The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is the company’s latest full-frame DSLR aimed at advanced amateurs and enthusiasts, and even professionals looking for a second Canon DSLR body. Its all-new 26MP sensor has Dual Pixel technology for accurate autofocus during live view shooting, and it gains the same 45-point autofocus system from the crop-sensor EOS 80D for viewfinder shooting. A fully articulating touchscreen, built-in Wi-Fi and GPS capability, and 6.5 fps burst shooting round out the package.
Coming to market over five years after the release of its predecessor, it should come as no surprise that the 6D Mark II builds upon the original in almost every way. Resolution, autofocus performance, burst shooting speed, video shooting and even battery life are all improved.
That said, five years is a long time in the digital camera market, and the competition hasn’t stood still. So the question remains: Has the 6D Mark II improved enough?
|Let’s see if it’s all blue skies from here with the EOS 6D Mark II. Processed to taste from Raw.
Canon EF 24-105mm F4L II IS USM @ 32mm | ISO 100 | 1/640 sec | F5.6
Photography by Jeff Keller
- New 26MP CMOS full-frame sensor with Dual Pixel AF
- 1080/60p video capture with in-lens + digital stabilization
- 45-point all-cross-type AF system
- Dual Pixel AF for both stills and video capture
- ISO 100-40,000 (expandable to 102,400)
- 6.5 fps continuous shooting (4.5 fps in Live View)
- 3″ fully articulating touchscreen
- Wi-Fi w/NFC and Bluetooth
- Built-in GPS
The original EOS 6D, along with Nikon’s D600, jump-started the notion of an ‘entry-level’ full frame camera; a camera wherein the true value of the thing lay in the size of the sensor, with a somewhat scaled-back feature set and body surrounding it.
The EOS 6D Mark II unabashedly follows in its predecessors’ footsteps. Its unique, 26MP full frame sensor is wrapped in a fairly plasticky (though still weather sealed) body, and it makes do with some compromises compared to its full-frame Canon kin – we should stress, though, that this is to be expected given its substantial $1300 discount compared to the 5D Mark IV.
And the compromises in the 6D II are largely the same as those made by the 6D before it: The larger sensor is offset by a lower-spec autofocus system borrowed from the EOS 80D, a lack of 4K video, and a shutter mechanism that tops out at 1/4000 sec, to name a few.
|Processed to taste from Raw.
Canon EF 50mm F1.8 STM | ISO 100 | 1/250 sec | F3.2
Photography by Dan Bracaglia
But one could easily argue that, especially given its price point, the 6D Mark II has a lot to offer. It is smaller and lighter than a 5D IV, its articulating screen makes it easier to work at odd angles, and most importantly, it’s an affordable entry into the world of full-frame Canon glass and increased depth-of-field control compared to similarly priced cameras with smaller APS-C sensors.
The market for ‘affordable’ full frame cameras is leagues more competitive than when the original 6D was released five years ago. We’ve included the 5D Mark IV for comparative purposes only, as it’s targeted at a much higher market than the 6D II.
|Canon 6D II||Canon 5D IV||Nikon D750||Sony a7 II||Pentax K-1|
|AF system (viewfinder)||45-pt all cross-type||61-pt (41 cross-type)||51-pt (15 cross-type)||117-pt hybrid||33-pt (25 cross-type)|
|Dual Pixel AF||Dual Pixel AF||Contrast Detect||117-pt hybrid||Contrast Detect|
|Viewfinder||Optical / 98%||Optical / 100%||Optical / 100%||Electronic / 100%||Optical / 100%|
|LCD type||3″ fully articulating||3.2″ fixed||3.2″ tilting||3″ tilting||3.2″ articulating|
|Flash sync||1/180 sec||1/200 sec||1/200 sec||1/250 sec||1/200 sec|
|Burst rate (w/AF)||6.5 fps||7 fps||6.5 fps||5 fps||4.4 fps|
|Wireless||Wi-Fi w/NFC & BT||Wi-Fi w/NFC||Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi w/NFC||Wi-Fi|
|Battery life||1200 shots||900 shots||1230 shots||350 shots||760 shots|
|MSRP (as of July 2017)||$1999||$3499||$1999||$1548||$1800|
While at first glance, it’s apparent that the 6D Mark II is at least competitive with challengers from Nikon and Sony, it should be noted that both the D750 and a7 II have been on the market for some time, and frankly, are due for an upgrade. For stills shooters, the Pentax K-1 is in a somewhat different league, offering much higher resolution and build quality, but with a more limited lens ecosystem than you get with the Canon EF mount.
