December 22, 2012

Canon EOS-6D Review

By Richard Harrington (With Comments by Scott Bourne in parenthesis)

large_eos6d_3q

The Canon EOS-6D Digital SLR Camera falls into a unique position. It is the most affordable full frame sensor that Canon offers. The camera falls squarely between the 5D Mark III and the 7D in both price and features.

5D Mark III 6D 7D
Price $3,499.00 $2,099.00 $1,599.00
Sensor High-sensitivity, high-resolution, large single-plate CMOS sensor CMOS Sensor High-sensitivity, high-resolution, large single-plate CMOS sensor
Pixels Effective pixels:
Approx. 22.3 megapixels
Effective pixels:
Approx. 20.2 megapixels
Effective pixels:
Approx. 18.0 megapixels
File Size Large: Approx. 22.10 megapixels (5760 x 3840) Large: Approx. 20.0
megapixels (5,472 x 3,648)
Large: Approx. 17.90
megapixels (5,184 x 3,456)
Medium: Approx. 9.80 megapixels (3840 x 2560) Medium: Approx. 8.9
megapixels (3,648 x 2,432)
Medium: Approx. 8.00
megapixels (3,456 x 2,304)
S1 (Small 1): Approx. 5.50 megapixels (2880 x 1920) Small 1: Approx. 5.0
megapixels (2,736 x 1,824)
Small: Approx. 4.50
megapixels (2,592 x 1,728)
S2 (Small 2): Approx. 2.50 megapixels (1920 x 1280) Small 2: Approx. 2.5
megapixels (1920 x 1280)
RAW: Approx. 17.90
megapixels (5,184 x 3,456)
S3 (Small 3): Approx. 350,000 Pixels (720 x 480) Small 3: Approx. 350,000 pixels
(720 x 480)
M-RAW: Approx. 10.10
megapixels (3,888 x 2,592)
RAW: Approx. 22.10
megapixels (5760 x 3840)
RAW: Approx. 20.0
megapixels
(5,472 x 3,648)
S-RAW: Approx. 4.50
megapixels (2,592 x 1,728)
M-RAW: Approx. 10.50 Megapixels (3960 x 2640) M RAW: Approx. 11.0 megapixels (4,104 x 2,736) Exact file sizes depend on the subject, ISO speed, Picture Style, etc.
S-RAW: Approx. 5.50 megapixels (2880 x 1920) S RAW: Approx. 5.0
megapixels (2,736 x 1,824)
Type Eye-level pentaprism Eye-level SLR (with fixed pentaprism) Eye-level pentaprism
Coverage Approx. 100% vertically and horizontally (At approx. 21mm eyepoint) Vertical/Horizontal approx. 97% Approximately 100%
Shutter 1/8000 to 30 sec., bulb (Total shutter speed range. Available range varies by shooting mode.) 1/4000 to 30 sec., X-sync at 1/180 sec. (Total shutter speed range. Available range varies by shooting mode.) 30 seconds to 1/8000th second; user-settable in 1/3 or full-step increments (available shutter speeds vary by shooting mode); plus BulbX-sync at 1/250th second with EOS Speedlites
X-sync at 1/200 sec.
Continuous Speed High-speed: Maximum approx. 6 shots/sec. Continuous shooting: Max. approx. 4.5 fpsSilent continuous shooting: Max. approx. 3.0 fps High-speed: Max. 8.0 shots/sec.Low-speed: Max. 3.0 shots/sec.
Low-speed: Maximum approx. 3 shots/sec.
Silent continuous shooting: Maximum approx. 3 shots/sec.
Lenses Canon EF Lenses (excluding EF-S Lenses) Canon EF lenses (except EF-S and EF-M lenses) Canon EF lenses including EF-S lenses (35mm-equivalent focal length is approx. 1.6x the lens focal length)
Metering Range EV 1-20 (at 73°F / 23°C with 50mm f/1.4 lens at ISO 100) EV 1-20 (at 73°F/23°C with EF50mm f/1.8 II lens, ISO 100) EV 1-20 (at 73°F/23°C with EF50mm f/1.4 USM lens, ISO 100)

