Photography Gear Reviews

Canon 6D Mark II Real world Review

I review the Canon 6D Mark II DSLR camera and head to the Lake District to put it through it’s paces from a landscape photography perspective.

If you have seen my camera reviews before you will know I am not interested in repeating all the specs and obvious elements. I want to get the camera out into the real world and use it exactly like a photographer would. In the video we look at the abilities of the camera mostly from a landscape photography perspective when we headed to Loughrigg Fell in the Lake District.

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Full Frame Sensor

The whole point of the Canon 6D Mark II is the entry into using a full frame sensor. This has a number of advantages. It usually includes improved dynamic range (not so much in this case - read on), better low light ability and least obviously - the potential to use better glass, particularly at the wide end. High end lenses like the Canon 16-35mm L are perfect for landscape photography and on a full frame camera you get the full 16mm wide end coverage. Putting this lens on a cropped sensor camera effectively increases the 16mm to a more narrow 25mm which can be limiting in some situations.

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Build Quality

Build quality of the camera is the usual Canon quality. It is a plastic build but it feels solid and secure and the weight also benefits from this. It has a flip out screen, which is missing from the higher end cameras for the sake of durability, but I find them particularly useful. When the camera is low down near a stream, or close to the ground, having the screen point up towards you is a real back saver. The flip screen means you can also use the Canon 6D Mark II for vlogging. Not a cheap vlogging option, but it is possible.

Image Quality

Next is the image quality. There are not many cameras out there today that provide poor image quality. This camera is no different. Image quality is superb for stills and you can quite happily use the 26MP sensor to create massive prints. Sadly though dynamic range was not as good as I would have hoped, especially at low ISO. This might put off some landscape photographers who might be looking at rivals from Sony and cameras like the Nikon D750. Personally when it comes to stills I am not concerned too much about dynamic range. Using bracketing can easily capture all the dynamic range in a landscape scene.

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Portraits and Focusing

The dynamic range of the camera improves dramatically as ISO increases. Therefore, like many full frame cameras, The Canon 6D Mark 2 is excellent in low light. Any noise that does appear has a film grain type feel rather than the harsh noise often associated with crop sensor cameras. This means the camera lends itself to shooting portraits as well as landscapes. Depending on the lens you attach to the camera it is capable of capturing stunning portraits. However I would be reluctant to use it at a wedding or for any other professional portrait work. The focus system covers a smaller area of the frame than higher end cameras like the Canon 5D Mark IV which can be limiting when you have to focus and re-frame more often that you would like. Having said that, for most, that will not be a problem. The focus system is still very accurate and fast. It also has the dual pixel autofocus system for video. This Canon system is really second to none for video focus and it very very rarely misses including when using face detection.

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Video Quality

Video quality is reasonable but again the dynamic range can be limiting. When I was out in the mountains getting detail across the frame was not easy and I was often left with blown out skies. This could probably be improved by using a flatter picture setting rather than sticking with the built in presets like I did. There is also no 4K option and the 1080p quality is softer than the Canon 5D Mark IV and more in line with the cropped sensor Canon cameras. However the ability to shoot 1080p at 60fps does provide the option of producing some slo-motion footage.

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Conclusion

Overall I had a superb time using this camera. If you were to buy it, you would be very happy. Just be aware it is not a professional level camera. We should not be expecting it to be though given the price point of £$1600. Indeed, the camera only comes equipped with one SD card port. To remove the slight limitations mentioned above you are looking at upgrading to the pro level Canon 5D Mark IV which is more than double the price. The Canon 6D is an all round performer suitable for all different genres of photography and will perform them all to a good standard. In many respects the upgrade to full frame is something many photographers aspire to and this camera allows you to do it much sooner with only very slight downsides. It is a shame the dynamic range is not better at low ISO but that is being hypercritical. An all rounder at a great price point for a full frame camera. A solid 4 out of 5.

Canon 17-40mm f4L USM Lens Review

Why you should still consider the Canon 17-40mm f4L.

The Canon 17-40mm f/4L has been around for a while now but it is still worth considering for many photographers. There are better lenses out there but this is no slouch and given the incredible value now offered by this lens it is well worth another look.

