It may not have a class-leading resolution but the Canon EOS R6 is a phenomenally good stills camera. Its autofocus system is fantastic and it can keep track of fast subjects moving in random directions with ease while shooting at 20 frames per second. In addition, the build quality and handling is extremely good, making it a delight to use. It's also capable of producing high-quality video, although the 1.52x crop imposed on 4K video at 60p is a bit disappointing. More worrying for videographers, however, is the R6's heat generation which imposes serious limitations on the length of video that can be shot. If you just shoot short clips with a few minutes in between you're likely to be oblivious to the issue, but if you need to record for longer than 35minutes you may run into problems. Fingers-crossed that Canon is able to resolve this with firmware because in other respects the R6 is extremely good.
Similar 20Mp full-frame sensor to the Canon EOS 1D X Mark III
12fps/20fps continuous shooting
Superb autofocus system
Slight crop in 4K video mode
6Mp lower resolution than the Canon EOS 6D Mark II
Serious heat generation issues with 4K video
What is the Canon EOS R6?
According to the manufacturer, the Canon EOS R6 reviewed here combines the speed of Canon EOS 7D Mark II with the full-frame sensor appeal of the Canon EOS 6D Mark II in a mirrorless body. And while the 45Mp Canon EOS R5 is the camera that’s grabbing the headlines, the 20Mp Canon EOS R6 is likely to sell in bigger numbers.
Although it lacks the R5’s ability to shoot 8K video, the Canon R6 can record 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) at up to 59.94fps and Full HD video at up to 119.88fps. What’s more, its full-frame sensor has a similar design to that of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, and it can shoot completely silently at up to 20fps with continuous autofocusing and exposure metering. That’s pretty enticing.
The R5 is aimed at professional photographers and videographers, but enthusiast photographers and videographers are the target market for the Canon EOS R6. That’s a demanding demographic that includes people who want to shoot a wide variety of subjects in all sorts of conditions.
Autofocus: Dual Pixel CMOS AF II with Advanced Animal AF (recognising dogs, cats and birds) supported in all video modes with 100% coverage and up to 1053 ‘AF segments’
Stabilisation: In-body image stabilisation (IBIS) that works with lens IS and enables up to 8-stops of shutter speed compensation
Storage: Dual slots, 2x SDXC UHS-II
Dimensions: 138.4 x 97.5 x 88.4mm
Weight: 598g / 680 g with card and battery
Inside the Canon EOS R6 is a 20Mp full-frame sensor that’s said to be very similar to the one in the company’s flagship DSLR, the EOS-1D X Mark III. The key difference is thought to be a change to the design of the low pass filter.
Like the Canon EOS R5 launched at the same time, the Canon EOS R6 has a Dual Pixel CMOS AF II sensor which means that there’s phase-detection autofocusing available whether you’re shooting stills or video. Canon is claiming a world record for autofocus speed at 0.05sec for the R5 and R6.
What’s more, the whole sensor is covered with autofocus (AF) points and in stills mode, there are up to 6,072 points available for selection. There’s also face, eye and animal AF tracking available, which combined with the 12fps (frame per second) maximum continuous shooting rate with the mechanical shutter and 20fps maximum shooting rate with the electronic shutter, is likely to appeal to keen wildlife, sport and action photographers. And the fact that the AF functions all work in video mode (including Eye AF) is great news for videographers too.
Further good news is that the Canon R6 inherits similar low-light capability to the EOS-1D X Mark III. Consequently, it has a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-102,400. If that’s not enough, the expansion settings take it to ISO 50-204,800. Meanwhile, if you’re shooting video there’s a native range of ISO 100-6,400, which is expandable to ISO 204,800.
This is matched by the Canon R6’s low-light focusing credentials. While the R5’s AF system is claimed to be sensitive down to -6EV, the R6’s AF system can function at down to -6.5EV. That’s incredibly low light and a new record for a Canon EOS camera.
