M6 Mark II - Hands on Review

JohnC

EOS M50
Sep 22, 2019
46
39
Gainesville,GA
All:

I've had this body for a couple of weeks now, and thought it might be interesting to here from a perspective of someone that has historically shot 5D bodies. I briefly owned an M3 (was never thrilled with it), and also a Fuji XT-2 (which I liked shooting a lot but didn't care for the raw files).

First, I picked this body up primarily to have a small system to use on business trips (or non-photographic centered trips) and also for use in documented the activities of the little ones in the house. I wasn't and am not looking to completely switch the systems that I use, particularly for my landscape work. With that said, here are my thoughts regarding various aspects of the M6 Mark II and some sample images illustrating what I believe to be true at this point of ownership.

Ergonomics

This body is obviously much smaller and lighter than what I typically shoot. That in itself is perfect as I want a system that doesn't take up much space, and keeps the weight down. Despite the small size, the body feels pretty good in my hands, even when using an adapter and a larger EF lens attached. To be sure though, it is most comfortable when fitted with one of the EF-M lenses designed for it (I have the 18-150,22, and 11-22). I find the controls to be fairly easy to reach, and it has become rather intuitive in the small amount of time I've used it.

1. I do think could be improved is the control dial on the back of the body. The knurled edge seems a bit sharper than it needs to be in my opinion. Also, at times when turning it with the thumb, I have accidentally pressed one side or the other and activated a menu I didn't want to activate. The tactility of turning the wheel I find to be more than acceptable.

2. I have reached for the "info" button a few times by feel and accidentally get the AF button instead. I don't think this is a problem per say, but more just getting accustomed to having less real estate on the camera body.

3. The "*" button is situation above the focusing point button on the extreme right edge. Just personal taste but I would prefer those be swapped. That could change with further use.

4. Drag and focus - I have really learned to appreciate this functionality. In effect it somewhat negates #3 as I don't reach for those particular buttons because of it. I have the sensitive area set to the bottom right of the screen, absolute position and in my opinion this works wonderfully.



Image/File Quality

Overall, I"m really happy with the quality of the image files I'm getting with this new sensor. While I wouldn't say it rises to the general level of the files I get with my 5d Mark IV, I would also say that from what I can tell at this point some improvements have been made in the sensor design. While I'm not able to measure the dynamic range, from my testing so far I seem to have a lot of room for highlight recovery, and potentially even more room for recovering shadow detail due to the noise characteristics of this sensor.

Shadow Recovery

This area in particular is where I see improvements in this sensor even over the 5D Mark IV. As an example take a look at the image below:




I've adjusted the exposure overall, but notice that the missing window pane in the top left (2 over and 2 down) is totally dark. Below is a crop of that area, in which I've increased the exposure beyond what you see here by a value of 4 in Lightroom:




Now obviously the area around the pane is completely blown out as you would expect, but look at what I was able to recover from a totally black area of the image? There is actually detail from inside the building. Also notice the characteristic of the noise itself, there is NO banding. I can tell you from experience I would have seen color banding when attempting this with the 5D Mark IV. Herein lies where I think a lot of improvement has been made with this sensor.

Of course there is no way I would attempt to recover something nearly this far in actual use, but I feel like it is an appropriate indicator of the performance that should be possible in scenes with a lot of dynamic range. Shooting into the sun at sunset for example.

Usable ISO

This is an area in which I'm probably not the best judge of image quality. For my type of shooting I very rarely shoot at anything over ISO 400, and more often than not at ISO 100. I have used files at ISO 1000 from the 5D Mark IV and find the results to be pretty darn good in a landscape shot, but that is a rare occurrence.

Regarding the M6 Mark II, there is most definitely more noise in even shots at ISO 100 when compared with the 5D Mark IV files. It isn't objectionable and seems to be rather easily dealt with in Lightroom, although I find that my default noise adjustment is higher than the 10 I normally start with on the 5D Mark IV. In the interest of exploring higher ISO sensitivities with the M6 Mark II however, here are a couple of image files at higher ISO.

