The Canon EOS M6 is a compact 24MP APS-C mirrorless digital camera with twin dial controls and a touch screen interface. Starting at $779 for the body, it takes the guts of the EVF-equipped EOS M5 and puts them in an updated version of the M3 body. It sits in Canon’s M lineup between the M3 and M5, and is sold with the 15-45 and 18-150mm lenses as kit options for $899 and $1,279 respectively.

Key Features:

  • 24MP APS-C sensor with max ISO of 25600
  • Dual Pixel on sensor PDAF
  • Electronic video stabilization combines with in-lens IS to give 5-axis IS
  • 7 fps continuous shooting (9 fps with focus and exposure locked)
  • Wi-Fi with always-connected Bluetooth

As usual, Canon has a different view of the market from everybody else, leaving the M6 as either an expensive, better-built alternative to entry-level mirrorless rivals or as a mid-level/enthusiast model shorn of a viewfinder. Either way, it looks a bit pricey. Its level of build and controls puts it up against the throwback style of the Olympus PEN F, Panasonic’s 4K-capable GX85/80, Sony’s value-tastic a6000 and Fujifilm’s rather aged X-E2s.

It’s also interesting to compare it with Canon’s own Rebel series. With its twin control dials and very similar underlying hardware, the M6 is essentially an EOS 77D but without the bulk/utility of an optical viewfinder and with a smaller choice of lenses (unless you forfeit some of the size benefit and use an adapter). The difference in list price is $120 or you can get an M6 kit for the price of a body-only 77D.

  Canon EOS M6 Sony a6000 Panasonic GX85 Canon EOS 77D
(base kit lens)
$899 $599 $799 $1049
Sensor 24MP APS-C 24MP APS-C 16MP Four Thirds 24MP APS-C
Image stabilization Lens-based Lens-based In-body Lens-based
AF system Dual Pixel AF On-sensor phase-detect Contrast-detect with DFD Dual Pixel AF + phase-detect
LCD type Tilting Tilting Tilting Fully articulating
Touchscreen Yes No Yes Yes
Viewfinder Optional 1.44M dot EVF 2.76M dot equiv. EVF* OVF
Burst rate
(with AF)
7 fps 11 fps 6 fps 6 fps
Yes / No Yes / No No / No Yes / No
Video 1080/60p 1080/60p UHD 4K @ 30p 1080/60p
Wireless Wi-Fi w/NFC + BLE Wi-Fi w/NFC Wi-Fi Wi-Fi w/NFC
Battery life 295 shots 360 shots 290 shots 600 shots (OVF)
Weight (body) 343 g 344 g 426 g 540 g

*Uses field sequential update to give resolution equivalent to 2.76M dots

Years ago, I assisted a fashion and editorial photographer who had pre-ordered the EOS M plus an EF adapter the moment the cyber gates opened. They were excited to have a point and shoot sized APS-C second camera that took up less space than a lens in a camera bag.

In their imagination was a camera with AF capabilities, controls, and image quality similar to a midrange APS-C DSLR, but with the size advantages of a mirrorless system. It was returned immediately after adapting it to one of their existing EF lenses. The slow CDAF system meant it couldn’t come close to being a second body that could be counted on in a pinch.

The EOS M6 comes with great autofocus performance, even in macro mode.
Canon EF-M 28mm F3.5 Macro | ISO 100 | 1/400 sec | F5
Photo by Samuel Spencer

I’m happy to say the camera they were originally hoping for has been released. The $780 (body only) Canon M6 may be a bit larger and more upmarket than the original M, but it has the controls, image quality, and AF performance that can keep up with DSLRs in many situations. It is also currently the smallest package in which you can find Canon’s Dual Pixel Autofocus.

In this review we’ll look at the camera through the eyes of a series of potential buyers. To begin, let’s see how the EOS M6 really stacks up as an addition to an established Canon shooter’s larger kit.

As a Canon shooter’s second body

Despite its petite size, the EOS M6 wears a smart set of controls. There are twin command dials; one surrounds the shutter button, the other surrounds the 4-way controller on the rear. This rear face dial is only used in manual exposure mode and users can choose which dial does what.

Importantly, it offers about as much control and customizability as an enthusiast used to larger DSLRs could want.

There’s also a third dial that lives, rather neatly, under the exposure compensation dial. Its function can be set separately for Av/Tv/P and manual movie modes so that it controls ISO, white balance, AF method, metering, drive mode. In M mode it can also be assigned to control either shutter speed or aperture, rendering the more fiddly rear face dial redundant.

Unlike Canon’s compacts, there’s no ‘Dial Func’ option on the M6 to quickly change the assigned parameter, so instead it’s set in the menu. However, having four main dials is much more control than found on most other mirrorless cameras, even the higher-end ones with viewfinders and can be set to place the most important functions on the most convenient dials.

Most importantly, it offers about as much control and customizability as an enthusiast used to larger DSLRs could want in most respects. Sadly, for any users switching between the two, the interface doesn’t quite match Canon’s DSLRs and slows operation down by animating the appearance of the ‘Q’ menu.

There’s also limited button customization and, unfortunately for users of Auto ISO, the M6 comes with a frustratingly lackluster implementation. You are afforded no control over which shutter speeds the camera chooses, though, thankfully, you can at least use Auto ISO in manual mode and select a shutter speed yourself.

For casual shooting with the Canon image quality you’re used to, the M6 shines.
Out-of-camera JPEG, EF-M 22mm F2
ISO 100 | 1/800 sec | F2
Photo by Carey Rose

The 24MP sensor is a far cry from the original EOS M and has all the performance one would ever need for a second camera, with typically pleasing Canon color. One of the major improvements in image quality brought by this 24MP chip is improved dynamic range, allowing greater adjustments in post production without artefacts like noise and banding showing up excessively in adjusted areas.

The truly major change this new chip brings is Dual Pixel autofocus. It covers 80% of the width and height of the frame (equalling a total of 64% coverage). It is the same system we found in the EOS M5, which performed admirably in all our tests.

The admirable autofocus performance doesn’t change when using adapted lenses

Most importantly, for anyone who already has EF and EF-S lenses, performance doesn’t change when using adapted lenses either, as the EF adapter is no more than an extension tube with wires going through it to extend the electronic contacts. That means now it has the AF that enthusiasts, and even pros of many specialisms, would want out of their second body.

Compared with the M5, using the M6 can be even better in certain situations. For a start, it’s smaller, which means there’s a bigger size benefit over your existing DSLR. And, since there is no EVF, there’s also no eye sensor to accidentally trigger when shooting with the screen flipped out. This happened regularly when trying to go low and choose an AF point with the touch screen during our review of the M5. So the M6 will be the easier camera to find interesting viewpoints with, since there’s no frustrations in using the screen at any position… Well, almost any position….

Out-of-camera JPEG, EF-M 28mm F3.5 Macro
ISO 100 | 1/250 sec | F8
Photo by Samuel Spencer