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Canon EOS R6 Mark II initial review

The Canon EOS R6 II is a 24MP full-frame camera aimed at enthusiast photographers and video shooters. It may look identical to its predecessor on the outside, but it gains useful new features for stills and video while providing a refined shooting experience.

Key specifications

  • 24.2MP CMOS sensor
  • 12 fps mechanical shutter (40 fps electronic shutter)
  • Built-in image stabilization rated to 8.0 stops
  • 4K/60p video (oversampled from 6K)
  • 6K ProRes Raw video with a compatible Atomos recorder
  • Raw burst mode with pre-capture
  • Moving subject HDR mode
  • 3.68M-dot EVF capable of up to 120 fps refresh (0.76x magnification)
  • 1.62M-dot, 3-inch rear touchscreen
  • Dual UHS-II SD card slots
  • 760 shot-per-charge battery rating (CIPA)

The EOS R6 II will be available beginning in late November for a retail price of $2,499. A kit with the Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM USM lens will be available for $2,799, and a kit with the Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM lens will be available for $3,599.



What’s new

24MP full-frame sensor

The headline new feature of the R6 II is a new 24.2MP full-frame sensor, up from 20MP in the original R6. That’s not a massive increase in effective resolution, but it does allow the R6 II to match the resolution of many popular enthusiast cameras.

As is typical for EOS bodies, the new sensor is designed and manufactured by Canon. However, despite being the same size and resolution as the sensor in Canon’s current flagship, the R3, it’s neither a BSI nor a stacked sensor. However, Canon says rolling shutter performance is still improved relative to the sensor in the R6. It’s capable of burst rates up to 40fps when used with electronic shutter, though the camera drops to 12-bit readout to achieve this.

Video

The original R6 could capture UHD 4K/60p video but came with a couple of limitations: it forced a slight crop (1.07x) from the full width of the sensor, and video in all modes was capped at 30 minutes per clip. The new model improves in both areas while adding some exciting new features.

The R6 II captures oversampled UHD 4K/60p video using the entire width of its sensor – no more crop. It’s also possible to capture 4K/60p from an APS-C crop of the sensor. In both cases, thermal performance appears to be improved. Canon claims you can record 4K/60p for up to 40 minutes using the full sensor width and up to 50 minutes in APS-C mode. There are no time restrictions when shooting at slower frame rates like 4K/30p or 4K/24p.

High frame rate performance has also been improved, with the R6 II able to capture up to 1080/180p, compared to 1080/120p on the R6. However, full HD footage is not oversampled, so there’s some loss in quality. Canon says you should be able to record for 60 minutes or longer in this mode before overheating becomes an issue. That’s a lot of slow-motion footage.

Our team at DPReview TV did an informal test shooting full sensor 4K/60p using a pre-production unit and had no problem recording for over an hour at room temperature. In a nutshell, it doesn’t appear that overheating will be a significant issue on this camera unless you need to record long clips, like interviews, at 4K/60p.

The R6 II also supports a ProRes RAW video workflow when paired with a compatible Atomos recorder. This includes 6K Raw video using the entire sensor width or 3.7K Raw video using a Super35 crop. The camera can simultaneously record FHD proxy files internally when using the external Raw workflow. Support from Atomos wasn’t available to test on our pre-production body, but support is typically announced alongside a new camera launch.

In other nods to video users, Canon added several features to improve the video workflow. When working in video mode, the Q menu presents a different interface that’s more video-oriented. The camera also includes a variety of aspect ratio markers, both horizontal and vertical, and a false color display that makes it easy to judge the exposure of a scene. It’s also possible to buffer and pre-record video for three or five seconds before hitting the record button.

Autofocus

According to Canon, the R6 II incorporates more machine learning into its AF algorithms and inherits some of the technology from its flagship EOS R3 (but not the R3’s eye-controlled AF system). This should result in improved stickiness as the camera tracks subjects.

