Canon EOS 6D Mark II Sensor Review: Great color and ISO performance

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DxOMark Sensor

Launched in June 2017, the EOS 6D Mark II is Canon’s latest semi-pro DSLR, aimed at enthusiasts looking to dip their toes in to full-frame photography, or pros after a more affordable second body. Five years on from the original 6D, the 6D Mark II boasts multiple upgrades, including a higher resolution sensor, improved autofocus system, faster frame rate and vari-angle touch-screen LCD. Built around a 26.2MP CMOS sensor, the 6D Mark II nestles between the 30.4MP 5D Mark IV and 22MP 5D Mark III for Canon full frame sensors, and provides a much needed resolution boost that puts it on par with key competitors, such as the 24MP Sony A7 II and Nikon D750.

The 6D Mark II’s autofocus system offers a significant improvement over its predecessor, featuring a maximum of 63 AF points (including 45 cross-type targets), focusing sensitivity down to f/8 and Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, for more accurate focusing using live view with stills and video capture. Its maximum native ISO has been increased to ISO 40,000 (up from 25,600 on the 6D), and remains expandable to ISO 102,400 when required. For burst shooting, the 6D Mark II now offers 6.5fps up to 150 JPEGs/21 RAW files, with full exposure and focusing tracking and Canon’s latest DIGIC 7 processing engine to crunch the data. The 3.0-inch LCD screen also benefits from an upgrade, including an increased 1.04m-dot resolution, vari-angle control for shooting video or framing stills at awkward angles and more user friendly touch-screen controls.

For video, the 6D Mark II offers full HD 1080p resolution at frame rates between 60 to 24fps, a maximum clip duration of nearly 30 minutes and capture in either .mp4 (MPEG4) or .mov (Motion JPEG) file formats.

Key Specifications:

  • 26.2Mp 35.9x24mm CMOS sensor with low-pass filter
  • 100 – 40,000 ISO (expandable to 102,400)
  • 45-point autofocus system with Dual Pixel AF in Live View
  • 0-inch, 1.04m-dot, touch-screen, vari-angle LCD
  • 5fps continuous shooting
  • Digic 7 processing engine
  • 1080p@60fps HD video

Overall image sensor performance

The Canon 6D Mark II’s new 26.2Mp full-frame CMOS sensor delivers very good overall performance, achieving a DxOMark sensor score of 85 points to rank as the 5th best Canon sensor we’ve tested.

Its stand out performance is in the Sports (Low-Light ISO) category, where a very good score of ISO 2862 ensures well-controlled noise on unprocessed RAW files up to mid ISO sensitivities. Its headline score for Portrait (Color Depth) is also very good at 24.4 bits, putting it inline with recent Canon sensors we’ve tested and ensuring excellent color using low to mid ISO settings.

For Landscape (Dynamic Range) its headline score of 11.9 Ev is a slight step back compared to the original 6D however, and remains off the pace compared to the best performing new sensors from both Canon, as well as its main Nikon and Sony competition.

Image Quality compared

Improvements in the Sports (Low-Light ISO) and Portrait (Color Depth) scores over the original 6D have propelled the 6D Mark II in to the top 5 for Canon sensors.

Click here to open our interactive DxOMark comparison tool

It remains a little behind the first Canon chip to crash through the 90-point barrier in the 5D Mark IV however. The primary reason is that dynamic range performance lags around 1.5 stops behind the 5D Mark IV at base ISO, making Canon’s higher resolution and more expensive full-frame semi-pro DSLR the better option for landscape, architectural and bright light photography.

Canon can be commended for delivering both an increase in sensor resolution with an improvement in ISO on the 6D Mark II however. Although the difference in signal to noise ratios between the top five Canon chips is slight, well controlled noise in RAW files using sensitivities up to ISO 3200 makes the 6D Mark II a good low light option. A modest improvement in color depth at base ISO over its predecessor also gets the 6D Mark II much closer to the best performing Canon sensors.

