Canon 6D Mark II Image Quality


Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Fairly typical saturation levels with good hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links above to compare ISOs, and click to load a larger version.

Saturation. The Canon 6D Mark II produces images with saturation levels that are fairly typical. Dark reds are boosted the most, dark blues are pumped moderately, orange, dark greens and dark browns are pushed just a little, while cyan and light yellow are slightly muted. Mean saturation is 108.3% (8.3% oversaturated) at base ISO, which is close to average these days. Mean saturation is quite stable across most of the ISO range, varying from a minimum of 108.1% at ISO 3200 to a maximum of 109.9% at ISO 51,200, though it dips quite a bit to 104.5% at the maximum ISO of 102,400. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Canon 6D Mark II produced pleasing, natural-looking Caucasian skin tones in our tests when using auto white balance in simulated daylight. Darker skin tones show a small nudge toward orange, but lighter tones are more pinkish and healthy-looking. Very good results. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. As we've come to expect from Canon, the 6D Mark II's hue accuracy is better than average when manual white balance is used (as it always is for these Imatest color accuracy results). There are the usual shifts in cyan toward blue (though actually quite small), red toward orange, orange toward yellow and yellow to green, but all are quite minor. Average "delta-C" color error at base ISO is 4.52 which is better than average, though not quite as good as some prior Canons we've tested. Delta-C color error increases with sensitivity, but remains better than average even at the highest ISOs. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images


Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Default Auto and Incandescent settings both struggled with household incandescent lighting, though Manual white balance worked well. Slightly higher than average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance (Ambient Priority)
+0.7 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.7 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.7 EV

Indoors, under typical incandescent lighting, the Canon 6D Mark II's default Auto as well as Incandescent white balance settings struggled, producing very warm orange/yellow color casts. The 6D Mark II has Canon's new "White Priority" option for Auto white balance which resulted in a more neutral color balance when we tested it on the 5D Mark IV, however we didn't test it for the 6D II. The Manual (custom) white balance setting produced accurate results. The Canon 6D Mark II required +0.7 EV exposure compensation for this shot, which is slightly higher than the +0.3 EV average among the cameras we've tested. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Good color with mixed exposure accuracy.

Auto White Balance,
+0.3 EV
Auto White Balance,
0 EV

The Canon 6D Mark II only required +0.3 EV exposure compensation to keep the mannequin's face reasonably bright, while the average needed for our"Sunlit" portrait shot is about +0.7 EV. We preferred skin tones with Auto white balance slightly better than Manual, as they were a little pinker, but both settings were quite good. In this deliberately bright and harsh lighting, the 6D Mark II did blow some highlights in the mannequin's white shirt, and deep shadows appear noisier than most modern full-frame cameras indicating dynamic range isn't up to par for the class. The Far-field shot (above right) is a bit cool, and default exposure is a bit dim (without ALO enabled), resulting in some very deep, noisy shadows, however the camera avoided clipping in the highlights. See below for how ALO and HTP help dealing with dark shadows and bright highlights.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

~2,900 lines of strong detail from a JPEG, about the same from RAW.

Strong detail to
~2,900 lines horizontal
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,900 lines vertical
In-Camera JPEG
2,900 lines horizontal
ACR Converted RAW
Strong detail to
~2,900 lines vertical
ACR Converted RAW

Our laboratory resolution chart showed sharp, distinct line patterns up to about 2,900 lines per picture height horizontally and to about 2,900 lines vertically. Some may argue for higher numbers, but lines begin to merge at this resolution, and some aliasing artifacts in the form of moiré patterns can be seen as low as about 2,500 lines. Complete extinction of the pattern occurred between 3,600 and 3,800 lines. An Adobe Camera Raw converted .CR2 file shows similar resolution as the in-camera JPEG, but it also exhibits more moiré patterns and false colors. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Slightly soft images with default sharpening, but with noticeable sharpening artifacts around high-contrast elements. Minor detail loss due to noise reduction processing even at low ISOs.

Using default sharpening
settings, the Canon 6D Mark II's
JPEG files are slightly soft, with
some noticeable sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of
the model's hair here.

Sharpness. The Canon 6D Mark II's 26-megapixel full-frame sensor captures good image detail when coupled with a sharp lens, though default JPEG images are a bit soft. (Keep in mind Canon has decided to keep an optical low-pass filter in the 6D Mark II to reduce aliasing artifacts at the cost of slightly reduced sharpness, unlike most competing models which have gone the other way.) Despite the slightly soft images, the 6D Mark II's default sharpening setting generates visible edge-enhancement artifacts in the form of obvious sharpening halos around high-contrast edges, as shown in the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows some minor detail loss due to noise suppression in darker areas and in areas with low contrast, but performance here is pretty good for a full-frame 26-megapixel model, with very low chroma noise. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

Aliasing Artifacts. The Canon 6D Mark II is equipped with an optical low-pass filter, however it must be fairly weak as some aliasing artifacts such as moiré patterns can be seen in some of our test shots. This is quite common these days, though, as a lot of ILCs no longer include optical low-pass filters to maximize per-pixel sharpness and resolution.

