If you’re fairly new into DSLR photography and walk into a shop, the Canon 6D and 7D Mark II might seem fairly comparable. The cost range is essentially the same at that $1800usd price point. Of course, the two cameras couldn’t be more different. The 7D Mark II is a high-speed shooting action body with a crop sensor, whereas the 6D is a slow-shooting full frame that has been built to appeal primarily to landscape photographers. And, sure, if you’re deciding between the 6D and the 7D Mark II and shoot either landscapes or sports/wildlife primarily, the choice might be obvious. But what if you’re a travel photographer and shoot a wide range of imagery? Which of these two cameras fills the needs of your professional travel photographer or photography enthusiast heading out of a photography vacation?
To help you decide between the Canon 6D and 7D Mark II, I compared the two in the following video. Of course, there is an article with some photo examples below as well.
Comparing the 6D to the 7D Mark II: The Specs
To compare these two bodies, I thought I’d run through some of the specs and compare how I felt using each body out in the field. And, please note that I’m not going to count up the scores given to each body and decide a “winner”. For one, I don’t think there is a winner; each photographer has their needs. And, two, each item has different value to different people. So, I’m just going to toss out my opinion and let you decide what’s important.
The main reason I went full frame with the 6D was because I wanted better noise handling, and the full frame sensor does this very well. On my old 60D I was lucky to be able to shoot an image at 640ISO without showing noise issues. On the 6D, I felt like I had no issue shooting as high as 3200ISO and even at 6400ISO I still get usable images. This will come in handy especially when I’m shooting portraits on the street using natural light. Before, I wasn’t able to bump the ISO for faster shutter speeds, now I am. Also, the dynamic range on this camera is really top notch. I noticed that the first time I shot a landscape with harsh backlight. It really pulls a lot of range.
I was actually incredibly impressed with the sensor of the 7D Mark II. For a crop sensor, it must have the best noise handling capabilities on the market. I was able to shoot 1600ISO without issue, and that’s fantastic. It starts to get some noise artifacts at 3200ISO but nothing too dramatic. So, yeah, in comparison with the 6D the noise handling isn’t quite there. But, compared to any other crop sensor DSLR I’ve ever used, it’s spectacular. The other advantage to the sensor for the 7D Mark II is that it has that dual pixel cmos sensor which is helpful if you’re shooting any video.
The 7D Mark II made waves within the photography community because of it’s autofocus capabilities. And the truth is, it holds up to the hype. The 65 autofocus points are all cross type, and the various autofocusing modes allows you to let the camera do a lot of the work which really comes in handy in action situations like sports and wildlife photography. For me, the best part about the various autofocus points is that they really cover the entire viewfinder. So many times in a body you’ll get 15-30 autofocus points but they are all stuffed in the middle of the frame. It makes it hard to compose your images the way you’d want. You do not have a problem with this body there.
The 6D was given a very hard time about it’s autofocus system from the get go. In fact, having only 1 cross-type autofocus point (11 in total) was one of the reasons many vendors think the 6D didn’t sell very well. And the truth is, it is a problem when shooting action. Well in Whistler, I found myself forced to frame a lot of the athletes into the center of the image because I didn’t trust the other autofocus points. It was a problem. That said, the autofocus capabilities of the 6D shine elsewhere, especially in low-light, and, really, that’s what the 6D was made for. To test, out in the field I’ve been shooting the autofocus even in extreme low-light to see how it handles, and it rarely misses. In fact, out on location at Crescent Falls, it didn’t fail a single time. I noticed it too photographing the fire and ice show in Whistler, the 7D was having a bit of a hard time picking up the focus whereas the 6D was much quicker in the dark. So, even though the autofocus only has one cross type, if you’re shooting lots of low-light landscape, you’re going to love this body.
Both of these bodies have their advantages in build quality depending on what you’re looking for. The 6D is extremely light and built out of mostly magnisium allow with a bit of plastic melded in. It is weather sealed when matched with a weather sealed lens. The advantage is obviously that it remains light. Whether it can hold up to the rigors of the world of travel photography is a question only time can answer. But, for the most part, it seems pretty sturdy.
The 7D Mark II, on the other hand, is built like an absolute tank. Canon claims that it’s 5x more weather sealed than the 7D, which I think is an absurd statement. If it’s sealed, it’s sealed. There shouldn’t be levels of weather sealed. But, regardless, the build quality is fantastic and I’m fairly sure you could drive over it with a half ton truck and have no issues. The build quality is said to be on par with the 1DX, and it certainly feels it. Of course, that strong build quality means that, at 820 grams, it is fairly heavy and significantly heavier than the 6D.
The beauty in both these bodies is the value. The 6D is Canon’s most affordable full frame DSLR and one of the main reasons I bought it was that price point. That said, it’s value lies almost entirely in the sensor and little bonus features like the WiFi and GPS. Personally, I think Canon would have done better for themselves creating a 6D that had closer to 24 all cross-type autofocus points and charged an extra $400. So yeah, the value is great but I think the value would have been better with a better autofocus system and higher cost.
