Canon 6D Mark II Field Test Part II

We test the 6D II's video features and performance

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 08/31/2017

Canon 6D II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II: 349mm, f/6.3, 1/1000s, ISO 640.
This image has been cropped. Click for original image. Click here for RAW image.
Recap of Field Test Part I

In Field Test Part I, I looked at the body design, the image sensor and image quality, autofocus, overall performance and shooting modes, including the new built-in 4K time lapse mode. There is a lot to like about the 6D Mark II so far, but its sensor is an area of weakness.

In Part II of the Canon 6D Mark II Field Test, I will be looking at the 6D II's video features and quality, connectivity options and give a further analysis of how the camera performs in real-world shooting situations, including for wildlife, landscapes and portraiture.

Canon 6D Mark II Video

Video Features

Let's get one big issue out of the way, the Canon 6D Mark II does not record 4K video. In the current market, that's not unheard of -- after all, only a small handful of full-frame DSLRs offer 4K video recording -- but is a notable omission from the Canon 6D II's features list. If you need a full-frame camera that records 4K UHD video, this simply is not the camera for you. However, many don't need 4K UHD video. After all, the vast majority of homes don't have a 4K display yet, so 1920 x 1080 resolution is surely still sufficient in many cases. The 6D Mark II records 1920 x 1080 resolution video at up to 60 frames per second -- a faster framerate than its predecessor, which topped-out at 30 fps.

The 6D II has a port for an external microphone. However, it does not include a headphone jack, which is disappointing for users looking to monitor audio through the camera during recording.

We discussed the built-in 4K time lapse feature in Part I of this Field Test, but what other video modes are there? The 6D II includes an HDR video mode, which is rather interesting. It works fairly well, although the results can be a little unnatural at times, and HDR video can have a slightly soft look. The process works by recording at 60 frames per second and combining darker and brighter frames into a final 30 fps video. In the video compilation below, you can see a number of clips comparing HDR and non-HDR video, with HDR video clips appearing first. They are also labelled. It's a neat feature and definitely a nice inclusion.

Canon 6D II HDR Video Comparison Compilation
1920 x 1080; 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens.
Download Original (695.8 MB .MP4 File)

The 6D Mark II also includes 5-axis in-camera digital stabilization during video recording, making it the first full-frame EOS camera to include this feature. This digital stabilization works even when using non-IS lenses. Digital image stabilization works, but it also noticeably reduces the quality of the video, making it softer, especially when using the "Enhanced" digital image stabilization. Further, the stabilizing effect can result in somewhat jarring distortion and digital effects, giving the footage a sort of warped look. Overall, it's useful, especially if using longer focal lengths, but is certainly no substitute for a tripod.

Canon 6D II Image Stabilization Comparison Compilation
1920 x 1080; 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens.
Image stabilization settings noted on each video clip.
Download Original (486.3 MB .MP4 File)

Another thing to consider is the image stabilization's effect on the video frame. In the video clip below, you can see the frame with the Canon 24-105mm f/4L II lens set to 24mm when using no stabilization, using standard stabilization and using enhanced stabilization. The decrease in the width of the frame (effectively increasing the focal length of the lens digitally) is dramatic. At the beginning of the video you can see a still frame of the scene, cropped to 16:9 (full width, but the top and bottom have been chopped off).

Canon 6D II Frame Size Comparison
1920 x 1080; 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens at 24mm.
Image stabilization settings noted on each video clip.
Download Original (116.8 MB .MP4 File)

Video Quality

The Full HD video from the 6D Mark II is not super sharp to begin with, but it does hold up pretty well at higher ISOs. Through ISO 1600, the video quality remains quite stable. At ISO 3200, the video gets noticeably softer, but is still quite smooth and looks good. At ISO 6400, the visible noise starts to become much more apparent and at ISO 12,800 and 25,600, the noise is very distracting. The colors remain impressive throughout the entire video ISO range of 100 to 25,600, however, which is very good.

Canon 6D II ISO comparison
1920 x 1080; 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens; ISO setting noted on each video clip.
Download Original (425.2 MB .MP4 File)

Dual Pixel CMOS AF

Dual Pixel CMOS AF has proven to perform well on other Canon DSLRs, with the 6D Mark II proving to be yet another excellent example of the phase-detection-based Live View/video autofocus technology.

With its Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus system for Live View and video recording, the 6D Mark II offers quite good autofocus performance. It is quick to acquire focus, even when performing large focus shifts, and does a great job of staying locked on the subject without making constant noticeable small focus adjustments, which often occurs with contrast-detection AF systems. In the video below, you can see (and hear) the Canon 6D II performing autofocus adjustments. After the clip from the 6D II, I have included a clip shot with my phone of me recording the video seen below, so you can have a sense of how quickly the autofocus is adjusting. It is not a perfect representation, but it should help illustrate the impressive speed of the 6D II.

