Canon DSLR

Canon 6D Mark II setup for wildlife photography

INTRODUCTION

Canon’s EOS 6D Mark II is a newly-released “entry-level” full frame camera that replaces the 6D.  The 6D range is Canon’s least-expensive full-frame series.  The original 6D had an excellent full-frame sensor and was known as a strong low light performer.  The new camera builds on that with a higher-resolution 26 megapixel sensor, further improved in low-light image quality, and many other advances and improvements.  Some of these features mean that the new 6D Mark II becomes a much more viable camera for us as a wildlife camera.  Continuous shooting speed is now up at 6.5 frames per second (fps), the buffer is reasonably deep and the autofocus now boats 45 cross-type points and is highly configurable.  Add to that the powerful Live View capability that comes with the swivel-tilt touch screen and Canon’s ultra-accurate Dual Pixel Auto Focus (AF).   The camera has also become much more configurable, and more powerful in terms of set-up options and choices.  With all these new or expanded features, comes a little added complexity.  The EOS 6D Mark II will reward the user who takes time to set up their own camera to suit their own particular style of shooting.  In this setup guide we share our own setup of our 6D Mark II, with the caveat that the camera is new, and we may still make some changes to the settings laid out here, as we learn the camera over time.  For now, much of our initial setup is based upon our early experience of  the 6D Mark II, combined with our existing understanding of similar Canon EOS DSLR bodies like the 5D Mark III, the 5D Mark IV and the 80D.  

General Settings and Mode

We set our 6D Mark II in M-mode.  Switching between modes using the mode dial brings up a new mode dial guide which helps explain and shows the main characteristics of each mode for users new to such DSLR bodies.  If you prefer, it can easily be switched off in the menus further along this setup guide. 

Pressing the Q-button on the back of the camera, just above the rear command dial, displays the main camera settings.  You can just as easily press the Q-button on the rear LCD, on the bottom left, to activate the touchscreen and then gain direct access to all settings just by tapping with your finger.  For the majority of settings, there is more than one way to make selections.  Choose the method that best suits you.  For this setup guide we have followed the menus and controls, as not everybody will use the touch screen.  It is easy and intuitive to use the touchscreen, but if you have other Canon DSLR bodies that are not touch-screen equipped, it can be a little frustrating switching between them.

We prefer to use Manual (M) mode, with Auto ISO active which means we choose our shutter speed, we choose our aperture setting, and the camera adjusts the ISO accordingly.  Pressing the shutter button shows up the ISO setting which is being selected.  If it is too high then we quickly re-evaluate whether we can afford a slower shutter speed or if we can open up the aperture another stop.  We prefer to change the aperture setting on the front control dial next to the shutter release button, and we select our shutter speed by rotating the big rear command dial.

Making changes is very quick in this manner and requires no button pressing such as is required when controlling the ISO manually.  

It is also possible to carry out exposure compensation (EV) adjustments whilst in this mode and whilst using Auto ISO, which was not possible with the original 6D.  We either press the Set button and rotate the front control dial, or else press the Q-button and dial in the amount of compensation on the scale on the rear LCD screen.  You can do it via the touchscreen in the same way.

We also make use of Aperture Priority (AV) mode or Shutter-speed Priority (TV) mode and then control the ISO manually ourselves, although we find ourselves doing that less and less.

From this screen you can see that the camera is set for Ai Servo (Artificial Intelligence), moving subject focus, with Single AF point, Evaluative metering and High Speed continuous drive mode selected.  The number in brackets on the bottom right of the screen shows how many shots approximately can fit onto the SD card in the camera.  The smaller number to the left of it, in this case 16, shows the number of shots available in a burst.

For most of our wildlife photography work, we prefer to be using Ai Servo (continuous focusing for moving subjects) mode rather than One Shot.  That requires us to always try to place a focus point over the important part of our subject, so we move the focus point around in the frame to achieve that.  For those occasions when the focus point coverage does not reach far enough toward the frame edge to allow proper positioning, we configure a button to temporarily lock and hold the AF, illustrated further along this setup  guide.  It has also become easier than ever to switch between Ai Servo and One Shot on the 6D Mark II.  We don’t use the middle focus option called Ai Focus as we find it unreliable for our general subject matter.  Please note that all focus grid images displayed are from the EOS 80D which has a similar AF point layout but a smaller overall picture frame.  Over the coming months we will replace the 80D images with 6D Mark II images.

Please note that all focus grid images displayed are from the EOS 80D which has a similar AF point layout but a smaller overall picture frame.

With those settings in place, we will press the Menu button  on the back of the camera and then work through each menu tab.

Red Menu “SHOOT”

Starting with the first tab in the first Red menu, SHOOT1, we make sure to select RAW only and not JPEG.  As we prefer processing our own raw images, using Adobe Lightroom, we don’t need the camera to make JPEGs. Keeping both RAW and JPEG selected will fill up the buffer very quickly and slow down continuous shooting capability which is important to us for wildlife photography.

The front control dial moves the RAW setting.  The rear command wheel moves the JPEG setting.

We set “Release shutter without card” to OFF, which means that the camera will not trigger the shutter if there is no card inside.  Leaving it set to “ON” will allow the camera to SHOOT with no card in the drive, which is the last thing anybody needs.

The “Lens aberration correction”menu item gives access to a number of image enhancing, behind-the-scenes processing steps that make JPEG images look better.  As we shoot Raw only and carry out these processes ourselves in Lightroom, we have no need of them for the in-camera JPEGs.  Even if the 6D Mark II is set to RAW only, it will carry out these processing steps on each thumbnail JPEG it creates for the rear screen, using up processor power and impacting buffer and continuous shooting performance.  The buffer on the 6D Mark II is only just big enough at its best, so it is worth making it as efficient as possible.  It will also use less battery power with fewer steps to carry out.

After going into that menu option, we make sure to Disable (OFF) all four processes.

The last two menu items in SHOOT1 we ignore for now as they refer to one special lens that we don’t have and we also don’t use flash for wildlife so we ignore the flash menu for now.  

In the second tab, now called SHOOT2 menu, we access “ISO speed settings”

Here we can select Auto ISO.  

