EOS 6D Mark II

EOS 6D Mark II

Steve's Conclusion: 6D Mark II

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SPEED & AF PERFORMANCE

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While the EOS 6D Mark II can't compete with mirrorless camera systems for speed, and nor does it offer all the AF points of something like a D500, 6.5 frames-per-second continuous shooting is within spitting distance of the 5D Mark IV (7 fps). At those speeds, the 6Dii is good for bursts of up to 110 Large (Fine) JPEGs OR up to 25 RAW + JPEGs. All in all, these numbers are good, acceptable for a DSLR, but not IMPRESSIVE.

The 6Dii also boasts two AutoFocus systems, all of which can be adjusted by pressing the Q button on the back of the body or by tapping various buttons on top. When using the optical viewfinder, you have access to (up to) 45 AF points where you can opt to shoot in three Focusing Modes (One-shot AF, Predictive AI Servo AF, or AI Focus AF, which switches between One-shot and Predictive automatically). In any of these modes, you can opt for Single-point Spot AF, Single-point AF, Zone AF (AF points divided into nine zones), Large Zone AF (divided into three zones), and Auto (all 45 points!). For landscapes, architecture, or portraits, it's easy enough to stick with the single modes, but if you're shooting anything fast-moving -- wildlife or automobiles -- Auto + Predictive AI Servo AF is the way to go. 

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When using the 3.0" Vari-Angle Touch Screen LCD, which you access by pressing the Start/Stop button, the 6Dii engages Dual Pixel CMOS AF, which is a sensor based phase detection system that dramatically improves focal adjustments and tracking compared to earlier DSLRs. Simply tap the screen to select your AF point, allow it to track your subjects or, while recording video, rack focus mid-shot. Dual Pixel CMOS AF works with all Canon EF lenses.

Overall, while it's not breaking any records for speed, the EOS 6D Mark II is DSLR-quick at this price-point, with excellent and accurate AutoFocus.

METERING

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The EOS 6D Mark II utilizes a 7560-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor that we've seen in the 80D and 77D camera systems. While those are definitely lesser cameras, by comparison, this metering system is fantastically accurate. You can opt for Evaluative metering (links to all AF points), Partial metering (centered 6.5% of the viewfinder), Spot Metering (centered, 3.2% of the viewfinder), or Center-weighted average metering (self-explanatory). 

Outside of the previously-described discrepancy between the LCD display and the final image exposure levels (the viewfinder shows images about a half stop or so brighter than they appear in on a calibrated computer monitor), I found the camera's metering system did a very good job of evaluating high contrast scenes with bright whites and deep darks. 

STILL IMAGE QUALITY - RAW v JPEG

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As far as I'm concerned, this section is the whole reason for whether or not you want to consider a new Full Frame DSLR. Is the EOS 6D Mark II worth it? Does it take bold, vibrant pictures?

In a word, yes. 

Results will obviously be glass and photographer-dependent (duh), but I was very pleased with the quality of the images captured on our pre-production tester models. In fact, while I didn't love the sensor as much as, say, the Sony A9, which costs more than double this camera, I would venture to say any still-focused photographer who is pondering the 5D Mark IV, and who doesn't need 4K video and the faster AF, might consider saving a few bucks and looking at a 6Dii instead. 

It's that good.

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Given our high-contrast shooting conditions in Yellowstone, with a blend of far-off vistas, bright sunlight, and cascading shadows, RAW images were as colorful and sharp and detailed as I could capture in the ever-changing conditions. It helps, of course, that Canon sensors are typically very forgiving, making it super-easy to make minor tweaks like pulling shadow details, bumping contrast, and saturating colors. The 6D Mark II continues this trend.

In landscape photography, whether capturing wider angles, long telephotos, or abstract closeups, you often want to maximize depth of field to ensure sharpness. The 6Dii brought Yellowstone to life with, either in full, brilliant color as well as impeccable black & white. When shooting animals or portraits, and aiming for a shallow depth of field, the AF system is on point and colors remain true. We didn't get to shoot in any city environments with background lighting, but this camera, with the right lens, is destined to render bokeh with great results.

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JPEG images are also quite strong and would be great for social media. Of course, pixel peeping finds more noise and less fine detail in high contrast situations or around edges. But that's to be expected. This is why, outside review periods, I shoot exclusively in RAW, process as needed, and make a higher quality JPEGs after the fact. Still, if you need a quick, more manageable file size to share online or show clients, the EOS 6D Mark II produces fine-looking JPEGs.

The final question, in regards to image quality, is whether or not the 6D Mark II bests the original 6D, which is still an excellent camera. Is it worth the upgrade for picture quality alone? While I'd personally argue that the 6D Mark II is more versatile in challenging lighting conditions, the truth is a talented photography with great glass is going to be able to get great images with either camera. As such, if you already own the 6D that's still running strong, image quality alone isn't really going to be the reason. HOWEVER, this camera is going to be perfect for those making the first jump to a Full Frame camera because it's much smarter and more forgiving than the previous model, plus it has more amenities. OR, if you're a 6D owner and it's old and tired and ready to crap out, definitely look at the 6Dii.

