Canon EOS R5 vs EOS R6: What’s the difference?

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Canon had been teasing that its EOS R5 mirrorless camera was coming – it was first made public in February 2020 – but it arrives alongside an EOS R6 too. That’s a bit of a surprise! Two cameras, but two very different prospects, so what’s the difference between the EOS R5 and R6?

Best for

  • EOS R5: Magnesium alloy body, 135.8 x 97.5 x 88mm, 738g
  • EOS R6: Polycarbonate body, 138.4 x 97.5 x 88.4mm, 680g
  • Both cameras: Full-frame sensor with EOS RF mount
  • Both cameras: Built-in image stabilisation (IBIS)

The EOS R5 as the ultra-high resolution solution with 8K video capability. Think of it as the mirrorless version of the EOS 5DS DSLR, ideal for landscapes and highly detailed work.

The EOS R6 doesn’t deliver the same resolution or video potential as the R5 – but it’s a very fast camera, with action and low-light in mind. Think of this more as the mirrorless version of the EOS 7D II (albeit with a larger sensor).

Both cameras feature Canon’s built-in image stabilisation system, which is a first for the brand. By using a combination of sensors in the cameras’ bodies in combination with lens-based stabilisation (where applicable) the Japanese company is claiming up to 8-stops of stabilisation can be delivered. That’s a huge helping hand.

While both cameras are also weather-sealed, the R5 is a magnesium alloy build, so it’s heavier, as the EOS R6 uses a polycarbonate body instead.

Resolution

  • EOS R5: 45-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
    • ISO 100-51,200 (102,400 expanded)
  • EOS R6: 20.1-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
    • ISO 100-102,400 (204,800 expanded)

Here’s the biggest difference on paper. The EOS R5 has a 45 million pixel full-frame sensor. Canon says, thanks to it being part of the new system, it’s capable of resolving more detail than any Canon camera before it – and that includes higher-resolution DSLRs too – because of the optical potential of the RF lens mount.

The EOS R6 has a 20.1 million pixel full-frame sensor, so less than half the resolution. That’s still heaps of pixels though, more than many will need for most types of work. And having lower resolution can be a benefit when churning through dozens of files at a time.

Performance

  • EOS R5: -6EV low-light autofocus / EOS R6: -6.5EV
  • Both cameras:
    • 12fps mechanical shutter (20fps electronic)
    • Dual Pixel CMOS AF II autofocus
    • Digic X processor

In terms of performance both cameras offer a lot that’s the same. Their sensors are the same physical size. The stabilisation system equally effective.

Both also represent the first appearance of Canon’s second-generation Dual Pixel CMOS AF system. If you’ve used a Canon before you might have heard about this: it first appeared on the 70D DSLR, showing off what was possible on screen-based autofocus. In its 2020 guise, however, it’s quicker than ever before – as fast as 0.05s, Canon asserts – and also features eye/face/body tracking and animal detection.

Not that the EOS R5 and R6 are just for shooting your pets. Both cameras offer deep learning, so the more you shoot subjects, the more context the camera will have to understand your methods. Sure, dogs and cats are the dominant species it’s programmed to recognise, but also birds – including birds in flight – will be a huge deal for a large swathe of enthusiasts.

The latest Digic X processor also means considerable speed: both can clack away at 12fps (mechanical shutter) at full resolution. So, yes, the EOS R5 can capture 540 million pixels of data in a second in that regard (it’s actually more as a 20fps electronic shutter also runs at full resolution, meaning 900MP can be buffered within a second).

The EOS R6, on account of its larger ‘pixels’ on that sensor, is also more astute to low-light conditions. It can autofocus as low as -6.5EV, which is beyond moonlight conditions – more like candlelight really. The R5 isn’t far behind, though, at -6EV, making it half a stop less capable there.

Screen & Viewfinder

  • EOS R5:
    • LCD: 3.2-inch, 2.1m-dot, vari-angle mount
    • EVF: 0.5in, 5.76m-dot 120fps refresh rate
  • EOS R6:
    • LCD: 3-inch, 1.62m-dot, vari-angle mount
    • EVF: 0.5in, 3.69m-dot, 120fps refresh

In sync with its ultra-high resolution, the EOS R5 also offers the higher resolution viewfinder, offering a massive 5.76 million dots. That makes it 1.92m pixels (1600 x 1200; as each dot describes one of the red, green and blue channels used to create one white pixel). Still, there’s nothing more resolute out there in the consumer market.

By comparison the EOS R6 has a lower resolution offering, but it’s still massively resolute at 3.69m-dots (1.23m pixels). Both offer 120 frames per second refresh rate too, for the most accurate to-eye view, so you don’t miss a moment.

Both cameras feature vari-angle LCD screens for creative composition. The R5’s is a little larger and more packed with pixels.

Video Credentials

  • EOS R5: Maximum capture – 8K at 30/25/24fps
  • EOS R6: Maximum capture – 4K at 60/50/30/25/24fps
  • EOS R5: Dual cards (1x CF Express, 1x SD (UHS-II))
  • EOS R6: Dual cards (2x SD (UHS-II))

The headline feature of the EOS R5 is its ability to capture 8K video (DCI 17:9, UHD 16:9 using H.265 compression and 4:2:2 10-bit onto card). This is with a slight crop – Canon tells us the camera captures at 35MP per frame – at up to 30 frames per second.

The EOS R6 maxes out at 4K60p, but that’s still impressive. The EOS R5 also offers this – but with 4K120 as an option to make quarter-time slow-mo editing a breeze.

Both cameras also offer Full HD at 120fps, Canon Log for grading, and clean HDMI out to 4K60 maximum (potentially due to the HDMI standard).

Conclusion

  • EOS R5: £4,199.99, sales from 30 July 2020
  • EOS R6: £2,499.99, sales from 27 August 2020

So there you have it, two big deal pro-spec cameras with a different target user in each case.

Want the ultra-high resolution and/or 8K capture? The R5 will set you back £4,200 in the UK, arriving late July. Add an RF lens and you’ll need deep pockets.

The R6 is £2,500 and will arrive later in the year, from late August. Hardly small change, but this looks like an all-round EOS R that, with the right lens attached, will become Canon’s 2020 focus.

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