The R6 II also includes additional subject tracking modes, going beyond the ‘people’ and ‘animal’ options found on the R6. There’s now a vehicle option optimized for motorsports, cars, motorcycles, aircraft (including helicopters) and trains. Animal tracking now includes support for horses (and zebras, for those going on safari), with the camera set to recognize both the eye and the head.

When photographing people, the camera can now be set to focus on either the left or right eye or to select the closest eye automatically. For more control, it’s possible to set a custom button to toggle back and forth between either eye manually.

However, the addition that may prove most useful is a new ‘auto’ mode for subject recognition and tracking. Instead of pre-selecting your subject mode, auto combines all the subject-specific modes and attempts to apply the best algorithm based on the detected subject. This can significantly simplify the shooting workflow when photographing mixed subjects.

Finally, when shooting video, the R6 II includes a new ‘detect only’ AF mode. When tracking a subject that disappears out of frame, this mode instructs the camera to leave focus where the subject left off rather than hunting back and forth for new subjects.

Raw burst mode

Raw burst mode is a new feature that layers some potentially helpful features on top of the camera’s 40fps shooting capability. It works only with electronic shutter.

When shooting a single burst of Raw images, the camera groups the entire set of photos together and presents itself under a single thumbnail image with a special icon in playback mode. You can then browse the series of images from a single burst, similar to how you browse a group of burst images on many smartphones, and select the best shot(s) from each sequence to save.

This feature has the potential to be quite helpful. In most scenarios where burst shooting is common, chances are pretty good that what you’re really trying to do is nail a single decisive moment, such as a diver at the instant before they enter the water. Raw burst mode allows you to review each burst sequence and save the one or two shots you care about.

Raw burst mode also includes an optional pre-shooting feature. When enabled, a half-press of the shutter button tells the camera to begin buffering frames. Once the shutter is fully depressed, the camera will capture a half second of buffered images, followed by the rest of the shots in the burst.

Moving subject HDR

Canon has added a new feature it calls moving subject HDR. Canon claims this mode can capture additional dynamic range with virtually no ghosting of moving subjects, though it has some limitations. To start, it won’t output Raw files, so you’ll be limited to JPEG. In our pre-production body, it also slowed down burst shooting somewhat. Finally, moving subject HDR raises the base ISO to 800. In our limited use, it produced images that looked over-processed, and we didn’t particularly like the exaggerated results, but we plan to test this further on a production body.

The camera can also create HDR PQ stills, realistic-looking single images suitable for playback on an HDR TV.

Odds and ends

The R6 II includes a high-frequency flicker mode similar to the one found in the R3. It’s designed to let you fine-tune the shutter speed to compensate for things like digital scoreboards and LED lighting that operate at high frequencies.

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How it compares

The EOS R6 II slots into one of the most competitive segments of the full-frame camera market: mid-level models aimed at enthusiasts or even pros.

The bump from 20 to 24MP may not be a colossal increase in effective resolution, but it’s probably a smart move in a market where 24MP has become the de-facto standard, and some models are starting to creep upward from there (we’re looking at you, a7 IV).

The R6 II seems to hit its sweet spot in this group at the performance end of the spectrum. Canon’s well-regarded AF system and 40 fps electronic shutter give it a leg up. It’s also strong on the video front, delivering oversampled 4K/60p from the full width of its sensor and support for a 6K Raw (external) workflow.