But neither of those other systems feature Dual Pixel AF, which we’ve found in other Canons to be a revelation for those that shoot video or stills in Live View, even occasionally. We’ve said previously that Dual Pixel makes for one of the best Live View experiences on the market, even though it’s an ‘old-school’ DSLR. So let’s see how the 6D Mark II stacks up.
Body & Handling
The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is, in almost every respect, a slightly beefier EOS 80D. That means that while it’s a little plasticky, it feels solid in the hand. It’s appreciably (and pleasantly) lighter than the EOS 5D Mark IV, and Canon’s claims of weather-sealing appear to have some merit, with robust protectors over its ports and a gasket around the battery door. We should also note that the 6D II is one of the lightest and most compact full frame DSLRs currently on the market.
As you can see below, comparisons with the 80D are impossible to avoid, as the back panel is close to identical between the two. And the 80D handles quite well, so this is largely a good thing. All of the buttons have good travel, though they may be a tad mushy if you’re operating the camera whilst wearing gloves.
|The 6D Mark II, left, and the 80D, right. The only significant difference is that the 6D Mark II has a one-touch magnification button above the rear controller.|
Our main criticism with the handling of both the 6D II (and the 80D, for that matter) concerns the rear dial and multi controller. The dial itself is fine, but the eight-way controller is a disaster. If you’re going to be manually moving your AF point around (and you likely will, since subject tracking in the viewfinder isn’t one of the 6D II’s strong suits), you’re better off just disabling it and doing it the old-school Canon way: Press the selection button by the shutter button, and use the control dials.
|That small, nicely click-y button is arguably the best way to select AF points on the 6D Mark II through the viewfinder.|
This method takes some getting used to if you’ve not used older Canon DSLRs, but it ends up being pretty quick once you’ve built up your muscle memory. We’ve found it’s entirely likely that you’ll miss shots when the eight-way controller refuses to respond to your inputs – if only Canon had brought over the 5D IV’s excellent joystick.
Thanks largely to its touchscreen and Dual Pixel tech, the EOS 6D Mark II handles very well in live view mode. Being bigger than, say, the EOS 77D, it’s less comfortable than that camera to hold at arm’s length, but the articulating touchscreen makes it easy to shoot from the hip.
|We really like the 5D IV’s joystick and rear control dial, but we also really like the articulating screen on the 6D II.|
One big advantage of the 6D Mark II over the EOS 80D is that a larger sensor necessitates a larger mirror which, in turn, grants you a larger viewfinder. There’s room for the uprated electronic level that’s far more precise than on Canon’s lower-end offerings, though we do wish the viewfinder was 100% coverage: you may find some unwanted objects creeping into the edges of your images in carefully composed shots.
The 6D II features both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth with NFC, for quick and easy pairing with Android smartphones. If you have an Apple iPhone, Bluetooth is a bit useless; it can automatically pair your device with the camera when they’re both powered on, but you still have to manually initiate Wi-Fi, whether in settings or within the app, to accomplish anything with Canon’s Camera Connect software.
Once you’ve got Wi-Fi going (which can take a few tries, at least on my iPhone 6), it’s pretty slick. You can browse and download images from the 6D II, and control the camera remotely. You can even tap the screen on your smartphone to initiate Dual Pixel tracking on the camera.
For Android users, NFC is a blessing, making pairing exceptionally easy, and the app offers similar usability as the iOS version.
The 6D Mark II comes with DSLR-responsiveness and a fairly well-rounded spec sheet, and so looks to be well suited to a variety of tasks. Let’s dig in and see just how it stacks up for some common types of photography.