The 7D Mark II’s value is tremendous. In so many ways, it’s a 1DX with a crop sensor. Thanks to a much improved sensor, the 7D’s ISO capabilities make it a great go-to wildlife and sports lens that lots of pros will choose to go with. Moreover, there’s value in the fact that you can use the 7D Mark II with crop sensor lenses which are quite a bit cheaper, especially at the wide angle. For example, the Sigma 10-20mm is about $400. Whereas the cheapest full frame option, the 17-40mm Canon is more than double that.
Shutter: Sound and Speed
The frame rate of the 7D Mark II was a pleasant surprise to wildlife and spots photographers. Shooting 10 frames per second makes the 7D Mark II the second fastest camera of all the Canon products. In fact, it’s almost at the same 12 frames per second level of the 1Dx which costs 3 times more than this body. Testing this capability in Whistler, we never missed a single moment in the field. The frame rate of the 7D Mark II combined with the fantastic autofocus means never missing a frame. As for the sound of the shutter, it’s much improved on the old 7D. It has a bit of a springing mechanical sound, but it’s quieter than before.
The 6D is not meant for speed, pure and simple. It only shoots 4.5 frames per second and shooting an action sequence on this body is a bit slow. There were a couple occasions shooting in Whistler where I felt I missed the key moment because of it. It’s not terrible, and if you don’t shoot a lot of action, it can get you by in a pinch. However, I wouldn’t be buying a 6D if I was planning on being a sports or wildlife photographer. On the plus side, the shutter for the 6D is nice and sensitive and extremely quiet. For nature photography, the click of the shutter doesn’t cause any sort of disruption. Also, the fact that the shutter is so sensitive means that there is very little camera shake when pulling the trigger.
Each of these cameras has some bonus features, but the 6D likely has a bit more on the back end. The two most popular features of the 6D are the built in WiFi and the GPS. Now, truth be told, I thought I would use the WiFi on the camera a little bit more than I have. But, that might be due to the fact that I don’t use an iPhone and there is no Canon app on the Windows Phone as of yet. The GPS, on the other hand, I have turned on all the time, and I love that it tags the location of my images. The only issue with the GPS is that it doesn’t shut off even if the camera is turned off. It drains the battery pretty hard. So, if you’re done shooting, you have to remember to turn it off.
The 7D Mark II also has GPS and the same issue of needing to shut it off or it draining your battery. What it doesn’t have is the WiFi capabilities. And, the truth is, I don’t really see that as much of a loss as I did before. If you really need WiFi you can always just get yourself a set of EyeFi Cards which essentially do the same thing. The other big feature of the 7D Mark II is the built in intervalometer. I love that the intervalometer is included in the 7D Mark II as it means I don’t need to pack one around separately, and essentially don’t need to include something like Magic Lantern on my memory cards.
Who Should Buy the 6D?
The thing about more affordable cameras is that you need to compromise. So, you have to decide what’s most important to you. I went with the 6D because I shoot a lot of tripod images and street photography and prefer the high dynamic range and ISO capabilities the 6D offers. Yes, I shoot some wildlife and even sports at times, but not enough for the framerate or autofocusing capabilities of the 7D Mark II to sway me to the crop sensor. So, if your photography is geared towards nature, landscapes, portraits, architecture and mostly still life, the 6D is a fantastic camera and will treat you very well.
Should I Buy the 7D Mark II?
The reason Tiffany ended up going with the 7D Mark II is because of the value it has as a body. You essentially get all the bells and whistles of the 1DX with a crop sensor for a third the price. Moreover, if you’ve been shooting a crop sensor before, you don’t need to replace all your lenses like I did when I bought the 6D. From a travel photography standpoint, the 7D Mark II can do just about everything you need. If you don’t really care too much about being able to shoot extremely high ISO, there is no reason not to get the 7D Mark II. It’s durable, fast, and captures incredibly high quality images. If you shoot lots of wildlife, street life, and sports this is the perfect camera for you. Although, it really will get you through nearly any situation.
It’s interesting to think about the value of sensor quality versus all the other aspects of a camera body. For example, despite the fact that the 7D Mark II is superior to the 6D in nearly every other aspect aside from the sensor, I went with the 6D. On the other hand, Tiffany did the opposite. Personally, I think that the 7D Mark II might be a more versatile option that the 6D. So, if you’re not really worried about high ISO shooting or full frame resolution, then the 7D Mark II is probably the best option for you.
After using the two bodies, I don’t regret my decision to buy the 6D. I have wanted to go full frame for years, and am glad I did. However, I do see all the advantages to the 7D Mark II and really think that body is a game changer. And, if I ever have the money or need to buy a back up body to replace my 60D, I’m pretty sure it’ll be a 7D Mark II.
What’s Next on the Travel Photography Blog
My US road trip continues with my next article and video with a 2 day hike into the incredible Havasu Canyon for some serious waterfall photography. Then, the road trip takes full swing with our first couple destinations being White Sands National Monument and Guadalupe National Mountains Park. Stay tuned!