ISO speed range is the option for setting the minimum and maximum ISO settings for manual ISO control.  

After pressing the Set button, the following screen appears.

These are ISO settings that we will be able to access from either pressing the ISO button on the front of the camera and turning a dial, or by using the rear LCD to select and set the ISO number. We prefer to alter both the minimum and maximum.

We make Minimum ISO L (50).  This lower ISO setting of 50 does not offer any image quality advantage but sometimes we may need a very slow shutter speed in bright light, for creative purposes, and ISO 50 can make that possible.

We make Maximum ISO setting 12800 on the 6D Mark II, though I prefer to not go over ISO 6400 or ISO 8000 if I can help it.  The camera can still make images that are usable for internet purposes at ISO 12800.  Remember to press the OK field to lock in your choices.  

When you are done with that, select the menu option Auto range.

For Auto ISO, we choose ISO 100 for Minimum (ISO 50 is not available in Auto) and we choose ISO 12800 as the upper limit.  Even though we prefer to not go over ISO 6400 as explained earlier, we do keep ISO 12800 available.  That said, we try to always watch what ISO settings the camera is selecting whilst we are taking images, by looking at the ISO readout in the viewfinder when the shutter is half-pressed or on the rear LCD.  If you find that it is too difficult to remember to take note of the ISO readout in the viewfinder whilst shooting then perhaps set the maximum range for ISO when using Auto ISO to a more conservative number.

We use the 6D Mark II in Manual mode and Auto ISO most of the time, and we choose our shutter speed and our aperture setting according to our subject matter and ambient light.  The ISO setting is then selected by the camera, in direct response to what is required to match the shutter speed and aperture equation we chose.  Auto ISO never goes higher or lower than what we have asked it to do.  If we see that the ISO setting is too high, then it is up to us to choose a slower shutter speed or wider aperture if that is available.  We find this the fastest and most convenient way to manage our exposures for wildlife photography where frequent (sometimes rapid) changes of light, angle and subject distance are the norm.  It is not at all difficult to work this way and nothing like trying to use Manual mode along with manual control of ISO which we find too time-consuming for our kind of photography.  

If you prefer to use AV mode or TV mode and change the ISO manually by pressing the ISO button on the front of the camera, take care not to press the metering button instead and change out your metering choice accidentally.  The Metering button sits right beside the ISO button which is not the best design choice even though it has a little bump on its top to make it easier to identify.  If you are working in a rush, we think the likelihood is high that mistakes will be made.  To avoid this happening, it is possible to custom configure the ISO button to one of three other locations which could be safer and perhaps easier to operate.  It is possible to configure the ISO to be controlled by either the AF-On button, the AE-Lock button (*) or the SET button.  We don’t use our 6D Mark II in AV or TV mode, and because we make use of Auto ISO, we no longer need to change the ISO button whilst shooting, removing that concern for us.

If you do choose to use the 6D Mark II in AV mode, then there is a new method to combine that mode with Auto ISO, and the settings for that option are accessed from the menu item Min. shutter spd. (Minimum Shutter Speed).

 

If you choose to use the Auto option for selecting the minimum shutter speed, you are able to bias that speed Faster or Slower by moving the slider accordingly.  Choose Faster if you are handholding long telephoto lenses or photographing fast-moving subjects.

If you choose Manual, then there are a whole menu of different shutter speeds to select from.

What this setting does is allow the AV mode user to choose a minimum shutter speed, say 1/500 second for this example, and the ISO will adjust automatically to maintain that as needed.  This will take place when the light levels drop low enough that the shutter speed resulting from the user’s choice of ISO setting become lower than 1/500 second.  It is a pretty good fail-safe option for keeping shutter speeds at a preferred minimum whilst remaining in AV mode.  

The image above shows our 6D Mark II with our settings in place.  Remember that the Minimum shutter speed option relates only to shooting in AV mode or P mode.  We only have it set up to 1/500 sec for the purpose of explaining the function.  By shooting in M mode and using Auto ISO, we by default already set our minimum shutter speed and have no need of this function, nor does it work with M mode.

Auto Lighting Optimizer is another image enhancing process that I prefer doing myself when processing my own RAW images (equivalent to the Shadow slider in Adobe editing programs). Because we shoot RAW image quality only and process our RAW 6D Mark II images ourselves, we have no need of Auto Lighting Optimizer.  Switching it to OFF maximizes buffer performance and battery life.  Left switched on,  Auto Lighting Optimizer will run each time an image is taken, whether RAW or JPEG, on the JPEG preview that appears on the camera LCD screen.

 

We select AWB, (Auto White Balance) for our 6D Mark II for shooting mostly outside.  The camera offers two different versions of how you want Auto White Balance to function.

By pressing the Info button whilst AWB is highlighted, or the Info button on the touchscreen, it is possible to choose between AWB (Ambience) or AWB W (images produced with cleaner whites).  There are also a number of other white balance preset options which we don’t use in our outdoor work.

AWB (Ambience) will produce images showing stronger yellow or orange tones whereas AWB W (the new option) produces images with cleaner white tones.  Personal preference will dictate your choice.  We prefer the AWB (Ambience) tones for the wildlife shooting that we do.  Personal preference will the deciding factor with this one.

We find that all our Canon cameras tend to give too much of a magenta (purple) tinge to some of our subject matter, especially things like grey elephants.  This is most noticeable to me when shooting in twilight conditions which we do a lot.  As a personal preference, we shift all our Canon cameras white balance away from Magenta and toward Green.

We do this by selecting WB Shift/Bkt from the SHOOT2 menu, and moving the slider two clicks upwards, locking in our choice with the Set button.  This saves a little time in processing.  If we find that we are shooting in different situations where our images become too greenish then we simply change it back.

Default colour space is sRGB.  This is good for a workflow where you are shooting images that will be displayed on the internet or on a screen.  If your images are intended for print straight from the camera with no further editing, then Adobe RGB is the preferred colour space.  The colour space setting is less relevant if you are shooting RAW images and processing yourself as colour space decisions can be made during processing with no negative impact on image quality.  With sRGB selected, images captured using that colour space will appear a little ‘warmer’ in tone on the rear LCD.