In many ways, the 6D Mark II is a fine choice for the landscape shooter. With 26MP of resolution, you’ll have no problem zooming in to fine details or going big with your prints. It’s weather-sealed, so it should stand up to some inclement weather with a similarly sealed lens. Being a DSLR, the battery life is excellent for extended shoots and long exposures, and the tilting touchscreen makes it easy to work at odd angles on a tripod.
|Canon EOS 6D Mark II | EF 35mm F2 IS | ISO 100| F9 | 1/200th
Shadows lifted, highlights lowered, slight selective brightening to couples’ faces. Blue gradient added along upper edge. As you’ll see if you click to view the full-sized image, noise in the areas of lifted shadow is very apparent.
Photography by Richard Butler
Perhaps most important is that full-frame sensor. It opens up a wide variety of high-quality wide-angle lens options, from primes to zooms. Sure, there are plenty of low-cost, entry-level wide options available for crop-sensor cameras, but specialty lenses like Sigma’s 14mm F1.8 and the like will really come alive when they can offer their intended field-of-view on the larger sensor.
But there are some significant downsides to using the 6D II for primarily landscape work. For one, there are mirrorless options out there that may allow you to keep your kit both smaller and lighter, if you’re hiking into the wilderness. Lastly, we’ve seen that the 6D II’s dynamic range at lower ISO’s is sorely lacking, which will result in less flexibility in post processing and flat-out noisier images. In fact, even Canon’s newer APS-C sensors offer better performance in this regard, despite their smaller size.
|In less contrasty situations, the output from the 6D Mark II is generally pleasing, even in out-of-camera JPEGs.
Canon 24-105mm F4L II IS USM @ 41mm | ISO 200 | 1/160 sec | F11
Photography by Carey Rose
So can you use the 6D Mark II to shoot landscapes? Of course you can – just like you could with a Nikon D5, which also lacks dynamic range at lower ISO values. But if you’re a specialist looking for the right tool for this job, it’s best to look elsewhere.
The 6D Mark II is a very responsive camera, and will allow you to react quickly to changing social situations, whether you’re just taking photos of friends at a barbecue, covering an event, or even, perhaps, photographing a wedding. Despite our qualms with its low ISO dynamic range performance, it still performs so well at higher ISO values that you may need for dim lighting or freezing motion with fast shutter speeds.
|Image processed to taste from Raw.
Canon 50mm F1.8 STM | ISO 100 | 1/250 sec | F4
Photography by Carey Rose
If you opt for using the optical viewfinder instead of live view, the burst speed of 6.5 fps should be enough for most situations to capture just the right expression or moment. If you’re not into firing off speedy bursts, you can switch into live view (where burst speeds slow appreciably), and take advantage of the excellent face detection in Live View. You can also easily swap between detected faces in a scene by just toggling left or right on the directional pad.
If you’re into more formal portraits, the limited autofocus coverage through the viewfinder may be problematic if you’re putting your subject far enough off-center, and falling back on the ‘focus-and-recompose’ method at wider apertures can result in out-of-focus subjects. We’ve also had some issues with outright focus accuracy when using the viewfinder, so for formal portraits or perhaps paid event coverage, it’s best to switch into live view just to be safe.
If you do opt for live view though, the tilting touchscreen makes it as easy as can be. It allows for ‘shooting from the hip,’ which can be a little more inconspicuous despite the relatively large size of the camera. The shutter is quiet even before you shift into the ‘soft’ shutter mode, which will further help you be a fly on the wall.
|The articulating screen and quiet shutter allowed for me to easily get this quick candid during a conversation. The highlights are a little blown, but overall, not a bad exposure in ‘full auto’ mode for an out-of-camera JPEG.
Canon EF 28mm F2.8 IS USM | ISO 100 | 1/200 sec | F5
Photography by Carey Rose
The 6D Mark II is also equipped with a well-implemented Wi-Fi system with Bluetooth, making it fairly easy for you to send images off to your friends, family, or whoever, immediately after taking their photograph. It’s a very nice touch that people appreciate, should you not be too much of a stickler about post-processing your files before handing them off.
