What's new and how it compares

Key takeaways:

  • 20MP sensor and processor similar to 1D X III give fast shooting capabilities
  • In-body and in-lens stabilization collaborate to give impressive 8EV correction rating
  • Autofocus and subject tracking improved over the 1D X III
  • UHD 4K at up to 60p in up to 10-bit 4:2:2 from 94% of sensor width
  • Overall spec looks competitive with peers for both stills and video

Sensor and processor

We're showing the sensor in this photo but, like the original EOS R, the R6's shutter usually comes down to keep dust off the sensor when the camera is turned off.

The R6 is built around a variant of the 20MP sensor originally seen in the EOS-1D X III. Canon doesn't specify the difference but there's noticeably no mention of the R6 using the expensive '16-point' anti-aliasing filter from the flagship camera, which is a likely distinction (we'd expect the R6's AA filter to be the more conventional type).

This sensor has already shown itself to be a solid performer, with decent (though not stellar) dynamic range and impressive readout speeds for stills and video capture.

The sensor is combined with the a 'Digic X' branded processor, which promises good things in terms of AF tracking performance: an area in which the 1D X III (in live view mode) excels.

This combination of fast readout and abundant processing power helps underpin both the camera's autofocus and burst shooting capabilities. In mechanical shutter mode the R6 can shoot at up to 12 frames per second, with full autofocus, while in electronic shutter mode it will match the 1D X III's top speed of 20 fps.

The camera defaults to using its electronic first curtain shutter (EFCS) but you can choose fully electronic shutter for silent shooting or fully mechanical for high shutter speeds where EFCS can have detrimental impact on the bokeh in your images. There's no auto mode to make this switch for you, though.

Image stabilization

Up until now, the distinction between IBIS systems has been a question of whether the in-body system hands-off some of the work to in-lens IS units, or whether both in-body and lens systems work simultaneously for pitch and yaw correction.

Canon takes this further by having the two systems constantly communicating. This means the lens IS gains information from the in-camera movement sensors and gyros, and the in-body system gains information from the lens' sensors. By co-ordinating their efforts, Canon has been able to deliver a system rated at up to 8 stops of correction.

Lens Degree of correction
8.0 EV
  • 24-70mm F2.8 L IS
  • 24-105mm F4 L IS
  • 28-70mm F2 L
  • 85mm F1.2 L
  • 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS
  • 85mm F2 Macro IS
7.5 EV
  • 70-200mm F2.8 L IS
7.0 EV
  • 35mm F1.8 Macro
  • 50mm F1.2 L
  • 15-35mm F2.8 L IS
6.5 EV
  • 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS
6.0 EV
  • 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 IS

The precise amount of correction varies depending on the lens, but Canon says the large image circle projected by the new RF designs allows the majority of them to hit this maximum figure.

Autofocus

Out-of-camera JPEG.
ISO 100 | 1/100 sec | F2.8 | Canon RF 50mm F1.2L
Photo: Dan Bracaglia

For autofocus, the R6 uses what Canon calls Dual Pixel AF II, in which each pixel is made up from a left- and a right-looking sub-pixel. The difference between what the two pixel halves 'see' allows the camera to perform 'phase detection' autofocus. The upshot is that the entire sensor can function as a depth-aware focus sensor, which helps provide 100% AF coverage and benefits both stills and video AF.

In inherits Canon's most advanced AF system yet, which includes a subject recognition system trained by machine learning. This is able to recognize eyes, faces and heads, meaning that the camera will remain focused on your subject even if they temporarily look away from you. It's also been trained to recognize the eyes, heads and bodies of some types of animal, and let you choose whether the system should prioritize human subjects, animals or make no prioritization.

The R6 uses both the processor and algorithms from the pro-sports 1D X Mark III body, and Canon say the tracking may be even better. The camera also provides the same AF configuration settings, which lets you select a 'Case' that describes the movement of your subject. These include an 'Auto' case that it supposed to adapt to the subject you're shooting as it detects its movement.

