EOS 6D Mk II full review
Canon’s new entry-level full-frame DSLR is here at last, and rod lawton has been ticking off the boxes on his wishlist
All the pros and cons of Canon’s latest enthusiast-level full-frame DSLR
The original Canon EOS 6D, introduced back in 2012, has proved a popular camera. It offers the quality of a fullframe sensor and an affordable entry point into the world of professional photography. But it’s five years old and showing its age: the EOS 6D Mark II is its replacement, and it’s better than its predecessor in practically every way, from its sensor to its ISO range, and from its autofocus system to its continuous shooting mode.
The brand-new 26.2-megapixel sensor has six more megapixels than the original EOS 6D – a near30% increase. More importantly, perhaps, this new sensor uses Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor to deliver fast phase-detection autofocus even in Live View mode. This means movie autofocus is faster and smoother, and Live View focusing for stills photography should be much faster than the EOS 6D’s older and simpler contrast autofocus system.
The 6D Mark II’S regular autofocus system gets an update too, with a 45-point array (all cross-type) that’s light years ahead of the old model’s archaic 11-point system. It’s helped by Canon’s latest DIGIC 7 image processor, which aids object recognition and focus tracking to predict subject movement across the frame.
The new sensor and DIGIC 7 combination delivers an ISO range of 100-40,000, expandable to 50-104,400.
Action fans get a higher frame rate, too. The EOS 6D Mark II can shoot at 6.5 frames per second, which is hardly exceptional in comparison to its rivals, but almost 50% faster than the 4.5fps of the old model. Its buffer can capture up to 150 JPEGS or 21 Raw files – which is more than adequate, though not enough to make the 6D Mark II into any kind of sports specialist.
Canon has decided not to include 4K video, though, sticking with full HD. It does adds in-camera five-axis digital stabilization for movies.
Externally, the EOS 6D Mark II looks a lot like the original 6D, but there is a key difference – round the back, the original 6D’s fixed LCD display has been replaced by a fully articulating touchscreen.
Like the original 6D, the 6D Mark II has GPS built in for adding locations to your photos. That’s a pleasant surprise, because on most other cameras this is an expensive and somewhat inconvenient add-on. You get built-in Wi-fi too, as well as both NFC and Bluetooth.
Build and handling
The EOS 6D Mark II is a great camera to hold and to use. The smoothed-over contours of the top plate and pentaprism don’t just make the 6D Mark II look good: they make it easier to handle too, as you can just slide your fingers over the surfaces to reach the buttons.
And there are plenty of them, organised in a familiar Canon pattern. There are four buttons just ahead of the LCD panel on the top plate for our key shooting settings – AF mode (One-shot AF, AI Focus AF, AI Servo AF), Drive mode, ISO setting and metering pattern. You press the button and turn the front control dial to change the setting.
Round the back, exactly where your right thumb rests, there are three more buttons – one for changing the focus point mode (Spot AF, 1-point AF, Zone AF, Large Zone AF, Auto selection AF); an AF-L/AF-L button; and an AF-ON button for autofocus activation in sports and action shots. It’s a shame there’s no separate drive mode dial, but there are twin control dials, as you’d expect in a Canon camera at this level. There’s one dial on the top of the grip, and the second dial is on the back of the camera, around the four-way directional buttons. Both work well, with a firm and postive ‘click’ action. The rear dial also handles exposure compensation.
As well as the physical controls, Canon has also included an interactive, touch-sensitive Q menu. The touch control works really well, both for settings changes and focus control in Live View mode. The screen is very good, and the fact that you can flip it out and rotate it to any angle makes it more useful still. It’s crisp, clear and vibrant, although it’s easily swamped by bright daylight, where you’re better off using the optical viewfinder.
The new 45-point autofocus system is a terrific improvement, both for static and moving subjects. It’s fast, versatile and simple to use, although its coverage is pretty restricted. Looking through the viewfinder, it’s clear that the entire 45-point area covers not much more than a third of the width and the height.
Alternatively, you can switch to Live View. This is where the new Dual Pixel CMOS sensor really pays off, with on-sensor phase detection autofocus so fast you might think you’re using a mirrorless camera – and the autofocus area now goes almost to the edges of the screen. You tap where you want to focus and, if you enable this option, the camera will also fire the shutter as soon as focus is achieved.
The exposure metering system is good overall, but the default Evaluative metering did lean towards overexposure in our tests. It also seems heavily weighted towards the centre of the frame (or the active focus point) so that some scenes with a darker centre came out brighter than we would expect from an evaluative/multi-pattern metering system.
The image quality is good, although the fine detail in JPEGS is slightly compromised by a processing style we’ve seen in Canon cameras before – good noise control, yes, but at the cost of super-fine detail and with rather heavy-handed edge sharpening. This good noise control extends right up to the 6D II’S ISO40000 maximum, although a comparison of JPEG images and Raw files reveals just how much noise reduction is being applied to the
in-camera JPEGS. With Raw files, though, you’ll be able to achieve a better balance between noise and detail than the 6D II’S somewhat smudgy JPEGS.
Before we write off the 6D II’S JPEGS, however, it’s worth pointing out that the camera can apply automatic distortion, chromatic aberration, diffraction and peripheral shading correction with Canon lenses (we used the new EF 24-105mm f/4); and it does it very well indeed. You can do this with Raw files, but you’ll need software with lens corrections profiles.
It all adds up to image quality results that are perfectly fine but not exceptional.
The full-frame EOS 6D II is smaller than the APS-C EOS 7D II, and has Live View AF that’s about as fast as a mirrorless camera
The Evaluative metering is generally good, but keep an eye on it in high-contrast lighting situations
The EOS 6D II’S vari-angle display and fast Live View autofocus open up whole new angles for your shots
The Evaluative metering has set the exposure for this lifeguard hut, but the Highlight Tone Priority mode has still kept detail in the sky
We tested the EOS 6D II with Canon’s new 24-105mm f/4 lens, which proved to be a very effective and versatile combination
The 6D II’S dynamic range is not bad, but our tests show it’s not quite at the same level as the older EOS 6D
The auto white balance gave shots in overcast lighting a slightly warmer tone than we’re used to seeing – but it’s actually quite attractive