Canon EOS R6 long term review – 12 months later
September 7, 2021
Canon EOS R6
Price as Reviewed:£2,599.00 (body only)
It’s been a year since Canon launched the full-frame mirrorless EOS R6. Matty Graham looks back on his first 12 months with this competitive all-rounder.
Canon EOS R6 at a glance
- £2,599 body only
- 20MP full-frame sensor
- ISO 50-204,800 (extended)
- 20fps continuous shooting
- 3.69m-dot EVF, 0.76x magnification
- 3in fully articulated touchscreen
- 5-axis in-body image stabilisation
- 4K 60p video
A little over a year ago, Canon EOS 5D Mark IV users faced a stark choice. Stick with a DSLR that was growing long in the tooth or jump ship to mirrorless. Initially the choice was between the EOS R (basically a mirrorless 5D Mark IV) or the stripped-back, simplistic EOS RP. But then Canon brought out its big guns, the EOS R5 and R6. These were the firm’s first full-frame mirrorless models to feature in-body image stabilisation (IBIS), along with a whole lot of other features and cutting-edge tech, too.
Of course, the flagship EOS R5 stole the headlines, with its 45MP sensor, 20 frames per second shooting and 8K video recording. But its premium price-tag meant that most existing full-frame Canon shooters, including myself, would plump for the 20MP all-rounder EOS R6 instead. So, how has my first year with this camera gone?
First impressions of Canon EOS R6
I’ve owned a huge number of Canon EOS cameras before; far too many to count but the list includes every 5D, both 7Ds, a 6D and many cameras from the XXD line, such as the 40D, 80D and 90D. Whenever I’ve taken on a new body, the change in handling has been seamless, but I have to admit that the R6 took a little relearning.
The smaller, slimmer body has less space for controls and has too few buttons for my liking. Unlike the EOS R and R5, it also lacks a top plate LCD. I didn’t realise how much I used this until I found myself glancing down at the EOS R6, only to remind myself that it unfortunately misses this feature.
What’s more, I had to get used to the lighter and more compact body. The EOS R6 is over 200g lighter than the 5D Mark IV, that’s nearly a quarter of the bulk missing (680g v 890g). It’s smaller in the hands too, with the R6 measuring 138x98x88mm compared to the larger 5D Mark IV (151x116x76mm). On the other hand, only two out of the nine lenses I own are RF mount, and the extra length of adding in the EF-RF Mount Adapter to accommodate my EF lenses takes some getting used to.
The adapter was actually a bit of an issue for me; halfway through the year I needed an additional one, as I used the first with my C70 cinema camera. But getting hold of one was like trying to order hens’ teeth. With every website out of stock, I lucked out on a used dealership and I was good to go again, but this was definitely a frustration.
I must be honest and say that I find the actual feel of the camera somewhat underwhelming, as the texture and surface of the body materials feels less premium than what I was used to with the 5D Mark IV. It just feels less pro-spec and certain components like the battery compartment flap trouble me.
Then again, I freely admit that after a year’s intense use, nothing on the camera has gone wrong and this is despite using the R6 in the odd shower.
Plenty of deal-makers
The advantages that the mirrorless EOS R6 boasts over Canon’s DSLRs are mainly to do with focusing and speed.
However, the vari-angle LCD is also an absolute game-changer for me and allows me to compose low imagery in a flash without needing to lie down on the ground and squint through a viewfinder.
The touch-sensitive LCD is a dream to use and I found the accuracy of tapping on a subject, with the focus system then picking up exactly what I intended, was seriously reliable.
In fact, the focus system as a whole is a massive leap forward. For sports photography, I leave the Face Detection mode on and my hit rate of sharp shots is ridiculously high. It’s not completely infallible and underexposed scenes will make things harder, but in a year’s worth of constant photography, it delivers a hit rate of more than nine out of ten.
To fine-tune your focusing system further, the R6 offers a number of preset options that will change the behaviour of the Servo mode; for example, there’s one to track subjects while ignoring possible obstacles, and another that instantly focuses on subjects suddenly entering AF point coverage. It’s worth spending an afternoon trying out each one to see how they work for your style of action photography.
It is, however, the burst speeds available from the R6 that will really push DSLR photographers to make the leap, as the R6 serves up 12 frames per second in burst mode or a rapid 20 frames per second option when the user switches to the silent electronic shutter. The advantages of such a mode to wildlife photographers are obvious, enabling them to capture fast action sequences without distracting or spooking subjects.
Shooting multiple fast burst sequences will be a draw on battery life; the R6 is rated at 510 shots using the LCD, or 380 shots with the viewfinder. But the good news is that while the R6 ships with the newer LP-E6NH, it can also take the older LP-E6N batteries from Canon EOS DSLRs such as the 5D Mark IV and the 90D, so if you’re transitioning across to mirrorless you won’t have to rush out and spend big on extra batteries.
