Full-frame: the holy grail of DSLR cameras. The term describes a sensor size equivalent to a classic 35mm film frame. And in 2017 it's a market more accessible than ever before, rather than just something for heavyweight pros to handle.
Which is what the Canon EOS 6D Mark II sets out to achieve, as the replacement of 2012's 6D. Sure, we've seen sub-£2K full-frame cameras before now - we're looking at you Nikon D750 - but the 6D Mark II adds yet greater flexibility with its vari-angle touchscreen. This is Canon adapting, as it's the first time we've seen such a feature in its full-frame cameras.
But with the even-more-pro-spec Canon EOS 5D Mark IV already on the market, does the more affordable 6D make its mark?
Canon 6D Mark II review: Design
- 765g body for the lightest full-frame DSLR to date
- Vari-angle LCD with touchscreen controls
- Built-in viewfinder with 98 per cent field-of-view
- Dust and drip resistant body
- Canon EF lens mount
One of the most striking things about the 6D MkII is that it's the lightest full-frame camera every made. Not just within Canon's range, either, but by any company - it's 75g lighter than the Nikon D750, for example. Although that's an achievement in one direction, it's not a point to make a massive fuss about, really, given how heavy top-notch full-frame lenses are. Still, kudos for cutting some of the heft.
Compared to the original 6D, the Mark II is also a few millimetres less deep. Although you might not notice that in the hand, it's more of an achievement than it sounds thanks to the newly appointed vari-angle LCD monitor. Finally, Canon is embracing screen-based work in a full-frame camera - the kind of thing that's not only ideal when out on the go, but also a feature some will find useful for still life studio work too.
Better still, the screen is touch-responsive, meaning you can press to focus and make adjustments. This is Canon embracing the smartphone era and adapting its technologies accordingly - which we've been waiting for a long time to see properly implemented in a full-frame DSLR. It works really well, too.
Up top there's the same optical viewfinder as found in the earlier 6D. It's got a 98 per cent field-of-view rather than a full-on what-you-see-is-what-you-get 100 per cent frame. Not the end of the world, but a bit of a shame to not see that outermost two per cent during shooting. We suspect this is intentional to push those even more pro users towards the 5D MkIV (and to depart with yet more cash in doing so).
Canon EOS 6D MkII review: Performance
- 45-point all cross-type AF system (focus to -3EV)
- Dual Pixel AF for on-screen autofocus
- Digic 7 processor (first for Canon in full-frame)
- 6.5fps burst shooting (4fps in live view)
- Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth LE and GPS all built-in
Not only is the screen touch-sensitive, the sensor it's paired with has autofocus pixels on its surface, which Canon terms as Dual Pixel AF technology. In short this means focusing using the screen is almost as fast as you'll find from a mirrorless camera. It's very nippy indeed - and every bit as good as you'll find in the EOS 80D.
Which is a great reference point. The 6D II also pools in the 80D's equivalent focus system when using the viewfinder. Capable of low-light focus to -3EV, and comprising 45 autofocus points, all of which are cross-type (27 of them are sensitive to f/8, nine of which are cross-type sensitive to ensure heightened sensitivity if you're using, say, a slower lens or zoom extender) there's a lot of clout here.
Now, that's a great autofocus system, but it's not quite as advanced as the 61-point system you'll find in the EOS 5D IV. Again, Canon adding a point of separation between these two cameras to keep them both relevant.
With the latest and greatest Canon processor at the heart of the camera - that's Digic 7, if you were wondering - there's plenty of oil to keep this full-framer motoring on. It can shoot at 6.5fps (frames per second), which is pretty good going. Funnily enough, however, it's half a frame per second slower than the 5D IV - a camera that's also higher resolution - so, clearly, that processor isn't being used to the maximum.
To the side of the 6D MkII is a card slot for an SD card (UHS-I max). Just the one of them, too, as a second slot has been swerved - presumably on account of cost and size.
Canon 6D Mark 2 review: Image quality and video
- Brand new 26.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor
- ISO to 40,000 (expanded ISO 50-102,400)
- 7,560 pixel metering sensor
- 1080p 60fps max video (no 4K)
- Headphones socket, no microphone socket
On the image quality front Canon has introduced a brand new full-frame sensor in the 6D II. It's a 26.2-megapixel one, which we think is a savvy resolution. The 5D IV is 30MP by comparison, which doesn't sound like a great deal more - but anything greatly over 24MP, we find, introduces certain complications to consider with shutter speeds (due to capturing movement, resulting in less-than-perfect sharpness) and greater file sizes.
Despite snapping some shots around St Paul's Cathedral in London, we weren't able to take these frames away with us to get a closer look. So we'll have to wait until there's a full and final production camera before we can pass any more critical comment.
Canon is clearly confident with this sensor, however, as it can snap up to ISO 40,000 as standard. If you're feeling especially brave that can be extended to ISO 102,400 for ultra-dark lighting condition work - not that we've found such a setting to be useful in any camera before now, frankly.
On the video front, Canon continues to go light with its offering. The 6D Mark II can shot 1080p at 60fps max, avoiding the current 4K trend - something Canon is keen to reserve for its higher-end C-series video-focused DSLR cameras, such as the C300. And if you think that's unfair then point your eyes to Sony's full-frame SLT and mirrorless options as one alternative.
Overall we think the Canon EOS 6D Mark II is a really interesting proposition. Sure, it's not mere pennies of investment, but at sub-£2K for the body it's a lot less than the 5D Mark IV and, in some areas, the 6D has more features.
The only notable downers are the lack of a second SD card slot, the viewfinder still not being 100 per cent field-of-view, and the ongoing lack of higher-end video investment.
However, with a resolution sweet-spot and vari-angle LCD touchscreen this seems to be the full-frame Canon to add flexibility to the EOS stable. It's versatile and, we suspect, will appeal to a wider range of enthusiasts than, well, any other full-frame DSLR we can pull to mind. Crackin'.
The Canon EOS 6D Mark II will go on sale in July 2017, priced £2,000 body-only, or £2,380 with the 24-105mm STM lens.