Camera Review: Hands-on with Canon’s EOS M6
August 23, 2017
Until recently, Canon has kept the mirrorless category at arm’s length, watching as competitors have made inroads and gobbled up market share. That appears to be changing.
Starting last year, Canon has released several new mirrorless models in its EOS M family and while none of them are positioned to compete with the company’s professional DSLRs, the M-series’ capabilities have grown considerably.
In Canon’s refreshed mirrorless lineup, the new M6 sits just below the flagship M5. It shares a host of features from Canon’s DSLR lineup and is clearly one of the most competitive mirrorless models the company has built to date.
The M6 features a 24-megapixel APS-C-sized CMOS image sensor with Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology for rapid autofocusing during video and live view shooting. There are 49 AF points with focusing available down to -1 EV.
The camera has a native ISO range of 100-6400 that’s expandable to 25,600. Shutter speeds range from 1/4000 – 30 sec. Unlike most new mirrorless cameras, the M6 can’t record 4K video. Instead, you’ll be able to shoot full HD/60p footage.
The camera has Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth. You can use Wi-Fi to transfer images and remotely control the camera and Bluetooth for remote control and quicker Wi-Fi pairing.
At 13.8 ounces, the M6 is extremely compact and lightweight, and its weight is on par with rival APS-C mirrorless models such as Fuji’s X-T20 and slightly lighter than Sony’s a6300. While the hand grip is a bit too small for
our taste, smaller hands may find the hold quite comfortable.
There are two customizable options on the mode dial and you can also reprogram several buttons and dials on the camera to do different things. It’s not as ideal as dedicated custom buttons, but it’s definitely better than nothing.
The M6 lacks a built-in EVF but Canon offers a hot-shoe viewfinder as a $250 accessory. It’s a sub-optimal solution. There’s a flip-up 3-inch display that can be brought up over the top of the camera body for selfies. It’s a touch screen and very responsive when navigating menu options or touch focusing.
We did have an issue with the memory card/battery door. You can’t open them if you have a quick-release plate on your camera.
While Canon was late to the mirrorless arena, it’s certainly been plowing the image science fields for years and the M6 is the beneficiary of that heritage. JPEG images were color accurate and vibrant. Image quality on the whole was excellent.
High ISO performance is also quite good. Noise is well contained in JPEG images through ISO 3200. Noise grows more prominent at ISO 6400 and above. At the time of our test the M6 RAW files weren’t supported by Lightroom, but Canon’s own Digital Photo Professional 4 utility did a fair job removing noise from RAW files without sacrificing too much detail (you will sacrifice time in processing though as Photo Professional 4 is interminably slow).
Video quality on the M6 is excellent for full HD quality files. The lack of 4K support is unfortunate but for casual videographers, having AF driven by Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS technology is a huge help in ensuring reliable autofocusing during video.
The M6 did an average job tracking moving objects in continuous shooting mode. You’ll hit 7 fps in burst shooting with AF tracking or 9 fps with focus fixed on the first frame—very respectable speeds for cameras in this class. The buffer, however, takes several seconds to clear and we only hit about 10 RAW + JPEG frames before buffering kicked in.
The M6 features what Canon dubs a Combination IS system that leverages image stabilization in the lens with a digital stabilizer in the camera’s body. The system worked well with the EF-M 18-150mm lens. We were able to shoot at 1/25th handheld fairly reliably, which is a solid performance.
Battery life clocks in at a CIPA-rated 295 shots, which is lower than comparable models like the X-T20 (350 shots) or Sony’s a6300 (350 as well).
In the universe of mirrorless cameras with APS-C-sized image sensors, the M6 competes most directly with cameras such as Sony’s a6300 and Fuji’s X-T20 or the less expensive X-A3. Canon’s offering lacks the viewfinder that’s found on the a6300 or X-T20 and has far fewer AF points than Sony’s a6300, though it is cheaper and offers a flip-up LCD. While the a6300 will cost you more, it’s more feature-rich, offering 4K video, faster continuous shooting speeds and a slightly lighter build. The X-T20 offers a more analogue-styled camera with faster shooting (leveraging an electronic shutter), 4K video and also more plentiful AF points.
Canon’s M6 is not without its own unique virtues however. From solid image quality, a thoughtful design and excellent still and video autofocusing—to say nothing of its less expensive retail price, it’s a strong value.
PROS: Fairly speedy continuous shooting; Dual Pixel CMOS AF; flip-up LCD; solid image stabilization.
CONS: No built-in EVF; no 4K video; meager battery life.