Before getting into my Canon EOS R6 review, let’s take a quick look at Canon’s mirrorless history. Canon’s mirrorless camera development started slowly, with the EF-M system beginning in 2012, but targeting casual shooters. That system has been moderately successful, but Canon has put minimal effort into expanding the system, and 8 years after the first EF-M camera, there are still only 8 native lenses available.
Canon took a long while to enter the full-frame mirrorless world with the EOS R in 2018, but since then, Canon has seemingly focused their entire R&D department into the development of RF bodies and lenses. The EOS R6 is one of two full frame mirrorless bodies Canon released in 2020, and the technological leaps that they have made in just two years of the RF system are remarkable. The R6 has a rather impressive spec sheet, but also manages to bring the technology and the user experience together to make what is an eminently impressive camera. Let’s dive in.
Note: I review gear from a real-world shooting perspective, determining how a piece of gear handles for me in actual use. I also am not a videographer, so my camera reviews cover the still-imaging aspects of a camera.
Body and Ergonomics
The EOS R6 is a bit chunkier than your typical mirrorless camera, but Canon has kept the size reasonable. While the camera is a bit larger than something like the Sony A7 III, the increased size is minimal enough to still maintain a compact footprint without sacrificing ergonomics.
Canon has integrated large, comfortable grips on all of its RF mount bodies, and the R6 is no different. The grip is sculpted to your fingers and allows for all four of my fingers to rest comfortably on it, without the dangling pinky problem that many mirrorless cameras have. Additionally, the dials and buttons are all within easy and comfortable reach while using the camera. As a result of the bigger grip and the relatively light weight for its size, the R6 handles very well with both small lenses like the 35mm f/1.8, as well as larger, heavier lenses. Overall, the ergonomics of the camera are excellent. This is one area where Canon has always been among the best in the industry, and this trend has continued with their RF mirrorless bodies.
While the R6 shares the same general body style and size as the R5, the R6 has a more consumer-grade build, with a magnesium alloy inner frame, but a polycarbonate exterior. The plastic is finished with a rough matte texture, and the camera is well assembled with no creaks or flex, though the seams are quite visible. The R6 has weather sealing, which Canon says is to the same standard as the original EOS-R and the 6D Mark II DSLR. This doesn’t tell us much: just that it’s sealed to a lesser extent than the R5 and the 5D Mark IV. I would expect the R6 to be able to easily handle operation in some light drizzle or the occasional splash of water, but I would be hesitant to use it in a torrential downpour without some sort of rain cover.
Operation and Controls
The R6 and its brother, the R5, have significantly refined the controls that debuted on the original EOS R. That camera attempted to establish a new control paradigm, and some things worked very well while others fell flat on their face.
When I reviewed the EOS R, I lambasted the horrible multifunction touch bar, stating, “I hate this control. I loathe this control. I found it to be the single worst camera control interface ever to be put on a serious camera. … Why couldn’t you have just given us another dial in that location? Or a focus joystick?”
Well, Canon has removed that horrid Multifunction Touch Bar, and added both that third dial and a focus joystick. As a result, the rear controls of the R6 are a massive upgrade over the EOS R. Buttons have been rearranged, and a dedicated magnify button added, while a rear dial sits in the place it has traditionally occupied on Canon DSLRs. The focus joystick is disabled for focus point selection by default for some reason, but a quick change in the settings, and the focus can now be quickly moved by a flick of your thumb.
With three dials for the key exposure settings, the R6 is now very quick and intuitive to change settings on the fly, and with a fourth function dial on all RF lenses, even more settings are available with a quick change. I have set the lens dial to switch quickly between focus modes.
The front of the camera has an IR receiver for a wireless remote release as well as one programmable button that sits below the lens mount, which defaults to depth of field preview. The top of the camera is fairly traditional, with a standard mode dial, the typical Canon front dial that sits above the shutter button, the now standard M-Fn button, a movie record button and a lock button. While the R6 loses the top screen and soft mode dial of the EOS R and R5, I actually prefer the simple mode dial – it’s faster to change and easy to change by muscle memory without looking at the top of the camera.
The M-Fn button allows you to enter a quick menu to change several items using the front and top rear dials, including ISO, drive mode, focus type, white balance and flash exposure compensation. Most of the buttons on the camera can be reprogrammed to a variety of functions, which allows flexibility and customizability when setting up the camera. Canon doesn’t allow quite as many functions to be programmed as Sony does, but there are enough options to make the camera feel great to use. Also, for hybrid shooters, the buttons and dials can be set up differently depending on whether the photographer is shooting stills or video.
Key changes I have made in my setup include changing the movie record button to toggle between Single-shot AF and AI Servo AF, and to register the AF-ON button to change to a registered camera setting (in this case, to toggle immediately to Eye/Face detection+tracking while I hold the button).
The Q button activates the quick menu, which allows for changing several key settings in one spot. Unfortunately, this menu cannot be customized, but it still has a nice array of options for on-the-fly changes.
With regards to touch screen operation, Canon is one of the best in the business. Like several other makers, but most notably unlike Sony, everything that looks like it can be touched can be interacted with via touch. Everything from exposure settings during normal shooting, to image zoom in playback, to all menu items can be touched to initiate changes. This is intuitive and flexible, and makes operating the camera quick and easy.
Canon’s menu system is fairly well organized, though a few items aren’t exactly where you’d expect them to be, so there is still some learning curve. Items are clear and well thought out. Like most other camera makers today, Canon has a customizable personal menu called “My Menu” to add multiple pages of settings for quick access.
And in a change that will make any serious RF mount shooter happy: yes, the EOS R6 has two card slots. Unlike the R5, which has one CF Express card and one SD card slot, the EOS R6 has twin UHS-II SD card slots. You can select to write the same thing to each card, select which card is used for videos or stills, or tell the camera to write different file formats to different cards. Typically I have set my dual card cameras to shoot RAW to one card and JPEG to the second, but with the R6 I have both set to record RAW for redundancy in case of card failure, as full size JPEGs are automatically created when sharing photos over WiFi.
Overall, the R6 represents a substantial upgrade in operational use over the EOS-R, and offers flexibility in setup for each shooter. While the customizable options aren’t quite as flexible as on my Sony cameras, there are plenty of options available to make the camera your own. The outstanding touch implementation is top-notch and makes the overall operation of the camera a joy.