As mentioned elsewhere, I recently did an upgrade of my M6 (Mk I) by trading it plus a lens I wasn’t using so that in cash terms, I got the MkII body for just over half the price I would otherwise have paid. A detailed account of how this came about would be rather boring because I wasn’t particularly on the lookout for an upgrade but it was an unexpected opportunity which I took advantage of because of the various calculations I had already made, it just all fell into place.
I had previously decided that the only likely upgrade I would do in the near future was of my original M6 but even then, as the rumour mill had projected that there was an upgrade to the M5 which has an inbuilt viewfinder which the M6 doesn’t have, it was that model which I had in mind for an upgrade. However and in our ‘Covid 19 world’ supply chains have been shredded so Canon and other camera manufacturers have had difficulty in shipping sufficient of their current new models therefore cheaper and less profitable models like the M series have probably had upgrades put on hold or possibly shelved.
The M6 MkII was released back in September 2019 and technically on ‘spec sheet’ alone is a considerable upgrade to my original M6 so when this deal came up, I thought that I may as well. Now I’m not going to prattle on about the technical specifications etc and in no small part because I would make a terrible camera reviewer because I am a camera user and am only interested in a cameras usability/value to me and am rather less concerned with the ‘spec sheet’. What I want to attempt to do is to describe my experiences and how I approach a ‘new to me’ camera true, I may just be rather odd but I suspect not, so much.
This camera only arrived in the last week of January and if I were to, it would be a few more months before I would even start to do any kind of revue on it because I always start with handling and using the camera in my normal photographic environment so that I can map out differences in handling and discover any new possibilities for me. It doesn’t matter whether it is a shiny new digital camera or an old 35mm camera, I still approach it in the same way.
The very first thing that became obvious to me was that the experience of moving from the original M6 to this MkII version was pretty much the same as the one that I had when I upgraded my original 7D to the 7D MkII. What I mean by this was that obviously I expected the MkII version to be a technical upgrade and there was the spec sheet to back that up but the reality of handling it in the field was a totally different experience and it is that dimension that we all and too often overlook.
To me a lot of camera reviews fall into what I call the “Jeremy Clarkson Problem” by which I mean a car (or any other product) review of an exotic model which few of us will ever buy. Great entertainment and ‘click bait worthy’ but for most end users, not terribly relevant because whilst we may have champagne tastes, most of us only have beer money to spend. Great describing how a BMW M something or other handles on Swiss mountain roads but bloody useless for someone in a Nissan Juke commuting daily from Reading to Slough in a traffic jam where the number of cup holders and the quality of the sound system may be a lot more relevant to them than how much torque is being generated and by what.
I suppose the most immediate reaction I had to the M6 MkII was the realisation that I actually needed to read the manual, try something out and then decide whether whatever that “something” was, if it was relevant to my needs or just a marketing feature I now know about but will never bother with again. Compared with the Canon R5 or the Sony a1, my M6 MkII is not a sophisticated camera and yet compared with my two main DSLRs which are both 6 year old in design/function terms, it is and very much of a different generation which set me thinking about just how much technology do we actually need.
One of my Sons has a rather nice BMW 5 series estate and we were talking about the amount of technology that is packed into modern cars, his point was that there were “features” on his car that he had never bothered with because they weren’t relevant to his needs. His view was that to know each and every one you would either have to be a total nerd with nothing else going on in your life or a car reviewer who was actually reading from the ‘cheat sheet’ the manufacturer had given you. I think this tends to apply to most technology these days and most certainly cameras.
However I approached this camera with an open mind, well it has cost me money ! The first thing being that there are more tabs in the menu which of course means more choices to be had, a lot more so I had to have a plan. Which is very simple really, take it out with me on my morning ride, take pictures, get in a mess, get annoyed, frustrated and on getting back home carry out a postmortem to understand what went wrong and how this can be avoided in future. Crude though this may seem and it is but for me it works and within a couple of weeks I was getting the results I wanted as a minimum and am now experimenting with the “other features” some of which are useful to me, some not so much, as the Summer months roll by I should be very sorted on this camera.
A Favourite Lens
One of the most noticeable features of Canon’s M series range is the relative lack of a range of native glass for the system. I suspect that Canon’s reasoning lies in the fact that with an adapter, you can mount any of their EF EF-S range of lenses on an M body which whilst true, is not very satisfactory because most of that range is heavier than an M body. Over the years I have mounted EF glass on my M bodies but there is only one lens that works well for me and it wasn’t one that initially I was that keen to get in the first place.
I read somewhere that this was a lens that “Everybody should have…” and eventually some 5 years or more ago, I actually got one which turned out to be probably the best buying decision I ever made. The lens in question is Canon’s f4 70-200mm IS L which between its internal focusing system, weight and tripod mount plus being built like a tank, is a delight to handle and that includes mounted on my new M6 MkII. I had toyed with getting the f2.8 version of this lens in the past but cost difference aside, it weighs almost twice as much and is bulkier so that was a no.
However something I do use frequently with it is a x1.4 multiplier which is really useful, especially on a crop sensor because of the 1.6 crop factor, the 200mm becomes 320mm, add the multiplier and you have a 448mm lens. My 7D MkII has a crop sensor as have all my M series cameras.
A few years ago when experimenting with a Micro 4/3 rds camera, I bought a collection of Canon FD lenses which I could adapt to use on it, at the time and more by luck than judgement, these lenses cost me very little money. They later had a role when I wanted to go back to shooting 35mm film in me deciding to buy Canon FD bodies, well I had the lenses already !
However one of the best features of the M series bodies, apart from the original M is that they have very good in built focus peaking for using manual glass and I had used them on my original M6 with some success. There is something about these FD lenses though which is that although of metal construction and being mechanical, they are quite ‘slim’ taking a 52mm and in the odd case 55mm filter size to the front element. This in turn makes them lighter than my EOS L glass and easier to handle on a small camera body, the only down side being that I will have to wait for the brighter/lighter days of Spring and Summer to extract the most from them so, another challenge to look forward to.
There was one other “indulgence” I allowed myself which was to buy, second hand of course, a M series lens I had not previously owned, the f3.5 – 6.3 IS 18-150mm zoom. I hadn’t bought it previously because it seemed rather expensive to me but I suspected that it would be a rather useful ‘kit lens’ and better than the usual short zoom. Now having used it for sometime, I can recommend it highly, a very flexible focal range and a very good weight balance on a M body and I do now tend to use it as my ‘kit lens’ on this body. In fact the only minor down side to getting the MkII was that because the M series bodies are small, I like to use a ‘Smallrig’ cage to improve handling and stop me accidentally hitting buttons unintentionally. As the MkII body is slightly bigger than the original M6, I couldn’t reuse my original cage and had to buy a new one, this was not the end of the world though.