24MP image sensor. 9.1fps burst capture. Tilting touch LCD. Wi-Fi. Compact. Add-on EVF available.
Video tops out at 1080p. Focus can struggle in dim light.
- Bottom Line
Canon's mirrorless cameras are getting better, but the EOS M6 still can't quite measure up to some competitors.
By Jim Fisher
We called the EOS M5 the best mirrorless camera that Canon had made yet when we reviewed it earlier this year. The M6 ($779, body only) is, from a technical perspective, the same camera as the M5, minus the integrated viewfinder. It's a bit smaller all around and $200 less expensive, which makes it a bit more appealing for casual photographers who prefer to use the rear LCD to frame up shots. The M5 and M6 represent a big move forward for Canon in the mirrorless space, but there's still some room for improvement, especially with autofocus in dim conditions. Our favorite entry-level mirrorless camera is still the Sony a6000—it's compact, has a built-in EVF, and it costs less.
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The EOS M6 measures 2.7 by 4.4 by 1.8 inches (HWD) and weighs 13.8 ounces without a lens attached. It's smaller than the M5, which measures 3.5 by 4.6 by 2.4 inches and 15.1 ounces. We received the camera in black for review, although I'd say the top plate is closer to a metallic graphite rather than a traditional black. Canon also offers it in silver, with the same black leatherette wrap around the body.
There are a couple of different kits available. We're reviewing the M6 as a body only—the purchase option you'll opt for if you already have some EF-M lenses on hand. You can also get it bundled with the EF-M 15-45mm zoom for $900, or with the longer 18-150mm lens for $1,279.
In addition to the omitted viewfinder, there are some other differences between the M5 and M6 bodies. The M6's handgrip seems a little smaller to me, though I wasn't able to hold the bodies side-by-side to really compare. It's still quite comfortable to grip, and Canon has done a good job keeping the size of native EF-M lenses under control, so I'd see no problem using it with a telezoom.
The front plate is absent of controls, but it does include an IR receiver (for a wireless remote), the focus assist beam, and the lens release button. The pop-up flash sits at the far left on the top plate. It hides inside the body when not in use, and is released via a mechanical catch on the left side.
Also on top is a hot shoe—you can add an external flash, wireless flash trigger, or even an EVF, though I'd say just buy an M5 if you think you'll want a viewfinder. To its right you'll find the Mode Dial (it does not feature a locking design, unlike the M5), a dedicated EV compensation dial, the M-Fn button, and the shutter release, which is surrounded by the front control dial.
The rear control dial sits directly under the EV control, and the On/Off switch is nestled into its side. Other rear controls include AE-L (indicated by a star icon) and a focus select button, both of which are placed at an angle, as part of the rear thumb rest. The remainder of the rear controls come in a familiar layout. Info, Menu, Playback, and Record buttons surround a flat command dial with a center Q/Set button and four directional controls—Delete, Flash, ISO, and Manual Focus (MF).
The physical controls are supplemented with touch input. The main shooting screen shows the live feed from the lens, but also allows you to tap to set a focus point (or identify a subject for focus tracking), and has touch areas to adjust aperture, ISO, and shutter, and another to enter the Q menu.
Options available in Q include focus area and mode, the self-timer and drive settings, and video recording, among others. They appear on the far right and left of the display, only partially obscuring your frame, so you can keep apprised of the action while changing settings. The menu is navigable via touch or physical controls.
The rear display is large, sharp, and bright—all good things, as it's what you'll use to frame shots and follow action. It is 3 inches in size with a crisp 1,040k-dot resolution. Its hinged design tilts up and down, and faces all the way forward for selfies. The hinge is a traditional design, flipping above the lens for selfies, as opposed to the EOS M5, which has a screen that flips under the body to face forward. We've already talked about touch support for shooting, but it also works when playing images back—you can pinch to zoom or swipe through photos with your finger, just as you would on a smartphone.
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The M6 sports the usual range of connectivity options, including Bluetooth, NFC, and Wi-Fi. The latter is used to transfer images to an Android or iOS device, and to use a smartphone or tablet as a remote control via the free Canon Camera Connect app. NFC speeds connection with compatible phones, and Bluetooth is there to work with the optional BR-E1 Wireless Remote Control, a $50 accessory remote that fits on a keychain.
Physical connections include a 3.5mm microphone input and a mini USB port on the left side, and a 2.5mm remote connection and micro HDMI output on the right. The SD card slot, supporting all varieties of cards at up to UHS-I transfer rates, is located at the bottom, in the battery compartment.
Canon includes a dedicated battery charger with the M6. It mounts directly into the wall, with a plug that folds into the charger body when not in use. CIPA rates the M6 for about 290 shots per charge, so an extra battery isn't a bad idea.
Performance and Image Quality
The EOS M6 sports the same sensor, image processor, and autofocus system as the EOS M5. As such, image quality and performance are identical. For a detailed breakdown, please refer to our M5 review.
In summary, autofocus performance is strong in bright light, but can struggle in dim conditions, even with the aid of the integrated focus assist beam. Burst shooting is quick, just under 9fps, but slows to about 6.3fps when tracking subjects.
Image quality is quite good, but not best in class. Pictures have plenty of pixels thanks to a 24MP sensor, but the camera doesn't do quite as well capturing detail and controlling noise in dim conditions compared with other favorites in this category, the Sony a6000 and a6300. Likewise, the quality of 1080p video is very good, but the M6 doesn't offer the 4K capture you get with other mirrorless cameras.
Canon's current generation of mirrorless cameras deliver serious improvements compared with earlier efforts, but they still have some room for improvement. The EOS M6 is solidly built and compact, with appropriately sized lenses to go along with it. Image quality is strong, and it has no problem firing off shots at a quick rate. In good light, the autofocus system is solid, but it struggles a bit when working in dim light.
Our verdict on the M6 is pretty much the same as the M5—they've got the same tech inside, after all. Both are solid performers, but they lag behind the best in the category. The M6 is less expensive, and more compact—the lack of an EVF keeps the size and cost down. If you're invested in the Canon system, it's a strong option, as you can adapt SLR lenses with full functionality, and use the same flashes. If you haven't bought into a mirrorless system, we give preference to the Sony a6000 for entry-level shoppers—its image quality is on par with the M6, and its autofocus system is better. It also has an integrated EVF and flash, while maintaining a similarly svelte form factor.
Other Canon Digital Cameras
By Jim Fisher Senior Analyst, Digital Cameras
Senior digital camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at retailer B&H Photo, where he wrote thousands upon thousands of product descriptions, blog posts, and reviews. Since then he's shot with hundreds of camera models, ranging from pocket point-and-shoots to medium format… More »
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