Is the EOS R6 fast and accurate enough to be a genuine alternative to Canon’s pro-spec EOS-1D X cameras? I would say yes and, if the small form factor bothers you, photographers can also consider pairing the camera with the Canon BG-R10 grip, which retails at around £400 and will also extend shooting time thanks to the extra battery.
What’s more, the final deal-maker and long overdue addition from Canon is the presence of IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilisation), which I have found to perform exceptionally well. Pair the EOS R6 with an IS lens and you can get up to eight stops of stabilisation, which is hugely useful when shooting with long focal lengths above 200mm, or in low light. Canon DSLR shooters who have been denied IBIS for so long may need some time to trust the system because you can capture sharp shots that were simply unattainable before.
Impressive image quality
When it comes to sensor resolution, 20.1 million pixels doesn’t sound like a lot, especially when the R5 offers 45MP. But the EOS R6 still delivers a file size of 5472 x 3648 pixels – easily enough to create A3 prints or crop heavily on images intended for web use. In reality, that should be enough for enthusiasts and professionals alike, and the actual quality of the imagery is clean and impressive with that Canon colour science we’ve always known and loved.
With a native ISO range of 100-102,400, the R6 is well set to record images in low light. While few will consider shooting at the highest end of the range, the sensor handles noise incredibly well, with little sign of degradation even at ISO 40,000. Raw files hold a huge amount of tonal data, enabling shadows to be revealed and highlights recovered.
This again nudges the camera’s performance into the pro-spec arena, surpassing what you’d get from an entry-level full-frame camera. As the icing on the cake, the EOS R6 offers both standard Raw and the smaller C-Raw files, which take up less space on your SD cards or hard drives with no loss in quality.
A true hybrid
Many of the creatives who handed over the cash for their EOS R6 some 12 months ago will have been just as interested in the camera’s video specifications as its stills technology. This is a genuine hybrid machine that will fit neatly into a film-makers kit set-up.
Offering 4K video at 60p enables videographers to use this footage at half-speed, opening up the option of ultra-high-quality slow-motion sequences. Of course, you can also take advantage of the Full HD 120p for even slower footage. Make no mistake, the lightweight build makes the R6 an excellent ‘run and gun’ option for filmmakers looking to shoot light.
A year ago the camera shipped with Canon’s C-Log 1 profile, but a recent firmware upgrade has added the Canon C-Log 3 option too, enabling more creative options when grading footage. The combination of ports for headphones and external mic, the vari-angle LCD to touch and focus on a subject, and the high-resolution footage combine to make this a fantastic video option. What’s more, the dual SD card slots enable an instant back-up of files to be made.
It’s possible to grab 8.3MP JPEGs from 4K footage if you wish to, but for me the greatest benefit of the R6 comes back to the Dual Pixel AF, which proves insanely accurate and speedy during video capture, even with fast-moving subjects in the frame or when the Face Detection AF is activated by a subject in the scene. The R6 is so good at video, I find I’m using it as much, if not more, than my C70 cinema camera. On a big production, it’s easy to use the two cameras in conjunction, both of which I keep set to the C-Log 1 profile.
Canon EOS R6 – 12 Month Verdict
A photographer’s opinion of the EOS R6 will depend on which previous camera they measure it against. Do I prefer it over my old EOS 5D Mark IV? Yes, absolutely. Despite the drop in megapixels, the improvements such as the vari-angle screen, burst speed and video features tick many of the boxes I was looking to fill.
Yet there are still niggles that make me wish Canon had just pushed a little harder with the R6 – especially given the price-tag, which currently sits at £2,599 body only. Chiefly amongst my grumbles are the quality of the body materials, but this argument is easily countered by the benefits of the light weight. This may be a full-frame camera, but I can even use it on my Ronin SC gimbal to shoot super-steady footage.
Bearing down on the EOS R6 is its biggest rival – the Nikon’s Z 6II is £700 cheaper, offers higher 24MP resolution and sports similar video specifications. However, it’s likely that those looking at either camera will already be invested in one or other of the brands and will therefore own lenses that can be used on that firm’s mirrorless cameras via an adapter.
Among diehard Canon users, many photographers (including professionals) will still be priced out from picking up the flagship EOS R5, which costs £4,300 body only. It’s a shame that the firm doesn’t offer something of a half-way house between the two, in terms of both price-tag and features.
In short, the EOS R6 is a fantastic camera, packed with features that make a tangible difference out in the field. It can cut the mustard for enthusiasts and professionals alike, and for stills as well as video. But if you are a long-term Canon 5D-series DSLR user, it might possibly leave you wanting just a little more. Even so, I’m looking forward to using the EOS R6 for another 12 months.
Canon EOS R6, Verdict:
Despite the price tag, Canon EOS R6 is a true hybrid packed with features for both photography and video.