The first option in the SHOOT 3 menu is Picture Style.  This gives access to a set of image processing parameters that influence how the camera will make JPEG’s.  As we don’t SHOOT JPEG’s with our 6D Mark II we leave this on Standard.  Even if you only SHOOT RAW as we do, whatever Picture Style is selected will affect how the JPEG previews show up on the rear LCD too.  It is possible to modify the Picture Style presets in quite a variety of ways if you so choose.

Some users reduce Contrast and Saturation in the Picture Style controls to make the JPEG previews on the camera LCD more closely resemble their RAW images which can be helpful for making decisions in the field. 

In the third tab, SHOOT3 menu, we turn “Long exposure noise reduction” to OFF.  This maximizes buffer performance and extends camera battery life.  Leaving it switched on means it will run, fully or partially, for every image that is taken, on the JPEG preview image that shows up on the rear LCD.  If we do need to use this setting for long exposures at night we turn it on again.

Still in SHOOT3 menu, we turn off “High ISO speed NR” (Noise Reduction)

Similarly, we set “High ISO speed Noise Reduction” to OFF.  As we do our noise reduction on our RAW images in processing on our computers, we prefer to not have the in-camera noise reduction running.  Having it enabled will impact the buffer performance and continuous shooting.  If you shoot JPEGs you may want it switched on.  

We do the same for “Highlight tone priority”.  We prefer doing all noise reduction and image enhancing processes on our RAW images afterwards on our computers as in-camera they consume battery power and impact buffer and continuous shooting negatively.

We keep Multiple exposure Disabled.  It can be seen in the menu image of our 6D Mark II above, that the in-camera HDR Mode option is greyed-out, meaning it is not available.  This is because our camera is set for RAW shooting.  To enable HDR (high dynamic range) capture to work in-camera, just change the camera Image quality in the SHOOT1 menu to any of the JPEG options.

Now we move to the SHOOT4 tab.  Here the first menu item, Interval timer, is Disabled by default.  For regular wildlife photography we leave it disabled.

If you do wish to use the Interval Timer, which is an excellent feature of the 6D Mark II, first choose Enable.

In the screen pictured above you can see how to set the interval between frames.  In the box for No. (number) of shots, you can select from 1-99 shots in the sequence.  After 99 comes 00 (zero zero) which will allow an unlimited number of shots.

Still in the SHOOT4 menu, for regular outdoor wildlife photography we disable Bulb timer.

We also keep Anti-flicker shoot disabled, but if we are going to be shooting indoors or anyplace where artificial light sources are important then we Enable it.  Anti-flicker is a powerful feature that strongly boosts the new camera’s capability when working with artificial light.

For the last item in the SHOOT4 menu, Live View shoot, we choose Enable.

If you have been using your 6D Mark II in regular viewfinder shooting mode (not using Live View), then you will notice that the last tab in this red camera menu is SHOOT4.  

Pressing the small circular button marked START/STOP once with the white mark pointing to the Live View (white camera) symbol will enable the Live View operation.  

Pressing the Menu button on the top left of the rear of the camera now will once again bring up the red SHOOT4 menu but you will now notice that there is now a tab 5.  

The whole SHOOT5 menu deals with Live View shooting beginning with the autofocus method.

There are three different AF point options in the 6D Mark II’s Dual Pixel AF (DPAF) system.  We use Live View focusing on our 6D Mark II to enable us to work outside of regular angles, in relative comfort.  This might be with a wide-angle lens, and the camera held away from our bodies in order to get a few extra inches of proximity to a subject.  Being able to flip out the rear LCD screen and tilt it means we can always see what we are doing even without looking through the viewfinder.  It is one of the 6D Mark II strongest performance features for us.  We find that focus accuracy using DPAF is very, very high.  We also find that it works at its quickest, and also its most accurate, when the subject is still or moving slowly, and the camera is also steady.  We don’t try to track very fast-moving subjects in Live View.

The first AF method in the SHOOT5 menu, is represented by a symbol of a face, plus the word Tracking.   This the option that prioritizes people’s faces as the main subject.  

Smooth zone is the new name for a group of AF points which can be placed anywhere in the frame.

Live 1-point AF works with just a single point which can be placed anywhere in the frame.

The AF system can also be accessed and easily controlled whilst the camera is in Live View.

Pressing the Q-button on the back of the camera (once or twice) when it is in Live View brings up these options for AF selection (by field or touch screen).

In face-tracking, if the camera can not identify a human face then it switches to the closest/highest contrast part of the frame which may not always be desirable with wildlife subjects.  

This is where the touch screen works superbly as one need only lightly touch the part of the frame where you want focus to be.  This will also identify your selection for the camera to track but figuring out which subjects are automatically tracked best, takes some practice and experimentation.  It is also dependent on ambient light, speed of subject movement and the background.

Zone AF works with a medium-sized cluster of AF points, clumped together.

Again, just touching the rear screen on the part of the subject that you want to be in-focus will instantly snap the focus point to that location.  You can move the focus point with your finger or by tilting the direction pad that surrounds the Set button.

Choosing Live 1-point AF means only a single autofocus point is available.

This is perhaps the AF point choice that we make the most use of on our 6D Mark II when we are shooting wildlife.  We find it accurate and quick to snap into focus.  It also places the responsibility on the user to select the point of focus accurately. 

This screen also allows the user to choose between One Shot focus and Servo.  One Shot is best for static subject matter.

For moving subject matter, Servo is better. Servo is also better when shooting from platforms that are not stable or may be in motion.

Pressing the Menu button on the back of the camera will take you back to the SHOOT5 menu.

This is where you can Disable or Enable the Touch Shutter.  Enabled, just touching the rear LCD screen will trip the shutter, as well as position the focus point.  You can also switch the touch shutter function on or off via the touch screen itself.  We will Enable the touch shutter for those times when it is easier to reach the screen than the shutter button.  This sometimes happens if you are holding the camera at an unusual angle.

The rest of the menu items in the SHOOT5 menu are all related to Live View shooting.  

