Just a year ago, choosing whether to buy a Canon or a Nikon crop-sensor mirrorless camera was an easy decision — Canon was the only choice. That’s changed with the introduction of the Nikon Z 50. A scaled-down version of Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Z 50 mixes features from the high-end Z 6 and Z 7 with perks of a crop-sensor DSLR like the Nikon D7500.
But that “Mark II” in the Canon EOS M6 Mark II says a lot. This isn’t Canon’s first attempt at an APS-C mirrorless camera (it makes quite a few models in the EOS M line beyond the M6, as well). Boasting a 32-megapixel sensor and a compact body, the M6 II makes improvements where Nikon is only just getting started.
So which is better, the new kid in class, or the more experienced graduate? Here’s how these two cameras compare.
|Nikon Z 50||Canon EOS M6 Mark II|
|Sensor||20.9 megapixel APS-C sensor||32.5 megapixel APS-C sensor|
|Burst Speed||11 fps||7 fps (14 fps with some lenses and settings)|
|Shutter Speed||30 sec. to 1/4000, bulb. 1/200 flash sync||30 sec. to 1/4000, bulb. Up to 1/1600 with the electronic shutter. 1/200 flash sync|
|ISO||100 – 51,2000 (204,800 extended)||100 – 25,600 (51,200 expanded)|
|Autofocus||209-point hybrid phase/contrast-detection AF. -2 EV sensitivity.||143-point Dual Pixel AF. -5 EV sensitivity.|
|Image Stabilization||None (available in some lenses)||None (available in some lenses)|
|Video||4K at 30 fps, 1080p at 120 fps||4K at 30 fps, 1080p at 120 fps|
|EVF||0.39 inch 2.36 million dot EVF||None (optional hot shoe EVF-DC2 viewfinder with 2.36 million dots)|
|LCD||3.2 inch, 1.04 million dot tilting touchscreen||3.0-inch, 1.04 million dot tilting touchscreen|
|Media Slots||Single SD card slot||Single SD card slot|
|Battery||300 shots||305 shots|
5 x 3.7 x 2.4 inches
|4.71 x 2.76 x 1.94 inches|
|Weight||14 ounces (body only)||12.73 ounces (body only)|
|Read more||Nikon Z 50 Review||Canon EOS M6 Mark II Review|
Right out of the gate, the Canon EOS M6 Mark II impresses with a 32-megapixel sensor. That’s a considerable bump over the Nikon Z 50’s 20MP sensor. You could make a whole 2000’s era camera with the extra pixels the M6 II has over the Z 50.
But, image quality isn’t about pixels alone. While the M6 II has more resolution, the Z 50 excels at high ISOs. Noise was one of our chief complaints about the M6 II, likely a result of cramming so many megapixels on that APS-C sensor. The Z 50, on the other hand, snapped impressive images in limited lighting with minimal grain, even at ISO 6400.
The winner here, then, depends on exactly what you want out of a camera. Each has more than enough resolution for Instagram or other online services, but the M6 Mark II can make bigger prints. The Nikon Z 50 has an edge indoors or in low light. In any situation, however, the differences in image quality will be subtle.
Being the more established system, there are more APS-C-specific lenses available for the Canon EOS M6 Mark II. However, there’s a big red flag, and that’s the EF-M lens mount. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, but it’s completely different and incompatible with Canon’s RF mount used on its full-frame mirrorless cameras, like the EOS R.
That means if you want to upgrade from APS-C to full-frame down the road, you’ll need to invest in completely new lenses. Likewise, you can’t prepare for an eventual upgrade today by buying full-frame RF lenses and mounting them to your M6 II. They simply won’t fit, nor is there any way to adapt them.
Nikon only has two APS-C lenses in the Z-mount so far, but because it shares that mount across both APS-C and full-frame cameras, you can also use any full-frame Z-mount lens on the Z 50, expanding your choices to 10 lenses (at the time of writing). This is a big advantage if you want to be able to invest in a system and not worry about throwing that investment away should you decide to move to full-frame in the future.