Head to head against the current full-frame semi-pro DSLR completion from Nikon and Sony, the 6D Mark II compares well for both color and ISO performance. It’s that lower dynamic range score which has impacted on the 6D Mark II’s overall score however, with over 2-stops better dynamic range possible on the Nikon D750 at base ISO.

In-depth comparisons

For a more detailed analysis of sensor performance, our in-depth analysis takes a closer look at the 6D Mark II’s sensor performance, compared to the Nikon D750 & Sony A7 II throughout the ISO range.

Portrait (Color Depth)

Color Sensitivity is comparable between the three competing sensors, with only a slight advantage for the Nikon and Sony at lower ISOs, and practically the same performance at mid to high ISO sensitivities. We can say the difference is so slight as to be indiscernible in real world results, with all three sensors boasting excellent color over 20 bits up to ISO 1600, with good color around 17 bits up to ISO 6400.

Landscape (Dynamic Range)

It’s immediately obvious from the Dynamic Range graph the advantage the Nikon D750 and Sony A7 II offer at lower sensitivities up to ISO 1600. Whilst the 6D Mark II is far behind at base ISO, the gap narrows as sensitivity increases, with dynamic range much closer at ISO 800. Between ISO 3200 and 25,600, the 6D Mark II’s dynamic range is effectively the same as the D750 and marginally better than the Sony A7 II, which is encouraging for low light shooters.

Sports (Low-Light ISO)

In both printed and on-screen results for noise there’s almost nothing to separate the three sensors, with excellent signal to noise ratios around 30dB up to ISO 3200. Remember that’s on unprocessed RAW files too, so with effective noise reduction in post excellent results at much higher sensitivities, should be possible too.

Conclusion

Canon’s 6D proved a popular and affordable DSLR for serious-enthusiasts looking to step up to full frame, or pros after an affordable second body.

Five years on, it was crying out for an upgrade however, and the 6D Mark II’s resolution boost, improved autofocus system, faster frame rate and touch-screen LCD make it a more viable option in the modern market.

Its sensor performance continues the upward trend for Canon chips too, although it doesn’t quite hit the dizzy heights of Canon’s best sensor to date in the 5D Mark IV. This is a result of notably lower dynamic range recorded by the 6D Mark II at base ISO, which is a concern for photographers after the best image quality in good light. From ISO 800, dynamic range is much closer to the performance of semi pro rivals such as the Nikon D750 and Sony A7 II however, and with good color sensitivity at all settings and well-controlled noise the 6D Mark II lends itself better to low light photography.

In this review we have compared the Canon EOS 6D Mark II to its most direct rivals from other brands and among Canon’s own line-up. As usual, you can create your own comparison and in-depth analysis using our interactive image sensor comparison tool.

  • Jonathan

    For the landscape (dynamic range) graph, it looks like y’all inadvertently chose the α7RII instead of the α7II. The text, however, does refer to the α7II.

    • Stephan

      I have given report about this to dxo. The graph suggests by far superior high ISO performance of the A7II.

  • samemilio

    I’m not sure how good images are going to look on that 0-inch screen.. 😉

  • I’m not serious DR and happy image file 6d2.

  • Dima135

    I counted on this camera as a replacement for my 5d2. I thought to save $ 1300 and do not buy 5d4. And yes – a new AF, a flip screen, dualpixel – all this things is helpful. But on those ISO that I use the DR graph completely coincides with my 5d2. So this is the same suffering during processing and the constant need to reduce size of final images.

    • milex milex

      For the price of the 5D IV you can get a D750 and a bunch of good optics… (24-85mm 3.5/4.5 & 50mm 1.8D both almost for free… + 28-300 and 50mm 1.4 G… or even a D750 +24-85mm 3.5/4.5 + 50 1.4 G + the fantastic 70-200 F4 VR for the high price of the 5D IV).