Personal preference will determine your choices. 

Metering timer we leave at 8 seconds.

Grid display will show a grid on the Live View rear screen to aid composition.

Expo. simulation (Exposure) will show a histogram of the Live View image whilst you are composing which can be very helpful.

Silent LV shoot. we leave on Mode 1.

To access the video settings for the 6D Mark II, just make a small rotation of the START/STOP switch until the white indicator dot is pointing at the red video camera symbol and press the Menu button on the back of the camera.  To keep this post from getting too long we have left video setup out for a separate post at a later date.

Blue Menu “PLAY”

The blue menu tabs all deal mostly with playback options, as well as some in-camera image editing.  We make no changes to any PLAY1 menu tab.

We make no changes to any PLAY2 menu tab items.

In the PLAY3 menu, changing Highlight alert to Enable will mean that overexposed highlights will show as flashing areas (blinkies) in the image on the rear LCD.  Having this Enabled or Disabled is a personal preference. 

With AF Point display, having it Enabled will allow you to see where your focus point was when you took an image, however this is in playback only.  

In PLAY3 menu, the Histogram display option allows you to choose an RGB histogram or one that is based on a combined channel readout, Brightness.  We just stick to the Brightness option but the RGB histogram can also be very useful, showing all three colour channels separately.

Still in PLAY3 we change the value for Magnification.  This takes effect whenever you press the Magnify button to zoom in on an image in playback.

Choosing Actual size (from selected point) means that pressing the Magnify button only once will bring up the image being reviewed at a high magnification, so that we don’t have to spend more time turning the control wheel to make it big enough to evaluate.

Yellow Menu “SET UP”

We make minimal changes in the SET UP1 menu tab, although I do disable ‘Wireless communication settings” unless I intend to control the camera with another device.

We use Format card whenever we are putting in a card for a fresh shoot, and always check the block for Low Level Format as this apparently helps SD cards maintain good performance.

In SET UP2 menu, we leave “Auto power off” set at 1 min.  That way the camera goes into standby mode quickly but is ready to go at the touch of shutter, which is how we prefer to work when we are in wildlife areas.

If you find that the rear screen is too dim to always make out clearly especially in bright daylight selecting the LCD Brightness option is where it can be changed.

We usually make it one click brighter.  This will use up a little more battery power though.

LCD off/on btn (button) refers to the camera rear LCD.  If “Remains on” is selected, then the rear LCD will remain illuminated and active whilst you are shooting through the viewfinder, if you have pressed the Info button on the camera.  Selecting Shutter btn (button) will mean that the rear LCD will switch off when you press the shutter.  If you want it to switch off altogether when viewfinder shooting, you can keep pressing the Info button.

The Date/Time/Zone is where you can set your camera to your local time.  If you shoot your 6D Mark II beside your other Canon cameras make sure that the times are all identical, otherwise it can be frustrating when you are sorting and organizing the images afterwards.

The next setting that we go into is ‘Viewfinder display”

We set ‘Electronic level” to Show, and “Grid Display” to Show.  Both the level and the grid are very helpful to us when looking through the viewfinder, in helping us get our images level in-camera.

“Show/hide in viewfinder” refers to a selection of important camera settings, which can be shown in the viewfinder if desired.

Place a checkmark in the box in order to be able to see this information inside the viewfinder.  It shows in quite small in black, on the very bottom of the viewfinder.

We choose to have settings show that we might accidentally change and not notice whilst looking through the viewfinder.  We select AF mode and Metering, and keep Flicker on which will warn us if we are shooting indoors that it can be switched on.

In the SET UP3 menu tab, choose whether you wish to run the “GPS” or not.  

The 6D Mark II GPS has two different modes, one of which uses less power.  We leave it Disabled for regular shooting unless we have special need for a location.  It is a nice feature in the camera.

Still in SET UP3 menu, you can get rid of the “Mode guide” which flashes descriptive images and text on the rear LCD when you switch modes.

Similarly you can disable the “Feature guide” here but we find it quite useful for clarifying options at times.

We leave “Touch control” as the Standard setting.  This directly affects how the touchscreen responds, but we have found that Standard works well.  Even with a new Kenko screen protector in place, our 6D Mark II touchscreen functions perfectly.

If for some reason you don’t want the touchscreen to operate at all it can be disabled here.

We leave the “Beep” option Enabled for the touchscreen.

Still in SET UP4 menu, the “Battery info.” (information) screen allows an accurate readout of both the battery percentage remaining as well as a shutter count.  

The “Sensor cleaning” menu item flips up the mirror so that the sensor can be cleaned manually.

The “INFO button display options” is where we can choose what information comes up when we press the INFO button (left of viewfinder)

There are two screens that cycle, one after another, each time you press the INFO button.  You can uncheck the boxes if you have no need of seeing the “Electronic level” or the “Quick Control screen”.

For regular wildlife shooting we prefer to remove the “Electronic level”, so that the “Quick Control screen” alone shows up when we press the INFO button on the back of the camera.  We enable the “Electronic level” for landscapes or product shooting when it is very useful for getting the camera level.

In SET UP4 menu, the “Multi function lock” can be accessed.

The “Multi function lock” can be configured in multiple ways.  The lock control lever is located below the large rear command dial, on the back bottom right of the camera body.  Options are there to use the Lock to act on any one of the following: The main control wheel (next to the shutter release), or the quick control dial, or the multi-controller pad (around the Set button) or it can lock out use of the Touch screen.  Personal preference will dictate your choice. We don’t lock anything on the 6D Mark II with it.

In SET UP5 menu, the first option accesses the screens to set up the “Custom shooting mode (C1, C2)” settings which relate directly to the C1 and C2 positions on the mode dial.

It is quick and easy to set up the Custom modes on the 6D Mark II.  Typically we don’t make use of them on our 6D Mark II but they can be very useful to get the camera ready quickly for a given photographic scenario.

“Clear all camera settings” is basically a reset button for the camera.  This menu item can be used if you need to quickly return the camera settings to default.  It can also sometimes be helpful to clear any random niggles or errors that may afflict the camera.

