Hands-On With The Canon EOS 6D Mark II

The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is an excellent full-frame camera for landscape and nature photographers. Here's what we liked most about it
Front view of the Canon EOS 6D Mark II
The Canon EOS 6D Mark II strikes an excellent balance between size, price and performance, with several key upgrades from the original EOS 6D.

Canon today announced the EOS 6D Mark II, an update to the EOS 6D introduced in 2012, Canon’s most affordable DSLR with a full-frame sensor. The original 6D will remain in the lineup for now, priced at $1,399 for the body only, while the new 6D Mark II will have a list price of $1,999 for the body only when it arrives in stores in late July. The Mark II will also be offered in two kits: with the Canon EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 STM lens for $2,599 or the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM II for $3,099.

Earlier this month, we were among a small group of journalists who had the opportunity to test pre-production units of the EOS 6D Mark II in Yellowstone National Park with Canon Explorer of Light Adam Jones. Images taken with that beta model are included here, and while Canon asked us to emphasize that the units we were evaluating were pre-production, in our experience the camera performed flawlessly.

Yellowstone Lake at sunrise taken with the EOS 6D Mark II (beta sample model)
Sunrise at Yellowstone Lake. Unprocessed JPEG as rendered by a beta sample model of the EOS 6D Mark II in "Neutral" Picture Style mode. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 100mm, 1/60 sec., ƒ/29, ISO 640.

Spec Upgrades In The EOS 6D Mark II

Canon has improved several key specifications in the EOS 6D Mark II compared to its predecessor. The 26.2-megapixel full-frame sensor is new, with an increase of 6 megapixels of resolution over the 6D’s 20.2 MP. The 6D Mark II boosts the continuous shooting rate from 4.5 fps in the original 6D to 6.5 fps, and the AF system for both optical viewfinder and Live View have been upgraded. See the chart below for a spec comparison of the two models.

Specification EOS 6D Mark II EOS 6D
Sensor Resolution 26.2 MP 20.2 MP
Processor DIGIC 7 DIGIC 5+
ISO Range (Standard) 100-40,000 100-25,600
AF (Optical Viewfinder) 45-point, all cross-type 11-point, 1 cross-type
AF (Live View & Video) Dual Pixel CMOS AF Contrast AF
Continuous Shooting 6.5 fps 4.5 fps
Metering Sensor 7500 Area RGB+IR 63 Area
Video Full HD 60p Full HD 30p
LCD 3-inch Vari-Angle Touch 3-inch
Built-In Microphone Stereo Mono
External Mic Terminal Yes Yes
Wireless Connectivity WiFi / Bluetooth / NFC WiFi
GPS Yes Yes
Weight (Body Only) 24.16 ounces 24.0 ounces
Dimensions 5.7 x 4.4 x 2.9 inches 5.7 x 4.4 x 2.8 inches
Grasses and reflections in a geyser pool, Yellowstone National Park. RAW file from our beta sample model of the EOS 6D Mark II, processed in a beta version of Canon Digital Photo Professional software. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 100mm, 0.3 sec, ƒ/20, ISO 100.

One spec that may disappoint some is the absence of 4K video. The EOS 6D Mark II is limited to Full HD 1080p video at 60 fps, an improvement from the original 6D’s 30 fps, but short of the 4K resolution found in the EOS 5D Mark IV and EOS-1D X Mark II. For the 6D Mark II’s target customer — the advanced amateur photographer — this is probably not a deal breaker, but it’s a somewhat surprising shortcoming considering that 4K video is increasingly common even in cameras priced well below the 6D Mark II.

Geyser bubbles at sunrise taken with the Canon EOS 6D Mark II
Geyser bubbles at sunrise. RAW file from our beta sample model of the EOS 6D Mark II, processed in a beta version of Canon Digital Photo Professional software. Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM @ 16mm, 1.6 sec., ƒ/20, ISO 100.

The EOS 6D Mark II In Use

One of the best aspects of the EOS 6D Mark II is its ergonomics and handling. Admittedly this is a judgement that’s highly personal, but the size, weight and grip of the camera all felt very “right.” Compared to professional full-frame DSLRs, the EOS 6D Mark II is considerably lighter and more compact, making it an excellent option for outdoor photographers who want to keep the weight and size of their camera systems to a minimum.

