Body, controls and handling

Key Takeaways

  • Well built mid-size body with three dial control system
  • Offers the interesting Flexible Priority exposure mode
  • Uses well-established Canon menu system
  • Extensive separation of stills and video settings for quick switching
  • New, 14% more powerful battery delivers decent battery life numbers

Body

The R6 body is almost exactly what you'd expect from a camera whose name alludes to both the EOS R and the EOS 6D cameras. It takes ergonomic elements from both cameras in a manner we've found immediately easy to use.

Canon claims it has the same degree of weather sealing as those two cameras, which is apparently less extensive than on the R5, so it's difficult to get a sense of how resilient it might be, but if feels nicely solid.

The first thing you're likely to notice is that there are three dials: the index finger dial next to the shutter button and the dial on the back of the top plate, as on the existing R and RP, but also has a large dial on the back-plate, as on Canon's DSLRs. The result is a three dial camera (four if you use an RF lens or EF adaptor with a control ring).

This arrangement means you can make full use of the Fv mode introduced with the EOS R, but also provides enough customization to let you set the dials to operate whatever you find most useful.

The R6 gets a joystick or 'multi-controller' as Canon would have it. By default this does very little, so we'd recommend enabling its use as an AF point controller at the very bottom of 'Custom Functions page 3 | Button customization'. The sensitivity (speed) of the controller can then be adjusted in page 5 of the AF menu, amongst the team we found the default and fast settings worked well. Whichever we preferred, it meant we didn't find the need to use the rear screen as an AF touchpad, though you can if you wish.

Another feature usually reserved for high-end Canon cameras is the 'Rate' button on the camera's top left corner. This lets you quickly apply star ratings to your images while reviewing the images in playback mode. The button can be customized (in the Playback tab, rather than Custom Functions), to act as a Protect or Delete button if you prefer, but its real power comes in that you can customize which star ratings it can apply. Personally I limit it to applying three or five stars, meaning I can tap once for 'maybe' images and twice for 'definite's. These star ratings are written to the file metadata and are recognized by most editing software.'

Fv 'Flexible Priority' mode

Like previous EOS R models, the R6 includes Canon's Fv 'Flexible Priority' exposure mode. This is comparable to Pentax's 'Hyper Program' mode: the camera works in Program mode until you specify an aperture, shutter speed or ISO value, at which point those take priority. Alternatively, you can set two of these parameters, leaving the camera to adjust the third. Pressing the delete button hands control of the current parameter back to the camera, while holding the delete button down sets everything back to Auto (you can customize which buttons perform these actions, if preferred).

You can almost see it as a means of making sense of the 'manual exposure with Auto ISO' way of working: giving you access to aperture priority, shutter priority, ISO priority or combinations thereof (shutter and aperture priority, for example) all from a single exposure mode. It takes a little getting used to, but it's a fascinating concept.

Viewfinder and LCD

The viewfinder and LCD on the R6 are both lower than those of the R5 but again, are competitive for the class. The viewfinder is a 3.68M dot OLED panel with optics that provide a s 0.76x magnification.

Like the R5, the R6's viewfinder can be run at either 120 or 60 fps. 60 is the default and looks good, but the 120 fps is likely to be appreciated by anyone adapting to using an EVF, rather than optical finder for the first time.

The eyepoint is reasonable, rather than great and I found I struggled to see the extreme corners of the image when wearing glasses. However, there is a 'VF display format' option in the menus that slightly reduces the size of the preview image, which resolves any such concerns.

The rear panel is a 3.0" 1.62M dot screen, which can be rather difficult to see in bright light (at least, at the default brightness setting).

Two nice additions to the menu relate to how the camera uses the viewfinder and screen. The first is the provision of two auto modes for viewfinder switching: the first uses the eye-sensor at all times, the other uses the eye-sensor unless the screen is flipped out, at which point the rear LCD is given priority.

The other idea is clearly designed for migrating DSLR users: by default the camera doesn't show a playback image in the viewfinder after you've taken a photo. Instead it's shown on the rear LCD once you take your eye away from the viewfinder, letting you choose whether to review your image or keep shooting. This can be disabled, at which point image review occurs after every shot. But the default behavior is very DSLR-like.