In-Camera JPEGs: Standard vs Fine Detail Picture Style setting
The 6D Mark II offer Canon's Fine Detail Picture Style first seen on the Canon 5DS R and 5DS. Below is a comparison with the default Standard Picture Style.

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
Camera JPEG, Fine Detail

In the table above, we compare the Canon 6D Mark II's default Standard Picture Style setting (left) to its Fine Detail preset at base ISO. Like the 5DS/R, the Canon 6D Mark II offers users much more flexibility in sharpening than other EOS models, allowing you to adjust not only the "Strength" (from 0 to 7) but also the "Fineness" (1 to 5) and "Threshold" (1 to 5) operators. We believe these parameters correlate to unsharp mask options for strength, radius and threshold available in photo editing software such as Photoshop, although we don't know what the equivalent units might be.

The Fine Detail Picture Style preset boosts the Sharpness Strength operator one notch (to 4 out of 7) while dialing down the Fineness (1/5) and Threshold (1/5) operators to their minimum compared to Standard which defaults to Sharpness: 3/7, Fineness: 4/5 and Threshold: 4/5. The result is improved, more natural-looking rendering of fine detail along with less obvious sharpening halos than the default Standard setting. However, noise is more visible in flatter areas, and contrast is lower, making the Fine Detail image appear to have less "pop" than the default Picture Style. There also appear to be minor differences in color, even though Color Tone, Saturation and Contrast settings are identical between these two Picture Styles presets. Given the flexibility in settings, though, you may be able to find a better combination than the defaults compared above.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above the Canon 6D Mark II produces JPEG images with very good detail, but that are somewhat soft with visible sharpening halos. With a good RAW converter, additional detail can often be extracted with fewer sharpening artifacts. See below:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare a best quality in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 via DNG Converter 9.12 using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (350%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

Looking closely at the images, we can see ACR extracts additional detail that isn't present in the default JPEG from the camera, particularly in the red-leaf and pink swatches where the fine thread pattern is likely treated as noise by the JPEG engine and thus blurred away. Fine detail in the mosaic crop is also improved, but as is often the case, the conversion isn't as clean and smooth looking, with more noise that can be seen for instance in the flatter areas of the bottle crop. You can of course apply stronger noise reduction (default ACR NR used here) to arrive at your ideal noise versus detail tradeoff. Also notice sharpening halos aren't nearly as strong as the default camera output. As usual, you can do noticeably better by shooting in RAW mode and using a good RAW converter.

ISO & Noise Performance
Very good high ISO performance for a full-frame sensor.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 50 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 3200 ISO 6400 ISO 12,800
ISO 25,600 ISO 40,000 ISO 51,200
ISO 102,400

Images are very clean and detailed up to ISO 800, with a only a minor loss in image quality as ISO rises within this range, though signs of noise reduction are visible even at base ISO. At ISO 1600 luminance noise and blurring become noticeable resulting in a more evident drop in image quality, though fine detail is still very good and chroma noise is well-controlled. ISO 3200 is a bit grainier but chroma noise remains low and fine detail is still quite good. ISO 6400 is of course noisier with stronger blurring due to noise reduction, but a lot of fine detail remains intact and chroma noise is still low. ISO 12,800 is still fairly detailed with reasonable luma and chroma noise, but ISO 25,600 and higher show a more rapid decline in image quality with progressively stronger luma noise and blurring, although chroma noise remains fairly well-controlled up to the maximum native ISO of 40,000. Extended ISO of 51,200 is pretty soft and noisy but the noise grain is still fairly tight and chroma noise is only an issue in darker areas and shadows. The top ISO of 102,400 is very grainy and contains a lot of ugly chroma noise blotches, though overall color and saturation remain surprisingly good for the sensitivity.

Overall, very good high ISO performance, though mediocre default JPEG processing doesn't make the best of what the camera's sensor has to offer. See the Print Quality section below for our evaluation of maximum print sizes at each ISO setting.

A note about focus for this shot: We used to shoot this image at f/4, however depth of field became so shallow with larger, high-resolution sensors that it was difficult to keep important areas of this shot in focus, so we have since started shooting at f/8, the best compromise between depth of field and sharpness.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Somewhat high default contrast with limited dynamic range in JPEGs. Very good low-light performance.

