Detailed review Canon EOS 6D Mark II
Full-frame cameras were once a commodity reserved for the serious professional due to the significantly high price tag attached to them. However, as photography is increasingly becoming a widespread hobby, passion and potential career choice, cameras have become cheaper. The influx of Sony’s mirrorless full-frame cameras has notably increased competition for legacy brands such as Canon, fueling the need for a “budget-friendly” full-frame DSLR. The Canon 6D was a surprise from Canon a few years ago, significantly lowering the entry into the world of Full-Frame DSLRs. A few years ago I had tested the 6D and now that I have returned to Digit after a hiatus of a few years, I have finally reviewed the Cano 6D MarkII. I had a lot of beef with the original 6D, so here’s how things have changed over the years.
Construction and ergonomics
Canon’s consistency with product design is astounding. With 5 years between the two cameras, changes in body design are minimal. The body has lost 5 grams (body-only weight), helped even more by the fact that the new 24-105mm L IS USM II lens is also significantly lighter than its predecessor. As for the overall dimensions, they remain largely unchanged. From its predecessor, the Canon 6D MarkII seems to have a slightly deeper grip, but this could be more anecdotal than anything else as it’s been over a year since I held the original 6D in my hands. Regardless, the grip and feel of holding a DSLR is second to none and as such the 6D MarkII feels very well balanced as a camera.
What has changed this time is that the upper part of the body, which was made from polycarbonate on the original 6D, has now been upgraded to a full magnesium alloy. Unfortunately, a traditional jog stick is still missing (like the ones on the 5D, 1D and even the cheaper 7D series cameras), but this time the jog dial on the back is multi-directional and can be configured to move the AF points round. Personally, I prefer the joystick over the jog dial simply because the latter has some room for error, while the joystick doesn’t.
Overall, the ergonomics of the 6D MarkII are well within the standards of a DSLR. That means the camera is easy to grip and hold. The buttons are placed well enough to be easily accessible without taking your eye off the viewfinder. As convenient as mirrorless cameras are to carry around, DSLRs still provide the perfect grip for easy and comfortable handling.
The original Canon 6D was the first DSLR with built-in GPS and Wi-Fi at the time. Now these features are more or less standard, so what could Canon do next? A lot, as it turns out. The new Canon 6D MarkII against brings a host of new features, the most notable of which is in-camera HDR video. Unlike the complicated approach to HDR video that requires 10-bit video recording, professional color profiles and complex editing processes, Canon takes a very consumer-oriented approach. Because the 6D MarkII can record 1080p video at 60fps. In HDR mode, the camera shoots two frames almost simultaneously to generate a 1080p video file at 30 fps. One frame is captured at the chosen shutter speed and aperture, while the second frame is slightly underexposed. The two frames are merged into one frame, resulting in HDR video. The photography approach to HDR video is quite ingenious, but it has its own limitations, such as the fact that it’s unusable in low light. Second, you have no control over the final appearance of the file. If you’re looking for HDR video, it’s better to use the Panasonic GH5s which can record 10-bit video in the camera.
In addition to HDR video, you also get a built-in time-lapse video feature where the camera does all the work for you. Just select what kind of output file you want, and the camera will shoot and stitch the frames together to output the time-lapse video. Again, a very consumer-oriented feature, which is great because this camera is for those looking to step up their game.
The other really nice addition to the 6D MarkII’s feature set is the fully articulating 3-inch touchscreen. Canon has really made a very functional touchscreen, which mimics a very smartphone-like experience. You can use it as a touch shutter or even put that STM motor in your lens and just drag your finger across the screen to make the focus motor follow. It works great and will be very useful for videographers.
My biggest problem with the Canon 6D was the archaic autofocus system. With only 11 AF points with 1 cross-type, the 6D left a lot to be desired in terms of focusing. The 6D MarkII brings 45 AF points to the game, all cross-type. Improvement of focus points in Canon’s Dual Pixel AF, which offers significantly improved focusing performance compared to regular AF systems. For this review, the Canon 6D MarkII was paired with the stock kit lens (Canon 24-70 f/4 L USMII), a Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 IS, and a Sigma 50mm f/1.4 to see which parts of the performance the camera was and what bits could be attributed to the lens. What is immediately noticeable is that the camera has come a long way compared to its predecessor. The focus was able to focus on subjects even in low light (poorly lit household) with just a little bit of hunting, while in good light the performance was as reliable as you’d want from a professional camera. Honestly, the AF system is the biggest upgrade over the 6D MarKII, and that alone makes the camera worth considering.
The Canon 6D MarkII houses a 26.2 Megapixel sensor, slightly larger than the 24 Megapixel silicon found on the 5D Mark 4. There’s been a lot of talk about how the sensor’s dynamic range is comparable to its predecessors and no improvement, but let’s stop for a second and examine how much DR we’re really talking about here. For starters, you get a little over two whole stops of wiggle room in post-production. The roll-off of the highlights isn’t as smooth as the one on the 5D Mark4, but that has nothing to do with the dynamic range.
The RAW images from the Canon 6D MarkII are flat, as all RAW files should be. Editing allows for up to 2.3 stops of recovery and grading, which is about what you’d expect from a full-frame sensor with this kind of resolution. If Canon had used a 24 megapixel sensor instead of the 6, the DR might have been slightly better, but there’s nothing to complain about at all. Daytime performance is where the camera shines bright (no pun intended). The autofocus (especially with Canon lenses) is fast and accurate, locking in on targeted subjects 9 times out of 10 (or better) with incredible consistency.
In low light, the sensor can be pushed all the way to ISO 8000 without worrying about chroma noise (red-blue dots). The appearance of luma noise (pepper-salt dots) is obvious, but nothing a little noise reduction can’t fix. Where you will notice a performance loss, however, is the AF. In low light, AF accuracy dropped to 6/10 with the standard Canon lens, but was more or less reliable. The Sigma 24-70 was also fairly accurate at locking focus, but a bit chasing and was just as fast as its Canon counterpart.
With a reliable AF module and a hefty 26 megapixel sensor, the fastest you can shoot with this camera (with AF Tracking enabled) is about 6 frames per second. This is more than adequate if you’re shooting in the studio or even a moving subject (provided you have the right shutter speed) but this is not a sports camera. The AF isn’t fast enough to track a dog at full speed, let alone exercise, nor does it have the frame rate. For everything else, the Canon 6D MarkII works.
You can view the full gallery of images of the 6D MarkII here.
If you want to get an idea of ISO performance, here’s a test scene shot at different ISOs.
Below are cutouts of the center portion of the above scene. If you’d like to see high-resolution JPGs of the entire scene, head over to our Flickr gallery here.
The Canon 6D MarkII is a major upgrade from its predecessor, which took 5 years to develop. In the past five years, however, the competition has also expanded its portfolio. While Nikon and Canon were always on top of each other, Sony is slowly creeping up into the mirrorless segment, giving the legacy players stiff competition. For the price of the Canon 6D MarkII you can also choose between the Nikon D750, the Sony A7 mk2 and even the new Sony A7 mk3. All four cameras cost more or less the same and have their own strengths and weaknesses. The strength of the Canon 6D MarkII is the built-in 4K time-lapse function, the HDR video mode and the fact that you get a camera that produces very versatile images. What bothers the 6D MarkII is its weight, if you compare it to the much smaller Sony offering. However, as an entry-level full-frame DSLR, the Canon 6D MarkII maintains its strengths and remains a solid competitor for your money.