Gear Reviews

Canon M6 Mark II v Nikon Z 50

In the market for a premium crop-sensor mirrorless? Flagship APS-C cameras from Canon Nikon face off, but which is right for your photography?

The crop-sensor mirrorless market is a crowded sector, and this is great news for photographers as it guarantees plenty of choice. Two of the most popular options are from the ‘big two’. Canon’s M6 Mark II was released in August 2019, replacing the popular M6 and is often described as a mirrorless version of a 6D Mark II DSLR. Meanwhile, the Nikon Z 50 was the brand’s first-ever crop sensor mirrorless when it was launched back in October 2019. So, which one is right for your photography? Well, we’ve drilled down into the specification sheets to examine the features, strengths and weaknesses of each model, so let’s get started.

Design and ergonomics:

So, let’s start with the M6 Mark II, which is built around a CMOS APS-C sensor that serves up a huge resolution of 32-megapixels – more than some full-frame cameras – and makes use of Canon’s mirrorless M-mount for optics (not to be confused with the R mount, which is for Canon’s full-frame mirrorless models). There’s a fair amount of M-mount lenses on the market from both Canon and third-party manufacturers but photographers can also make use of Canon’s EF-S/EF DSLR lenses via an adaptor. The boy is compact and lightweight, tipping the scales at just 408g (body only) and measuring only 119.6 x 70.0 x 49.2mm. One of the most obvious differences between the Canon and Nikon is the absence of a Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) on the M6 Mark II – although Canon do sell an option accessory EVF, which slips onto the M6 Mark II’s hotshoe mount.

Meanwhile, the Nikon Z 50 is built around an APS-C (DX) sensor that delivers 20.9-megapixels – a lot less than the Canon. The Z 50 uses Nikon’s new Z-mount, meaning the camera can use both Nikon’s FX and DX mirrorless lenses along with Nikon F glass via the use of an adaptor. Weighing slightly less than the Canon (395g), the body is actually a slight bit bigger than the M6 Mark II, measuring 126.5 x 93.5 x 60 mm.

Given the dimensions of both cameras, each of these models can be considered a go-anyway cameras that you could carry around all day without them weighing you down and this makes the models suitable for travel, street and landscape photography.

So, what are the differences between the cameras? Well, we’ve already mentioned the big difference in resolution and this could be a big sticking point for those who shoot landscapes and want to make bigger prints, but there’s more differences too. For example, when it comes to autofocus systems, the Z 50 offers 209 points while the Canon M6 Mark II serves up 143 automatic AF points. However, the number of points doesn’t tell the whole story as the M6 Mark II includes Canon’s acclaimed Dual Pixel AF technology and a total of 5481 manual AF positions.

The Canon also strikes back when it comes to burst speeds. While the Z 50 serves up an admirable 11 frames per second (FPS), which is more than enough for everyday action photography, the Canon goes further, offering 14 frames per second, surely putting it on the radar of wildlife and sports shooters who want to pair their long lenses with a lightweight body. In fact, the M6 Mark II can shoot this fast burst rate for up to 54 frames in JPEG and 23 frames in RAW or 36 in CRAW. What’s more, the M6 Mark II also offers a special RAW burst mode that captures 30 RAW files a second at a slight crop – yep, 30 frames a second! 

Both cameras features touch-sensitive LCDs with a tilting design, however the Z 50’s screen is slightly bigger (3.2-inch v 3-inch) though while the Nikon’s LCD flips down to enable a selfie shot, the Canon’s screen goes in the opposite direction, flipping up to enable selfies for recording Vlogging videos. Another major difference between the bodies is that Nikon states the Z 50 as having weather sealing, while this is missing from the M6 Mark II‘s specification sheet.

Image Quality:

We’ve already mentioned the big difference in resolution between the 32-MP Canon and the 20.9-MP Nikon, so what does that mean in real terms? Well, the max file size from the M6 Mark II is 6960 x 4640pixels, while the Nikon Z 50 serves up a max file size of 5568 x 3712pixels. This means that while both cameras will produce images that can be printed up to A3, the Canon offers that little more tolerance for cropping without compromising image quality. As well as JPEGs, both cameras can shoot 14-bit RAW files, enabling photographers to edit the files using software such as Lightroom, Adobe Camera RAW or Affinity Photo to recover highlights and expose shadows in the frame.

When it comes to ISO ranges, the Canon M6 Mark II offers a native range of 100-25600, which can be expanded up to 52100. The Z 50 goes further however, offering a native range of 100-52100 that can be expanded up to ISO 204800. This should cater for any photographer who wants to shoot in low light conditions – particularly street photographers who wouldn’t want to use additional lighting such as flash – although it should be mentioned that both cameras do feature pop-up flash, which are suitable for illuminating subjects at a close range. One last word on low light shooting; the Z 50 can focus down to -4EV, while the Canon M6 Mark II can focus down to -5EV.

Video:

There may well be prospective buyers out there who are interested in purchasing either of these cameras as tools for video, rather than stills and this is because both models include a wealth of movie-making features. Both cameras can shoot ultra high-quality 4K video up to 30p, and also offer the option to shoot Full HD at 60p, along with a Full HD fast frame mode of 120p to help you capture epic slow motion sequences. On both cameras timelapse movies can be created and there is a port for an external microphone so enhanced audio can be captured. However, missing from both cameras is a headphone port, but there are mic setups available that will let you plug in headphones to the wireless receiver so you can monitor audio output.

Because both cameras are so lightweight, they are the perfect size to be used with gimbals such as DJI’s Ronin S-C, making them a popular choice with both Youtubers and aspiring film-makers.

Extras and Verdict:

As we’ve seen, the Canon M6 Mark II and the Nikon Z 50 are packed with cutting edge features for both stills and video. What’s more, there’s a lot they have in common, such as 4K video, the lack of IBIS (In Body Image Stabilisation) and the presence of a single SD card slot to record stills and video. However, on top of the key differences we’ve already listed (such as resolution and burst rate speed), there’s additional differences too. For example, when it comes to battery life, the Nikon has a slight edge, offering 320 shots on a single charge versus 305 shots from the Canon, although both cameras can be charged on the go using a powerbank so this should enable photographers to keep shooting all day long.

The M6 Mark II offers a Focus bracketing mode that will be of great interest to macro photographers as it shoots multiple images taken at different focus points throughout the frame so a single image with front-to-back sharpness can be created. Both cameras also pack Wi-Fi and Bluetooth so they can be used with their respective smart device apps to enable image transfer or remote camera control.

In summary, both cameras have a huge amount to offer. The slightly more affordable Canon M6 Mark II is faster and has greater resolution, while the Nikon Z 50 will appeal to those who shoot using an Electronic Viewfinder a lot of the time and those who need greater weather sealing so they can operate the camera in harsher environments. Both models will make excellent additions to a photographer’s camera bag.