Canon EOS R6 II Sony a7 IV Nikon Z6 II Canon EOS R6
MSRP at launch $2500 $2500 $2000 $2500
Sensor size/type FSI CMOS (Dual Pixel) BSI CMOS BSI CMOS FSI CMOS (Dual Pixel)
Pixel count 24MP 33MP 24MP 20MP
Max burst speed 12 fps mech shutter
40 fps electronic (12-bit)
10fps (lossy Raw) 14 fps* 12 fps mech shutter
20 fps electronic
Image stabilization rating (CIPA) Up to 8EV Up to 5.5EV Up to 5.0EV Up to 8EV
Flash sync speed 1/250** 1/250 1/200 1/250**
Low light AF rating*** –5.0EV –4.0EV –4.5EV
(–6EV low light AF mode)
–5.0EV
EVF res / mag 3.68M dots
/ 0.76x
3.69M dots
/0.78x
3.68M dots
/ 0.80x
3.68M dots
/ 0.76x
Rear screen 1.62M-dot fully articulated touchscreen 1.04M fully-articulated touchscreen 2.1M-dot tilting touchscreen 1.62M-dot fully articulated touchscreen
Video max res/rate UHD 4K/60p
(full width, from 6K)
UHD 4K 30p
(full width)
UHD 4K 60p
(1.5x Crop)
UHD 4K 30p
(full width)
UHD 4K 60p
(1.5x Crop)
UHD 4K 60p
(1.05x crop)
Battery life LCD / EVF (CIPA) 580 / 580 / 520 410 / 340 510 / 380
Card formats Dual UHS-II SD 1x CFe Type A / UHS-II SD
1x UHS-II SD
1x CFe Type B
1x UHS-II SD
Dual UHS-II SD
Weight 670g (23.6oz) 659g (23.2oz) 705g (24.9oz) 680g (24.0oz)
* In 12-bit Raw mode
** In Electronic First Curtain shutter mode, 1/200 with full mechanical shutter
*** normalized to use of F2.0 lens

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Body and handling

Body and controls

The EOS R6 II should feel familiar to anyone using EOS bodies. It has three main dials, one for your index finger next to the shutter button, one for your thumb on the back of the top plate, and a large dial on the rear plate, a control that goes back to Canon’s pre-digital days. The dials can all be customized to provide the operational workflow that suits you best.

The body and control layout of the R6 II is almost identical to its predecessor. It has the same grip, the same curves, the same buttons (mostly), the same dimensions, and even works with the same vertical battery grip as the R6. Like the R6, it feels substantial in your hands, and Canon describes it as dust and weather-resistant, though not to the degree of more expensive models like the R3 or R5.

In fact, there are only a couple of notable physical differences between the R6 and R6 II, but they’re important ones.

The most obvious change is that the on/off switch, previously located on the camera’s left shoulder, has been relocated to the right shoulder. In its place, the left shoulder is now the home to a dedicated stills/video switch that looks and feels almost identical to the old power switch.

For existing R6 users, there’s some potential for confusion here, and you may initially find yourself toggling between stills and video instead of turning the camera on or off. Once you get used to it, however, the new location for the power button makes a lot of sense, as it allows you to pick up the camera and turn it on with just one hand. Having a dedicated switch to toggle between stills and video is also handy. However, the switch on our pre-production unit wasn’t quite stiff enough to prevent it from inadvertently getting moved a few times by accident.

The camera’s rear is unchanged, with one minor exception: the joystick on the R6 is slightly concave, whereas the joystick on the R6 II is somewhat convex. This seems like a modest change, but the concave shape of the R6’s joystick makes it easy to differentiate from surrounding buttons. In contrast, the convex shape of the R6 II’s joystick makes it more challenging to identify by touch. On the whole, we prefer the concave design.

The R6 II also shares one feature with the R6 that’s historically reserved for Canon’s more pro-oriented bodies: the ‘Rate’ button on the top left shoulder. It can apply star ratings in the field while reviewing images in playback mode, which are readable by most photo editing software.

Displays and connections

The R6 II has the same 1.62M-dot, 3″ rear touchscreen as its predecessor, along with the same 3.68M-dot electronic viewfinder that can run at either 60 or 120 fps, with 0.76x magnification.

One minor functional improvement comes from Canon’s OVF simulation mode, which debuted on the EOS R3 and provides a more SLR-like display experience. On the R6 II, this feature doesn’t benefit from the higher dynamic range display found on the R3, so it’s a bit less compelling.

