After entering the full-frame mirrorless market with a camera that lacked several features found in competitors, Canon went all-in with the EOS R5 and R6. Boasting lists of specifications that include the best-yet rating for a full-frame stabilization system and updated autofocus, the EOS R5 and R6 bring many features that pros and serious enthusiasts found lacking with the original Canon EOS R and budget-friendly EOS RP.
Both the EOS R6 and R5 offer the same headlining features, with identical built-in stabilization, the same autofocus system, and the same 12 frames per second bursts. Yet, the two cameras have several differences that may make one a better fit than the other. The EOS R5 is best thought of as Canon’s professional mirrorless, while the EOS R6 is a camera for serious enthusiasts and, in some niche areas, pros on a budget.
We broke down Canon’s newest mirrorless cameras, feature by feature, to compare the Canon EOS R5 versus R6. While the initial analysis is based on specifications alone, we’ll rematch the two cameras once we have hands-on experience with both, so check back for updates.
Canon EOS R6
- 20.1-megapixel full-frame sensor
- ISO 100 to 102,400 (204,800 extended)
- RAW burst mode up to 240 frames
- 4K video at 60 fps (10-bit)
- 3.69 million dot viewfinder
- No secondary LCD screen
- Dual SD card slots
- Weighs 1.5 pounds
Canon EOS R5
- 45MP full-frame sensor
- ISO 100 to 51,200 (102,400 extended)
- RAW burst mode up to 180 frames
- 8K video at 30 fps (RAW 12-bit)
- 5.76 million dot viewfinder
- Secondary LCD screen
- Dual slots: One CFExpress, one SD/SDHC/SDXC
- Weighs 1.62 pounds
The sensor is the biggest difference between the R5 and R6. The pricier of the two cameras, the R5 boasts a 45MP sensor for more detailed images. That competes well with other high-end full-frame cameras, such as the Nikon Z7 and the Canon EOS 5DSR, though Sony’s top mirrorless A7R IV is now at 60MP.
Megapixels are just one part of the equation, however. While the R6 only has a 20MP sensor, the cheaper camera has the wider ISO range, going a stop beyond the R5’s limits. That’s because sensors with fewer megapixels tend to be more capable of handling high ISOs without an overwhelming amount of noise. The fewer pixels you have, the larger those pixels are, which should help the R6 be a solid performer in low light. The Canon EOS 1DX Mark III, Canon’s top camera for sports photographers who regularly use higher ISOs to freeze motion, also uses a 20.1MP sensor. Unlike the R5, the R6’s sensor doesn’t stack up quite as well with competitors — both the cheaper Canon EOS RP and EOS R have more megapixels. The R5 will be the better camera in most situations, but the R6 may be a better option for photographers regularly shooting at high ISOs.
Winner: Canon EOS R5
The R5’s 8K video seemingly pokes fun at the limitations of competitors’ 4K cameras. Capable of shooting 8K in a 12-bit RAW mode, the R5 can even capture that detailed video at frame rates up to about 30 fps. Overheating may be a concern, limiting the 8K videos to 20 minutes of continuous recording time, less if the room is more than 73 degrees. 4K video isn’t available in 12-bit, RAW, or the widest DCI aspect ratio, but in 10-bit mode can record at 120 fps for slow-motion detail. 4K can also be oversampled, pulling in more detail.
The R6 may not have that 8K — but you probably don’t need 8K. Without an 8K display, the perks of the higher resolution are really for more freedom in post-production and the option to oversample the 4K and gather more detail. The 4K coming from the R6 will be more than sufficient for most, with 10-bit 4K at up to 60 fps. That 4K video is still oversampled from the full width of the sensor for more detail. While the R6 lacks RAW, it does include Canon Log for more flexibility in post.
Winner: Canon EOS R5 (but you probably don’t need 8K)
For as different as the R5 and R6 sensors are, performance is almost identical. Both cameras incorporate an in-body stabilization system that’s ranked for up to eight stops when paired with a compatible stabilized lens (six stops with a non-stabilized lens). That even beats out the previous stabilization leader: Olympus’ seven-and-a-half stops. We’ve shot handheld long exposures with that type of stabilization system before, so the new stabilization system is one of the biggest features on the two cameras.
Both cameras also incorporate a similar autofocus system. Canon’s Dual Pixel Autofocus made the move to mirrorless smoother, and now Canon is upping the ante with a second generation of the system. The autofocus system allows for 100% frame coverage, as well as eye autofocus (AF) for both people and animals. Both cameras also have 1053 autofocus points. Where the two systems differ is in low light. As we touched on earlier, the cheaper R6 actually has a slightly better low light autofocus, starting at focusing in -6.5 exposure value (EV) of light instead of -6. That should pair well with the camera’s lower resolution sensor.
Along the same lines, the R5 and R6 offer similar speeds, though the R6 comes out slightly better in terms of endurance. Both cameras can shoot at up to 12 fps with the mechanical shutter and up to 20 fps with the electronic shutter. The R6 can maintain that speed for 240 RAW photos, while the R5 tops out at 180 RAW frames. That’s not really a reason to choose one camera over the other, however, since 180 frames are plenty.
Winner: Canon EOS R6
While both the Canon EOS R5 and R6 look very similar, there are a few important differences to note in the design. As the higher-end camera, the R5 has the secondary LCD screen at the top of the camera that the R6 lacks. Similar to the high-end DSLRs, this screen makes vital shooting details easier to see. To make room for that screen, the mode dial — which the R5 still has — is reduced to a mode button.
One of the biggest differences in the design is the viewfinder. The R5 has a much more detailed 5.76 million dot viewfinder, while the R6 comes in with a relatively old viewfinder that only offers 3.69 million dots.
Looking at the top of the camera makes it easy to differentiate the two cameras, but there are a few design differences between the two that are more obvious by feel than sight. The R5 is made from magnesium alloy and the R6 body from polycarbonate. Both cameras are weather-sealed, but the sealing on the R5 is a bit more substantial. The R6’s polycarbonate plastic body does give it an edge in weight, weighing 1.5 pounds instead of the 1.62 pounds of the R5.
Finally, in response to complaints on the original EOS R, both cameras have dual media card slots. The R5 has one CFExpress slot and one SD card slot, while the R6 has two SD card slots. The CFExpress is an advantage for speed — and a requirement for shooting 8K video — but is more expensive, with 64 GB cards selling for around $150.
Winner: Canon EOS R5
Which should you buy?
The Canon EOS R5 is Canon’s best mirrorless to date. It mixes a high-resolution full-frame sensor and impressive video specs with fast performance and in-body stabilization. The R5 is the better option for most photographers because of that blend between detail and speed. The R5 also still looks good — on paper, at least — when compared to competing brands. The downside is that, of course, the better camera is also the pricier one.
In comparison, the Canon EOS R6 has a less detailed 20MP sensor that doesn’t offer the same level of detail as competing cameras or even the EOS R and EOS RP. Megapixels aren’t everything, though, and the lower pixel count should help give the R6 an edge in low light, along with a slightly better autofocus range and a larger buffer. Those features may make the R6 more appealing to sports photographers regularly working at high ISOs.
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