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We've been waiting quite a while for the Canon EOS 6D Mark II to arrive. In fact, it's some five years since the original Canon EOS 6D was announced – and at the time it was the most affordable full-frame DSLR available.

While it lacked some of the more desirable features found on Canon's pricier models further up the range, it offered users a pretty affordable way into full-frame photography.

Quite a lot's changed since the arrival of the EOS 6D though, with not only Nikon offering some very tempting competition in the shape of the D610 and D750, but Sony's Alpha A7 and A7 II offering another affordable route into full-frame photography.

So does the arrival of the EOS 6D Mark II shift the advantage back to Canon in the contest to attract those looking to make the switch to full-frame photography?

Features

  • Full-frame CMOS sensor, 26.2MP
  • 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
  • 1080p video capture

As you'd expect after a five-year gap, the EOS 6D Mark II comes with a wealth of improvements over the EOS 6D. 

Perhaps the headline change is the new sensor, with the EOS 6D Mark II sporting a 26.2MP CMOS sensor that not only offers a sizeable boost in resolution over the 20.2MP chip in the EOS 6D, but also a lot more pixels than the EOS 5D Mark III's 22.3MP sensor.

The new sensor brings with it a native sensitivity range of ISO100-40,000 which can be expanded to an equivalent of ISO50-102,400, matching the expanded sensitivity ranges of both the EOS 6D and EOS 5D Mark III.

While these cameras may all share the same ISO ceiling, the EOS 6D Mark II boasts Canon's latest DIGIC 7 processing engine, which is capable of processing information some 14 times faster than the previous DIGIC 6 (the EOS 6D featured the DIGIC 5 engine), and should see it handling image noise better at higher sensitivities.

It's also the first time the DIGIC 7 engine has been used in a full-frame EOS DSLR; until now it's only featured in some of Canon's recent APS-C DSLR bodies and PowerShot compact cameras.

One of the compromises with the original EOS 6D was its 97% viewfinder coverage – that 3% shortfall may not sound like much, but stray elements can still creep into the edge of the frame if you're not careful, and you're likely to only notice these once you're reviewing your images on the rear display.

The good news is that this stat has been improved on the EOS 6D Mark II – but only by 1%, to offer a coverage of 98%, so still not quite matching the likes of the D750's approximate 100% coverage. 

While the viewfinder may seem like a minor improvement, the rear display is quite a different story. No longer sitting flush to the body as it did on the EOS 6D, the 3.0-inch vari-angle display can not only be pulled away from the body,  it's also now touch-sensitive.

The expected trio of connectivity options – Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth – are available, with the latter being a low-energy connection, meaning you can always be connected to the camera and enabling the rapid remote transfer of images from your camera to a compatible smart device. 

Also on-board is Canon's five-axis digital image stabilization for hand-held video recording. Designed to work with video but not stills, the system works in conjunction with the brand's IS-equipped lenses. 

Staying with movie capture, Canon has opted not to include 4K capabilities on the EOS 6D Mark II, instead limiting it to Full HD with frame rates up to 60p. That's an improvement on the 30p offered by the EOS 6D, but we're sure some people will be scratching their heads trying to work out why 4K capture has been left off the EOS 6D Mark II – especially as this is an area where Canon has excelled at in the past.

There is a 4K timelapse option however, which stitches images together into a 4K-resolution video. There's also a microphone input, although there's no headphone socket if you wish to monitor audio. 

Build and handling

  • Aluminum alloy and polycarbonate body
  • Dust- and moisture-resistant
  • Weighs 765g

Like the original EOS 6D, the Canon EOS 6D Mark II is crafted from a mixture of aluminum alloy and polycarbonate with glass fiber, and while it doesn't have quite the same 'pro' feel as the likes of the EOS 5D Mark III or Mark IV, it nonetheless feels very well put together.

It's also nice to see the camera featuring dust and moisture seals – having used the 6D Mark II in some very wet conditions in Norway, with the camera getting drenched on more than one occasion, we can confirm that this camera will more than hold its own when the elements are against you.

Proportions-wise, the camera is ever so slightly more compact than the EOS 6D – those looking to upgrade from the older model may be a little disappointed to hear that the BG-E13 battery grip designed for the 6D isn't compatible with the EOS 6D Mark II, with a new BG-E21 battery grip accompanying the new camera. 

The grip on the body of the 6D Mark II is excellently sculpted, and ensures the camera fits very comfortably in the hand, while the weight of 765g with battery and card in place is just 10g heavier than the original 6D (though it's actually not much lighter than the 800g EOS 5D Mark IV). It also felt very well balanced in the hand when teamed with the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM we shot with.

As for the layout of buttons and controls, if you're coming from the EOS 6D you should feel right at home with the EOS 6D Mark II, as the control layout on the two cameras is pretty much identical.

There's a large LCD display on the top plate with plenty of information on tap, while there are controls for the AF, drive, ISO and metering between the LCD and the front command dial. The only new addition is a small button next to the command dial that affords access to the camera's focusing modes to complement the 6D Mark II's more sophisticated AF system.

Sticking with the same control layout as the EOS 6D means the EOS 6D Mark II forgoes a joypad on the rear of the camera to quickly move the AF point, as we've seen on some other EOS DSLRs; instead you use the multi-directional controller to do this. While it would have been nice to see this extra control incorporated into the camera, AF point selection is still pretty quick to achieve using this method.

That just leaves the rear display, which as we've mentioned can now be angled away from the body to suit a plethora of shooting angles. While its resolution doesn't get a boost over the display on the EOS 6D, the 1,040,000-dot screen looks decent enough, while the touch interface on the EOS 6D Mark II is one of the best around – from adjusting settings to flicking through images, it works a treat. 

This shot was framed using the vari-angle display, with focus acquired using the touchscreen

Autofocus

  • 45-point AF, all cross-type
  • Sensitive down to -3EV
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF system

The 11-point AF system on the original EOS 6D looked out of date even when that camera was launched, and it came in for a bit of stick – particularly as only the central point sported a cross-type sensor. So it's no surprise to see the EOS 6D Mark II get a hefty bump in AF coverage. 

Rather than borrowing the 61-point AF system from the EOS 5D Mark IV, the 6D Mark II looks to its APS-C stablemates and employs a 45-point AF system that's very similar to the one inside the recent EOS 80D and EOS Rebel T7i / 800D.

And the good news is that rather than featuring one lone cross-type point (cross-type points are sensitive in both the horizontal and vertical planes for greater accuracy), all 45 points are cross-type, with the central point being dual cross-type, featuring a second point oriented at 45 degrees to the regular point for even greater precision. Furthermore, 27 of these remain operational when using a lens, or lens/teleconverter combination, with a maximum effective aperture of f/8, with nine remaining cross-type.

The EOS 6D Mark II's AF locked on quickly to fast-moving subjects

The EOS 6D Mark II offers a decent amount of control over customizing the AF setup too, with some 16 options to tweak should you wish. However, there are no AF 'case studies' (which specify the tracking sensitivity, acceleration and deceleration tracking and AF point switching depending on the subject you're shooting) as we've seen on the likes of the EOS 7D Mark II and EOS 5D Mark IV. 

Coverage of the 45 AF points is quite heavily weighted towards the central portion of the frame, meaning you'll have to regularly recompose shots if your subject is off-centre. 

That aside, AF performance is very good. We shot under a variety of lighting conditions on our trip to Norway and found focusing to be very good, with subjects acquired swiftly and accurately in most instances. Even in poor light the EOS 6D Mark II didn't really struggle – thanks in part, no doubt, to the camera's AF system being sensitive down to -3EV.

The focusing system did a good job of tracking the car in front as we followed behind

The EOS 6D Mark II also gets Canon's impressive Dual Pixel CMOS AF for Live View photography and video capture. It's a big improvement over the EOS 6D's rather clunky system, delivering smooth and fast focusing, especially when used in tandem with the touchscreen to select your desired point of focus.

Performance

  • 6.5fps burst shooting
  • Burst depth up to 21 raw frames / 150 JPEGs
  • 1,090-shot battery life

It's no surprise to see that Canon has upped the burst rate of the EOS 6D Mark II to 6.5fps, from the 6D's 4.5fps. Not only that but the burst depth has also been improved, with the new camera capable of shooting 21 raw files in succession compared to its predecessor's 17.

