Canon EOS M6 Image Quality


Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly below average saturation levels with excellent hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links above to compare ISOs, and click to load a larger version.

Saturation. The Canon EOS M6 produces images with mean saturation levels that are a little below average these days. Dark reds are boosted the most, with dark orange, dark greens and dark blues pushed just a little, while cyan and yellow are slightly muted. The mean saturation of 106% (6% oversaturated) at base ISO is a bit lower than the 110% average we normally see, but colors are still quite pleasing to the eye, and saturation levels are fairly stable across the ISO range, with a minimum mean of 105.3% at ISO 12,800. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Canon EOS M6 produces pleasing, natural-looking Caucasian skin tones in our tests when using manual white balance (auto WB was very similar). Darker skin tones show a small nudge toward orange, but lighter tones are more pinkish. Very good results. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. As we've come to expect from Canon, the EOS M6's hue accuracy is excellent when manual white balance is used (as it always is for these results), and is much better than average. There are the usual shifts in cyan toward blue (though actually quite small), red toward orange, orange toward yellow, and yellow toward green, but all are fairly minor. Average "delta-C" color error at base ISO is only 3.36 (lower is better) which is excellent, one of the better scores we've recorded to date. Delta-C color error varies slightly with sensitivity, but remains better than average even at the highest ISOs. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images


Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Auto and Incandescent white balance settings both struggled with household incandescent lighting, though Manual worked well. Average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV

Indoors, under incandescent lighting, the Canon EOS M6's Auto and Incandescent white balance settings struggled, producing very reddish or orange/yellow color casts. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon among cameras we've tested, but disappointing nonetheless. The Manual setting produced the most accurate, neutral results without the greenish tint we saw with the M3. Skin tones were also more pleasing. The Canon EOS M6 required +0.3 EV exposure compensation for this shot, which is about average among the cameras we've tested. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Very good color, though a tendency towards slightly cool color balance with somewhat high contrast under harsh lighting. Slightly below average exposure accuracy.

Manual White Balance,
+1.0 EV
Auto White Balance,
0 EV

Outdoors, the Canon EOS M6 produced pleasing skin tones with both Auto and Manual white balance and overall color was generally very good. The Canon M6 required +1.0 EV exposure compensation to keep the mannequin's face bright, a little higher than average for our "Sunlit" portrait shot. The Canon EOS M6's default contrast is a little high, producing some washed-out highlights and dark shadows under the deliberately harsh lighting of the shot above left, though the camera's Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone Priority settings help with high contrast scenes like these. See below for examples of this. The Far-field shot (above right) is a bit cool, and exposure is a bit dim at default exposure, but with the camera avoided blowing most highlights except for some specular highlights. There are some deep shadows which are a little noisy and discolored, but have good detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

~2,800 lines of strong detail from JPEGs, about the same from RAW.

Strong detail to
~2,800 lines horizontal
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,800 lines vertical
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,800 lines horizontal
ACR Converted RAW
Strong detail to
~2,800 lines vertical
ACR Converted RAW

Our resolution chart showed sharp, distinct line patterns up to just under 2,800 lines per picture height horizontally and to just under 2,800 lines vertically. Some may argue for higher numbers, but lines begin to merge at this resolution, and some aliasing artifacts in the form of moiré patterns can be seen at lower resolutions. Extinction of the pattern occurred between 3,300 and 3,500 lines. An Adobe Camera Raw converted .CR2 file produces about the same resolution as the in-camera JPEG, though complete extinction of the pattern was extended a bit. While ACR was able to extract more detail, it also produced more moiré and false colors. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Somewhat soft images at default sharpening, but with noticeable sharpening artifacts. Minor to moderate detail loss due to noise reduction processing even at low ISOs.

Using default sharpening
settings, the Canon EOS M6's JPEG
files are slightly soft, yet with
some noticeable sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of
the model's hair here.

