Canon EOS 6D Digital SLR Camera - Incredibly Low Noise At High ISO Speeds

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Outstanding image quality and sophisticated Wi-Fi functions, but the autofocus system limits its appeal

The EOS 6D is Canon’s most affordable full-frame SLR to date. Its sensor is similar to the one in the luxurious 5D Mark III (web ID: 377806), but its controls have more in common with the cheaper 60D. It’s also the first Canon SLR to incorporate Wi-Fi and GPS, and with a price right between those two cameras, it’s a tempting proposition for keen amateurs who want the low noise and big viewfinder that come with a full-frame camera. The question is: is it good enough to dislodge the similar Nikon D600 (web ID: 378103) from our A-List?

A full-frame sensor ensures incredibly low noise at high ISO speeds

A full-frame sensor ensures incredibly low noise at high ISO speeds

Wi-Fi and GPS are optional extras on the D600, so having them built into the 6D gets it off to a good start. The GPS function keeps working when the camera is powered down so it needn’t spend ages recalculating its position.

The Wi-Fi allows the camera to connect to an app for Android and iOS, which has a remote-shooting mode complete with live view, autofocus point and exposure control. An elegant image browser offers swift full-screen views and the ability to embed star ratings back onto the camera’s SD card. The other wireless functions are rather fiddly to set up, but the list is impressive, with tethered PC and Mac shooting, uploads to social media and wireless printing.

The 6D’s controls are generally well laid out, but there’s no dedicated white-balance button. The Q button and its associated menu is the quickest means of access, but manual white-balance calibration is available only via the main menu. However, the 6D compensates with its AF-On button. This triggers autofocus, giving the option to use the shutter release to take photos without having to refocus before each shot. Performance is excellent; hitting 4.2fps in continuous mode (the D600 managed 5.5fps, however).

The 6D’s controls are generally well laid out, but there’s no dedicated white-balance button.

The 6D’s controls are generally well laid out, but there’s no dedicated white-balance button.

There’s no integrated flash, which some will see as a drawback, but others will consider it testimony to the camera’s incredible low-light performance. It also lacks an autofocus assist lamp. This is something that Canon omits from all its SLRs, but autofocus in extremely low light can suffer as a result.

The 6D’s weakest area is its autofocus sensor. As with the D600, the 6D’s autofocus points are bunched towards the center of the frame more than we’d like, but while the D600 has 39 points with nine cross-type for increased sensitivity, the 6D has only 11 points, with a single cross-type point in the center. So few points means automatic subject-tracking isn’t available. It also meant we often found ourselves focusing and then recomposing the shot. How much of a drawback this is depends on the kind of subjects you tend to shoot. It makes little difference for landscape photography; it’s a bit of a nuisance for portraits; but it’s a disaster for sports photography.

There are no such issues to report regarding image quality. The 20-megapixel sensor is a little lower than the D600’s 24 megapixels and the 5DMark III’s 22 megapixels, but there isn’t much in it. All three excel for low noise at fast ISO speeds, but the 6D’s JPEGs edged into the lead, making it the best low-light camera we’ve ever reviewed. Photos were fit for publication up to ISO 12800, and even ISO 51200 produced passable snaps. Details at lower ISO were crisp and precise, accurately picking out fine textures such as hair and fabric. Automatic exposures were expertly judged and, as always, there’s ample scope to customize the JPEG processing settings. Compared with the D600, the differences fall somewhere between subjective and negligible both take sublime photos.

Controls are more similar to the Canon 60D than the 5D Mark III

Controls are more similar to the Canon 60D than the 5D Mark III

Their video modes are easier to tell apart. The 6D’s output is noticeably lower-resolution than that of the D600, with aggressive sharpening, and its punchy contrast comes at the cost of clipped highlights. Both have a mic input, but the 6D lacks a headphone output. It does provide full access to exposure controls, though, whereas the D600’s aperture is fixed while recording.

The EOS 6D is an excellent choice for Canon loyalists who are considering moving to full-frame for the first time. The lower noise, shallower depth of field and larger viewfinder that come with a full-frame sensor, along with the Wi-Fi and GPS functions, add up to a significant upgrade. However, the 60D and even the 650D have nine cross-type autofocus sensors, and the 6D’s autofocus system compares unfavorably to that of the Nikon D600. It’s a close call, but the D600 remains our top recommendation.


§  Price: $1,874

§  Ratings: 5/6

§  20mp full-frame sensor

§  11-point autofocus (1 cross-type)

§  5.5fps continuous mode (quoted)

§  Dual SDXC slots

§  1yr RTB warranty

§  145 x 71 x 111 (WDH)

§  Weights: 850g (body only)


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