Is it worth upgrading my EOS 80D to the EOS 6D Mark II?
We already had a simple look at how good an upgrade the EOS 6D II makes for 80D owners, based on our early impressions of the camera. Now we’ve had a chance to spend more time with it (and to go back and shoot with the 80D again), we thought we’d look at the differences and benefits in more detail.
We’re going to try not to make too many assumptions about what you shoot with your 80D and what you value in a camera, beyond assuming that you kinda like your current camera, that you enjoy using a camera that works broadly as well in live view mode as it does through the viewfinder and that you’d like something fairly similar but, you know, better. Will the 6D II do that for you?
Image quality improvements
The 6D II’s larger sensor means it receives more total light than the 80D, when shot with the same exposure settings (the same light per unit area, but with more capture area). This generally means the 6D II will offer better image quality than the 80D. As much as anything else, this tends to be what prompts most people to move to larger sensor formats.
However, you don’t get the full advantage that you’d get if the 6D II simply used a scaled-up version of the 80D’s sensor, so how much of a step up does the 6D end up being?
The sensor size difference means you can get shallower depth-of-field more readily than you could on the 80D. Indeed, shoot the same framing from the same position and at the same f-number and you’ll get shallower depth of field. if you compare images at the same size. For certain types of photos, shallow depth of field is interpreted as better.
The 6D II’s larger sensor also means you get better performance in low light. If you regularly shoot above about ISO 1600, the 6D II will give you an immediate improvement in image quality, simply because it gets more light.
Image quality concerns
The more sophisticated design of the 80D’s sensor means it adds less noise to its images than its big brother. This means that, at low ISO settings, the 80D will produce more flexible Raw files, that make it easier to represent the detail in high-contrast scenes, before you hit the noise floor. If you’ve become used to exploiting the 80D’s pretty impressive dynamic range, it may be a bit of a shock to find you end up with more prominent noise if you try to manipulate an image shot in high-DR circumstances, such as sunsets or backlit subjects.
That said, we’re aware that a great many people primarily shoot JPEG. Since the differences in performance between the two cameras’ sensors tends to occur in very dark tones within the image, so may well be either too dark to perceive or clipped entirely to black if you’re only looking at JPEG images. Even engaging Auto Lighting Optimizer or Highlight Tone Priority – the camera’s two DR compression modes that risk pulling noise into the image – isn’t a problem (though it’s interesting you can’t use the two in conjunction). However, you don’t get the noise improvement at low ISO you might reasonably expect from the move to full-frame.
The 6D II has a viewfinder with 98% coverage and 0.71x magnification, while the 80D has 100% coverage and 0.94x magnification. Yet that’s not the clear win to the 80D that it might seem.
Since both magnification figures are measured using a 50mm lens, the 80D’s figure benefits from its 1.6x crop factor. Compare them on a normalized basis and the 6D II’s 0.71x magnification looks pretty good compared with 0.59x. And, sure enough, in use the 6D II’s viewfinder is appreciably bigger. It’s one of the benefits that a full frame DSLR offers over a cropped sensor that is often overlooked, especially by anyone too young to have regularly shot film and become accustomed to a large finder. It’s lovely to shoot through a nice, big viewfinder and the 6D II’s is a significant step up from the 80D’s.
It’s not all good news, though. The 80D’s 100% finder means its easier to construct precise compositions. Knowing exactly where the corners are is hugely valuable for ensuring lead-in lines run directly from the corner of the frame, for instance (the 6D II’s 98% coverage should be enough that you don’t have to worry too much about stray objects intruding in your shots).
The camera uses essentially the same AF module as the 80D. This means the spread of AF points is considerably less extensive on the larger camera. This means that, unlike the 80D, you don’t get AF points on the ‘thirds’ lines of your image: the outer columns of points reach a little beyond the thirds horizontally, but they don’t quite reach the vertical thirds lines. This isn’t an unworkable situation, of course: the parallax error of focus-and-recompose isn’t going to be significant over such a small distance, but it’ll take some getting used to, after the 80D’s wider spread.
In terms of autofocus performance, we doubt you’ll notice any great difference. Both cameras performed fairly similarly in our testing. The EOS 6D II isn’t terrible at tracking a subject but it’s not great, either. If you’ve found settings or a way of working that suits the kind of shooting you like to do, you can carry this over to the 6D II.
