Mirrorless Cameras: Canon R5 vs. R6
If there was any doubt about the industry going fully mirrorless, the nearly nonstop stream of new mirrorless camera releases has put those doubts to rest.
Canon’s EOS R was released in October 2018 to much fanfare and quick follow-ups have continued ever since with splashier specs. The EOS R and RP were, for the most part, simply mirrorless versions of the 5D Mark IV and 6D Mark II, respectively. They ultimately didn’t spark that much excitement.
But with the release of the R5 and R6, Canon has made true successors to those two DSLRs. These cameras, along with the upcoming R3 and rumored R1, have proven that Canon are taking this format very seriously and aren’t going to simply sit by and let Sony take all the mirrorless glory any longer.
Let’s quickly look at what makes the Canon R5 vs. R6 different so that you can decide which one is the better fit for you.
Canon R5 vs. R6 Specs
The R5 and R6 are both fantastic cameras with plenty of powerful capabilities and, honestly, they are – at least at first glance – seemingly more similar than they are different. They have almost exactly the same body, for one. Their sizes are virtually identical, though they do have some differences in controls. They are also equipped with the same processor and autofocus systems. They both have the same RF mount as the rest of Canon’s new mirrorless cameras, allowing complete interchangeability of lenses. There are enough differences, however, to position them toward different target audiences.
|Canon EOS R5||Canon EOS R6|
|Sensor||45 MP Full Frame||20.1 MP Full Frame|
|Max Still Resolution||8192 x 5464||5472 x 3648|
|Native ISO Range||100-51,200||100-102,400|
|AF Points||1053 (Phase Detection)||1053 (Phase Detection)|
|Shutter Sync Speed||1/250||1/250|
|Photo Burst Speed||12 FPS (Mechanical Shutter), 20 FPS (Electronic Shutter)||12 FPS (Mechanical Shutter), 20 FPS (Electronic Shutter)|
|Image Stabilization||Sensor-Shift 5-Axis||Sensor-Shift 5-Axis|
|Max Video Resolution||DCI 8K @ 30p
DCI 4K @ 120p
|UHD 4K @ 60p|
|Video Crop||Full Sensor Width||1.06x|
|Max Video Bit Rate||4:2:2 10-Bit||4:2:2 10-Bit|
|Memory Cards||1 x UHS-II SD, 1 x CFexpress Type B||2 x UHS-II SD|
|LCD||3.15″ Fully Articulating Touchscreen||3″ Fully Articulating Touchscreen|
|Viewfinder||5.76M dot||3.69M dot|
|Dimensions||5.43″ x 3.84″ x 3.46″||5.43″ x 3.84″ x 3.48”|
|Weight||1.62 lbs||1.5 lbs|
Canon R5 vs. R6 Features
Now let’s dig a little more into the specs and features of the cameras and see how they compare.
The overall physical size and shape of the bodies are virtually identical, though the R5 does add a few extra grams of weight. It’s probably not enough to be a decision maker one way or the other, but it would be noticeable if you held the two cameras successively.
The major difference between the two bodies comes in the top plate, where the R5 carries over the OLED panel from the EOS R while the R6 sports a more traditional mode dial.
As mirrorless cameras, both the R5 and R6 feature two separate digital view screens: the electronic viewfinder (where a traditional DSLR viewfinder would sit) and the fully articulating touchscreen LCDs that Canon has put on the back of many of their DSLRs. In both cases, the R5 slightly outpaces the R6. Its 5.76 million dot OLED EVF is among the highest resolutions available, while the R6’s 3.69 million dot OLED EVF is more typical, falling in line with cameras such as the Nikon Z7 and Sony a7 III. Both offer 120 FPS refresh rates and 0.76x magnification, making both extremely capable, though the R5’s is a little nicer.
In terms of the rear LCD, the R5 again slightly shows up the R6 with a 3.15” LCD compared to 3”. It’s a small difference, but a difference nonetheless.
The megapixel races that were the rage a few years ago have slowed but it’s still an easy point for comparison. Megapixel counts are now largely more useful for helping to identify the target audience rather than which camera has “the best technology”.
There’s an expectation that more expensive cameras have higher resolution sensors, and while that is not always true, in this case it is. The Canon R5 offers a 45MP sensor while the R6 has a 20.1MP sensor.
Sensors around 20MP have proven to be a sweet spot for many photographers, offering enough resolution for the vast majority of uses while retaining smaller file sizes and speed. The 40MP+ sensors are targeted at users who need the most resolution possible – mainly landscape and commercial studio photographers.
So while the R5 has more than twice the resolution of the R6, this may be less of a better/worse situation than simply different tools for different jobs. In addition to the file size benefits, there are other advantages to lower-resolution sensors. For example, all else being equal, a sensor with lower resolution generally performs better with low light settings than a sensor of the same size with a higher resolution. The smaller file sizes also enable longer burst caches, indispensable for sports and wildlife photographers. Many flagship cameras, for example, continue to stay at lower resolutions thanks to these benefits.
The other difference between these cameras is a redesigned low-pass filter on the R5’s sensor, compared to the more standard low-pass filter on the R6.
What is a Low-Pass Filter?
A low-pass filter blurs super high detail subjects (ones that would cause moiré, such as fine fibers and patterns from clothes or even hair). Moiré gives off a rainbow, jaggy, or otherwise distorted look to these items and can be pretty aggravating, especially for video shooters, and hard to edit away. This is becoming less of a problem with every new camera release thanks to higher and higher pixel counts making these aberrations simply harder to see in the final result. More camera releases are omitting this filter altogether in favor of ultimate sharpness. Cameras that are more suited to videography are more likely to keep the filter whereas high megapixel, landscape-oriented cameras will remove them (though the 50MP+ 5Ds R is a notable exception).
