The Canon 6D Mark II has not been the most well-received camera thus far. But how does it actually perform, and are the complaints justified?
The initial complaints were around the fact that this camera does not shoot 4K video. Discussions then moved on to its dynamic range and how it underperformed even against APS-C cameras. The most recent complaints are around the fact that its performance at higher ISOs may be worse than the original 6D. Personally, my biggest gripe about this camera is the fact that it only has one storage slot. This one individual point makes it less viable in a professional setting for me, however this may not bring as much concern to shooters upgrading from the original. The 6D Mark II has been referred to as a bigger Canon 80D and for good reason. There are a few minor differences between the two cameras except for the sensor size and price tag. The Canon 7D Mark II sits in between the 80D and 6D Mark II when it comes to the price and for that reason, it's viable to compare these three to one another.
How a camera feels in the hand is actually very important and can determine a major part of usability. When comparing cameras this feature tends to get overlooked, but I find it to be a very important point. The 7D Mark II has by far the best ergonomics between the three. The deep grip and the rubber placement on the camera makes for a very comfortable experience. The 6D Mark II is noticeably worse in the hand. Although the grip is deep enough, on the back of the camera the rubber placement is lacking. Due to this, I found the camera slipping very often, especially when using bigger full-frame lenses like the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II. This may seem like nitpicking but after about 20 minutes of holding the camera, it becomes a big enough problem. The 80D seems to have just about enough rubber on the back of the camera and is light enough for this issue to not be a problem.
The Canon 80D has slightly more rubber near the lock switch.
Button placement on the 6D and 80D are good enough for most circumstances, however the lack of a joystick is disappointing. The flip-out touchscreen, on the other hand, does make up for many of the other drawbacks. The only thing missing from the 7D Mark II is the flip-out touchscreen. Dual pixel autofocus is just not the same when without a touchscreen.
From all three cameras, the 7D Mark II has the best focusing system. It's fast, effective, and the focus points are generously spread across the frame. The 80D comes in at a close second, and last and least effective is the 6D Mark II. The focusing system in the 6D is seemingly the same as the 80D, which means all of the points are clustered towards the center of the frame. This makes off-center composition very difficult and in my testing I found myself using focus recompose for most of the shots. Shooting at wide apertures and nailing focus with this method can be very difficult, meaning that many images may turn out slightly out of focus. To make matters worse, the 6D Mark II does not have 100 percent viewfinder coverage like the other two, therefore focusing and composing is more challenging.
80D versus 6D Mark II (above).
The 6D Mark II does, however, manage to find and nail focus very quickly, even in low light scenarios. I found this to be very impressive, and although the other cameras didn't really struggle, the 6D just seemed to be a bit quicker. Shooting in live view with the 80D and the 6D was a very pleasant experience. Touch-to-focus coupled with the amazing dual pixel autofocus from Canon made the whole thing pretty effortless. The 7D Mark II does well to focus in live view due to having the same kind of system, however, without a touchscreen, dual pixel auto focus just seemed a little ineffective and half-baked in comparison. Although it is an older camera, it is still a current camera and a potential for many when deciding between the three.
There's very little between all three cameras when shooting in ideal circumstances. One could expect a significant difference in image quality between full-frame and APS-C cameras, however there isn't much of a difference when put to the test. In my testing I found the 7D Mark II to be consistently sharper than the other two even when shot from the same distance with the same framing. I didn't, however, get a chance to extensively explore this point. The thing to take away from this is that when it comes to detail and sharpness, the differences are negligible and very difficult to tell apart. If you do shoot in controlled environments with the aim to get the best image quality, any of these cameras will perform adequately.
Dynamic range has been a cause for concern with many people considering this camera and in my testing, I was able to confirm that the 6D Mark II was noticeably worse than both the 7D Mark II and 80D at ISO 100. The 80D was the cleanest out of the three in recovered shadows and the 6D Mark II was the worst. The difference may not seem significant when looking at the results, but considering the 6D is a newer camera with a full-frame sensor at double the price of the 80D, the result is disappointing.
So far much of this article has been negative towards the 6D Mark II, however there are a number of redeeming features for the 6D. The fact that is it a competitively priced full-frame camera with a flip-out touchscreen is a first for Canon. Having a flip-out touchscreen is extremely useful and can help you get shots that may have otherwise been extremely difficult or not possible. The full-frame sensor also means you can use all of the amazing high-end glass available to the format at its full potential.
The other thing to consider is that the 6D Mark II is also much better in low light compared to the 80D and the 7D Mark II. If you need that high ISO performance the 6D will be a much better option as it is a full stop cleaner than the other two. The 80D at ISO 6,400 is slightly noisier than the 6D Mark II at ISO 12,800.
What I Liked
- The flip-out touchscreen
- Autofocus speed and accuracy in low light
What I Disliked
- Single card slot
- Clustered focus points
- No 100 percent viewfinder coverage
- No headphone jack
- No joystick
- Dynamic range at ISO 100
- High ISO performance worse than the original
The fact that the 6D Mark II is better in low light compared to the 80D and 7D Mark II is not enough. The reason is that there are several comparisons online that show the original 6D outperforming the current one by a full stop at high ISO. Also for the APS-C cameras, it's very easy to get that stop of light back simply by using a faster zoom lens like the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8. With that lens, you can shoot at ISO 3,200 instead of 6,400 and get a similar level of performance. The 6D Mark II is also missing a headphone jack meaning that its advantages over the 80D are minimal. The image quality between all three cameras are so similar which begs the question, why would anyone want to buy the 6D Mark II over the other two cameras. The 7D Mark II is a far more professional and effective camera, the ergonomics, dual card slots, image quality, faster burst rate, and buffer make it a far better option at a much cheaper price point. The extra 25 percent in resolution from the 6D Mark II isn't much of a difference especially when you can use the crop factor as an advantage. The camera is built for the professional photographer and if you earn a living from your work the 7D Mark II is a much more viable option.
The 80D, on the other hand, is essentially the same as the 6D except for the smaller sensor and the addition of a headphone jack. At half the price one can quite comfortably buy an extra couple of lenses or accessories and produce similar or even better results in comparison. This unfortunate circumstance makes the 6D Mark II a disappointing release from Canon and the complaints about it are, for the most part, justified.