SHOOT­ING THE STARS WITH THE CAN ONE OS 6 D MARK I I

New Zealand D-Photo - - HOW TO | MARK GEE -

Ac­claimed as­tropho­tog­ra­pher Mark Gee had spent long nights un­der dark starry skies try­ing for his per­fect shot, un­til one night in 2013, when the heav­ens aligned with his Canon EOS 6D. Af­ter a year plan­ning the shot, the skies over Mount Vic­to­ria were pristinely clear, and the wind was at bay, but, most im­por­tant, there was a huge glob­u­lar golden moon ris­ing above the hill. The re­sult: his vi­ral Full Moon Sil­hou­ettes time-lapse. So, it was only nat­u­ral that we should sug­gest Mark step out un­der the stars again, this time armed with the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Canon EOS 6D Mark II, to put it to the ul­ti­mate test

The long-awaited Canon EOS 6D Mark II is fi­nally avail­able, but, be­fore it hit the stores, some of the ear­lier re­views weren’t 100-per­cent pos­i­tive. Hav­ing owned a Canon EOS 6D for the past four years, I was ea­ger to see how the Mark II per­forms with as­tropho­tog­ra­phy, and whether it is an im­prove­ment on its pre­de­ces­sor. So I took it into the field to shoot some shots un­der dif­fer­ent con­di­tions to see how it fared with low light and long ex­po­sures. Be­fore I get to the im­age qual­ity, I’ll men­tion some new fea­tures in­tro­duced in this model. The one fea­ture I’ve found most use­ful is the new tilt and touch screen. There are many times, es­pe­cially when shoot­ing time-lapses, that I need to put the cam­era low to the ground to get the com­po­si­tion I want. To see the LCD on my EOS 6D, I al­ways had to get right down, or even lie on the ground, but now, with the Canon EOS 6D Mark II, I sim­ply swivel the screen into po­si­tion so that it’s easy to view from th­ese tricky an­gles. The touch­screen makes life eas­ier when chang­ing set­tings, es­pe­cially in the dark. I also found it re­ally con­ve­nient when I was fo­cus­ing in day­time us­ing live view. You sim­ply tap where your sub­ject is on the screen to fo­cus. This was great when shoot­ing video, and you could even do a rack fo­cus that way, and it would also track with your sub­ject. The Canon EOS 6D Mark II also has a built-in in­ter­val timer, which is handy for time-lapse or au­tomat­ing the shoot­ing of mul­ti­ple pho­tos of the night sky for im­age stack­ing. To op­er­ate this, you sim­ply set the in­ter­val and then the num­ber of shots. The only down­fall is that the max­i­mum num­ber of shots you can set is 99, which will only give you around three to four sec­onds of time-lapse. You can set it to un­lim­ited, but then the only way to stop the time-lapse is to ac­tu­ally turn the cam­era off. And, yes, it does say to do that in the in­struc­tion man­ual … As an ad­di­tion for as­tropho­tog­ra­phers, there is a func­tion to stack and av­er­age up to nine shots in cam­era for less-noisy im­ages. This is great for the fore­ground, but ob­vi­ously doesn’t work so well for the sky, since it’s con­tin­u­ally mov­ing. If I’m stack­ing, I would gen­er­ally shoot around 15–20 im­ages, so I’d much rather use the in­ter­val timer for that and deal with the stack­ing part in post — but this func­tion could come in handy for some. The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is a 26.2MP, full­frame-sen­sor cam­era, which makes it ideal for as­tropho­tog­ra­phy. I wanted to test this cam­era un­der dif­fer­ent con­di­tions, so I chose a moon­lit sce­nario, a slightly light-pol­luted en­vi­ron­ment, and a to­tally dark sky en­vi­ron­ment. Un­der all three con­di­tions, the cam­era per­formed very well, and, af­ter hav­ing read the less-pos­i­tive re­views of the cam­era, I was pleas­antly sur­prised with the re­sult­ing im­ages. The im­age noise from shoot­ing with a high ISO was con­trol­lable in post, and I was also able to pull a fair amount of de­tail out of the shad­ows with

very lit­tle arte­fact­ing or ma­genta colour cast, re­sult­ing in nice clean im­ages. I also wanted to test the Canon EOS 6D Mark II along­side the orig­i­nal EOS 6D, so I set up a se­ries of tests at dif­fer­ent ISOs, and then pushed the ex­po­sure in post with­out any noise re­duc­tion for each test, to com­pare the im­age qual­ity be­tween the cam­eras. The tests I shot were at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400. I pushed the ex­po­sure in each of those tests to +4, +3, and +2 stops, re­spec­tively. The re­sults showed that the orig­i­nal Canon EOS 6D sen­sor per­formed bet­ter, with su­pe­rior colour sta­bil­ity, less noise, and more de­tail in the shad­ows. I have to say, this is a dis­ap­point­ing re­sult, and I would have ex­pected much bet­ter sen­sor per­for­mance on a newer model cam­era. How­ever, with my cur­rent processing work­flow, I per­son­ally wouldn’t ever push my im­ages that far in post like that, and the re­sults were pos­i­tive in the other im­age tests I did us­ing that work­flow. So, in con­clu­sion, de­spite its short­fall in sen­sor per­for­mance com­pared with the orig­i­nal EOS 6D, the Canon EOS 6D Mark II still per­forms very well for as­tropho­tog­ra­phy, and it’s a cam­era I would rec­om­mend — es­pe­cially to those look­ing at up­grad­ing from a cropped sen­sor to a full-frame sen­sor. The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is my main cam­era for as­tropho­tog­ra­phy now, and I’m cer­tainly en­joy­ing get­ting out un­der the stars and shoot­ing with it.

CANON EOS 6D MARK II, ZEISS DISTAGON T* 15MM F/2.8 ZE LENS, 24MM, 30S, F/4, ISO 6400

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