Canon EOS 6D

An excellent camera for Canon users who are looking to step up into the world of full-frame photography, the 6D delivers great photo and video quality, as well as effective Wi-Fi.


8.5
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CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.


The Canon 6D along with its rival, the Nikon D600, have definitely struck a chord with a captive audience keen on full-frame photography. This camera is designed with a specific audience in mind: those photographers who are keen enthusiasts or even semi-professionals, who want the same image quality as delivered by a professional-level camera, but can't yet justify the cost of something like the 5D Mark III or 1D X.

Design and features

At just 690 grams without battery or lens, this SLR is incredibly lightweight for a full-frame camera. In fact, it's just 15 grams heavier than the 60D. To keep the size and weight down, Canon only gives the 6D a standard 3-inch LCD at the rear of the camera, rather than the articulating version found on models such as the 60D.

The screen is bright, has a high-resolution at 1.04-million dots and is reasonably easy to see in bright and direct sunlight.

This camera has been designed to allow photographers to shoot one-handed if needed. It's possible to change pretty much all the exposure values you need with just the right hand, as all the buttons fall within reach of the thumb and index finger. You can review and flick through photos with the playback button and control dial at the rear, too.

Because of its positioning within the Canon range, the 6D takes a number of different design cues from each of its more professional and lower-end siblings. It borrows the locking mode dial that's now present on the 5D Mark III, though it only has one slot for and SD card as opposed to a dual SD, or single SD and CF slot.

Alongside all the requisite manual exposure modes, photographers also get access to an in-camera HDR mode. The body is splash and dust resistant, though not as rugged in overall construction like the Mark III. The optical viewfinder provides 97 per cent frame coverage.

Canon 6DCanon 6DCanon 6DCanon 6D

Click through for hands-on photos with the 6D. (Credit: CBSi)

A Live View switch at the back lets users flick between the viewfinder and screen, as well as acting as a record button when shooting video. For video shooters, the 6D encodes in either All-I or IPB, just like the Mark III. It does, however, lose out on the headphone jack, so you can't monitor directly from the camera. Same goes for clean HDMI out, which isn't present here.

The 6D has a native ISO range of 100-25,600, which is expandable up to 102,400 in the high settings. Inside is an internal GPS module for tracking location and appending this information to photos.

Photos taken using the built-in HDR mode are pretty impressive, especially when it comes to boosting detail in shadow and low-light areas
(Credit: CBSi)

The top panel gives a visual display of shooting settings, including focus mode, ISO, metering, card storage and Wi-Fi. That last feature is one of the big calling cards of the 6D, as it's built-in rather than requiring an extra accessory in the case of cameras, such as the Nikon D600. Using a dedicated app called EOS Remote (iOS and Android) photographers can transfer photos and video, as well as using their mobile device as a remote viewfinder.

Wi-Fi connectivity

Once you have the EOS Remote app installed, select and activate Wi-Fi from the camera menu. This will prompt you to set up a nickname for the camera — in a flurry of creativity, we decided to name ours 6D — then you can choose an easy or advanced configuration. Connect to the camera's ad-hoc Wi-Fi access point on your smartphone or tablet, enter the password quoted on the LCD screen and the process is complete. It's seamless and easy enough to get a working connection within a minute. Naturally, after the process has been completed once and you are connecting again to the same smartphone, it's much quicker when all the settings have been saved.

Setting up the Wi-Fi connection on an Android smartphone.
(Screenshot by CBSi)

The EOS Remote app is simple to use, with just two main options on the first screen; view photos from the camera's memory card or control the camera remotely from the app. Transferring photos and video is incredibly easy, and shows just how effective a good implementation of Wi-Fi in a camera can be. Note that you can only transfer JPEG images across to a mobile device.

Controlling the camera remotely through the app is also just as useful, as you can adjust the exposure, set a timer and release the shutter when ready. The camera focuses to take the shot once the remote shutter button has been pressed.

Compared to

6D vs D600
Canon EOS 6D Nikon D600
20.2-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor 24.3-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
3-inch LCD screen (1.04-million dot) 3.2-inch LCD screen (921,000-dot)
11-point AF (1 cross-type) 39-point AF (9 cross-type)
Wi-Fi built in Optional Wi-Fi transmitter
4.5 frames per second 5.5 frames per second
SDXC support (1 slot) SDXC support (2 slots)
1/4000 sec max shutter, 1/180 sync speed 1/4000 sec max shutter, 1/200 sync speed
No built-in flash Built-in (pop-up) flash

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shotli>
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • 0.60.20.30.3
    Canon EOS 6D
  • 0.10.40.30.4
    Nikon D600
  • 0.10.30.30.04
    Nikon D800
  • 0.20.40.30.1
    Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • 0.30.40.40.3
    Canon EOS 5D Mark II

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in fps)

  • 6
    Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • 5.5
    Nikon D600
  • 4.5
    Canon EOS 6D
  • 4
    Nikon D800
  • 3.8
    Canon EOS 5D Mark II

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

With just 11 AF points, the 6D clearly doesn't look very attractive on the spec sheet against its nearest competitor, the Nikon D600. In practice, things are quite different, as the autofocus system is mostly efficient and quick to achieve focus, even in dim and low-light situations.

What is unfortunate is the crowding of AF points around the centre of the frame, rather than spreading them out more across the scene. It's not a major issue for most photographers, but there is a bit of extra work required to achieve focus if your area of interest is outside the set region.