Video

The video spec of the R6 isn't as eye-catching as that of its more expensive sibling, but it's more than competitive in its class.

The UHD 4K output isn't quite full-width but the difference is very small (it's the same as the 1D X III: essentially DCI capture with just over 3% chopped off both sides, giving a 1.07x crop). It's taken from a 5130 x 2886 pixel region of the sensor and demosaiced before before being downscaled, so it should give a slight detail benefit from this oversampling.

Frame rate Compression type Bitrate (8-bit 4:2:0 mode) Bitrate (10-bit 4:2:2 modes)
UHD 4K
  • 59.95
IPB 230 340
  • 29.97
  • 23.98
120 170
Full HD (1080)
  • 59.95
60 90
  • 29.97
  • 23.98
30 45
  • 29.97
IPB-Lite 12 28
High speed 1080
  • 119.9
IPB (No Audio) 120 180

Despite that being a relatively short list, the R6 becomes the first camera in its class to be able to shoot 4K/60p from a full-frame region (or, at least, very, very near to full frame). It also offers Dual Pixel AF in all these modes. There is a 29 minute, 59 second limit on video clips in all modes.

Temperature limits

As with the EOS R5, it appears the R6's video is quite temperature sensitive. Canon says the R6 can record 60p footage for 30 minutes from the full width of its sensor, 35 minutes from a cropped APS-C region, and 40 minutes of 30p from the full width at standard room temperature (though individual clips are limited to 29:59). This may rule out extended shooting in warm conditions.

We tested these claims and found them to be true, but only when the camera hadn't had any other use.

By default the video is captures as 8-bit H.264 footage but the camera also offers two 10-bit H.265 capture modes. The first is a conventional Log mode, this uses the C-Log gamma curve that distributes the available data values fairly equally between the stops of captured light, to provide flexibility to choose a color and tone response in subsequent color grading (for either standard or high dynamic range output).

The other option is 'HDR PQ' capture, which shoots footage that captures a broader range of brightness values in a format designed to be viewed on the latest HDR TVs. This mode is specifically designed to produce ready-to-use content for HDR TVs that requires little or no color grading.

Log mode has a base ISO of 400, which suggests it's designed to capture 2EV of additional highlights, compared to the standard color modes. Interestingly, the HDR PQ mode uses a base ISO of 100 but advises you to engage Highlight Tone Priority, which treats the base setting as ISO 200, to capture an extra stop of highlights.

Finally, it's worth noting that the camera offers the option of recording compressed (AAC) or uncompressed (Linear PCM) audio via a setting in the Custom Functions menu.

Video tools

On the tools and support side of things, the R6 has both mic and headphone sockets, and offers both focus peaking and zebra warnings. This is the first time zebra exposure warnings have appeared in a mainstream EOS camera, outside the Cinema EOS line.

The zebra implementation lets you either set a threshold value (ie: indicate anything 90% or greater brightness) and a range value (eg 70% +/- 5%). The width of the range is fixed at 5%. These two zebra patterns can be shown separately or both at the same time, if you're able to easily distinguish between left and right-tilted diagonal lines.

Zebras can't be accessed from the Q menu or assigned to a button, so you'll need to use the main menus to turn them on and off. You can, at least, add the menu option to your 'My Menu' tab to make this process quicker.

True HDR stills and video

Another feature inherited from the 1D X Mark III is the ability to output 10-bit HDR files, both for stills and video shooting. These exploit the capabilities of the latest monitors and TVs to show a more convincing representation of the real world.

In both instances, the camera will produce 10-bit files that convey a wider tonal range than conventional JPEGs and done in such a way that can be shown on displays that can show brighter brights and darker shadows tones.