Top view of the Canon EOS 6D Mark II
The size and weight of the EOS 6D Mark II and the depth of its grip make it a very comfortable camera to handle. Controls are simple and well-placed, with dedicated buttons for frequently adjusted settings.

One common complaint about digital cameras of all makes and models is with the deep and often difficult-to-navigate LCD menus. The EOS 6D Mark II’s menu navigation feels more refined, simplified and polished compared to those in many cameras we’ve used, and setting features like exposure bracketing was pleasantly easy and quick. A nice upgrade from the original 6D is the Mark II’s Vari-angle touchscreen LCD, especially when you’re working from a tripod low to the ground.

The Canon EOS 6D Mark II has a Vari-angle LCD that tilts and swings
The EOS 6D Mark II's 3-inch Vari-angle LCD is a nice upgrade from the original 6D, offering greater flexibility when shooting in Live View mode.

During our time in Yellowstone, we were up before sunrise and shooting until sundown, and the camera produced excellent image quality in low light. We shot mostly from a tripod and frequently bracketed our exposures so we’d have the option of merging to HDR in post, but the images illustrating this article are all single exposures from the middle (base) exposure of the bracket.

A full moon rises at Yellowstone National Park taken with the Canon EOS 6D Mark II
A full moon rises at Yellowstone National Park. Unprocessed JPEG as rendered by a beta sample model of the EOS 6D Mark II in "Neutral" Picture Style mode. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 400mm, 1/30 sec., ƒ/18, ISO 1250.

The camera's Dual Pixel AF was responsive, fast and accurate, and we especially liked the ability to touch focus using the LCD in Live View mode. That feature helped us catch this image of an American tree sparrow a chipping sparrow (thank you to reader David Gibson for the correct identification) that briefly perched nearby on a fallen tree.

American tree sparrow taken with the Canon EOS 6D Mark II
Chipping sparrow, Yellowstone National Park. One of the advantages of high-resolution full-frame sensor cameras is the ability to crop in when necessary to emphasize a subject, while still retaining enough resolution for a sizable print. Even cropped by about 35 percent, we still had enough resolution for a 9x13-inch print at 300 dpi. Cropped JPEG as rendered by a beta sample model of the EOS 6D Mark II in "Neutral" Picture Style mode. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 371mm, 1/1000 sec., ƒ/5.6, ISO 3200.

Canon EOS 6D Mark II Hits The Sweet Spot

Taking it all together — price, performance, size and handling — the EOS 6D Mark II is an excellent package for outdoor photographers, especially those who primarily shoot landscapes and scenics. The camera’s max continuous shooting of 6.5 fps is perhaps short of what serious wildlife photographers would like, but it’s acceptably fast for most enthusiasts. Though the lack of 4K video may be a turn off for some, if you primarily shoot stills, the Full HD video quality is very good for those occasions when you do want to take movie clips.

Dusk refection taken with the Canon EOS 6D Mark II
Unprocessed JPEG as rendered by a beta sample model of the EOS 6D Mark II in "Neutral" Picture Style mode. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 100mm, 1/85 sec., ƒ/16, ISO 2000.

Bottom line: The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is one of the most refined DSLRs we've used at any price, and an excellent option for enthusiast photographers who are stepping up to full-frame.

Lodgepole pines taken by the Canon EOS 6D Mark II
Lodgepole pines, Yellowstone National Park. RAW file from our beta sample model of the EOS 6D Mark II, processed in a beta version of Canon Digital Photo Professional software. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 105mm, 0.8 sec., ƒ/20, ISO 100.
Canon EOS 6D Mark II
The EOS 6D Mark II delivers image quality that holds up even at high ISOs. Unprocessed JPEG as rendered by a beta sample model of the EOS 6D Mark II in "Neutral" Picture Style mode. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 100mm, 1/85 sec., ƒ/16, ISO 2000. Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM @ 35mm, 1/320 sec., ƒ/16, ISO 12,800.
Mammoth Hot Springs taken with the Canon EOS 6D Mark II
Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park. Unprocessed JPEG as rendered by a beta sample model of the EOS 6D Mark II in "Neutral" Picture Style mode. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 135mm, 1/800 sec., ƒ/16, ISO 500.

Wes is the editor of Outdoor Photographer.

3 Comments

    Can you write something about this “beta version of digital photo professional”? Any improvements in speed or shadow/highlight, maybe local masks? Thanks.

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