The original Canon EOS 6D saw the birth of a new breed of cameras - one that introduced beginner, enthusiast, and amateur photographers to the idea of an accessible full-frame system. For those of us who balk at the idea of spending thousands of dollars on pro or semi-pro systems, the 6D offered an affordable alternative and one that drew positive recognition from the industry and the photography community.
Lens mount: Canon EF
ISO range: 100-40000
Viewfinder: Optical viewfinder 45-point autofocus
Video capability: 1080p
Weight: 1.6 lbs (body only)
Size: 5.7" x 4.4" x 2.9" (body only)
Memory card type: SD-card (one slot)
The Canon EOS 6D Mk2 looks to update the original 6D with a far more modern specification list - and although the Mk2 is in itself a few years old now, it’s still a relevant and worthwhile consideration for many of us looking to get more serious about our picture-making. Although, as we’ll discuss, there are some compromises to be made, the price alone makes the 6D Mk2 an appealing prospect - expect to pay around $1000 less than a similar full-frame camera from the ‘next level up’, such as the Canon 5D Mk4.
As time marches on, the Canon 6D Mk2 finds itself sitting in a growingly competitive market, so in this article, we’ll see if it still matches up to modern-day demands by reviewing its design, functionality, and image-making abilities. It still sits among our best cameras for astrophotography, especially as the price is relatively competitive.
Canon EOS 6D Mk2 review: Design
- Body feels a little clunky and plastic-y
- Conventional Canon layout will suit prior users of the manufacturer’s products
- Vari-angle touch screen a nice addition
First things first, out of the box, the Canon 6D Mk2 is noticeably heavier and bulkier if you’re used to a compact or crop-sensor body. Although it is weatherproofed, we thought the slightly plastic feel of the body itself was disappointing, but like many Canon products we were pleased to see well-rounded edges, a good hand grip, and nicely rounded buttons. Overall, ergonomically the camera is easy to use, fits into the hand nicely, and provides easy access to most controls.
At the rear of the camera, there are buttons to change the autofocus mode, access the camera’s menus and settings, and switch it between still and movie modes. As with Canon’s other full-frame offerings, there’s a dial at the back, which can be controlled using the outer thumbwheel or more conventionally by selecting left, right, up and down on the direction buttons. It takes a little getting used to, but in shooting mode it comes into its own and allows far greater control of multiple settings at once. There’s a start/stop button for movie recording and a ‘Q’ menu button that allows quick access to important shooting settings.
The key element to the rear of the camera is the vari-angled touchscreen, which we found worked well and allowed us to compose our images using more acute angles. It’s a little dull when exposed to bright sunlight, but overall the touch responsiveness is excellent and allows a good degree of manual control.
At the top of the camera, there’s a dedicated screen so you can see what the camera is set to at a glance, as well as a mode control selector on the top left. There’s a little button at the top of the selector which needs to be depressed to change the camera’s mode, which means it doesn’t slip out of your chosen setting accidentally; but one to mention as it caught us out a couple of times - the selector won’t move without the button being depressed.Overall, whilst it is nothing revolutionary, the Canon 6D Mk2 design and handling are pleasing and will suit most entry-level full-frame photographers.
Canon EOS 6D Mk2 review: Functionality
- Speed of use and operation a big improvement on the 6D Mk1
- Noticeably lighter than 5D products
- Live view works well and is a big plus
- Slightly fiddly rear dial and controller
Using the Canon 6D Mk2 is much like using any other Canon product, and comparisons to the crop-sensor 80D can’t be avoided, as they have almost exactly the same rear panel and feel in the hand.
Kit lens: EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens
Best wide lens: Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM
Best zoom lens: Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM
Spare battery type: LP-E6NH
Memory card: SD card
One thing we did notice and enjoy was the speed of operation. Even in live mode, everything turns on, boots up and is ready to go in an instant, which greatly assists in getting those momentary or easy-to-miss shots. As you’d expect on a full-frame system, the large viewfinder makes it easy to compose shots. Although it does feel bulky, the weight has been nicely trimmed compared to the 5Ds and it feels like an easy unit to deal with. We tested the system with Canon’s 24-105mm lens, which does add considerable weight, but users of 50mm or smaller prime lenses will certainly notice the weight reduction.
Dual Pixel technology means that the Live View works well in most conditions, although we did find it a little hard to see in direct sunlight. It feels good to use and is very responsive though, which twinned with its vari-angle articulating ability means shooting from the hip or at strange angles is perfectly doable.