Shooting in dim conditions can also necessitate slow shutter speeds, but that’s OK because the Canon R6 has 5-axis in-body image stabilisation built-in. This works in harmony with the stabilisation in Canon’s IS lenses (except the RF 600MM F11 IS STM or RF 800MM F11 IS STM) and is claimed to offer up to 8 stops of shutter speed compensation. That’s a new high for the photographic industry.
Although it doesn’t have the class-leading video resolution of the Canon R5, the Canon EOS R6 is no slouch when it comes to video credentials.
It can record 4K (3840 x 2160) video at up to 59.94fps, however, there is a slight crop (1.07x) as only 94% of the horizontal area of the sensor is used. This 4K video is produced by oversampling from 5.1K for better quality.
If you shoot 4K video at 60p, the crop gets a bit tighter at 1.52x.
There’s also a 4K movie cropping mode available that uses 62% of the horizontal area, which means there’s much greater cropping.
If you want to add drama to action shots, Full HD footage can be shot at up to 119.88fps for slow-motion playback.
It’s possible to record the highest resolution video to an SD UHS-II card in 8-bit H.264 or 10-bit 4:2:2 H.265 and Canon Log is available for greater post-capture gradability.
Incredibly, this is the first time that Canon has enabled a zebra display in an EOS camera. That’s a helpful guide for setting the exposure.
Other niceties include an HDMI micro port (Type D) for connecting an external monitor, a microphone port and a headphone socket.
There’s good news on the memory card front as the Canon EOS R6 has dual card slots and they both accept SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II media. That’s ideal for 4K video recording.
Also, although the Canon R6 is supplied with a new LP-E6NH (7.2V 2130mAh 16Wh) battery, it is compatible with the LP-6N (7.4V 1865mAh 14Wh) that is used in Canon’s recent enthusiast-level DSLRs and the EOS R.
Canon has included Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (2.4Ghz) connectivity in the Canon EOS R6. This enables it to connect to a smartphone or a WiFi network to share files. There’s also FTP/FTPS transfer.
The Canon R6 can also be controlled remotely using the Camera Connect and EOS Utility apps, and it can be tethered to a PC or Mac via WiFi or a high-speed USB 3.1 Gen 2 connection.
Alternatively, images can be transferred automatically to the image.canon cloud platform for sharing or printing. They can also be integrated with Google Photos or Adobe Creative Cloud workflows.
Build and Handling
The Canon EOS R6 has a magnesium alloy chassis and outer panels made from polycarbonate with glass resin. This helps to give it a good, solid feel in your hand.
It’s also weather-sealed to the same level as the Canon EOS 6D Mark II which should mean it’s suited to life in an enthusiast’s kit and is able to take photographs in most conditions. I’d still reach for some sort of cover in heavy rain though.
There’s also a good, deep grip which means you can keep a firm grasp on your investment.
Looking at the top of the R6, I’m pleased that Canon has opted for a mode dial. This means that you can swap quickly between the exposure modes, and check or change what’s set without powering up the camera.
And although there’s a video setting on the mode dial, you can start shooting video in any of the exposure modes by pressing the record button.
There are front and rear control dials on the top-plate and a large control wheel on the back of the camera. These make changing settings quick and easy when the camera is held to your eye.
Further good news is that, like the R5, the Canon R6 has a joystick on its back. This is to the left of the thumb rest and to the right of the viewfinder. That’s useful for shifting the AF point around while looking in the viewfinder but I found it a bit of a reach with my thumb. When I’m holding the camera, I have to adjust my grip away from the most secure-feeling position to shift the AF point.
Canon R6 viewfinder and screen
Naturally, as it’s a mirrorless camera, the Canon EOS R6 has an electronic viewfinder. These have come a long way over the last few years and I’m a fan of them. They enable you to see the image as it will be captured with all the exposure, white balance and colour settings applied. It means you can focus on the crucial aspects of composition and ensuring the focus is in the right place.
