★★★★★ £799 • From www.ama­

Computer Shopper - - CONTENTS - Ben Pitt

The Canon EOS M6 takes great pho­tos, but it’s hard to rec­om­mend over the Pana­sonic GX80


Classy and com­pact, the Canon EOS M6 is a solid choice – but it’s not cheap

CANON’S EOS M range of com­pact sys­tem cam­eras (CSCs) had a shaky start in life, but the Canon EOS M5 proved th­ese lit­tle cam­eras were ready for the big league.

The M5 is a bit of an ex­trav­a­gance, though, cost­ing £1,000 body only or £1,300 with its 18-150mm kit lens. With the two-year-old Canon EOS M3 (Shop­per 332) still avail­able for around £440, that leaves a mid-price gap in the line-up, which the Canon EOS M6 is here to plug. How­ever, £799 is still a big ex­pense, and this camera needs to work hard to com­pete with the Pana­sonic G80 (Shop­per 353) or Sony a6300 (Shop­per 352).

The key dif­fer­ence com­pared with the M5 is the lack of a viewfinder. This means the M6 looks more like a chunky com­pact than a slim SLR. It still has a de­cent-sized hand­grip, though, and along with the rub­ber tex­ture and con­toured shape on the back, it’s sur­pris­ingly com­fort­able for such a small camera.


It has a tilt­ing screen, which isn’t un­com­mon at this price, but it’s wel­come nonethe­less, al­low­ing you to shoot from high or low an­gles, or brace your el­bows against your hips for sta­bil­ity. The pop-up flash tilts up­wards, so you can bounce light off the ceil­ing to avoid harsh shad­ows; a Guide Num­ber (GN) of five me­tres means its out­put is pretty fee­ble, though. We also found our left hand of­ten masked the aut­o­fo­cus as­sist lamp.

If you’re strug­gling to de­cide whether you need a viewfinder, it’s worth not­ing that Canon sells an add-on unit (part name EVF-DC2) for £219. It sits in the camera’s hot­shoe and buy­ing both the M6 and EVF-DC2 works out a lit­tle cheaper than buy­ing an M5. It also means that you can choose to leave it be­hind when you want to travel light.

Oth­er­wise, the two cam­eras are pretty sim­i­lar, with the same lay­out of but­tons and a tilt­ing touch­screen on the back. The EOS M6’s 3in screen is a lit­tle smaller than the M5’s 3.2in dis­play, but it’s not a big draw­back, and Canon still finds room for five ro­tary con­trols. There’s a gen­eral-pur­pose wheel on the back for ad­just­ing the cur­rently se­lected pa­ram­e­ter, plus a fur­ther four di­als on the top. One sets the ex­po­sure mode, an­other is ded­i­cated to ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion, while front and rear com­mand di­als pro­vide di­rect ac­cess to ex­po­sure set­tings.

It’s rare to have so many di­als on such a pe­tite camera, and their chunky metal con­struc­tion gives the im­pres­sion of an up­mar­ket camera that’s built to last. The rear com­mand dial is as­signed to ISO speed by de­fault, which is use­ful, but we also found it was sus­cep­ti­ble to the oc­ca­sional ac­ci­den­tal nudge. Switch­ing from Auto ISO to 25600 re­sulted in some ex­tremely grainy pho­tos

be­fore we no­ticed what had hap­pened.


There’s also a cus­tomis­able M-Fn but­ton and the Delete but­ton can be as­signed ad­di­tional du­ties dur­ing cap­ture; white bal­ance and drive mode are the ob­vi­ous can­di­dates. As­sign­ing drive mode gave ac­cess to burst set­tings but not the self-timer or brack­et­ing, for which we had to visit the Q menu and main menu re­spec­tively. At least the touch­screen makes light work of nav­i­gat­ing the Q menu.

The M6 con­tin­ues the EOS sys­tem’s tra­di­tion of mak­ing man­ual white bal­ance cal­i­bra­tion need­lessly con­vo­luted. Where most cam­eras take per­haps two or three but­ton pushes while aim­ing the camera at a grey sub­ject, the M6 re­quires you to cap­ture pho­tos of a grey sub­ject and then nav­i­gate to the sixth tab in the main menu to lo­cate the Man­ual WB func­tion. This fea­ture is likely to see reg­u­lar use so it’s bizarre it’s tucked away past ob­scure set­tings such as lens aber­ra­tion cor­rec­tion and man­ual fo­cus peak­ing op­tions.

An­other frus­tra­tion is the in­abil­ity to cus­tomise the be­hav­iour of the Auto ISO mode. Pick­ing an ISO speed is a com­plex bal­anc­ing act be­tween avoid­ing noise, camera shake and mo­tion blur; the amount of light, sub­ject mo­tion, camera mo­tion and the lens’s fo­cal length must all be weighed up. The M6 usu­ally makes in­tel­li­gent de­ci­sions, but not al­ways. The slow­est shut­ter speed in low light is 1/40 s, which is sen­si­ble for shots at the long end of the kit lens’s zoom but faster than is nec­es­sary for a wide-an­gle shot in low light.

The camera was of­ten thrown by us rais­ing it and quickly tak­ing a shot when it picked fast shut­ter and ISO speeds to avoid blur due to camera shake. We found it nec­es­sary to hold the camera steady for at least a sec­ond to re­as­sure it that we weren’t shak­ing around; we’ve seen sim­i­lar be­hav­iour from the M5 as well. The ISO speed was limited to 1600 in this sce­nario so the re­sults were still us­able, but noise was higher than it needed to be.


