A Review of the Canon 6D Camera Body

How does this camera stack up in the field

I was looking for a second camera to use on jobs, mainly so I wouldn’t be wasting time swapping over lenses while on a photographic shoot. Not changing lenses on location ensures that you keep your camera clean and free of dust. If you have two cameras, you also appear a little more professional because there is less time fumbling around with equipment. So the Canon 6D full frame looked like a serious contender.

6d_quarter-view

The Canon Competition

5D Mkiii
Obviously it makes sense for me to stay in the Canon range because I only have Canon lenses, so I had a few options to choose from. I could go for another full frame Canon 5D mkiii, which would be perfect apart from the rather weighty price. The other thing about the 5D is that it is 200grams heavier, which makes a difference if you are photographing over a long period of time. The benefits of the 5D, are that I already use one so there would be no difference in the camera layout, which helps you photograph more instinctively. Also the 5D Mkiii is definitely a superior camera in terms of features and ergonomics.

7D or 70D
I would love to get another APS-C crop sensor camera because the crop factor of 1.6 means you get a different range out of the lenses that you are using. The problem that I have found, is that the obvious choice in the 7D, is full of bugs. It creates ridiculously noisy, soft images which are unusable to me. See me blog entry on the 7D here.

image of a canon 7d body

The 70D seemed to be an option until I looked at the detail and the noise on the promo shots on the Canon website. These were muddy and noisy at the best ISO settings, and while these might be ok for a hobbyist, the photos simply are not on a professional level without serious post production work.

Why I chose the 6D as a Second Camera

Pretty much two factors sealed the deal and made me chose the 6D over another 5D. The price, and the weight. I managed to get a very good deal on the 6D and at just over half the cost of another 5D, it was hard to beat. The weight factor is a big issue for me because after a long photo shoot, I seem to get quite a sore back. The lenses I use are very heavy, and combined with the camera and a flash unit or trigger, the total weight is quite unexpected. So lifting 200 grams less weight to my face every time I take a photo is quite a big deal.
What I didn’t expect is that the 6D would become my “go to” camera over the 5D but more on that later.

6D_Front

So how good is the 6D?

It is hard to judge this camera on its own merits and not compare it to its big brother the 5D. This camera is a professional tool that gives exceptional results, if you are using it for the right subject material. If you are using it for something it is not designed for, then you are going to get very frustrated.

Images and Image Quality

The camera’s photos are 20.2 megapixel which are slightly smaller than the 5D but when you put it into raw image size in pixels, it is not that noticeable. The 5D is punching out its largest images at 5760 x 3840 pixels, whereas the 6D manages a comparable 5472 x 3648 pixels. That is a 288 x 192 pixel difference, which in the larger scheme of things, is really not that much. The photo quality is virtually the same and the noise levels are almost identical too but if you want to be picky, the 5D seems to be ever so slightly less noisy to me.

Landscape_6DlandscapeCU

Let’s face it, the 6D takes photos and it does that well. Looking at these examples will give you an idea of what you are dealing with. I have included a copy of the photo in its entirety and also included some areas of the photo that are at full size. Exceptional low noise levels and detail in my opinion.

Girl_6dgirlCU

Focus

The focus system on the 6D does a good job and it really seems to lock onto where it should. I mainly use a single centre focus point on all my cameras so perhaps I am not pushing focus too hard, but I find that centre point gives me the best, most reliable results. That said, the 5D mkiii is much more snappier, focusing faster and it also hits the focus spot pretty accurately. What I dislike about the 6D’s focus is that as soon as you take it off centre point focus, and try to use any of the other 10 focus points, they are sluggish and unpredictable. This is because they are not cross type focus points like the centre one. If you were to use this camera for wildlife or sports photography, you would have some big problems in getting great photos of fast moving or difficult to focus on objects. Something else which I want to mention is the stupidly slow frame rate. At 4.5 frames per second continuous shooting, the action is over before your camera has had time to capture it. Even in taking children’s portraits, this camera has let me down with its continuous burst frame rate.

