I was lucky enough to spend a weekend with the newly released Canon 6D Mark II, thanks to Canon New Zealand. Here are a few impressions of the new camera though it's certainly not an extensive, or technical review. For these please look for dpreview etc at a later point. I'll be writing this from a long time 6D user's point of view and talking about what’s new, and also trying to answer the many questions I got through Facebook.
To get one point out of the way before you read too far, this was a pre-production version of the camera. As such I won't be talking in detail about image quality. This is high up on everyone’s list including mine, but I feel it would be unfair to discuss this at this point, and I'm looking forward to finding out how the camera measures up with dynamic range and ISO noise myself. Also, note I had to use Canons DPP to convert my raw files as Adobe has yet to be updated.
Right, onto the camera. It certainly feels and looks like a '6D'. Weight-wise, I doubt you would notice any difference without measuring them, certainly not when you have a lens and an L plate etc on. It generally feels well put together, and the controls have definitely been reworked. The main dial on the back is grippier making it easier to use and the shutter button feels nicer. Apart from the new AF button (next to the shutter button), and the flippy screen, all the buttons are in the same place, which makes it easy to use in the dark.
My first time out shooting with it was in heavy drizzle with no ill effects, so let’s hope the 5D Mark IV-level weather sealing is as good as it says!
The biggest obvious change is the addition of the articulated touch screen, a first on full frame Canons. This is by far my favourite feature of the camera and something many have been waiting for. I shoot most of my landscapes in live view with the tripod typically down low, or somewhere difficult to see the viewfinder. With the 6D II you just swing the LCD around to an angle that works for you and shoot away. Once you are shooting landscapes with it you won't want to go back.
Anyone familiar with Canon's touch interface (from the EOS M onwards) will know how good and useful it is, swipe and pinch zooming, quick settings etc are great fun. The new dual pixel AF and touch focus/shooting works really well, even in really low light, shooting a focus stacked set simply by tapping the screen!
Together these two aspects make shooting with the 6D II heaps of fun, by far the easiest landscape shooting I can remember.
One other positive change is the shift of the cable release socket to the front. This makes it easier to get to and use, though any L plates will likely have to be adjusted for the cable coming out at an angle.
Another big change is the autofocus system has had a total rework bringing it into the 21st century. It now has 45 autofocus points, every one a cross type, though these are all in the centre third of the viewfinder. The spread is (as far as I could tell) identical to the 6D but there are many more of them so the corners of that area are far better covered. The outer points are far more usable than the 6D's, doing an A/B comparison the 6D II snapped focus with any point where the 6D would hunt significantly for some. There is also a new AF button for focus point and group selection near the shutter release making it easy to switch.
Auto focus is not an area I tend to overly use but it felt like a very solid system, more so than my original 7D and something I would rely on. I didn’t get chance to track any moving subjects though (apart from the cat).
Overall performance was quite zippy, 6.5 frames a second and the buffer is much larger. I don’t often machine gun subjects but I fired at least 18 frames with my slow SD card, and it's supposed to go up to 21 frames. The 6D's buffer struggled with 6 frames, my 7 shot brackets always had the last frame taken substantially later than the preceding 6!
Canon have also updated the viewfinder to an LCD version, like similar higher end bodies. This can also now display a 2-axis spirit level (very useful for me!) and a grid display. The grid is somewhat odd in that it’s a 5/3 line with lines across the absolute centre points rather than what I would have expected on the thirds lines, anyhow you can switch this off if not required.
I didn’t get a chance to shoot any video, I did quickly try out the 4k time-lapse mode which is under video functions and produces a video file (with no source stills). This allows you to meter for the first image or each frame. Yes the 6D Mark II doesn’t shoot 4k video, I'm personally not bothered as I don’t shoot video, and no other FF camera at this price point does. I am surprised though that is isn't an option as this camera will sit in the market place for several years.
The 6D Mark II has an all new 26mp 'dual pixel' sensor, a modest (~30%) increase in pixels so it will offer slightly more detail or cropping ability over the 6D. Remember that you need 4 times as many pixels to double print size (mp is linear, print has 2 dimensions). File resolution is 6240 x 4160 which is enough for a 20" print at 300dpi compared to 18 inches with the 6D, or 28 inches with the 5DsR. The path to truly high resolution large files is still stitching. Otherwise 26mp is more than enough for a high quality A2 print.
Other new things are a built in basic intervalometer, a bulb mode timer so you can shoot over 30 seconds without a cable release, and new coms (Bluetooth and NFC). The bulb mode timer is a welcome addition, the Bluetooth seemed to be a very quick and easy way to access Wi-Fi, which I found a pain on the 6D to setup.
HDR mode still only produces (and available in) jpg mode and I've no idea why, and oddly the camera still only offers a mini USB2 connection in 2017? I'd also hoped for the 5DsR mirror lockup feature but that wasn’t included on the model I tested, not a huge issue as I usually shooting live view anyhow.
So "would you buy it"?
I tend to judge loan gear from Canon in how much I miss it when I send it back... and I must say I am missing the upgrades, especially that flip out screen, which makes shooting with the camera a real breeze. Canon have a habit of producing underwhelming specs that lead to a very well rounded capable camera. Ultimately though for me this will come down to image quality and improvements on the sensor. Assuming it gets a similar dynamic range to the 5D Mark IV/80D and the slight step up in noise at higher ISO I think I will be a great overall package and personally, if that's the case, I will be upgrading.
It doesn’t sit alone in the market place though and will be competing against other cameras like the Sony A7 III and the Nikon D750. I am invested in canon lenses and love the ergonomics, operation and lens line up.
Thinks I loved:
Dual pixel focus
Bulb mode timer
Things I liked:
Cable release position
Much improved AF system
Extra weather sealing
Things still on my wish list:
A good ettr/average time-lapse exposure system (a wish!)
RAW in HDR shooting
More advanced 5DsR MLU