What does work in the 6D's favour is the centre cross-type focusing point, which is rated to -3EV. This means you can use the centre point and achieve focus in very dim situations, and still lock on to a target in the centre of the frame with ease. The centre point can focus in near darkness, as long as there's still some form of illumination present.

Like other Canon SLRs, users get the choice of three main AF modes: one-shot, AI focus and AI servo for action shots.

In a nice touch of backwards-compatibility, the 6D uses the LP-E6 battery pack, which it shares with the 5D Mark II, 7D and 60D.

The 6D can shoot around 25 JPEG shots in continuous mode at the specified 4.5fps rate before the buffer starts to fill and the speed slows down. For RAW shooting, that number is around 8 frames until the buffer limitations kick in.

Image quality

The Canon 6D delivers everything you would expect from a full-frame sensor. Colours are vivid, yet true-to-life, while dynamic range is excellent. We tested the 6D with the EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L series lens.

On default settings, photos taken in RAW appear to be noticeably flatter in terms of colour rendition when compared to their JPEG counterparts. This works best for anyone wanting to get the most detail out of shots in post-processing. The JPEG files look a little too strong in comparison, though you can dial back the intensity if you prefer the flatter look using the picture styles.

A comparison between RAW and JPEG rendition on the 6D.
(Credit: CBSi)

Automatic white balance is generally very accurate in a variety of lighting situations. We found that the 6D's evaluative metering would choose to under- rather than over-expose certain contrasty situations, which is preferred, especially if shooting in RAW.

The 6D performs very well in low light situations, particularly at higher ISO levels. Shooting at or above ISO 3200 produces very acceptable results with little detail smearing. Dynamic range overall is excellent, and compares very favourably to the performance from the 5D Mark III.

Like the Mark III, video does benefit from a touch of sharpening in post, though overall quality is good. The lack of a headphone jack does mean that serious videographers will have to either use the 6D as a second body, or invest in an external monitoring system for the best results. For the internal mic, Canon provides a built-in wind cut and attenuation filter.

Canon EOS 6D beach test from CNET Australia on Vimeo.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/250, f/8, ISO 400

Exposure: 1/160, f/2.8, ISO 800

Exposure: 1/30, f/4.5, ISO 500

Exposure: 1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 400

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

An excellent camera for Canon users who are looking to step up into the world of full-frame photography, the 6D delivers great photo and video quality, as well as effective Wi-Fi. The main disappointment is the lack of AF responsiveness, not so much in regards to its low-light sensitivity, which is generally very good, but how there are too few AF points.

In terms of top-line specs, the Nikon D600 wins out on AF points and video features, but the 6D holds its own from the connectivity point-of-view, with a GPS and Wi-Fi built-in.



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KarlJ posted a comment   

I'm a bit confused by the speed bar graphs, the time to first shot for the 6D and D600 is 0.6 vs 0.5 but the line for the D600 is the same length as that for the D800 which only takes 0.1sec...

Given that if I upgrade my 550D with EF-S lenses I've got to get new lenses, which is better, D600 or 6D?

 

Lexy Savvides posted a reply   
Australia

My mistake Karl, a simple transcription error when I was porting over the times from the Nikon, the D600 should be 0.1 start up to shot time. Should be fixed now.

Depends on whether you want to stay with Canon or make the shift. You can't use the EF-S lenses on the 6D so you're effectively starting from scratch whichever way you choose. As I alluded to in the review, the 6D is great for people who want Wi-Fi, it's so useful and works very well. Image quality is similarly excellent on both cameras and there's little difference except at very high ISO levels. The D600 does edge out the 6D on AF performance quite a lot, but only really if you shoot lots of sports, action and so on.

 

KarlJ posted a reply   

Thanks Lexy. I do like the GPS and WiFi but one of my main reasons for wanting to upgrade is to get better low light high ISO pictures. I don't like using flash. It looks from the specs of both that the 6D is better in ISO range, is that the case practically?

 

PeterE4 posted a comment   

A down grade from my 60D
I wont be rushing out

 

MarcusT posted a comment   

how us over $2k considered "affordable"

 

MatthewC10 posted a reply   

Do you know how much cameras like this USUALLY cost?

 

JoaoM posted a comment   

No tilt / rotating back screen???? I dont understand the lack of such a creative element.

 

IanA2 posted a reply   

well they have to somehow justify a slightly cheaper price than the 5diii and and still keep sales for the 650D and 60D... all about marketing... :p

 

christopherprins posted a reply   
Australia

It was a very handy feature indeed.

But personally. I like the idea that the 6D can be tethered using WiFi, Android, or iOS. Why use a rotating screen, when you can use a completely portable one.

 

FlynB posted a reply   

I've got to agree with you on this one, also saves battery since you wont be using the LCD live-view, instead you'll be using your mobile or tablet, what convenience and the price is very attractive considering how much the 5d mk iii and 1Dx cost




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User Reviews / Comments  Canon EOS 6D

  • KarlJ

    KarlJ

    "I'm a bit confused by the speed bar graphs, the time to first shot for the 6D and D600 is 0.6 vs 0.5 but the line for the D600 is the same length as that for the D800 which only takes 0.1sec...

  • PeterE4

    PeterE4

    "A down grade from my 60D
    I wont be rushing out"

  • MarcusT

    MarcusT

    "how us over $2k considered "affordable""

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