Interestingly for those who like to shoot JPEGs, however, the 150-frame burst depth offered by the EOS 6D Mark II is actually quite a drop from the 1,250-shot limit on the EOS 6D, although a 150-frame burst depth is hardly limiting. It’s also interesting to see that Canon hasn't included UHS-II support for the EOS 6D Mark II's single card slot, which might have improved that number, although any benefit would depend on how quickly the camera can deal with the information to begin with.

Either way, this isn’t a camera aimed particularly at sports photographers, and 6.5fps is a very credible burst rate for a full-frame camera at this price point, potentially suiting it to situations where the original EOS 6D may have fallen short.

The 7560-pixel RGB+IR performs well in most situations

The 6D Mark II uses the same 7560-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor as the Rebel T7i / 800D, with 63-zone Evaluative, Partial, Centre-weighted and Spot metering options. 

As we've found with other Canon DSLRs that use this system, the evaluative system does a sound job most of the time, but it’s worth keeping in mind that the weighting is applied to the active AF point, which can mean you need to use exposure compensation in high-contrast situations; we experienced a couple of occasions where the same shot threw up two different exposures simply because we shifted the AF point slightly.

The EOS 6D Mark II's auto white balance does a very good job. There are actually two auto white balance options: Ambient Priority mode delivers slightly warmer results, helping you retain the overall ambience of the scene, while White Priority can deliver clean, neutral results even under artificial lighting.

Canon has also added the flicker detection option we’ve seen on previous EOS DSLRs, to help maintain consistency when shooting under artificial light sources. This is great news for those shooting indoors, perhaps events or sports, where such lighting is commonly used.

Battery life is very good, with the LP-E6N unit rated for up to 1,200 shots. Over the course of two days of extensive shooting the 6D Mark II's battery status bar hardly budged.

Image quality

  • ISO100-40,000, expandable to 50-102,400
  • +/-5 EV exposure compensation in 1/3 or 1/2-stop increments
  • Disappointing dynamic range

The EOS 6D Mark II is unique at this level in that it features a 26.2MP sensor; 24MP is the norm, so the 6D Mark II has a 2MP edge over its closest rival, the Nikon D750. In reality though, this makes a negligible difference to the amount of extra detail the EOS 6D Mark II can resolve – it's comparable to the D750, allowing you to happily print A3+ images, and even squeeze out large prints if necessary. 

The full-frame 26.2MP sensor produces good levels of detail

Looking at ISO performance and the EOS 6D Mark II puts in a solid, if unremarkable performance. JPEG files appear very clean throughout the ISO range, but when you look at the corresponding raw files, it becomes how much noise reduction is being applied to those JPEGs.

Raw files compare well to images from the EOS 5D Mark III, although we'd have expected things to have improved somewhat given the five-year gap in technology. Results at ISO800 hold up well, with minimal signs of noise, while results at ISO4000 are pretty good too; there are certainly signs of luminance noise at this sensitivity, but surprisingly little chroma noise (color speckling). 

Beyond that, while both luminance and chroma noise become more pronounced, at ISO12,800 and with some post-processing it's still possible to get a satisfactory result, with a decent amount of detail; we'd probably avoid going any higher than that unless absolutely necessary.

At ISO4000, results hold up pretty well considering the sensitivity

Dynamic range is an area where Canon DSLRs have lagged behind a bit compared to rival cameras from Nikon and Sony, so there was a certain amount of expectation placed on the new 26.2MP sensor.

However, while it's possible to recover a good bit of lost detail (as above), noise is much more noticeable compared to a similar image from a Nikon D750 when you look closely. And what's more disappointing is the fact that the 24.2MP APS-C sensor used by the likes of the EOS 80D actually holds up slightly better when images taken at lower sensitivities are pushed in post-processing.

Verdict

With the EOS 6D Mark II Canon has certainly made some significant improvements over the outgoing EOS 6D, packing in a host of new features including a fresh sensor, a faster processor, a much more credible AF system and a stronger burst rate. It's a much more well-rounded and better specified camera than the EOS 6D, but it's not without its issues.

The poor dynamic range is disappointing, and while the boost in AF performance is definitely welcome, coverage is too heavily weighted to the centre. The lack of a 100% viewfinder is also a pity, and the fact that the model misses out on 4K video will disappoint some.

These issues take the shine off what is otherwise a very nice full-frame DSLR that's a pleasure to shoot with, with the vari-angle touchscreen a nice bonus. It will certainly please Canon users looking to make the move into full-frame photography, but others might be better served elsewhere.

Competition

Posted: November 17, 2017, 4:37 pm

The Nikon D7500 marks the biggest departure yet for Nikon’s D7xxx series of enthusiast-focused DSLRs, with the camera borrowing quite a bit of the tech from Nikon's top-of-the-range DX-format DSLR, the mighty D500.

Nikon is keen to stress, however, that this new camera isn't a direct replacement for the D7200, which will continue to feature in the Nikon line-up, but rather slots in above it.

So does the D7500 muddy the waters by adding an extra layer of confusion to the Nikon DX-format range? Or does it do enough to stand out among some pretty impressive stablemates?

Features

  • APS-C CMOS sensor, 20.9MP
  • 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 922,000 dots
  • 4K video capture

One of the biggest shake-ups the Nikon D7500 brings is the change of sensor. While both the D7100 and D7200 sported 24MP chips (as, for that matter, did the entry-level D3400 and D5600), here Nikon has opted to use the slightly lower-resolution 20.9MP sensor from the D500, which, as in that camera, is teamed with Nikon's EXPEED 5 image processor.

As on the D500, omitting the low-pass filter has enabled Nikon to eke out that bit more detail from the 20.9MP sensor

As on the D500, omitting the low-pass filter has enabled Nikon to eke out that bit more detail from the 20.9MP sensor, and while it may seem quite a sacrifice to lose almost 4MP compared to the D7200's 24.2MP, the minor drop in resolution does have advantages, particularly when it comes to sensitivity. 

Compared to the D7200’s ISO range of 100-25,600, the D7500’s 100-51,200 standard offers an extra stop of flexibility, but it’s the expanded range that impresses. There’s a low setting of ISO50, while the upper ceiling is a staggering ISO1,640,000. The reality is that these upper sensitivities are likely to be pretty much unusable, but the benefits will be felt further down the sensitivity range, and if the new camera performs like the D500 it should impress in this regard. 

While both the D7100 and D7200 sported 3.2-inch displays that sat flush with the camera body, the D7500 has a 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen display with a 922,000-dot resolution (the D500 has a 2,359,000-dot resolution). There’s also an eye-level pentaprism optical viewfinder that offers 100% coverage.

We’re pleased to see 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) video capture arrive on the D7500, at 30, 25 and 24p for up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds. As usual there are lower-resolution video modes, and Full HD footage can be shot in 60p for slow-motion playback. In addition, 4K UHD timelapse movies can be created in-camera, and there's electronic Vibration Reduction to reduce the impact of camera shake when shooting movies hand-held.

The D7500 also offers simultaneous 4K UHD output – to card, and uncompressed via HDMI – as well as a headphone and microphone jack for pro-level audio recording and monitoring.

Speaking of cards, the D7500 only features a single SD card slot, not two, as on the D7200, which will no doubt be a disappointment for some potential buyers.

As we’ve seen with the D500, D3400 and D5600, the D7500 sports Nikon's SnapBridge technology, enabling the camera to stay permanently linked to a smart device over a low-power Bluetooth connection (or via Wi-Fi). This means that after the initial connection has been made images can be transferred automatically to your phone whenever you shoot. 

Build and handling

  • Weighs 640g / 1lb 6.6oz
  • 5% lighter than the D7200
  • Comprehensive weather sealing

The Nikon D7500 is 5% lighter than the D7200 (and 16% lighter than the D500), and tips the scales at a modest 640g / 1lb 6.6oz. Despite this minor weight saving though, it feels reassuringly solid in the hand.

Compared to the D7200 the handgrip is that bit deeper, and this, combined with the soft-texture coatings on the front and rear of the grip, ensures that the D7500 feels secure and comfortable in the hand. 

The D7500 is chunky enough that when we held the camera our little finger didn't slip off the bottom of the grip, which is just as well as those who want even better purchase and a more comfortable vertical shooting experience will be disappointed to hear that currently there isn't an optional vertical grip available.