Build and Ergonomics

6D_back

Ok I am going to say it simple and straight. There are things missing on this camera that really don’t need to be. Quite a few Canon higher end DSLRs have little joysticks at the back of them that you use for scrolling etc. These are really great and the 6D has its own version built into the select button and dial wheel on the back. It takes a bit of getting used to but it isn’t half bad. There are a couple of buttons missing from the back, which are the print/sync button and the rate button, but considering I don’t use these on the 5D that is no problem.

The thing that I simply cannot understand, is why there is no dedicated white balance button. Even on the much cheaper 70D there is a white balance button. It seems like Canon have handicapped this camera on purpose because you can’t have the full features for the price. I mean the button is there above the LCD on the top, but just does not have white balanced assigned to it. You have to delve into the Quick menu to access the white balance settings or set up your own custom button configuration or menu. Yep I think that is retarded.

6D_Topr

No white balance button on the top even though this camera has more buttons on top over the screen than a 5Dmk3. Stupid!

Other things of interest

The Mona Lisa painting does not have eye lashes or eyebrows. I bet you didn’t know that! Oh other things of interest regarding the camera! Sooooo the video on this camera is not as good as other cameras in the line up. It has no headphone jack to monitor audio levels and it has pretty bad moire and artifacting issues. It is still usable but not a good choice if you do a lot of video recording.

I am not sure why the flash sync speed on this camera is so slow, with a sync speed of 1/180th of a second. That is a bit of a pain when working with lighting but then again, I was not overly impressed with the 5D mkiii in this area either, with a sync speed of 1/200th. Also something which was unexpected was the slower maximum shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second. When you are out photographing on a sunny day and you are using a fast lens at say 1.6 aperture, to get nice shallow depth of field, you really want a fast shutter speed to control the light.  You will have to use a ND filter with this camera.

 It has 97% viewfinder coverage which I do not find to be an issue, and the view finder and the screen on the back are a pleasure to use. The plastic cover on the rear screen seemed to get dirty quicker than a glass one so I put a glass screen protector on it and that soon fixed the problem for a mere $9.

Pros and Cons

So this camera has ended up being my “go to” camera which I did not expect. This is mostly because I want to conserve my 5D mkiii and the 6D generally does the same job and it is much lighter. The results are very good, and that is pretty much what it boils down to. If you have great looking, clear, beautiful photos, no client really cares what camera they were taken on. That said, a camera is a tool, and the process of taking beautiful photographs should be as effortless and intuitive as possible. This is where the 6D might be slightly lacking.

So let’s have a look at the Pros of the 6D

  • It takes great, photos which are clear, have a good dynamic range, and have minimal amounts of noise. (isn’t that what it is all about?)
  • It is a full frame sensor camera
  • It is reasonably priced
  • It is lighter in weight than other cameras that give the same results
  • It does a great job of portraits and landscapes
  • It is rugged and reliable
  • It will make you coffee and toast in the morning… errr not quite but perhaps features to be added?
  • It has good low light focusing ability when set on the centre focus point

Cons of this camera

  • The focus system is not the best out there at the moment but it is solid on center focus
  • It is possibly not suited for wildlife and sports
  • The video on it is not that great
  • It is missing some important buttons, namely white balance
  • Its flash sync speed is very low at 180th of a second
  • The fastest shutter speed is only 1/4000th of a second
  • The frame rate is almost laughable with you almost having time to file your nails between shots on continuous burst
  • Wifi is poorly implemented
  • Has only one SD card slot with no compact flash
  • The poly carbonate finish seems to get significantly dirtier than the magnesium alloy finish of the 5D
  • It is not weather sealed

Summary

Perhaps I am being a little harsh in my review of this great camera, and I guess it may have been intentionally handicapped so that sales of its big brother the 5Dmkiii continue. I feel that this camera does have the potential to be so much more than it is, yet it is still a big bang for your buck and it takes great photographs. This little fighter is the one I have put my money on as a second shooter and for the most part, I am pleased with its performance.



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