“Copyright information” is the location where you can input your own copyright information which is embedded in the file information that travels with each image.

You only need to do this once.

We found this a bit cumbersome and tedious on older Canon cameras but the touchscreen on the 6D Mark II makes it quick and easy.

The last item in SET UP5 menu is “Firmware”.  Here you can see which firmware version your camera is working on.  This is also the place to go to update the firmware yourself if you have newer firmware available which can be obtained from official Canon websites worldwide and can be copied onto the camera by using an SD card.

Orange “CUSTOM FUNCTION” 

When you get to the Orange menu, the layout of the submenus are slightly different.  Your different options are grouped under the C.Fn menu. 

C.Fn I: Exposure

In the sub-menu we have the “C.Fn I” (Custom Function) option.  Here we get access to the group of settings dealing with “Exposure”.

C.Fn I: Exposure level increments (1)

The default option for exposure level increments is 1/3 stop.  We leave it there.  This allows us finer control over our aperture setting choices.

C.Fn I: ISO speed setting increments (2)

The default option for “ISO speed setting increments” is 1/3 stop.  We leave it there.  This allows us finer control over ISO choices with ‘in-between’ numbers available like ISO 250 or ISO 320.

C.Fn I: Bracketing auto cancel (3)

The default option for Bracketing is “Bracketing auto cancel”after a sequence has been captured.  We leave it there.

C.Fn I: Bracketing sequence (4)

The default option for “Bracketing sequence” is for Bracketing shots to follow the zero then minus then plus exposure sequence.  We leave it there.

C.Fn I: Number of bracketed shots (5)

The default option for the “Number of bracketed shots” is 3.  We leave it there unless we have an ultra-high dynamic range shot to capture.

C.Fn I: Safety shift (6)

“Safety shift” is a kind of failsafe setting that can help prevent a very overexposed image being taken inadvertently.  The camera will automatically and temporarily switch to P (Program) mode  and allow either the shutter speed or aperture to ‘float” if it is in AV or TV mode and the exposure settings we chose are about to lead to a very overexposed image.  It can save a mistake.

We enable it just as a matter of course even though we shoot mostly in M-mode with Auto ISO so have far less need of this function than before.

C.Fn I: Exposure comp. auto cancel (7)

“Exposure comp. auto cancel” (compensation) appears to be a brand-new option in a Canon DSLR.

Leaving it on 0: Disable will mean that if you use exposure compensation, whether plus or minus, and you switch off the camera, when you turn it back on again the exposure compensation amount that you last used, will still be in place.

Choosing 1: Enable means that once you turn off the 6D Mark II, any exposure compensation amount that you might have had set up, will be canceled when the camera is started up again.  This is how we prefer our camera to work.  It can be very easy to accidentally forget about exposure compensation so this new option helps to prevent it in one way at least.  For our 6D Mark II we choose option 1: Enable. 

C.Fn I: Metering mode, AE locked after focus (8)

“Metering mode, AE locked after focus” is another new metering option and potentially an important one, depending on how you like shooting.  

The settings apply to the 6D Mark II metering, only when using One Shot AF.  

All modern Canon DSLRs have the characteristic, in One Shot AF mode, of locking the focus when the shutter is pressed halfway-down.  Until now all of them also locked the metering at the precise time that focus was locked.  With the 6D Mark II, Canon have given us the option of metering no longer locking, and continuing right up until the shutter is pressed.  This results in more accurate metering especially if the scene was significantly brighter or darker than the frame where focus was locked.  We like this new option a lot.  

Not only is the option to make metering continuous now available in One Shot AF mode but 6D Mark II users can choose to limit it to any one of the four metering modes or all of them.

We like to have our metering unlocked in One Shot AF, so we uncheck all four boxes.   

This is Canon’s in-camera explanation of the new functionality that can now be selected.

We like the new method of having our Evaluative metering unlocked in One Shot AF, so we uncheck all the boxes except for Spot Metering.  That way we can lock and recompose with Spot Metering, because, on the 6D Mark II, the metering does not follow the focus point around the frame.  (So far that function is only available in the 1DX series).  

We recommend that if you use One Shot AF mode a lot on your 6D Mark II that you take some time to fully understand the advantages and differences of this new metering option, and how it affects your particular photography scenario.  We don’t use Partial metering or Centre Weighted Average so have not investigated their function.  With the new function only available on the 6D Mark II, it may also be a bit frustrating if you shoot it beside other Canon DSLRs which operate differently.  Fortunately if, for whatever reason you still want to keep metering locked to One-Shot AF, simply check all four of the boxes and it will remain the same as all other Canon DSLRs before it.

C.Fn II: Autofocus

The 6D Mark II has its autofocus settings all grouped under the C.Fn II: Autofocus heading.  Unlike higher-end models like the 7D Mark II, and the 5D and 1DX series, the 6D Mark II does not have a dedicated Autofocus menu under its own tab.  What is more important though, is that it has almost all of the essential adjustable parameters that are found in the more expensive cameras, just presented slightly differently and without the AF Cases (which are just a grouping of presets).

The 6D Mark II has a very capable autofocus system both in terms of its specification and configuration options, and it gets the job done.  The section of this post dealing with why or how we set up our own 6D Mark II autofocus is in-depth.  If you prefer to not delve into the more technical elements of the system, be assured that the Default Autofocus settings work very well for a wide range of subjects.

C.Fn II: Tracking sensitivity (1)

Going into the “C.Fn II: Autofocus” menu option opens up this set of 16 different adjustment screens, with a numbered tab right on the bottom.  The first parameter is a very important one, called Tracking Sensitivity.  

The “Tracking Sensitivity” setting controls how long the camera will ‘wait’ before refocusing, when a new subject/object moves between the camera and the original subject, or if the active focus point is moved off of the subject unintentionally.  An example of this is when you are tracking a bird, and the bird passes behind a branch, momentarily.  With this setting on Responsive (+2), it is more likely that the AF will quickly lock onto the branch.  If this setting is on the opposite, Locked-On (-2), it is likely that the camera will hold the focus for longer, without attempting to re-focus for long enough that the bird can once again be located once the obstruction has passed by and out of the line of sight.