Like the D7200, the D7500 is weather-proofed, so you'll be able to keep shooting when the elements turn against you. Interestingly, the magnesium alloy panels in the D7200's construction have disappeared, and are replaced by a single monocoque construction in an effort to save weight, although despite this apparently retrograde step this still feels like a well-made piece of kit for the price – it certainly doesn't feel plasticky.

There have also been some tweaks to the Nikon D7500's button placement compared to the D7200.

On the top plate the metering mode button has disappeared, to be replaced by a dedicated ISO button, as we saw on the D500. Its position has shifted slightly to be closer to the exposure compensation control, making it easier to reach when the camera is raised to your eye.

Moving round the back of the D7500, the general control layout remains virtually identical to the D7200. Metering mode now takes the spot vacated by the ISO control, while the 'info' and 'i' buttons have swapped sides.

The rear display is a touch slimmer than the D500's when you pull it out and away from the body. It can be tilted downwards and upwards, while it's nice to see some touchscreen functionality arrive on a D7xxx DSLR. 

There's obviously tap-to-focus control (you can also tap the area of the screen where you want to focus and trigger the shutter at the same time), while the touchscreen makes reviewing images that much quicker too – you can swipe through photos and pinch-zoom images. The menus can also be navigated via the touchscreen, a first for a Nikon DSLR.

The drop in screen resolution, to 922,000 dots from the D7200's 1,299,000, seems a bit of a backward step however – it's even lower than the D5600's 1,037,000-dot resolution, but in our time with the camera this didn't seem to impact on the user experience, with a decent amount of clarity and good color rendition. 

Autofocus

  • 51-point AF, 15 cross-type AF points
  • Group-Area AF added
  • Auto AF Fine Tune

While the Nikon D7500 borrows a lot from the D500, it doesn’t get the same sophisticated 153-point AF system the D500 enjoys. Instead, it gets an uprated version of the 51-point AF system that was in the D7200.

This system may be getting a little long in the tooth, but it’s a tried and tested one that’s still well specified. Fifteen of the 51 AF points are the more sensitive cross-type variety, which offer greater precision and accuracy, while the coverage can be configured down to 21 and nine points if you wish.

This AF system might be getting a little long in the tooth, but it’s a tried and tested one

The D7500’s AF system now gets a Group-Area AF mode, which we first saw on the D810. This promises to enhance subject detection and tracking, with the D7500 constantly monitoring five different AF fields, and improves focus acquisition and background isolation.

When using with 3D tracking, the D7500 does an excellent job of following subjects through the frame

Another subtle difference from the system in the D7200 is that the AF system is hooked up to a different metering sensor, which is used to aid image recognition when focusing. While the D7200 uses the older 2016-pixel RGB sensor, the D7500 enjoys the same 180,000-pixel RGB sensor as the D500, which when combined with the decent coverage of AF points across the frame  delivers reliable AF tracking performance.

Away from 3D tracking, and the D7500's Dynamic AF mode (using 9, 21 or 51 AF points) is again, very good

Like both the D500 and the D5, the D7500 gets the Auto AF Fine Tune feature, which when in Live View enables users to automatically calibrate autofocus with specific lenses if required.

Despite the Live View AF not being quite as fast as rivals, it still does a decent job

Autofocus in Live View can be a bit of a clunky experience with many Nikon DSLRs, but it's a bit more refined on the D7500. It's not a match for Canon's excellent Dual Pixel AF system that we've seen in several recent cameras, but focusing is better than we've experienced with a lot of other Nikon bodies, while the ability to tap-focus using the touchscreen speeds things up greatly.

Performance

  • 8fps burst shooting
  • 180K-pixel metering sensor
  • 950-shot battery life

With a raft of mirrorless cameras, such as the Fujifilm X-T2, overshadowing the 6fps burst shooting performance of the D7200, it’s no surprise to see the Nikon D7500 offering 8fps.

Helped by the new EXPEED 5 image processor, the D7500 can shoot a burst of 50 raw files before the buffer needs to clear – quite an improvement over the D7200’s 18 raw files at 6fps.

The D7500's metering system performs very well

As we've touched upon, the D7500 inherits the D5 and D500’s 180,000-pixel RGB sensor, which handles metering and white balance, as well as informing the automatic scene recognition system to help improve autofocusing with better subject detection.

As expected the metering system performs very well, consistently delivering spot-on exposures, while the Auto White Balance does a solid job too. 

There's a new battery as well – the EN-EL15a is good for 950 shots before it needs charging. That's streets ahead of most mirrorless cameras, for which you'd need two or more batteries to even think of getting that kind of endurance, but it's actually down 150 shots from the D7200's 1,100-shot battery life – undoubtably one of the trade-offs for having the more powerful EXPEED 5 image processor on board here.

Image quality

  • ISO100-51,200, expandable to 50-1,640,000
  • Impressive dynamic range
  • Excellent noise performance

With the same sensor as the fabulous D500 at the heart of things, the results from the Nikon D7500 are predictably excellent.

It may have slightly less pixels than more affordable DX Nikon DSLRs, but unless you're going to spend most of your time shooting at ISO100, the minor drop in resolution is a compromise worth making.

Don't be put off by the D7500 having 'only' a 20.9MP resolution – there's still plenty of detail

This is underlined when you look at images through the ISO range. Shots taken at the lower end of the sensitivity range display excellent levels of detail, but the camera really starts to shine as you bump up the ISO setting. 

While detail does suffer a touch at ISO6400, results stand up remarkably well. Increase the sensitivity a further stop to ISO12,800, and while there's now a hint of chroma (color) noise in shots, results are still very good.

As you'd expect, luminance (grain-like) noise becomes more pronounced at ISO25,600 and ISO51,200, but the results are still some of the best we've seen from a camera at these sensitivities. 

Once you go beyond the realm of the camera's native sensitivities, things do tail off. That said, results at Hi1 (ISO102,400) are actually pretty good for such a high value, but banding starts to creep into images shot at Hi2 (ISO204,800); we'd caution against using anything higher, as results can look pretty murky and suffer from a severe lack of detail. 

Dynamic range is also very impressive. It's possible to recover shadow detail in a shot that's been underexposed by some five stops – even six at a push – and still end up with a very satisfactory shot. 

Verdict

This latest addition to Nikon’s DSLR line-up represents the biggest revamp we’ve seen in the D7xxx series since the D7000 arrived and replaced the D90.

Getting one negative out of the way first, we can't help feeling that the absence of any magnesium alloy in the Nikon D7500's construction is a cost-cutting exercise, although having said that the monocoque construction certainly feels durable enough. 

That aside, there are certainly a lot of tempting features on offer here. The new camera may not get the 153-point AF system from the D500, but the enhanced 51-point system in the D7500 still puts a lot of rival systems in the shade, while the 4K video capture, tilt-angle touchscreen display and 8fps burst shooting are some of the highlights of this very well-specified camera.  

The most exciting thing about the Nikon D7500, though, is the appearance of Nikon's 20.9MP sensor and EXPEED 5 image processing engine in a more compact and affordable body. This is something that's bound to attract the attention of both new users and existing ones who are looking to upgrade, but  who can't quite justify the leap to the D500.

Think of the Nikon D7500 as the D500's smaller brother then – and that can only be a good thing. 

Competition

Posted: November 17, 2017, 4:05 pm

New: The GoPro Hero4 is now a couple of generations old and is starting to be hard to come buy if you want to buy new. We recommend you take a look at either the GoPro Hero5 Black or the new Hero6 Black. For our 10 top action camera picks, check out our up-to-date buying guide

GoPro remains at the pinnacle of sports-oriented compact video cameras.

Watch any broadcast of a daredevil stunts show or extreme sport and you will doubtless spot a little box attached to an appendage or vehicle. GoPro is the go-to guy of sports cameras.

GoPro's 2012 line up of HERO3 cameras has been split into three: the White, Silver and Black editions all sport different megapixel counts and frame rates. The Black Edition is the top dog with a twelve-megapixel sensor capable of shooting larger images and with enough processing power to snap bursts of 11MP images at 30 frames per second.

All HERO3s come with Wi-Fi built-in, plus a redesigned casing with a flat lens which has led to two improvements over its predecessor, the HERO2.

Firstly, fogging inside the case has been reduced. In a quick head-to-head using a helmet-mounted camera on a chilly mountain bike trail we found the HERO2 misted up after 10 minutes' hard pedalling, whilst the HERO3 showed no misting at all.