ISO PERFORMANCE

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(ISO 40,000)

Our two days with the EOS 6D Mark II included plenty of light and/or time to do long exposures while capturing landscapes and wildlife, so I didn't get to dive fully into near-dark performance. While ISO 32,000 on the 5D Mark IV was a lot of fun, the 6D Mark II goes all the way up to ISO 40,000. It's a wonderful noisy affair devoid of fine detail and texture BUT if it's the difference between getting a shot or going home empty-handed, you'll come to love the noise. Outside of the extreme settings, which most will avoid, the DIGIC 7 processor makes it possible to shoot up towards 3200 and 6400 ISO and come away with fairly clean images. With noise reduction in post, you can even go a little higher, towards ISO 10,000.

In other words, Full Frame (and larger) image sensors will always have the best ISO performance compared to APS-C and Micro Four Thirds systems. I remain impressed with Canon's ever-expanding ISO capabilities.

MOVIE QUALITY


The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is capable of recording Full HD 1080/60p video at a variable bit rate that maxes out at 60Mbps. So up to 60 frames-per-second at a bitrate that's around double that of consumer Blu-ray Discs. To shoot video, one toggles the Live View / Movie switch on the back of the camera, which turns on the 3.0" Vari-angle Touch Screen display and engages the Dual Pixel CMOS AF. Once in Movie Mode, simply tap the Start/Stop button to begin recording and again to end recording.

In an era where 4K TVs are flying out of big box stores and many smartphones shoot 4K/30p video, it's admittedly disappointing when a Full Frame DSLR can't keep up. It's not necessarily about spec-sheet bragging rights, either, but rather if you're setting out to make films or vlog or a web series, whatever, 4K content is more valuable to distributors and advertisers. Coupled with the fact that DSLRs lack in-body image stabilization built into mirrorless systems, overall movie quality and capability remain the 6D Mark II's most significant drawback for anyone but dedicated still photographers.

That said, the Full HD 1080/60p videos, themselves, are quite good (although, by mistake, I recorded my test videos in 1080/30p -- my apologies). The Dual Pixel CMOS AF is speedy, using the touchscreen to adjust focal points works effortlessly and silently (depending on lens). The movies are also error/noise free, and colors and contrast are good. Again, if you're a still-focused photographer who wants to occasionally record videos, or need a secondary video camera, the 6D Mark II performs quite well. 

Also, you can engage Time-Lapse Movie Mode, which is in 4K and automatically renders a motion JPEG video from a group of stills captured with the interval shooting. 

BATTERY LIFE

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The EOS 6D Mark II is like many modern DSLRs -- if you're mostly using the optical viewfinder, you get OUTSTANDING battery life, shooting for hours on end without the need to recharge or swap in a fresh battery. Canon claims up to 1,200 images at 73°F/23°C. 

However, if you switch to Live View, check your photos often, engage GPS or WiFi/Bluetooth/NFC, or record a lot of movies, the battery drains MUCH FASTER. Videos, especially, tax the camera's sensors, processors, and display in such a demanding ways that, if you don't leave home with a full charge, you're shoot will be over quickly. In these scenarios, Canon claims up to 380 still images at 73°F/23°C.

Overall, the 6Dii performed better than expected and Canon makes it easy to extend battery life for everything but dedicated video recording. 

WIRELESS PERFORMANCE

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Equipped with Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth, and GPS technologies, it's easy and simple to connect the EOS 6D Mark II to an iOS or Android device running the free Canon Camera Connect app, or PictBridge-compatible Canon printers. Running Canon Camera Connect, with Wi-Fi OR Bluetooth, you can transfer files to your smartphone for sharing on social media, though transferred images are resized JPEGs and not full-sized RAW files. This works reasonably well and you can then process images on the go. Helpful for field work or press events, but not for larger printing or live events where you'd need an ethernet port setup.

However the Canon Camera Connect App's KILLER feature is the ability to remote control the camera itself. If you're shooting long exposures like stars, group shots, and doing time-lapse, being able to walk away form the camera, and not bump it as the shutter release, it's a terrific modern feature to have.

BOTTOM LINE

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The $2,000 price-point is a fascinating one for DSLRs and ILCs, with a bounty of excellent choices, whether it be Olympus' flagship OM-D E-M1 Mark II, Nikon's flagship APS-C-sensor D500, or this entry-level Full Frame EOS 6Dii. Each one has their ownstrengths -- the E-M1ii is one of the fastest and most rugged cameras in the world, while D500 takes gorgeous stills and has an outstanding AF system...

And this new 6D Mark II takes wonderful still pictures and offers a lot of creature comforts wrapped in a package that makes it a pretty affordable way of getting into a Full Frame system. Sure, it's not the fastest or most rugged DSLR ever made, it should shoot 4K videos, and some folks will be happier sticking with their older camera bodies, but even with a few caveats, it's hard to deny how much performance and accuracy and convenience the 6Dii offers. In short, the Canon EOS 6D Mark II is the perfect package still-focused photographers shooting landscapes, wildlife, portraits or weddings. 

PICK THIS UP IF...

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You've already invested in Canon EF lenses and want to make your first jump to a Full Frame camera system OR if you're considering a 5D Mark IV but don't need all of it's bells n' whistles OR if you having an aging 6D and are looking for bettering metering, ISO performance, wireless capabilities, and a longer-lasting battery.
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