One item missing for social photography is a built-in flash. It’s not a deal-breaker, and the high ISO performance of the 6D II is darn good, but it can be helpful in a pinch. In all, we find the 6D Mark II to be a good option for social photography, though for greater dependability for off-center subjects and using lenses with wider apertures, we recommend switching into live view.
Sports / Action
When people think of photographing sports and action, they often think of Canon’s signature big, white telephoto lenses. The 6D II’s full-frame sensor does mean that you’ll get less reach than you may be used to if you’re coming from an APS-C camera, but you’ll get more subject separation (blurrier backgrounds) as a tradeoff.
|You can photograph moving subjects with the 6D II, but there are better options out there.
Canon 70-200mm F4L @ 200mm | ISO 1250 | 1/1250 sec | F4
Photography by Carey Rose
Unsurprisingly, the autofocus performance when shooting the 6D II through the viewfinder performs similarly to the older EOS 80D from which the system was lifted, and it’s still not terribly competitive in terms of absolute accuracy. The spread of autofocus points in the optical viewfinder is very small, limiting usefulness and compositional options.
For shooting sports in bright daylight, you may still find yourself hampered by the limited dynamic range at lower ISO values. If you’re shooting in lower light or very fast shutter speeds that necessitate higher ISO values, the 6D II’s image quality is broadly comparable to the competition.
Subject tracking, where you choose a subject and watch as the autofocus points continue to follow them, is a mixed bag on the 6D Mark II. Using the viewfinder autofocus system allows for short blackout at the camera’s maximum 6.5 fps burst speed, but the limited spread of the points may prove less than useful, and the system still struggles with strings of out-of-focus shots in the middle of bursts.
|Is paddle boarding a sport? Anyway, the 6D II can easily handle this sort of sport.
Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 330mm
ISO 320 | 1/1600 sec | F5.6
Photography by Carey Rose
If you switch into live view to tap-to-track your subject with Dual Pixel AF, be aware that there is a noticeable delay from when you tap your subject to when the camera begins to actually track it. After it begins tracking, it will stick tenaciously to that subject for single shots, but burst shooting at ‘high’ speed in this mode is embarrassingly bad, with the camera often just giving up on focusing altogether. Switch into the lower speed burst mode, and the hit rate is acceptable, but the shooting speed often drops to 1-2 fps, which is honestly too slow to really be usable.
In the end, you’re faced with two imperfect options on the 6D Mark II. It may be a fine backup camera for a sports shooter invested in the Canon ecosystem and for the photographer that only needs to shoot moving subjects occasionally. But if sports and action is really your bread and butter, there are far better options out there.
|We tend to find the colors in out-of-camera JPEGs from the 6D II to be both pleasing and punchy.
Canon EF 24-104mm F4L IS II USM @ 46mm
ISO 100 | 1/800 sec | F5.6
Photography by Jeff Keller
The 6D Mark II is, arguably, both a good and bad travel camera. Do you like to travel with something you’ll forget is on your shoulder, or slides into a pocket? If you prefer the latter, you can stop reading right now: the 6D II is a full-size DSLR, and even though it’s light compared to a 5D IV or a Pentax K-1, it won’t be light enough for you.
If you don’t mind a bit of heft, or even enjoy larger cameras for their comfortable grips and ergonomics, the 6D Mark II has a lot going for it.
The battery will easily last you multiple days of moderate to heavy use, provided you don’t spend too much time chimping your images, or using the camera in live view. The weather sealing should help it stand up to unexpected weather events regardless of where you find yourself in the world, and the wide selection of excellent Canon-mount lenses is a nice bonus.
The built-in Wi-Fi will allow you to upload images to the wilds of the Internet with ease and built-in GPS will never leaving you wondering where a shot was taken, and it can be a huge help in terms of cataloging images. The plastic casing does appear to be durable and our test unit is ‘creak free;’ it should be able to shrug off a knock or two if you’re the more adventurous type.
|Canon EF 28mm F2.8 IS USM | ISO 100 | 1/200 sec | F2.8
Photography by Dan Bracaglia
If you’re into shooting sunsets or sunrises on your excursions, we must again bring up the limited dynamic range of the 6D Mark II at low ISOs. Despite having a good number of megapixels, these sorts of very contrasty scenes will just be noisier on the 6D II than any of its direct competition.
