A Traveler and Ameatur Photographers Perspective of the Canon M6

A Traveler and Ameatur Photographers Perspective of the Canon M6

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Last year the canon released the M6, an APS-C sized mirrorless camera that is a smaller, lighter, cheaper, and slightly stripped down version to their current mirrorless flagship camera, the canon M5. I have been using this camera for a few months now and even though I enjoy the camera I do have some mixed feeling about it.

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As a frequent traveler it was important that I purchased a camera that was small enough to stick in a jacket pocket and light enough that it would become invisible. The Canon EOS M6 checked those boxes. With a small pancake lens such as the 22mm (35 eq) made this a great size for traveling while providing an adequate focal length.

The M6 gets some of its small size from the grip which is not as pronounced as other cameras, but is still comfortable to use. The cameras small height causes my pinky to hang off the bottom when grasped, but even still the camera is nice to hold. It is made up of a plastic casing around a metal frame making it light but dense in hand.

One must understand, before purchasing,  the camera has no viewfinder. I personally am fine with this. This camera has a descent screen that I keep at a bright setting to better see in bright sunlight and have night mode toggle in my quick menu so that I can quickly adjust to night shooting. I see the lack of viewfinder as a trade off for the cameras small stature, and my productivity is not hindered due to its quality articulating screen.

Those who want a viewfinder can purchase the M5 which is mostly the same camera, but with a view finder. Optionally one can buy a great external viewfinder at the cost of using up the only hot shoe mount transforming the M6 into a sudo-M5.

Where the camera lacks in viewfinder it makes up in a great articulating screen as mentioned before. The screen lets me get low angle shots or shoot above crowds. The articulating display can flip completely  forward (180 degrees up), and will intuitively flip the image so that the screen can be seen from the front. This is great for vlogging or composing selfie shots.

As a camera, the M6 preforms well. It is adequately sharp shooting 24 megapixel stills. Noise is introduced at about 800 iso and is usable up to 3200 (and even 6400 with post processing). Dynamic range is very good in this camera. Canons color science makes photos straight out of the camera appealing to look at which is great for ameaturs. So when it comes to traveling, the M6 will preform well in all scenarios.  

Where the camera shines is in its autofocus system. I love this AF. It pulls focus smoothly and without stutter almost like someone is pulling focus for you manually. Focus is usually pretty good in continuous AF missing only a few shots in quick moving subjects. The camera shoots at at a speed of 7 fps with 27 JPEG and 17 RAW buffer, or 4 fps for an expanded buffer size.  This coupled with the amazing auto focus help me capture quality action shots.

  I enjoyed the framing of this picture, but the harsh light at her back meant I needed to salvage it in post. This is in the capitol building in Philadelphia.

I enjoyed the framing of this picture, but the harsh light at her back meant I needed to salvage it in post. This is in the capitol building in Philadelphia.

Where the camera disappoints is when compared to other mirrorless cameras. First of all the camera lacks 5-axis sensor stabilization (IBIS). I find this to be an amazing innovation in photography technology. Even though this is a disappointment it is not a deal breaker, as photography has lived without stabilization most of its life, so I can wait till canons full frame version that should have IBIS. 

Another feature the M6 lacks that most mirrorless cameras have is a silent electronic shutter. On the contrary, this camera has a loud powerful shutter. I turned off the focus beeps just to reduce the amount of noise coming out of this camera. Silent shutter also would have been nice when trying to be quite maybe in a museum or wedding ceremony. The shake from the slapping shutter was so powerful that on a weak tripod, when taking multiple exposures, would move ever so slightly and throw off the shots. These are not deal breakers, but are disappointments for a mirrorless camera.

One reason I believe this camera is not flying off the shelves is because lack of powerful video features. The camera shoots at a maximum resolution of 1080p at 60 fps. These two numbers do not sound impressive, but the camera redeems itself with its impressive AF which pulls focus oh so smoothly. Lack of 4k is not a deal breaker for me as I cannot afford to hold onto 4k b-roll.