The R6 II does receive an upgrade in the form of Canon’s multi-function accessory shoe, which provides support for advanced strobes, microphones, or a Tascam audio adapter that accepts XLR microphone connections and facilitates 4-channel audio.

The camera uses dual UHS-II SD card slots, opting not to include a CFexpress slot as we’ve seen on some recent models. It also includes a USB-C port, mic and headphone jacks, and a plug for a wired remote. There’s an HDMI-out, but it uses the ever-so-fragile micro-HDMI connector, something that’s sure to make a few video shooters cringe, especially if they plan to use an off-camera recorder.

The menus on the R6 II will be familiar to anyone who has used a Canon camera. However, Canon says it has simplified the process of making Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections, something we didn’t get to try on our pre-production unit. The camera also supports MFi connectivity, meaning you can plug it directly into an iPhone to transfer files.

Battery

The R6 II uses the same LP-E6NH battery found on many other EOS cameras, although Canon has improved battery life. It gives the R6 II a CIPA-rated 760 shots in power saving mode and 580 shots in smooth mode when using the rear LCD. This compares to CIPA ratings of 510 and 360 on the original R6.

CIPA ratings provide a helpful basis for comparing battery performance between cameras but often underestimate battery life compared to real-world usage. True to form, we far exceeded these numbers on our pre-production body when used with either the EVF or rear LCD.

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Initial impressions

The EOS R6 II is, predictably, a refined version of the original EOS R6. Where the R6 was a solid camera, the R6 II gives a sense of being a more well-rounded product with the potential to appeal to a broader range of users.

In one sense, the R6 II may be Canon’s best current example of a Swiss Army Knife type of camera: it doesn’t excel at any one thing to the point of becoming a specialty or niche product, but it has the potential to do an awful lot of things exceptionally well. It certainly benefits from the fact that Canon now has several years of mirrorless EOS development under its belt, paving the way for a more advanced mid-level camera.

After shooting thousands of frames on a pre-production R6 II over a couple of days, I came away with the sense that it can be a pretty fast camera. Fast is relative: the R6 II doesn’t have a stacked sensor like the R3 (and at this price point, I wouldn’t expect it to), but if you need to shoot quickly, 40 fps will get you there, and I was pleasantly surprised at how infrequently rolling shutter artifacts showed up in images from fast-moving sports.

Of course, that 40 fps works partly because the R6 II benefits from Canon’s excellent mirrorless AF system, which has now had a few years to mature. Even on a pre-production body, I found it surprisingly responsive, often taking only a split second to lock onto a fast-moving target like a BMX bike flying into the frame from the side. The fact that the AF system now has an auto mode to detect different types of subjects makes this an even smoother experience.

Many of the improvements to this camera come from improved workflows for stills or video. For example, the Raw burst mode has the potential to be a real time saver. The ability to step through each burst, smartphone-style, and pick one or two keepers from each sequence while planted in an airplane seat is appealing. Similarly, the ability to pre-buffer photos before pressing the shutter button can be a huge help when things are moving quickly.

Canon seems intent on improving video workflows as well. In addition to improved video specs and better thermal management, tools like a video-centric Q menu, false color display, and the ability to pre-buffer video for up to five seconds should appeal to videographers. This also adds to the mystery of why Canon hasn’t addressed one of the more common complaints from video shooters: the inability to use the histogram or level gauge once recording starts.

The EOS R6 II is a very capable camera that ticks a lot of boxes. The original R6 was a solid camera, too; in fact, we recommended it in our buying guide as the best camera for around $2000 for a long time, so the fact that the R6 II improves in some critical areas while adding useful new tools is a very good sign. I look forward to getting my hands on a full production model and pushing it further, shooting a more diverse range of subjects, and finding out just how much it can do.

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Sample gallery

All images shot using a pre-production Canon EOS R6 II.

Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter/magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review); we do so in good faith, so please don’t abuse it.

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Author:
Dale Baskin
Source: Dpreview

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