to do further comparisons, but it’s looking as good as Sony here. Animal eye detection is also available and works with dogs, cats and birds, even birds in flight which is something I look forward to testing with Brighton’s seagulls.
Above: And now to movies, with the EOS R6 able to film uncropped 1080 or 4k video from 24 to 60p with dual pixel autofocus and up to half hour clips. You can also record 10-bit internally or over HDMI using C-log 1 for grading later, but unlike the R5 there’s no internal RAW; I wonder if Canon may add it over HDMI in the future? Technically speaking while 1080 video on the R6 genuinely uses the full sensor width, the 4k mode starts with the wider dci shape before cropping it very slightly into 16:9 UHD for recording, so like the 1Dx III, the R6’s 4k UHD actually incurs a 1.06x crop. To all intents and purposes though I’m happy to describe it as full-frame, but wanted to be clear. Unlike the R5, all video is recorded in the 16:9 shape on the R6, with Dci being unavailable. The higher-end R5 also sports 8k whether compressed or RAW as well as 4k at 120p.
The R6 may not support 4k at 120p, but it will do 1080 at 120p, something the R5 is currently unable to capture; like the R5, you get autofocus during high frame rate videos and the clips last up to 7.5 minutes, but there’s no sound and the clips are automatically slowed in-camera by four times for playback.
While the R6’s movie capabilities are unsurprisingly over-shadowed by the R5, it’s important to remember it will record uncropped 4k up to 60p in 10-bit with confident autofocus, something that remains a challenge for most rivals and like the R5, Canon’s even finally included zebra patterns to better-judge exposures.Check prices on the Canon EOS R6 at B&H, Adorama or WEX! Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!