Waterfall image taken on the EOS 6D Mark II
Waterfall image taken on the EOS 6D Mark II
By John Gerlach
By: John Gerlach
May 16, 2018
The Canon EOS 6D Mark II camera is a delight to use, and fits a price range that is far more user-friendly to your credit card than most full-frame sensor cameras. I found the camera to be very similar (buttons and dials in familiar places) to the other Canon cameras I use — including my current Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and EOS 5D Mark IV cameras.
I am a huge fan of full-frame sensor cameras like the 6D Mark II for several reasons:
- With no crop factor from a smaller sensor, wide-angle lenses remain wide. There is no need to buy special lenses that provide extra wide focal lengths to accommodate small sensors.
- Noise causes image problems, especially when using high ISOs or long exposures. Full-frame sensors have more real estate, so individual pixels can be larger, reducing the noise problem while increasing the dynamic range that can be captured.
- The viewfinder in a full-frame camera is usually larger, enhancing your view of most subjects.
- Sometimes wildlife approaches too closely. With a full-frame sensor camera, often you can still photograph the subject without cutting part of it off that would have been necessary with the crop of a small sensor camera. If the subject isn’t large enough in the image, then it can always be cropped later using Canon’s own free Digital Photo Professional (DPP) version 4 software. In other words, you are not forced to use the crop as you shoot, but can later if necessary with software.
The one key feature on the 6D Mark II I really like is the articulating LCD display. Often in landscape and close-up photography, the camera must be put in a spot where it is not convenient to view the LCD — especially when using a tripod. With this camera, the LCD can be pulled out and placed at many different angles to allow easy viewing and to focus using Live View. You can even fire the shutter by gently tapping the LCD, with the Touch Shutter feature. Now that is convenience! None of my other Canon cameras have ever had this feature. As I age, convenience is increasingly important to me! Today I use the Touch Shutter most of the time when making close-up and landscape images.
The Canon 6D Mark II offers numerous settings that can be chosen based on needs and user preference. Let’s consider many that I find most useful for landscapes and close-ups.
I shoot full-res RAW images only, but ten total choices are offered, including three RAW and seven JPEG sizes. Pick what you like.
I like to examine images on the camera’s LCD, so I set the timer to four seconds to give me a little more time.
External Speedlite Control
When using Canon Speedlite gear mounted to the hot shoe, many Speedlite settings can be done in-camera and these are transferred wirelessly to the external Speedlites in use.
The two options are sRGB and a wider color space called Adobe RGB. Since I process my RAW images and often use them in high-end publications, I prefer Adobe RGB, but for online use, you may well prefer the standard sRGB setting.
I use Standard for the RAW files I shoot, but for JPEGs, the more colorful and sharper Landscape option is effective for landscapes. And close-up photographers might wish to use Fine Detail.
This is an enormously powerful tool. From two to nine images can be shot and then the camera puts them together. I use this feature a lot to fire one or more flashes multiple times to light various objects, or an object at quite a distance. And it is highly effective for landscape photographers at night. Light a foreground object with flash, or flashlight, and then change the lens focus, aperture, shutter speed, and white balance to optimally expose the night sky. The ISO must remain the same, but the others are adjustable from one shot to the next in the Multiple Exposure mode.
Landscape photographers should not miss the Select image for multi. expo. option! For example, if you have a landscape shot in the evening that could benefit from placing a moon in it, now you can do it in-camera. With an existing RAW night shot on your card, select this option, and then locate the “source” image (in this example, your existing evening landscape shot). The camera copies the existing image and makes it the first of a multiple exposure. Now add a new shot of the moon. Use Live View and the first landscape image appears on the LCD. This makes it simple to compose the moon exactly in the image where it will do the most good and you know how large to make it. Shoot that new image of the moon, and it’s added by the camera to the first shot. By the way, a good exposure starting point for the full moon is 1/ISO at f/11. If you are using ISO 3200, then 1/3200th second shutter speed with f/11 does the trick. For a dark starry night where you really want the stars to be obvious, try ISO 3200, 20 seconds, and f/2.8.
Reduce the dynamic range in a high-contrast scene and saturate the colors at the same time. I like to use +- 2EV with the Art Vivid effect to saturate the colors, but you may find the other choices — Natural, Art Standard, Art Bold, and Art Embossed — suit your taste better. This mode can only be used when JPEG is set. Be sure to explore its features!
When making landscape or close-up images while shooting on a tripod, use this option to put the mirror up prior to the actual exposure to avoid the slight vibrations caused by the moving mirror and you’ll obtain sharper images.
Live View Shoot
Be certain to enable this function. Live View is enormously useful for both landscape and close-up photography, and invaluable when you shoot from a tripod. Focusing manually on a specific object in the scene with a magnified Live View image is easy and precise!
Activate this so areas that might have too much exposure blink off and on when viewed on the camera’s LCD. Observing the “blinkies” and noticing when they first appear is an excellent way to arrive at a fine digital exposure.
AF Point Display
It is helpful to know where the AF points are in the camera’s viewfinder. Turn this on so you can see all AF points available. The point(s) you’re using appear as larger boxes in the viewfinder, but all remaining AF points are visible as small boxes.
The default setting is the Brightness display that averages the color channels together. I find the RGB option is more useful. It shows the histogram for the blue, red, and green color channels. If a color is seriously climbing the right wall of the histogram, reduce the exposure somewhat to avoid an unnatural shade of that color due to overexposure. This can also be helpful if you need to shift white balance, to counter an over-abundance of a particular color tone.
Vertical images will be small if the image is displayed vertically on the LCD. Select the second option where the image is automatically displayed vertically when viewed on the computer screen, but not on the camera’s LCD. Just turn the camera sideways a little to view large, full-screen vertical images on the camera’s LCD.
