Last Updated on 02/03/2020 by Brett Day
I want to get something straight that not a lot of reviews are putting out there: the Canon 6D Mk II isn’t a bad camera, in fact for most people, it will be a pretty darned good one. But for the rest of us who are at a point where we are demanding more from our cameras and image quality, we shouldn’t even be looking at this one. In many ways, the Canon 6D Mk II is the modern Canon full-frame Rebel. What do I mean by that? Canon has squarely given the camera enough features to please the folks who just want to move up to full-frame and their current lineup of users. There’s nothing incredibly revolutionary about it and the folks at the NYTimes aren’t bound to write praises about it; but at the same time, it isn’t a terrible camera at all.
But in every single way, it isn’t something I’d recommend to any sort of working pro or semi-professional except for perhaps portrait photographers.
Pros and Cons
- Nice feel to the camera body, though it’s now starting to feel more like the Canon 5D Mk III than the Canon 5D Mk II; and I preferred the latter
- Weather sealing
- Pretty fair color versatility
- Flippy LCD screen is a nice touch
- You can push the shadows quite a bit, though don’t expect Sony performance
- Great battery life
- Very good high ISO performance; I made a print at 13×17 inches from an ISO 6400 photo
- Canon’s Touch screen menu continues to be the best on the market
- Canon’s rendition of skin tones continues to be the best on the market
- No 4K video means that the long term value of a camera like this is null as the last time this camera was updated was maybe four or five years ago
- Subpar highlight rendition recovery (update, In Capture One, it isn’t that bad)
- Autofocus points all towards the center
- Very slow autofocus with Sigma lenses
- Low light autofocus is accurate but pretty much as fast as the Canon 5D Mk II’s center focus point was
- You’re so much better off just using the center focus point and recomposing
- 26MP is a bit too conservative when there are fantastic 24MP APS-C sensors
- Lower ISOs don’t feel as versatile as the higher ISO settings
- I’m honestly not sure why a Canon 6D user will want to upgrade
- A single card slot
We tested the Canon 6D Mk II with a number of lenses from both Canon and Sigma, and used Adorama Flashpoint lights for our testing.
- 26MP Full frame sensor
- Vari-Angle LCD screen
- ISO 100-40,000
- DIGIC 7 processor
- Built-in Wifi/NFC/Bluetooth/GPS
- 6.5 continuous shooting abilities
- Quiet shooting mode
- Dust and weather resistance
- 45 autofocus points around the center, all are cross type
- Full 1080p 60p HD video (no 4K video output)
- 4K time lapse movie mode
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF
Taken from our first impressions post
The Canon 6D Mk II is in many ways a lot like the Canon 5D Mk III and the original Canon 6D. It’s very minimal on the front and there isn’t really a whole lot in the way of controls there. But interestingly enough, I found the PC sync port there. The original Canon 6D didn’t have this.
Move around to the top of the Canon 6D Mk II and what you’ll find are a number of things that are very familiar. There’s the control buttons, the exposure dial near the front and shutter button, the hot shoe and the mode dial. Said mode dial is protected using a button in the middle.
Come to the back of the Canon 6D Mk II and you’ll spot a number of still familiar controls. The majority of them are on the right side with the rest being placed around the screen.
The Canon 6D Mk II has a single card slot. Make of that whatever you will.
What’s really nice about the new Canon 6D Mk II is that you’ve got this vari-angle LCD screen that comes out. Combine that with the touch functionality and you’ll be pretty happy with what you can do. Some photographers may prefer the tilting screen but in this case, you’ve got a bit more versatility.
As you can see in the video above, we tested the Canon 6D Mk II during a rainstorm. It survived with no problems at all. With that said, you can count on the reliability of the camera for sure.
Now, let’s talk about my previous statement with the build quality. A lot of folks like the Canon 5D Mk III, and if that’s the build quality you like then you’ll apprecaite the 6D MK II. But if you liked the elegance of the original Canon 5D Mk II and the Canon 6D, then you may want to look elsewhere. The Canon 6D Mk II feels like a semi-serious DSLR and doesn’t do a whole lot in the way of automatic modes but instead puts emphasis on controlling the exposure the way many other cameras do. Still, I’m not a fan of the new body.
Ease of Use
What’s pretty excellent about the Canon 6D Mk II is the fact that it’s incredibly simple to use. Everything from the touch screen interface, navigating the menus, using the exposure settings, etc. My only wish is that it had a direct button for white balance selection. Instead, you’re going to need to navigate via the menu system. Additionally, I really wish the Canon 6D Mk II incorporated the joystick on the back of the camera for more direct focus point selection. Moving your thumb all the way down the back isn’t that comfortable but that’s what you have to do to choose the focus point. The pad in the middle of the back wheel is how you do it, and if the wheel were bigger overall then the process would be a lot more comfortable.
Mind you, if the Canon 6D Mk II is on a tripod you won’t really have this issue.
When we first got to test the Canon 6D Mk II, the autofocus was found to be very snappy out in Yellowstone National Park. But as time went on, I brought it back to NYC and found the autofocus in very low light to not be so great. It’s slow but accurate–and if you’ve got some patience then you won’t have a problem at all. With that said though, I can’t recommend this camera as a backup body for a working professional or even a semi-professional. But if you’re a hobbyist, then the Canon 6D Mk II is sort of Canon’s way of flat out saying, “You’re a hobbyist, you don’t need all that other stuff.” And in many ways, they’re right. But if you want to use this camera for sports, I’d stay away despite all of the focus points being cross type. You’re probably better with the 7D Mk II.
