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Canon EOS M6 Mark II review: Re-coining the term “bridge camera”

Dave Stevenson
11 Nov 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,100
Inc VAT

Halfway between amateur and pro, halfway between stills and video, it’s a great little camera for producing a little bit of everything

Pros 
Good images
Competent video mode
Good handling and body controls
Cons 
Not cheap
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Choosing a camera is like managing an unwieldy Venn diagram. Great image quality? Sure, but generally you’ll sacrifice price and weight. Low weight? Why not, but don’t expect great images or battery life. All we photographers want is a camera that shoots spellbinding images in all light, is compatible with the vastest range of lenses imaginable, and doesn’t treble the value of our cars when it goes in the boot.

So we were pretty excited to see the Canon EOS M6 Mark II land at Expert Reviews. It’s not the only camera we can think of recently that’s promised to fill in all the sections of the Venn diagram, but it’s certainly one of the most alluring semi-pro mirrorless options out there.

Canon EOS M6 Mark II review: What you need to know

We liked the original EOS M6, noting the original’s excellent ergonomics, body controls and image quality. The new version adds 4K video, a few external changes and opts for a new sensor with a whopping resolution. It’s small – just 119.6mm wide and 70mm high – and light at only 408g before you add a lens. It has a good set of physical features: twin jog dials on the top for making setting changes, plus a full mode dial; a re-assignable Fn button, plus a thumbwheel on the back. A touchscreen that flips up to face forwards for vloggers; 4K video; 100fps Full HD slow-motion video and – just in case you thought Canon had crammed a body full of features and forgotten about image quality – an APS-C sensor that matches the Canon EOS 90D at 32.5 megapixels. In case you forgot, that’s the highest resolution you’ll get on any APS-C camera, anywhere.

What could go wrong?

Canon EOS M6 Mark II review: Price and competition

The M6 Mark II is available in a couple of different retail packages. If you decide this is the camera for you, we’d suggest getting the body and the lens separately, because any bundle that includes the body and a lens includes Canon’s EVF-DC2 viewfinder, which came with our review model and which we stopped using after just a few minutes: it’s fine but doesn’t add much to the experience. All in, the M6 Mark II and the Canon EF-M 15-45mm f3.5-6.3 IS STM lens that came with our review unit will set you back about £1,100.

At which point you’ll be thinking, “that’s a lot of dosh,” and wondering if there are any even better ways to spend your money. You could, for instance, have the Fujifilm X-T30, which offers a lower-resolution APS-C sensor (26.1-megapixel, so not the end of the world), great handling (dials and buttons galore) and both 4K and Cinema 4K movie recording at a really decent range of frame rates. The M6 Mark II will have to be very good to beat the Fujifilm X-T30, particularly with the X-T30 benefiting from a few decent price cuts since it was announced and now sitting at the absurdly tempting price of £869 with a Fujinon XC 15-45mm F3.5-5.6 OIS PZ lens. It’s a touch slower than the M6 Mark II when it comes to burst mode, though, managing 8fps to the Canon’s 14fps unless you enable its electronic shutter.

Elsewhere? How about the excellent Sony A6400, currently sitting at the £999 mark including a 16-50mm lens. It’s a camera with a little less resolution than the Fujifilm X-T30 (24.2MP instead of 26.1), but can shoot 11fps to the EOS M6 Mark II’s 14fps. It still offers excellent 4K video recording and slow motion. With the two cameras so close, the devil is in the detail.

Canon EOS M6 Mark II review: Features and design

The M6 Mark II is a gorgeous little camera. Wear a winter coat and it will fit in your pocket with its bundled 15-45mm lens. But, unlike the similarly proportioned EOS M200, the emphasis is on a camera that experienced photographers and pros will be able to command almost as fast as they can a full-blown DSLR. To that end, the top-plate has a proper mode dial with the usual PASM suspects, plus a pair of custom modes and a dedicated movie setting. You also get a click wheel around the shutter release, and another multi-function dial to the rear that can do a number of different jobs. You might also be pleased to spot the hotshoe on the top of the camera – this can be used to run the optional Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) or external lighting accessories. In concert with the audio-in jack on the left-hand side, you might also plump for a hotshoe microphone.

Something worth noting for owners of the original M6 pondering an upgrade is that Canon has reduced the number of control wheels by one – the original’s exposure compensation dial has gone – a retrograde step in our book.

The back of the camera is busy rather than hectic. Compared to the original the M6 Mark II has gained a dedicated AF/MF switch plus an AF-ON button, giving a little more autofocus control. We expect videographers will find this particularly useful. Otherwise it’s as-you-were, almost – the direction pad on the back has switched from having a button that calls up ISO for an exposure compensation shortcut – a necessary sacrifice given the removal of the dedicated EV dial. The thumbwheel on the back remains, and is a touch fiddly to use – its “clicks” are indistinct which makes it a bit error-prone. Y

ou can always make changes via the touchscreen, of course, which is a beauty. It’s a 3in monitor with 1.04 million pixels, and can be tilted up to 180 degrees (i.e. facing forwards for vlogging), and down to 45 degrees, allowing you to find new angles. It feels robust, and is bright and clear. We were supplied with the optional electronic viewfinder and after a few hours found ourselves using the rear monitor almost exclusively. Like we say, save your cash.