*All of the next three shots are with an adapted Sigma 150mm macro

ISO 6400


ISO 2000


ISO 3200


Important note - It seems to me that Canon's internal JPG engine deals with image noise better than I can do in Lightroom. In nearly all cases what I see in the embedded JPG "looks" better at the pixel level. Being that I'm not super experienced in noise reduction (I don't have much to deal with in my shooting) I'm sure people far more familiar with noise reduction could get better results.

Consequently I suspect that ISO values above 6400 are also usable, but I personally don't have a reason to go higher than 6400. For my purposes, these results are great for the few times I'm shooting something where I need higher ISO values.

Overall I'm extremely happy with the performance of this sensor. While I haven't spent a lot of times actually shooting landscapes as of yet I think I will be very pleased based on my use cases so far. I like working with the files far better than I did the Fuji files (this is entirely due to strange sharpening artifacts that I found difficult to deal with effectively).

NOTE: I have found that I prefer using the Camera Neutral profile for my 5D Mark IV in Lightroom. For whatever the reasons may be (I'm not sure) there are no camera specific profiles for the M6 Mark II in Lightroom. It could have something to do with the new .CR3 format and hopefully they will eventually show up.

AF Performance

Here again is an area that I just don't have a lot of expertise. Other than taking snapshots I have always manually focused for my landscape work. Even on the few occasions where I was shooting birds, etc. I typically was on a tripod and using one spot/recompose for that. Basically, this represents the first body that I've actually tried AF tracking by any method so take that into account when reading my observations.

All of the shots in the previous section were taken hand held. They all were taken using tracking AF. In fact in most cases the wind was blowing enough to make initial acquisition a challenge. Once the target was acquired, I think the system worked really well. I won't say there was a 70% keeper rate or anything since I was looking for critical focus of the eye area which is a pretty small spot. Considering the overall movements due to wind were very unpredictable I was frankly pretty amazed.

All of those images were taken in short bursts with the normal high-speed setting (14fps). I don't think I had a string longer than 6-7 images in any of the bursts. I did NOT try the 30fps mode although I will at some point.

I did track a few planes, and some people and as you would expect the tracking worked significantly better. On a couple of occasions I did find that the initial target would "get changed" when another person passed close by or something of that nature. I think it worked well, but it could be fooled in those circumstances. On the planes there was no issue at all.

***Adapted glass works well (tried 70-200 f4L and Sigma 150mm macro) but I do think the tracking suffers to some extent. That is most likely due to focusing speed of the lens vs. anything else. The Sigma in particular was never a fast focusing lens.

Rear Screen and option EVF

The rear screen seems fine to me although I haven't used it much to actually shoot with. The big surprise for me is the quality of the EVF. As I said before I've used the M3, as well as the Fuji XT-2 and in my opinion this option EVF easily surpasses either of those. To be completely frank it probably has made me a believer in mirrorless systems. I forgot that I was looking at a TV screen almost immediately. Usually my reminder was when I accidentally hit the wrong button and the menu popped up in the viewfinder for some reason. After the first day or two I actually haven't taken it off the body at all.

***I'm sure I will use the rear screen far more when on a tripod and shooting landscape, but for the type shooting I have been doing so far the EVF has worked surprisingly well. I'm impressed! (coming from someone who thought I would never be able to not have an OVF.
 

JohnC

EOS M50
Sep 22, 2019
46
39
Gainesville,GA
Menu system and custom shooting modes

This is typical Canon and if you are use to them there will be no huge surprises here. I'm still playing around with settings but so far I have C1 set to Av, AF Servo, tracking, and with high shutter speed lower limits and auto ISO from 100-6400. C2 I have set up for manual operation at ISO 100.

