Introduction

Canon’s EOS R5 and R6 are designed to act as mirrorless versions of the hugely popular EOS 5D and EOS 6D series of DSLRs. The relationship is very similar, with the R5 offering list of capabilities that will appeal to a variety of professional as well as enthusiast photographers.

But the R6 offers a strong feature set in its own right. We thought it’d be helpful to delve into the differences, to see just what you gain and give up by choosing between the two.

Sensors

The most obvious difference between the two camera is resolution. The R5 is based around a new 45 megapixel sensor, meaning it offers more than enough resolution for all but the most demanding of tasks. We’ve not had a chance to test the sensor fully yet, but there’s no question that it delivers in terms of detail. We’ll know more about things like dynamic range once we have full Raw support, but the last generations of Canon sensor have done well in this regard.

The R6, meanwhile, is based around a 20MP sensor, said to be closely-related to the one in the 1D X III. It’s a chip we saw perform well when we tested that camera, and we suspect Canon chose to use it here to let the R6 keep up with the R5’s burst shooting speeds. 20MP is sufficient for a wide range of photography, but it may be a deciding factor if you shoot for print publication or demanding clients.

Both cameras include anti-aliasing filters. And, while these have somewhat fallen out of favor as pixel counts have risen and the need for them has been reduced, Canon still clearly believes they have a valuable role to play. This could be based on their faith in the sharpness in the new RF lens designs, or experience with providing tools to wedding photographers who can’t risk moiré creeping into critical images, but AA filters are present in both cameras.

In-body image stabilization

Despite the price difference, both cameras are said to have the same image stabilization system, rated at up to 8EV, depending on the lens it’s used with.

It’s a five-axis sensor-shift system that works collaboratively with the IS system in RF lenses. Canon says the unprecedentedly high rating is achieved by the in-body and in-lens systems constantly communicating with one-another.

Canon hasn’t commented (and we’ve not yet had time to test) how well the IS systems work with EF lenses, that don’t have the greater communication bandwidth of the RF mount.

Continuous shooting

Another specification common to the two cameras is their continuous shooting rate. Both cameras can shoot at 12 fps with their mechanical shutters or 20 fps in e-shutter modes.

The R5’s higher pixel count makes this harder to maintain. At 20 fps, it’ll write at least 84 Raws + Large/Fine JPEG files to a CFexpress card, a number that increases to 170 shots if you just shoot JPEG. In 12 fps mode you’ll get 90 Raw + Large/Fine HEIFs, 160 Raws with JPEGS and 180 Raw files. Moving to C-Raw boosts most of these numbers by around 50%. HEIF and JPEG figures are similar whether you use CFexpress or a UHS-II card, but Raw shooting definitely benefits from the faster card format.

The R6’s most limited burst with a fast UHS-II card is 140 Raw + Large/Fine HEIF files. Move to Raw+JPEG and it increases to 160 shots in a burst, or 240 if you just shoot Raw. If you move across to C-Raw the numbers more than double, and shooting C-Raw, HEIF or JPEG only will see you get over 1000 shots in a go. Not shabby for the more basic model.

Viewfinder and screens

One area in which Canon has decided to differentiate between the two models is display resolution. The R5, commensurate with its higher price tag, has the latest 5.76M dot OLED EVF, paired with a 2.1M dot rear LCD. The R6 has a 3.68M dot EVF and slightly smaller 3.0″ 1.68M dot LCD.

However, it’s noticeable that both use the same viewfinder optics to give a solid 0.76x magnification and 23mm eye-point. And both viewfinders can be run at 120Hz for a more OVF-like shooting experience.

We’ve seen some criticism of this decision, but the 3.68M dot panel in the R6 is still very good. It’s comparable to the one in the Nikon Z6 and higher resolution than the viewfinder in the Sony a7 III. Only the Panasonic S1 (which shares the R6’s launch price) gets a 5.76M dot display in this class, so it’s up to you to decide whether foregoing the best available finder is a fair trade-off for the areas in which the R6 out-specs the Panasonic.

Video

Video is one of the biggest areas of difference. The R5’s sensor is designed to shoot 8K video at up to 30p (though this can also be output as perfectly 2:1 oversampled 4K footage, if that makes more sense for your workflow). It also includes the option to internally record Raw video, which means 8K to avoid the need for sub-sampling or cropping. It can also shoot 4K/120p from the full width of the sensor, but this doesn’t use all the available pixels, so is likely to be less detailed.

The R6, meanwhile, shoots 4K footage at up to 60p. It uses what is effectively a 16:9 crop from what would be a full-width DCI capture, which means it’s slightly cropped-in (it’s a 1.07x crop). But again it benefits from the same impressive stabilization capabilities.

Canon hasn’t withheld any video tools from R6 users: both cameras have headphone and mic sockets and offer both focus peaking and zebra exposure indicators. Like the R5, the R6 can capture C-Log or HDR PQ video as 10-bit 4:2:2 H.265 files and has view assist modes for both.

Video

There are major differences to the video-shooting experience, though: the R5 offers a full range of video exposure modes, including Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Custom modes, whereas the R6 only shoots in Program or full Manual mode. That said, the R6 does let you use Auto ISO in manual mode and lets you adjust the aperture in 1/8th EV steps, so you can get a decent degree of control or automation, if you need it.