The EF-M mount is worth a mention. Just because the M6 Mark II bears the EOS branding doesn’t mean it’s compatible with Canon’s mainstream selection of EF-S and EF lenses. Instead, you can attach EF-M mount lenses. These are designed to be lightweight and cover a range of consumer-friendly focal lengths. Highlights include the reasonable 15-45mm lens our review unit came with, or the 11-22mm f/4-5.6 wide-angle. There are a few other tempting options – the 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 is a practical-looking superzoom, and there are a handful of decent looking options from third parties.

Consider the Samyang 12mm f/2 or one of Sigma’s ultra-bright f/1.4 lenses: 30mm, 56mm and 16mm primes are all available and really bolster the M6 Mark II’s appeal for photographers who want to shoot with something more interesting. Of particular note is that we can’t find any EF-M lenses that cost more than £500. If you really run out of ideas, the Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS M (around £135) makes the M6 Mark II compatible with all EF and EF-S lenses.

The M6 Mark II is superbly usable. The menu system – which you’ll recognise if you’ve used almost any of Canon’s other bodies – is as refined, powerful and intuitive as any you’ll see on a camera. That means making changes big or small is straightforward. The presence of physical controls means getting the camera set up is also easy, while less experienced photographers will find plenty of automatic controls to take off the load.

Battery life is fine rather than great. At 305 shots you can expect to experience a little anxiety at the end of a hectic shooting day, so we’d suggest getting hold of a spare if you’re going somewhere particularly exciting. Still, battery life is competitive for the price and spec – the Sony A6400 will shoot 410 images using the rear LCD; the Fuji X-T30, 380.

Canon EOS M6 Mark II review: Photo quality

The Canon brand brings with it some pretty high hopes when it comes to output – Canon claims this is the “ultimate content creation camera”, and once you’re over your gag reflex at the word “content”, the only interpretation can be that this has to be a device that can create images and videos that work as well in low resolution on Instagram as they do in print or on a 4K TV.

Starting with stills, Canon has pulled off an awesome technical feat: images that look good despite the cramped confines of 32.5 million pixelsites on an APS-C sensor. Image quality is very good: there’s some good colour science at play which means images are excellent straight from the camera.

Our ISO tests were revealing. ISOs 100-1600 are where the M6 Mark II really sings. There’s about one more stop of usable image quality beyond that, taking you to ISO 3200 or possibly 6400 before you really start running out of road – if you constantly find yourself reaching for the higher ISOs on offer we’d suggest a brighter lens. Compared to others – again the Sony A6400 looms large as an excellent, cheaper competitor – we felt our tests showed a roughly one-stop advantage for the M6 Mark II, making it marginally better.

Canon EOS M6 Mark II review: Video quality

Video options are good rather than great. Certainly there are cameras out there that do more: both the Fujifilm X-T30 and Sony A6400 can shoot log, and the Fuji can support a pair of headphones via an HDMI-to-3.5mm adapter. All three offer audio-in ports, allowing you to record decent-sounding, er, sound.

Still, if we greet the M6 Mark II on its merits – which are as a go-anywhere camera that produces good looking files straight from the camera without the need for exhaustive grading and post-production, it’s fantastic. The STM (STepper Motor) autofocus drive in the lens is really quiet and moves nicely, allowing for good-looking, natural-feeling focus pulls using autofocus, which is lucky since the manual focus ring can be hard to move precisely.

Video looks sweet, whether you opt for Canon’s neutral in-camera processing and grade later, or settle on a more fulsome treatment that allows you to record punchy footage straight to the card. The ability to shoot 100fps from the camera in Full HD is nice, as is the option of 25fps in 4K. For our money the M6 Mark II is best used producing final projects in Full HD, downscaling and punching in on 4K footage with the occasional bit of slo-mo. Advanced video editors – or those wishing to learn the ropes of videography on a camera with lots of headroom will find better options elsewhere, but vloggers who want a great deal of control over their footage without being pernickety about headphones, log footage and being able to shoot every frame rate under the sun will find that the M6 Mark II meets their needs nicely.

Canon EOS M6 Mark II review: Verdict

It might be small, light and consumer-friendly, but we can see the M6 Mark II being comfortable in the bag – or indeed pocket – of many professionals. Good enough to pop off the odd still for social media and easily capable of great-looking video, it’s reasonably affordable, expandable enough and usable enough that more experienced users will be able to get it to do what they want – just like less experienced photographers will get quality results without knowing their elbow from their exposure compensation.

It handles really nicely and we’ve no complaints about image quality – for a very high-resolution APS-C camera this is about as good as it gets. Fine-art photographers will of course find better quality elsewhere, but you’ll upset the Venn diagram – the M6 Mark II is a bargain as it stands and you won’t find radically better image quality without adding substantially to the price. The lens selection is interesting, with plenty of usable glass for beginners and a good range of advanced options for those who want to produce more interesting looking stills or footage. One for the ages, and definitely a good look for those who want a camera that fills as much of the Venn diagram as possible.

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