Sharpness. The Canon EOS M6's 24-megapixel sensor captures very good image detail when coupled with a good lens, though JPEG images are a bit soft at default settings. (Keep in mind Canon has decided to keep an optical low-pass filter in the EOS M6 to reduce aliasing artifacts at the cost of slightly reduced sharpness, unlike some competing models which have gone the other way.) Yet the EOS M6's default sharpening setting generates visible edge-enhancement artifacts in the form of obvious sharpening halos around high-contrast edges, as shown in the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows some detail loss due to noise suppression in darker areas and in areas with low contrast, perhaps just a little more than we're accustomed to seeing from an APS-C sensor at base ISO. Still, a good performance for a 24-megapixel model. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

In-Camera JPEGs: Standard vs Fine Detail Picture Style setting
The EOS M6 is the second Canon mirrorless to offer the new Fine Detail Picture Style first seen on the Canon 5DS R and 5DS DSLRs. Below is a comparison with the default Standard Picture Style.

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
Camera JPEG, Fine Detail

In the table above, we compare the Canon EOS M6's default Standard Picture Style setting (left) to its Fine Detail preset at base ISO. Like the 5DS/R, the Canon EOS M6 offers users much more flexibility in sharpening than other EOS models, allowing you to adjust not only the "Strength" (from 0 to 7) but also the "Fineness" (1 to 5) and "Threshold" (1 to 5) operators. We believe these parameters correlate to unsharp mask options for strength, radius and threshold available in photo editing software such as Photoshop, although we don't know what the equivalent units might be.

The Fine Detail Picture Style preset boosts the Sharpness Strength operator one notch (to 4 out of 7) while dialing down the Fineness (1/5) and Threshold (1/5) operators to their minimum compared to Standard which defaults to Sharpness: 3/7, Fineness: 4/5 and Threshold: 4/5. The result is improved, more natural-looking rendering of fine detail along with less obvious sharpening halos than the default Standard setting. However, noise is more visible in flatter areas, and contrast is lower, making the Fine Detail image appear to have less "pop". There also appear to be minor differences in color, even though Color Tone, Saturation and Contrast settings are identical between these two Picture Styles presets. Given the flexibility in settings, though, you may be able to find a better combination than the defaults compared above.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above the Canon EOS M6 produces JPEG images with very good detail, but that are somewhat soft yet with visible sharpening halos when viewed on-screen at 100%. With a good RAW converter, additional detail can often be extracted with fewer sharpening artifacts. See below:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare a best quality in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 via DNG Converter 9.9 using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (300%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

Looking closely at the images, we can see ACR extracts additional detail that isn't present in the default JPEG from the camera, particularly in the red-leaf and pink swatches where the fine thread pattern is likely treated as noise by the JPEG engine. Fine detail in the mosaic crop is also improved, but as is often the case, the conversion isn't as clean and smooth looking, with more noise that can be seen in the flatter areas of the bottle crop. You can of course apply stronger noise reduction (default ACR NR used here) to arrive at your ideal noise versus detail tradeoff. And, as expected, sharpening halos aren't nearly as strong as the default camera output. Still, not bad in-camera default JPEG processing, but as usual you can do noticeably better by shooting in RAW mode and using a good RAW converter.

ISO & Noise Performance
Good high ISO performance for a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 6400 ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600

Images are quite clean at ISOs 100 and 200, with just a tiny amount of luminance noise seen in the darker areas, and very little chroma noise. Some blurring of fine low-contrast detail is already visible at base ISO, though, as mentioned previously. Noise "grain" is slightly more evident at ISO 400, but detail remains very strong despite some minor blurring due to noise reduction. ISO 800 is of course a little noisier, but fine detail is still very good with a noise grain that's quite fine and chroma noise remains low. At ISO 1600 blurring becomes noticeably stronger resulting in a more evident drop in image quality, though a fair amount of fine detail is still left though. ISO 3200 is quite a bit softer and grainier with minor chroma blotching, but there is still some fine detail left. ISO 6400 is quite soft and grainy, but the grain is still fairly tight and not too obtrusive. Noise and the effects of noise reduction working hard to keep it under control really become apparent at ISOs 12,800 and 25,600 with heavier luminance noise, stronger blurring and more obvious chroma blotching.

Overall, good high ISO performance for a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, though not quite as good as some rivals. See the Print Quality section below (when available) for our evaluation of maximum print sizes at each ISO setting.

