12Jan Canon 6d Review
The Canon 6d is the lightest full frame camera Canon has released to date. It’s the first DSLR camera in Canon’s lineup to have built-in GPS and Wi-Fi capabilities. The Canon 6d also sports a brand new 20.2 Megapixel sensor with large 6.55 µm photodiode sites for better low light performance.
Priced at $2099, the Canon 6d has a few improvements that 5dmkII owners might be interested in. It’s low light performance is a huge improvement over the 5dmkII and it even slightly out performs the Canon 5d mark III at very high iso settings. The AF system in the 6d has 11 AF points compared to the the 9 AF points of the 5dmkII, however both still only have 1 Cross Type AF point in the center. New Wi-Fi and GPS features allow wireless control of the 6d in photo mode as well as GPS tagging of photos.
While the 6d has some improvements, Canon has also left a few things out. The 5dmkII had a max shutter speed of 1/8000 however the 6d’s max shutter speed is limited to 1/4000 which can be a pain when shooting in direct sunlight. The 6d also has a serious lack of buttons which means the menu system are extra complex, when compared to the 5dmkII.
In an effort to reduce the weight and size of the 6d, Canon basically removed all of the buttons along the left hand side of the screen, they’ve also traded out the joystick for the same spongy feeling touch pad used on the Canon 60d. The 6d also uses an SDXC card slot as apposed to a CF card slot which will be a disappointment if you already have a large stock of CF cards from a 5dmkII body.
The GPS and Wi-Fi units can only be used in photo mode. GPS works most of the time in out door scenarios but is basically useless in buildings. The location information is stored in the photo’s meta data so keep that in mind if you don’t want to release photo location data when publishing images to the net. The Canon 6d can act as a Wi-Fi hotspot allowing phones and tablets to connect directly to the camera. When combined with recently released Android and iPhone apps you can remotely preview and control camera settings from your mobile device. This feature could be handy for macro photographers as well as camera traps but the delay can be a little annoying. Unfortunately these features can not be used in video mode which is very disappointing for film makers.
The center Cross type AF point works very well and has the strongest low light sensitivity of any DSLR in Canon’s lineup. At a rating of EV-3 you can achieve focus (though slowly) with a single porch light on a dark night. If you only use the Center AF point you’ll probably be pretty happy with the results, however the rest of the AF points are mostly hit or miss.
When the 5dmkII was released in 2008, and many considered the AF system to be a little dated back then. Even though the Canon 6d is an upgrade to the 5dmkII’s focus system, it’s a few steps behind the competitors. It would have been nice to see something a little more advanced like an upgraded version of the 7d’s focus system, but Canon intentionally leaves things like this out to differentiate product lines.
Setting the Canon 6d next to the Canon 5dmkIII, it’s easy to see the size difference, it’s also easy to tell which one has the 100% view finder. The weight difference is very noticeable between the two cameras and the added heft makes the 5dmkIII feel much more substantial in the hand. If you’re used to the control layout of earlier Canon models like the 7d and 5d mark II you’ll probably find the control layout out on the 6d a little hard to get used to as most of the buttons are located under the hand gripping the camera.
The screen on the Canon 6d is 3 inches as apposed to the 3.2 inch screen used on the 5dmkIII, however both screens share the same 1.04 million dot clear view resolution. Where the 5dmkIII uses a hardened glass over the screen, the 6d uses a light resin cover which feels a lot less durable. Images on the 5dmkIII appear to have slightly better black levels then the 6d but over all it’s tough to see a difference between the two.
Buttons across the top of the LCD screen only serve a single function on the 6d which also takes a little bit of getting used to. Finding and adjusting the white balance in video mode, for example, is a painful process that requires a number of buttons as well as finding the right sub menu.
In video mode the performance of the Canon 6d is very similar to that of the 5dmkIII. Displays on screen are similar in record mode with audio meters on the bottom left and the normal information appearing and disappearing with each press of the info button. The menu’s are harder to navigate on the 6d, but all of the functionality is there.
There have been a few reports of aliasing and moiré being worse on the 6d then the 5dmkIII. While this is true, both cameras suffer from the same problem. If you point the 5dmkIII at a problem shirt for example and move it around, things wont look great, on the 6d they’ll look worse. Neither will produce footage that you’ll want to use and both suffer from the normal problems associated with CMOS sensors.
While the 5dmkIII and mkII (with magic lantern) both have options for monitoring audio in camera, the 6d is missing that port. It could be something that’s added in the future when a magic lantern hack is released but for now you’ll have to live without.
At the time of this review the Canon 6d is still $2099 new while the Canon 5d mark III has fallen to $2975 new, with deals popping up for as low as $2700. If you don’t mind buying refurbished the 5dmkIII can be had for as low as $2450 in some cases. For film makers this puts the 6d in a a strange spot for the price point. Spend $300 to $600 more and you can get a 5d mark III or if you don’t need the ultra low light performance save $600 or more and buy a used 5d mark II, add magic lantern, and you’ll be in just about the same spot. If the 6d were priced at $1700 I would say go for it, but at $2099 it seems like it would make more sense for many to go with a 5dmkII or 5dmkIII.
I originally pre-ordered 6d as a good solid backup to the 5dmkIII, but the draw back of the 6d were enough that I returned it and picked up a refurbished 5dmkIII on ebay. At the refurbished price it just made more sense to have a second 5dmkIII around then deal with the fiddly menus and the out dated focus system on the 6d, not to mention the headphone jack.
Overall the 6d isn’t a bad camera, it’s just not a great camera. At it’s current price there are enough other options out there that the 6d becomes a hard sell. If the features of the 6d are something you can’t live without, then go for it. Otherwise there a lot of other options out there that probably make more sense.