The Canon EOS R6 Mark II is a camera I’ve seen professionals use at say weddings or concerts, and while I think it’s a powerful piece of kit, it gets in its own way when it comes to hobbyists like myself.
Here’s what I thought of the Canon EOS R6 Mark II camera after a week of use.
Canon EOS R6 Mark II camera
The Canon EOS R6 Mark II camera offers high-quality 24.2MP images, fast shooting speeds of up to 40 fps, advanced subject tracking, as well as up to 4K 60p (6K oversampling) video. It’s a new addition to the Canon range, one the company hopes you’ll use for high-performance photos and videos. A lot of videos.
Usually, my subject matter is puddles and anything and everything that rain has touched – anything that will hold a reflection. Not exactly video.
To that point, alongside the R6, Canon sent me two lenses: the RF 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS USM and the RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM. At this point, I’m not sure if I’m even going to bother to keep trying to use the latter lens. It was made for picking out the individual hairs in Messi’s beard from the opposite end of the field (and corporate espionage). This lens would have turned Rear Window into a 5-minute film. Whenever I’ve seen one of these used in the wild, it’s been with a tripod or monopod to stabilise because it’s too heavy to hold by hand for long.
The ‘smaller’ lens is far more versatile and suitable for a much wider range of photography. It’s still not that light though – I spent an hour walking around Darling Harbour testing it out on a Monday afternoon, and even though I packed it away into a backpack between locations I was pretty over lugging it around by the end of that hour. I’d originally planned on staying out for longer to try some low-light photography and instead decided to go home.
So, with that in mind, as the resident photographer at Gizmodo Australia, I put the camera through its paces.
Using the Canon R6
The body is surprisingly light for its size, but it needs to be because it’s made to work with some very heavy lenses. The Canon EOS R6 Mark II camera makes good use of all this extra real estate though, every major setting that I might want to change while looking through the viewfinder can be adjusted by a separate dial with my thumb or index finger without shifting my grip. Dialling in my shutter speed, aperture, etc, became intuitive pretty quickly.
I’m not sure if this was just a review device problem (many previous users, repeated shipping, etc) but the action/build quality of the shutter button just…really sucks, which is surprising for a camera of this calibre from a company like Canon. I’ve repeatedly just taken a photo when trying to engage the half press and I don’t have great feedback to know that I’ve taken a photo until I hear the shutter go. I received the Canon R6 camera with the digital shutter enabled and took three photos without realising because I was trying to half-press and couldn’t tell where the button actuates.
I can feel something slightly dislodged in the body when I move it from side to side, which is again highly unusual, but doesn’t seem to be negatively impacting any of the camera functions so I guess it’s fine?????
I’m not aware of any DSLR that has a really good digital UI but this one feels arcane. To turn the mechanical shutter on involved turning off the ‘silent shutter’ setting, which would then enable the ability to turn on the mechanical shutter in a different part of the camera settings. Even after getting to know this camera, I’m yet to work out how to turn on the full manual focus, even after searching online. I ended up asking a professional on the sly to find the setting for me.
TL;DR: menu navigation is a punish, with everything on different dials, meaning my fingers had to move around a lot.
According to the menu I was set up to shoot in RAW and instead got .c3, which luckily Lightroom does read. The R6 really relies upon an entire ecosystem of peripherals – bags, lenses, tripods and even the software. You don’t buy one of these to shoot in jpeg.
This camera is not discrete – everyone who walks past knows that you’re taking a photo. The photos that I took of the reflections in the buildings definitely got me a bit of side-eye. Standing in the middle of the footpath with a full telescoped lens pointed at an office building definitely attracts some attention, and if I had been using the 100-500mm, I wonder if some security guard would have come out begrudgingly to tell me that I can’t just point sports lenses at office windows.
The best workaround for the weight and general unwieldiness of this camera was to leave it in the office and take it out for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. This felt like a much more appropriate way to ‘shoot from the hip’ with the R6 and probably maximised my time with it more than if I’d pushed through with trying it out for hours after work.
How do the photos look?
For context, I am really pleased with how these turned out – they speak for themselves.
The seagulls in Darling Harbour are hardly skittish, but getting intimate with something like this bird was made easier thanks to the 24-240mm lens. I wasn’t even the closest human to this bird when I took this photo.
This is about as close to my normal style as I got in my week with the Canon EOS R6 Mark II – interesting shape of the water and getting really close to the ground to get the angle onto something bright and colourful for the subject. The lens was almost resting on the ground for this one.
This is the only photo that I knew I wanted before I even got my hands on the Canon R6. I’ve been looking at the Sofitel hotel’s reflection for literal years and never had anything with enough zoom to capture it like this. I was initially annoyed about the trash floating on the water getting in the way of this long-awaited shot, but I’m really pleased with the moodiness it adds to the image.
Sofitel, again. I took 30 photos of this building and there was more than one good one – go figure. I really like how unrecognisable this is. I made it black and white to keep a focus on that dark line that runs across it.