GoPro HERO 3: Black Edition

GoPro HERO3 at a glance

Sensor: 12-megapixel

Lens: f/2.8 6-element aspherical glass lens

Memory : Micro SD class 10 or higher, supports up to 64GB

Viewfinder: No

LCD Screen: Optional LCD Touch BacPac £79.99, 3.5mm headphone jack

Video resolution: WVGA, 720p, 960p, 1080p, 1440p, 2.7K, 2.7K Cin, 4K, 4K Cin

ISO range ISO x-xx expandable to: Not stated

Focus modes: Auto

Max burst rate: 30fps at 11MP

Shutter speeds: Up to 240 fps (848 x 480 pixels)

Weight: 73g

Dimensions: 1.7 x 1.5 x 2.2 cm

Power supply: Li-ion 3.7V 1050mAh 3.885Wh. Charge via USB

The other benefit of the new case is that you can take the camera underwater without having to buy a separate dive housing. Once inside it will produce good quality images with decent colour reproduction, even in the relatively dim light of a two-metre deep pool where we took ours for a splash.

The HERO3 is also smaller and lighter by 25 grams. The weight reduction is very welcome for anyone that's ridden with one atop their head.

Also down in size, but not capacity, are the battery and memory card slot, which now utilises microSD cards.

As with the previous models you have the option of recording video in PAL or NTSC. Shooting modes go from WVGA (848 x 480 pixels) at 240 frames per second through to the more common 720p and 1080p, up to 120fps and 60fps respectively.

GoPro HERO 3: Black Edition

The GoPro HERO 3: Black Edition also ships with a Wi-Fi remote that can control up to 50 cameras simultaneously

From there we go into more exotic high-definition sizes of 1440p, 2.7K, 4K and 4K Cin (4096 x 1260 pixels), with the largest resolution being captured at 12fps.

Build quality & handling

The plastic housing, like the previous version, is robust enough to be knocked, dropped, drenched and thrown about.

There's an extra lock on the top hinge which can be fiddly with cold or gloved hands, but will guard against accidental leverage of the hinge, although we did find the hinge assembly coming off from time to time.

The mount attachment is the same as previous models so you can reuse your existing mounts without buying new ones, or take advantage of the many Third Party options out there such as the K-Edge GO BIG mounts.

The only things about the camera that have got bigger are the operational buttons for the menu and shutter activation: an improvement over the previous model, as it makes operating the camera inside and outside the housing easier.

GoPro HERO 3: Black Edition

The menu system is unchanged although, as with previous HERO cameras, you can find yourself pressing the same button over and over to cycle through the menus when you've clicked past the option you wanted to change.

Performance

The metering functions cope very well across a range of light conditions and rapidly changing light conditions.

The sensor and compression improvements, in terms of quality over the HERO2, are obvious when looking at 100% crops of identical photos with a reduction in artefacts.

There is a tiny improvement in resolution and chromatic aberration is still present, but less so than with previous models.

The white balance, which can be adjusted in nerd-friendly Kelvin, isn't always right in auto mode, returning magenta-tinged blues at times, but nothing that a little post production couldn't fix.

One marked improvement is the ability to retain details in highlights. On the previous model bright areas were easily blown out, but there's a lot more detail now.

There is a sacrifice to be made in detail in dark areas, which we found when shooting into low autumnal light. But then this camera comes from California, where they love the sun.

GoPro HERO 3: Black Edition

LCD touchscreen performance

The optional touchscreen is a great addition, if only for navigating the menus. Whilst only 5cm across the diagonal it eliminates the guess work from lining up shots, and provides an opportunity to check back footage quickly and easily.

The unit doesn't have its own power supply so it is a drain on your camera's battery. There's no setting to change the brightness and the screen isn't visible in bright sunlight.

Why they chose to use white graphics on light grey backgrounds is a puzzler, when more contrasted icons would make for easier viewing.

It can be a little slow to respond to presses in video playback.

When shooting underwater, the touch functions won't work so you'll be relying on the regular buttons for menu selection.

Compared to the competition, such as the £100 ($150) cheaper Sony HDR-AS15, which already has Wi-Fi built in for live streaming, identical frame rates at 1080p and 720p plus a stereo microphone and speaker compared to the GoPro's mono and no speaker; and the £160 ($250) cheaper Drift HD which has a built in colour screen and more buttons for menu navigation, is the GoPro worth the extra money?

Yes.

Especially if you're a professional videographer, because of the wide range of resolutions and frame rates it offers.

And yes again, if you want a small, light camera that is capable across a wide range of environmental conditions.

If you're not that worried about weight or size and are looking for a cheaper alternative, then the Sony offers a great picture for less money and does pretty much the same job.

GoPro Hero3 review

Depending where you want to use it, the GoPro already has a mature range of mounting accessories. They're still a little flimsy and overpriced, and difficult to attach with cold or gloved hands, but it does mean that you can attach the camera to pretty much anything that moves.

With the HERO3 the main takeaway in terms of image quality was the improved detail in highlighted areas, but when shooting into the light you can lose a lot of information in the dark areas of the image.

The menu system is still a frustration too, but the LCD touchscreen negated this annoyance and we hope the free GoPro App, which becomes compatible in December for the Black Edition, will do the same job as the touchscreen, as well as making framing of shots and shooting a more controlled affair.

We liked

A wider variety of high-end resolutions and frame rates give you incredibly flexibility. The flat-lens case is a great improvement over the previous version, and the weight difference is most welcome.

We disliked

Overly high contrast video in front-lit harsh light conditions can lead to a loss of detail in dark areas of the image.

Final verdict

An amazing and robust camera that can go all the places you can, and some places you can't. Better, faster, and now with higher-end video modes more suited to the pro market, it's a serious little piece of kit.

Posted: November 17, 2017, 2:15 pm

New: The GoPro Hero4 is now a couple of generations old and is starting to be hard to come buy if you want to buy new. We recommend you take a look at either the GoPro Hero5 Black or the new Hero6 Black. For our 10 top action camera picks, check out our up-to-date buying guide

The action camera market is expanding at blinding speed, and the best known name in this sector is GoPro. GoPro cameras feature extensively at sports events and they're used by broadcasters like the BBC to capture spectacular wildlife footage.

GoPros and their rivals are 'POV', or 'point of view' cameras – they capture what you're doing, not necessarily what other people are doing, and what has made these cameras so groundbreaking is their small size and high-quality, high-resolution footage – and the characteristic GoPro wideangle 'look'.

• See our guide to GoPro and action cameras.

This is a camera not much larger than a matchbox which can capture 4K video at an incredible 30 fps (that's the same as the Panasonic GH4).

There's no screen, and no way of checking your composition on the camera itself, but you can connect your GoPro via Wi-Fi to a smart device to check live composition and clips. At any rate, the lens has a 170 degree angle of view so you're unlikely to miss anything.

GoPro cameras have now hit their fourth generation and the line-up has been overhauled with three new models – the GoPro Hero4 Black, GoPro Hero4 Silver and regular GoPro Hero. You can see what's new in our earlier GoProHero4 news story, but it's the top-of-the range Hero4 Black we've got our hands on here.

It goes on sale at £369/US$499/AU$639 and the headline new features are 4K video at 30fps (the Hero3+ could shoot 4K but only at 15fps) and 1080p at 120fps – that's full HD in 1/4-speed slow motion. This is a crazy amount of power in a device that costs about the same as an entry-level DSLR or compact system camera.

Other new features include Bluetooth support, not just Wi-Fi, and the ability to tag your best footage as you shoot it.

GoPro Hero 4

Photographer's fingers find form factor familiar

Aesthetically, the Hero4 Black looks much the same as the Hero3+, with the familiar GoPro box form and dimensions. This means that the standard waterproof housing remains the same and is included with the camera when purchased. But once you start using it you realise there have been a few significant changes to the design which make a big difference.

Some are fairly minor – the camera status and Wi-Fi lights that were on the front before are now two small illuminated slits to the left of the LED screen.

And on the right hand side of the body the old direct access Wi-Fi button now becomes the settings button – and if you hold down for a couple of seconds it will still enable you to toggle Wi-Fi on and off.

This new settings button is part of the overhauled navigation system, which is a vast improvement and actually makes using the camera far more intuitive than the previous version.

GoPro Hero 4

Change settings, become a hero

Finally, the battery compartment is no longer accessed through the back of the camera. It's now located in the base, and the battery type also changes from 3.7v 1180mAh to 3.8v 1160mAh. More importantly, it's much easier to swap out in the field than before.