Despite this, we’ve found the 6D II to be a fine travel companion if you’re the sort of photographer that likes the ergonomics and grip comfort that come with using larger cameras.
For anyone looking to produce professional video, the 6D Mark II is difficult to recommend. In keeping with most of Canon’s latest consumer offerings, it lacks 4K capability, and adding insult to injury, its 1080p video is soft and lacking in detail. The absence of a headphone port also makes it difficult to critically judge audio from either the internal microphones or an external unit.
Curiously, Canon has also removed any option for All-I video compression, as well as the option to shoot in the MOV format, both of which are options on the existing EOS 80D.
On the other hand, for the casual user, the 6D II makes the capture of smooth, stable and in-focus footage incredibly easy. The touchscreen controls are excellent, with simple tap-to-focus and track capability. In-lens stabilization combines with digital stabilization to produce almost glidecam-like footage, and the colors are pleasing. For casual capture of daily life and for viewing on smaller devices like tablets and smartphones, the 6D II is a fine option.
Canon is the world’s largest camera manufacturer, and that hasn’t happened by accident. Through careful research and, yes, some market segmentation, it’s found a way to sell a lot of cameras that make a lot of people happy. The risk it’s been running lately, though, is one of perceived stagnation; despite their continually impressive high-end offerings, many competing manufacturers are moving more quickly to bring to market products that some consumers may perceive as more ‘exciting’ in some form or other.
With all of that in mind, the EOS 6D Mark II is a classic Canon DSLR. Is it particularly exciting? No, but really, neither was the original 6D aside from its fairly accessible price point. What the 6D Mark II is, though, is a solid, well-built camera that is capable of producing great images while improving upon its predecessor in almost every measurable way.
|Processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L II @ 360mm.
ISO 640| 1/1250 sec | F8
Photography by Carey Rose
The real question we have to answer now is whether any of that’s enough: It’s a different world now than in 2012 when the 6D’s only real competition was Nikon’s D600. Now, we have the likes of mirrorless full-frame challengers from Sony as well as updated and highly capable DSLRs from Nikon and Pentax, all at similar or even lower price points.
So let’s dig in and see how the EOS 6D Mark II stacks up in today’s crowded market.
Body and Handling
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the EOS 6D Mark II is the latest in the company’s continuing line of ‘black hunks of DSLR.’ As with so many other mid-to-high-end DSLRs, the 6D Mark II’s design isn’t going to turn heads, but it sure is comfortable to use.
Despite being far more plasticky than the EOS 5D Mark IV, the 6D II is reassuringly solid and ‘creak free,’ while being lighter weight to boot. The grip is a good size for my medium-sized hands, with comfortably familiar Canon controls. The rear dial is there for easy scrolling through images, but we really dislike the eight-way controller. Best to hit the AF selection button near the shutter and twiddle the dials for moving your AF point.
The 6D Mark II’s fully articulating touchscreen combines with Dual Pixel Autofocus to make the camera a competent handler in live view. It’s relative bulk compared to Canon’s smaller offerings means it’s a little unwieldy to hold out at arm’s length, but it’s great for shooting above your head, from the hip, or from a weird angle on a tripod. The touch interface is typical Canon, meaning it is responsive and easy-to-use.
Performance and Autofocus
Being a DSLR, the 6D Mark II starts up and starts taking images quite quickly. Live view starts up in just under one second, though if you leave the camera in ‘video’ mode, it will take a few seconds upon startup before you can actually begin recording video.
With 6.5 fps burst shooting, the 6D Mark II shoots fast enough for a wide variety of uses when you use the optical viewfinder. When you switch to live view, burst shooting slows to 4.5 fps, though if you switch to ‘focus priority’ in live view, you’ll be lucky to get 1-2 fps most of the time if you’re photographing a moving subject with Dual Pixel tracking – more on this below.
|Out-of-camera JPEG, Canon EF 24-105mm F4L II IS USM @ 105mm
ISO 1000 | 1/500 sec | F5.6
Photography by Carey Rose
You’ll only occasionally find yourself waiting for the card to write after long bursts, and the battery life shouldn’t be an issue unless you’re using live view all the time. Annoyingly, though, you get Canon’s less-than-ideal three-bar battery meter most often found on its lower-end offerings.
