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Scott's Column
Canon 6D Mark II - Semi Review

September 1, 2017
By Scott Lewis

I pre-ordered my Canon 6D Mark II the first day that option was available. Mine shipped from B&H Photo on the first day of shipping and I received it a few days later. I was able to take it with me to Tennessee to photograph the Great American Eclipse.

This is not going to be a comprehensive review. I do not do that. What will follow is my real world experience with the camera, and the pros and cons as I see them. If you are looking for information about the video capabilities of the 6D2 you should find another review. I do not do video, and I have not even tried it on this camera. Well, a friend wanted me to test the face tracking and that worked awesome as I pointed the camera at him and he moved around.

You can jump down to the conclusion if you want my honest assessment of this camera and if it is worth buying. I like this camera a lot. So expect more praise than not in the details to follow. However, my conclusion is quite objective.

Now that we got that out of the way, I really like this camera. I do not love it. It does have some compromises, some its fault, some my own expectations.

The Good:

#1 - Image quality is excellent. I am very, very please with the photos the camera takes. My editing time is probably less than half what it was with my T2i. Many times I like the photos with little to no editing.

#2 - I love the blinkies. Highlight Blinking - Wow, all of you that have had this feature are so blessed. I am now blessed too. I hated the fact that my T2i did not have this feature. Unfortunately it comes with a caveat. I use this a lot. This is nothing special to this camera, but it is the single feature that has changed my habits the most. There is a downside. I am having issues with how I get into exposure compensation. I am still trying to find the right workflow for this. If I try to do it like I did with my T2i it puts me into Exposure Bracketing. Oops. More later.

#3 - Low ISO performance is excellent. I could not be more excited about this. The first day I used the camera to take photos at a restoration shop (I take photos there each week and update their web site) taking a shot of a black interior was a piece of cake. With my T2i I was setting the ISO too high to get decent photos (800-1600), and trying like mad to get a shot in focus with 1/10 or slower shutter speeds. When I get back to the computer with my old T2i I am reducing the highlights to -100 then adding lots of noise reduction. It sucks.

With the 6D Mark II, I set the ISO to Auto and shoot away. I have the Auto set to cap out at 6400 ISO and maintain a minimum shutter speed of 1/125. Pictures come out fantastic. Highlights are not blown out. There is plenty of detail. Absolutely no complaints. There is a little bit of grain at 6400, but is totally acceptable for online photos and smaller prints. I created a preset in Lightroom for Low ISO Sharpening. Any time the ISO gets over 1600 I just use that preset. It adds just a small amount of sharpening with an amount of noise reduction to prevent weird artifacts.

#4 - Great Dynamic Range. That is a click bait statement, sorry. I have heard that dynamic range is lower than expected. Not expected by me. The dynamic range is so much better than my Rebel T2i. I find that I rarely have to pull back highlight with most photo. Of course I have to do it once in a while, but I am getting very good results so far.

#5 - Downloading pictures to a phone is wonderful. We watched the eclipse at a wonderful event center. Chef prepared food, nice drinks, etc. They had a nice courtyard and we took seats at a table in the sun (there were tables for everyone in the shade as well). I was not going to let photography get in the way of enjoying the experience. I had planned to just point my camera (with a solar filter) up and take pictures every few minutes. Then eat and drink and have fun in between those minutes. It was wonderful.

I was also able to connect to my phone with the camera and download pictures to my phone. I could then send them out to friends and family during the eclipse. It was amazing, and make so much more so because of being able to send high quality pictures during the event.

I absolutely love the WiFi feature. I just wish it was a little less flakey (more later).

The Bad:

#1 - I Had To Return The Camera - I hate that I have to put this as the first bad thing. There was a large spot on the sensor. It was showing up in photos that had a single color in the area where the spot was. It was more than a dead pixel. I bought a sensor cleaning kit (at the recommendation of B&H Photo). It did not change anything. The spot was noticeable even on the back of the camera, even without zooming in. After the cleaning B&H Photo sent me a return packing slip. As of today (Friday, September 1st) the replacement camera is due to arrive on Tuesday!!!! This is not really a negative. Problems happen. Since I was able to get a replacement with no questions asked, I am still completely satisfied.

#2 - My remote flashes do not fire in Live View mode. I believe this is because I am using non-Canon flash equipment. I have a Yongnuo YN560-TX transmitter that fires my Yongnuo YN560 IV flashes (currently I have 4 of them). I checked some forums and it seems that Canon flashes work in live view. Now, although I kind of hate it that this feature does not work (it also did not work on my Canon Rebel 2Ti) it is not that much of a problem. See, the type of photography I do (flash automotive based photography) has me in full manual mode. I start off at 1/125 second with a aperture of f/13. Without the flash the scene is almost totally black. This means I could not touch to focus anyway. What I do is put the camera in Aperture Priority, focus, switch off the AF button on the lens, switch to manual mode and start shooting.

This technique allows the image to fade to black for my signature look. I was hoping that I could leave the camera in Live View. Since I already have to switch the camera from Av to M, it really doesn't matter that I also have to switch it out of Live View. The saving grace here is that I can review the images on my iPhone or iPad to verify that the shots look good. More on that later.

#3 - My cable release does not work with the 6D2. This is really my fault. It is for the T2i. My remote trigger has the proper cable to remote fire the 6D2, so I can still do my automotive photography without touching the camera. Yay!