As with previous models there's a connection on the back for a screen. On the side under a protective flap are two connectors that enable direct connection to HDMI and USB along with a Micro SD card slot.

The GoPro Hero 4 is a camera of two parts, with the camera itself and a protective waterproof housing. The housing can easily be removed and replaced with other housing designs that offer different levels of protection and features depending on the activity you're doing.

The GoPro Hero4 Black comes supplied with a standard housing in the box, this is a good general purpose case, providing waterproofing up to 40m. There are further housings such as the dive housing (the standard housing for the Hero3) that is waterproof up to 60m, and a selection of skeleton housings for use with drones or the various harnesses.

GoPro Hero 4

The housing adds bulk, but also waterproofing

Using either of the waterproof housings does add bulk, but when compared with action cameras of a similar design such as the Toshiba Camileo X-Sport, the GoPro is still compact.

These housings are at the heart of GoPro's versatility and feature the standard GoPro mount, this is widely supported by third party manufacturers, so there's an abundance of accessories out there. This means that if there is something that you would like to attach your GoPro to, then there's likely to be a mount out there for it. The GoPro mount is extremely secure and when compared to mounts from other action camera manufacturers, you can really see the benefit of the design. It enables the camera to be bolted down tightly without wobble, which might seem like a small ask but is surprising difficult with some mount designs.

• See our Top 10 GoPro Accessories feature.

The accessories we used, included the GoPro handlebar mount, K-Edge Go Big Pro handlebar mount and DJI Phantom quadcopter, fitted to the GoPro's housing easily and once tightened held the camera in place securely, helping to prevent vibrations which can plague action camera footage. The housing and mounts were also tough enough to survive a heavy mountain bike crash better than its user. With the bike's front wheel being a complete write off and its rider having to be patched up in the local A&E, the GoPro Hero4 Black, mounts and case all survived with a coating of mud and leaves.

We tested the camera on a relatively cold morning and the casing suffered from steaming up a little on the inside when moving from a cold to warm environment. This has been a common issue with the waterproof cases, but is easily solved, and GoPro suggests you use a small moisture strip, that can be bought separately, and can be easily fitted into the case.

Whichever case you choose they all allow direct access to the buttons so you are able to easily navigate the various menus, change setting and set the camera recording.

GoPro Hero 4

The on/off switch is on the front of the camera

Operation of the camera is straight forward with three buttons enabling complete access to the menu system and settings, as well as the operation of the camera. There have been a few changes since the Hero 3+ to these navigation controls and while the buttons are still in the same position as previous GoPro versions, the way in which they work has been slightly tweaked, which makes finding your way around quicker and more intuitive.

The large on/off button is position on the front of the camera and also acts as the mode button once the camera is switched on. This enables you to switch between Video, Photo, Multi-Shot, Playback and Setup. With a mode selected the options for that mode can then be accessed by a single press of the settings button on the side of the camera. The Mode button is then used to scroll through the settings and the button on top is used to make your selection.

Finally once you've exited the settings the button on top of the camera starts or stops recording.

Smart features

Connecting to a smart device is straightforward, and there's an app available for both iOS and Android devices. Once Wi-Fi is activated a blue light flashes on the front. The GoPro can then be selected on your smart device from the list of usual Wi-Fi connections, and once passwords are entered it's just a case of loading up the app.

The app is slickly designed and enables you to connect and control your GoPro with selectable live feed and the ability to review footage and stills direct from the camera. When not connected to the camera and your smart device is online you can also get inspiration from other GoPro users through the GoPro channel.

Using the app is straightforward and compared to apps used by other action cameras such as the iON Air Pro it really shows the GoPro developers have a good understanding of how the camera and Wi-Fi connection will be used.

Options are large, settings are easy to find and there's enough within the app to make you feel that it's by no means an after thought.

The Hero 3+ upgraded the speed of it's Wi-Fi hardware and this speed is really apparent in the Hero 4 Black enabling the smooth playback of footage. Unlike some competitors that struggle with constantly dropping frames, pausing or loosing connection.

Video tasty

Video is of course what GoPro's is known for and to get started all you really need to do is switch on and hit the record button. But unlike many action cameras GoPro gives you choice and this is both a strength and weakness of the design.

For those who know about video and how the footage they're shooting will be used and edited, the wealth of capture options is an absolute dream come true, however for the average user the volume of options for resolution, frame rates can all be a bit bewildering.

For example there are 12 resolutions and a variety of frame rates to choose from, ranging from high resolution 4K (3840x2160) at either 24, 25 or 30 frames a second (fps) to low resolution WVGA (848x480) at 240 FPS.

Aside from the obvious size difference of the different resolutions the part that is of most interest to extreme sports enthusiasts is the frame rate. HD or 1080p resolution is at present the most popular choice and as such will probably be the most used option for the GoPro. Usually 1080p high definition video is recorded at a respectable 29.7 fps which provides nice smooth playback. The GoPro Hero4 enables HD recording at 120, 90, 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24 fps this means that with the highest frame rate selected for recording of, 120 fps when edited down to 29.7 fps for playback the footage will produce smooth slow motion, a feature that is becoming increasingly popular with the extreme sports sector.

GoPro Hero 4

You'll want a large capacity card for that 4K video

In order to select 1080P at 120 fps a short ritual of button pressing must be followed; video mode must firstly be selected, then the settings button on the side pressed. The mode button is then used to find the option, in this case the resolution that you want which is then selected with the top button. The mode button is then used to scroll through the resolution options and once 1080p is showing the top button is used to select. The same process is then used to set the frame rate or any other options that needs changing. All fine if you know what you're doing otherwise a little complex, but it's far easier than the similar but slightly different system of the Hero3.

The GoPro captures a 170 degree point of view and with an f/2.8 lens almost everything in front of the lens is captured, so as long as the camera is roughly pointing in the right direction you can be pretty sure that you're going to capture something.. There are options to change the point of view to narrow in some resolution settings, but for the best quality footage we found it was best to stick to the standard wide angled view.

Our test day proved to be a typical late autumn day, so despite aspirations to hit the surf, with temperatures just tipping zero and a light frost and later drizzle, we headed into the forest to test the camera with a bit of off-roading.

Setting the camera up and attaching to the bars of a mountain bike couldn't have been easier, even in the cold and wet when wearing gloves. Operation was simple and a flashing red light indicated that all systems where go.

GoPro Hero 4

The front LCD shows shooting information

The small LCD on the front gave a brief breakdown of the settings that were being used and the length of recording time that had lapsed, a handy indicator that reassures you that footage is being captured.

During the off-roading and later using the Hero4 on a quadcopter drone we switched between resolutions and frame rates to check on the quality of the footage.

Conditions where at best murky, so while the footage looked dull this was more due to the day than the quality of capture.

Switching between resolutions showed a high level of detail was captured in each setting, and despite the cameras sensitivity being pushed to ISO 1600, due to the low light, noise was apparent but handled well.

In the lowest of light conditions the colour rendition did suffer with the automatic white balance making changes quickly, but generally the camera captured natural and well saturated colour tones.

The GoPro has spot metering and exposure compensation options, but left to its own devices it does an excellent job. Moving the camera quickly from light to dark showed the exposure system was able to keep up with the changes in light, adjusting and making exposure changes smoothly.

Video quality

Looking at the 4K footage and comparing this directly against that of the GoPro Hero 3+ the improvement in quality from 15 to 30 fps is instantly apparent, with the videos motion looking far smoother than in the previous model and showing that in a camera of this size the 4K ability isn't just a novelty but a feature that could and should be used.

Using the more common resolution of 1080p at 30 fps, 50 fps and 120fps showed the most exciting results. The footage at each rate looked smooth on screen but the real revelation came when the footage was edited through the Final Cut Pro X and adjusted to a base frame rate of 29.7 fps, stretching the footage over four seconds.

The result of the 30 fps footage looked stuttered as you'd imagine, and there was only a slight improvement in the 50 fps clips. Looking at the footage capture at 120 fps and slowed to 29.7 fps showed smooth quality footage that retains detail and colour and most importantly smoothness of motion.

GoPro Hero 4

The lens is an improved one, with an f/2.8 aperture

The lens of GoPro was improved in the Hero 3+ and in the latest version the lens captures good quality footage with the distinct action camera look caused by the huge field of view and distortion.

