Hands-on with Canon’s junior full-frame model, the Canon EOS 6D Mark II
After months of speculation, Canon has taken the wraps off the Canon EOS 6D Mark II. Replacing the four-year-old EOS 6D, the Canon EOS 6D Mark II slots into the EOS DSLR lineup below the EOS 5D Mark IV and above the company’s flagship APS-C model, the EOS 7D Mark II.
Often described as a junior full-frame DSLR, the original Canon EOS 6D became popular with enthusiast photographers who were looking to progress from an APS-C DSLR and take their first steps into full-frame photography without having to leap to the 5D.
Though the new Canon EOS 6D Mark II boasts full-frame status and many of Canon’s latest technological innovations, it remains a DSLR aimed at enthusiasts rather than professionals, and is priced accordingly. There’s a whopping £1350 difference between the 6D Mark II and 5D Mark IV. What’s also interesting is that it costs £200 less than the original EOS 6D when it was launched in 2012.
The Canon EOS 6D Mark II will go on sale for £1999.99 (body only) or £2379.99 with the EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens.
A few days before the official release, I was invited to a product briefing where I got the chance to find out more and form some first impressions.
Canon EOS 6D Mark II – Features
The EOS 6D’s 20.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor is replaced by a 26.2MP full-frame CMOS chip that we’ve never seen before in an EOS model. Compared to its predecessor that had a native ISO range of 100-25,600, the Mark II can now shoot between ISO 100-40,000, expandable to ISO 50-102,400.
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Just like other Canon DSLRs of late, the new sensor teams up with Canon’s latest DIGIC 7 image processor. This pairing promises improvements to both image quality and speed of performance.
Image information is processed 14x faster than Canon’s DIGIC 6 image processor (the original EOS 6D featured a DIGIC 5+ image processor) and it can now shoot a continuous burst at up of 6.5fps, which is 2fps faster. A detailed look at its specification tells me that users can expect to sustain a burst of up to 150 JPEGs, or 21 RAW files, at 6.5fps.
Speed benefits are also gained in live view thanks to the integration of Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology. I’ve seen this technology rolled out across a number of other Canon DSLRs in the last few years, including the EOS 80D, EOS 7D Mark II and EOS 5D Mark IV. Not only does it allow for high-performance Servo AF tracking as well as smoother focusing, but it rules out the slothful autofocus performance in live view mode.
For those unfamiliar with Dual Pixel CMOS AF, it’s a sensor-based, phase-detection autofocus system that works by splitting all the effective pixels on the surface of the sensor into two individual photodiodes – one for left and one for right.
Each of these photodiodes can be read separately, allowing faster phase-detection autofocus while simultaneously being used for image capture. It’s a system that’s become beneficial to photographers and videographers who’d like to shoot quickly without having to put up with clumsy focusing in Live View.
On the subject of autofocus, the EOS 6D Mark II’s new AF system is considerably more advanced than the 11-point AF system with one cross-type point you get on the original EOS 6D. This latest model inherits the 45-point all-cross-type AF system out of the EOS 80D. Out of the 45 AF points on offer, 27 are f/8 compatible, with the centre point being sensitive down to f/2.8.
The working range of the AF system is just the same as before, however, and is sensitive to -3EV to 18EV.
Turning attention to the camera’s metering, this is left in the capable hands of a 7560-pixel RGB IR metering sensor. I’ve seen this used before in the likes of the EOS 77D and it’s proven to be reliable at delivering consistently accurate exposures.
To counteract the rapid on/off pulsing you can get with some artificial lights, the EOS 6D Mark II also features Canon’s Flicker Detection technology that first made its debut in the EOS 7D Mark II.
The camera sadly doesn’t support 4K movie recording. In its absence you get Full HD (1920 x 1080) video at up to 60p and you’re provided with a 3.5mm port to plug in an external microphone.
There’s no headphone port to monitor audio levels as you shoot, but it does become the first full-frame EOS to include five-axis in-camera digital stabilisation for movie capture – a feature I’ve found to be particularly effective at making handheld videos smoother and more professional looking on the other EOS cameras.
The good news is that video footage can be stabilised even when non-IS lenses are used, and the electronic stabilisation can be combined with optical stabilisation when using compatible EF lenses.
Though it won’t naturally be the first choice for videographers wanting to shoot the highest-resolution movies, the EOS 6D Mark II does come with an intriguing 4K time-lapse movie mode.
This mode records still images at 4K resolution over a duration set up via the camera’s in-built intervalometer before automatically merging the frames to create an effective time-lapse movie. If the example footage shown during the product briefing is anything to go by, the results from using this mode can be spectacular.
I’m looking forward to trying this new feature, and we’ll no doubt see it rolled out across other EOS models in the future.
Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity is built into the camera, offering photographers the freedom to control it wirelessly from a smartphone or tablet that’s running Canon’s Camera Connect app.
