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Canon R6 vs Nikon Z6 High ISO performance comparison

I try not to get too excited about camera equipment these days, but with mirrorless technology increasingly becoming the norm it's hard not to be. Many people jumped ship to Sony years ago because they wowed the world with incredible autofocus performance and features not possible in DSLR's, but many also stuck with their existing systems, waiting for technology to eventually catch up. The EOS-R and Nikon Z6/Z7 bodies have been around for about two years, and while very good, left out a few things (like dual card slots) and didn't perform on par with Sony's offerings. As time moved on it has become increasingly difficult to ignore all of the advantages mirrorless camera systems provide, so here we are, in 2020, where Canon and (debatably) Nikon are finally catching up in tech.

Enter the Canon R6 and R5 camera bodies. Canon appears to have noticed they were starting to lose to Sony and put in incredible amounts of work into these cameras. Never have I seen Canon pack so much into any camera as these two, they truly did an amazing job. These cameras are worthy competitors to Sony. At the time of writing this, the Nikon Z6ii / Z7ii bodies are not in the hands of consumers yet, so it's hard to say if the updated hardware will bring them closer to the competition. With a fiend of mine bringing over her Canon R6, I wanted to see how it compared through the ISO range to my Nikon Z6. When playing back photos on the Canon, as well as while taking them, it appeared that the R6 was significantly cleaner than the Nikon. I had to take some samples on both to load onto my computer to see if this was going to be the case once it came to the actual raw files. I was a bit surprised with the results. I used 24-70's of both brands, so I know there are some differences in vignetting between them, but overall the exposures looked nearly identical at the same settings for both. The framing is slightly different despite trying to keep it similar, but that doesn't make too much of a difference as you can still get an idea of the luminance and color noise levels. These are untouched raws using the Adobe Standard color profile and identical default sharpening settings, no noise reduction. Nikon Z6 ISO 100:

Canon R6 ISO 100:

Nikon Z6 ISO 200:

Canon R6 ISO 200:

Nikon Z6 ISO 400:

Canon R6 ISO 400:

Nikon Z6 ISO 800:

Canon R6 ISO 800:

Nikon Z6 ISO 1600:

Canon R6 ISO 1600:

Nikon Z6 ISO 3200:

Canon R6 ISO 3200:

Nikon Z6 ISO 6400:

Canon R6 ISO 6400:

Nikon Z6 ISO 12800:

Canon R6 ISO 12800:

Nikon Z6 ISO 25600:

Canon R6 ISO 25600:

Nikon Z6 ISO 51200:

Canon R6 ISO 51200:

Nikon Z6 ISO 102400:

Canon R6 ISO 102400:

Conclusion: Despite what I saw on the back of the Canon R6's screen, after loading the raw files into lightroom, as I had suspected they were not as clean as the camera was showing me. This is even with noise reduction turned off in camera so the previews should not have any applied. At these high ISO levels there is less noise in the EVF when shooting as well, than the Nikon. However while these cameras are producing near identical results as far as the cleanliness of the files through about 12800, starting at 25600 you can see some slight purple color noise in the shadows of the Canon, and this trend continues through the top of the range. The actual grain structure is virtually identical. This is a great achievement on Canon's part, they produced a sensor worthy of directly competing with Sony sensors. The R6 camera body is fantastic and will make any Canon shooter very happy. The tech we have available, whether better or worse than the competition, is all so amazing, especially if you remember what we had just a few years ago. Happy shooting!

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