Wi-Fi, NFC and Blue­tooth are all built in for re­mote con­trol and wire­less trans­fers. Blue­tooth al­lows a smart­phone to be used as a sim­ple wire­less trig­ger for cap­tur­ing pho­tos or for ad­vanc­ing from one shot to the next dur­ing play­back, which is handy for slideshows over HDMI. The Blue­tooth con­nec­tion also con­fig­ures the Wi-Fi con­nec­tion au­to­mat­i­cally for An­droid de­vices, which saves a lot of mess­ing around with net­work pass­words. The re­mote viewfinder app in­cludes touch­screen-pow­ered con­trol over the aut­o­fo­cus point plus ac­cess to ex­po­sure-re­lated set­tings. Bizarrely, though, the camera’s own con­trols are locked while it’s be­ing op­er­ated via the app.

In­side, the M6 and M5 are all but iden­ti­cal, and that’s borne out in their per­for­mance. The 295-shot bat­tery life is on the low side and ad­di­tional bat­ter­ies are pricey at £45. It’s a lit­tle slow to turn on and shoot (1.5 sec­onds), but sub­se­quent shots are only 0.5s apart. Burst shoot­ing runs at 9fps and lasts for 29 JPEGs or 16 Raw frames be­fore slow­ing to the speed of the card. This is largely in line with ri­val CSCs and faster than the pricier Canon EOS 80D SLR. Burst shoot­ing with con­tin­u­ous aut­o­fo­cus reached 6.9fps in our tests.


The EOS M6’s 24-megapixel sen­sor em­ploys Canon’s Dual Pixel tech­nol­ogy to help the aut­o­fo­cus sys­tem jump to the cor­rect fo­cus po­si­tion di­rectly rather than have to hunt back and forth un­til it achieves sharp fo­cus. The older, cheaper EOS M3 lacks this fea­ture and took 2.2 sec­onds be­tween shots, so Dual Pixel is clearly play­ing an im­por­tant role here.

If you use the touch­screen to se­lect an area of the frame to fo­cus on, you get a choice of ei­ther a small or even smaller area. This some­times didn’t give the camera enough to work with and, on a couple of oc­ca­sions when shoot­ing in­dis­tinct sub­jects in low light, it re­peat­edly failed to fo­cus. We’d for­give the oc­ca­sional fo­cus mis­fire but re­cur­ring prob­lems with a par­tic­u­lar shot are quite frus­trat­ing.

Dual Pixel may bring mixed bless­ings for pho­tos, but it re­ally pays off when it comes to video. The EOS M6’s abil­ity to de­ter­mine in ad­vance what ad­just­ment is re­quired to bring a sub­ject into fo­cus means the lens el­e­ments glide smoothly and de­ci­sively rather than dart­ing back and forth. We usu­ally dis­able aut­o­fo­cus when shoot­ing video as this clunky dart­ing ef­fect, known as fo­cus hunt­ing, can com­pletely spoil a shot, but the M6 (along with the other Canon cam­eras with Dual Pixel sen­sors) are an ex­cep­tion to the rule. The touch­screen makes it easy to de­fine what the camera should fo­cus on, and the track­ing mode does a fine job of fol­low­ing mov­ing sub­jects around the frame.

It’s frus­trat­ing, then, that videos are limited to 1080p. 4K video can give a big boost to qual­ity, even when ex­port­ing fin­ished projects at 1080p, and it’s an­noy­ing to have to choose be­tween Canon’s more reli­able aut­o­fo­cus and Sony, Pana­sonic and Fu­ji­film’s 4K cap­ture.

Still im­age qual­ity is per­haps the Canon EOS M6’s great­est strength. Pho­tos dis­play life­like yet vi­brant colours with­out the slight­est hint of noise in bright con­di­tions and noise is man­aged well in low light, giv­ing re­spectable snap­shots at ISO speeds as high as 6400. The kit lens per­formed well through­out its zoom range, de­liv­er­ing the sort of sharp fo­cus a 24-megapixel sen­sor needs.


As we said, £799 is a lot for a camera that seems to be geared pri­mar­ily to­wards ca­sual users, al­beit those who still de­mand high qual­ity. How­ever, there aren’t many other op­tions that de­liver such high qual­ity in this small and light a pack­age. The Pana­sonic GX80 is broadly sim­i­lar but in­cludes a high-qual­ity viewfinder and costs around £550. Its con­trols aren’t as el­e­gant and its smaller sen­sor means it falls be­hind a lit­tle for im­age qual­ity, but it records 4K video and it has a much larger range of com­pat­i­ble lenses.

The Canon EF-M lens range is rel­a­tively small, with just seven mod­els and a no­table lack of fast primes. Canon sells a mount adap­tor for £90 that al­lows Canon SLR lenses to be used, but th­ese will make the EOS M6 a much bulkier camera. Re­al­is­ti­cally, it makes more sense for M6 own­ers to stick with the kit lens, or per­haps add the EF-M 22mm f/2, which costs around £180. For the same money, you could have a Pana­sonic GX80, 25mm f/1.7 lens and 42.5mm f/1.7 lens, which of­fers more flex­i­bil­ity and com­pen­sates for the Canon’s larger sen­sor with brighter aper­tures.

At cur­rent prices, then, and against the ex­ist­ing com­pe­ti­tion, the Canon EOS M6 is a safe bet but doesn’t quite do enough to war­rant a full-throated rec­om­men­da­tion.

Pho­tos dis­play life­like yet vi­brant colours with­out the slight­est hint of noise in bright con­di­tions

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