Like the 80D, the 6D II’s tracking in live view mode is pretty good, especially if you’re shooting single images at a time. It’s in continuous (servo) mode that the performance drops significantly compared with the 80D, in terms of accuracy (in Continuous H mode) or a much slower frame rate (in Continuous L). So not really an upgrade, but broadlyconsistent with the system you’ve already learned and adapted to.
Difference in features
The EOS 6D II has Canon’s latest, Digic 7 processor, but the differences between this and the older chip used in the 80D are subtle. There don’t appear to be any additional functions associated with the newer processor but Canon has talked about using the additional processing power to run more sophisticated algorithms that prevent the camera’s AF tracking from being distracted by other potential targets.
Another underlying hardware difference is in the two camera’s Wi-Fi connectivity. The 80D has a fairly conventional Wi-Fi setup, with the option to use NFC to speed-up pairing to your smartphone, if its manufacturer allows such frivolity. The updated implementation in the 6D II is a step forward, in that it allows a constant Bluetooth connection to be maintained between your phone and the camera. Again, the degree to which this simplifies life depends at least in part on what brand of phone you’re using, but it does make image transfer very straightforward.
The EOS 6D II also offers GPS, which the 80D doesn’t. This may not sound like something you’ll need but, even if you’re not an especially frequent traveler but, if you switch it on, it means every one of your images gains a useful additional piece of metadata that can be valuable in terms of organizing and retrieving your files, after you’ve shot them. Battery life does take a hit when using the GPS, however.
Other feature aspects
While the similarity of body shape and button layouts make it clear they’re aimed at similar photographers, there are a few differences that reflect the 80D’s position higher up the APS-C lineup than the 6D II’s position, relative to Canon’s other full-frame options.
The 80D gets a shutter mechanism that can fire as fast as 1/8000th of a second and can sync with flashes as fast as 1/250th of a second. With a larger distance to travel and perhaps some money being saved, the 6D II can only shoot at up to 1/4000th of a second and flash sync at 1/180th. These may sound like small differences but you may well notice them if you use fill flash or wide aperture lenses outdoors.
Other differences include the 80D having a headphone socket for audio monitoring during video shooting: something 6D II users will have to live without. It’s not quite clear why Canon chose not to include it or the less-compressed ‘All-I’ video option, both of which might be a frustration if you’ve been enjoying the 80D’s easy-to-shoot video.
But what about lenses?
The usefulness of lenses, vs simple compatibility is a subject I can be something of a stuck record about, but I do believe it’s something worth thinking about very hard before you upgrade. Don’t think about how many of your existing lenses will be usable, think about how many of them will perform roles that you actually need. At least take stock of how committed you really are to a system before concluding that you can only look within your current system.
Before I started at DPReview, I owned an APS-C DSLR, a mid-level kit zoom, a 50mm F1.8, and a third-party 70-200mm F2.8 (bought secondhand from a DPR forum member). How committed to ‘my’ brand was I?
The kit zoom is a write-off straight away, so I may as well try to sell that along with my old APS-C body. Having got used to using it as a 75mm equiv lens, do I suddenly need the 50mm field-of-view? Maybe, but it’s a cheap-enough lens that it’s not a deciding factor. The 70-200mm F2.8 was secondhand anyway, so I can probably recoup much of what I’ve paid for it if I sold it.
If it’d come down to it, it was a couple of spare batteries and the time I’d spent learning the quirks of my camera’s interface and behavior that was really holding me to that brand, not my ‘investment’ in lenses.
Should I upgrade?
Ultimately, that’s something only you can decide, we’re just trying to lay out what we see as the key factors you might want to consider.
We should be clear: the EOD 6D II isn’t a bad camera. In many respects, it’s a perfectly good one: certainly one that’s pretty enjoyable to shoot with. Although Dual Pixel AF really shines when shooting video, it’s still useful for stills shooters, providing what’s still the best and most usable live view experience of any of the DSLR makers.
If you enjoy your 80D, then you’ll probably like the 6D II for many of the same reasons (with the added bonus of more control over depth of field, better low light image quality and a bigger viewfinder).
The only real reason we’ve devoted so much space to addressing the question is because, with the 6D II, Canon has made the decision slightly less clear-cut than it’d normally be. You don’t get a significant improvement in AF performance, nor do you get the all-round improvement in image quality that the cost of moving to full-frame usually brings. But there certainly are advantages, and ones that you might find beneficial.
If you’re and 80D owner who’s decided to move to the 6D II or have decided not to, let us know what swung the decision for you.