DSLRs of course have the problem with the focus points only being in a certain part of the frame. With APS-C DSLRs they cover more of the frame. But with full frame sensors, it’s more or less a focus and recompose game.
In our tests, the Canon 6D Mk II adheres to Sunny 16 metering methods. But even so, the sensor works in a weird way. To get the most from the raw files in Lightroom, I recommend underexposing your scene at all times. The reason for this is because not much of the highlights can be recovered vs other cameras. When you do this, you’ll be able to get the most versatility from the files. If you use Canon’s software, prepare to deal with a pretty terrible workflow and interface but you’ll get the most from the file.
In some ways I honestly am very torn about the Canon 6D Mk II. Let’s get straight to the point. At lower ISOs, the image quality isn’t what I expect it to be. Sony and Nikon do an infinitely better job at the lower ISO settings. But where this camera shines is at higher ISO settings. Let’s explore.
JPEGs from the Canon 6D Mk II are nice. But I’ve still seen better. I’ve never really been a fan of Canon’s JPEG engine.
High ISO Output
This image was shot at ISO 6400 and I was able to print this photo at 13×17 with little evidence of grain unless you get very close. It’s beautiful and if that doesn’t prove anything to you then I’m not sure what will. On a computer screen, anything and everything can look good if you’re not pixel peeping. But printing? Oh man, that’s a different story.
With all this said, I’m going to still give Canon the benefit of the doubt when it comes to skin tone rendition. Some folks call it Canon Color Science. I personally think that it’s just good stuff.
RAW File Versatility
At lower ISO settings, the Canon 6D Mk II seems to not have that much versatility. Panasonic did this a few years ago where they sacrificed their low ISO performance for better high ISO performance. Personally speaking, as a studio shooter, I prefer the opposite. The sensor in the Canon 6D Mk II is a brand new one and does best with handling shadows though even then it’s to a certain point. But let’s take a deeper look.
So as you can see, trying to get that highlight detail back resulted in pretty awful things happening. The highlights turn purple and I guess if you like the look of cross processed photos, you can find a way to creatively embrace this. Though otherwise, I’d scoff.
Of course, the color rendition is very nice and with good exposures, you’ll have a fair bit of play room with the files.
As I partially suspected, the Canon 6D Mk II’s RAW files perform much better in an editor such as Capture One and Canon’s own software than it does in Adobe Lightroom. With Capture One’s recent update, Canon 6D Mk II support came and in my opinion, it shows off just how absurdly behind Adobe’s RAW file processing is in some ways. The image above is the same photo that I showed off in the testing before. But this photo was edited in Capture One instead of Lightroom. In Capture One, I’m able to create an infinitely better photo, get better colors, and bring more details out of the sky that were lost before.
If I were to really take my time here, I’d probably be able to turn it into an HDR photo with little problems. Still though, while the Canon 6D Mk II performs better in Capture One 10, I still do need to be honest here and say that there are cameras with still much better dynamic range. The other day I was going through results from DXOMark and found that the old Sony a7 (yes, the original) is still in the top 10 cameras on their list for the best dynamic range output. Yes, a nearly four year old camera’s sensor outdoes the Canon 6D Mk II.
These two photos above were more edits and below are their originals.
As you can see here, the Canon 6D Mk II is still pretty highly capable. But what it still means though is that you more or less have to know and understand metering. There are surely times where I’ve completely screwed up because my shoot-first instinct has taken over at times when I’m setting the camera to manual. And being able to get a lot of detail from a photo’s highlights or shadows is a nice thing when it comes to editing later and the forgiveness that the sensors allows. But as photographers, we shouldn’t be messing up THAT often.
Extra Sample Images
- Good color rendition
- Good battery life
- Personally speaking, pretty much everything else.
The Canon 6D Mk II is a camera that, and I don’t believe I’m saying this, may in fact be best for the person who shoots in Auto Mode. As I stated earlier on, the Canon 6D Mk II is a camera that seems like the full frame Rebel. It will give users the feeling of acting and shooting like a pro in the hand when in truth it won’t give you the images a more modern camera will provide. The Canon 6D Mk II is a good camera, but a few years ago (maybe three) it would have been a pretty damned good one. If you’re going to shoot in RAW, keep in mind that you should underexpose your photos and then push them. No matter what, you’re going to get good colors.
If you’re looking for something with great autofocus performance to shoot demanding subject matter, then you shouldn’t look at the Canon 6D Mk II. Instead, I believe the Canon 6D Mk II to be a great camera for a college student. Why? Because you’ll need to learn how to work with something that more or less has quirks. You’ll learn that to get the most from this camera, you should underexpose–which is the opposite of working with negative film. You’ll also learn how to make the most of the camera and the video while not having the most cutting edge video technology. Indeed, in some ways I really consider the Canon 6D Mk II to be a camera for the person who doesn’t care a whole lot about technology and what’s inside.
And for that reason, I would have even gone so far as to have given it even more automatic features.
For the more advanced photographers amongst us, I need to implore you to consider the Canon 5D Mk IV or even my personal favorite, the Canon 5Ds. Otherwise, look at the Fujifilm GFX 50S, Fujifilm XT-2, Sony a9 or Sony a7r II.
The Canon 6D Mk II receives four out of five stars. Want one? Head on over to Amazon to check out the latest prices.