However for a lens that captures 170 degree field of view the distortion isn't as pronounced as you'd expect ,with footage in the centre of the frame kept within acceptable limits of distortion and major distortion only effecting the edges.

Chromatic aberration at the mid to edge frame is apparent in high contrast situations especially in the footage when riding or flying through trees.

Sound and software

As with the GoPro Hero 3 and 3+ the Hero 4 features the high quality ProTune feature that gives you more control over the quality and output of your camera. An ideal tool if you're wanting to match up footage from several different cameras. We'll take a closer look at this is the near future.

The GoPro has a built in microphone which captures the ambient noise well. It's is by no means broadcast quality but does the job. There is the option to connect an external microphone through a USB which will be of interest to those wanting to buy the Music version of the GoPro Hero 4 Black. We have yet to test this feature but will bring you the results when we do.

The all new battery lasts for a good hour and half of shooting time, although make sure that the Wi-Fi connection is switched off as this will reduce operating times significantly.

The camera isn't the end of the story and one of the features that really makes GoPro stand out from the rest is the GoPro Studio software. This is available for Mac and PC and enables you to edit the footage that you've captured. The software itself is a direct free download from the GoPro website and once downloaded enables you to get stuck in and creating.

The organisation and edit tools are pretty simple but they let you get editing straight away. There are more advanced features that enable you to make the most from the fast frame rates by speeding up and slowing down footage, and as an editing package it's really a great place to start. It also supports most Canon and Nikon video files which is handy as neither company supply video editing software with their cameras.

Note that these are hosted on YouTube and won't display at their full size by default – use the YouTube Settings pop-up to change the resolution.

Filmed at 120fps in low light.

The Hero4 Black's exposure system handles transitions from shade to sun quickly and easily.

The previous clip was shot at 120fps – here it is played back at 30fps in 4x slow motion.

A slow panning shot showing the Hero4 Black's ability to deal with changing exposure.

This static shot shows the level of detail and dynamic range the GoPro Hero4 can capture.

A sample clip shot in a low-light high-contrast situation.

GoPro is the main player in the action camera market, and while the design strikes many as boxy and simplistic, when compared against other action cameras you realise there's a reason for GoPro's success.

GoPro Hero 4 Black

This is a small matchbox sized camera that can go anywhere and shoot broadcast-quality footage. The range of mounts that are available out there enable the camera to be mounted to just about anything, and the mount design while simple enables the camera to be attached firmly without play.

The navigation system overhaul makes settings and modes changes easier than ever, so there is never a reason to miss the action. The design might not have changed a great deal and the upgrades over the Hero 3+ might seem like refinements, but what the 120 frames per second and greater processing speeds mean is that GoPro has once again increased its desirability in an increasingly competitive action cameras arena.

We liked

The Hero4 Black is tough, adaptable and shoots really high quality video. The control interface has been improved over previous versions and it's now a lot easier to use – it's steady improvement like this that makes a great product, not just headline new features. Having said that, the ability to shoot 4K video at 30fps is an important step forward, but it's the ability to shoot full HD at 120fps that's perhaps the most amazing advance.

We disliked

Some will prefer 'bullet' style action cameras over the boxy GoPro. They're more discreet and, in a lot of cases, simpler to operate. The biggest flaw with the GoPro Hero4 Black is its slow startup time – you have to press and hold the power button for several seconds before the camera is ready to start shooting, and that could lead to some missed opportunities and a good deal of frustration.

Final verdict

Despite increasing competition from rivals, the GoPro is still the definitive action cam, and the Hero4 Black produces broadcast-quality video at a price even casual adventure fans can afford.

Extreme sports enthusiasts will love the out of the box usability of the GoPro Hero4 Black. You charge it, fix it on, record, upload it and you're done. Those who want more can delve into the settings to make the most of the new frame rates and resolutions, and creatives will love the versatility that features like ProTune promise.

Posted: November 17, 2017, 11:00 am

The successor to 2015’s EOS M3, Canon’s EOS M6 arrives with a handful of features inherited from its relatively new big brother, the flagship EOS M5. The two share similar intentions and are aimed towards a similar kind of user, but with a slightly pared-down feature set, the EOS M6 arrives with a more appealing price tag. 

Canon may have got off to a slow start with its mirrorless line, but it's made up for this in recent years. It now has four models in its EOS M portfolio, covering the full spectrum from beginner to enthusiast. This model in particular appears to be well suited to anyone who cut their teeth on the original EOS M or EOS M10.  

That said, it’s launched into a very competitive market. Price-wise it not only goes up against a slew of well-regarded models from other manufacturers, but also older, more advanced cameras whose age has allowed them to fall to temptingly low prices. 

The former camp includes Fujifilm’s X-T20, Sony’s A6300 and Panasonic’s Lumix GX8, while in the latter there’s the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II and Fujifilm X-T1 Graphite Silver among others. You can even buy a full-frame Sony A7 kit for just a little bit more.

Features

  • APS-C CMOS Sensor, 24.2MP
  • 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
  • 1080p video capture

Like the EOS M5, the EOS M6 has been furnished with a 24.2MP sensor designed with Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology. 

This allows the camera to perform full-time phase-detect AF to help keep focusing fast, as well as nice and smooth when recording video, and is one of the main changes from the older 24.2MP sensor inside the EOS M3, which offered Canon’s alternative Hybrid CMOS AF III system.

The sensor works with Canon’s DIGIC 7 processing engine, which is said to provide better subject detection and tracking over the previous DIGIC 6 engine. Another thing it allows is 9fps burst shooting, which drops to 7fps with continuous autofocus enabled, and the camera joins many other recent EOS models in allowing raw files to be processed in camera post-capture.

The EOS M6’s LCD screen is competitively specced, measuring three inches in size and bearing 1.04 million dots. It’s touch-sensitive and tilts downwards over a 45-degree angle, although you can also pull it right round to face the front. Unlike the flagship EOS M5, the EOS M6 doesn't incorporate an electronic viewfinder, although you can use one of two external models – either the tilting EVF-DC1 or the newer, fixed EVF-DC2 – by slipping them into the hot shoe. 

While a number of rivals are offering 4K video recording at this level, Canon has opted for Full HD video at frame rates up to 60p instead. This may disappoint some, although the presence of Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF system and a touchscreen that can be used to adjust focus during recording, together with the further option of using an external microphone, mean it’s still worth considering if video is your thing. 

If there’s one area where the EOS M6 shines it’s connectivity options

The fact that you can flip the LCD all the way around to face the front also means this camera is likely to appeal to vloggers, while the inclusion of five-axis digital image stabilization when recording video should help keep things a little steadier if you tend to shoot footage while moving around. 

Image stabilization for stills is not provided through the body, but via compatible lenses equipped with their own stabilization systems. If, however, such a lens is used when recording video, the two systems combine to provide a Combination IS system.  

If there’s one area where the EOS M6 shines it’s connectivity options. Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth are all present, with the latter meaning you can keep the camera hooked up to your smartphone at all times. 

Canon claims you can get around 295 frames per charge from the EOS M, regardless of whether you’re using the LCD screen or a separate viewfinder. You can, however, boost this figure to around 425 frames by enabling the Eco mode in the menu system – when you do so the camera's screen will darken and turn off more quickly than normal when the camera isn't being used.

Everything is recorded to SD, SDHC or SDXC media, with support for the UHS-I standard.

Build and handling

  • Five separate physical dials
  • Integrated flash and hot shoe
  • Weighs 390g

In terms of the Canon EOS M6's design, there have been no great departures from the EOS M3 – and that’s no bad thing. With a sculpted grip and a range of buttons that can be extensively customized, there’s a great deal to love. 

There’s been some reshuffling of controls, although the only difference of any significance is the addition of a further dial on the top plate. This now means the top plate offers two command dials, together with mode and exposure compensation dials, which is in addition to a further control dial on the back of the camera. 

This brings to total number of dials to five, which is excellent for those who prefer to access things manually rather than via menus and touchscreens – though you’ll no doubt opt for touchscreen operation at many points when you see how extensively this can be used to operate the camera.

Thanks to the design of the grip the M6 generally feels good in the hands, although those with larger hands may find it a little cramped, and prefer a model with a grip more akin to that found on a DSLR. The eyelet for the camera strap also interferes with holding the camera comfortably, but if you tend to keep your camera hanging from your neck you won't mind this.

