Canon M6 Mark II review: Incredible performance from a flawed flagship

A high-resolution sensor and fast shooting speeds, but no EVF and poor 4K video quality.

The newest addition to the Canon lineup is the EOS M6 Mark II APS-C mirrorless camera, proving that the company isn't just about full-frame EOS R cameras. The M6 II is now the flagship in the EOS-M series, replacing both the M5 and M6 models.

The most impressive part of the M6 II is the all-new 32.5-megapixel sensor, making it the highest-resolution crop-sensor camera you can buy. It also delivers some of the fastest shooting speeds I've seen on any mirrorless camera. And to keep those shots sharp, you get updated autofocus tech with Canon's impressive Dual Pixel system, along with face- and eye-detection. Unlike the previous M6 model, it delivers full-sensor, rather than cropped, 4K, making it more useful for videoographers and vloggers.

It's priced competitively with rival models like Sony's A6400, the Fujifilm X-T30 and Nikon's first-ever APS-C mirrorless model, the Z 50. However, despite the impressive specs, the M6 Mark II is also hobbled by the lack of some key features.

Body and handling

The big advantage of APS-C devices over full-frame cameras is the compact size, and Canon has nailed that part. Compared to the 660-gram EOS R, it weighs just 408 grams with a battery and memory card. On top of that, most of the lenses are pretty light too, thanks to the smallish EOS M mount size.

The disadvantage of that mount is that unlike with Sony's E-mount or Nikon's Z mount, EOS M and EOS R cameras can't share lenses. Also, though you might say that the Z mount on Nikon's Z 50 is comically large for the size of the body, it allows Nikon to build optically superior lenses.

The weight and size are on par with the competition, but with a big caveat. Unlike the A6400, Z 50 and X-T30, the M6 Mark II doesn't have a built in electronic viewfinder. If you want one of those, you'll need to spend an extra $200 for the optional EVF-DC2. That subsequently makes the camera both more expensive and bulkier than the competition.

When building its new flagship, Canon could have borrowed from the EOS M5, which does have an EVF, or the original M6, which doesn't. It chose the latter, and I think that was a bad decision -- buyers are bound to notice that similarly-priced cameras do have that feature.

Canon EOS M6 Mark II mirrorless camera review

That aside, the EVF-DC2 add-on gives you a decent 2.36-million dot, 120 Hz OLED electronic viewfinder, but it's not blackout-free. Fujifilm's X-T30, by contrast, does have a blackout-free EVF, meaning you won't miss any moments when shooting action scenes.

The M6 Mark II also lacks in-body stabilization -- a feature that was available on the original M6. However, that's a feature that none of its rivals have either. All of the EOS M zoom lenses do have stabilization, but you won't find it on either the EF-M 32mm f/1.4 or EF-M 22mm F2 primes. Those lenses are some of the sharper ones in the EF-M series, and as you'll soon see, that's crucial for this camera.

Apart from those issues, the M6 II has good ergonomics. The grip is a decent size for a small camera, though I prefer the much bigger one on the Nikon Z 50. And with more manual dials and buttons than Sony's A6400, it's easier to use.

The three top dials let you change shooting mode, focus and aperture, while other features like exposure compensation can be accessed via a rear control dial. The M6 II doesn't have as many programmable inputs as the Z 50, but it does have the "Dial Function" -- first introduced on the EOS R -- that can be set up to quickly change the ISO and other settings.

Canon EOS M6 Mark II mirrorless camera review

If you can't find the functions you need on a dial, you can use the quick "Q" menu to change most common settings. If all else fails, you can dive into the main menu settings, which are a bit easier to follow than the unintuitive menus on Sony's cameras.

All of the menus, along with the touch focus settings, can be accessed via the 1.04 million dot touch display. It tilts downward about 45 degrees for high-angle shooting, and upward 180 degrees, making it good for selfie shooters and vloggers. I prefer the upward flipping screen to the downward one on Nikon's Z 50, which doesn't work if you're using a tripod. The only drawback to Canon's system is that you can't attach a microphone to the hot-shoe and flip up the screen at the same time.

Like it competitors, the M6 II has a built-in flash that's handy in a dark room or if you need to fill in the existing lighting. For video shooters, it has a microphone input but no headphone jack. By contrast, Fujifilm's X-T30 has a USB-C port that can be used as a headphone output via an adapter or USB headphones.

It has a USB Type-C port that can be used for data transfers and charging, along with a mini HDMI terminal that supports video recording. You can transfer photos to your smartphone or control the camera over both WiFi and Bluetooth. To do so, you'll need Canon's Camera Connect app, which is actually one of the better, more responsive camera apps out there. That's not necessarily saying a lot, however.

The M6 II can only use a single memory card, but it's a fast UHS II slot, unlike the slower UHS I slot on Nikon's Z 50. The battery is good for 305 shots, or 250 if you're using the EVF. That's about the same as the Z 50, but the Fujifilm X-T30 can go for 380 shots on a charge.


You'll need to carry a lot of those batteries, considering how fast the M6 II can shoot. Despite a sensor with a lot more resolution than rival cameras, it can hit faster burst speeds than all of them at 14 fps in mechanical shutter mode, with continuous autofocus and auto-exposure enabled. Note that while the M6 II does have a silent shooting mode, you can't use it for continuous burst shooting . That's a serious limitation for sports and wildlife shooting, and the Z 50, X-T30 and A6400 can all shoot bursts in silent mode.