Another example of how this parameter can be of use, is for those times when you are tracking a moving subject with an active AF point on that subject, and you accidentally move the camera so that the active AF point drops off of the subject.  With Tracking sensitivity set to -1 or -2, there will be more time available for you to re-locate the subject, without the lens having focused on the background.  The image above (from an 80D capture) is an example of such an instance.  My Single AF point was right in the middle of the frame, with blue sky behind it which was my mistake, but the camera did not immediately try to focus on the blue sky background, rather remaining focused on the skimmer, and allowing me to capture the focused image sharply.

Canon do mention that with Tracking Sensitivity set to the Locked-On side of the slider, it may take the AF a little longer to re-aquire focus if focus is lost. Canon also state that initial AF acquisition is not affected by setting Tracking sensitivity to Locked-On (-1 or -2).  Despite what Canon have stated, it is my feeling that having the camera set toward Locked-On, either -1 or -2, may result in slightly slower AF response if a subject is coming directly toward the camera at high speed.  If I expect to be shooting oncoming subjects a lot, I may keep the Tracking Sensitivity on 0 or +1.

Tracking sensitivity is definitely one of the  the most important of the adjustment parameters described here in that it can make a noticeable difference to how stable Ai Servo AF tracking is if you move it towards the negative settings, or Locked-On side of the slider.  It can also speed up the AF systems responsiveness if you move it toward the plus or Responsive side of the slider.

In our experience, we find that we more likely to slow down Tracking Sensitivity (-1 or -2) when we are using focal lengths of around 400mm and upward, and only if we feel that we are dropping focus off the subject too often.  When we are working with lenses with shorter focal lengths, 400mm or less, we may leave Tracking Sensitivity on 0 or even +1 if we are expecting really fast, approaching subjects.  With shorter focal lengths, it is much easier to keep the focus point/points on the subject, and also easy enough to relocate the subject even if we do move the point away momentarily.

C.Fn II: Accel/decel. tracking (2)

The “Accel./decel. tracking” (accelerate and decelerate) setting allows the AF to be optimized to capture fast-moving subjects that might suddenly stop, or move in a random direction, or rapidly speed up or slow down.  The 0 setting for this parameter is suited for tracking subjects that move at a steady speed.  Most of the subjects that I shoot accelerate or decelerate whilst I am tracking them.  Also, if I have a subject coming towards me, even if that subject is staying at a steady speed, I have to allow for the relative increase in speed the closer to me that subject gets.  Think of trying to track a bird flying towards and right by you…your panning motion has to speed up dramatically as the subject gets closer to you and actually passes by.  As I like to try and SHOOT fast moving subjects whenever possible, I either leave this setting on (0)  or on (+1) with good results.  According to Canon, setting it to (+2) will make it very responsive but also a bit less stable.  At the time of writing I have not found need yet of using this setting on (+2).

C.Fn II: AF pt auto switching (3)

 

If you are a photographer that prefers to always use the camera in Single AF point mode (or Spot AF point mode) , then you can disregard this parameter.  It’s function only applies when shooting with those AF mode options that utilize more than one AF point, so that would be Zone AF, Large Zone AF and 45 Point AF on the 6DMark II.

When you are shooting any one of those AF modes, there may be situations where the AF point that held initial focus is no longer on the subject, due to subject movement or camera movement. In such instances the camera then hands focus over to the next adjacent AF point which detects the subject and takes over tracking.  This parameter, AF Point Auto Switching, determines how quickly or slowly that handover from one AF point to the next, takes place.  On the 6DMark II I have not had need to move this setting beyond (0) which is the default setting. 

C.Fn II: Ai Servo 1st image priority (4)

The “Ai Servo 1st image priority” controls how much time is allowed for focus to take place in Ai Servo before the shutter fires, but applies only to the very first image in a burst.  It is an important adjustment slider.  The options on the slider go from Release on the left, to Focus on the right.  Moving the slider left, to the Release position, will reduce and limit how much time the camera will allow for focus to take place before the image is taken.  The amount of time allowed will only be that which is needed for the camera to fire at its selected frame rate which is 7 frames per second at the maximum.  With the slider in the Release position, focus tracking will only take place for a limited time,  but it will take place (there seems to be some confusion amongst photographers whether focus takes place, but it always does).  However, once the allocated time is up, the camera will fire the shutter regardless of whether focus was confirmed or not.  

Moving the slider all the way to the right, to the Focus position, will mean that in Ai Servo, the camera will allow as much time as needed for focus tracking to confirm BEFORE it allows the shutter to fire.  In reality, what this can mean is that in difficult focus conditions, such as subjects and backgrounds that are similar, or very high speed movement, or very low light, the frame rate of the camera may slow down significantly to allow the extra time for focusing.

Simply stated, focus tracking takes place for both the Release option or the Focus option, but with Focus, more time is allowed when needed.  Again, it should be remembered that the setting you choose on this screen applies to the first image in a burst only.  Your own preferences may differ according to your choice of subject matter and your own shooting style.  I always choose Release on any of my Canon DSLR bodies, for the “Ai Servo 1st image priority”.  I know with Release enabled, that I am able to get off my first shot quickly, and with little hesitation.   Whilst setting the option to Focus priority is likely to increase the percentage of in-focus first images, it can also increase the amount of time that it takes to get the first shot off.  Canon recommend the use of the Focus priority setting in very low light situations.

C.Fn II: Ai Servo 2nd image priority (5)

“Ai Servo 2nd Image Priority” allows you to biase your AF timing, either toward speed or focus priority for the second image and every subsequent one in a burst.  Once you lift your finger up off the shutter button, it signals the end of that burst, and the next image taken will then be the first image in what the camera sees as a new burst.  This is another important slider for fine-tuning the 6D Mark II focus system.

With two separate sets of controlling sliders, Canon make it possible for you to configure your camera AF timing exactly to your own liking, and to tailor it to different AF shooting situations. With this slider, you are again choosing how much time is allowed for focus to take place between each frame in a burst, after the first image (the timing of which is controlled by Ai Servo 1st Image Priority setting).

