Canon EOS R vs Nikon Z6: Which is the Best Camera for Video?

If you’re interested in understanding the differences in video capabilities of the Canon EOS R (Amazon | B&H) and the Nikon Z6 (Amazon, B&H), you’ve come to the right place.

In this article we’ll look at all the important specifications relevant to video and see which camera is the best value for money.

Exclusive Bonus: Download my camera settings and 7 cinematic custom picture controls for the Nikon Z6. Setup your camera for cinematography, ready to shoot.

And, get bonus videos - How to expose and grade N-log, and How I have tweaked my favorite picture control for video - delivered to your inbox!

The basics

CameraPrice of Camera bodyIncluded Accessories /SoftwareLens Mount
EOS R$1,999One battery + Charger
Strap and Body Cap
Wide Strap
Cable Protector
Interface Cable (IFC-100U)
Camera Cover (R-F-5)
RF (EF with adapter)
Nikon Z6$1,797One battery + Charger
Strap and Body Cap
Cable Protector
USB Cable
Z (F with adapter)

They are really similar in terms of the value package, aren’t they? The price of the Canon EOS R (Amazon | B&H) has fallen recently as well, so the difference isn’t always so great between the two. However, in certain cases, Nikon ships the FTZ adapter (Amazon, B&H) free with the body, so that adds value.

Ergonomics

Both cameras are weather-sealed and are made of Magnesium alloy. You only get full protection if you use weather sealed lenses (and adapters if you are using other lenses).

They both have the relevant connections – HDMI for the best quality video, USB ports for charging, microphone port for audio and headphone jack for monitoring audio.

They both have new lens mounts, and each company touts their lens mount is best. Initially though, both companies have adopted different strategies for their lens roadmap. Nikon has focused more on the budget shooter, while Canon has gone for the best lenses it can make for the RF mount.

To learn more about the available lenses for each system, check out these articles:

Nikon pulls ahead with IBIS (in-body image stabilization) that corrects for 5-axis of movement. Which means no matter what lens you have, you get stabilized footage.

In the real-world, it’s important, but don’t expect miracles. I’ve found in practice it does not substitute for a gimbal, but it is definitely handy when you’re using manual lenses with no stabilization.

On the other hand, the Canon EOS R (Amazon | B&H) has an articulating screen! I can’t tell you how important that is for video.

Lens adapters

Both manufacturers have released lens adapters so existing lenses can be used with these newer cameras. In this regard, Canon has definitely out-thought Nikon, with not one but three different EF to EOS R adapters (Amazon, B&H) to choose from.

All adapters offer full control over Canon EF lenses:

  • All adapters retain Canon in-lens IS (image stabilization), autofocus control, sharpness, color rendition, and contrast. 
  • Each is weather sealed to prevent dust and moisture from entering (assuming the lens is also weather sealed) 
  • Full compatibility with Canon EF and EF-S lenses as well as most 3rd party lenses. Sigma offers full compatibility; Tamron limited compatibility but growing.

Here’s the list of adapters:

No.TypeKey InfoBuy
1“Basic” AdapterHas full control, cheapest option(Amazon, B&H)
2Control Ring AdapterAdds a control ring to control ISO, Aperture, Exposure Compensation, etc.(Amazon, B&H)
3Drop-in Filter Adapter with Variable ND filterHas a slot in the adapter to use rear filters. In this case a variable ND filter.(Amazon, B&H)
Drop-in Filter Adapter with Circular Polarizer filterHas a slot in the adapter to use rear filters. In this case a circular polarizing filter.(Amazon, B&H)

The Nikon FTZ adapter has a base that helps with support, but for some strange reason is not level with the base of the camera. So you need a riser of some sort to affix a baseplate that spans both adapter and camera.

The Nikon FTZ adapter (Amazon, B&H) allows you to use older Nikon lenses with the Nikon Z6/Z7. According to Nikon:

With the optional Mount Adapter FTZ, the F-Mount NIKKOR lenses you love* retain all of their sharpness plus gain the benefits of in-camera VR, silent shooting, smooth, fast Hybrid AF and more.

*Full AF/AE supported when using FX or DX AF-S Type G/D/E, AF-P type G/E, AF-I type D and AF-S / AF-I Teleconverters

Nikon USA

Either way it is clear if you have a range of existing EF/F-mount lenses, you will be able to adapt them to your newer camera bodies.

On the whole though, the newer lenses are a better buy for these reasons:

  1. Quieter AF performance.
  2. Better AF performance because they are designed for the newer sensor.
  3. Keeps weight down.
  4. Are weather sealed.
  5. Have modern optical designs.

This round must definitely go to the Canon EOS R (Amazon | B&H), for better lenses and better adapters.