A note about focus for this shot: We used to shoot this image at f/4, however depth of field became so shallow with larger, high-resolution sensors that it was difficult to keep important areas of this shot in focus, so we have since started shooting at f/8, the best compromise between depth of field and sharpness.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Strong overall detail, but somewhat high default contrast and unremarkable dynamic range. HTP and ALO options do a great job of dealing with tough lighting. Very good low-light performance.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

The Canon EOS M6 produces images with moderately high contrast with some washed-out highlights and deep shadows under the deliberately harsh lighting of the test above. The mannequin's face was too dim at the +0.3 and +0.7 EV settings so we preferred the image with +1.0 EV exposure compensation. This resulted in some clipped highlights in the shirt and flowers, a bit more than we're used to seeing from an APS-C sensor lately, indicating mediocre dynamic range compared to the best of recent competitors. Shadow detail was however pretty good, though very deep shadows are a bit noisy and discolored. Bottom line: while dynamic range isn't bad, the Canon EOS M6 didn't do as well with this difficult shot compared to some recent state-of-the-art peers.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)

Face Detection
Just like most point & shoot cameras these days, the Canon EOS M6 has the ability to detect faces, and adjust exposure and focus accordingly.

Face Detection
Aperture Priority
Face Detect: Off
0 EV
Aperture Priority
Face Detect: On
0 EV
Auto Mode
0 EV

As you can see from the examples above, it works, as the center image with face detection enabled is much better exposed for the face than the left image where face detection was not employed, by dropping the shutter speed from 1/100s to 1/40s, though overall exposure is a bit too bright. Full Auto mode (right) performed better than the default exposure at the left but is still a bit dim despite selecting a larger aperture (f/4 vs f/5.6 for the other shots). It selected a much faster shutter speed of 1/250s for some reason, and used the standard Auto Lighting Optimizer setting for a lower contrast image.

Highlight Tone Priority
The Canon EOS M6's Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) option did a good job of preserving highlight detail as shown below. (Mouse over the Off and On links to load the corresponding thumbnail, histogram and crops.)

Highlight Tone Priority (+1.0 EV)



(Levels boosted
to reveal noise.)

Both shots above were captured at the same exposure, the only difference being that HTP was enabled for the second shot which necessarily increases the ISO to 200; part of how HTP works. Very few highlights were blown at default exposure so we cranked exposure compensation up to +1.0 EV to cause some significant highlight clipping. As you can see, the histograms, crops and thumbnails above clearly show a reduction in highlights when HTP is enabled. If you look closely at shadows (the levels in shadow crops above are heavily boosted to reveal noise that would be difficult to see otherwise), you'll notice an increase in noise is the price you pay when ISO is boosted from 100 to 200, although noise is pretty low in the shadows from the M6 at ISO 200.

Automatic Lighting Optimization
Like previous Canon EOS models, the EOS M6 offers three selectable levels of Automatic Lighting Optimization (ALO), plus Off. In fully automatic (Scene Intelligent Auto) ALO is automatically enabled and it's available in P, Tv and Av exposure modes. Mouse over the links below to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the links to load full resolution images.

Automatic Lighting Optimization (+0.3 EV)

As you can see above with images taken with only +0.3 EV exposure compensation, ALO has the effect of shifting shadows and mid-tones in the histograms to the right, brightening shadows and indeed most of the image while preserving highlights. ISO is not boosted for ALO so increased noise is not an issue, though it may be slightly more visible in shadows that have been boosted significantly.

The Canon EOS M6 includes a couple of High Dynamic Range modes, which take three continuous shots at different exposures and merges them together to create an image with wider tonal range than would be possible with a single exposure. There's an HDR Backlight Control scene mode, plus included in Image Effects (Creative Filters) there is an HDR mode that offers four Artistic effects: Art Standard, Art Vivid, Art Bold and Art Embossed, as well as a Natural setting. We did not test these modes in the lab, however there are some examples in our Gallery shots (look for filenames containing "HDR").

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we compare the Canon EOS M6's dynamic range (in orange) to its predecessor's, the EOS M3 (yellow), and to the Sony A6300 (red), one of the most popular mirrorless cameras on the market.

As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger version), the Canon EOS M6's dynamic range significantly improved over its predecessor's at low ISOs, but it drops below the M3's at ISOs above 400. The M6's peak dynamic range at base ISO tested at 12.6 EV versus 11.8 EV for the M3, which is about a 0.8 EV advantage. At ISOs above 400, the M3's advantage is less than 0.5 EV.

The Sony A6300 however does significantly better across the board, with a peak dynamic range of about 13.7 EV at base ISO which is about a 1.2 EV advantage over the M6, and the Sony manages to keep a sizeable lead throughout its entire range of available sensitivities.