There’s also Bluetooth connectivity to form a permanent connection to a smartphone – a feature previously seen on the EOS M5, EOS 800D and EOS 77D. It allows your phone to be used as a remote control at any time, without having to mess around setting up a Wi-Fi connection between devices.
The Bluetooth connection can also instruct the camera to fire up its Wi-Fi for when you want to copy images across to your phone, or use full remote control with live view.
Canon EOS 6D Mark II – Build and Handling
The dimensions of the EOS 6D Mark II have changed very slightly. Compared to the original EOS 6D that measured W144.5 x H110.5 x D71.2mm, this latest model is fractionally more compact at W144.0 x H110.5 x D74.8mm, and weighs 765g (body only) when a rechargeable LP-E6N battery is loaded.
The disappointing news for existing EOS 6D users is that the BG-E13 battery grip isn’t compatible. Those who’d like to improve handling when using heavier lenses, and replicate the position of buttons in the portrait format as they are in the landscape format, will need to buy the new BG-E21 battery grip (£199).
The chassis of the camera is made from aluminum alloy and polycarbonate resin with glass fibre, whereas the body is constructed from polycarbonate resin with special conductive fibre and glass fibre in some areas.
Though it feels noticeably lighter in the hand than the EOS 5D Mark III or EOS 5D Mark IV, the body feels well made and highly durable. Canon also states that the body is dust- and drip-resistant, which should see it survive a few drops of rain when used in the great outdoors.
The biggest change to the body is located at the rear where a 3-inch, 1,040k-dot vari-angle touchscreen replaces the 3-inch, 1040k-dot fixed screen of old.
Many Canon users have been asking for a vari-angle screen on a full-frame DSLR for some time now, so it’s great to see Canon acting on customer feedback. Being able to pull the screen out and tilt it to your preferred angle gives it a distinct advantage over a fixed screen when attempting to shoot from tricky angles or unusal perspectives. The touchscreen offers precise control and responds to the lightest of touches.
Above the screen you get an optical viewfinder that provides 98% coverage and 0.71x magnification. As well as revealing all the usual exposure and autofocus information, it can be set up to display the drive mode, battery level, alert symbol, flicker detection and image quality.
There’s a nice large rubber eye cup to cushion the viewfinder against your eye, and generally speaking it feels almost identical to the original EOS 6D in the hand. The grip is well sculpted, though you’ll find the grippy leather-effect finish doesn’t extend all the way around the side of the body, like it does on professional EOS bodies. You don’t get a joystick to nudge the AF point around the frame either, which is instead incorporated into the rear wheel as a multi-controller.
Button placement is virtually identical to before. The on/off switch shoulders the left corner of the body just below the mode dial and you get advanced controls such as an AF-ON button to easily perform back button focusing.
Other important buttons on the top plate allow you to access AF modes, drive modes, ISO and metering modes. A new addition, albeit a minor one, is the small button just behind the shutter button that’s particularly useful for adjusting the AF point selection method very quickly.
Those hopeful of dual SD card slots may be slightly disappointed to find that it only has a single slot. This unfortunately rules out any possibility of backing up files to a second card, spilling over to a second card when one becomes full, or assigning one card to the purpose of stills recording and the other to video.
It’s safe to say anyone coming from an original EOS 6D will feel right at home operating the EOS 6D Mark II. It won’t feel intimidating for those upgrading from a double-digit or triple-digit Canon APS-C DSLR either, and Canon has done well to ensure that it feels both instinctive and intuitive to use for existing EOS DSLR users.
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The Canon EOS 6D Mark II has been a long time coming. It sets its sights on improving where the EOS 6D left off and looks set to do so with a compelling set of features that will undoubtedly attract many enthusiasts who are thinking of upgrading to full frame.
Though it’s a so-called ‘enthusiast DSLR’ it’s likely to receive some interest from professionals who’d like a smaller and lighter backup body. It looks like a great option for travelling and situations where a vari-angle screen is preferable.
While it’s seen as natural step-up for APS-C users and will undoubtedly satisfy the majority of those who buy it, the absence of dual card slots and 4K video might push a few people towards the EOS 5D Mark IV instead. If 4K video isn’t required, you’ll want to bear in mind that it’s still possible (at the time of writing) to buy an EOS 5D Mark III from new for the same price as the EOS 6D Mark II.
From my brief hands on with a pre-production model I got the impression that it’s well built and found little to fault in terms of its general performance and operation.
The autofocus is snappy, live-view focusing is in a different league to the original EOS 6D, and though the spread of AF points is fairly central, it’s great to have more of them at your disposal.
The burst rate isn’t blisteringly quick by today’s standards, but it’s adequate. The screen is absolutely superb and is one of the real standout features of this camera. Never before has it been so easy to compose an image from an awkward angle or position on a full-frame Canon DSLR.
All that’s left to do now is wait a few weeks until a review sample arrives to find out how the new 26.2MP sensor performs and get a better impression of what it’s like to use over a prolonged spell of real-world testing.