While most of the big players in the industry source their camera sensors from Sony, Canon has always made their own sensors for their EOS cameras. In the early days of DSLRs, they had some of the best sensors on the market, but over time, their lead shrank until Sony passed them up a while back, most notably in sensor dynamic range. In the past several years, Canon has been catching back up, however, and the sensor used in the EOS R6 is essentially the same one used in their flagship EOS 1DX Mark III. This sensor is brand new and made big strides in improving dynamic range and achieving good low-light performance. Let’s see how those efforts have paid off.
Dynamic Range and Color
As dynamic range has been Canon’s Achilles Heel for a while now, it’s nice to see that with the R6 (and the 1DX III before it), they have improved dynamic range significantly. There is a great deal of flexibility in the RAW files and the shadows can be pushed quite a lot before they begin to show any real noise or loss of detail.
There is some evidence that Canon is doing some low-level shadow noise reduction on the RAW files, which is a bit disappointing, but honestly: I just care about the final result, and in this case, the files from the R6 seem just as malleable to me as what I am used to with my Sony bodies. There might be small differences that can be measured by instruments in extreme situations, but for real-world shooting, the dynamic range is excellent.
Color has always been one of Canon’s strong suits, and it continues with the R6. Files are rich and vibrant, and overall tonality is excellent. I have always found Canon to potentially saturate greens a bit more than other cameras, but this can be easily handled in post if desired. The thing that Canon consistently nails is skin tones, which look very natural to my eye with minimal color correction.
Detail and Noise
One item that has caused a bit of consternation with some EOS R and even RP shooters who may look to upgrade to the R6 is that it comes with a 20 megapixel sensor, which is a bit on the low side for 2020. I was among that group, having an RP in my stable, and having gotten used to shooting 24-61 megapixel bodies over the last several years.
However, with regards to detail, I think the ‘low’ 20 megapixel count is a complete non-issue. I see little to no difference in actual detail resolved between the R6 and something like the Sony A7 III or the EOS RP. While on paper these cameras resolve slightly more, in practice the difference is negligible. 20 Megapixels is plenty to give you exceptional detail for 18 to 24″ prints and will still yield very good looking prints at 30″. Considering most photographers rarely print larger than that, and many don’t print at all (and in my opinion are missing out), the slightly lower megapixel count shouldn’t even register as an issue, considering the overall quality of this sensor.
Among those excellent qualities is very good noise control on higher ISO images. The R6 is competitive with its competitors in this segment, and I think the look of the noise makes things look even better than a number on a noise chart may show. I find shooting to ISO 3200 yields images with low noise and excellent detail. ISO 6400 and 12,800 images show some noise, but also retain very good detail. I wouldn’t hesitate to use those settings for most any situation where I need to use them. Even ISO 25,600 and 51,200 can yield very nice images for medium sized prints and for web use, with minimal color shift, and a natural look, especially if noise reduction is used judiciously.
Only when we get to ISO 102,400 do images begin really falling apart, and even there, it’s better than most. Color fidelity is still maintained at 102,400, it’s just very noisy. Even the highest ISO of 204,800 is better than I’ve used on previous cameras, with only a very slight magenta color shift. Noise is extremely high and detail takes an enormous hit at these two highest ISOs, so they aren’t going to really be usable for presentation printing, but with proper noise reduction they can potentially be salvaged for emergency web use.
The image below was captured at ISO 20,000 to keep the shutter speed up in dim light, and while noise is visible, I find it quite unobjectionable. Also notice that color and contrast are still very good at this high ISO. A quick run through Topaz Denoise would essentially eliminate the visible noise as well.
As I noted at the beginning of the review, I am most decidedly not a videographer. I take the odd clip here or there, and have done some minor testing of the video on the R6, but I won’t go into much detail here, as I feel there are much more experience reviewers to read when it comes to evaluating video.
The R6 is capable of shooting up to 4K 60, along with several other shooting modes, and with the in-body image stabilization can create very high quality, smooth video. I shot some clips in cLog and tried my hand at grading the clips to moderate success, but the final quality was quite excellent to my eye. I’m sure many of you have read of the overheating issues the R5 has, and the R6 has some to a lesser extent in the highest quality modes. I can’t really comment on that, as I haven’t shot enough video to even get a heat warning. I’d recommend taking a look a look at the in-depth review for video by Gerald Undone here.
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.