Canon EOS M6 Field Test

A less expensive M5 delivers same good images, performance

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 04/28/2017

Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM at 22mm (35mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/10s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.
Introduction

Canon has been reinvigorating its interchangeable lens mirrorless M series, first last fall with the EOS M5 and now with the new EOS M6, which is the successor to the EOS M3. The Canon M6 packs in many of the new features introduced in the EOS M5, including Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus and a DIGIC 7 image processor.

I have been using the Canon EOS M6 and it has impressed me in many of the same ways that the M5 did when I tested it earlier this year, including the camera's handling and image quality.

Key Features and Info

  • Compact interchangeable lens mirrorless camera
  • 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • 3-inch tilting touchscreen display
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF autofocus system
  • DIGIC 7 image processor
  • Over 9 frames per second continuous shooting
  • Full HD video at 60fps
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth
  • Under US$800 body-only street price
Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM at 23mm (37mm eq.), f/8.0, 1/160s, ISO 100.
I removed dust spots from this image. Click for original image.

Camera Body and Handling: Canon EOS M6 is compact and easy to use

The Canon M6 body is compact, but that doesn't mean it skimps on controls. The camera feels good in the hand and the small front grip does a good job of allowing you to get a decent handle on the camera. The rear grip and thumb rest are comfortable as well.

With that said, because the camera body is small, the controls can feel somewhat cramped. There are a lot of buttons in a limited space. The rear buttons, while located in convenient areas, are quite small and sometimes difficult to press. They also sit nearly flush with the surface of the camera, which can make them hard to find when busy shooting, which I imagine would be particularly difficult if you were shooting using the optional electronic viewfinder attachment, which costs just over $200.

Canon EOS M6 Review -- Product Image

The four diamond-knurled dials on the camera feel good and have nice textured finishes to provide grip. They rotate with a distinct click, which is nice for making precise settings adjustments. The front or main command dial is around the shutter release and is well-suited for making precise adjustments to shooting settings (shutter speed in the case of manual and shutter-priority modes and aperture in aperture-priority mode). The exposure compensation dial is located right above the rear command dial and it requires considerable force to rotate so I never accidentally rotated it while making adjustments using the rear command dial. It's an odd location, but it works. The mode dial can be rotated using your thumb, which is nice so you don't need to stop shooting to change shooting modes.

There is also a programmable Function button on the top of the camera to the right of the shutter release. It's a small button and it can be hard to locate because it sits flush with the top of the camera. The button is in a good spot, but I really wish it had a bump on it to make it easier to find when shooting.

Canon EOS M6 Review -- Product Image

On the rear of the camera, there is a 3-inch touchscreen LCD. The display has about 1,040,000 dots and it tilts up 180° and downward 45°. The touchscreen functionality works well and it accurately reads touches. The menus also work with touch, although not all menu options are easy to touch. The control dial around the directional pad is okay, but it rotates a bit too smoothly for making precise adjustments and feels too loose for menu navigation.

At the default brightness (3 of 5), the LCD screen is hard to see in bright outdoor conditions. The menus are dark with white text by default, which can be tricky to see when shooting outdoors. At maximum brightness, it is much easier to use. Further, the ability to tilt the display helps. Regarding using the display in low light, it's fine, but there's actually a special night display mode which darkens the display and switches the text to a dark orange color. It's not exactly a great camera for night shooting, but that aside, it's a really neat feature for the display.

Canon EOS M6 Review -- Product Image

For shooting in low light or for adding a bit of fill flash, the Canon M6 has a built-in flash on the top left which has a Guide Number at ISO 100 of only 16.4 feet (5 meters). The maximum flash sync is 1/200s. If you need more power, the M6 can take an external flash via the hot shoe.

Overall, the camera layout is good. There is not a lot of real estate on the camera itself, so it makes sense that the controls would feel slightly cramped. The camera would be easier to use if some of the buttons protruded further or had bumps on them. The LCD generally works great, although if you want to use a viewfinder, you will need to purchase an EVF separately (or get the M5). The Canon EOS M6 is a compact camera that handles well and despite its size offers a lot of physical control for enthusiast photographers.

Canon EOS M6 Shooting Features and Experience

Image sensor delivers good image quality

The Canon EOS M6 employs the same 24.2-megapixel CMOS APS-C sensor as the EOS M5. The sensor is self-cleaning and has a focal length multiplier of 1.6x (unlike non-Canon APS-C sensors which usually offer a 1.5x focal length multiplier).

Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM at 33mm (53mm eq.), f/8.0, 1s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

The sensor produces good quality images -- both JPEG and RAW -- with pretty low noise and pleasing colors. I found that the Canon M6 produces acceptable JPEG images straight from the camera at default settings. Dynamic range is good as well, although not the best compared to other APS-C cameras I've used. With that said, dynamic range performance from the EOS M6 is certainly better than the Canon M3 and M10 cameras I have used.

While the camera does employ fairly strong default noise reduction, even at base ISO, which can reduce fine details, the Canon M6 still produces pretty detailed images for its sensor size and megapixel count.

With that said, noise levels can get fairly high at higher ISOs. With a native ISO range of 100 to 25,600, the EOS M6 is a versatile camera, but high-ISO performance is not a particular strength of this camera, though it performs well for an APS-C camera.

Canon M6 ISO Comparison
100% center crops from RAW images processed in Adobe Camera Raw with default settings.
(Click for access to the .CR2 RAW files.)
Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 100 Full Scene
Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 100
ISO 200
Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 400
ISO 800
Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 1600
ISO 3200
Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 6400
ISO 12800
Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 25600

In the RAW crops above, we can see that the Canon M6 produces decently clean images at lower ISOs, but at ISO 800 there is noise creeping in. At ISO 1600, there is quite a bit of visible noise, but the grain is fine and it is easily reduced during post-processing. At ISO 3200, the noise increases quite a bit and would be difficult to remove without reducing sharpness drastically. I would personally not shoot past ISO 3200 unless I were going to be making very small (4 x 6) prints or sharing an image on social media.

Canon M6 ISO Comparison
100% center crops from JPEG Fine images with default settings.
(Click for full-size images.)
Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 100 Full Scene
Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 100
ISO 200
Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 400
ISO 800
Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 1600
ISO 3200
Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 6400
ISO 12800
Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 25600

Straight from the camera, the Canon M6 produces detailed images at low ISOs, but it also performs some noise reduction. At ISO 400, the noise reduction creates a few issues with edges, introducing artifacts in some situations. With that said, JPEG images retain a lot of detail through ISO 1600. At ISO 3200, fine details are washed out by the default noise reduction, but images through ISO 6400 look decent enough for small to medium-sized prints. Beyond ISO 6400, images become very soft and I wouldn't recommend using them.

Overall

The Canon EOS M6 produces good overall image quality overall given its megapixel count and sensor size. In-camera sharpening isn't great and noise reduction can be a bit heavy-handed, but the camera is capable of producing quality images across a fairly wide range of ISO speeds. Unsurprisingly, the EOS M6 is comparable to the EOS M5, which means that it is a step-up over previous EOS M-series cameras and is quite impressive overall.

Autofocus: Dual Pixel CMOS AF works well

Like the M5, the Canon EOS M6 includes the company's excellent Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus system. You can read about this system in detail here, but suffice it to say, the Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology is impressive and it works well in the EOS M6; autofocus performance is fast and accurate.

Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM at 127mm (203mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/1000s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

With its on-sensor phase detect autofocus system, the Canon M6 offers a variety of autofocus modes including: Face+Tracking AF, Smooth Zone AF and 1-point AF area modes. The 1-point AF mode works particularly well with the M6's touchscreen. When using zone and 1-point autofocus area modes, you can select from 49 autofocus points.

Autofocus works quite well in low light, proving to be fairly quick and accurate in dim conditions. The kicker here is that EF-M lenses are by and large not particularly fast lenses, thereby limiting the usefulness of the M6's autofocus system in darker shooting conditions.

Face tracking with the M6 works quite well but it can't keep up with fast-moving faces. The continuous autofocus on the M6 can't keep up with fast-moving subjects in general, but it does a good job identifying stationary people or someone moving slowly.

Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM at 200mm (320mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/200s, ISO 100.
This image has been cropped. Click for original image.

In our lab, the Canon EOS M6 performed similarly to the EOS M5, which is expected given their use of the same autofocus system. Performance was generally quick, especially for a mirrorless camera.

Overall, the Canon EOS M6 offers a sophisticated autofocus system which performs well, offering users fast and accurate autofocus.

Metering and Exposure: Consistent and reliable

The Canon EOS M6's exposure and white balance metering worked quite well in my experience, requiring exposure compensation in limited situations. When exposure compensation is needed, it is available up to +/-3 EV and can be easily adjusted using a dedicated dial on the top of the camera in 1/3 EV steps. The Canon M6 offers evaluative metering (384 zones), center-weighted, partial (10% of the image area) and spot (central 2% of the image area) metering modes. However, spot metering is not tied to the active autofocus point.

Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM at 11mm (18mm eq.), f/6.3, 1.3s, ISO 100.
Click for original image.

White balance metering worked well and auto white balance was sufficient in most situations, with images requiring either no or very little white balance adjustments during post-processing. If you shoot only JPEG, auto white balance should prove very capable in typical shooting conditions.

Performance: Very good overall

The Canon EOS M6 offers very good performance overall for its class. The M6 utilizes Canon's DIGIC 7 image processor, which results in much better performance than its predecessor, the M3.

Single-shot cycle times were twice as fast with the M6 than they were with the M3 in the lab, coming in at just over half a second on the new mirrorless camera. On the other hand, shutter lag time was about the same on the M3, but that's no problem as the full autofocus single-shot shutter lag of 0.126 second was already quite good.

Looking at high-speed continuous shooting performance, the Canon M6 captured 27 best quality JPEG frames at over 9 frames per second in the lab. (It is worth pointing out that high-speed continuous shooting on the M6 is capped at 7 fps when you want to use continuous AF and AE.) The buffer depth isn't large at this burst speed, but it can be cleared in around three seconds with a fast UHS-I card, which is impressive. When shooting RAW images, performance was a bit faster at 9.3 fps (versus 9.2 fps), but buffer depth was 17 frames and it cleared in 8 seconds. RAW + JPEG shooting performance was fast as well, 9.4 fps, and the M6 could capture 16 frames and clear the buffer in 11 seconds. While buffer depths when shooting RAW files at top speed aren't generous, they are however much improved over the M3, which could only manage 4 RAW or RAW + JPEG frames despite its much slower top speed of 4 fps. The Canon M6 also has a low-speed 4 fps continuous mode with much deeper buffers. Canon claims up to 1000 JPEGs or 30 RAW files in that mode.

Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM at 22mm (35mm eq.), f/8.0, 1/60s, ISO 125.
Click for full-size image.

CIPA battery life is a little below average for a mirrorless camera, but improved over the M3. The Canon M6 can capture just under 300 shots when using the LCD monitor or the optional EVF. The M3's battery life rating was 250 shots with the same battery.

During real-world shooting, the Canon M6 feels pretty snappy. It is slow to process HDR images in-camera, but navigating menus and doing normal shooting feels plenty fast. Overall, the EOS M6 has very good performance and is improved over its predecessor in many respects, particularly with startup time, cycle times and buffer depth.

Shooting modes: Standard shooting modes plus a little extra

There is something for everyone with the Canon M6's shooting modes. The camera offers the typical four shooting modes (program, aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual) but also offers an impressive Scene Intelligent Auto shooting mode.

If you want to add a creative twist to your shots, there is a lot to choose from with the M6. There is a Creative Assist mode which utilizes the touchscreen and is quite neat, allowing you to quickly adjust a variety of picture settings such as background blur, brightness, contrast, saturation and color tint. The M6 also offers in-camera HDR shooting with five different styles: natural, art standard, art vivid, art bold and art embossed, as well as a number of Creative Filter effects.

Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM at 22mm (35mm eq.), f/8.0, 1/60s, ISO 1250,
HDR Art Vivid mode. Click for full-size image and see the Gallery for more HDR and Creative Filter shots.

When shooting specific scenes, the Canon M6's scene modes work well. You can use self-portrait, portrait, landscape, close-up, sports, food, panning, handheld night scene and HDR backlight control. These scene modes adjust camera settings to make capturing certain shots easier, so you can do all the same adjustments on your own, but they're nice for users who aren't as familiar with semi-manual shooting modes.

The Canon M6 controls well in manual shooting modes, so advanced photographers will feel like they are offered ample control over their photography when using the camera, but it doesn't overwhelm novices either, offering an effective full auto shooting mode and a variety of easy-to-use creative shooting modes.

Wireless features

The Canon EOS M6 has built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth. You can connect the camera to compatible wireless printers or your smart device through the Canon Camera Connect app. On iOS, the camera connection process is a bit tedious, as is typical, and requires selecting the camera through the device's wireless settings and entering the password that appears on the camera.

Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Wireless Application
Screenshots from Canon Camera Connect application on iOS.

After connecting, you can view and transfer images and remotely capture images. The remote control function using Wi-Fi works okay, although during my testing, the live feed on my phone frequently froze for a second or two before catching back up. You can adjust some settings through the app, such as drive and autofocus modes, and you can also control autofocus using the smartphone's screen. However, any settings you adjust on the camera itself, such as exposure compensation or shooting mode, don't register in the application until you disconnect and reestablish the connection.