      That’s wath I did, even if I kept my best Canon optics in case they wake up in a couple of years…

  • 45 AF points not 63

  • milex milex

    “For Landscape (Dynamic Range) its headline score of 11.9 Ev is a slight step back compared to the original 6D however, and remains off the pace compared to the best performing new sensors from both Canon, as well as its main Nikon and Sony competition.”

    “remains off the pace” is not a clear or strong enough expression I think…

    1EV = 2 times better, so D750 has dynamics 6 times wider !

    And you always should mention that dynamic range is much less necessary with less light… If you need 800 ISO, that’s because there is less srtong light, hence much less chance to need hight dynamics !

    And I can’t get why you call DR a “Landscape” feature… bad dynamics also means for portrait you get a burnt background even with a little backlight scene (I experienced that a lot with my 6D). That greatly reduces composition possibilities for portraits !

    • Jack

      If you’re getting blown out backgrounds taking portraits you should learn about lighting techniques because no amount of DR is going to help poor lighting…

      • Enrico I.

        You didn’t work it out witn ISO invariance cameras eh…

        https://improvephotography.com/34818/iso-invariance/

      • milex milex

        Flexibility, man… I don’t always have all my flashes and tripods with me.

      • Ben Brayev

        sometiems you want to shoot an animal with a bright background, it adds atmosphere. with the 6d you simply cant do that

        • Jack

          So I guess 1DX and 7D II users are out of luck as well?

          DR is great, and being able to “expose for the highlights” and recover shadow detail can be very powerful, but they shouldn’t be a deal breaker in portraits.

          You don’t hear portrait photographers discuss dynamic range. You’ll definitely hear landscape photographers discuss it and ways to cope with it.

          • Ben Brayev

            obviously it doesnt matter much for portraits, thats why my comment had nothing to do with portraits. i just gave an example why dynamic range matters in a specific situation that i happen to encounter a lot lately

          • Jack

            The original post was asking why dynamic range was a landscape rating. I had thought you were referring to that.

          • Jonathan

            “obviously it doesn’t matter much for portraits”…. Ummm… bulls**t! DR matters just as much for portraits outdoors as it does for landscapes. If you’re not using supplemental lighting (which can provide an entirely different look and style) then you’re at the mercy of your cameras DR for a great image. Avoiding an entire type of image (those with bright light in them) is a poor workaround for a minimally capable sensor.

          • Ben Brayev

            you’re right, im not really shooting portraits so i havent really gone through every scenario

          • Jonathan

            “You don’t hear portrait photographers discuss dynamic range.” Then you’re not listening. DR matters just as much for outdoor portrait photographers as they’re essentially taking a picture of a person in a landscape.

  • https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d5771c805fa2c5f91efaf36e9c107ae50e148826b8070ca34a08400d7183818e.gif …Lest we forget the old DXO chart design… 🙁

    Canon’s DR hit the ~12 EV wall about a decade ago, has only barely begun to pass it, …yet they decided to shove the 6D back down below that invisible barrier. Apparently Canon is back to their old “gotta entice the upgrade” eLitist habits.

    DXO, I don’t know how you managed to use the word “great” in the title of this review, this is a downright shameful performance. There is literally no way you can sort or filter today’s camera sensor ranking charts to make the 6D2 look “great”, considering how many cameras, including 2-3 generation old FF cameras, and even plenty of APS-C and 4/3 and 1″, that beat it in some respect or another.

    We can argue how the “average photographer” will never notice the difference, and that the dynamic range whining is totally overblown. There’s plenty of merit in that statement. However these metrics are still a very scary sign that Canon either 1.) doesn’t care, and/or 2.) has a serious engineering problem.

    • milex milex

      Thanks ! It shows that Canon has always been above average than its competitors on DR, but also that they haven’t followed the progression as the rest of the manufacturers…

      • Jay Wellington

        No, it shows Canon has been mostly BELOW average than its competitors.