Canon 6D II Autofocus Demonstration
1920 x 1080; 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens at 50mm; Tap to focus.
Download Original (307.8 MB .MP4 File)

General Video Recording

The Canon 6D Mark II does a good job handling dramatic changes in exposure as well, both in terms of overall brightness and color temperature. In the edited clip below, I was recording with the 24-105mm f/4 lens in an automatic shooting mode with image stabilization turned on. The autofocus did fairly well in the challenging situation -- my dog is a busy one -- but the exposure did really well, providing natural-looking shifts without any jarring transitions.

Canon 6D II Sample Video
1920 x 1080; 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens. Auto exposure.
Download Original (94.3 MB .MP4 File)

Connectivity

Wi-Fi

With Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth built-in, the 6D Mark II has plenty of connectivity options. The connection process proved to be very straightforward on my iOS device, following the same pattern as most other cameras, requiring me to enable wireless communications on the camera, select the camera from my phone's Wi-Fi settings and then open the Canon Camera Connect app. Once that was done, it was good to go.

The Bluetooth connection process is similarly straightforward, although it doesn't require going into your iOS device settings at all. Bluetooth functionality is very limited, but it does allow you to connect faster when switching to a Wi-Fi connection, so that's nice. When connected via Wi-Fi, you can view and transfer images and remotely control the camera. The connection remained stable during my testing provided I was within 25 feet or so from the camera, after that, the live view when using the remote control functionality got sluggish.

Canon 6D II Review: Field Test -- Wireless App Screenshots
The Canon Camera Connect App works well. On the right, you can see a focus adjustment function in action.

When close to the camera, the live view on my phone was very good. It was nearly real-time. The functionality is good too, allowing changes on the camera itself to be registered in the app without the need to reestablish the connection. It's surprising how many cameras don't work that way over Wi-Fi.

Overall, I have no complaints with the performance or functionality of the Canon 6D Mark II's wireless feature set. It's easy to use and works well.

GPS

The Canon 6D Mark II includes built-in GPS functionality, which is very cool. There are a few settings you can adjust, including a pair of modes to choose from. The first mode keeps GPS active even when the camera is powered off, which reduces battery life. The second mode turns off the GPS with the camera, but the GPS will remain enabled if the camera turns off via Auto Power Off. You can also set the camera to change its time via GPS, select a GPS update interval (options are every 1 second, 5s, 10s, 15s (default), 30s, 1 minute, 2 minutes and 5 minutes. Further, you can view GPS information and also enable a GPS Logger. The connection was reliable during my testing and didn't have a noticeable impact on battery life, although I did not use the GPS function all day, so it's difficult for me to say how much it affects battery life. I used the default 15 second update interval.

Canon 6D II Review: Field Test -- GPS Menu
The Canon 6D Mark II includes built-in GPS functionality, which is a nice feature that works well.

HDMI

The 6D II has an HDMI output which, oddly enough, does not do anything until "control over HDMI" has been enabled in the camera's menus. Once enabled, the camera's display is mirrored to the connected television and you can capture images in Live View, record video and perform image playback among other things. A neat feature is the ability to use the touchscreen for playback functionality, such as swiping through images and zooming in and out even though the display is off while the camera is connected over HDMI. Definitely a nice feature when viewing and sharing your work on the big screen.

In the Field

During my extensive time in the field with the Canon 6D Mark II, including my early hands-on in Yellowstone National Park in June, the one issue with the camera that stood out is its poor autofocus point coverage when shooting through the viewfinder. While focusing and recomposing is a perfectly viable technique to use for many subjects, when shooting moving subjects, that split second it takes to focus, move the camera and then capture an image can make all the difference. When shooting wildlife, in particular, this is a problem. I came to accept that I was going to have to crop the image later to get the desired composition, not wanting my subject to be so close to the center of the frame.

Canon 6D II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II: 105mm, f/5, 1/250s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image. Click here for RAW image.

On the topic of shooting through the optical viewfinder, I found the viewfinder eyepiece to be very uncomfortable to use. It just never felt good and I could not get used to it. Further, the 98% coverage caught me off guard a few times and resulted in small distracting elements being present along the edge of the frame. It's a small issue, but one I don't expect from a $2,000 full-frame DSLR. Similarly, the directional pad on the back of the camera never felt good either. It was inconsistent in registering presses throughout my time with the camera, and I finally relented and used just the touchscreen for playback functions and menu navigation. While not important during this time of year here in Maine, for about half of the year it's not unusual for me to wear gloves while shooting and unsurprisingly the directional pad was difficult to use with gloves on. On the plus side, the touchscreen worked with my gloves, so that's great.

