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.
13 thoughts on “Review: Canon EOS R6”
Another outstanding review…very thorough for the photography-centric things that I’m more interested in than video capabilities. I’ve also been struggling with the “just 20 megapixel” sensor level of detail. So your photos that show just how much fine detail can be captured help with that. Had a Canon 6D for a long time, (in addition to a variety of their APSC cameras) and have a full quiver of Canon L glass already accumulated, so like many, it’d be a lot simpler and cheaper to ‘stay in the Canon family.” I want to give this mirrorless thing a try so bought the RP, but after trial, found the dynamic range so limited i returned the camera while i still could. Am trying to get the nerve up to lay down the $2,500 for this R6. Your review helps. Thanks. Craig
Glad I could help!
Will the rf lens like 50mm 1.2 capabilities can only be explored on the r5 being a high resolution camera ? Or r6 is just as good ?
I mean, top quality glass is going to be top quality glass regardless of the body it’s used on. You will obviously get more detail out of a lens like that on the R5, but you will get phenomenal quality on the R6 too.
Jordan, A quick question if i may – I see you used the Tamron 17-35 f2.8-f4.0 with this Canon R6. Did you adapt it with the Canon EF-RF lens adapter? And did you see any issues with using that (or any other third part EF mount lenses)? A FF wide prime or zoom is the one type of lens I still need to acquire. I’d love for Canon to make a 20mm f1.8 or f2.0 to be able to use for astrophotography. Any suggestions you can offer on what i might want to consider? Thanks, Craig
Yes, it’s adapted with the EF/RF adapter. The lens works beautifully, but as I mentioned in my review, this particular lens doesn’t work with the IBIS system at the moment. Tamron has released a statement saying they will have a firmware update for the lens soon to enable IBIS on the R5/R6. AF works just like native, and optically it’s an excellent lens, especially for the price. I like the Tamron a lot because it’s compact and light weight (even with the adapter, it’s smaller and lighter than the RF 15-35), and it’s faster than the typical f/4 wide zoom, staying at f/2.8 until 20mm, and f/3.2 until 24mm, and f/3.5 until about 30mm. Sharp to the corners at the wider focal lengths from wide apertures, and the long end is also sharp, but not quite as good as the wide end (my RF 24-105L is better from 24-35mm). Make sure if you look to get one you get the newer OSD version, which is much improved over the earlier 17-35/2.8-4.
I also have a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 (manual focus) adapted, which I got on the cheap used. If you find a good copy of that lens, it’s a steal for what used prices go for, and it’s also quite good.
I’m hoping the rumored RF 14-35mm f/4 is a reality and is good optically and somewhat reasonably priced.
Jordan, Ok thanks for all the additional info on the Tamron lens. I’ll go back and re-read your review of that. I too value lenses that are a bit more compact and lighter weight. Being able to have that f2.8 for the widest range will help make it workable for night sky shots. I just bought a used (but supposedly still excellent condition) RF 24-105 f/4 from KEH, so will have that for the range that overlaps, per your advice. I like that 24-105 lens’ longish zoom range yet still decent quality. Means i’ll more often take just that one lens with a medium tripod and a couple filters when hiking. Best regards, Craig
I haven’t reviewed the 17-35 yet (but plan on it)…I was referring to my mention in the R6 review about IBIS compatibility.
Great review as always Jordan. Lovely to see how your family is growing and how your photographic journey keeps going from strength to strength. Although I’ve been happily shooting Fuji for the past 4 years the release of the R5 and R6 have given me a hankering to return to Canon. To help me with those deliberations it would be helpful to know, will you be reviewing the RF lenses in future months. Thank you for the great content and warm regards from Cambridge, England.
Thanks for the kind words. Yes, I plan on reviewing quite a lot of RF gear in the coming months. I’ll have reviews of the 24-105L, 35/1.8, 85/2 and 15-35/2.8, and I’m sure eventually many more.
Just by chance I found your great review, because I was looking for any valid information on R6 overheating when taking stills, as I am still on the fence -to enlarge my A6600’s gear with A9 or just go from scratch with R6. As I am sports/action hobbyist I would like to have near perfect AF-C.
Have you encountered any overheating issues when taking stills?
If you can compare C-AF and tracking in R6 vs A9 in sports (no animals, etc) – are they on par or not.
Tom from Poland
I have never had the camera overheat on me, nor even flash a warning badge. Of course, my action shooting has been done in the fall, and also for limited length of time, but I’ve never had a single hiccup. I have not heard many reports of this happening to people, even event photographers or sports photographers…the real issue seems to be heavy hybrid usage, and the R5 seems to be a far bigger offender than the R6.
I haven’t really shot a lot of sports with either camera – but have done shots of my kids running and riding bikes and such, which, when running right at the camera can be challenging. The R6 keeps up with the A9 for all intents and purposes in my testing. They are the only two cameras where you can have significant motion towards the camera, tracking eyeballs, and you can just count on essentially every shot to be in perfect focus on the eye. Neither camera is 100% perfect, of course, but both are in the mid to high 90s in hit rate. I’d probably give an edge to the A9, but for most people, I think it’d be hard to discern a difference between them for most shooting.
Do know that it has been some time since I have shot with an A9, so I have never compared them side by side, so I’m going off memory. I will say (and do in the review), that the R6 gives me a notably higher hit rate than my A7R IV and my former a6400. Both of those cameras are quite good with autofocus, but the R6 is better, more reliable and more accurate on placing the point of focus directly on the iris. It is also better at choosing the closest eye..something my A7R IV will mess up about 25% of the time. I think if you have a stable of Sony glass, it makes more sense to stay there and move to the A9, but I don’t think you’d have an issue using either. One other note: because the A9’s sensor readout is faster, it also is far better for using the electronic shutter. The R6’s eShutter is fairly quick, but it is about 1/3 the speed of the A9’s, so will show rolling shutter more readily than the A9.
Thank yo for your time and answer. It really helps.
So to recap some pros / cons R6 vs A9:
*Sony: older body with better ES – no rolling shutter effect – 20 FPS silent
*Canon R6 – newer body – FPS bursts dependable on battery charge and lenses – possible RS with ES
Both have comparable C-AF capabilities for sports/action.