Unlike some of its rivals, the M6 appears to use polycarbonate for its top and bottom plates

The Canon EOS M6 weighs just 520g with its memory card, battery and EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM kit lens in place, and, thanks to the collapsible construction of the lens, it’s more compact than the average compact system camera at this level. 

While the focal range of the kit lens in 35mm terms equates to 24-72mm – that wide–angle figure being very compared to some other kit lenses – the fact that the lens only offers a maximum aperture of f/6.3 at its telephoto end is somewhat disappointing.

Unlike some of its rivals, the M6 appears to use polycarbonate for its top and bottom plates, although the four dials on the top plate are made of metal, and the bulk of the body is finished with a smart rubber that feels as good as it looks. It’s a shame not to see more robust magnesium-alloy paneling, but attention to detail is still strong and no corners have been cut.

Autofocus

  • 49-point AF system
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF
  • Focus peaking with color and peaking level control

The camera’s sensor uses 49 areas to autofocus as standard, although you can also manually shift a point around all but the peripheries of the frame. You can also use the touchscreen to tap the subject on which you want the camera to focus, and employ the Smooth zone AF option to keep track of erratically moving subjects within a small portion of the frame.

Focusing speed is generally very good, though not quite as snappy as some rivals

Autofocus performance is generally sound. In good light the Canon EOS M6 is able to bring subjects to focus in good time; perhaps not quite as rapidly as some rivals, but certainly fast enough for static subjects. With its EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM and EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM lenses, it does this practically silently too.  

Thanks to its Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, the M6 is generally very capable of keeping track of a moving subject when set to focus continuously, although as with any such system, the extent to which it manages this is heavily dependent on what you're trying to track. For example, a runner wearing clothing that contrasted well with their background proved to be no issue for the system, but it wasn't quite as reliable when focused on a dog among grass that was only occupying a small portion of the frame. 

When using manual focus you can call upon focus peaking, with red, yellow and blue colours on offer, together with high and low peaking levels to choose from. The peaking outline isn’t quite as thick as on some other models, although this is arguably a good thing as it obscures less of the subject’s details, thus helping with accuracy.  

Performance

  • 7fps burst shooting
  • 295-shot battery life
  • Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth

There’s only the briefest of delays after you flick the power switch, and if you already have an AF point selected the Canon EOS M6 generally finds focus very quickly. If you tend to leave the camera’s autofocus system on its more automated default option it may take a whisker longer to identify the scene, but it’s certainly still speedy enough for all but the most critical situations.  

With a fast memory card the camera manages 18 simultaneous raw+JPEG frames before slowing down, and 28 JPEGs when tested in the same way – perfectly respectable figures for such a model. It takes around six seconds to clear the former and less than two for the latter, and while the camera locks up as this happens – which means you can't enter the menus – this is potentially only an issue in practice if you're using a slower card, which would lengthen these times.

You're able to browse the menus and captured images without any lagging, and even when zooming into images there’s virtually no lag as you use gestures to zoom and swipe around, while if you make use of the freely rotating rear control dial you can zip through a series of images at great speed. 

Thanks to the combination of physical controls, the touchscreen and the camera’s general responsiveness, once you get used to the layout of controls and functions you can operate the EOS M6 very fluidly. The fact that you can customize so many of the camera’s controls, and place so much within a custom My Menu, only makes it better. 

The tilt-angle touchscreen allows you to shoot from a range of angles

The EOS M6's LCD screen responds very well to touch, and while some of the virtual controls are on the small side, you’re unlikely to want to control everything via the screen (the main menu, for example). Should you find the screen isn't bright enough outdoors you can easily boost its brightness through the menus, although one strange issue is that the top plate renders some of the screen’s touch controls inaccessible when the screen is flipped through a 180-degree angle.

Another oddity is the lack of a selectable electronic shutter, a feature that’s pretty much standard on such models. Its absence means you can't shoot as discreetly as you can on rival models, as there’s essential no way to silence the M6's mechanical shutter (which is a shame, given the quiet AF performance from the two aforementioned lenses). This also means you can't access shutter speeds faster than the 1/4000 sec limit imposed by the mechanical shutter, although this is arguably less of a concern here, when you consider the lack of wide-aperture lenses in the current EOS M portfolio.

Image quality

  • Four metering patterns
  • In-camera raw processing
  • 5-axis IS during video recording

The Canon EOS M6 offers evaluative, centre-weighted, partial and spot metering options, and left to the default first of those settings it manages to cope well across both balanced and tricky lighting conditions. It’s a good idea to keep the Peripheral Illumination correction option enabled, as this helps to lift the slight darkness that can form around the peripheries of the frame, and the Auto Lighting Optmizer also proves useful in high-contrast situations.

The EOS M6's evaluative metering does a very solid job

The default Picture Style is Standard, although a comparison with the Auto Picture Style shows the latter to do a much better job of reproducing most colors. Greens and blues in particular appear somewhat undersaturated on the Standard option, so Auto is perhaps a better choice if you’re shooting outdoors, particularly if the scene contains skies and foliage.

The EOS M6's Auto Picture Style does a better job of producing greens and blues than the Standard setting

The auto white balance system appears to be nice and accurate under both natural and artificial sources, and even when these are mixed, although it can remove some of the warmth of incandescent sources. Many recent cameras  feature an option that allows the user to keep white balance on Auto while preserving this warmth, but it's not present here. Still, there is enough control through the various options to allow for all the tweaking you need.

The camera's Auto White Balance does a sound job in both natural and artificial light

One of the strengths of the Canon EOS M6 is just how much you can do with images post capture. In-camera raw processing allows you to edit files and save them as new JPEGs, and while it would be good to see this functionality fleshed out and expanded, the fact that you can control everything through the touchscreen makes the process very quick and easy. On top of this, options to resize images, adjust their aspect ratio and crop finely means you can achieve a fair bit without needing to go anywhere near a computer.

While the M6’s video capabilities fall short of delivering the same kind of detail and clarity as some rivals, it records perfectly decent Full HD video. The ability to use the touchscreen to shift focus between different parts of the scene is particularly useful, with the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system moving smoothly and discreetly as you do this.

Verdict

In isolation, the Canon EOS M6 has plenty going for it. It’s small and light, responsive in use and blessed with a focusing system that’s very capable across both stills and video capture. 

Image quality is decent straight out of the box, and once you acquaint yourself with the camera’s behaviour you can improve on this. There’s also plenty of physical control on offer, and plenty of ways in which you can customize the controls to better serve your shooting, while the many post-capture options that are available help you output your images easily and quickly.

Still, it’s difficult to identify exactly what it the M6 offers that places it ahead of its very capable rivals. 

With no 4K video, no viewfinder, no electronic shutter and a build quality that falls short of what's offered elsewhere at this price point, the M6 has a hard time justifying its asking price – and when you add in the separate viewfinder, this comes to a figure not far off the cost of the viewfinder-equipped EOS M5, which makes you wonder why you’d want to opt for the separate combination when you can just get everything in one.

Competition

Posted: November 16, 2017, 9:30 am

For a long time the top slot in Nikon's APS-C (DX) format DSLR line-up was occupied by the popular D300S, but that camera dates from 2009 and production ceased ages ago, leaving a vacancy that Nikon photographers have been wanting to see filled for years.

During that time there's been plenty of rumour and speculation, but at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last year, the D500 was announced alongside Nikon's new flagship, the D5

The D500 is aimed at serious enthusiast and professional photographers who want a smaller, lighter camera than a full-frame (FX) model such as the D810 or D5. It's also designed for pros who want the focal length magnification of the DX-format sensor.

Features

  • APS-C CMOS sensor, 20.9MP
  • 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2,359,000 dots
  • 4K video capture

One surprise about the D500 is that its APS-C sensor has 20.9 million effective pixels, less than the company's other recent (24MP) DSLRs of the same format; this is to enable the photosites to be bigger, to improve low-light performance.

Interestingly, the D5 announced at the same time has 20.8 million pixels on its full-frame sensor, and the two cameras use the same sensor architecture, built to Nikon's specification; if the D500's sensor was scaled up to match the D5's it would have 48.6 million effective pixels.

The EXPEED 5 processing engine also brings a maximum continuous shooting rate of 10 frames per second (the D5 can hit 12fps) for up to 200 14-bit lossless compressed raw files, as well as the ability to record 4K UHD movies. It all adds up to a pretty enticing package for sports and action photographers.

In addition to the imaging sensor there's a new 180,000-pixel RGB sensor to handle metering and white balance, as well as informing the automatic scene recognition system to help improve autofocusing with better subject detection.

