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

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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.

Per­for­mance

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

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