Let’s start with the sensor. It’s a 20.2MP full frame CMOS sensor using the DIGIC 5+ image processor – the same as the 5D Mark III. The sensor supports a variety of capture sizes including:

  • RAW: Approx. 20.0 megapixels (5,472 x 3,648)
  • M RAW: Approx. 11.0 megapixels (4,104 x 2,736)
  • S RAW: Approx. 5.0 megapixels (2,736 x 1,824)

The ability to capture RAW at different sizes is a nice benefit of the Canon’s raw format.
(But Scott still wishes it were a 16 or 18mp sensor. He’s tired of the megapixel wars.)

ƒ1.4 | 50mm prime | 1/50th | IS0 320

ƒ1.4 | 50mm prime | 1/50th | IS0 320

The sensor has wide dynamic range from ISO 100 – ISO 25600, it matches the 5D Mark III and blows away the Mark II which topped out at 6400. I found the noise levels to be very good even at very high ISO settings. The fact that the files are 14-bit also helps a lot. (Scott says just think how much more dynamic range they could have gotten out of that sensor at 16mp!)

DPP_0040

ƒ2.8 | 50mm prime | 1/40th | IS0 12800

The Digic image processor is very fast. It lets photographers shoot unlimited JPEGs in burst mode. (Until the card fills.) The raw burst is slower that the Mark III at 4.5 frames per second versus 6. But it’s still respectably fast and better the the Mark II’s 3.9 frames per second. You can also shoot up to 15 RAW files in a single burst which is two better than the 5D Mark III.

(Camera companies always have to worry about canabalizing their other products when they produce a camera like this. Allowing the 6D to have more shots in burst mode than the 5D MK III is one area where Scott is surprised they let the 6D win.)

ƒ2.0 | 50mm prime | 1/400th | IS0 25600 – Yes 25K!

ƒ2.0 | 50mm prime | 1/400th | IS0 25600 – Yes 25K!

The files you shoot are recorded to SD cards as opposed to Compact Flash. This may mean new purchases for some of you. But this is a common trend from most camera manufacturers. Besides standard SD cards, you can use the faster SDHC and the top of the line SDXC cards. The camera does work with Ultra High Speed (UHS-I) memory cards as well.

ƒ1.4 | 50mm prime | 1/40th | IS0 640

ƒ1.4 | 50mm prime | 1/40th | IS0 640

One area where Canon really cut back was on the autofocus points. The good news is that the 6D has 11 points compared to the 5D Mark II’s 9 points. But it comes nowhere close the to the 5D Mark III 61 points. This is one of the ways that they pulled the price of the camera down. Still, I found the camera very fast at focussing even when shooting lowlight. So if you were waiting to upgrade from a 7D or 5D Mark II, you should still be happy. If you shoot with a 5D Mark III, you’ll notice the difference in performance as well as cost.
(Scott says the 5D MK III AF is the second best AF system in the world; second only to the 1DX AF and this is something he’d urge sport and wildlife shooters to consider if they are trying to decide whether to buy a 5D MK III or a 6D.)

3

Two features that I’ve been looking forward to are built-in Wi-Fi and GPS. The GPS feature makes it easy to tag your photos with location information (which is a great way to get organized). With WIFI, Canon has a companion app that allows you to transfer image to a tablet or smart phone for sharing, or you can send over a local network for tethered shooting. You also can use an iOS or Android smartphone – for remote camera control and operation with the EOS Remote app (which is not yet released so don’t drive yourself nuts looking).

In-camera nighttime nighttime shooting mode which merges multiple shots.

In-camera nighttime nighttime shooting mode which merges multiple shots.

