R6 mark II is a camera I really enjoyed using, and it addresses the shortcomings of its predecessor while improving on other aspects. So, when Canon announced the Canon EOS R8, a quick glance at the specs revealed that this is essentially a baby R6 II. The sensor, autofocus system, video quality, and electronic shutter performance are all shared between the two cameras. Of course, there are distinctions, which we can easily summarise as entry level body design versus professional body design. But there’s more to it, so let’s look into it.
Sharing the same technology as the more expensive R6 II is undoubtedly useful, but there will be some drawbacks, the first of which is the design ( not everything is necessarily negative). To begin with, the R8 is smaller and lighter, which may be beneficial to some. The Canon EOS R8 design is essentially the same as the RP model, a low-cost full-frame camera released by Canon almost four years ago that I tested. It’s a nice design with a comfortable grip and simple button layout. The R8 has a few upgrades, such as a useful photo/video switch on the top left.
The R8’s autofocus area can be moved using the 4-way controller on the back or the touch screen (the latter also works when composing with the EVF). You can also switch between the detected subjects in the frame by tapping the screen.
Another compromise is the electronic viewfinder: the R8 has a “just enough” resolution panel, but it works at 120fps, giving you a smoother view when following fast action. It’s the same EVF as on the R7: it’s a little small and definitely feels dated by today’s standards. The R6 II EVF, on the other hand, has higher resolution and a larger magnification.
The Canon EOS R8 can only use one SD card at a time, and the slot is located in the battery compartment beneath the camera. Since the R6 II has two SD card slots, you can use the second card to add more capacity, separate file types, or backup the first card. The UHS-II standard is supported by both cameras.
The R8 has a smaller battery, the LP-E17, and as you might expect, it has a shorter battery life than the R6 II’s larger unit (LP-E6). The R8’s official rating is 220 shots with the viewfinder and 370 frames with the LCD. The R6 II is rated higher for 450 images (EVF) and 760 photos (LCD).
As always, the CIPA rating is only a hint. In practice, these numbers can be exceeded, but they provide a good indication of the R6 mark II’s superior capabilities. Both cameras can be charged or powered via USB if a powerful power bank with Power Delivery is used. When the camera is turned on, the battery does not charge. Another advantage of the R6 II is the optional BG-R10 battery grip, which improves ergonomics and extends battery life. For the R8, no such option is available.
The R6 mark II has a fully mechanical shutter, front and rear curtains, an electronic-first curtain mode, and a full electric mode. Since the R8 only has one mechanical curtain, it always operates with the electronic-first curtain shutter or even the electronic shutter. If you are unsure, the best option is to use the electronic shutter, but keep in mind that it does not work with flash. When it comes to flash, the Canon EOS R8 has a maximum sync speed of 1/200s, while the R6 II is slightly faster at 1/250s. Another distinction is the fastest shutter speed: 1/4000s for the R8, or 1/8000s for the R6 II. When you switch to the electronic shutter, they both go up to 1/16,000s.
Another limitation of the R8’s lack of two mechanical curtains is its limited continuous shooting speed: the camera can only shoot at 6fps, whereas the R6 II can shoot at 12fps with the mechanical shutter. When using the electronic shutter, both cameras can shoot at up to 40 frames per second, albeit with a limited buffer. According to my tests, the R6 II performs slightly better, with approximately 95 RAW frames (just over two seconds) or 246 JPGs (6 seconds). The R8 is rated at 56 RAW and 120 JPG images.
One of the major differences is that the R8 lacks in-body image stabilisation, so photographers must rely on lenses with optical stabilisation or external supports (tripods, gimbals, etc). To be fair, many Canon RF lenses have optical stabilisation, so in most cases you won’t be left with nothing. Nonetheless, the R6 II’s 5-axis stabilisation is among the best I’ve tested for a full frame camera, with just a rating of 8 stops of compensation (or a bit lower that depends on the lens used). It is possible to capture a hand-held image at around 2s with a short focal length (35mm). Both have the Digital IS option for video, which adds electronic stabilisation but crops the sensor.
Video Recording Limitation and HDMI Output
Apart from battery life and card capacity, the Canon EOS R8 and R6 II can record 4K up to 30p at maximum quality without sensor cropping and without any time limit. In my test, the R6 II ran for 2 hours and 15 minutes with no overheating warning (20 degrees Celsius room temperature).
The R6 II also has no limitations in 4K 60p, lasting 1 hour and 30 minutes before the battery dies. The temperature warning appeared on the screen, but it did not reach the maximum setting.
However, only the R6 II supports 12-bit Prores RAW via the HDMI port. For this, you’ll need an external recorder, such as the Atomos Ninja V or V+, as well as a firmware update from Atomos, which should be available later this year.
The final point may influence your decision more than any other I’ve mentioned thus far. The R8 will be available for $1500, £1700, or €1800 at launch. The R6 II is much more expensive, at $2500, £2800, or €2900. Prices are for the body only, and are valid until February 2023.