Canon 6D Mark II Video Features, Specs & Analysis

by Posted May 25, 2018

Canon 6D Mark II Video Samples

The Canon 6D II is technically a video camera, but it's not one that meshes well with the demands of modern video production, even on the small scale. Though it's fine at capturing stills, as you can read about in our Field Tests, it doesn't pick up the slack in video. It offers most of the frame rate options that 1080p shooters are looking for, but the quality of that video is well below the industry "par" for the time it was released and most certainly now in 2018. The quality of the 1080p video isn't that much worse than other cameras in its price range, like the Sony A7 III, but the 6D Mark II has no option to capture in 4K, which forces you to accept lower-res video with no other options in a camera body that costs $1600.

When I am putting that kind of coin down on a camera in 2018, I would expect more than what the 6D II offers.

So what does it offer? Let's take a look.

Capture Options

The 6D II offers Full HD video capture in both NTSC and PAL formats in three frame rate choices: 24p, 30p and 60p. You can also capture in regular HD (720p) if you so desire. Here is the complete breakdown of all capture formats available:

  • 1920 x 1080p: 23.98/25/29.97*/50/59.94 fps
  • 1280 x 720p: 23.98/25/29.97/50/59.94 fps

*In Full HD, there are also two IPB (interframe) compression options for 30p(29.97): Normal and "Light."

You may have noticed that there is no high frame rate option available for the 6D II. You would be right: the 6D II can only capture at up 60p in Full HD, which is another disappointment considering what other cameras in its price range can do. An option for 120 frames per second capture would have helped distract from the rest of rather sparse video capture options on this camera.

I understand that many video shooters don't need a huge list of video capture options that come on cameras such as on the Panasonic GH5 or even the much shorter, but still huge, list of options found on the Sony A7 III. But to be limited to just four Full HD frame rate capture options (24p, 30p, 30p IPB Light, and 60p) in a body this expensive is disappointing. The "Light" capture option in 30p would be, in most cases, nice, but here I would recommend against it. Though it cuts the clip file size down by about 60%, when you're already working with such low quality video I would hesitate to willingly lower it further. That said, you would really have to be looking closely to notice a visual difference between the "Light" and regular compression options. In regular, there is a slight sharpness increase. It's hard to see since the quality of the footage is already pretty muddy, but it's there.

To be more specific on the "quality" of the footage I keep mentioning, I'll elaborate. The 6D II captures 1080p video at an undisclosed bitrate in-camera, but some investigation revealed the 24p framerate to be just 30Mbps, and the 60p just 60Mbps. It's also worth noting that the codecs available on the 6D II are actually worse than those available on the original 6D. Canon stripped the higher-quality ALL-I codec options and therefore higher bitrates from the Mark II, which were present in the original.

What this means is worse color, less dynamic range, and reduced detail in the video compared to the original iteration of this camera, notwithstanding how poorly it compares to other full frame video-capable cameras from Nikon and Sony.

ISO Performance

One "benefit" you might be able to extrapolate from overall low quality video is that any perceived noise or image degradation caused by high ISO is much less visible. This is a point I have made note of before in other modern Canon DSLRs. If an image is already bad, it's hard to see when it starts to get even worse. So with that in mind, you're going to see very little change in quality through the ISO range until you hit ISO 6400. At that point, you may start to notice an increase in noise, but it only becomes very noticeable at ISO 25600 where, at that point and after it, the quality is so poor that I cannot recommend it, even if you just need to capture the scene. Colors and textures get completely mushed and indistinct, and the noise climbs to a very high, unbearable level. The two extended high ISO options (51200 and 102400) are extremely noisy and should be avoided.

I apologize for being so down in the dumps here, but to revisit previous statements on quality, the low bitrates and high compression on the 6D II do not translate to good ISO performance in video despite those hangups. No, instead they result in worse performance across the board.

Shooting Experience

If there is one thing the 6DII does well, it's the shooting experience. Canon has really refined the menus, buttons and triggers over the years and that much is obvious: there are few cameras that feel as good to use as a Canon DSLR. The record button is easy to press and is very responsive, the menus make a lot of sense and are easy to navigate, and the Q menu combined with the 6D II's touchscreen makes it s super easy tap and change shooting settings.

The flip-out screen or "vari-angle" as it is also referred to, is my personal preference over the tilt screen found other cameras due mainly to the ability to see the flip-out screens from the side or front. Though they are often considered to be less "sturdy" than the tilt screens, in practice I've never found that to be an issue.

The aforementioned touch screen is very nice, and one of the better versions of the technology you will find on the market. It's much better than the Sony Alpha camera touch screens (which are not great), and I even find it to be more responsive than the Panasonic GH5's. It's especially useful when combined with the Dual Pixel autofocus. Tapping and dragging to focus on the 6D II's screen feels so darn good, and the responsiveness of both the autofocus and the screen itself together craft a shooting experience that is just top notch. Few, if any, other companies are doing this one thing this well.

Speaking of autofocus, it's exactly what I have come to expect from a Canon DSLR that features Dual Pixel CMOS AF. It's not better or worse, it's not a new experience, and it's not special among Canon cameras nowadays, but it is efficient and satisfactory, and that in itself is laudable. There are still cameras out there with awful live-view focusing and gratefully, the 6D II is not one of them.

The Final Takeaways

Normally I would have more to talk about when it comes to a camera's video capture capability, especially a full frame one that is less than a year old, but I do not in this case. Sadly, the Canon 6D II has few capture options, no 4K (except for a built-in 4K time lapse feature), no image stabilization features (save for a couple digital stabilization options -- which crop the frame as shown in the video below), and has objectively worse video capture capabilities than the original 6D.

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.

Though it features some straightforward user interfaces and great usability, the video quality itself just does not have any place in a modern camera and doesn't even come close to competing with any camera like it. Creating great videos does not require a great camera, but it does require one. When given the option to purchase the 6D II, you have to ask yourself: is this the best use of $1600 if I'm serious about shooting video?

The answer is no, it's not. Even if you already have all the lenses for Canon, the 6D II is just so underwhelming at video that it's not worth buying as a video camera. It's a slap in the face to consumers because instead of making a camera better, Canon chose to make it worse than the original, market it as an upgrade, and charge nearly $2000 for it. That is unacceptable.

I feel like I always have to state how much I want Canon to succeed here. I was the biggest of Canon fanboys for years, mainly because the Canon 20D was the first digital camera I ever used, and started me on a path of buying Canon DSLRs for the better part of 15 years. I've been on Canon's sidelines cheering them on for my entire career, and it's almost physically painful to watch them do what they have been doing to cameras as of late. Though they never admit it, Canon seems fearful of undercutting their Cinema EOS line, which has huge ramifications to the video features they choose to put into their DSLRs. It's sad that they seem to believe that the people buying a 6D Mark II or 5D Mark IV are the same people who are going to buy a C300 Cinema EOS camera. The concept of growing with a company and upgrading (because that jump is an upgrade in so many more ways than just 4K and frame rate options) seems lost on Canon.

And that sucks because the 6D Mark II and other Canon DSLRs are just such a joy to use. They have such a wonderful design to the way we as shooters interact with them. Making videos on a Canon feels magical, but unfortunately seeing the fruits of that labor tastes sour.

 



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