Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Canon EOS 6D Hands-on Review and Sample Images

Canon EOS 6D Hands-on Review and Sample Images

. . . And Necessary Comparison to the Canon 5D Mark III

The highly-anticipated Canon 6D full frame camera is here—and wow is this camera fun!  OK, so it’s really the built-in WiFi on a smaller-than-5D Mark III-but-still-full frame body that makes it fun, but the very impressive feature set for the price—about $1200 less than the 5D Mark III at current prices—will also make users smile.

Canon EOS 6D with 24-105 f/4L IS kit lens.
Canon EOS 6D with 24-105 f/4L IS kit lens.
The stats on the 6D are widely available:  20.2 MP full frame Digic 5+ processor, ISO range of 100 to 25,600, expandable to 50 to 102,400, WiFi and GPS built in, 4.5 frames per second (fps) and 3 fps in silent mode, and changeable focusing screens.  

Canon’s other popular pro/prosumer full frame body, the Canon 5D Mark III, gets an additional 2 MP out of the same sensor as the 6D, but the above stats are otherwise the same for the two cameras.  Indeed, were it not for the 5D Mark III, most photographers would happily accept the stellar stats of the 6D.  Yet no review of the 6D is complete without the a comparison to the 5D Mark III, and with good cause:  the cameras have far more in common than there are differences.  Still, the differences are what users will concentrate on, and I will therefore focus on a few key differences below.

Canon 6D with 24-105mm f/4L IS, 1/80 sec. at f/4.0, ISO 400, slight crop.

Feel, Weight, and Ergonomics

Right out of the box it is apparent that the 6D is lighter and a little smaller than the 5D III.  This is a boon to travelers and other non-studio shooters looking for all the advantages of a full frame body in a camera about the same size as Canon’s APS-C bodies, the 60D and the 7D.  5D users need not worry—the 6D is no EOS Rebel.  The 6D is 6.5 ounces lighter, and about 1/4 inch narrower, shallower and shorter than the 5D III.  Former 5D users will feel right at home with the controls, and those upgrading from the 60D or 7D will be equally comfortable.

Canon 6D Sample Image.
Canon 6D with 24-105mm f/4L IS, 1/160 sec. at f/5.0, ISO 400.

In fact, 5D users will be pleased to find several improvements in ergonomics, including the movement of play, zoom and trash buttons to the right side of the camera where they belong.  The “nubbin” joystick of the 5D/7D has been replaced by a directional control within the back wheel, which is far more convenient as it abuts the “Set” button.  Depth of field preview is a little smaller on the 6D than the 5D III, but still adequate.  The simple point is that ergonomics seem improved.

Other Features


The integrated WiFi is simply a blast to deal with.  It's very easy to sync it up with your iPhone or other smartphone with Canon's free EOS Remote App.  With the Remote App you can manually set functions such as aperture, speed and exposure compensation on your phone and trigger the camera remotely.  Photos are viewable on your phone (zoomed in too), and you can view photos taken on the camera and download smaller versions wirelessly on your phone.  You can also wirelessly tether the camera using other Canon software.  While not something you might use every day, this is a very, very cool feature.

Canon 6D Sample Image.
Canon 6D with 24-105mm f/4L IS, 1/200 sec. at f/4.0, ISO 800.

Key Differences Between the 6D and 5D Mark III

In the 6D's Favor 

The 6D comes with an integrated WiFi system that allows for transfer of files directly to a computer, shooting “tethered” wirelessly and using a smartphone to remotely trigger the camera.  A similar add-on is available for the 5D III for an additional $800.  

The 6D comes with integrated GPS, accurate to 100 meters.  Again, an add-on—much more accurate, apparently—is available for the 5D III for an additional $400.

The 6D allows for interchangeable finder screens, while the 5D III does not.  This may be somewhat misleading, however, since the 5D III apparently has a focus assist, while the 6D does not (but this is not entirely clear at this point).  Photographers using manual focus lenses or, more likely, video shooters, will thus continue to gravitate toward the 5D III depending on the capacity of the other focusing screens.

While the 6D only uses SD cards, it accepts the newer, faster UHS-1 SD cards, while the 5D III does not. 

Price:  The 6D retails for $2099 for the body only and $2699 with the awesome 24-105 f/4L IS lens, as compared to $3299 for the 5D Mark III body, a difference of $1200!!!  Shooters on any type of budget will no doubt look to the 6D, and, in our opinion, be quite happy with the results.

Canon 6D with 24-105mm f/4L IS sample image.
Canon 6D with 24-105mm f/4L IS, 1/200 sec. at f/4.0, ISO 800, slight crop.

In the 5D Mark III's Favor

The 6D is made with a magnesium alloy body but has a polycarbonate (heavy plastic) top plate, which the 5D III is entirely magnesium; having dropped and dragged my 7D and 20D on numerous occasions on 6 continents, I’m not worried about the polycarbonate.  The 5D III is "weather sealed," while the 6D is "dust and splash proof." 

Perhaps the biggest difference is that the 5D III has 41 cross-type autofocus points compared to the 6D’s one.  Yes, only one.  This makes a difference in hard to focus situations, but Canon claims that the 6D is capable of improved accuracy at extremely low light levels (down to LV -3 compared to the 5D’s LV -2).  Similarly, the 6D uses only 11 autofocus points compared to the 5D III’s 61.  This will be most significant when shooting moving objects.  I’m a focus and recompose shooter who uses center focus, so this does not greatly impact me. 

The 6D shoots at up to 4.5 frames per second (fps), the 5D III up to 6 fps. 

The 6D uses SD cards only, which the 5D III uses both SD and Compact Flash cards.  The 6D accepts the newer, faster UHS-1 SD cards, however, while the 5D III does not.

Both LCD’s use 1,040,000 dots, but the 6D’s LCD is 3” compared to the 5D III’s 3.2” and auto brightness control.  The 5D III also has a glass covering to its LCD while the 6D sticks with the traditional plastic (again, not worried about this one).

The 6D’s top shutter speed is 1/4000 of a second and a top flash shutter sync of 1/180 of a second compared to the 5D III’s 1/8000 sec. and 1/200 flash sync—virtually no perceptible difference to most users.

For video shooters, the 5D Mark III has a headphone jack for monitoring sound.  The slightly larger LCD will likely appeal to video folks as well.  We have not been able to test the manual focus confirm on the 5D Mark III, but if this is indeed available, this would certainly push the 5D further into the video shooters' camp.


The real question for photographers considering either the 6D or the 5D Mark III will be price.  The new features on the 6D are quite fun and exciting, and certainly geared towards non-studio shooters.  Given the similarities between the two and the images we've seen so far (and, indeed, the positive reviews of the images coming out of the 5D Mark III), we believe the 6D more than just fills a gap for Canon and is a fantastic camera.

Canon 6D WiFi remote capture.
The author using the WiFi remote capture feature using an iPhone 5!

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