I used to clean the printers in this office block so I’ve spent some time around there and I’ve taken similar photos to this before. In this case, the Canon R6 zoom lens let me stand much further away and get some interesting framing with the overpass and footbridge which I hadn’t been able to do before.
Extremely underwhelming table to eat your lunch on but one man’s trash can also be his treasure when he isn’t hangry.
Same table, new angle. B&W to bring out the woodwork behind the reflection and because it was overcast so the colours sucked anyway.
Leaking park bubblers basically pay my bills. It hadn’t rained in four days when I found this so I was very happy to find it. Easily the trickiest part of this photo was working out if the trees in the reflection were in focus or not. I’m still not totally sure if it’s 100 per cent, but the important thing is that it looks great. Thanks Canon R6.
Bubbler part 2. Much easier to get the focus right on this one. Pointing big zoom lenses at the ground feels very strange but by this point, I was making it work.
Another ‘traditional’ one. Sometimes when it doesn’t rain for a long time and I need photos I like to hunt around little alleyways in the city to find broken pipes and overflowing drains. I really like the inclusion of the real buildings at the bottom of the image to create a radial composition. This was not a deliberate choice but more of a happy accident that comes from having a big expensive camera in the Canon R6 Mark II that I didn’t want to drop into what may have been sewerage.
Same gutter but facing the other way.
The gutter in question.
At this point, I decided I got everything I was going to get out of the puddles around the office and started thinking about some other subjects that the Canon EOS R6 Mark II gear lends itself towards. I’ve taken similar photos to this in the past but I’ve never been able to capture it like this before. Being able to zoom in from a more perpendicular angle to the face of the building means that I can keep the window edges nearly parallel, rather than fanning out from the vanishing point.
One of the many neat things about zoom lenses is that while they make things big, they also crop things out and let me highlight interesting architectural features like this overhang.
I’m pretty sure most people who buy the Canon R6 camera will do so for portraiture, so I finally gave in and took a selfie in my own style.
The UTS paper bag (sorry, the Chau Chak Wing Building) is an architectural masterpiece so naturally, I used its windows to take photos of the facade of the ABC studios.
The storm that came in over Sydney was extremely impressive so I just whipped out the Canon R6 Mark II in my backyard for one last hurrah and just pointed it at the clouds that looked pretty. These photos are easily the least edited from this whole week and really show off the dynamic range provided by an expensive bit of kit like the R6.
And one last shot.
Should you buy the Canon R6?
After seeing photographers using something that looked very similar to this camera at a wedding I’m starting to realise what my problem is – this is a camera for professional photographers and professional photography has really different goals and processes. Pro photography usually involves already knowing your subject/that you’re going to have a subject, bringing equipment, whether bags or tripods. This isn’t a camera to bring along ‘just in case I feel like it’ or in any kind of exploratory, open-ended capacity that isn’t sitting very still for birdwatching.
Handling my phone or my computer mouse after shooting for half an hour makes them feel like children’s toys, too light and small for adult use. The grip on the R6 body feels like an incredibly forgiving rock climbing hold. They’ve really made this about as easy to hold as they can and you should be planning on using it with a tripod. When I took my personal camera out after using the R6 for a week it looked and felt miniscule. The lens seemed so small that I almost went to check my receipts from when I first bought it to make sure someone hadn’t changed it as a prank.
The nature of getting photos really close to the ground is that I’m going to hold cameras in ways that they were not designed to be held. I hold my camera like an upside-down hamburger, fingers on bottom and thumbs on top so I can get the lens really close to the ground (sometimes even touching) while folding out the screen to see what I’m shooting. The alternative is holding it normally while lying prone in a puddle. The R6 doesn’t let me do this normally: angling the screen upwards involves folding it out to the side of the body which is right where my hand would normally go, and all the nice things I said about the grip are only true if you’re holding it normally.
Other than the shutter button and the weird rattle, everything I’ve disliked about the R6 says more about me and my process than the camera. Trying to use this camera for taking pictures of puddles is sometimes like taking an Olympic track bike to the mountains – you’d get better results borrowing your mate’s pushbike he uses for the grocery run.
One thing to remember is that you’re not just buying a camera, you’re signing up for additional lenses, a tripod, a case/carry bag and software to open the images – while I was able to use Lightroom, which I already had, that itself will set you back $14.29 a month. The costs are piling up. Canon would likely have its own proprietary software to export these but…bloatware.
Editing photos might be where I’ve seen the biggest difference between my personal camera and the R6. Colours are far more balanced and overall I just had to do far less work to bring out the subtleties of the photos. The step up in megapixels also let me crop very aggressively to frame the scenes in the ways that I wanted. In the end I had to edit with much more sensitivity than usual, so even though less touching up was required this didn’t really save me any time.
I’m sure if I became more familiar with the camera this would change. But while I’m looking to upgrade my own camera, I probably wouldn’t consider the R6, rather I’d need a not-so-pro device before making this big of a leap.
Everyone has to take a lot of photos to get good photos, which means the best camera is the camera that will get used the most.