M System Weakness

1. The lens line-up. I suppose I"m spoiled from shooting Zeiss glass along with the 70-200 f4L for my landscapes. At first I looked at images using the 18-150 and thought, hmmm what is going on here? Well the bottom line is... it just isn't as sharp as what I'm accustomed to using. While I don't KNOW this for a fact that is probably true for most of the range to some extent. Stopped down it seems to get better, and it is certainly usable just not what I'm accustomed to seeing. My default sharpening in Lr is "5" for my landscape work and I normally don't get it higher than 10. Locally I might apply more to certain areas but globally the value is pretty low. I'm finding that I'm hovering up in the 20s when using EFM glass. IMPORTANTLY this is mostly negated because you can use EF glass on the M6 fairly easily.

2. Battery life certainly isn't what I get with the 5D, but it isn't terrible either. I'm guessing to some extent as I haven't counted shots till the battery is dead, but I think somewhere in the 300-400 shot range would be about right.


In Summary

At this point I'm very pleased with my purchase. I think the system will be more than capable of doing what I want to do with it. On those occasions where it isn't practical to haul around 30lbs. worth of gear on my shoulder this little Domke F10 bag with a body and 3 lenses is both small and weighs about 3 lbs.

In fact I think the system is more capable than what I originally would have anticipated. I've never been able to shoot hand held macro well, and while the images above aren't ultra close or fantastic images the ease in which I was able to get a series of shots at critical focus was an eye-opener for me.

For someone looking for an ultra-light travel kit, I think the new M6 Mark II accomplishes the goal very well and gets you image quality that approaches that achievable with a full frame option.

Because I'm a landscape guy I had to throw this in, although they are nothing particularly special. The scene had a little potential but the fog rolled in thick. This was taken outside Austin, TX by the Colorado River while on a business trip.


 

AlanF

Canon 5DSR II
Aug 16, 2012
5,758
3,111
Thanks for this. I'll try the 90D in liveview for some of these types of shots.
 
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bhf3737

---
Sep 9, 2015
473
497
Calgary, Canada
www.flickr.com
Thanks for the nice and detailed review and impressions. I agree with most of the finding specially regarding the image quality and noise level.

I tested M6II + EF 100-400 LII (hand held) from a different perspective and partially reported my qualitative personal observations in the BIF thread:

1. Battery life was acceptable somehow (one battery, half a day, about 500 shots).
2. Noise level worse than EOS-R. For me ISO 3200 would be the ceiling (personal taste).
3. Obviously, reach for farther objects was much better, but because of shallower DOF keeping everything in focus was harder.
4. Focus acquisition much better than R with old 1.3 firmware and comparable with the new R's 1.4 firmware.
5. Setting the AF start point and waiting for objects to enter it and then start tracking lead to more objects in focus and hence better keeper rate. Struggled a bit when trying to acquire focus of moving objects.
6. Not all shots in a burst with tracking were in focus, about 2 of 10 were not good especially when birds come towards or fly away from the camera. The pre-burst mode has been good again when setting the AF start point and waiting for objects to move into it.
7. Writing bursts to UHSII card (rather old Lexar 1000x) was not that fast. Tried faster Delkin V60 card (2000x) that has guaranteed write speed did not make that much difference. The camera's buffer cannot hold that many shots (perhaps about 20 raw+jpegs) and slows down when the buffer is full and writing to the card.
8. Not having the AF cases in the menu system is a negative point but considering the intended use and price point, it was expected.
9. Viewfinder was a must but it looked rather flimsy and not as secure as the built-in one. I had to be careful when putting the camera-lens combo in the bag and had to remove the EVF when doing so.

I should say that overall it is a very capable camera with excellent image quality for its intended use (i.e. casual and travel). For documenting fast moving animals the keeper rate for bursts is not as good as perhaps the 7DII and in my experiment it struggled with the small and fast moving objects. I think the ergonomics of hand holding the combo and perhaps setup played negatively here. I need to do more test with the fast moving objects.
Below are a couple of typical shots
M6II _ EF 100-400LII shots of rather high ISO (4000-5000 range).
20191013 123b.jpg


20191013 039b.jpg
 

jd7

EOS 7D MK II
Feb 3, 2013
741
108
Thanks for taking the time to post your review. An interesting read, and hope you continue to enjoy the camera!
 