Instead of just removing the filter for one model and keeping it in the other, Canon chose to give the R5 the same redesigned filter as in its flagship 1D X Mark III and keep the standard one inside of the R6. The new filter tech supposedly offers the best of both worlds: exceptional sharpness with no aliasing/artifacting.
You do see some low light benefit from the R6 over the R5. The R6 offers an extra stop of native ISO (102,400 vs 51,200). And while you probably don’t want to push either camera that far, you will see a slight improvement in image quality from the R6 once you start to push the ISO.
The autofocus systems in the R5 and R6 are identical. They both use the same hybrid Dual Pixel Autofocus System with head, face, and eye detection technology (including Animal AF Tracking when shooting dogs, cats, and birds). They have the same AF coverage and, while the R5 claims to have a slight AF speed advantage, the reality is they likely perform largely the same. Especially when paired with an RF lens (as opposed to an EF lens + adapter), your autofocus performance is going to be absolutely top-notch.
Wildlife and sports shooters ask a lot of their burst shooting capabilities. For the most part, performance is going to be the same for both cameras. Both offer a maximum of 12 FPS when using the mechanical shutter and up to 20 FPS when using the electronic shutter.
The second part of burst shooting is how many images you can capture in a burst. Here, the smaller file size of the R6 offers an apparent advantage, with the ability to capture 240 full-resolution raw images compared to the R5’s 180.
However, there are two factors that make this difference negligible in real world shooting. The first is that even pushing the hardest (20 raw frames per second), you’re looking at 12 full seconds of burst compared to 9 full seconds. It’s unlikely that anybody would ever need to shoot bursts for that long. Second, those numbers are both for full resolution files, with the larger R5 images causing the smaller number. If you absolutely needed to shoot that many images, you could lower the resolution of the R5 to roughly match the R6’s and likely get as many, or possibly more, shots in a burst.
Both the R5 and R6 offer a host of powerful video features. You can take advantage of Canon’s Dual Pixel Autofocus, 4:2:2 10-bit bitrate, C-Log, H.265, and video features such as zebras and focus peaking (missing from many of Canon’s previous non-cinema offerings).
However, the R5 does offer some significant video power upgrades over the R6. While both allow you to capture fantastic Full HD and UHD 4K up to 60p, the R5 goes even further, offering DCI 4K up to 120p and up to DCI 8K at 30p. While resolutions above 4K aren’t terribly important (right now), the extra resolution can be nice to have (allowing the ability to crop into 4K) and should offer a bit more future proofing than the R6. It’s better to have the capability and not use it than to need it and not have it (if you can afford it). Otherwise, the R6 should meet your needs. But keep in mind that the R5 offers full-width video recording, allowing you to take advantage of the full frame sensor. The R6 has a 1.06x crop factor, losing a little bit of sensor space, but not a huge amount.
The R6 offers dual UHS-II SD card slots and the ability to either record sequentially once you fill up your first card or to record onto both simultaneously for backup purposes. Since SD cards have been the standard for a while, many photographers will likely already have a stockpile of them on hand.
The R5’s higher resolution sensor, and especially its 8K shooting capabilities, require something faster than SD. While you still get two card slots, one of them is a CFexpress Type B. CFexpress offers far faster read and write speeds than SD, making them necessary for 8K video and helpful for increasing speeds during other tasks. However, they are still significantly pricier than SD cards and it’s less likely you’ll already have them. Learn more about this relatively new card format in What is CFexpress and How Does it Compare?.
Both cameras have respectable battery life, but the R6 does edge out the R5, being rated for 360 shots compared to the R5’s 320 shots. Depending on your shooting style, this may or may not be significant for you. If you shoot in high volume, the longer battery life might make the R6 more appealing, especially when you also factor in the smaller files being easier to work with.
If you want to wirelessly connect your camera, the R5 and R6 are similar, though there are again small differences that favor the R5. Both can connect via WiFi and Bluetooth, but the R5 can use both 5GHz and 2.4GHz spectrums (only 2.4GHz for the R6) and it offers Bluetooth 5.0 (4.1 for the R6). If you need or prefer wireless file transfers, the R5 will get the job done more quickly.
This all brings us to the relative price points between the R5 and R6. As of June 2021, the R5 is available from Canon at $3,899 while the R6 is considerably less expensive at $2,499. With the release of the R3, keep an eye on these prices as they may go down even further by Christmas.
If you are just getting into the EOS R series of cameras, you’ll want to start investing in RF lenses, which are generally more expensive than comparable EF lenses, and you’ll want to get some CFexpress cards if you get the R5. These factors push price points even higher and might influence your choice based on your total budget.
Both the R5 and R6 are fantastic cameras and bring an exciting evolution to Canon’s mirrorless camera lineup. The R5 more closely targets working professional landscape or studio photographers who want the absolute highest level of detail and the most possible resolution to work with. It also appeals to hybrid shooters and videographers. The R6 offers a feature set (and price point) that appeals more to generalist shooters who don’t need the most extreme specs but who want to start investing in the EOS R ecosystem.
Not sure which camera is the better option for you? Rent the Canon EOS R5 and the Canon EOS R6 and see which one better fits your needs. Getting both cameras in-hand will inform you much better than any online review can. Be sure to try out some RF lenses, too!