0.0 EV +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

The Canon 6D Mark II produces images with moderately high contrast. The mannequin's face was too dim at the default exposure here and a few too many highlights were blown with +0.7EV, so we preferred the image with +0.3 EV exposure compensation overall even though the face is still a touch dim. Even at only +0.3 EV, quite a few bright highlights were clipped in the shirt and flowers, and noise in deep shadows is a higher than we're used to seeing from a full-frame camera these days. Bottom line: The Canon 6D Mark II's dynamic range at low ISOs has not kept up with the competition, nor is it as good as the flagship 5D Mark IV's.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)

Highlight Tone Priority
The Canon 6D Mark II's Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) option did a good job of preserving highlight detail, as shown below. (Mouse over the Off and On links to load the corresponding thumbnail, histogram and crops.)

Highlight Tone Priority



(Levels boosted
to reveal noise.)

Both shots above were captured at the same exposure with no exposure compensation, the only difference being that HTP was enabled for the second shot. Note that ISO 200 was used as HTP is not available at lower ISOs; part of how HTP works.

As you can see, the thumbnails, histograms and crops above clearly show superior highlight preservation when HTP is enabled, with very little impact to the brightness of shadows and midtones. If you look closely at shadows (the levels in shadow crops above are heavily boosted to reveal noise that would be difficult to see otherwise), you'll notice an increase in noise is the price you pay.

Far-field Highlight Tone Priority

Above you can see Highlight Tone Priority at work in our Far-field shot. Because the default exposure was a bit dim there weren't any blown highlights to begin with, however you can see that some of the brighter highlights have been toned down.

Automatic Lighting Optimization
Like previous Canon EOS models, the 6D Mark II offers three selectable levels of Automatic Lighting Optimizer (ALO), plus Off. In fully automatic modes (Scene Intelligent Auto and Creative Auto) ALO is automatically enabled and it's manually selectable in P, Tv and Av exposure modes. Mouse over the links below to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the links to load full resolution images.

Automatic Lighting Optimization

As you can see above, ALO has the effect of shifting shadows and mid-tones in the histograms to the right, brightening them while leaving highlights pretty much as is, improving the exposure without blowing additional highlights. ISO is not boosted for ALO so increased noise is not an issue, though it may be slightly more visible in shadows that have been boosted significantly.

Far-field Automatic Lighting Optimization

Above are the effects of ALO on our Far-field shot. As you can see, it operated mainly on the shadows and midtones, leaving highlights pretty much intact, producing a more balanced and pleasing exposure.

HDR Mode
The Canon 6D Mark II's HDR feature takes three continuous shots at different exposures and merges them together to create an image with wider tonal range than would be possible with a single exposure. There are three strength settings available (+/-1EV, +/-2EV,+/-3EV), plus Auto, and there are also 5 effects possible (Natural, Art Standard, Art Vivid, Art Bold and Art Embossed). The source images captured are not saved, and RAW mode is not supported.

Far-field High Dynamic Range

Above are in-camera HDR Natural results of our Far-field scene (mouse over the links above to load the corresponding thumbnail). As you can see Auto produced the most natural image while +/-3 EV is a little extreme and quite flat looking, Notice that all settings produce a slightly cropped image which is upsampled to full resolution, so details are a little softer than the non-HDR image, but quality is otherwise quite good with no noticeable haloing even at the highest setting. Be aware that ghosting can occur when elements of the scene move during the sequence capture, though, as can be seen with the moving flag, leaves and people in some of these shots.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we decided to compare the Canon 6D Mark II's dynamic range to its predecessor, the 6D, and also to its closest Nikon competitor, the D750. You can always compare other models on

As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger version), the Canon 6D Mark II's dynamic range is unfortunately not improved over the 6D and is actually slightly lower, with a peak of about 11.9 EV at base ISO versus 12.1 EV for the 6D, and the old model does better across the ISO range with up to about 1/3 EV advantage.

The Canon 6D Mark II fares much worse compared to the Nikon D750, with the Nikon providing a whopping 2.6 stops more dynamic range at base ISO (14.53 EV). The Canon gradually catches up to the Nikon at moderate (ISO 1600) to high ISOs, but the Canon's dynamic range disadvantage at lower ISOs is very disappointing.

Bottom line: Poor low-ISO dynamic range for a modern full-frame camera, with even a slight step back from the 5-year-old 6D. Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Canon 6D Mark II for more of their test results and additional comparisons.

  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc

2s, f2.8

30s, f2.8

30s, f2.8

1/15s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1/200s, f2.8

1/12s, f2.8

1/12s, f2.8

Low Light
The Canon 6D Mark II performed very well in our low-light tests, capturing bright images at the lowest light level (1/16 foot-candle) even at base ISO (100), however noise in deep shadows is higher than most recent full-frame cameras we've tested. As expected, noise increases as ISO goes up and light levels go down, but luminance noise remains quite low and fine-grained at ISO 3200, and chroma noise is well-controlled. Even at the maximum native ISO of 40,000, luma noise is fairly fine-grained and chroma noise is well-controlled, making it very usable sensitivity setting.