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JohnC

EOS M50
Sep 22, 2019
46
39
Gainesville,GA
Thanks for the nice and detailed review and impressions. I agree with most of the finding specially regarding the image quality and noise level.

I tested M6II + EF 100-400 LII (hand held) from a different perspective and partially reported my qualitative personal observations in the BIF thread:

1. Battery life was acceptable somehow (one battery, half a day, about 500 shots).
2. Noise level worse than EOS-R. For me ISO 3200 would be the ceiling (personal taste).
3. Obviously, reach for farther objects was much better, but because of shallower DOF keeping everything in focus was harder.
4. Focus acquisition much better than R with old 1.3 firmware and comparable with the new R's 1.4 firmware.
5. Setting the AF start point and waiting for objects to enter it and then start tracking lead to more objects in focus and hence better keeper rate. Struggled a bit when trying to acquire focus of moving objects.
6. Not all shots in a burst with tracking were in focus, about 2 of 10 were not good especially when birds come towards or fly away from the camera. The pre-burst mode has been good again when setting the AF start point and waiting for objects to move into it.
7. Writing bursts to UHSII card (rather old Lexar 1000x) was not that fast. Tried faster Delkin V60 card (2000x) that has guaranteed write speed did not make that much difference. The camera's buffer cannot hold that many shots (perhaps about 20 raw+jpegs) and slows down when the buffer is full and writing to the card.
8. Not having the AF cases in the menu system is a negative point but considering the intended use and price point, it was expected.
9. Viewfinder was a must but it looked rather flimsy and not as secure as the built-in one. I had to be careful when putting the camera-lens combo in the bag and had to remove the EVF when doing so.

I should say that overall it is a very capable camera with excellent image quality for its intended use (i.e. casual and travel). For documenting fast moving animals the keeper rate for bursts is not as good as perhaps the 7DII and in my experiment it struggled with the small and fast moving objects. I think the ergonomics of hand holding the combo and perhaps setup played negatively here. I need to do more test with the fast moving objects.
Below are a couple of typical shots
M6II _ EF 100-400LII shots of rather high ISO (4000-5000 range).
View attachment 187131

View attachment 187132
I can understand the 3200 vs. 6400 limit. The 6400 works if the exposure on and the lighting is good. I don't think "every" 6400 image is usable by any means. I have the 100-400L v1 but haven't tried it yet. I plan to soon to see what kind of results I get. Should be interesting.
 

JohnC

EOS M50
Sep 22, 2019
46
39
Gainesville,GA
Thanks for taking the time to post your review. An interesting read, and hope you continue to enjoy the camera!

Thank you, I really hadn't seen any sort of review yet that went beyond the basics. I don't normally do reviews, but I felt like this body is actually one that punches above its weight so to speak. I hope the performance is a sign of things to come.
 
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LSXPhotog

EOS RP
Apr 2, 2015
381
204
www.diossiphotography.com
I'm working on a pretty comprehensive review of this camera and so far, this is the most impressive APS-C camera I have ever used. As a 1DX Mark II owner that shoots motorsports for a living, I was very interested in what this camera could provide me and it has been a lot more than I expected. This was a terrific review from a different perspective and I look forward to shooting with it more. I'm off to Martinsville to shoot NASCAR for Ford Racing next weekend and I plan to really see what this bad boy can do with some wild telephoto lenses attached.

I will say this, though. The high ISO performance on this sensor is VERY clean up to 6400 ISO - for APS-C.
 
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JohnC

EOS M50
Sep 22, 2019
46
39
Gainesville,GA
I'm working on a pretty comprehensive review of this camera and so far, this is the most impressive APS-C camera I have ever used. As a 1DX Mark II owner that shoots motorsports for a living, I was very interested in what this camera could provide me and it has been a lot more than I expected. This was a terrific review from a different perspective and I look forward to shooting with it more. I'm off to Martinsville to shoot NASCAR for Ford Racing next weekend and I plan to really see what this bad boy can do with some wild telephoto lenses attached.