Having the same pixel count as the D5 but on a smaller sensor means the D500's photo receptors are smaller, and this naturally has an effect on their light gathering power and low-light performance. Consequently the D500 doesn't have quite the same outlandish sensitivity range as the D5: its standard range is ISO100-51,200, with five expansion settings taking it up to the equivalent of ISO1,640,000 – a stop lower than the D5's maximum of ISO3,280,000, but still an incredibly high figure.

Whereas the D5's 4K shooting capability is limited to three minutes, it's possible to shoot 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) 30p/25p/24p video for up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds with the D500. As usual there are lower-resolution video modes, and Full HD footage can be shot in 60p for slow-motion playback. In addition, 4K UHD time-lapse movies can be created in-camera, and there's electronic Vibration Reduction to reduce the impact of camera shake when shooting movies hand-held.

Like the D5, the D500 has a 3.2-inch 2,359,000-dot screen that's touch-sensitive. Unlike the D5, however, this can be used to set the AF point – the D5's is limited to use when reviewing images and inputting text for copyright information and the like.

Nikon D500 review

Another feature that distinguishes the D500 from the D5 is the presence of Nikon's new SnapBridge technology, which enables the camera to stay permanently linked to a smart device over a low-power Bluetooth connection (or via Wi-Fi). This means that after the first connection has been made images can be transferred automatically to your phone whenever you shoot, and they should be ready to be shared via the internet when you pick up your phone.

As befits a camera aimed at professionals and serious enthusiasts, the D500 has two card slots: one accepts SD-type media while the other is for the faster XQD cards. Although they've been around for quite some time, XQD cards haven't become commonplace yet, with most cameras only accepting SD-type media, but this could be set to change.

Build and handling

  • Magnesium alloy body
  • Comprehensive weather sealing
  • Weighs 860g / 1Ib 14.4oz

While the D500 doesn't have a full metal body like the D5, its metal chassis is more durable than the D300S's. The degree of weather sealing is also greater, so the camera can be used in harsher conditions. Nikon has also omitted a pop-up flash to make the D500 sturdier, and the hotshoe is supplied with a weatherproof seal to protect it when a flashgun isn't mounted.

The camera certainly feels solid and durable, without having the weight of its full-frame sibling. On the front there's a decent grip with a textured coating, while a ridge on the back marks the thumbrest, making for a comfortable holding experience.

All the direct controls you'd expect are present, along with a ridged mini-joystick controller for selecting the AF point quickly when the camera is held to your eye; this sits just to the left of the natural resting position for your thumb on the back of the camera, and is within easy reach. A little lower down is the familiar rocker-style navigation pad with central button, for scrolling through the menu and making settings selections.

It's worth noting at this point that settings can't be selected, nor the menu navigated, using the screen's touch control. However, as mentioned earlier, it is possible to input text (for example for copyright information), set the AF point or scroll through and zoom into images with taps and swipes on the screen. The screen is responsive, and it would be nice to have the option to use it a bit more than Nikon has allowed here.

The screen's high resolution means images are very sharp, with plenty of detail visible. The tilting bracket is one of the most rugged-feeling that I've used, and has clearly been made with durability in mind.

As the D500 is an DSLR it has an optical viewfinder, and, as usual with a high-end camera, Nikon has opted for a pentaprism version for the D500. This provides a 100% field of view when shooting in DX format, or 98% when shooting with the 1.3x magnification option selected. The view is nice and bright, and when shooting at the maximum frame rate the blackout time is very brief, so it's easy to keep up with fast-moving subjects.

Autofocus

  • 153-point AF, 99 cross-type AF points
  • User-selected array limited to 55 points
  • Impressive coverage across the frame

Autofocus is one of the key reasons why the D500 is such an exciting proposition, packing in a brilliant 153-point Multi-CAM 20K autofocus system with 99 cross-type points. 

As on the D5, the D500's AF central point is sensitive down to -4EV while all the other points are sensitive down to -3EV, potentially making this a very capable camera in low light.

Sports and action photographers are unlikely to be disappointed by the D500's autofocus performance; it's very fast, and very accurate. It adjusted focus quickly when we shot skateboarders in London's gloomy Undercroft on the Southbank, and kept track with them effortlessly.

The contrast detection AF system that operates when the camera is in live view or video mode seems a little better than the ones in Nikon's other DX format cameras, but as this uses the imaging sensor it could be down to the improved noise control. Even in bright light there are some backwards and forwards adjustments before the subject is sharp, but it doesn't get much worse in low light.

It's not as fast as systems in most compact system cameras, but it's reasonable, and it can be used when the camera is handheld, although moving subjects are best avoided. The visible adjustment means that manual focus is still going to be the preferred option for video shooters who need to adjust focus while recording.

Performance

  • 10fps burst shooting
  • 200 shot raw file buffer
  • 1,240-shot battery life

The D500's automatic white balance and metering system didn't throw up any unpleasant surprises during my testing. The general-purpose Matrix metering system also put in a solid performance, recommending balanced exposure values in a wide range of situations. It copes especially well with bright subjects, rarely causing the underexposure we might traditionally anticipate; with that in mind it's worth keeping an eye on the histogram view and the brightness of the screen, because it's easy to misinterpret what you're seeing and dial in unnecessary exposure compensation.

Image quality

  • ISO100-51,200, expandable to 50-1,640,000
  • Strong dynamic range
  • Attractive colors

Scrolling through the images we've shot on the Nikon D500 confirms that it does most things well most of the time. The vast majority of images are well exposed, have attractive, accurate colours and are sharp. Video quality is also high.

Examining images in more detail reveals that low light performance is very good within the native sensitivity range. Images taken at the lower sensitivity settings have lots of detail, achieving excellent scores in our resolution tests. This starts to drop off at ISO6400, but the results at ISO12,800 are still very good, with just a hint of chroma noise in raw files viewed at 100% on screen.

This coloured speckling becomes more obvious at ISO25,600, and more so again at ISO51,200 (the highest native value), but it's well within acceptable limits. Beyond this value the expansion settings are there if you need them, but they deliver results that Nikon doesn't consider entirely satisfactory.

Results using the first of these settings, Hi 1 (ISO102,400) are actually pretty good for such a high value, but banding starts to creep into images shot at Hi 2 (ISO204,800), and is visible in the darker areas of images sized to A4.

It's not really worth using the values above these two settings, as there's lots of noise and subjects become increasingly lost in the murk. Don't be deceived by the results you may see taken in good light; in the dark conditions that demand these settings it's a different story, and we struggled to recognise objects shot at Hi 5 (ISO1,640,000).

The D500 is an excellent camera, and one that will serve many enthusiasts well, giving them the first-rate systems they desire in a smaller, more affordable body than the D5.

While some may be a little disappointed that the D500 doesn't have 24 million pixels on its sensor like Nikon's other recent DX-format DSLRs, don't be, as the small sacrifice in resolution is worth it for the payoff in sensitivity performance.

Noise is controlled well throughout the native sensitivity range (ISO100-51,200), and even the results at ISO102,400 look pretty decent. The top expansion setting, however, is largely pointless; its results look much better in reasonable light, but in the dark conditions that really demand such a setting there's lot of noise in raw files and smearing of detail in JPEGs, making subjects hard to identify.

The D500 packs in a pro-spec specification that's very impressive, and it's likely to prove particularly attractive to sports and action photographers

The D500 packs in a pro-spec specification that's very impressive, and it's likely to prove particularly attractive to sports and action photographers. The autofocus system is especially enticing, capable as it is of getting moving subjects sharp in difficult lighting conditions.

The D500's robust build means it's more capable of withstanding heavy use than Nikon's existing DX cameras, and it can be used with confidence in poor weather. It's also great that Nikon enthusiasts now have a high-level camera they can upgrade to without having to opt for a full-frame model – that's especially important for those who have an extensive collection of DX-format lenses.

Many will be mulling over whether to go for the D500 or a full-frame camera like the Nikon D750. The D750 is a good all-rounder that controls noise a little better, but if speed and/or durability are key concerns, the D500 is the one to go for. It's also a better choice if you have a collection of DX-format lenses and no FX (full-frame) optics – although it has the chops to resolve plenty of detail, so don't be tempted to use inferior glass.

Competition

Posted: November 15, 2017, 2:30 pm
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Posted: November 6, 2017, 8:56 pm
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