Click here to stay updated about new information, workflows and tips about the Canon EOS R.

Comparison of video features

Now let’s get into the camera, specifically for video details.

CameraHorizontal Crop Factor for 4K (Internal)4K ResolutionISO RangeNative ISO
EOS R1.753840 x 2160100-40000400 in C-Log
Z61.03840 x 2160100-51200800 in N-Log

This is one area the Nikon Z6 (Amazon, B&H) pulls ahead. It has no crop in 4K when recording internally, and it has better low light performance. In fact, the shadows are really clean and you can even underexpose slightly without penalty.

For more information, please watch my detailed Nikon Z6 review for cinematography.

The Canon EOS R (Amazon | B&H) isn’t without its benefits, though. You can record C-log internally (The Z6 can only record it to an external recorder via HDMI).

When it comes to color science, both cameras record to 8-bit 4:2:0 internally, with Canon having the better codec. Here are the important specs about color:

CameraColor Information (Internal)Best Data Rates, CodecColor Information (External)
EOS R8-bit 4:2:0480 Mbps ALL-I10-bit 4:2:2*
Z68-bit 4:2:0144 Mbps IPB10-bit 4:2:2 (Future Prores RAW)

*I’ve heard rumors that the EOS R might also get Prores RAW, but nothing has been announced, and it is not advisable to expect it unless it becomes a reality – for both cameras.

Finally, let’s talk about image quality. Both cameras shoot log, and video is restricted to 12 stops of dynamic range. I believe, as far as image quality is concerned, I’d give the very slight edge to the Nikon Z6 (Amazon, B&H), because it has better noise performance in the shadows.

Does the 1.75x crop factor matter?

Not really. Super 35mm has a crop factor of 1.5, and 1.75 isn’t far off that. This is a non-issue. Canon has a range of lenses that will allow you to get wide angle shots even with that crop factor. You don’t get the full frame aesthetic, but the great majority of modern cinematography was done on Super 35mm film. Unless you absolutely have to have a full frame aesthetic, I see no reason to worry about this. Having said that, most customers have a right to be unhappy about the crop mode. After all, you are buying a full frame camera. If you are happy with a crop mode, then why not just buy an APS-C camera instead?

Since Canon uses a cropped area, the rolling shutter performance is on par with Nikon. It should be better, but the Z6 has a faster sensor readout, being a Sony sensor. So overall they are the same for all practical video use. Or, in other words, they suck equally.

Next up, we come to frame rates:

CameraMaximum frame rate in 4K Maximum frame rate
EOS R29.97p119.88 fps in 720p
Z629.97p119.88 fps in 1080p

Nikon has the edge here, with better frame rates in 1080p.

So overall, Nikon Z6 (Amazon, B&H) gives you more choices, but some of those choices might mean extra expenses (external recorder, more data means more hard drive space, etc.).

Media Cards

CameraDual Card Slots?Media for 4KMarket price per GB (64 GB)*Price per hour of 4K
EOS RNoSD UHS-II$1.8/GB$380
Z6NoXQD$2/GB$127

*Comparing Sony brands to keep it fair. XQD G vs SF-G Tough series. You need the better SD cards to write 4K.

People say XQD is the better system, but millions of people use SD cards, and with SD cards like the Sandisk Extreme Pro series or Sony Tough series, you have all the robustness you really need.

The internal data rate with the Canon is high, and it mitigates any cost advantage SD cards might bring, even if you use the cheaper ones. There are two costs associated with media:

  1. You will save on hard drive space with the Z6.
  2. You will save on media costs with the Z6.

However, it’s not really an apples vs apples comparison, because the codecs are different. If you’re happy with an IPB codec, the EOS R also has that option available at 120 Mbps. Then the advantage lies with Canon!

Tie.

Battery life and Power

CameraBattery lifeCost of one batteryCost per hour battery life^External DC input?
EOS R1.5 hours$61$41/hrUSB-C*
Z62 hours$60$30/hrUSB-C*

*USB charging for EOS R uses the Canon PD-E1 USB charger (Amazon, B&H). USB charging for Nikon Z6 can use Nikon EH-7P Charging AC Adapter (Amazon, B&H) but isn’t required. You can also charge (very slowly) using the supplied USB-C cable.

^Both cameras have a 29 min 59 sec recording time limit.

The differences aren’t that great to be honest. The Nikon Z6 (Amazon, B&H) does pull ahead for two reasons:

  • It has better battery life.
  • The charging adapter is cheaper.

Which is the better camera for video?