This is comparable to what Panasonic offers with its HLG photos feature, but using the more sophisticated PQ (perceptual quantizer) tone response, used by both the Dolby Vision and HDR10 standards. Interestingly, in both stills and video modes, the camera will not attempt to use different exposures to ensure it captures additional highlight information, instead the menus advise you to engage Highlight Tone Priority mode, which uses a lower amplification-to-exposure relationship to ensure more bright tones are captured.

The camera's viewfinder and rear LCD are not HDR-capable displays, so Canon employs the same workaround that Panasonic does: you can choose whether to see a preview that correctly represents midtones and shadows, but appears to clip highlights that have been captured, or you can preview highlights and midtones correctly but with shadows potentially appearing artificially clogged up. This View Assist function can be set separately for capture and playback modes.

Compared to:

The EOS R6 arrives at a slightly higher price than the original EOS R did, and on par with the Panasonic S1. Its main peers are clearly the Nikon Z6 and Sony a7 III, both of which were launched for around $2000 but, roughly two years later, are currently selling significantly below that.

Canon EOS R6 Nikon Z6 Panasonic S1 Sony a7 III
MSRP (body) $2499 $1999 $2499 $1999
Pixel count 20MP 24MP 24MP 24MP
Sensor tech CMOS BSI-CMOS BSI-CMOS BSI-CMOS
AF system

Dual Pixel
(On-sensor PDAF)

On-sensor PDAF Depth from Defocus
(Contrast Detection-based)
On-sensor PDAF
Image stabilization 5-axis + sync with lens IS 5-axis 5-axis + sync with lens IS 5-axis
CIPA rating Up to 8EV Up to 5EV Up to 6.5EV Up to 5EV
Maximum frame rate 12 fps mech shutter
20 fps electronic
12 fps
(12-bit Raw)
9 fps (AF-S)
6 fps (AF-C and live view)
10 fps
Flash Sync speed 1/250* 1/200 sec 1/320 sec 1/250 sec
High Res mode No No Yes No
Viewfinder
res / mag
3.68M dots
/ 0.76x
3.68M dots
/ 0.80x
5.76M dots
/ 0.78x
2.36M dots / 0.78x
Rear screen 1.62M-dot fully articulated touchscreen 2.1M-dot tilting touchscreen 2.1M-dot two-way tilting touchscreen 921k-dot tilting touchscreen
AF joystick Yes Yes Yes Yes
Top-plate settings display No Yes Yes No
Backlit buttons No No Yes No
Video capture UHD 4K 60p
(1.05x crop)

UHD 4K 30p
(full sensor)
UHD 4K 30p
(full sensor)
UHD 4K 60p (1.5x crop)
UHD 4K 24p
(full sensor)
UHD 4K 30p
(1.2x Crop)
Log/HDR modes

C-Log
HDR PQ
10-bit

N-Log
10-bit (HDMI)
HLG
10-bit
S-Log2 / 3 / HLG
8-bit
Memory cards Dual SD Single XQD 1 XQD + 1 SD Dual SD
Battery life (CIPA) LCD/EVF 510 / 380* 380 / 310 400 / 380** 710 / 610
USB-charging Yes Yes Yes Yes
Shutter life rating 300k cycles 200k cycles 400k cycles 200k cycles
Dimensions 138 x 98 x 88 mm 134 x 101 x 68 mm 149 x 110 x 97 mm 127 x 96 x 74 mm
Weight (CIPA) 680 g 675 g 1017 g*** 650 g

* In electronic first-curtain mode: 1/200th with mechanical shutter
** With SD card: battery life rated at 380/360 shots with XQD card
*** With SD card: 4g more with XQD

Based purely on specs, the Canon is competitive in this bunch: it may have the lowest pixel count but it has the fastest burst shooting and some of the best video specs. Back that up with the incredibly high rating for its co-ordinated in-body/in-lens stabilization system and the price difference suddenly looks easier to justify. What a specs comparison can't show, of course, is autofocus performance or usability.