30 second Canon EOS M6 review
The Canon EOS M6 is an APS-C format mirrorless system camera with Canon’s EF-M mount which means it’s not directly compatible with Canon EF or EF-S mount lenses, but an adaptor is available.
While the Canon EOS M6 has a very similar specification to the EOS M5, including the same pixel count (24.2million) there are some key differences. The most noticeable of these is that unlike Canon’s flagship mirrorless camera, the M6 doesn’t have a viewfinder built-in.
Another difference is that despite the pixel count, the sensor is actually different. However the chip is coupled with the Digic 7 processor that’s also found in the M5 and the two devices combine to produce more responsive autofocusing. In fact the M6 has the best focusing system of any Canon EOS M camera to date and it’s possible to photograph moving subjects.
Further good news is that the M6 produces images that are a good match for those from a Canon enthusiast-level SLR.
Hands on Canon EOS M6 review Key features
|Camera Name||Canon EOS M6|
|Date announced||15th Feb 2017|
|Price at launch||£729.99/$TBC (body only), £839.99/$TBC (with EF-M15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM Kit), £1,079.99/$TBC (with EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM)|
|Sensor size||APS-C (22.3 x 14.9mm)|
|Effective pixel count||24.2 million|
|Viewfinder||N/A Optional EVF-DC2 for £219.99|
|Sensitivity range||ISO 100-25,600|
|Reflex AF system||N/A|
|Live View AF system||Dual Pixel CMOS AF system with 49 points|
|Monitor||Tilting touch-sensitive 3.2-inch 1,620,000-dot ClearView II LCD, tilts 180 degrees up and 45 degrees down|
|Max shooting rate||9fps with S-AF for up to 26 frames in JPEG, 7fps with C-AF|
|Max video resolution||Full HD (1920 x 1080) at up to 60p|
|Storage||SD, SDHC, SDXC (UHS-I compatible)|
|Dimensions||112.0 x 68.0 x 44.5 mm|
|Weight||390 g (CIPA testing standard, including battery and memory card)|
Like the Canon 77D and Canon EOS 800D / Rebel T7i DSLRs announced at the same time, the Canon EOS M6 has a new APS-C format 24.2 million pixel sensor. According to Canon UK’s David Parry, the M6’s sensor isn’t exactly the same as the sensor in the DSLRs and it’s also a little different from the sensor in the Canon EOS M5. He’s not able to tell us what the differences are, between the M5 and M6 sensors, but the latest developments should improve image quality and autofocusing.
As in the M5, the Canon M6’s sensor is paired with a Digic 7 processing engine. This enables a standard sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600 (ISO 100-6400 for movies) with no expansion options.
When using Single AF (S-AF) mode the M6 has a maximum continuous shooting rate of 9fps (frames per second) with a burst depth of 26 jpeg images. Switch to continuous autofocusing (C-AF) and the rate drops to a still very respectable 7fps.
As it’s a compact system or mirrorless system camera the EOS M6 uses the imaging sensor for autofocusing. As Canon has used a Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor (as it has in the M5), 80% of the imaging area can be used for phase detection focusing and there are 49 points arranged in a 7x7 grid.
On the back of the camera there’s a 3.2-inch ClearView II Touchscreen LCD with 1,620,000 dots. This can be tilted 180 degrees up and 45 degrees down, that differs from the M5 screen which can be tilted 85 degrees up and 180 degrees down. This difference in the tilting capability is because of another major difference between the EOS M5 and EOS M6, the M6 doesn’t have a viewfinder built-in.
Canon has introduced a new optional electronic viewfinder to accompany the M6, the EVF-DC2. This 0.39-inch type device has 2.36 million dots and is a more compact and lightweight version of the EVF-DC1 but it doesn’t have the older model’s tilting mechanism.
Canon has included Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth technology in the M6. This allows easy image sharing via smartphone or tablet or Canon’s Connect Station. Once paired with a smartphone the ‘always on’ Bluetooth system can be used to wake the camera from sleep mode and images can be browsed remotely on the phone.
Canon EOS M6 review: Build and handling
Without the viewfinder bump in the middle of the top-plate the EOS M6 looks similar to previous EOS M models like the EOS M3.
Though small, the M6 has a nice grip that’s comfortable to hold. Its polycarbonate construction means it lacks the dense feel of the Fuji X-T20, but it still feels well made.
The control arrangement of the M6 is half-way between that of the EOS M5 and the M3 and there’s a healthy collection of dials and buttons to give you speedy access to most features. The screen is also touch-sensitive and you can do just about anything you want using touch-control, including navigating the menus.
It wasn’t a huge issue, but there were a few occasions when I picked up the M6 and the middle of my thumb pressed the Info button or the base of it pressed the menu button so these screens became active – something to watch out for.
On the top-plate the exposure compensation dial (marked in 1/3EV steps across the range +/-3EV) on the far right sits higher than on the M5 or M3. It’s conveniently located for adjustment and isn’t knocked out of position easily.
Sadly the Dual Function button and surrounding dial of the M5 is missing, but there’s a knurled dial under the exposure compensation control dial and a Quick Control dial on the back of the camera to help speed setting selection.