Here’s a summary of each round, and the “winner”:

FeatureWinner
ErgonomicsTie
New lensesCanon EOS R
Lens adaptersCanon EOS R
Video featuresNikon Z6
Image qualityDepends – Z6 via HDMI and EOS R internally
AF for videoCanon EOS R
Image stabilizationNikon Z6
Media cardsTie
Battery lifeNikon Z6

If I were forced to pick a winner just on specs alone, I’d pick the Nikon Z6 (Amazon, B&H) by a hair, and this is what I did when I purchased the camera. You can watch my full review of the Z6 here.

But that’s not the whole story. These cameras don’t exist in a vacuum.

First, let’s look at the pros and cons:

CameraUSPProsCons
EOS RUnique Control Ring system, variety of adapters.Record C-log internally, better internal codec, better AF for video.You get a 1.75x crop in video.
Z65-Axis Image Stabilization, XQD card system.Battery life, higher ISOs, better low light performance.Poor AF, no N-log recording internally, focus-by-wire system, no in-camera meter or important exposure tools.

I’m not including Prores RAW as a USP, because, as of this writing it hasn’t been made available yet. But if it does come, that would be a serious advantage.

To my eye these cameras are targeted at slightly different people:

Canon EOS R:

Those who like Canon colors like Canon colors. AF performance is hard to beat. The lenses Canon has released are expensive, and are targeted at professionals who make money. The various lens adapters also show total commitment to existing customers bringing EF lenses to this new platform. The Canon EOS R (Amazon | B&H) is meant to be a primary camera.

What about film/cinema work?

Yes, because Canon would like the EOS R to complement their more expensive cameras like the C200, C300 Mark II and the C700. The ability to control focus and record C-log internally show this clearly.

Nikon Z6:

Those who like Nikon colors like Nikon colors. But the lenses Nikon has released are “low-end”. They want their existing customers to take baby steps into the system, and bring their existing lenses over. In other words, this might be a second camera instead of the primary camera.

What about film/cinema work?

Not really. The Z6 lacks important exposure tools, including a meter for video. You can’t record log internally, and the lenses are focus-by-wire, not designed for focus pulling*.

*Nikon might make an update available to give us a linear focus system similar to Canon, but it hasn’t been announced yet as of this writing.

The difference is subtle. Canon expects their customers to move into this new platform right now. Nikon expects them to move in later. My personal opinion is that Nikon has been too tentative with the Z6. They sang praises about the new Z mount, but didn’t release a single lens to justify the hype. Canon released a 28-70mm f/2 (Amazon, B&H)!!

What’s the bottom line?

Both these systems are new it’s too early to tell what the future holds. As far as filmmaking is concerned, the Canon EOS R (Amazon | B&H) is the better video platform right now:

  1. Better AF and MF, both.
  2. C-log internally and 10-bit 4:2:2 externally.
  3. Better lenses off the gate.
  4. Better adapters with a super-useful variable ND filter.
  5. Control ring for RF lenses and the EF-EOS R adapter, and it can be de-clicked!

The Nikon Z6 (Amazon, B&H) pushes ahead of the EOS R in most categories, and only becomes a more capable video system with the addition of an external recorder like the Atomos Ninja V (Amazon, B&H). That adds to the cost. It only becomes worth it if and when the Prores RAW feature becomes available.

To know more about video features, read these articles:

  1. Important Quirks and Features of the Canon EOS R for Cinematography
  2. Important Quirks and Features of the Nikon Z6 for Cinematography

On the whole, I would say Canon has done a better job of introducing its fanbase to the mirrorless world than Nikon. But they are not comparable cameras for video, and I don’t think either company has offered a product so compelling the others’ user base will dump their existing lenses and switch.

What do you think?

Exclusive Bonus: Download my camera settings and 7 cinematic custom picture controls for the Nikon Z6. Setup your camera for cinematography, ready to shoot.

And, get bonus videos - How to expose and grade N-log, and How I have tweaked my favorite picture control for video - delivered to your inbox!

2 replies on “Canon EOS R vs Nikon Z6: Which is the Best Camera for Video?”

  1. I’m a Nikon DSLR user for photos and video. I was hoping for so so much more from them . It seems like they blindly made bad mistakes. The most glaring one is the FTZ adapter to camera body lenght . Add the extra lenght Nikon and give it two XQD cards . Then they are touting it as such a great video camera but lower internal video codecs than should be . And without video centric menu system. A battery grip ? Then focus by wire?
    Ok done with my banter !
    Looking forward to see what the next Panasonic ff has to offer. Didn’t want to jump ship but may be the most logical move . The system leads to better video/cinema cameras that work with the new ff cameras. That VariCam LT price is nice

    1. The Varicam LT price drop is good, but beware the price of accessories and media cards.

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