The Canon 6D Mark II
Over the years, I’ve been a frequent user of Canon’s 5D DSLR series (the original 5D, 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III, and now the new Canon 5D Mark IV) and I’ve been very satisfied with each new iteration that Canon has offered. I’ve never used the original Canon 6D so I have no reference with which to compare the Canon 6D Mark II, except against the cameras I’m currently using: the Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 1DX Mark II. Most of my comparisons will be used against the Canon 5D Mark IV, which might seem unfair at first, but the 6D Mark II does have a newer processor – the Digic 7 versus the older Digic 6+.
The Canon 6D Mark II does offer some tantalizing new features for the brand’s entry-level full-frame DSLR. Improvements to the autofocus system would be first among them. The consensus among Canon users on the Internet is the lack of 4K video as the biggest disappointment. I’ll have to respectfully disagree with the conclusion since I believe the camera disappoints in other more important areas. In fact, I don’t even discuss video in this review since I never used it during my tests. I took the Canon 6D Mark II on a three-day photography excursion into the North Carolina mountains recently to see how well it performs against my 5D Mark IV. My observations are mostly subjective.
For a comprehensive description, list of features, specifications, and purchasing information on the Canon 6D Mark II, you should visit the Canon USA website.
The Canon 6D Mark II vs the Canon 6D
The Canon 6D Mark II replaces the 6D, which was released to the public back in late 2012 so it was certainly due for an upgrade. The Canon 6D Mark II is lighter, employs more pixels, and has an articulating LCD screen. But there are many more more improvements over the 6D classic.
CANON 6D MARK II
26.2MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
Body weight: 24.16 oz
DIGIC 7 Image Processor
45-Point All-Cross Type AF System
6.5 fps Shooting
Full HD Video at 60 fps. No 4K video
3″ 1.04m-Dot Articulated Touchscreen LCD
Native ISO 40000, Expanded to ISO 102400
Dual Pixel CMOS AF and Movie Servo AF
Built-In GPS, Bluetooth & Wi-Fi
Dust and Water Resistant
Single SD Card Slot
20.2MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
Body weight: 27.16 oz
DIGIC 5+ Image Processor
11-Point AF with Center Cross-Type Point
4.5 fps Shooting
Full HD 1080p Video Recording at 30 fps
3.0″ 1.04m-Dot Clear View LCD Monitor
Native ISO 25600, Extended to ISO 102400
Built-In Wi-Fi and GPS Connectivity
iFCL 63-Zone Dual Layer Metering Sensor
In-Camera HDR & Multiple Exposure Mode
Single SD Card Slot
The Canon 6D Mark II Articulating LCD Screen
One of the first obvious new features of the Canon 6D Mark II is the articulating rear LCD screen. At first, I wasn’t so sure about the usefulness of this new feature until I went out to make the image you see above. While standing in ice cold water before the sun rose, I wanted to include the foreground whitewater in the bottom of the image frame in order to give the scene some balance. In order to do this, I needed to get down low. With a non-articulating screen, I would have gotten wet as I contorted my body into a position to either look through the optical viewfinder or the live view on the back of the camera. With the LCD articulation, I just tilted the screen upward while in live view and I hardly had to bend over to compose and focus.
Canon 6D Mark II with articulating screen flipped out horizontally. From this position,it can tilt up and down to accommodate your viewing position.
Oconuluftee Overlook, Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina. Canon 6D Mark II, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM @ 105mm, 1/20 second @ f/11, ISO 200.
What Else Is New?
Aside from the articulating LCD screen and the bump up in megapixels (20.2 MP to 26.2 MP) the Canon 6D Mark II had updated the entry-level full-frame DSLR in some other important ways.
45-point AF System
The new version of the 6D gives the photographer a wide-area, 45-point all cross-type AF system, currently available on the 80D. With the Canon 6D Mark II, you can now track fast-moving subjects accurately throughout the frame even in low light. The 6D Mark II also features 5 different AF area options for different AF situations.
