Announcement Review : Canon 6D Mark II

EDITED JUNE 29, 2017 5:30PM EASTERN

The initial specs I received said the camera had a popup flash.  It does not.  Article is corrected.

 Canon's newly announced 6D Mark II

Canon's newly announced 6D Mark II

June 29, 2017 was the official announcement date for the long anticipated and not so secret Canon 6D Mark II.  It was time for a refresh, so let's see what the folks at Canon have come up with.

Let's have a quick look at the specs before diving in to assess the value propostion

  • 26.2MP full frame sensor
  • ISO range from 100 to 40000 with L of 50 and H2 of 102,400
  • 6240x4160 pixels
  • 45 AF points in the optical viewfinder
  • Dual Pixel AF
  • DIGIC 7 Image Processor
  • 3 inch vari-angle touch screen with 1.04M dots
  • 1/4000 to 30s shutter speed range
  • Built in Bluetooth, WiFi, NFC and GPS
  • High Speed Burst Mode to 6.5fps
  • FullHD Video to 60fps
  • UHS-I card support
  • Dust and water resistant
  • Canadian MSRP of $2599.99

Deeper Dive

At a glance, we see that this is a significant step up from the prior 6D and we should expect it to be given the changes since the debut of the original 6D.

From a positioning perspective, the closest direct competitors are Nikon's D750, which is close to due for replacement and Sony's A7 Mark II, also getting close to replacement.  Both alternatives are less expensive than the 6D Mark II will be when it ships.

This is a brand new sensor for the camera as best that I can tell.  26 megapixels offers a very nice blend of resolution and file size efficiency.  That will keep the camera quick to shoot, and still deliver lots of full frame resolution for larger prints.  If all you do is look at images on Facebook, resolution is a moot point. 

The new sensor offers a fairly sizeable bump in low light performance to ISO 40000 natively and while I have not see RAWs from it at time of writing, 40000 is a big step up from the 6400 maximum native we see in other similar offerings. 

 Standard Canon rear layout, short learning curve for those upgrading

Standard Canon rear layout, short learning curve for those upgrading

45 autofocus points is a decent number, but for those who like to use multiple AF points, these are all grouped towards the centre and don't provide coverage for much of the image area. 

Canon's dual pixel AF is stunning, certainly one of the fastest and most accurate AF systems on the market, and the best AF for video around period.  It would have been a surprise had it not been in the 6D Mark II.

Canon's latest CPU is installed, the same one as is in their new C200 Cinema camera.  It's an evolutionary step, but worthwhile regardless

 I like the flexibility in LCD positioning

I like the flexibility in LCD positioning

I am very pleased to see a swing tilt LCD on a prosumer camera, as this makes composition easier in difficult positions.  The 1.04M dot display is slightly below industry average in resolution but should provide better battery life as fewer pixels are being driven on the display.  It has touch screen capability and those who like touch screen will be happy.  As it is announcement day, I have no idea if you can use tap to focus in video and have the camera do the focus rack for you.  If it can, that would be very nice indeed.

 LCD screen can be seen from the front, ideal for Vloggers who work as a one person band.  Of course it's also useful for the malignant narcissists who love selfies.  

LCD screen can be seen from the front, ideal for Vloggers who work as a one person band.  Of course it's also useful for the malignant narcissists who love selfies.  

1/4000 to 30s is a fairly standard shutter speed range, although cameras with electronic shutter options have blown past this years ago.  I am not clear why Canon in 2017 would use a maximum 1/4000 of a second, just as I wondered why Nikon did this three years ago in the D750, when the expectation was and still is a maximum shutter speed in a mechanical shutter of 1/8000.  This is a limited demand, and could be done to keep costs down, but we see that this camera is already more expensive than its competitors.

Unlike its competitor from Nikon, Canon has continued to leave the popup flash out of its lowest price full frame camera.  The initial specs I received said it had a popup, and I was happy to see this, but a further update clarified that no, there is no built in flash.  And that my friends is just completely lame in this day and age.  Canon has a pretty decent infrared optical flash control solution that doesn't require buying into their excellent but very expensive RT flashes but leaving out the pop up as a controller means that buyers on a budget will end up buying more POS crap from overseas and get to watch it explode, burst the batteries or melt into slag.  The 6D Mark II is a credible piece of kit, but it is not pro gear at all, so the pro argument is complete toro-poopoo

Canon is keeping up with the Joneses by offering all manner of wireless connectivity.  There is WiFi with their Canon Connect app and it will also work with the EOS utility for remote control and wireless tethering on PCs and Macs.  It's not particularly beautiful but works reliably and that's what counts.  There is also NFC to connect to NFC capable devices.  There is a Bluetooth capability, but note that this is simply control.  If you want image transfer you have to connect via WiFi.  This is a nice to have, but not a particularly compelling value add.  The built in GPS is handy if you want the image metadata to contain the location information for where the image was made.  Note that GPS will not work inside, and there is a not insignificant battery drain created by the GPS.  Most owners will be advised to turn it off, unless the need for location information at time of capture is required.  The battery load is not Canon's fault, it is the nature of GPS systems.