Who is the Canon 17-40mm f/4L for? Arguably everyone shooting with a DSLR today has use for a focal range like this.

We talk about sensor crop factor so often in modern day photography. The majority of the time it makes very little difference. If people spent more time focusing on the progression of their skills and less time worrying about their gear we would all be better off. At the wide end of the scale though, crop factor is an issue and this is particularly true with the Canon 17-40mm f/4L. However this turns out to be one of it’s biggest strengths.

Attached to a cropped sensor camera the lens has a 35mm equivalent range of 27-64mm. This is a perfect range for so many types of photography and will act as a very good general purpose lens. It is also very similar to the classic 24-70mm on a full frame camera. On the wide end it is probably not wide enough for all your landscape needs so coupling it with a 10-22 would be a very good option.

Canon 17-40mm
Canon 17-40mm

Image quality is a significant step up from the kit lens with good sharpness across the frame. The low light performance is limited due the the constant f/4 aperture but a boost in ISO will still make it useable and it is still better than the f/5.6 kit lens.

Most DSLR photographers are looking to upgrade to a full frame camera at some point in their photography journey. If you owned this lens at the point of upgrade it would then turn into very good landscape lens. The lens works on both cropped and full framed cameras. I have now used this lens as my main landscape lens for many years and it is very well suited to that purpose.

The focal range is perfect for so many landscape situations and the quality is a very reasonable and rarely have I wished I had more. In landscape photography the quality of your image will depend on your location, your composition and your light, much more than the having the best lens  attached to your camera.

Despite this, the image quality does fade to the edge of the frame when shooting at 20mm and below. It softens slightly and there is some relatively severe distortion, although this is common for a wide zoom like this. You will probably want to keep people out of the edges at 17mm or they will end up looking very warped. With landscapes this is not too much of a problem but is worth being aware of when composing your shot.

Distortion
Distortion

The lens is well made and has a quiet USM motor. The lens is weather sealed although only once a filter is attached to the front threads. The front element moves inside the barrel when you zoom so allows water to creep in if no filter is attached. The filter threads are attached to the outside of the barrel though and do not move or rotate making it ideal for attaching a circular Polariser. The filter thread is 77mm matching many other lenses meaning you may not have to reinvest in filters. This is especially true if upgrading from the 10-22 lens. The lens is also relatively light at 500g meaning carrying it out to hard to reach landscapes is not an arduous task.

The lens has 12 elements in 9 groups, it has 7 aperture blades, a minimum aperture of f/22 and focuses nice and close at 28cm. This means you can get nice and close to your subject and get some really interesting wide angle shots.

There is a small amount of Chromatic Aberration but this very effectively removed in Lightroom particular in landscapes where the majority of your image will be in sharp focus.

chromatic abberation
chromatic abberation

In the process of buying and researching this lens it is likely going to be compared to both the Canon 16-35mm mkii f/2.8 and the Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS. Both these lenses offer better image quality and versatility than the 17-40mm. They are, however, both more than double the cost of the Canon 17-40mm f/4L leading to a questionable return on that extra investment. It would really come down to a decision about what you want to use the lens for. For example, if you plan to shoot a lot of video then the 16-35mm f/4 is going to be worth it, thanks to the stabilisation. If low light ability is key then the 16-35mm f/2.8 may be the one to go for. If it is purely for landscapes then the Canon 17-40mm f/4L wins hands down. The quality difference does not justify a doubling of the price. Once a landscape image is printed you would really struggle to tell the difference between these three lenses.

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landscape photography tutorial
landscape photography tutorial

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long exposure
long exposure

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long exposure photography
long exposure photography

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As mentioned earlier the cost of this lens is now it's big selling point. It is now more affordable than ever. Under $500 in the US and around £350, when bought second hand, this is the cheapest Canon L lens currently available. That represents incredible value for money considering everything the lens offers, especially when it comes to landscapes. The lens has been capturing beautiful photographs for many years and will continue to do so despite newer and more expensive models being available.

I can recommend the Canon 17-40mm f/4L to anyone, but particularly those looking for a big bang for their buck and a lens that will transition well from a cropped sensor camera to a full frame one.

Buy in the UK - Canon EF 17-40 mm

Buy in the US - Canon EF 17-40mm

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