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Review: Canon EOS R6 – a comparison. Is it as good as the EOS R5?

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I reviewed the Canon EOS R5, a full frame 45Mp mirrorless camera two weeks ago, with photograph examples last week. This week – the followup with the smaller brother to the R5 – the R6. I put it on its paces, mainly shooting watches, but also a few portraits along the way. How does it compare to the more expensive R5. Let’s find out.

Canon EOS R6

The Canon EOS R6 retails for S$3,999 inclusive of GST in Singapore. For comparison, the R5 retails for S$6,199. Lenses are the same as for the R5 review, and we had on loan the EF 100mm f/2.8 L Macro IS USM (S$1,469), RF 15-35mm f/2.8 L IS USM (S$3,559) and RF 50mm f/1.2 L USM (S$3,649). And the EF-EOS R Mount Adapter (S$159).

The mode of employment I use the EOS R6 – with the EF 100 f/2.8L Macro with the EF Adapter.

The two cameras, the EOS R5 and R6 were announced at the same time. The R5 is the so called bigger brother, more pixels, superior video capability. And got the bulk of the adoration and later with the heat issues recording 8k video came the bulk of the dissing. As mentioned in my R5 review, I did not do any video on it, so will not comment on the heating issues, as on photography, the camera works very very well. Like any professional camera could.

Please read the Canon EOS R5 Review and the Photograph notes first.

The EOS R6 stayed somewhat below the radar, an excellent performer, but without any screaming world premier specifications, remains a quiet workhorse.

Similarities and differences between R5 and R6

The Canon EOS R5 on the left and the R6 on the right. Both are roughly similar in size, with the R5 slightly bulkier. The actual dimensions are almost exactly the same. The R6 looks slightly smaller here due to it being a bit further from the camera than the R5. Note the R6’s lens mount looks smaller, but as they are the same mount is exactly the same as the one on the R5.

In summary, here are the similarities

  • body size of both cameras are almost exactly the same, 138 x 97.5 x 88.4mm for the R6, 0.4mm thicker at the grip. The R6 is slightly lighter weighing in at 598g for the body only vs 650g for the R5.
  • sensor size. Both cameras feature a full frame 36mm x 24mm sensor size.
  • lens ecosystem. Both cameras use the same RF mount, and have access to same huge universe of lenses – from the rather new and superb RF native lenses, to EF lenses adapted by a native adapter, or via other adapters to almost any lens in the market today or yesterday.
  • Both cameras feature the same excellent IBIS and the class leading Dual Pixel Autofocus system. The Dual Pixel Autofocus is particularly impressive, and locks on to focus almost instantly, and accurately. The autofocus also features various modes, including continuously tracking, people recognition, face recognition and animal recognition modes, which all work wonderfully.

The key differences are

  • the biggest differentiator is the sensor density- the R5 has 45Mp in the same sensor dimension as 20Mp on the R6. The R6 thus has larger pixels, called sensor pitch in the industry. This has implications on diffraction limits and light gathering capability. The R6 sensor will start to show diffraction at smaller apertures than the R5. And will be more efficient in light gathering. The other interesting fact is that the R6’s sensor is the exact same sensor as in the one in Canon’s flagship 1DX mkiii.
  • this translate to better ISO performance. The R6 is rated to 102,400 instead of 50,100 on the R5, with both having a base ISO of 100. At normal operating ISOs from 100 to about 3200, I did not notice any appreciable difference between the cameras.
  • the most obvious physical difference is the button layout, with the R6 having fewer buttons and a simpler layout without a top LCD.
  • the resolution of the rear LCD and EVF is also different, with the R5 having a class leading 2.1m dots and 5.76 m dots for LCD and EVF, compared the R6’s 1.62m dots and 3.62m dots respectively. In practice, I did not notice this difference unless switching back and forth between both cameras.
  • the R6 also uses two SD card slots, instead of 1 CF Express + 1 SD card on the R5. The CF Express is a much faster technology, and essential for the 8k video capable R5. Two UHS-II SD slots in the R6 is good enough for even the fastest frame rates. Incidentally both R5 and R6 have the same max frame rates of 12/20 FPS on mechanical shutter/electronic shutter respectively.

R6 image quality

Image quality is excellent. The entire system is easy to use, and totally predictable. This is essential for use as a professional system, where every time the camera is used, it should be making money for the photographer. And to this end, the R6, and the R5, is a model. Both cameras just work. And work very well, as intended. During the weeks it spent shooting by my hand, it never failed once, nor did it suffer from any glitch. This is not always the case for the other cameras that I have used.

The image quality speaks for itself, and I invite you to review the photographs in the watch reviews that I photographed with the Canon EOS R6.

Moser Streamliner Center Seconds

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Kingsman Knife watch

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Memovox

Glashutte Original Senator Chronometer

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition SFTI

Reservoir GT Tour

Blancpain Bathyscape Chronographe

Blancpain Bathyscape Day Date

Zenith El Primero Defy 21 Black and White Chronograph

Zenith Chronomaster Revival Shadow

Yema Superman Bronze

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Chronograph smoke blue dial

Bell & Ross BR 05 Chronograph

I even shot non-watch reviews with the R6:

Leica M10-R

And a few portraits…

Alan Teo, Boutique Manager at L’Atelier by The Hour Glass. EOS R6 with RF50 at f/1.2, hand held in available light.

I made other portraits of family and friends, but will decline to show these here. I also photographed a wedding studio session. Here is one photograph from that stack, showing the rings. At f/5.6 the depth of field is still rather slim, the plane of focus of the two rings and the sliver of fabric is in sharp focus, while the rest is a dreamy bokeh.

Happily ever after. His and Hers platinum wedding rings. EOS R6 + EF100Macro.

Concluding thoughts

In many ways the R6 is as good as the R5. The pick up and go capability to always work, and work as intended with no fuss is the same. The excellent ergonomics of the body is the same, I don’t really notice the difference in resolution of the EVF and read LCD, though they are significant. The lens ecosystem is the exactly the same. And though technically the R5 has a better sensor – 45Mp vs only 20Mp, the R6’s smaller pixel density allows better diffraction limits and low light performance, though for my use case, both differences are noticeable, but very small.

But the files are a big difference. The 20Mp files are much smaller, easier to store and manipulate. For the most part – web images and small prints (up to double page magazine spreads), the 20Mp of the R6 is more than enough. After all, this is the very same sensor as the top of the line Canon EOS 1Dx mkiii.

In the final analysis, the EOS R6 is an excellent camera. Some enthusiasts may label the Canon EOS R system as without soul, but no one can doubt it as a reliable, solid workhorse which is highly capable of producing outstanding results.

So which do I recommend? Well, it depends on your needs. If you need a camera for everyday use, as well as shooting some high speed action and watches, the R6 is a great choice. For my needs, this is my preferred option, as I have adopted the dual camera strategy philosophy. I have a medium format camera for large prints and critical work, and a lower Mp camera for web and more generic photography. The R6 indeed does put up a good case, even against its own bigger brother. And for many, perhaps most use cases, is the better camera.

However, if you need ultra high performance for large prints,, then the R5 is a better option, but you have to pony up the premium. The R5 is currently the top of the line Canon mirrorless camera, and is the highest speced, until the rumoured R1 is announced, possibly 1Q21.

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