Bottom line, while dynamic range has improved significantly over its predecessor at low ISOs, the M6 still lags behind most recent APS-C rivals. Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Canon EOS M6 for more of their test results.

  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc

2s, f2.8

30s, f2.8

30s, f2.8

1/15s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1/125s, f2.8

1/8s, f2.8

1/8s, f2.8

Low Light. The Canon EOS M6 performed well in our low-light tests for an APS-C camera, capturing bright images at the lowest light level (1/16 foot-candle), even with the lowest sensitivity setting (ISO 100). As expected, noise increases as ISO goes up and light levels go down, but luminance noise remains fairly low and fine-grained at ISO 3200. Some chroma noise in the form of subtle color blotching in the shadows and dark areas is visible at lower light levels, though it's effectively suppressed by default noise reduction. As you'd expect, noise is quite high at the maximum ISO of 25,600, particularly when noise reduction is minimized (rightmost column in the table above).

Color balance was very good with the Canon EOS M6's Auto white balance setting, just a touch cool even at 1/16 foot-candle.

We didn't see any significant issues with hot pixels or heat blooming, and banding (fixed pattern noise) appears to be very low in the shadows.

LL AF: The Canon EOS M6's autofocus system was able to focus on our legacy low-contrast AF target down to about -3.3 EV, and it was able to focus on our newer high-contrast AF target down to -4.5 EV unassisted with an f/2.8 lens. That's very good for a mirrorless camera and much better than its specification of -1.0 EV with an f/2 lens, though be aware we perform this test on a sturdy tripod so hand-held results may be different. The Canon M6 also has an AF assist illuminator, and was able to focus in complete darkness with it enabled.

As always, keep in mind that the longer shutter speeds here demand the use of a tripod to prevent any blurring from camera movement. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Large sensored cameras like the Canon EOS M6 do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Very nice 30 x 40 inch prints up to ISO 400; a good 16 x 20 inch print at ISO 1600; and a nice 5 x 7 at ISO 12,800.

ISO 100/200 prints are quite good at 30 x 40 inches and larger, until you run out of resolution. The prints here yield nice colors, very good fine detail and balanced contrast.

ISO 400 images are good at 30 x 40 inches, with only the slightest decrease in overall sharpness, but still a nice print overall. 24 x 36 inch prints are even better, showing little to no evidence that the gain has been increased.

ISO 800 yields images at 20 x 30 inches that definitely pass our "good" seal of approval, with plenty of fine detail and good color saturation. There is a typical softening and loss of contrast detail in our tricky red-leaf fabric swatch, and a mild amount of noise in flatter areas of our target, but still a good print. For super-critical printing we recommend 16 x 20 inch prints here which will iron out even these mild issues nicely.

ISO 1600 prints just meet our "good" grade at 16 x 20 inches. There are mild issues evident, including a softening in the red channel and some minor noise in certain areas, but good detail and full colors are retained throughout.

ISO 3200 delivers a good 11 x 14 inch print, with only mild issues similar to the 16 x 20 inch print at ISO 1600.

ISO 6400 tends to be where most APS-C cameras begin to show real signs of ISO strain, and the EOS M6 is no exception. You can achieve good 8 x 10 inch prints here, but there is a general softening to the image and a slight muting of colors in general. It's still a good print overall, but for critical work we recommend remaining at ISO 3200 and lower.

ISO 12,800 shots can certainly be printed up to 5 x 7 inches, which really isn't bad for such a lofty sensitivity. The softening mentioned at ISO 6400 is still present, but for general-purpose use these prints will do the trick without any serious issues.

ISO 25,600 delivers a good 4 x 6 inch print, which is something not all APS-C cameras can boast. We always applaud when any camera can deliver a good 4 x 6 at its highest available gain setting, which is a sign that it's not artificially pumped just to pad the specs. (Hey, some cameras do this!)

The Canon EOS M6 yields print size results across the ISO range as we'd expect for this sensor size and resolution, and delivers a solid performance overall. Print quality is quite good up to ISO 800, offering the ability to print very large sizes, and the Canon M6 continues to offer the ability to print a good 11 x 14 up to ISO 3200. Once again, a solid effort all around in the print quality department here from Canon.


The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon EOS M6 Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon EOS M6 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

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