I will say this, though. The high ISO performance on this sensor is VERY clean up to 6400 ISO - for APS-C.
It will be interesting to see your results. Based on what I have seen I think you will get really good images in that environment.

One thing I have noticed is that the "continuous AF" setting significantly drains the battery (faster). I used it at first due to not being able to get a general focus with the EFM lenses while set to auto-focus. When using adapted lenses I have it turned off and get a general focus manually, then let the half press of the shutter button finish the job and start tracking. With adapted lenses I get much better results using that method.

Couple more shots:

ISO 5000 - Wheel Bug (look at that harpoon it bites you with!)


ISO 2000 - Eastern Leaf-footed Bug - nymph
 

AlanF

Canon 5DSR II
Aug 16, 2012
5,758
3,111
If you use continuous AF with a mirrorless, you have to turn off the camera between shots as it drains the battery trying to focus before it goes to sleep, and the AF can keep it awake. It's a real problem in general if you are an opportunistic nature photographer and need the camera to be ready in an instant. It's another reason why I prefer a mirror.
 

LSXPhotog

EOS RP
Apr 2, 2015
381
204
www.diossiphotography.com
It will be interesting to see your results. Based on what I have seen I think you will get really good images in that environment.

One thing I have noticed is that the "continuous AF" setting significantly drains the battery (faster). I used it at first due to not being able to get a general focus with the EFM lenses while set to auto-focus. When using adapted lenses I have it turned off and get a general focus manually, then let the half press of the shutter button finish the job and start tracking. With adapted lenses I get much better results using that method.

Couple more shots:

ISO 5000 - Wheel Bug (look at that harpoon it bites you with!)


ISO 2000 - Eastern Leaf-footed Bug - nymph
These are awesome photos. Ironically enough, I shot a wedding two weeks ago and used the M6 Mark II for all my detail shots and more. At the end of the day, I had over 1,100 RAW images on a single battery and it wasn't spray/pray either. It didn't die until I was shooting the ring shots with it. I was actually surprised I got more than 600 images on a single battery without charging it, but I've been regularly getting 800-1000. I guess it really depends on how you're shooting with it.
 

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Jul 12, 2013
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If you use continuous AF with a mirrorless, you have to turn off the camera between shots as it drains the battery trying to focus before it goes to sleep, and the AF can keep it awake. It's a real problem in general if you are an opportunistic nature photographer and need the camera to be ready in an instant. It's another reason why I prefer a mirror.
This is THE reason to use a DSLR (rather than mirrorless), for the specific usage described.

In my opinion, there aren't too many other reasons (a generic mirror vs no mirror debate) that stand up to scrutiny (with the exception of ergonomics with large lenses, as well as optical vs electronic viewfinder situations)...I use M and 5D series bodies--regularly.

But as stated by AlanF, the battery drain issue he describes is an important, and very real, thing to consider.
 
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JohnC

EOS M50
Sep 22, 2019
46
39
Gainesville,GA
This thread has been up since yesterday, and no arguing, no flaming, no trolling? What's happened to the forum? ;-)

Seriously, appreciate all the thoughtful and practical review info here.
Thanks, and I try to refrain from those types of activities whenever possible. :)
 

JohnC

EOS M50
Sep 22, 2019
46
39
Gainesville,GA
This is THE reason to use a DSLR (rather than mirrorless), for the specific usage described.

In my opinion, there aren't too many other reasons (a generic mirror vs no mirror debate) that stand up to scrutiny (with the exception of ergonomics with large lenses, as well as optical vs electronic viewfinder situations)...I use M and 5D series bodies--regularly.

But as stated by AlanF, the battery drain issue he describes is an important, and very real, thing to consider.

Fair point, but a couple of observations regarding battery life so far:

In my use, the battery life of this camera is substantially better than anything I ever experienced with the Fuji XT-2, personal opinion for whatever that is worth.