While the R6’s viewfinder is the same size as the R5’s (it’s a 0.5-inch type), its resolution is lower at 3.69million dots instead of 5.76million. That’s the same as in the EOS R and on par with the electronic viewfinders in the Sony A9 and Nikon Z7. It’s a great EVF specification for a camera of this level.
If the display performance is set to ‘Power saving’ in the Shoot8 section of the menu, fast-moving subjects look a bit jerky when you shoot them – although I find I can follow them easily enough. Switching to the ‘Smooth’ setting makes the movement look more natural.
There’s also a 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen with 1.62million dots. Again, I’m a fan of vari-angle screens because they make shooting portrait or landscape format images from above or below head-height much easier than a fixed screen. And a tilting screen is only of help with landscape format images.
Both the viewfinder and the screen provide an accurate preview of the image as it will be captured.
Canon has also done a great job of implementing touch-control into its cameras. It means that you can select or adjust just about anything with a tap on the screen, but there’s also plenty of button and dial control available when you want it. I find it much more intuitive to select menu options with a tap on a screen rather than scrolling around and pressing buttons.
Helpfully, the screen and menu icons are large enough to enable touch navigation and selection without making lots of selections errors.
Canon EOS R6 Menu
The Canon R6 is a feature-rich camera so naturally, there are a likely to be few features that take a bit of finding in the early days. However, as you’d expect, there’s a Quick Menu for the most commonly-used items and a My Menu section to which you can assign the features you want to access most often – or those you struggle to find in a hurry.
The Canon R6’s My Menu can have up to 6 tabs, each with up to 6 menu items. I found it helpful to create tabs for key features. My Menu 1, for example, could give quick access to some of the key autofocus controls such as Subject detection, Eye detection and the Tracking sensitivity. You might want another tab that gives you a quick route to swap between the mechanical and electronic shutter and the HDR controls.
I find it helpful to dedicate a couple of tabs the most useful video controls.
It’s likely that you’ll want to tweak the My Menu configuration over the first few weeks of shooting with the R6. You can add and rearrange features as you discover more about them and how you want to use the camera.
Canon also allows a good degree of button and dial customisation. Where there is one, I like to set the lens control ring to adjust exposure compensation as I find this a more intuitive way of working.
This also gets around a minor niggle with the R6 and other Canon cameras. That is the need to tap the shutter release to wake the metering system and enable some exposure compensation to be dialled in. If you turn towards a dark subject, for example, you instinctively know that you need to reduce the exposure. If you use the rear dial of the R6, you have to half-press the shutter release first to get the dial to work. If the lens control ring is set to exposure compensation, however, it works straight away.
The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III is a phenomenal camera so it’s great news that the Canon EOS R6 has a very similar sensor. However, enthusiast photographers tend to be more concerned with detail resolution than the news and sports photographers who use the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III.
So, to put the Canon EOS R6’s sensor in context, its full resolution images have 5472 x 3648 pixels. This means that at 300ppi, prints measure 46.33 x 30.89cm or 18.24 x 12.16inches. That’s larger than A3 size and creating A3+ (48.3 x 32.9cm) prints only requires the resolution to drop to around 280ppi. That’s probably large enough for most photographers – unless you’re in the habit of making dramatic crops.
Colour is also an important consideration and the Canon R6 produces very nice colours with smooth gradations.
I shot in a wide range of conditions during my testing, but I stuck with the Evaluative metering system throughout. Checking the EXIF data of my images confirms that I made quite a bit of use of the exposure compensation control or dialled in different exposure settings to those recommended by the camera. However, the accurate preview provided by the viewfinder and screen means that the images are usually captured as I want them to look.
As I mentioned, I used the RF lens control ring to adjust exposure compensation, it’s quick and easy.
Canon EOS R6 Image Quality
Some photographers may be a little disappointed that the R6 has a 20Mp chip rather than a 24, 26 or 30Mp sensor, but keeping the pixel count down helps enable better noise control.
I found that the EOS-1D X Mark III controls noise very well up to ISO 51,200. My testing reveals that the same is true of the Canon R6. That gives plenty of scope for shooting in music venues (hopefully one day soon we’ll be able to get back to those) and at evening sports events (ditto).