Canon 6D II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II: 105mm, f/4, 1/200s, ISO 800.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Let's get to more positive aspects of using the camera in the field. I didn't discuss the continuous autofocus while shooting through the viewfinder much in the first Field Test and after more time with the camera, the AF Servo definitely impressed me. It was not perfect -- no camera is -- but it was good and generally consistent. When shooting at 6.5 frames per second, there were frames where the focus was off, but the camera typically recovered within a frame or two, even when dealing with difficult changes in depth.

Canon 6D II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon EF 2Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens at 227mm, f/5.0, 1/1000s, ISO 640.
This image has been modified. Click for original image. Click here for RAW image.

Overall, the Canon 6D Mark II did pretty well in the field, but some of its issues are particularly problematic for me and frankly rather surprising given the camera's class and price point. It's rare for me to have any concerns with the handling of a Canon camera, their ergonomics are typically very good, but the uncomfortable viewfinder and poor directional pad were a constant thorn in my side. While the autofocus point coverage through the viewfinder is limited, the autofocus performance is definitely very good, so for most situations, the AF was sufficient.

Canon 6D II Field Test Part II Summary
Disappointing video features make the 6D II a poor choice for multimedia users
Canon 6D II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II: 24mm, f/4, 1/200s, ISO 320.
This image has been modified. Click for original image. Click here for RAW image.

What I like in Part II:

  • Built-in digital stabilization for video
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF works well
  • Wi-Fi functionality is good
  • Includes built-in GPS functionality

What I dislike in Part II:

  • No 4K video
  • Video quality is underwhelming
  • I expect better video features and functionality from a $2,000 full-frame DSLR in 2017

In this second Field Test, the Canon 6D Mark II performed fairly well, although its lack of video features is certainly a weak area for the camera. The Full HD video performance is generally good, and the HDR video is neat, but the lack of 4K severely limits the usability of the 6D Mark II as a modern multimedia camera.

Further, in the field, some issues persisted from the first Field Test and others presented themselves more frequently. The poor autofocus point coverage, which I previously noted, became an even bigger issue as I did more wildlife photography and did a portrait session with the 6D II. The directional pad on the camera body itself, something I thought I'd get used to, remained frustrating to work with.

Canon 6D II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II: 35mm, f/9, 1/30s, ISO 125.
This image has been modified. Click for original image. Click here for RAW image.
Overall Field Test Conclusion

What I like most overall:

  • Comfortable camera grip and good button layout
  • Fast and reliable autofocus performance
  • Good image quality straight from the camera
  • Built-in 4K time lapse mode
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF works well during video recording

What I dislike most overall:

  • Uncomfortable directional pad
  • 98% viewfinder coverage is odd considering the 6D II's price
  • Mediocre dynamic range
  • ISO variant sensor
  • Limited autofocus point coverage through the viewfinder
  • No 4K video
  • Full HD video quality is not very good

The Canon 6D Mark II is a mixed bag. In some ways, it's a very good full-frame DSLR. In other ways, it's a disappointing successor to the popular 6D. How I felt about the 6D Mark II changed from shooting situation to shooting situation. In real-world use, the body feels very good, the tilting touchscreen is excellent and the autofocus performance, both through the viewfinder and when using Live View, is reliably quick. However, in demanding situations, such as landscape scenes with large shifts in brightness values, the shortcomings of the 6D Mark II's sensor become very apparent. Add in the ISO variance, which limits the usability of RAW files when doing extensive post-processing, and the 26-megapixel sensor simply doesn't deliver the quality I expected.

Canon 6D II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon EF 2Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens at 349mm, f/6.3, 1/1000s, ISO 1000.
This image has been cropped. Click for original image. Click here for RAW image.

With that said, for Canon shooters with a crop sensor camera who want to make the move to full-frame, the 6D II may be a good option. Its image quality, while not up to par with some of its competition, can still be very good in certain situations. However, if someone is looking to build a full-frame system from scratch, the 6D II has some limitations, especially for videographers given the camera's lack of 4K UHD video recording.

Canon 6D II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II: 70mm, f/4.5, 1/250s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image. Click here for RAW image.

At the end of the day, the Canon 6D Mark II has many strong features but is not without its issues. For longtime Canon users, especially those who have been ardent users of the original 6D, whether the new 6D II is a home run or a swing and a miss depends almost entirely on how you intend to use the camera. You can capture nice still images across a wide range of situations with the 6D Mark II. However, if you are doing extensive RAW processing or looking for great multimedia capabilities, the 6D II will likely disappoint. No camera is perfect, of course, but ultimately, the 6D Mark II doesn't come as close to perfect as I would expect.

 



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