Beyond the resolution differences and Raw capture, Canon has clearly decided that the wider DCI aspect ratio and All-I encoding are higher-end requirements, so they’re only available on the R5.

Body

The bodies look similar at first glance but the differences stack up the closer you look at them.

The most visible difference is that the R5 has a top-plate settings display, whereas the R6 has a conventional exposure mode dial. The R5 has a full-size ‘N3’ three-pin screw-in remote release socket on its front plate, whereas the R6 has a simpler ‘E3’ three-pole 2.5mm headphone-style connector as one of the ports on the camera’s left flank. On the R5 that space is taken up with a flash sync port.

The construction of the two cameras is different, too. The R5 features primarily metal construction with a polycarbonate rear plate, whereas the R6 makes more extensive use of reinforced polycarbonate. The R5’s body is slightly more angular in places and the camera as a whole is heavier than the R6. Canon says the R5 is sealed in a way that’s up to the standards of the 5D series of DSLRs, while the R6’s weather-proofing is a match for the 6D cameras.

Autofocus

Autofocus is another area in which the two cameras are essentially matched. Both have the latest iteration of Canon’s Dual Pixel AF system, with 100% coverage both horizontally and vertically across the frame.

Both use AF systems which have been trained by machine learning. This provides the subject recognition capabilities that underpin their Human and Animal detection modes. The snappily titled ‘EOS iTR AF X’ system can detect human eyes, faces and heads, and the eyes, faces and bodies of animals including cats, dogs and birds. You can tell the camera whether to prioritize focus on humans or animals (or show no preference) and it will maintain focus on the subject, even if a person looks away, and switching from body-AF to eye-AF as an animal gets closer.

The R6’s AF is rated as working in light as low a -6.5EV when used with an F1.2 lens, or -5EV in video mode. The R5 is rated down to -6EV in stills and -4EV in video, again with an F1.2 lens attached.

Battery life

The different internals have an impact on the cameras’ respective battery life figures. Both share the latest 16Wh LP-E6NH battery and can use older LP-E6-type batteries if you have them.

The R5 is rated at 320 shots per charge through the viewfinder and 490 shots using the LCD, in default mode. Shifting to the higher refresh rate mode sees these drop by around 30% to 220 and 320 shots, respectively.

The R6 posts slightly better results: 380 shots per charge using the viewfinder in standard mode and 510 via the LCD. Again there’s about a 30% reduction if you engage the faster viewfinder mode, with the endurance dropping to 250 and 350 shots per charge for the EVF and LCD.

Both cameras can be recharged if you have a high-current USB-C charger or power bank.

Cards

The R5’s 8K video and 45MP stills produce a lot more data than the R6, so Canon has equipped the camera with a CFexpress slot, in addition to a UHS-II SD card slot. As we’ve seen, the SD card slot can’t clear the buffer as fast during burst shooting, and can only record IPB-encoded 8K video, so it’s worth buying some CFexpress cards if you need to make full use of the R5’s capabilities.

The R6’s lower pixel count means a fast UHS-II card is sufficient for both stills and video. The use of the SD format not only means you’re more likely to already own some compatible memory cards, but also that you can fill your pockets with a single card type, if you ever expect to fill both.

Wi-Fi

Both cameras have built-in Wi-Fi for transferring video and stills, either to a smart device, a computer or even over FTP. The R5 has both 2.4 and 5GHz radios, while the R6 is only compatible with the slower (and often more congested) 2.4GHz networks.

Both cameras let you separately select which files to transfer when you’re shooting Raw + JPEG and Raw + HEIF, so you can set it to upload just the JPEGs for standard DR images but upload the Raws for when you’re shooting HDR PQ HEIFs, for instance.

As well as the difference in frequency bands the cameras can communicate over, it’s also only the R5 that can be used with the WFT-R10A wireless grip accessory. This adds more powerful Wi-Fi transmission and has an Ethernet connection for dependable fast file transfer.

Dual Pixel Raw

One notable R5-only feature is Dual Pixel Raw. This separately retains data from both halves of the pixel, meaning that it’s possible to reconstruct some depth information about the scene, even after the photo has been taken.

This opens up various processing options, both in-camera and when using Canon’s Digital Photo Professional software. DPP already offers a focus-shift feature but the new camera adds the internal options ‘Portrait Relighting’ which selectively brightens parts of the image, based on depth and face recognition data. There’s also a Background Clarity option that we haven’t yet had a chance to use.

Price

And there you have it. Other than the resolution differences, the R6 has a lot in common with the more expensive R5. Of course there’s a price to be paid for the R5’s extras: specifically a recommended retail price of $3899, compared to the R6’s $2499.

Which camera interests you more is likely to depend a lot on what kinds of photos you take and how you plan to use the video. But we hope we’ve teased-out enough of the differences to help you understand whether there are any unexpected differences or omissions you might have overlooked.

If you are about to reach for your credit card, there might be one more factor to consider: the R5 is available in late July, whereas you have to wait until late August for the R6.

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