Initial impressions

Originally published on August 27, 2019

The EOS M6 Mark II (left) looks a lot like the Mark I (right), but its extra controls hint at greater ambitions. The bundling of the camera with an electronic viewfinder means it also takes the place of the M5.

The EOS M6 came towards the end of the era of the 24MP / Digic 7 cameras, which meant it shot pleasant enough images but simply wasn't as fast or feature-packed at its rivals. This and the relative paucity of native lenses meant that it didn't exactly set our hearts afire.

But, while it wasn't the most exciting camera, it proved to be very likable. It had the most photographer-friendly level of external controls that we'd seen on an EOS-M camera, but was smaller and more convenient to carry than the viewfinder-equipped M5. And, at the end of the day, it was a Canon, so it took attractive pictures and proved to be a pretty reliable travel companion.

So I'm pretty excited about the prospect of an M6 Mark II, especially as the increasingly simplified M100 and M50 were beginning to make me think Canon had written the EF-M mount off as a point-and-shoot format.

Canon has at least introduced one very M6-friendly lens since that camera was launched: the EF-M 32mm F1.4

In this light, the EOS M6 Mark II looks quite interesting. It's still as reasonably small as its predecessor, but Canon has found room for some additional controls. The dials are sensibly set up (so the second dial controls exposure comp if you're in shutter or aperture priority modes), and there's a custom button at the center of that new AF/MF switch.

The EOS M6 II does a pretty good job of keeping up with fast-moving action.

The addition of proper, full-width 4K video with full Dual Pixel autofocus significantly boosts the cameras appeal as a video tool, though the lack of 24p capture is an inexplicable omission [Which Canon says it will address with firmware in 2020]. It's a feature that any 30p capable camera can be programmed to offer and something reasonable number of people may want to shoot. It might even offer a little less rolling shutter than the M6 II's already very good ~17ms.

We'll have to wait to see exactly what the new 32MP sensor is capable of, but the ability to shoot at 14 frames per second suggests the camera shouldn't be short on processing power.

The compact size of the M6 II means it's easy to keep with you, so you can grab a photo if you meet an internet celebrity.

The biggest things that have changed since the introduction of the original M6 are perhaps the position of the EF-M lens system in the Canon world order. With the arrival of the RF mount, it's clear that the EF DSLR mount is entering its twilight phase. It will survive for many years, of course: there are too many lenses already in existence and Canon is likely to continue to create new EF cameras, but its days are ultimately numbered, even if that number is still quite high.

The significance of this change is subtle, but it begins to cast doubt on the idea of the EF mount as a destination for EF-M shooters to head towards. And, since there's no way of adapting the (often large and expensive) RF-mount lenses to the EF-M system, it encourages the idea that the EF-M mount should be considered as an end in itself.

Now that the EF-mount is entering its twilight years, it perhaps makes sense to think of the EF-M cameras as a standalone system, or one that would sit happily alongside whatever else you're shooting, rather than as an adjunct to EF.

Canon has introduced one very M6-friendly lens since the camera was launched: the EF-M 32mm F1.4. Perhaps just as interestingly, Sigma has said it will introduce its trio of DC DN C lenses for the EF-M mount. Suddenly that means you can buy a 16mm, 30mm or 56mm F1.4 lens from Sigma and a 22mm F2 or 32mm F1.4 from Canon, if you want to pair the M6 II with prime lenses.

That may not sound like much, but the ability to put together a kit of well-priced primes – 25mm, 35mm and 90mm equivalent, for example – means the EOS M6 Mark II suddenly looks pretty attractive as a photographer's camera, a travel companion or back-up to sling over your shoulder. And to my eye a self-contained set like this might make more sense than putting money into the dead-end that the EOS 90D appears to be.