Push up beyond ISO 51,200 and the results remain impressive with the top native setting of ISO 102,400 producing some of the best images I’ve ever seen at that value. Yes, there’s lots of noise in the raw files and the Jpges look a bit on the smooth side, but the colours are good and the noise is evenly distributed with no banding or clumping.
If I was using the R6 for new reporting or evidence gathering, I’d use ISO 102,400 if the conditions demanded it, but for pictorial images, I’d aim to stay at ISO 51,200 or lower.
EOS R6 also has a good dynamic range with underexposed low ISO raw files standing up well to significant brightening. That could be of use to anyone wishing to preserve the highlights of a landscape or portrait image.
Below, the shot on the left is the ‘original’ raw file shot at ISO 200. This was deliberately underexposed by 3EV below what the R6’s Evaluative exposure metering recommended. The central image shows the result of brightening the original raw file by 3EV using the Exposure slider in Adobe CameraRaw. Overall, the image looks good with detail visible in areas that look pitch-black in the original image. Increasing the exposure by 5EV Adobe CameraRaw (the image on the right) has proved a step too far for the shadows, the level of noise becomes unacceptable.
Exposure +3EV in Adobe CameraRaw
Exposure +5EV in Adobe CameraRaw
In reality, I would increase the overall exposure by around 2.7EV and then use the Shadows control to brighten the darker areas further to produce a result similar to the one below, which looks close to how I remember the scene. As you can see, the shadow areas are very dark so underexposing them gave the R6 a tough challenge.
Canon EOS R6 Autofocus Performance
Within a few moments of shooting with the Canon R6, I realised that the Face + Tracking AF system is astonishingly good. It’s simply brilliant when it’s combined with the Subject detection (which can be set to Human or Animal) and Eye detection. For example, it was able to spot, focus on and track the black eyes in the black feathers of Canada geese when I could hardly make them out myself.
It also manages to distinguish between humans and animals very well, and it identifies eyes even when they are very small in the frame. In the image below, for example, which was shot using the Canon RF 85mm f1.2L USM lens at f/1.2, the R6 detected one of the dog’s and stayed focused on it as I moved to compose the shot.
The images below were shot at 20fps (frames per second) and Canon R6 was quick to spot my dog entering the frame and stayed with him for the entire sequence, only moving the focus from his eyes to his shoulder in one shot.
I also tested the AF system with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens mounted via one of Canon’s adapters and it was every bit as good as with an RF lens.
Canon EOS R6 Video Performance
The 1D X Mark II produces very high-quality 4K video, but it’s hampered by the fixed screen. Thankfully, there’s no such issue with the Canon R6. Also, its mirrorless design means that you can switch seamlessly between shooting using the viewfinder and using the screen to compose images or video.
Shooting short clips of Full HD or 4K video with a few minutes between each proved no problem for the Canon R6, and the results are excellent.
The image stabilisation is especially impressive in video mode. When I was standing still, the camera delivered footage that looks almost like it’s on a tripod. And when I was standing in the moving carriage of a train, the footage is watchable. It even coped well with me walking.
However, the much-reported heat generation issue reared its head when I set the camera to record 4K video for a longer time.
Recording the first 30minute 4K (3840×2160) 25p clip was no problem. However, within a couple of minutes of pressing the record button a second time, the thermal warning appeared on the screen. The camera continued to record for a little longer before cutting out with only around 7.5 minutes recorded.
I let the camera cool for a short while, testing it occasionally to see if it would let me record again. After just under 10 minutes, it was recording again, but this time for only about 8 minutes. After that, I let it cool for just over 20 minutes. There was no thermal warning when I pressed the record button this time, but it soon appeared and the camera cut out after 9.5 minutes.
What’s especially concerning about this is that I wasn’t shooting in especially warm conditions, at a guess, I’d say it was around 18-20C in my office at the time.