Although we thought the dial at the rear of the camera was easy to use, the inner directional buttons are difficult and sometimes fiddly - we thought Canon would have been best to do without them and opt for a simpler system like the joystick on its 5D. This is especially relevant if you want to manually adjust focus through the viewfinder, for example. That being said - we thought there was an emerging theme here - Canon has to find a way of differentiating the 6D Mk2 as being the ‘lower spec’ entry-level DSLR.
As you’d expect for a camera at this price point and level, there’s built-in WiFi, NFC, and bluetooth, which makes connecting and transferring images to smartphones or tablets easy.
Canon EOS 6D Mk2 review: Performance
- Lacking the dynamic range needed for pro photographers to feel confident
- Good color reproduction in out-the-box JPG shots
- Full-frame means low light performance is good
- Impressively quiet shutter
- Hard to recommend for filmmakers
When we got down to business, we liked how the Canon 6D Mk2 performed. While it doesn’t do anything really worth writing home about, we were impressed with its ability to keep up with the demands of the modern shooter - four years on from its release, the autofocus is perhaps lacking a little but in most other respects, it performs well.
With no settings altered, straight to auto mode, the JPGs at the highest resolution were pleasing when it comes to color rendition and accuracy, although we found that like many other Canon systems they had a slightly over-processed feel to them, and appear a bit on the sharp side. The camera worked very well in areas of subtle contrast, but out in the sunshine was where performance cracks did start to appear.
Much has been made of Canon’s decision not to put the latest sensor (at the time) into the 6D Mk2, as used on the 5D Mk4 and EOS 80D. Again, a differentiation of price-point must have been the primary concern here. In areas of high contrast, at lower ISO settings, there’s a noticeable diminishing of dynamic range (the ratio difference between the brightest and darkest tones within an image) which means that boosted photos can start to appear grainy and noisy, especially where the lower tones have been increased. Because of this, we’d suggest that experienced photographers look elsewhere - if you know what you’re doing in post-processing, you may find the lack of range frustrating.
That being said, with what the camera is setting out to do, how much did we worry about this? The answer is not loads, to be honest, as in most other respects we enjoyed what the camera had to provide, and we expect most other enthusiasts or amateur photographers would do too. For newcomers to the full-frame world, the possibilities it opens up are exciting and go far beyond worrying about dynamic range. With regards to the wider angled, lower-light astrophotography sphere, low light performance is good and the quiet shutter and subtle operation we think would suit getting into night photography.
There’s no 4K with the Canon 6D Mk2, which makes it difficult to recommend for today’s filmmakers, but the Live View does work well should you wish to start movie-making.
One word on the autofocus system - we found it to be perfectly dependable in stable environments, and think it’d be fine for low-light situations, but it struggled a little more with moving subjects and the subject tracking is pretty average (even more so in Live View). If you’re a budding sports or events photographer, you may want to look elsewhere or keep the 6D Mk2 as a backup option.
Should you buy the Canon EOS 6D Mk2?
With its increased megapixel count, faster operation, and generally better handling, the Canon EOS 6D Mk2 is a vast improvement over the aging original 6D and has many things to recommend it. The image quality is excellent and in the right hands, it is a very capable machine.
Although it’s not the most exciting camera development and there is still room for improvement, we found it hard not to enjoy using it despite its shortcomings in terms of autofocus and lack of dynamic range. If we put those to one side for a moment, for people getting into the full-frame world for the first time, it’s an exciting prospect to be faced with a far more advanced and pleasing style of image-making.
In the years since the 6D Mk2 was released, there have been improvements in the entry-level full-frame market, so it’s worth mentioning that you may want to do some research. That’s not to say the 6D Mk2 is a bad camera - far from it - but it would pay to do some testing of other systems to ensure that with this one you’re getting the most from your hard-earned cash.
If this product isn’t for you
If the Canon EOS 6D Mk2 isn't the right fit for your needs, below are some suggestions of other cameras to suit different budgets and capabilities.
The Canon EOS RP is Canon’s cheapest full-frame camera - and great for mirrorless fans.
The Sony A7 III is an affordable entry into Sony’ system - with bonus in-body stabilization.
If your focus is astrophotography, consider the Nikon D850 with its excellent low light autofocus and high ISO noise handling capacity.
The Pentax K1 MKII is a bit of a different entity, and Pentax’s only full-frame system, but although expensive it arguably outshines the Canon EOS 6D Mk2 on paper.