        • milex milex

          shure that’s what I meant, I’ve writen too fast…

        • Ernest Green

          Yeah but it should also be noted that landscape DR is overblown. Virtually every camera since 8-10 years ago scores over an 11 at its base ISO which is excellent territory according to DXOmark. Anything over 10-11 range is something you’re not really going to distinguish from other cameras. Camera companies want you to think this so you can keep upgrading to the new model for the sole purpose of IQ. Stop worrying about tiny incremental improvements in IQ. If your absolute IQ comes down to pushing or pulling that last stop of DR, then you should improve the conditions upon which you shoot. Instead, go book a flight and travel and take pics.

          • milex milex

            I really don’t agree with you… see my long post below…

          • Nemesis

            If you think that 3 EV difference in dynamic range isnt incredibly powerful then you really should work on your pathetic processing buddy, stop spilling bullshit to defend your fanboy idol, we are not blind.

          • lmao yea keep repeating that to yourself… Try something with monstrous dynamic range like D750 or K-1 and you will understand how much Canon sucks in that department…


            tgchan.com

          • Mister Aperture

            I did try the D750, but I kept having to send it back to Factory to fix!! K-1 sounds legit, but the Mark IV is the best camera out there under $4k

          • It’s not a matter of trying to grab that last stop of DR, because many real world scenes have a DR of 14, 15, 16 stops. So if you want to expose for the whole scene, coming up 2 or more stops shorter than you would with a modern FF sensor— that’s actually a bigger deal than you make it sound.

      • HF

        And 5div and 1dxii are well above but not shown here.

  • TinusVerdino

    DR is a joke. It is 2010 dr in a 2017 camera. Now let’s see the D850

  • Jeff

    a full frame camera sensor with dynamic range less than Sony 1 inch sensor?
    Must be an idiot to buy this

    how can a full frame camera in 2017 have such dynamic range?
    Canon really think customers are stupid?

    • Athanasius Kirchner

      In practice they’re much closer, I have around the same latitude in post on my RX100M4 and 6D files. Canon should be proud, they finally got to the level of the world’s most advanced consumer-level sensor… that is eight times smaller 😀
      But seriously, while I think Canon made a huge blunder with the sensor choice, I wouldn’t call 6DII users ‘idiots’. It can be a very effective tool in the right hands, even with the primitive sensor.

    • milex milex

      a full frame camera sensor with a focus coverage of an APS-C ?
      Must be an idiot to buy this

      This sentence could be used for many caracteristics of the 6D II 😉

    • Nemesis

      Yes and sadly Canon customers in comments once again demonstrated their stupidity.

      • Jeff

        all fanboy talk, when dynamic range is way behind competition
        than dyanamic range is not important

        sadly too many fanboy in camera world
        so Canon can sell this garbage sensor full frame camera in 2017

        • Jeff

          I am a Sony “fanboy” so to speak
          but if Sony try to sold me a garbage sensor like this

          I will switch brand and not defending Sony saying dynamic range not important
          This statement those who said that really believe?

          Canon is like an idol to them. Must be perfect in all aspect

      • Cristián Alejandro

        i have canon 60 d, sigma 24. 1.4 art , 50 1.4 canon , and i was waiting on this so badly , i am from chile south america actually i have the cash a lot of money for my country…. and yes now i am selling all the dem staff… may be d750 or 760 if coming soon … such a waist of time waiting this.

  • Bruno Monteiro

    Interesting comparison with the D750. Except that camera is 3 years old and eats the 6Dmk2 for breakfast. It’s sad times for Canon. I’m considering moving to Sony quite soon…

    • milex milex

      When the D760 will be available, the comparison could be one more step harder than with the 3 years old D750 !

      • Cristián Alejandro

        si when it will hap that??

  • Juha Vainio

    5 years later Canon “manages” to release new version of 6D with almost same sensor measurements. What an achievement.