Moving the slider to the left, to the Release position, limits how much time the camera allows for focus to occur before the image is taken.  The time allowed being only what is needed for the camera to fire at its selected frame rate (which may be up to 6.5 frames per second).  In the Release position, focus tracking will still take place, (as it always does).  The difference is that once the allocated time is up, the camera will fire the shutter regardless of whether focus is confirmed or not.  Moving the slider all the way toward Focus, will result in focus being heavily prioritized with every frame from the second one onwards in an Ai Servo burst.  The camera will delay firing until it confirms focus, or as close to it as it can come.  This should result in more in-focus shots in a burst.  However, choosing this option can also result in the 6D Mark II slowing down during a burst, and the frame rate changing.  This may happen in response to difficult conditions where it is difficult for Ai Servo AF to confirm focus and is perfectly normal.  If you are not accustomed to it, it may feel as if the camera is lagging behind the shutter release.  Canon recommend the use of this setting for very low light situations, to improve tracking accuracy.  

The middle setting on this slider represents an equal balance  with 0 being an equal balance between release speed and focus priority.

We find that for our own shooting preferences, we get good results with the 6D Mark II and Ai Servo 2nd image priority set to Speed (which is not that fast anyway).  If we find that we are getting too many shots from bursts that are not properly focused, then we may move it back to 0 (Equal priority) and try again.

C.Fn II: AF-assist beam firing (6)

We keep this set at Disable unless we have a flash mounted.

C.Fn II: Lens drive when AF impossible (7)

Setting the camera to “0: Continue focus search” means that if my lens becomes deeply out of focus, the camera will continue to drive the focusing elements back and forth until it can acquire focus.  This setting becomes more important when using long focal lengths, like 500mm and upwards.

C.Fn II: Select AF area select mode (8)

The 6D Mark II has a 45-point autofocus grid, with all points being cross-type up to f5.6.  There are five different autofocus point groupings, as seen through the viewfinder.  These are : Spot AF, Manual Select Single Point AF, AF Zone, Large Zone AF and Auto Select 45-Point AF.

Spot AF

“Spot AF” is a very small single AF point, perhaps half the size of the regular Single AF point, even though it looks the same size in the viewfinder or in the AF display on the rear LCD.  We don’t use it for moving subjects though it is meant to be more accurate when precise AF point placement is important.  It may also be small enough to all focusing between obstacles like grass etc.  Spot AF should not be confused with Spot Metering, they are two different things.  

With Spot AF, the focus point is chosen by the user and moved manually around the frame, one row at a time.

Single Point AF

Our own preference with this camera is to use the manually selected, “1 pt AF” (Single Point AF), as shown above, (though the points appear black in the actual viewfinder).

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With Single Point AF, we get accurate placement of the selected AF point when we need to be precise, and focus on the subjects eye, which is a norm for wildlife photography.  With static subject or slow-moving subject matter, we are confident of the accuracy of even the outermost AF points in the grid, even when using a lens with a 5.6 aperture like the EF 100-400L f4.5-5.6 IS ii.  

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However, if we expect a subject to be fast-moving then we usually move just one row in from the outermost autofocus points.  We find that we get a better keeper rate of sharper shots by working like this, when we remember to do it.  Light from the lens typically falls off a little toward the edges of the image circle, which may account for our lower level of success when selecting the outermost points for rapid subjects.  With Single Point AF, the focus point is chosen by the user and moved manually around the frame, one row at a time.

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Zone AF 

“Zone AF” displays in the viewfinder and rear screen as a group of 9 AF points.  With AF Zone, we can choose where we place the block of AF points, but the camera will choose which AF point gets focus from those in the group.  In the viewfinder, we can see which point has found focus, as the inner circle within the AF square disappears.  With AF Zone  we have control over where we wish to place the group of points.  We find AF Zone to be very useful for focusing larger subjects, as well as for birds against a clear sky.  Unlike 45 point AF, with AF Zone we can control where we place the group of points.  AF Zone is not always the best choice when we are very close to a subject, as it is not as precise as Single point AF.  It works best when we have a little more depth of field.  With AF Zone, moving the block of AF points around the grid is very quick, as it moves a whole block at a time.  With AF Zone, the active AF point is chosen by the camera, and the cluster of points moved manually, one whole block of points at a time.

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Large Zone AF

“Large Zone AF” displays in the viewfinder and rear screen as a large group of 15 AF points.  With AF Zone, we can choose where we place the block of AF points, but the camera will choose which AF point gets focus from those in the group.  In the viewfinder, we can see which point has found focus, as the inner circle within the AF square disappears.  With AF Zone  we have control over where we wish to place the group of points.  We find AF Zone to be very useful for focusing larger subjects, as well as for birds against a clear sky.  Unlike 45 point AF, with AF Zone we can control where we place the group of points within three different locations.  AF Zone is not always the best choice when we are very close to a subject, as it is not as precise as Single point AF.  It works best when we have a little more depth of field.  With AF Zone, moving the block of AF points around the grid is very quick, as it moves a whole block at a time.  With AF Zone, the active AF point is chosen by the camera, and the cluster of points moved manually, one whole block of points at a time.

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Auto Selection AF 

“Auto Selection AF” is where all 45 points in the viewfinder are displayed.  We find it works best when tracking larger subjects, or subjects with lots of contrast, or subjects that are very different to their backgrounds.  Birds flying against a clear sky are a good example.

In “C.FN II Initial AF pt” (No 11) (detailed further down this text), you can control whether the 6D Mark II begins focusing with a point selected by yourself or any one of the 45 AF points.  Using Auto Selection AF 45 point means that the camera will hand over whichever focus point has achieved focus from one to the other, as it attempts to follow the subject.  We find that it can be useful but that it can be overwhelmed by speed.  We also find that it does better with subjects moving across the frame rather than those coming directly toward us.  We also prefer using it when we don’t require pinpoint accuracy in terms of which part of our subject is in focus as we don’t have control over which point will be used.  It is also easier to be successful using Auto Selection AF 45 point when we are shooting with more depth of field rather than less. 