When all the images on the memory card in the camera are stored safely on your computer, and external hard drive, or someplace else, put the card in the camera and Format it to make the card optimally ready to receive new images.
This control lets you choose the brightness of the camera’s LCD to suit your taste and viewing conditions. At night, it may be necessary to turn the brightness down, but during the day under bright ambient light, perhaps turning it up makes it easier to see the image. Since this control lets you adjust the brightness of the image as it appears on the LCD, don’t judge the exposure strictly by how the image appears.
Be sure to go to this menu choice and switch the Electronic Level from Hide to Show. When activated, a tiny level appears in the viewfinder. This level is enormously useful for keeping the image level and I use it for nearly every photo I shoot. You should use it too! It is far more useful than the level that can be made to appear on the camera’s LCD.
The default is Standard, but two other choices include Sensitive and Disable. Setting it to sensitive makes the LCD react easier to a very light finger touch. This is helpful when using Live View to select the area where you want the best focus and enlarging that area by touching the magnifying icon on the LCD. And when not in the magnified view, touching the LCD gently to avoid camera-shake to shoot the image is enormously useful.
Custom Shooting Mode (C1, C2)
If you have a lot of camera settings that you prefer for a certain situation, registering them to C1 or C2 makes the camera easy to switch over to those settings. For example, when doing the starry night sky, I often use ISO 3200, a shutter speed of 20 seconds, f/2.8, 3200K (Kelvin) white balance, and Manual exposure. I assign this to C1, and to set the camera to these choices, all I do is rotate the exposure dial on top of the camera to C1.
Custom Functions I frequently use for nature photography:
Here is a quick run-down of different 6D Mark II Custom Functions I find useful, in different types of nature and wildlife photography. Like many recent Canon EOS cameras, the 6D Mark II breaks its Custom Functions into distinct categories, identified with a Roman numeral, based on what they allow you to change. The first are those that deal with Exposure control.
C.Fn I: Exposure
C.Fn I-6 — Safety shift
When using an autoexposure mode such as Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority, setting this option to 2: ISO speed, allows the camera to switch to a more suitable ISO if it runs out of room to change aperture (in Tv mode) or shutter speed (in Av) to maintain the exposure. This is a hugely worthwhile setting, especially for wildlife photography.
C.Fn II: Autofocus
C.Fn II-4 — AI Servo 1st image priority
The three choices: release, equal priority, and focus, tell the camera what to emphasize. If you use back-button focusing, then it works best to select release, as you may have focused on the important target properly, but when you recompose, the AF points are no longer on the focused target, though the lens remains properly focused. The camera won’t fire unless the AF points are on something in focus. Setting the camera to Release lets the camera shoot no matter what the active AF points are on.
C.Fn II-10 — Orientation Linked AF point
Change this one to option 1: Separate AF pts: Area + pt
When making landscape images using autofocus, invariably the AF point that works best for a horizontal ideal choice is different than the optimum AF point location for a vertical composition. This option lets the camera remember a different AF point to use for horizontal and vertical compositions, and return to them instantly as you rotate the camera. I always use it with excellent success.
C.Fn II-14 — AF point display during focus
The default is 0: Selected (constant). When you must navigate to different AF points as you change composition, it is helpful to see at a glance where all possible AF points are located. Setting 1: All (constant) does the trick for you.
C.Fn II-16 — AF Microadjustment
Should you notice a lens is always focusing a little closer than it should (front focus) or a little too deep (back focus), use this option to calibrate your lens to make it focus squarely on the target at the exact distance. Most of the time this feature is not needed, but if either front or back focusing is a problem, this function lets you recalibrate the lens.
C. Fn III: Operation/Others
C.Fn III-2 — Dial direction during Tv/Av
1: Reverse direction
I always use this custom function to make my exposure dials more intuitive. By setting the dials to Reverse direction, turning the aperture dial on the rear of the camera clockwise opens the aperture, adds light to the exposure, and the histogram data moves to the right as well. Turning the dial on top of the camera clockwise as viewed from camera rear slows the shutter speed and that also moves the histogram data right. It simplifies things because you only need to turn either the shutter dial or aperture dial the same direction that you want the histogram data to move. I find this is much easier to remember for making exposure compensations during Manual exposure.
C.Fn III-4 — Custom Controls
This Custom Function lets you re-program nine different controls on the camera, so that they do different things than their factory-default functions. There are many useful camera options found here, so be sure to explore them. For example, you can swap the Main Dial and Quick Control Dial functions, so that turning the Main Dial (top of the camera) changes lens apertures. It can re-configure what the shutter button does when you press it halfway down — primarily, removing AF from the shutter button. Though I never use it for close-ups because manual focusing with a magnified Live View image works much better, setting the shutter button to only start metering (2nd option) is incredibly helpful when using autofocus for landscape and wildlife photography.
My Menu Tab
This allows you to select up to six menu items that you tend to frequently access and change for various situations. By assigning the most useful menu settings to the My Menu Tab, you can find important camera controls quickly without searching for them in the menus. I use it frequently and you will find it helpful too. I assigned Multiple exposure, HDR Mode, Mirror lockup, AF Microadjustment, and Image quality to my Menu screen #1. Up to five My Menu screens can be set up, each with up to six menu items you’d like to have quick access to.
The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is a wonderful full-frame camera that delivers excellent quality images while providing numerous controls to allow a lot of creative image-making. And, it offers these at a lower price than many other full-frame DLSR cameras. I highly recommend this camera for the full-frame sensor, fully articulating LCD, and the many in-camera options it offers. Landscape and close-up photographers especially will love this camera.