We didn't notice any hot pixels except when long-exposure noise reduction was disabled, where you'd expect to see them. We didn't see any signs of heat blooming and banding (fixed pattern noise) is not an issue.

Color balance was fairly neutral with Canon 6D Mark II's Auto white balance setting, just a touch cool at the higher light level, but warmer at the lower light level.

Low-light AF limits:
When using the optical viewfinder with dedicated phase-detect AF (center point), the Canon 6D Mark II's autofocus system was able to focus on our legacy low-contrast AF target down to -3.0 EV unassisted with an f/2.8 lens, meeting Canon's spec. With our newer high-contrast AF target, the 6D Mark II was able to focus down to -5.6 EV, which is quite good.

In Live View mode, the Canon 6D Mark II's autofocus could focus down to -1.8 EV with our low-contrast target, and down to -3.2 EV with our high-contrast AF target, which is fair.

The Canon 6D Mark II does not have a built-in AF assist lamp, however it can utilize an external flash's AF assist lamp to focus in complete darkness when the subject is within range and has sufficient contrast.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Digital SLRs like the Canon 6D Mark II do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Excellent 30 x 40 inch prints at ISO 50-200; a nice 13 x 19 at ISO 3200; a good 5 x 7 at ISO 25,600.

ISOs 50 through 200 deliver excellent prints at 30 x 40 inches and larger, until you run out of resolution at your intended viewing distance. These prints showcase superb fine detail, vibrancy and "pop" with terrific color.

ISO 400 yields a very nice 30 x 40 inch printed image as well. There is perhaps a subtle decrease in fine detail in higher-contrast areas of our target, but only if you get close and really look for it. Otherwise, it's still a terrific print at this size.

ISO 800 is also capable of a good 30 x 40 inch print! This is quite large for ISO 800, and an impressive feat. There is slightly less fine detail on display than the ISO 400 print, but not enough to keep us from calling it good, and not much noise to speak of either. Very nicely done here!

ISO 1600 prints are quite good at 24 x 36 inches, showcasing excellent fine detail for this sensitivity. There is a minor decrease in contrast detail now evident in the red channel, and minor softening in some additional high-contrast areas of our test target, but not enough to keep us from calling this one good in general.

ISO 3200 is a setting that draws most all cameras back down to earth, and the 6D Mark II is no exception. The 20 x 30 inch prints here do indeed pass our good seal of approval, but there is a general softening in the fine detail department pretty much across the board, and very little contrast detail remaining in our tricky red-leaf swatch. For your most critical prints we advise a further reduction to 16 x 20 inches here.

ISO 6400 shots look good printed up to 13 x 19 inches. Pushing the size envelope any larger here results in too much in the way of noise in flatter areas of our target generated by noise reduction artifacts, and there's also a bit too much softening in the red channel for anything larger than 13 x 19's here.

ISO 12,800 prints at 11 x 14 inches just pass our good seal, and that's a large print for this ISO indeed. There is no contrast detail remaining in our test target red fabric swatch, but at this size there is still enough color representation and fine detail to call this a good print. For super-critical applications we can advise the 8 x 10's here.

ISO 25,600 delivers an 8 x 10 inch print that is not bad, and fine for less critical applications, but that exhibits too much obvious noise in some areas of our target to warrant our good seal. A reduction in size to 5 x 7 inches is recommended here, which still yields a fairly vibrant print for this lofty ISO.

ISO 40,000 is the maximum native ISO gain setting and also allows for a good 5 x 7 inch print with only a few minor apparent issues.

ISO 51,200 yields a surprisingly good 5 x 7 for this ISO, but it's a bit too washed out overall to warrant our good seal. It would likely still be usable in most non-critical applications, though, such as family snapshots. For good prints you can rely on the 4 x 6's here.

ISO 102,400 prints are simply too noisy at any size and therefore this setting is not recommended.

The Canon 6D Mark II delivers exceptional print quality results, especially when you factor in the relatively affordable price tag for a full-frame camera. Matching stride for available print sizes with its pricier, higher-resolution sibling the 5D Mark IV across the available ISO range, the 6D II delivers a lot of value in the ability to achieve very good image quality output in print. The Canon 6D Mark II also bests the sizes available from the popular predecessor 6D at all ISO settings from 400 through 12,800, yielding a good argument for trading up to this newer model. Indeed, at just $2,000 for the body, the Canon 6D Mark II certainly represents very solid value for the image quality potential offered, for those that can live with its below-par dynamic range at low ISOs.


The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon EOS 6D Mark II Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon EOS 6D Mark II with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

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