The Canon 6D Mark II introduces Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF to the 6D line. The camera uses two photodiodes per pixel which allows phase-difference detection autofocus while using Live View, which is a big upgrade. Dual Pixel CMOS AF and phase detection AF is much faster and accurate than what was available on the 6D.
6.5 fps Shooting
The Canon 6D Mark II offers a significant improvement in its frame rate or burst rate, jumping from 4.5 fps (which was basically useless for anything other than static scenes) in the 6D with a 6.5 fps rate in the Mark II. It doesn’t qualify as a serious wildlife or sports camera but it is at least in the neighborhood and the improvement is certainly welcome.
All in all, the autofocus system features – 6.5 fps shooting, Dual-Pixel AF and 45-point cross-type AF points – mark the biggest improvements over the original 6D.
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Built-In GPS
The Canon 6D Mark II has a built-in wifi feature when used with the Canon Camera Connect app on your smartphone over a local network or via bluetooth. You can operate the camera remotely from a distance with control over most settings including f-stop, shutter speed, ISO, focus and the shutter release. The built-in GPS allows you to tag your images with location data, which is a pretty standard feature these days.
Rather than rely on my subjective evaluations with regard to dynamic range, I’ll just defer to some published empirical tests instead. The technical reviews and tests of the Canon 6D Mark II were extremely disappointing, particularly with regard to dynamic range. This test published by Photons To Photos, an independent source for sensor data information, exhibits a graph plotting photographic dynamic range at various ISOs while comparing recent Canon DSLRs. To be quite frank, the results here are awful. The Canon 6D Mark II performs about the same, and in many cases worse, than its predecessor, the 6D Classic which is 5 years older. In tests with ISOs up to 251, the Canon 6D Mark II performs worse than the Canon 6D, the Canon 5D Mark IV, and even the Canon 80D which is a APS-C camera. This is quite shocking.
As far as a subjective evaluation and my personal experience for the few days I used the Canon 6D Mark II, I can only compare the results to the 5D Mark IV. I could easily see that the shadow detail with the 6D Mark II did not match the results I was getting with the 5D Mark IV. This backs up the claims made by the Photon To Photos test. The 5D Mark IV offers better results than the 6D Mark II.
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Here is another area of performance where 6D users were hoping for an improvement and unfortunately didn’t get one. I could only compare the results of the Canon 6D Mark II to my 5D Mark IV, where the 6D Mark II was significantly inferior.
There is an excellent review on The Amazing Sky where the authors compared the 6D Mark II to the 6D while doing night photography. These results confirmed my subjective observations. The Canon 6D Mark II is not much of an improvement over the original 6D and the ISO performance as a whole is inferior to the 5D mark IV.
Above you have two identical crops from identical scenes both captured at 6400 ISO. The crop from the left is from the Canon 6D Mark II and the crop on the right is from the Canon 5D Mark IV. Both are full-frame DSLRs and recent iterations from their respective product lines but the results clearly show better ISO performance from the 5D Mark IV.
I won’t be keeping this camera. For one thing, I already own two Canon 5D Mark IV camera bodies and a Canon 1DX Mark II so there’s no place in my bag for a camera of this type anyway. If you already own a 6D, I’m not sure it’s worth the upgrade if what’s most important to you is image quality. The dynamic range and ISO performance is at least comparable to the original 6D but the articulating LCD screen and the AF system improvements might make the upgrade worthwhile. Still, the return on investment is low by camera upgrade standards.
On its own, the Canon 6D Mark II is not a bad DSLR. Actually, it’s a very good camera, especially for those who want to upgrade to their first full-frame camera body. But the disappointment arises when you consider how much better it could have and should have been.
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Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer is the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than 1.2 million followers across social media platforms. He leads photography tours and workshops all over the world and is a high-demand keynote speaker. For more great information on new images, book projects, public appearances, photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Richard's Email Newsletter.