Menus

The camera's menus are the standard arrangement Canon has gently iterated on for many, many years now. It's a horizontally-arranged series of tabs with numbers pages within each section.

The horizontal arrangement means it's slower to navigate by joystick than a vertical layout would be, but clever use of the dials (then top-rear dial jumps between tabs, front dial jumps pages, rear face dial scrolls up and down the options), means you can pretty quickly get from one end of the menus to the other. If you're not already familiar with this way of working, the menu is also fully touch-sensitive.

The pages themselves are numbered, so you'll need to remember where different options are, to a degree. However there is a 'My Menu' tab that lets you group all your most-used settings together in one place, if needed.

Q Menu

In addition to the main menu, there's a Q menu that lets you adjust ten common settings. It's a simple, touchscreen affair and one that's exposure mode sensitive (so you only get options such as mic and headphone volume when in Movie mode).

This can't be customized, so if you'd rather have quick access Auto ISO shutter speed, rather than Anti-Flicker mode, you're out of luck.

Video handling

The camera will shoot video in program exposure mode if you hit the [REC] button during normal shooting, or there's a full Movie exposure mode.

The movie position on the mode dial gives you access to a lot more control. You can select manual exposure, rather than program mode, which uses its own settings distinct from those used in stills mode. This means you can jump back and forth (at a multi-position turn of the mode dial), without the settings you're using for one impacting the other.

Just like in stills mode, there are options for Auto Lighting Optimizer, Highlight Tone Priority, White Balance, High ISO noise reduction and Lens Corrections, all of which can be set independently of the options in stills mode.

There's no option to set exposure duration as shutter angle (which would be useful on a camera that shoots 4K/60p), but there is the ability to adjust aperture values with 1/8EV precision. This ends up in the odd position of being able to select F5.6 4/8 (which would more conventionally be known as F6.7), but it does give you finer-grained control over exposure than most cameras.

Auto ISO

The camera's Auto ISO system is pretty comprehensive. You can specify the upper and lower limits and set the shutter speed threshold at which the camera will increase the ISO. This threshold can be a specific shutter speed or 'Auto,' which chooses a shutter speed related to the current focal length. The default Auto value uses a shutter speed of 1/Focal Length but you can tune this to make the camera maintain shutter speeds faster or slower than this (ie: 1/100 sec or 1/25 sec at 50mm).

Auto ISO remains available in manual exposure mode and still gives access to exposure compensation, so you can adjust the brightness level the system is trying to maintain.

In movie mode, there's no control over shutter threshold (movie mode only offers program or manual, so you'll probably be manually specifying a shutter speed anyway), but you retain control over the upper and lower settings the system will use.

Storage

The R6 uses a pair of twin UHS-II SD card slots for storage. This means it can't match the data speeds of the R5 but means you can focus on a single memory format and just fill your pockets with SD cards.

With a fast UHS-II card, the camera's relatively low pixel count means it can shoot over 1000 shot bursts in JPEG, HEIF or C-Raw formats, 240 Raws or 140 Raw + Large, Fine HEIF files.

New battery

The R6 uses new battery: the LP-E6NH. It's the same form-factor as the existing LP-E6N but with capacity boosted to 2130mAh. The batteries are backwards compatible, with the only difference being this 14% increase in energy capacity: now 16Wh instead of 14.

The R6 comes bundled with an external charger and it can also be charged over USB if you have a high current charger. The camera can also be operated using USB power.

The camera defaults to the slower of its two preview refresh rates, in which mode it delivers a pretty respectable 380 shots per charge through the viewfinder and 510 using the rear LCD. As always, CIPA ratings tend to represent a fairly heavy use pattern and it's quite normal to get double this figure, depending on how you shoot. Numbers in the 400 shot+ range are unlikely to give most enthusiasts too much to worry about for a committed shooting session.

The numbers drop by about a third (to 250 shots and 360 shots for the finder and LCD) if you push the camera into its faster refresh rate mode. We'd recommend a second battery if you find yourself regularly shooting with the viewfinder set to 120 fps, or making sure you have a high-current power brick on hand to top-up the one you're using.

A vertical battery grip (BG-R10) is available, which displaces the in-camera battery but provides slots for two LP-E6NHs, doubling the camera's endurance. Both batteries will charge in the grip if you connect the camera to a USB power source.