Stepping up from crop sensor to full frame - was it worth it?
Before we kick off, I'll first make it clear that this isn't so much of a review of the Canon 6D MkII (with full frame sensor) bench-marked against like-for-like competition - but more an honest, impartial review of my decision to step up from my Canon 700D (crop sensor) camera. The newer version of the 700D, the 800D currently stands at around £580, while the Canon 6D MkII is priced at £1,849 (both on Amazon), so there was a marked increase in price.
Canon market their 6D MkII at the top end of their "enthusiast" DSLR range - and it sits as their lowest priced full frame camera. This classification sums up my level of expertise perfectly. Having been a keen amateur photographer for 6 years now, I take great care with image making and try to present myself as professionally as possible, I actually make no profit from my "art" - although I'd like to one day.
So now for the disclaimer! As I'm not a true pro as of yet, I'm still learning. I'll be honest in this article. Less easy though, will be getting all the technical lingo right - but I'll do my best...
Why did I buy?
Already a keen landscaper, I was given a couple of books about landscape photography for Christmas in 2017. Each book, within the first few pages, suggested that "proper landscape photographers" use "full frame" DSLR cameras. A few months later, with this still resonating in my head, I found my work beginning to plateau and I began to seriously consider the upgrade...
My main hope was that a full frame camera, with it's bigger sensor, would capture sharper detail and a higher dynamic range (detail in extreme light & dark areas of an image where there is a wide tonal range).
As a happy Canon user for 5 years up to this point, I was keen to stick with the brand. My decision then was to establish if I'd need the "full-on" Canon 5D MkIV (marketed in Canon's professional range), which to be honest, I could neither afford or justify (owning a camera bought for twice what I paid for my car!), or if the Canon 6D MkII would be a compromise I wouldn't want to make.
After speaking to a more techy friend and watching YouTube reviews, I discovered that two of the main advantages of the 5D over the 6D were with regards to video making and motion tracking - functions that I really don't need for landscape photography! The slight shortfall on megapixels against the 5D MkIV wasn't really a concern for me.
My mind was made up and I ordered a new Canon 6D MkII. I bought direct from Canon to avoid the bother of applying for their cashback scheme as the discount was immediately applied.
Was upgrading worth it?
So was the upgrade to the full frame Canon 6D MkII worth it? In a word, "totally!" After an initial period where I felt a little afraid to use it in case it was no better than my old 700D, my images began to improve almost straight away. The main improvements and beneficial features are as follows:
My images were becoming noticeably sharper.
Improved Dynamic Range
I soon found that I needed to rely on processing bracketed HDR images (used to avoid burn out and loss of detail in the blacks) much less. This could be partially attributed to buying a set of "Lee Hard Grad" filters at the same time as the camera upgrade - but even in situations where these filters weren't appropriate, I still found the 6D's dynamic range to be far superior than that of the 700D. Not only did this reduce the amount of effort in processing, but I found that it also produced more natural looking images.
Reduced Chromatic Aberration
Whether attributed to the kit lens or the camera itself, I found Chromatic Aberration to be much less of an issue. Although editing software like Photoshop can remove this imperfection from Camera Raw files with a click of a button, I much prefer that it to be "right" in camera. With the Canon 6D MkII, the unsightly cyan / magenta / red "fringing" that I used to get, especially around back-lit elements in frame, is almost non existent.
Versatile Kit Lens
I've found the "EF24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM" kit lens to be very versatile - it's almost changed the way I take photos (for the better!)
Previously on the 700D, for landscape photography I typically used my Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens (originally bought for estate agent type interior shots) and the kit 18-55mm lens. With a 1.6x crop factor applied, the range over 2 lenses is equivalent to 16-88mm on a full frame camera. So with the Canon 6D MkII's kit lens, I've only lost 8mm from the shorter end, but gained 17mm on the longer end of the focal range - with just one lens!
Since using the 6D MkII and 24-105 lens, I've felt that the extremely short focal length (wide angle) of the Sigma lens distorted perceptive a little too much. And now that I no longer need the super wide angle capability for interior shots, I've found a 24mm focal length to be quite short enough for my landscape shots. In fact, recently I've tended to switch to shooting with a longer focal length to distort perspective the other way - compressing perspective to give more weight in a picture to sunsets / God rays for example.
Are there any drawbacks?
Overall I must say that I happy with the Canon 6D MkII and don't regret spending the money on the upgrade for a second. With that said, in the interest of balance, the drawbacks of upgrading from crop sensor to full frame, for me, are as follows:
First and foremost, I'd class myself as a landscape photographer. But on occasions, especially when I'm out shooting with my sister (a keen wildlife photographer), I dabble in snapping birds and other wildlife. On these occasions, I miss the effect of the 1.6x focal length multiplication factor of the 700D's crop sensor. I just can't get close enough to wildlife with the 6D MkII with the same EF75-300mm f/4-5.6 used with the 700D before (be careful if you upgrade though - this was the only one of my old lenses that was compatible with my new 6D - using the other lenses may damage it) .
With that said, cameras are "horses for courses." If I wanted to shoot mainly wildlife, I'd probably have gone down the route of a Canon 7D (crop sensor) with a 600mm telephoto lens of some description, with a lens converter. Or, as my sister has done - opted for a good bridge camera. Her Nikon P900 with 83x zoom would be the equivalent of a 24mm to 2 metre-long lens on a full frame camera - which would be insane! Anyway, I digress...
Like my old 700D, the Canon 6D MkII has a fold out and "swivelable" (I think I just made that word up!) LCD screen. This comes in dead handy as almost all my shots are taken on a tripod - which are often not at eye level, so I can adjust the screen to suit. The touch screen feature is OK. Although I tend to disable the ability to one touch focus and shoot as I tend to accidentally touch the screen and take unwanted snaps. Again, similarly to the 700D, I have found the 6D MkII resistant to light rain. I haven't tried the Geo-tag feature - I really should give it a go!
To sum up - Crop vs Full Frame
So, as can probably tell, I'm more than happy with my decision to upgrade. I believe that my images have improved in sharpness, dynamic range and look more natural. If like me, you are keen to take your landscape images to the next step, I wouldn't persuade you against biting the bullet and investing in a full frame camera. For me, the Canon 6D MkII is just the job!
I can't vouch for it's performance for use in portraiture, although, on their website, Canon suggest that it works superbly. I'm not a wildlife photographer with the technical knowledge that comes with experience in the genre, but I would gather more research before opting for a full frame camera if this is to be your main subject matter.
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I hope you found this article useful. As always, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts via my contact page or social media.
Canon 6D MkII product page on the Canon website - www.canon.co.uk/cameras/eos-6d-mark-ii
What is "Chromatic Aberration?" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromatic_aberration
What is "Dynamic Range?" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_range#Photography
What is "HDR" and "Bracketing?" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-dynamic-range_imaging#Photography
What is a "camera sensor?" - https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/dslr-cameras/article/camera-sensor-sizes-explained
What is meant by "God rays?" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crepuscular_rays