I would think that having a body set to "continuous AF" is a pretty harsh test for a camera body regardless of it being mirrorless. Having said that it is my experience that battery life with mirrorless bodies has always been less than what I get with my mirrored bodies.

Since I turned off the continuous AF, battery life has been substantially better, even spending time reviewing and scrolling images, etc. I seem to be getting 500-600 shots using adapted larger lenses. From a practical standpoint that isn't far different than what I get with the 5D Mark IV. Still, it is something I'm keeping an eye on. I'm about to put on a 100-400L v1 and walk around at lunch with a fresh battery and see what happens!
 
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Jul 12, 2013
248
78
Fair point, but a couple of observations regarding battery life so far:

In my use, the battery life of this camera is substantially better than anything I ever experienced with the Fuji XT-2, personal opinion for whatever that is worth.

I would think that having a body set to "continuous AF" is a pretty harsh test for a camera body regardless of it being mirrorless. Having said that it is my experience that battery life with mirrorless bodies has always been less than what I get with my mirrored bodies.

Since I turned off the continuous AF, battery life has been substantially better, even spending time reviewing and scrolling images, etc. I seem to be getting 500-600 shots using adapted larger lenses. From a practical standpoint that isn't far different than what I get with the 5D Mark IV. Still, it is something I'm keeping an eye on. I'm about to put on a 100-400L v1 and walk around at lunch with a fresh battery and see what happens!
Using a Canon M10/11-22mm lens a couple of Decembers ago, the standard walk-around-Disney World and take family-oriented pictures (and WDW scenery etc)...with continuous AF turned off...and taking care to turn the camera off between shots...I had more than one occasion where a single battery enabled the acquisition of more than 700 images.

In other words...a single battery worked all morning...or all afternoon.

I've yet to have an M6 II in my hands...so I cannot comment on the view that the knurled control knob on its back is constructed:

"1. I do think could be improved is the control dial on the back of the body. The knurled edge seems a bit sharper than it needs to be in my opinion. Also, at times when turning it with the thumb, I have accidentally pressed one side or the other and activated a menu I didn't want to activate. The tactility of turning the wheel I find to be more than acceptable. "

I'll say this: my first experience with such a dial was on the back of a Canon S90. I love those sorts of dials on various Canons...and I was disappointed that the M6 (which I own) limits exposure compensation to a dial on the top of the camera...and that this dial is the ONLY way to adjust EC.

I do not generally use an EVF with the M6 (although I own one)...and the M6's exposure compensation knob, to me, is set up more for when one is shooting with a viewfinder.

That knurled dial you're referring to...once I got used to it...I love it! And...as odd as it seems...this is a reason I may pony up for an M6 II.

I need more words to describe, with clarity, what I'm trying to explain here. Some shooting situations work best with a viewfinder...others? Not so much.
 
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AlanF

Canon 5DSR II
Aug 16, 2012
5,758
3,111
Fair point, but a couple of observations regarding battery life so far:

In my use, the battery life of this camera is substantially better than anything I ever experienced with the Fuji XT-2, personal opinion for whatever that is worth.

I would think that having a body set to "continuous AF" is a pretty harsh test for a camera body regardless of it being mirrorless. Having said that it is my experience that battery life with mirrorless bodies has always been less than what I get with my mirrored bodies.

Since I turned off the continuous AF, battery life has been substantially better, even spending time reviewing and scrolling images, etc. I seem to be getting 500-600 shots using adapted larger lenses. From a practical standpoint that isn't far different than what I get with the 5D Mark IV. Still, it is something I'm keeping an eye on. I'm about to put on a 100-400L v1 and walk around at lunch with a fresh battery and see what happens!
I never get many shots from a 5DIV - it is a battery eater for many of us, and often just a couple of hundred using my telephotos. But I am now getting 1500-2000 shots per charge for the 90D with my 400mm lenses. I simply can't get used not to carrying a spare with me and using one battery for a week.
 
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