The original Canon EOS 6D was the most affordable full-frame DSLR available when it was launched some five years ago. While it probably lacked some of the headline-grabbing specs of pricier models, it offered users a sound entry into full-frame photography.
With a raft of rival models now overshadowing the EOS 6D, rumours of an update have been circulating for an inordinate amount of time. Now the wait is finally over – and we’ve managed to get our hands on a sample of the EOS 6D Mark II at the official press event to gather some first impressions.
- New full-frame CMOS sensor, 26.2MP
- DIGIC 7 processing engine
- Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth
Canon has improved things across the board for the new model, but the big news is that the camera arrives with a fresh 26.2MP full-frame sensor. This can be adjusted to ISO40,000 before you need to venture into expanded sensitivity settings, which themselves reach a setting equivalent to ISO102,400.
The 6D Mark II also boasts the latest DIGIC 7 processing engine, which is claimed to be an impressive 14 times faster than the previous DIGIC 6 version. This is also the first time we’ve seen it employed inside a full-frame EOS model – it’s previously only been used inside APS-C bodies and PowerShot compacts.
Naturally this camera can also record video, but Canon’s decision not to include 4K capabilities is likely to divide opinion. The 6D Mark II tops out at Full HD quality, at frame rates up to 60p, although there is a 4K timelapse option alongside this, which stitches images together into a 4K-resolution video.
Canon’s justification for leaving out a standard 4K option is that this camera is aimed at a slightly different type of user to those who might take advantage of it. This may well be the case, although we can’t help drawing comparisons with models that do manage to offer 4K proper.
The EOS 6D Mark II makes use of a glass pentaprism viewfinder that offers approx. 98% coverage, which represents a marginal 1% improvement on the 97% offered by the EOS 6D. While it’s certainly nice in use, and a step in the right direction, it falls short of the approx. 100% coverage offered by other full-frame models, such as Nikon’s D750 and Pentax’s K-1.
Another improvement over the EOS 6D is the LCD screen, which is now a 3-inch vari-angle design that resolves images with 1.04 million dots and is fully responsive to touch. Other features include the full Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth trio of connectivity options, plus GPS, together with flicker detection, a 7560-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor, and five-axis digital image stabilization for video recording.
Build and handling
- Aluminum alloy/polycarbonate body
- Dust and drip resistant
- First full-frame EOS with a vari-angle screen
Build quality is one area where the EOS 6D Mark II meets and exceeds a few expectations. The body is crafted from a mixture of aluminum alloy and polycarbonate with glass fibre, with both dust and drip resistance ensured through various seals.
The grip is excellently sculpted, and ensures the camera fits very comfortably in the hand, while the weight of 765g with battery and card in place is just 10g heavier than the original EOS 6D. It feels very well balanced in the hand, although admittedly we only got the opportunity to handle it with the relatively lightweight EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens.
Both the mode dial and LCD screen move nice and freely, and the fact that the LCD has a nice, thick profile and a deep groove to its side into which you can slip your thumb also means you can pull it away from the camera easily and at speed. The top plate LCD is also pleasingly large in size, and with masses of information, which is pleasing to see at a time when displays on other cameras are shrinking.
If you’re a left-eyed shooter you may find that your nose is in the way of the rear control dial when your face is up to the camera; a longer eye-point may have helped here. Another minor inconvenience is that the menu pad on the rear isn’t quite as prominent as it could be, which makes it a little more awkward to press comfortably than on some other cameras.
- 45-point all-cross-type AF system
- 27 points at f/8, with 9 cross-type
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF system
The original EOS 6D came in for a fair bit of stick for only having an 11-point AF system, with just a single cross-type point in its centre. For this latest model, however, Canon has employed a system that’s very similar to the one inside the recent EOS 80D.
This features 45 points in total, and all of these are cross-type (so able to resolve detail in both the horizontal and vertical planes), with the centre point being f/2.8 and f/5.6 dual cross-type. Furthermore, 27 of these remain operational when using a lens, or lens/teleconverter combination, with a maximum effective aperture of f/8, with nine remaining cross-type.
You also have a fair bit of control over customizing the setup as a whole, and the fact that the system is sensitive down to -3EV is great for those who may be using it in poorer light. Canon’s impressive Dual Pixel CMOS AF system is also on board, and this makes light work of focusing when using either live view or video.
In use, we couldn’t find any cause for concern on the pre-production sample we handled. The command dial on the top plate makes it easy to quickly shift the AF point, and the system seems to get a lock on subjects well. It’ll be interesting to see how well this does next to the systems inside some Nikon models, however, as those have become very advanced in recent generations.
- 6.5fps burst shooting
- Flicker detection
- Burst depth up to 21 raw frames / 150 JPEGs
Next to the original EOS 6D, Canon has not only upped the maximum burst rate from 4.5fps to 6.5fps, but it’s also slightly increased the burst depth, from 17 raw frames to 21. The 150-frame burst depth for JPEGs is admittedly quite a drop from the 1,250 limit on the EOS 6D, although a 150-frame burst depth is hardly limiting.
It’s interesting to see that Canon hasn’t included UHS-II support, which might have improved this, although any benefit would depend on how quickly the camera can deal with this information to begin with. Either way, this isn’t a camera aimed especially at sports photographers, and 6.5fps is a very credible burst rate for such a model, potentially suiting it to situations where the original EOS 6D may have fallen short.
Canon has also added to the same flicker detection option that we’ve seen on many previous EOS DSLRs, to help maintain consistency when shooting under artificial light sources. This is great news for those shooting indoors, perhaps events or sports, where such lighting is commonly used.
Canon has made some significant improvements to the bones of the EOS 6D, with a fresh sensor, a faster processor, a much more credible AF system and a stronger burst rate heading a long list of changes.
This is somewhat reflected in its asking price, which does make you question whether it’s been elevated too far out of its ‘affordable full-frame’ bracket. Yet, when you consider just how much cheaper it is than the next full frame model in Canon’s line-up, the EOS 5D Mark IV, the price seems somewhat justified.
It feels great in the hand, and the ability to pull away the screen and control it by touch is a huge bonus. The lack of a 100% viewfinder is a pity, and the fact that the model also misses out on 4K video will disappoint some; however, there should be enough here to keep the target market happy.
By Matt Golowczynski
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