Other built-in features I liked were built in HDR for capturing a wider range. Unfortunately this is JPEG only. You can however still shoot bracketed and post process using Photoshop or Lightroom to create HDR images. The Multiple Exposure modes allow for in-camera compositing which can be a fun way to be a nit experimental. I found the Scene Intelligent Auto and Special Scene Modes very liberating. The menus offered very intuitive controls do dial in the amount of blur, the intensity of color and other properties. If you’re looking to let the camera do a little more thinking for you, the controls were intuitive and gave great results.

Shot intelligent auto with maximum vibrancy and background blur.

Shot intelligent auto with maximum vibrancy and background blur.

The shutter speed of the camera is quite fast. You can shoot between 1/4000 to 30 seconds. This is slower than both the 5D Mark II and Mark III’s 1/8000 of a second, but I don’t think its noticeable. It matches the new Nikon D600 and seems in line with the price point. Another nice change is Canon’s adoption of the “Silent Shooting” modes. (These aren’t silent enough to use on a movie set but silent enough not to bother people in most situations.)

large_eos6d_side

On the video side, this camera is quite nice. It offers full HD video with manual exposure control and multiple frame rates. The larger image sensor is also nice as it helps achieve better depth of field control and lowlight performance. You have all the standard frame rates of 30 and 25 for both 1080p and 720p. When shooting 1080 you also have the cinematic 24p mode and the ability at 720p to shoot over-crank at 60 frames per second for slow motion effects.

No color correction or noise reduction applied to video.  Some shots stabilized.  Music by air tone — Creative Commons.

The video can be recorded in the high quality “All i-frame” mode but you’ll need a UHS-I Card to do it. The short record limits are also removed. You can shoot clips over 30 minutes in HD and almost a hundred minutes at standard definition. The only negative on the video side is that you only get a mic input. While the 5D Mark III saw a headphone jack so you could monitor your audio, the 6D left that feature out. You’ll want to stick with recording audio to a separate source to be safe. A device like a Zoom H4N or SoundDevices recorded is recommended.

For lenses, you can use any Canon EF lens. You can’t use the cheaper EF-S lenses that worked with a 7D and the newer EF-M lenses for mirrorless cameras are not compatible. You still have plenty of choices when it comes to glass.

ƒ2.5 | 50mm prime | 1/125 | EV 1.0 | ISO 100

ƒ2.5 | 50mm prime | 1/125 | EV 1.0 | ISO 100

The menu system itself is one of the nicest things about this camera. I found it intuitive and easy to take control. What’s also nice is that you don’t need to scroll endlessly looking for things, Canon continues its tradition of using additional pages based on categories.

DPP_0014

ƒ3.2 | 50mm prime | 1/40th | ISO 8000

If you’re looking for a lightweight (just 1.7 pounds) full frame camera… the 6D is a great match. It’s very affordable and I found that the buttons and controls were easy to access and adjust. This is an affordable way to get into full-frame sensor shooting and I highly recommend the camera.

large_eos6d_back

(Scott’s conclusion: The camera doesn’t feel cheap. I like the button layout much better than on some older Canon models. Everything you need is accessible. The image quality is a close match to that of the 5D MK III and the price is right if you want affordable full-frame. If you match this camera with Canon’s high-end “L” glass you’re going to get amazing image quality. This camera (in my opinion) makes the 7D obsolete. It lacks the high-speed, highly-adjustable AF of the 5D MK III so it’s not able to compete there. But everywhere else, it bumps up closely enough to the MK III that if you don’t need the high-end AF the 6D should be your pick. One last complaint. Who names these things? Whoever is in charge of naming cameras at Canon should be lashed – 50 times in fact. In what world does it make sense to name your cameras in two different ways? We had the Canon 30D and the Canon D30. We had the 5D with all the MKs i.e., MK II, MK III but we added the 7D – which isn’t as much camera as the five and filled in with the 6D!)

Highly recommended.

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  3. [...] Canon EOS-6D Review The Canon EOS-6D Digital SLR Camera falls into a unique position. It is the most affordable full frame sensor that Canon offers. The camera falls squarely between the 5D Mark III and the 7D in both price and features. December 22, 2012 [...]

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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.

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