Beware that the buffer will fill up after you shoot around 26 RAW shots. After that, you'll need to wait, because it takes a fair while for it to clear. I'd recommend getting the fastest UHS II memory card you can afford to keep that to a minimum.

The M6 II uses Canon's Dual Pixel autofocus system, combined with a Digic 8 image processor. It has 143 phase-detect points that deliver up to 100 percent coverage, depending on the lens you're using. It can handle face and eye detection, but only for humans and not animals like the Sony models.

During my tests, autofocus hit rates were very good, but not quite as high as the excellent A6400. The subject tracking worked very well -- after you tap to select your subject, it'll stay clamped on no matter how much they, or you, move around. Eye- and face-detection was equally reliable, but not quite as smooth and fast as Sony's system.

If those shooting speeds aren't quick enough, the M6 Mark II has a new RAW burst mode. It means you can shoot cropped, 18-megapixel photos at up to 30 fps for 84 frames, with continuous autofocus tracking. It'll let you capture fast moving sports and other action, as long as you're aware of certain limitations. Namely, you're going to get some mild rolling shutter (skewed vertical lines), and must use Canon's (awful) Digital Photo Pro app to extract RAW photos from the single RAW CR3 file "roll."

I tried this and obtained decent results, though I failed to capture more than about 50 shots in one go, possibly due to buffer issues. Only a few shots were out-of-focus, though, so this feature should be very useful for action when you don't need full 32.5-megapixel photos.

All told, the shooting performance is a big forté of this camera, especially considering the petite size and high-resolution sensor. All of that makes it useful for scenarios ranging from sports to landscape to wedding photography. Just beware of the silent burst shooting limitation.

Image quality

It's pretty nice to have a 32.5-megapixel sensor on a crop-sensor camera, when we've been stuck at around 25 megapixels for years now. It delivers higher-resolution photos than any other APS-C camera other than Canon's new 90D DSLR, which has the same sensor. That means you get sharper shots and can crop in without losing detail.

Combined with Canon's excellent color science, it delivers photos with accurate colors and lifelike skin tones when shooting JPEGs. The 14-bit RAW files are huge, at around 50 MB, but they deliver sharper photos than the competition, and give you lots of latitude to fix any exposure mistakes and tweak colors and tones just the way you want.

It also has decent low-light capability for such a high-resolution camera. I got usable shots at up to ISO 12,800, as you can see in some of the Paris night shots in the gallery below. For best results, however, it's better to stay below around ISO 6400. Above that, shadow regions in night shots were too grainy when I tried to boost them up in Lightroom.

There's one huge problem with a high-resolution sensor on this system, however. Canon has just eight M-series lenses and the two I tried (the kit EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 zoom and EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3) weren't sharp enough to resolve 32.5 megapixels, yielding photos that looked soft when I zoomed in.

For another option, Sigma will soon release three primes that should be better. You can also use Canon DSLR EF-S lenses via the $150 Canon EOS M Mount Adapter, but then you're throwing away the advantages of the M6 II's compact size.


Canon EOS M6 Mark II mirrorless camera review

With the M6 II, Canon finally has a camera that can output full-sensor video, unlike the EOS R and M50. Combined with the flip-up screen and category-beating Dual Pixel video autofocus, it should make it a good vlogging and general purpose video camera. However, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for that, unless you're okay with certain weaknesses.

Rather than super-sampling, the M6 II seems to do line-skipping in order to use the full APS-C sensor width. That means it doesn't read out all the pixels on the sensor, instead skipping many in order to generate a 3,840 x 2,160 image.

By contrast, all three of its rivals -- the Sony A6400, Fujifilm X-T30 and Nikon Z 50 -- read every pixel on the full width of the sensor, then super-sample or shrink that down to get the final 4K result. Because of that limitation, the M6 delivers slightly soft-looking video compared to rivals.

Another issue is the lack of a headphone jack, so you can't monitor audio while shooting. It also lacks a 24p video option, though Canon has promised to address that in a future firmware update. Finally, unless you buy an adapter, you won't be able to put a microphone on the hot shoe for vlogging and other purposes.

With better video quality, I could tolerate the lack of other features for vlogging, especially considering the Dual Pixel autofocus. To be fair, none of the competition fare much better here. Still, it's a bit of wasted opportunity for Canon. If you're looking to do video and photography equally, Fujifilm's X-T30 is a better pick.


Canon M6 Mark II APS-C mirrorless camera review

For every positive of Canon's $850 M6 Mark II, it seems like there's an accompanying downside. With a 32.5-megapixel sensor, it has more resolution than any other APS-C camera, but many of the native lenses can't handle the resolution. You can shoot incredibly fast, but not with the silent electronic shutter enabled. It's nicely compact, but that's because it's missing an electronic viewfinder. And it's the first Canon APS-C camera with full-sensor 4K, but it's less sharp than the competition because it's not super-sampled.

If you want a better all-around camera, I'd recommend Fujifilm's X-T30 instead. It's a step down in resolution with 26.1 megapixels, but for $800, you get better video quality and features, along with an excellent selection of ultra-sharp lenses. With 8 fps burst speeds, it can't match the M6 II, but it delivers 20 fps bursts in silent mode and has a more useful blackout-free EVF.

Where the M6 Mark II does shine is in its otherworldly shooting speeds, solid autofocus performance and resolution. However, to benefit from that sensor, you need to attach one of the few sharp EF-M prime lenses or use bulkier EF-S glass with an adapter. Also, remember to budget $200 for the optional EVF. Despite that, if you need a high-resolution camera that can also handle action -- a rare double-talent for a camera -- there's nothing else on the market that can match it.

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