I was very pleased to see that Canon is keeping the same battery format, the LP-E6N for the new camera.  The optional and expensive battery grip has changed, of course, to a new model BG-21 which is priced stupidly high for what it delivers.  Canon has a history of adding a plastic nub or new hole to prevent the grips from earlier camera editions from being used on new bodies.  I did an analysis on the change in the grip for the 5D Mark II and the 5D Mark III and the only change was a plastic nub,  Ground off, the old grip worked.  Canon's probably not alone in doing this, they are the only maker that I have caught outright.  

The CIPA battery rating for viewfinder based imaging on the 6D Mark II with a single battery is an outstanding 1200 images.  This is a huge advantage over mirrorless full frame alternatives which tend to sit around 280 on a good day.

A high speed burst mode of 6.5 fps should surface the needs of the target market for this camera.  While this may not sound all that fast compared to other cameras at higher prices, it is a very decent level of performance.

It's 2017, and even on announcement day, Canon is taking flack that an announced and as yet not shipped brand new camera cannot shoot 4K video.  As much as I dislike still cameras for any kind of serious video, this is a reasonable question.  The answer, I expect, is the same one not given any other time.  Canon wants people who want 4K to invest in a Canon Cinema camera.  The Cinema camera will definitely deliver a far superior video experience, but the reality is that for stills photographers in general, video is a rarely used function, and the person with the budget for a decent still camera and who wants 4K video as well will buy another vendor's product.  Canon makes excellent 4K capable video cameras, but chooses to make their still camera 4K implementations awful where they exist and to use the execrable Motion-JPEG format which looks a lot like the adjective that I used describes.  FullHD at 60fps was adequate three years ago.  It's way behind the curve in 2017.  I understand that some will counter that 4K is available on the 6D Mark II, and it is, but only for time lapse video and only in Motion JPEG.  Hardly compelling in any way.

 Only one memory card slot, but thankfully on the side not on the bottom where it would be hard to get to if the camera were on a tripod

Only one memory card slot, but thankfully on the side not on the bottom where it would be hard to get to if the camera were on a tripod

Canon is very clear that the card slot is of the SD type and that for maximum performance UHS-Icards are required.  This is important for buyers to know, because untrained salespeople will advocate UHS-II cards because they are faster, even though the camera cannot possibly take advantage of them.  I have also seen more than one UHS-I capable camera not function properly when a UHS-II card is installed.  Whether this should or should not happen is immaterial.  Save money by buying only the fastest UHS-I card you can find, do not spend a dime more to get UHS-II cards because they will not make an iota of difference.  As I write this, it is two days since Micron Technologies shuttered Lexar, so my card recommendations are now limited to Sandisk Extreme cards for this camera.  Unlike competitors, there is only one card slot.  For 2017 that's a bit lame.

 Access ports that are weather sealed for HDMI, turtle slow USB 2 and an external microphone for video use.  I think the rubber cover on the bottom front left might be for a wired remote

Access ports that are weather sealed for HDMI, turtle slow USB 2 and an external microphone for video use.  I think the rubber cover on the bottom front left might be for a wired remote

The Canon 6D Mark II can be connected to an external recorder or TV via HDMI although I was not able to determine if this is clean HDMI out.  If not, someone needs a beating.  The other interface is USB 2.0 which would be fine for 2010 but is inexcusable in 2017.  USB2 is slow and not reliable.  USB 3 was the standard two years ago, with USB-C already appearing in other vendor products.  Whomever decided USB 2 was a good answer needs to take a long walk off a very short pier.  I have heard the argument that the USB port is less important when wireless is available.  Anyone who has ever tethered with Lightroom will know that this is a foolish argument.

The camera is advertised as being weather sealed, which is I think an excellent thing.  That does not mean waterproof, but if you get caught in the rain, you should not have to panic, although standing in the rain and shooting for two hours while the rain flies at you sideways may not be an optimal decision.

Canon has posted a number of introductory videos on the 6D Mark II.  You can view them

Sample Images

These images are provided by Canon USA.  They are all JPEGs and have documentation as to which picture style was used.  There is no indication if any other processing has been done.  Canon provides full size JPEGs, albeit at only 72dpi on their website.  I have downsized these to 1440 pixels on the long side for better performance when viewing on the web.

Summary

The Canon 6D Mark II is a significant step up from the camera that it replaces.  It is loaded with good features and functionality in general, but there is nothing herein that is innovative or industry changing.  It's safe, and thus in keeping with Canon's release history.  While the company regularly patents far out and highly innovative things, they don't seem to make it to the commercial products.  If you shoot a 6D and have an investment in Canon gear, this could be a decent upgrade, although in my opinion the price is too high by $600 CDN.  If you are looking for your first full frame, and have no legacy investment in Canon, it is a contender, but not a leader, which for a brand new product, is very sad to say.

I do not expect to get access to a 6D2 for a full review.  Canon Canada has limited media relations resources and thus far have not been able to assist.  I may be able to borrow a unit from a Canon reseller in the future, but time will tell.

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