Review: One year with the 6D II

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Josh Leavitt
Josh Leavitt Regular Member • Posts: 262
Review: One year with the 6D II
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One year ago today my new 6D II arrived from B&H Photo, along with all of the bundle accessories that were lumped in the amazing Black Friday deal. Since that day I’ve spent many weekends out and about with the camera, and I have some insight to its strengths and weaknesses. I won’t bore you all with technical specs – those are readily available in the official DPR review of the camera.

Wildlife/Sports

Most would strenuously object to the 6D II being an action camera. It’s frame rate is only 6.5FPS, it only has 45-cross type AF points clustered in the center of the viewfinder, it has 26MP of resolution and a buffer too small for extended sequential shooting. All of that is true, and none of that stopped me from picking up a Sigma 100-400mm F/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens and having loads of fun pushing the camera to its limits. 6.5FPS may pale in comparison to the 1D X II, but it’s more than enough to get at least one great photograph of a bird in flight, or a critical moment in a sporting competition.

Cardinal

This camera took a great deal of criticism surrounding the 45-point cross type AF grid because it’s clustered in the center of the viewfinder. My take? The 45 AF points are lightning fast, and accurate. I focus in the center of the frame anyway so it never really bothered me. I’ve captured plenty of sharp photographs tracking fast moving subjects with the 45 cross type AF points. I’m certain I would want many more if I photographed sports or wildlife professionally, and that’s why the 7D II is available at a similar price point (or the 1D X II if you can afford it).

Blue Heron

The combination of 26MP of resolution and a relatively small buffer make continuous shooting a short-lived experience if you’re shooting RAW. Each RAW image weighs in at about 48MB, and I’ve found I can get about twelve shots before it starts slowing down. I should be using JPEG-only shooting modes when I photograph sports or wildlife since I rarely do anything to those photos in post other than cropping (I just have a habit of shooting RAW+JPEG); switching to JPEG-only will allow significantly more consecutive shots. I still don’t find myself often running into the buffer limit. My continuous shooting is usually limited to 6-8 photo bursts, but if your style is spray-and-pray, then you may want to consider the 7D II if you’re looking at alternatives in the Canon lineup.

Canadian Honker

Portraiture

I’ve never been disappointed with the output of the 6D II in the portrait genre. Canon’s color science for portraiture is top of the line. That said, some minor annoyances like a max flash sync speed of 1/160 seconds and a lack of focus peaking in live-view mode are unfortunate oversights. I don’t think it would have been too difficult to eek out 1/200 seconds for a flash sync speed with the 6D II shutter. And focus peaking would be hugely beneficial for some of the very fast prime lenses available for the EF mount, but more so for many of the vintage manual focus lenses that I adapt to the camera. Focus magnification is nice enough, but I don’t find it a suitable substitute for focus peaking in the portrait genre; focus magnification takes me out of my composition while focus peaking would allow me to stay in the moment and adapt on the fly.

My niece Addilyn

Nevertheless, I’ve been satisfied with the performance of the 6D II for portraits when it comes to color science, noise visibility, dynamic range, and auto focus accuracy via face tracking with DPAF. The portrait lenses available for the EF mount are legion, and you’ll come away with excellent images whether you’re using a $2,100 Canon 70-200mm F/2.8L IS III, a $1,500 Sigma 105mm F/1.4 Art, a $750 Tamron 85mm F/1.8, a $160 Yongnuo 100mm F/2, or anything else in between.

Self-portrait

If you’re considering an entry level full-frame camera to invest in primarily for portrait use, another advantage of the 6D II is the excessive amount of 3rd-party support for the Canon EOS system. It’s more than just native 3rd party lenses available for Canon cameras, it’s the affordable flashes, transmitters and receivers, and software programs that provide full-feature support without having to shell out thousands of dollars. For a hobbyist like myself, that was a huge win.

My nephew Henry

Landscape

What drew me to photography in the first place was finding ways to capture the scenes I would come across after hiking for hours on end or arriving at some desolate location without another soul in sight. Sure, a smartphone would be good enough in most cases, but I (like most people who enjoy photography) find the process of setting up for a shot and post-processing the photograph to be nearly as much fun as the moment of capture. Smartphones, regardless of how far computational photography has come, just don’t provide me with the level of satisfaction I get from lugging around a bulky DSLR and the creative potential that can be produced with a carefully conceived shot.

Soft focus long exposure - McKenzie River, Oregon

The 6D II has all the bells and whistles that I would want for landscape photography. 26MP is more than enough to produce fine detailed 20”x30” prints, which are the largest that I go for, but still keeps the file size down to a manageable level. There are some limitations to dynamic range in shadow recovery (but I’ve found mid-tones and highlights to be quite flexible), and to that end I often find myself doing exposure bracketing with 2-stop intervals for a 3-shot exposure of one scene. It works remarkably well if the scene you’re photographing lacks fast moving subjects (landscapes usually do).

3-shot bracketed (HDR) image of Highway 27 - Prineville, Oregon

There are plenty of full-frame cameras out there that can do everything the 6D II can, and a lot more in some cases. The new mirrorless full-frame cameras from Canon and Nikon are certainly worthy of consideration, and Sony has of course been innovating at a relentless pace while offering their products at extremely competitive price points. I’d still take the 6D II over those because I have a significant collection of legacy EF glass and 3rd-party lenses where the AF doesn’t work all that great on smart adapters. But that’s just me. If you’re starting from scratch, take a long hard look at the new entry-level mirrorless systems: Sony A7 III, Nikon Z6, and Canon R. Most importantly, just buy a camera that you enjoy shooting with. The 6D II is working great for me now and will probably be working great for years to come.

Sunset at Devil's Punch Bowl - Depot Bay, Oregon

 Josh Leavitt's gear list:Josh Leavitt's gear list
Canon EOS 5D Canon EOS 30D Fujifilm X-T1 Canon 6D Mark II Canon EF 35mm F2.0 +7 more
Canon EOS 6D Mark II
26 megapixels • 3 screen • Full frame sensor
Announced: Jun 29, 2017
Josh Leavitt's score
4.5
Average community score
4.2
bad for good for
Kids / pets
great
Action / sports
okay
Landscapes / scenery
excellent
Portraits
great
Low light (without flash)
okay
Flash photography (social)
good
Studio / still life
excellent
= community average
Canon 6D Mark II Canon EOS 7D Mark II Canon EOS-1D X Nikon Z6 Sony a7 III
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