“C.Fn II: Autofocus 8” allows you to choose which of the five autofocus groupings to keep available when you cycle through them.  If there are any of these five groupings that you don’t use, unchecking that option here will mean it does not show up when cycling through the different choices, saving you time and limiting the risk of choosing the wrong one.  

On our 6D Mark II we usually just keep Single Point AF and AF Zone available.  We disable the other three focus groupings.  Whilst Large Zone and full Auto 45 point autofocus have some  advantages of ease of use, they can both be limiting when it comes to controlling where focus is happening.  For that reason we don’t normally use either of them, especially when we need focus accuracy.  If you photograph slow-moving, large subjects then both Large Zone AF and Auto 45 point AF can be useful.

C.Fn II: AF area selection method (9)

Keeping this setting on 0 as we do means that we can directly select the different focus groupings (Single Pt AF and AF Zone in my case), using the AF Area button located just to the side of the shutter release.  The camera needs to be switched on and active, for the AF Area button to function.  Pressing it once will illuminate the viewfinder as well as the AF points in red.  Pressing it again quickly will select the next AF area in the sequence.

C.Fn II Orientation linked AF point (10) 

We keep this setting on 0 so that we always have control of where the active AF point/s are.  Choosing option 1 or 2 will make the camera automatically choose different, pre-selected AF points and groupings when you switch from shooting horizontal to vertical.

C.Fn II: Initial AF point, Ai Servo AF (11)

This menu allows you to choose which AF point the camera will initiate autofocus with, if you switch to Automatic-Selection AF 45 Pts, directly after you have been focusing using Spot AF or Single Point AF.  It will then begin focusing in the 45 point grid using the last point selected in Spot AF or Single Point AF.

We select option 2: Manual AF point, to enable that behaviour.

C.Fn II: Auto AF pt sel: Color Tracking (12)

We disable Color Tracking, which is most useful in 45 Point (and AF Zone) focusing.  Color information from the cameras meter is used to assist focus tracking.

In our experience with Canon cameras with similar AF tracking systems to the 6DMark II, we have found that whilst Color Tracking may be useful for brightly-coloured subjects or those moving steadily and predictably, much of our wildlife subject matter is none of those things.  We have gotten our best results from the autofocus by minimizing extra calculations like this one.

C.Fn II: AF point selection movement (13)

We keep our 6DMark II set at 0: Stops at AF area edges – which means that if we are moving a focus point all the way to the edge of the 45 point grid, and we keep moving it towards the edge, it will stop when it reaches the outermost ring of points.  Choosing option 1 will allow the point to shift right across to the opposite side for the AF grid when it reaches an end.

C.Fn II: AF point display during focus (14)

This screen allows the user to choose how the viewfinder will display the autofocusing points.  It really comes down to personal preference, and ours is option 1: All (constant).  This means that when we look through the viewfinder, all 45 of the AF point locations are visible as small black outlined squares.  The selected point/s are shown in a thicker black outline that is superimposed on the smaller squares of the grid.

C.Fn II: VF display illumination (15)

Choosing option 1: Enable on this screen will allow the 6DMark II AF grid points to briefly light up in red when focus is achieved, if you are in One Shot focus mode.

 

In Ai Servo, if you cannot see the focus points clearly in low light, pressing the right rear AF button on the camera back or the AF area button beside the shutter will cause the grid to illuminate momentarily which can be helpful.

There is an option, to make the AF points either Illuminated or Non-illuminated, for Ai Servo shooting, which is found after pressing the Q-button whilst the screen above is active.  We chose the Non-illuminated option. 

C.Fn II: AF Microadjustment (16)

The AF Microadjustment menu is where you can carry out fine-tuning adjustments for lenses that may be focusing ahead of or behind where they ought to be.

So far we have had no need to make any microadjustment changes to the 6D Mark II.  Note that up until now we have only used it with Canon L-series lenses.

C.Fn III: Operation/Others

For C.Fn III: Operation /Others the most important menu tab for us is no 4.

C.Fn III: Custom Controls (4)

This is the Custom Controls screen, where we can configure the 6D Mark II for our preferences with regard to buttons and controls.

Displayed in the image above are our preferred control configurations.  We start on the top left of the two columns, with the symbol of the shutter button/AF and work downward.  In our configuration, the shutter button actuates focus and metering.  We focus using the shutter button.  We configure the AF-On button on the back of the camera to work as an AF-Off button. When we are in Ai Servo, we can focus with the shutter, but should we need to lock the AF point (as occasionally happens when we are  in Ai Servo and we cannot place a focus point over the subject) when we need to recompose, we can accomplish this simply by pressing the AF-On button.  Focus will be temporarily halted so long as we keep the AF-On button depressed.  We disable the * button on the back of the camera but it can be set up to change ISO or exposure compensation if those are your preferences.  This screen is also where you can set up the camera for back button focus if that is your preference.

Beneath the AF-On and * buttons (in the Custom Control screen) are two buttons that we mostly ignore.

The next important one for us is on top of the second column, the Set button.  The Set button is configured for Exposure compensation whilst in M-mode and Auto ISO (press Set and turn the front command dial).  We set the front command dial here, for changing aperture value (shown as AV) when we are in Manual mode, and the large rear command dial for changing shutter speed as depicted on the rear screen above, (also when in Manual mode).

The last control enables the circular pad on the back of the camera (around the Set button) to shift the focus points directly without pressing any buttons first, just by tilting it (which is a bit fiddly on the 6D Mark II).  Using our 6D Mark II alongside our other Canon cameras (1DX, 5D, 7D and 80D) means that we make some configuration choices based on the need to keep the camera as close to the others in controls as possible.   

We have no doubt that the 6D Mark II has expanded it’s all-rounder capabilities a whole lot.  We are excited to be using our 6D Mark II alongside our other Canon dslr bodies, especially as it is the first full-frame Canon body to combine the advantages of full-frame image quality with DPAF focusing and the versatile tilt screen.  We are also happy to be able to buy the 6D Mark II for not much more than what the best crop sensor (APS-C) camera costs.  We will be adding to this post over the coming weeks and months.  

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