I have had heat problems with other cameras in the past, specifically the Sony A7 III and A7R III, but only in hot conditions. To double-check that Canon is not being called out for something that other manufacturers also fail on, I set a Sony A7R III recording 4K video at 25p.
I was able to record 2 hours and 40 minutes of video in five 30-minute clips and one 10 minute clip before the fully-charged Sony battery died and I decided that the point was made.
There’s was a five-minute break between two of the clips when I didn’t realise that the A7R III had stopped recording, but the others were only spaced by 1 or 2 minutes. The Sony camera got warm to the touch but there were no overheating warnings and it only stopped recording when the battery was depleted.
Canon EOS R6 IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilisation)
As I mentioned earlier, the Canon R6 has 5-axis in-body image stabilisation built-in and it can work with stabilised Canon RF lenses to enable a shutter speed compensation of up to 8 stops.
When I was shooting with the RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM at L 70mm, I got around a third of my images sharp when hand-holding 1-second exposures. That’s a compensation factor of between 6 and 7EV.
That means it’s possible to blur water and crowds of people while still getting motionless objects sharp without using a tripod.
Even without the Digital Stabilisation activated, the R6’s stabilisation is excellent in video mode. I shot quite a bit of footage while crouched down and not adopting an especially stable position, yet the footage is good. And when I was standing with the camera at waist-level, it looks like the camera is on a tripod.
I’m not the best at run-and-gun shooting, but the Canon R6 delivered watchable results when I filmed as I walked with the camera – you can see an example in the 4K video lower down in this review.
Canon EOS R6 Battery Life
Canon claims that the EOS R6 battery lasts for 380 shots when the EVF is used to compose images (with the EVF in power-saving mode) or 510 images when the screen is used in power-saving mode.
I stuck with the power-saving modes during the course of a shoot that lasted about 4 hours and I was able to shoot just over 800 images (raw and Jpeg, so that’s over 1600 files). Around 400 of those were shot at 20fps, plus I recorded just over 17 minutes of Full-HD video, and the battery indicator still had two bars showing.
This video was shot on the Canon EOS R6 at 1920×1080 and 25fps. The camera was handheld throughout and I was standing in the train carriage as it moved. The electronic stabilisation was turned off, but the in-body and lens image stabilisation was active. Some of the footage was shot in Canon Log and it’s shown ungraded and with a basic grade applied. The audio was all recorded using the internal mic and it was a breezy day.
The video below was shot on the Canon EOS R6 in 4K (3840×2160) and mainly 25fps. There’s a short clip that was shot at 50fps and that is slowed down to 25fps. The camera was handheld throughout and the electronic stabilisation was turned off, but the in-body and lens image stabilisation was active.
Canon is billing the EOS R6 as a mirrorless blend of the full-frame 26.2Mp EOS 6D Mark II and the APS-C format 20.2Mp EOS 7D Mark II. Some Canon 6D Mark II photographers might be a little disappointed in taking a 6Mp drop in resolution to switch the R6, but, the Canon R6 handles noise considerably better than the 6D Mark II.
Furthermore, in reality, the R6’s images are probably large enough for most people apart from those in the habit of making dramatic crops.
In addition, the autofocus system is nothing short of amazing. It transforms photographing wildlife, people and pets.
Canon’s control arrangement on the R6 and use of touch control is excellent and the vari-angle screen is a real asset. Aside from the odd niggle, the R6 is a very pleasant and enjoyable camera to use.
In many ways, I think that the Canon EOS R6 is excellent, but there’s a nagging doubt about its video capability. It’s fine for short clips, but if you need to shoot 4K video continuously for longer than about 35 minutes it gets tricky.
While the R5 has 8K video capability, when I first learned about the Canon R5 and R6, I thought that the R6 might be the videographer’s camera while the R5 would be the model for people wanting to shoot high-resolution still images. At the moment, I can’t recommend the R6 for video because of the limitations to its 4K recording capability. I hope that Canon is able to address this issue with a firmware upgrade because the R6 could be the camera that many people want.