Autofocus through the viewfinder is adequate, if nothing more. The 45-pt all-cross-type system is lifted directly from the EOS 80D, and the limited size of the AF spread in the viewfinder can be a constraint if you like placing your subjects off-center. And following in the footsteps of the original 6D’s autofocus system, only the center point is good in the dark, as it’s rated down to -3 EV; every single other point is rated to a rather disappointing -0.5 EV.
Live view autofocus is a little disappointing on the 6D II as well. The burst speed of 4.5 fps sounds promising enough, but that’s ‘high speed continuous,’ which emphasizes speed over focus, meaning your hit rate for moving subjects will be dismal. ‘Low speed continuous’ prioritizes proper focus while dropping to an almost unusable 1-2 fps for erratic subjects, such as fast-running children or bearded men on bicycles.
Image and video quality
Here’s the rub. As it turns out, Canon is a victim of its own success here. Its strides in sensor technology in the EOS-1D X Mark II, 5D Mark IV, and even Rebel T7i meant we had high hopes for the new 6D II. Unfortunately, while you do get a bump in resolution, you get similar dynamic range at lower ISO values as you got on the original 6D five years ago. That means high contrast scenes like sunsets will look better even on Canon’s new APS-C sensors than they will with the 6D II.
|Out-of-camera JPEG||Processed to taste from Adobe Camera Raw|
On the other hand, like the original, the 6D II excels at high ISO values. Once you get past ISO 1600, the 6D II handily pulls away from its crop-sensor cousins and is broadly competitive with market peers.
In true Canon tradition, we love the color output of the 6D Mark II, with reds and skin tones being pleasing in particular. JPEG sharpening and noise reduction is crude at default settings, but once you tune them a bit, you’ll get noticeably better results.
|Out of camera JPEG.
Canon EF 70-200mm F4L | ISO 100 | 1/640 sec | F4
Photography by Carey Rose
In a developing Canon tradition, video features are somewhat disappointing on the 6D II. Like most of Canon’s recent consumer offerings, it tops out at Full HD quality, with footage that’s rather soft and lacking in detail. It also foregoes a headphone jack for audio monitoring, and you get no exposure aids (such as Zebra warnings) during recording.
For casual use, though, the 6D II is perfectly serviceable. The footage may be soft, but the digital + in-lens stabilization provides incredibly smooth footage, and Dual Pixel AF minimizes hunting much of the time. For casual use and viewing on smartphones and tablets, the absolute ease with which the 6D II allows you to get stable, in-focus footage is impressive.
The final word
After five long years, the 6D Mark II has some big shoes to fill. The original 6D had it a little easier, with a less mature market willing to forgive its shortcomings somewhat in favor of a full frame sensor in a well-priced body. But things have changed a bit since then.
It’s true that nearly every objective specification of the 6D Mark II has been improved upon when compared with its predecessor, while the release price has remained the same. Unfortunately, unless you’re a die-hard Canon user with an investment in glass and you just need an affordable backup body, it’s difficult to look past all that competing cameras have to offer.
|Canon EF 50mm F1.8 STM | ISO 100 | F4 | 1/500 sec
Photography by Carey Rose
For the same price, Nikon’s D750 offers nearly the same resolution, loads more dynamic range and a far more sophisticated autofocus system. Same goes for the Sony a7 II, though that camera is even cheaper. The Pentax K-1 is an incredible value and gives you even better build quality, unique and innovative features like Pixel Shift, and far more resolution. The only thing that makes the EOS 6D II stand out is Dual Pixel AF, which turns out is only of real value in this camera when shooting single shots of slow-moving subjects or HD video.
Let’s be clear: The EOS 6D Mark II is, like so many other cameras, capable of outstanding images in the right hands. But even considering all the traditional Canon bonuses like great color, ease of use for video capture and comprehensive lens ecosystem, the 6D II falls too far short for us to recommend it over the competition, and therefore it doesn’t merit our highest awards.