The new Canon EOS R6 targeted at professional users is the Japanese company’s latest stab at the mirrorless market, following up on the EOS R and EOS RP out last year.
The R6 looks and feels like the better-endowed EOS R5 that is out this year as well. Certainly, on first glance, you cannot really distinguish one from the other.
The R6’s 680g camera body is beefy and has a deep grip, providing a better hold of the camera when attached with a bigger, longer lens.
Even though the camera does not have a mirror box like a typical DSLR, its dimension and weight with an attached lens are very similar to my Nikon D500, a DSLR.
In terms of ergonomics, the R6 seems to improve on the R5 with its placement of the dials and buttons. The mode dial is where the top panel display was on the R5 and the settings are now read off the R6’s rear screen, The larger fonts here make things easier to read.
Putting the dial on the right side of the camera also makes it more accessible for my right hand to change the settings quickly when reacting to different shooting situations.
The camera is also prompt to power up, which actually makes the EOS R feel slow in comparison. Equally quick is the autofocus system that has 6,072 autofocus points located throughout the frame.
This way, I can manipulate the focus with the camera’s touch-enabled rear screen. Canon’s Eye-AF technology is also able to track the eyes of both humans and animals in very low light conditions, which is great to have.
The other notable innovation is the use of both the 5-axis in-body and RF lens image stabilisers to allow handheld shots with super slow shutter speeds of 1 second or longer.
To test this out, I recently shot a night scene at Punggol Waterway without a tripod with a 1-second exposure. The quality was impressive. Only when I zoomed in close could I see evidence of camera-shake.
The camera is also great for fast action. This is possible with the speedy AF coupled with fast continuous shooting. With the mechanical shutter, you can fire at 12 frames per second; with the electronic shutter, you get 20 frames per second.
This makes it easier to capture fast-moving subjects with no blackouts on the OLED electronic viewfinder. So, this is as good as using an optical viewfinder on a DSLR.
While the R6 does not have the same video capabilities as the R5’s 8K resolution, it still can capture 4K movies at 50 frames per second (fps).
However, like the R5, the R6 is also hampered by heat issues. I discovered this when I did a test shoot at the highest resolution of 4K at 60fps.
Shooting 10-minute clips at intervals to closely reflect a typical scenario, I found that the camera stopped working at the 27th-minute mark. It needed a couple of minutes to cool down before I was able to start recording again.
For professionals who wish to rely on the camera to shoot both stills and 4K videos, say, for weddings and events with no breaks in between, this is a deal-breaker for sure. The last thing any professional user wants is to babysit the gear during a shoot.
Things worked better when I dialled down the resolution to Full HD. This time, I did not experience any heat issues, even when I used the camera for live-streaming and Zoom teleconference (with a Blackmagic ATEM Mini switch).
A note here: you do need to get the PD-E1 USB power adapter for the camera to work continuously during live-streaming.
When connected, the Canon R6 offers “clean” HDMI output without all the overlay information we usually see in the viewfinder. This makes it useful for videoconferencing.
It did take me a while to switch the HDMI stream modes because the settings menu is different for video and photo modes. You also cannot save the video files in the camera when the camera is live-streaming.
Another notable addition to the Canon R cameras is the use of HEIF image files. Called High-Efficiency Image Format, this new image file format is based on the more commonly known High-Efficiency Video Compression or H.265 that allows more data to be stored without the large file sizes of RAW images.
If you want higher dynamic range in your images and videos but are not keen on post-editing your photos, the HEIF image file format is a good compromise.
While Apple has made it easy to use HEIF images in iOS11 for photo-taking and sharing on social media, the same cannot be said when using the Canon R6.
I need to convert these files to JPEG inside the camera before I can send it to my smartphone. Your Windows PC also has to be updated with HEIF and HEVC files extensions before the files can be opened.
To be fair, the use of HEIF files in consumer electronics is still in its early days and more has to be done to make the user experience smoother and more intuitive.
As HEIF files get more popular in the future, the manner in which we can access and use this new file format should be improved in the future. Canon has offered a start here with the R6.
How well does Canon’s new mirrorless camera do, then? The R6’s sensor resolution of 20 megapixels, while plentiful for most users, pales in comparison with the entry-level Nikon Z5’s and Sony Alpha 7 Mark III’s 24-megapixel sensors.
For a camera that costs S$3,999 just for the body alone, Canon isn’t offering as good value as its rivals in the same segment.
To be sure, the R6 is an excellent camera if you are using it specifically for stills. Its rugged body, superb autofocus system, outstanding image stabilisation system and dual memory card slots are what you would expect from a professional camera body.
However, it is let down by lower sensor resolution and video capabilities that fall short of expectations.