When using Bluetooth, you can remotely use the camera, but it's a simplified remote controller offering only shutter release functionality (for stills or video) that offers no live view. For what it's worth, when I wanted to reconnect via Bluetooth, I had to delete the remembered device in my iOS Bluetooth settings or else the camera would tell me to use the app and the app would say to use the camera and they would never connect again. You can log location information using Bluetooth but it must be sent over Wi-Fi. And when you try to send images when connected via Bluetooth, the app tells you to switch to Wi-Fi.

Overall, the app is fine and would be nice for certain things, such as quickly moving images from your camera to your phone or capturing a family portrait, but it is not full-featured.

Video: Good video quality and features for Full HD recording

With its Dual Pixel CMOS AF, the Canon M6 is well-equipped for recording good video in a variety of situations. With that said, its resolution tops out at 1920 x 1080 (Full HD), which is unfortunate for shooters looking for 4K recording. The Canon M6 can record video at up to 60 progressive frames per second (60p), but does not offer any high-speed or slow-motion recording options.

Canon EOS M6 Video Sample 1920 x 1080, 60p, Auto settings (ISO 100)
Download Original (73MB .MP4 File)

If you're looking for solid Full HD video recording though, the Canon M6 delivers. Its fully automatic video recording mode works well both in terms of exposure and focus performance. But if you're looking for more control, you can record with full manual control over shutter speed, aperture and ISO sensitivity as well.

Canon EOS M6 Video Sample 1920 x 1080, 60p, 15-45mm lens at 45mm,
Autofocus Testing (Servo AF, touchscreen used)
Download Original (151MB .MP4 File)

Video quality from ISO 100 to 400 is sharp and detailed, offering a very clean file. At ISO 800, the sharpness decreases a bit as the camera works to reduce visible noise, but it still looks good. ISO 1600 and 3200 remain usable, in my opinion, but ISO 6400 video is a bit too soft.

Canon EOS M6 Video Sample 1920 x 1080, 60p, Manual, ISO 6400
Download Original (24MB .MP4 File)

The Canon M6 records video in MP4 format and has built-in stereo audio recording. The camera also includes a microphone jack (although no headphone jack) which is good for videographers looking to use an external mic. There is Full HD video out at up to 60p via the HDMI port as well, though it's not "clean" output meant for external recording (it outputs the shooting screen without sound in record mode).

Canon EOS M6 Video Sample 1920 x 1080, 60p, Auto settings, Lens IS on, Digital IS on, stabilization test with 15-45mm lens at 18mm
Download Original (71MB .MP4 File)

In NTSC mode, the Canon M6 can record 1920 x 1080 at 60p, 30p and 24p, as well as 1280 x 720 at 60p and 640 x 480 at 30p. When set to PAL mode, framerates are 50p or 25p. In all modes, clips are limited to 29 minutes and 59 seconds each.

Overall, the Canon EOS M6 produces good Full HD video. The camera offers a variety of nice controls and features, such as touch to focus and full manual video recording. It would be nice to have zebra stripe exposure warnings and 4K UHD video recording, but for a lot of general-purpose video recording, the M6 delivers, especially considering its price point and ease-of-use.

Canon EOS M6 Field Test Part Summary
Canon EOS M6 is a good, compact mirrorless ILC
Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM at 12mm (19mm eq.), f/8.0, 1.6s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

What I like:

  • Compact camera body with multiple dials
  • Tilting touchscreen display
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF works well
  • Approachable menus and shooting modes
  • Fast continuous shooting performance

What I dislike:

  • In-camera noise reduction and sharpening does a poor job, especially at higher ISOs
  • Shallow buffers when shooting at 9 fps
  • No 4K video

The Canon EOS M6 is a great follow-up to the Canon EOS M3 and a capable alternative to the slightly more expensive Canon EOS M5, offering the same image quality and performance in a smaller, lighter body. For those who want a viewfinder, the M6 supports an optional EVF but if you prefer a permanent EVF, Canon gives consumers the choice to opt for the M5 and its built-in electronic viewfinder. The M6 body is otherwise full-featured and it handles well for beginners and enthusiasts alike, and its image quality and performance are impressive for its class.

Overall, the EOS M6 is a nice addition to the EOS M lineup and a signal that Canon is continuing to improve its mirrorless offerings at various price points and bring their cameras more in line with enthusiast mirrorless ILC cameras produced by competing manufacturers. The Canon M6 is an affordable, capable camera that provides good performance across the board.

Canon EOS M6 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM at 13mm (21mm eq.), f/8.0, 2s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

 



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