The native lenses, while being very limited, perform very well and are relatively inexpensive. The camera uses a new EF-m mount which has great potential. The mount is the same size as the Sony emount which spans their APS-C and sensor stabilized full frame cameras. So we should expect Canon to introduce their image stabilized full frame cameras with the same mount.

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The lack of lenses is partially made up by the ability to purchase an inexpensive adapter that allow one to put any Canon lens on this camera and get native performance. This gives some flexibility to the camera but as a traveler I want small native EF-m mount lenses.

Currently I use the 25 mm (35 mm equivalent) f/2 native pancake lens and 35 mm (50 mm equivalent) f/.95 speed master lens the most. These two lenses are great as the 22 mm is small and light and the 35 mm is a blast to use giving me shallow depth of field. The 11-22 mm image stabilized lens is another great lens that I use for video.

Another endearing feature of the Canon M6 is its approachability. The camera has a great menu system and an even better touch interface. You can manipulate photos and navigate the menus with touch gestures that feel like using your smart phone. This is great for a beginner photographer.

The camera has different useful modes. Besides the basics that you will find across other APS-C cameras, Canon incorporated features such as; focus peaking, exposure bracketing (+- 2 EV), time lapse, a bunch of shooting modes, and electronic level to name a few. The M6 doesn't break new ground in features but does cover more then just the basics. 

For controlling exposure the cameras has three unmarked dials. The camera gives you limited function on how customize the screen, quick menu, and buttons. I wish they gave more flexibility here but for the most part the buttons are laid out well and the menu is simple enough to navigate.

The camera offers wireless connectivity to a smart phone or tablet via their Canon connect app. I found this app to work well, transfer photos quickly, and allow me to get a live view and take pictures remotely. With a simple press of the connection button the camera begins to find a know wifi and then attempts to connect to the specified device. If a know wifi is not present then it will create its own secure wifi. I am pleased to say the connectivity works well and is very easy to use. 

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For a traveler, the battery life of a camera is going to be important. The M6 has 'ok' (Canon says around 300 shots) battery life but makes up for it with small, inexpensive batteries. One battery might last me a day of light shooting as long as you conserve battery and turn off the camera. The batteries are small enough that you can keep a spare in your pocket and cheap enough that I can buy a few to have in my bag. 

The on-off toggle is easy to hit and boot up time is short. This allows me to keep the camera off most of the time, and without looking quickly turn on the camera. I have been able to capture shots that I probably would have missed if I needed to take out my cellphone, open my camera app, and compose my shot. With the camera lashed around my torso, the quick boot up time, all coupled with the great AF means I am getting more shots then I would have with my iPhone.

I do wish the camera came with a usb battery charger instead of the outlet charger. I have so many usb adapters that I use to charge all my electronics. I also wish the camera had pass thru charging. This is another feature that will have me convert to another brand if it is not present in a future Canon mirrorless camera. The threaded mount hole is so close to the battery door that when on a tripod the battery is inaccessible.  Pass thru charging could have alleviated this. Also I would have enjoyed to just plug in my camera to the already connect usb adapter when coming back to the hotel on a trip.

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Conclusion

Even with its few missteps in its mirrorless functionalities, the M6 is a great camera. Its flaws and my current lack of full investment into this ecosystem have me on the fence for if I should keep traveling the direction Canon is taking me on their mirrorless journey. As a camera, the M6 is a suburb photography tool. It preforms well and does everything I need it to do in a user friendly way.

With my peak design leash I can lash it around my torso and forget about it as I walk around. The images look great coming out of camera and the lens lineup is good enough for basic traveling and sight seeing. I love using this camera and will continue to be my travel camera.

Edit: At the time of writing this the Canon M6 is at a low price of $579. That is a very good price for such a nice camera. 

Pros:

  • Great AF
  • small and light
  • Good articulating display
  • Great touch interface
  • Plentiful in features
  • Camera app and connectivity
  • ef-m mount has potential

Cons:

  • strong loud shutter
  • no electronic shutter
  • limited lenses
  • descent battery life but not pro level
  • no pass thru charging
  • no IBIS
  • weak video capabilities
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