Winner: Nikon Z 50
There’s another perk to fewer megapixels — speed. The Z 50 can shoot at 11 frames per second with continuous autofocus, although it needs a breather after a few seconds when working with RAW files. The camera also can’t display a live view image at rates faster than 5 fps.
The M6 Mark II is technically faster as it can hit 14 fps, also without live view. However, continuous autofocus at that speed only works with the EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM lens (at the time of writing). Shutter speed, temperature, and battery level can also limit that speed. The M6 II’s standard high-speed rate of 7 fps does not have such limitations.
Under the right conditions, the M6 II is the winner here — but the Z 50 is the more consistent performer, and achieves a higher standard burst without the Canon’s limitations.
We’ve long been fans of Canon’s Dual Pixel Autofocus — its brand name for its on-chip phase-detection AF — and the M6 II is no exception. It locks on to subjects quickly, even in tough lighting thanks to -5 EV sensitivity. Eye AF is included too, and while it’s not the best we’ve seen, it’s still a helpful feature.
The Nikon Z 50 can keep up thanks to its own hybrid phase and contrast-detection AF — until, that is, you try to focus in a dark room. In good light, the Z 50 performed just as we’d expect, and the Eye AF was decent, too. The low light autofocus, with just -2 EV sensitivity, was a major sticking point for us, though. Nikon offers a special low light focusing mode which expands sensitivity down to -4 EV, but this comes at a cost to focus speed.
Winner: Canon EOS M6 Mark II
For video, both cameras offer 4K, but while the Z 50 can shoot at either 30 fps or the more cinematic 24 fps, the M6 II can only shoot at 30. A firmware update is planned that will bring 24p to the Canon in 2020, but for now it’s a feature that’s lacking.
The M6 II can hit a higher framerate in Full HD for slow motion, at 180fps compared to the Z 50’s 120 fps. However, it does not maintain autofocus in this mode.
The M6 II’s autofocus performance otherwise transfers well to video, but the Z 50’s is not far behind. The Nikon also allows you to trim clips in-camera and send them wirelessly to a smart device, making it more convenient for the casual video shooter. Both cameras have microphone jacks, but neither has a headphone jack.
Winner: Nikon Z 50
The Nikon Z 50, like the Z 7 and Z 6 before it, offers a good balance between size and comfort. The Z 50 is smaller with fewer controls than Nikon’s full-frame options, but the ergonomics and control layout are easy for any Nikon DSLR user to adapt to. With the tiny kit lens, the Z 50 feels exceptionally light and easy to travel with.
The M6 II is even smaller than the Z 50, but that’s in part because it lacks a viewfinder. You can add the EVF-DC2 viewfinder, but it hogs the hot shoe so you can’t use an external flash or other accessories at the same time (it also adds $ 200 to the cost). Other than the lack of a viewfinder and a badly placed record button, the design of the M6 II is pretty good.
Winner: Nikon Z 50
Is there a clear winner?
If we could Frankenstein the autofocus system of the Canon EOS M6 Mark II into the Nikon Z 50, we’d have the ideal mid-level mirrorless camera. While the Z 50 doesn’t have as many megapixels, it makes up for that discrepancy with impressive speed and low light image quality. The problem is that the limited autofocus sensitivity means low light performance is hampered.
The M6 II is the better choice for capturing action in limited light and printing high-resolution files from its 32MP sensor — but the Z 50 is still the camera we’d pick. It’s simply the better value, mostly thanks to including a built-in viewfinder, and the resolution difference simply doesn’t matter outside of prints and has some benefits like reliable high-speed shooting and low noise at high ISOs. We also appreciate that Nikon uses the same lens mount across all of its mirrorless cameras, giving Z 50 owners an easy upgrade path to full frame should they want it.