There’s a total of seven buttons on the back of the camera, plus the four-way navigation pad (complete with four short-cuts). The pad is surrounded by the Quick Control Dial and at its centre is a Q/Set button that gives access to the Quick menu and confirms setting selections. The Quick menu is arranged in two columns, one either side of the screen. You need to scroll up or down to find the feature you want and then left or right to find the desired settings. Alternatively, you can just tap on the feature and setting that you want.
Up to 11 features can be accessed via the Quick menu, it’s possible to select which of the 11 you want to see and arrange their order via the menu.
As you might expect, pressing the Info button activates the information screen. There are four different versions of this screen available for the main screen and three for the optional viewfinder. You can specify which of these screens you want to see via the menu (Shoot 1 > Shooting Information Display > Screen info/toggle settings or VF info/ toggle settings). I found option 4, the Quick Control screen, easier to use than the Quick Menu. When it’s activated you can tap on any feature apart from the shooting mode and then select the setting you want.
The screen provides a nice clear view and doesn’t suffer excessively from reflections but as the optional viewfinder was supplied with my test sample I found myself using the EVF on a regular basis. This was especially useful when shooting in bright sunny conditions on a beach and I was trying to position a graduated ND filter correctly.
It’s easy to pair the camera with a smartphone via Bluetooth and helpfully when the camera needs to activate the Wi-Fi system for the first time (to control the camera remotely or transfer images) you are promoted to copy the password so you can paste it in the relevant box when you open the ‘phone’s settings screen. On subsequent occasions the app may prompt you to copy the password again but if you tap cancel and wait a few seconds the connection is made and you can use the app as you want.
Canon EOS M6 review: Performance
The Canon EOS M6 has a newer sensor than the Canon 80D and EOS M5 and as both of these cameras have impressed me in the past, I had high expectations for the M6. I’m pleased to say that these were broadly met. Images captured at the lower sensitivity settings have a good level of detail and noise is controlled well up to around ISO 12,800. In fact the results at ISO 25,600 aren’t bad but the detail in jpegs captured at that setting can look a bit plasticky. The raw files are better, but naturally there’s some speckling.
High sensitivity raw files also can’t take as much brightening as noise and lack of colour become an issue. At the other end of the ISO scale however, you can expect to brighten raw images by around 4EV or more and still get natural colours with smooth gradation and plenty of detail.
When the Auto Lighting Optimizer is set to its Standard setting the M6 does a great job of boosting the brightness of landscapes beneath a bright sky. In some cases there’s quite a marked difference between the raw files which aren’t affected and the jpegs which are. The raw files can look a bit dark and dull in comparison to the jpegs.
It’s also noticeable that the Evaluative metering mode seems to protect the highlights so although the raw files may look dark they usually have a good range of tones in the brighter areas. This with the high latitude of the shadows at low sensitivity settings means there’s lots of scope for making global or local brightness and contrast adjustments when raw files are processed. Meanwhile, the jpegs often look good straight from the camera.
However, jpegs can look a bit more digital than the raw files. The marram grass in my shots of sand dunes for example, looks a bit too contrasty so they a rendered as bright flecks, the raw files look more natural.
Colour-wise the M6 doesn’t hold any surprises, it’s typically Canon with the auto white balance system generally doing a good job of reflecting the atmosphere of the shooting conditions. That said, as is often the case, large areas of one colour can have a noticeable impact. A shot that included lots of sandy beach, for example, looks rather cold in comparison with another shot taken from the same location with more of the overcast sky in the frame.
As it’s a mirrorless camera the M6 shows the impact of the white balance setting on the screen or in the viewfinder which means if you think it’s going to be off you have the opportunity to correct it before taking the shot. It’s worth mentioning here that the optional EVF-DC2 tends to make scenes look a tad more saturated than the main screen and the final image.
Canon EOS M6 Review: Autofocus
Previous EOS M cameras have been dogged by poor autofocus system performance. While the EOS M5 is certainly much better in this regard, with lenses like the EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM, light levels don’t need to fall far before the focusing starts to slow. I’m happy to say that the M6 is quite a bit better with little of the hunting issues that I’ve experienced with the first M cameras.
Canon doesn’t have any go-to sports lenses with the EF-M mount, and the M6 lacks the level of control that an enthusiast sports photographer might expect, but with the EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM mounted I was able to get fast moving subjects sharp in overcast conditions outdoors.
I found that the best option with a moving subject was to use Smooth zone AF or 1-point AF mode and keep the active area over the subject as the Tracking focus system is prone to jumping away from the subject.
Canon EOS M6 review: Verdict
Although the Canon M6 has a newer sensor and better autofocusing than the M5 it’s aimed at a less experienced market and has less advanced handling. It also lacks a built-in viewfinder but the optional EVF gives you the choice of keeping size down or adding the finder for easier composition in bright light.
As with its other novice- and enthusiast-level cameras, Canon has implemented the touch control extremely well, which makes the M6 quicker and easier to use than a camera without touch-control. There are also high-quality physical controls within convenient reach for setting exposure along with a smattering of buttons to access key features directly if you wish.
In addition, the always-on Bluetooth system makes connecting the camera to a smartphone simple so you can share images quickly and take remote control over the camera of you like.
Perhaps the most attractive feature of the Canon M6, however, is the image quality which is at least a match for the Canon 80D – but from a much smaller camera.