Here’s our in-depth review of the full-frame Canon EOS 6D MkII…
Back in 2012, Canon unleashed one of the most popular cameras to ever grace the market, the EOS 6D. Packing in a 20.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor, the camera was powered by the outstanding Digic 5+ processor and boasted a native ISO of 100-25,600. It was the first Canon DSLR to feature Wi-Fi and became an instant smash – so much so, that a follow-up has been one of the most requested cameras from photographers the world over ever since. Finally, after five years, Canon has announced the 6D MkII, and we got our hands on a pre-production sample...
The Canon EOS 6D MkII features a huge native ISO range and revamped AF system
Beyond the new 26.2MP sensor design – 6MP more than the original’s 20.2MP – this MkII now uses the Digic 7 processor, which is 14x faster than the Digic 6 and a lot more powerful than its predecessor’s Digic 5+. This upgrade allows the 6D MkII to perform in extreme low light conditions, with a native ISO that ranges from 100-40,000 (the highest native ISO to appear on a Canon DSLR), expanding up to a very respectable 102,400, and an autofocus which is accurate to -3EV. The AF system has received a full revamp, featuring a 45-point cross-type AF for viewfinder use and a Dual Pixel Live View system, which turns every pixel within the central 80% of the frame into an AF point, a far cry from the original’s basic 11-point AF.
Another addition is the Intelligent Viewfinder, an LCD overlay which gives you a surprising amount of information on the screen, such as AF points, settings, an artificial horizon and crop guidelines, all of which are customisable. While this isn’t ground-breaking by any means, especially compared to the world of mirrorless, it is a nice touch.
The 6D MkII includes a 3in 1040k-dot LCD touchscreen, which is a first for Canon’s full-frame line-up. Sadly, 4K video isn’t featured, with Canon still wanting to distinguish its stills and cine line-ups from one another. However, a 4K time-lapse movie feature has been included, which simply means that your time-lapses will now be automatically stitched together in-camera and exported as 4K resolution video files.
The 6D MkII comes with the usual connectivity options (which were first introduced by the original 6D), including Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth, allowing you to set up your smartphone to transfer images, as well as acting as a remote controller for the camera.
Handling & build
At first glance, you’d be forgiven for mistaking this for the original 6D. Canon has definitely gone with an ‘If it ain’t broke...’ approach that will please many. Handling has been at the forefront of the design process, as the inner workings have been completely upgraded without compromising the size and useability that made the first model such a roaring success. The weight has been kept down to an impressively trim 765g, which makes it the world’s lightest full-frame camera with a vari-angle touchscreen. This is an impressive feat, considering its tough magnesium alloy front and rear, polycarbonate top and weather-sealed construction.
It also houses a new focusing mode selection button just behind the shutter button, making switching modes a lot quicker without having to take your eye from the viewfinder. This brings it in line with cameras such as the 80D and offers a less intimidating step-up for anybody wanting to upgrade to full-frame. Sadly, this was chosen over a thumb joystick, which many may argue would have been a far more intuitive and welcome addition, allowing you to move your AF point quickly and easily.
Although it may look almost identical to the original 6D, it’s immediately noticeable that the MkII is far from a carbon copy. Every process feels a lot smoother and quicker, thanks to the Digic 7 processor. Using the improved burst mode of 6.5fps will let you shoot up to 150 JPEGs or 21 RAWs, up from the 6D’s 4.5fps for 17 RAWs. While the slightly increased buffer doesn’t sound impressive on paper, the increased speed is perfect for short bursts of sports or action photography.
Likewise, the increase to 45 focus points, up from the 11-point 6D (of which only one was cross-type) adds precision for those wanting to capture the action as it happens. It also comes with Dual Pixel AF, which covers 80% of the frame and allows you to focus almost anywhere by simply pressing on the rear screen. The precision and reliability of this hybrid AF system always impresses us. Using the viewfinder, AF worked indoors in moderately low light conditions without a struggle. Even the Dual Pixel Live View AF was quick and accurate, adding that extra dimensionality and bringing the 6D series in line with the rest of the current market.
One gripe with the 45 AF points is that they feel as though they’re grouped incredibly close to the centre of the frame, meaning that if you intend to shoot action using the viewfinder, you will have to work with a rather central composition. This is an area we’d love to see Canon improve on. However, the tracking modes have been vastly improved upon. We found them to be accurate, especially when filming video.
The vari-angle screen, a first for a Canon full-frame, works identically to those found on cameras such as the 80D or 800D, meaning it’s tried and tested and intuitive to anybody new to the format. The screen is robust, and the picture is vivid, with beautifully recreated colours, good saturation and true-to-life hues throughout.
The Dual Pixel AF is as quick and responsive as it has ever been, however it still features the trademark lag (present in all manufacturers) when using the touch-capture, taking a good second or two for focusing and shooting. This obviously means it’s not suited to moving images, but landscape photographers will really love this method of shooting.
We obviously have to mention the lack of 4K, something which Canon is using to differentiate between its pro and enthusiast models. Many believed this would have been the perfect bridge between the two, but it’s still using 1080p, though upgraded to 60fps and featuring a 30fps HDR video mode for high-contrast scenes, as well as digital image stabilisation for smooth-looking footage.
Canon has said that this is not a camera for anybody serious about video, preferring to point them to the (more expensive) 5D MkIV or Cine range instead. Having said that, it is almost refreshing to see a camera avoid the 4K hype and concentrate on giving users a true stills experience, though we do have to question whether this will put it at a disadvantage when the competition moves beyond 4K and Canon is still using Full HD.
We would also have liked to see the 6D MkII feature a second memory card slot, which would have given it a lot more credibility when compared to the pro 5D range.
The 6D MkII feels completely refreshed, with a newly-designed 26.2MP sensor, ISO 40,000 (Canon’s highest native ISO), and the vari-angle touchscreen all bringing it bang up to date for stills photographers wanting to bridge the gap between enthusiast and pro models. Of course, there will always be detractors, with many targeting the lack of 4K video (especially when Nikon has just released the cheaper D7500 with 4K).
There’s no denying that this is an extremely capable camera, although at the time of print it’s exactly the same price as the stunning Canon 5D MkIII, which may well edge it for us.
Find out more at the Canon website.
Quick and accurate AF
High ISO of 40,000
No 4K video
Shutter speed stops at 1/4000sec
No focusing joystick
Kit lens: 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
Effective resolution: 26.2MP
Sensor: 36x24mm CMOS
Processor: Digic 7
LCD: 3in 1040k-dot vari-angle touchscreen
Shutter: Bulb, 30-1/4000sec
Autofocus: 45-point Dual Pixel
ISO: 100-40,000 (expands to 102,400)
Shooting speed: 6.5fps for 150 JPEGs or 21 RAWs
Video: Full HD at 60fps
Pop-up flash: No
Other features: 4K Time-lapse movie, HDR video mode, GPS, 3x User-Defined Picture Styles
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC
Battery life: 1150 shots
Card type: SD, SDHC, SDXC
Size (WxHxD): 144x111x75mm