However, I do not know if I can do long exposure photography, longer than 30 seconds. I have an intravelometer (yes, I am aware there is one built into the 6D Mark II). My intravelometer has a bulb mode setting. It is supposed to work that you press the button to start the photo then push the button again to end it... while the intravelometer shows the time.

Unfortunately, the 6D2 just rapid fires shots when I do this. I will have to play around with this. Maybe I need to put the camera in bulb mode as well. However, that was never the case with my old cable release and my T2i. I can't blame Canon for this one. This will be looked at more when the replacement camera arrives.

#4 - The controls are not intuitive. Most of the camera works as I expect. However, there are a few issues. This is likely because I am coming from a 7 year old consumer camera (T2i).

  • When in manual mode on my T2i turning the front dial changed the shutter speed, pressing a button on the back of the camera changed that so the front dial changed the aperture. Sweet. Not so with the 6D2. Pressing that same button just allows you to change any other setting on the back of the camera. You have to navigate using the rocker part of the rear control to go from place to place before you can use the front dial to change values. This gets confusing when you are in a hurry and not used to it. Hopefully I can find a better work flow for this.
  • The teeny, tiny button next to the shutter release button is what you need to push to change auto focus points. Jeez this thing is hard to press easily. And it is completely different from my T2i. With the T2i you press the * button on the back and it allows you to use the front scroll wheel to change focus points. Pressing the * button on the 6D2 brings up the ability to change focus type. Argh!!! This is frustrating. I am likely complaining for nothing. It is just something I have to get used to. But darn it if that itty, bitty button is hard to press without messing up.
  • I don't like how sometimes you have to use the rear scroll dial versus the front scroll wheel versus the rear "d" pad (center of the rear scroll dial. These are not consistent when navigating the menu (which of course is more complex than the menu on my old T2i). I get it that it is going to be more complicated with a more complicated camera. But it is the inconsistency that bothers me the most. It could be smoothed out.
  • I hate where the play button is. This is me, but it is so different from the T2i I am having a hard time with it. Oh, and where the play button is on my T2i is where the delete button is on the 6D2. YIKES! That is a learning curve.
  • I didn't think I would care, but I want a little joystick for the focus points. I saw some complaints about this online and blew it off. After all, I don't have a joystick on my T2i. But it would be great to have. Especially with my complaints above about getting into the correct mode to change focus points.

#5 - The focus points are not spread out enough. This is my only grip that matches the rest of the world. I am thrilled to have 45 focus points (my T2i has 9, and the 6D Mark I has 11). But the naysayers are right on this one, the points are clustered too close to the center. They should be spread out more. It does mean focus, hold focus and recompose... a lot. I will reserve final judgment on this after I do a track day event and see how the photos turn out.

#6 - The WiFi is flakey. It uses a combination of Bluetooth and WiFi. First connecting with Bluetooth then handing it over to WiFi. It is clunky. After several bouts with this I found that is works best (but still occasionally flakey) when you start with it on the camera. Go into the menu to tell it to connect to my iPhone. Then start the Canon App when the camera tells me to. Sometimes it doesn't tell me to. Like I said, flakey. It is worse if I try to start from my iPhone. I end up in loops back and forth on when to turn the camera on or tell the camera to connect. Start with the camera.

This could be a problem for my automotive photography. I still need to test this. I take many exposures (as I walk around the car and hit it with flash). Then those multiple photos are brought into Photoshop in layers. Those layers must align perfectly. This is done by not touching the camera. If I have to touch the camera to get into the menu to initiate connecting so I can review the photos I could move the camera slightly. Then if I need to retake a shot or two, it might be out of alignment. I had to return the camera, so this will be tested in the near future.

I need to spend more time with the Canon App on my iPad. It was more flakey than my phone. It had a hard time with landscape vs. portrait orientation (how I hold the iPad).

Remote shooting seemed quite slow. Again, I will need to get my replacement in and do some more testing. Initially I do not believe I will be using the remote shooting aspect of the camera.

Conclusion

Should you buy this camera. Probably Not!!!

Objectively, this camera is a huge disappointment. 26 megapixels is OK, but nothing to right home about. 45 focus point all cross type is a wonderful upgrade, but it does not cover enough area of the frame and influences composition. 6.5 fps is very nice, but not ideal for sports or wildlife. And, of course, the camera does not have 4K.

As for some of the gripes this camera gets online about lack of dynamic range, that is pure BS. This camera has plenty, and is quite good at low light shooting at higher ISOs.

Keep in mind this is an entry level full frame sensor camera. If you need faster shooting, better focus, 4K video, etc., you should consider spending more for a 5D Mark IV (also somewhat hampered on the video IMO). Almost all of my negatives for this camera are reasonable for the shooting I do and the fact this is an entry level full frame camera. I am very pleased.

Don't get me wrong... if I did not have an investment in Canon lenses I would not buy this camera. If I was starting out fresh I would likely buy a Nikon D750 for less money. However, that would not have the articulating flip out screen. Life is full of compromises. Maybe a Sony A7r (less money) or A7r II (more money, more features).

As a still photographer upgrading from a cropped sensor camera that is 5 generations old (T2i is 5 gens behind the current T7i) this is just about the perfect camera for me. I don't need most of what the 5D Mark IV has over the 6D Mark II. However, it took Canon way to long to come out with this upgrade. Fortunately, I strongly believe it is the photographer behind the camera that makes the difference. I believe this is the last DSLR I will buy.

Should you buy it? If you do not have Canon glass, check out the competition first.

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