9th May 2014, 06:03 PM
Canon 6D - Thoughts and Review
Hi CS! I am posting my personal review here on CS on the Canon 6D which I've posted on my blog about a month after getting it. I do not write reviews for a living nor am I paid by Canon to write this review, so I apologise if there are any errors in the review.
This review reflects my honest thoughts and opinions after getting this baby, and I try my best to keep it as unbiased as much as possible. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!
I bought a Canon 6D for myself as my own 21st birthday present. It's weird, because I don't usually buy presents for myself and it's the first time since my very first camera (an Olympus E450) that I am buying a camera brand new. The reason why I usually buy second-hand stuff is that they keep their value better and allow me to try out a variety of cameras. The Canon 6D is my first move towards a full-frame camera, after spending about two years shooting on the mirrorless micro-four-thirds format and hating the poor battery life and electronic viewfinder.
This review is based on my user experience and not a full technical review -- if you're looking for that you can find better ones on DPreview and DXOmark. It's based on my thoughts from about a month of using the Canon 6D, along with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, the Canon 24-105 f/4L and the Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM.
I have used a Canon 450D, a Canon 40D, an Olympus OM-D E-M5 and a Nikon D700 prior to owning the Canon 6D and will occasionally compare this camera to previous cameras I've owned. This review will also make some references to the hugely popular full frame alternative, the Nikon D610 (or Nikon D600), which sells for approximately the same price but comes with a better set of technical features like dual SD card slots, 39 AF points with 9 being cross-type and faster 6 fps shooting, all which I find are largely theoretical advantages.
20.2MP full frame CMOS sensor: it's a full-frame sensor, with incredible low light capabilities; doesn't shoot that huge a file like the 36-MP D800
DIGIC 5+ image processor
ISO 100-25600 standard, 50-102800 expanded: incredible ISO range for me to shoot in most light
4.5 fps continuous shooting: not really fantastic, but not a slouch either
'Silent' shutter mode: not fully silent honestly, but still pretty quiet
1080p30 video recording, stereo sound via external mic: good for movies and stills; magic lantern can help bring up the bitrate
11 point AF system, center point cross-type and sensitive to -3 EV: one (if not only) of the major flaws of the 6D; only one cross-type sensor in the middle
63 zone iFCL metering system
97% viewfinder coverage; interchangeable screens (including Eg-D grid and Eg-S fine-focus): not much of a practical problem although I wished it had 100% coverage
1040k dot 3:2 3" ClearView LCD (fixed): LCD is gorgeous. Period. Photos pop and look incredibly rich and detailed.
Single SD card slot: not a big problem for me
Built-in Wi-Fi and GPS: one of the best features in the market; makes friends go 'wow' and incredibly useful to transfer images for Instagramming; can use my iPhone as a remote control too!
Design and Ergonomics
When I first picked up the Canon 6D, it felt like it's made right for my big hands. It fits snugly, unlike the OM-D E-M5 which feels too tiny without the additional grip that costs S$250 more. The size and button layout is similar to the Canon 70D, so it's familiar to most Canon consumers who are upgrading from the XXD series. This is great because I don't have to fiddle with the playback button on the other hand (which all Nikon cameras are designed to be) when shooting with the other. The magnesium-alloy body doesn't feel cheap, it feels rugged and tough, although it doesn't feel as rugged as the tank-like D700 which I've used before. The top plate is made of plastic to allow the GPS to transmit and receive connection from the satellites, and it's obvious to touch since the quality of the material differs -- it isn't exactly bad, just different. It comes with one SD card slot, unlike the D610, its direct competitor, which has two. It makes no differences in my real world usage, since I am not a working professional who shoots a lot of paid gags, the redundancy of a dual-card slot is rather unimportant. With one SD card slot, I usually carry an additional SD card if I ever need to swap cards. When travelling, I bring two or more SD cards anyway, since I'll shoot a mix of videos and stills in sRAW+Medium JPEG.
The screen is a 3.0" LCD boasting 1040k dot resolution, which is fantastic, if not brilliant for viewing my images on camera. It makes the images 3D like, and it's almost like an Apple Retina display on my camera. It doesn't have an articulating screen like the 60D, but that's really redundant in my usage since I have never tilted the screen more than five times in my life. Not an issue in practical usage, although it might have been desirable. Without an articulating screen, the camera is much easier to clean since dust won't get trapped between the camera and the screen; the hinge won't break and the screen won't come loose.
Last edited by derrickder; 10th May 2014 at 07:28 PM.
10th May 2014, 06:29 PM
Re: Canon 6D - Thoughts and Review
The 1800mah LP-E6 battery is similar to the one found in the 7D, 60D, 70D, 5D MK II and 5D MK III, and weighs about 80g. It adds quite a bit to the weight of the camera, and I can feel the difference — this can be a good thing if I want to know whether the battery is in my camera without opening up the cover. The battery shoots for long hours (about 1000 shots), longer than I’ve had to use it for. When used sparingly for a photo walk, it still has about 70% left at the end of the day. I can easily carry two batteries all day and turn GPS on without worrying about my camera dying on me if I had to bring it for travel. This is unsurprisingly one of the greatest reasons why I still prefer a DSLR at the end of the day: the incredible battery life. There isn’t a LCD screen perpetually turned on or electronic viewfinder to drain the battery when using the camera.
The shallow depth of field on the full-frame sensor makes it a real joy to use for subject isolation on wide aperture lenses; straight-from-camera JPEG
Its technical image quality is remarkable, and is extremely similar to the 5D MK3. Colours from JPEG files are rich and vivid, and if you love Canon's skin tones then you'll love the files that are produced from this camera. It captures rich details and even when shot at high ISOs like 6400, you'll notice how beautiful the photos are rendered.
Nara deer: 6D + Sigma 35mm f/1.4; 1/1,600 sec, f/1.8, ISO 100
Todaiji Temple: 6D + 24-105 f/4L; 1/160 sec, f/13, ISO 100
The major weakness of this camera lies in its autofocus performance. First and foremost, the autofocus is by no means bad, nor is it subpar. It’s completely usable in most scenarios, and that’s probably more than 90% of causal use. The other 10% of the time, for example in fast moving sports/action, the autofocus misses sparingly. Unlike its higher spec brother, the 5D MK III or the APS-C flagship Canon 7D, the 6D autofocus system is limited to only 11 autofocus points with 1 cross-type in the middle that’s rated to be sensitive up to -3EV (that’s about as dark as a room lit only by a few candles). I shot an event with the 6D and the camera couldn’t autofocus as accurately when using the outer focus points. The autofocus points are shaped like a diamond and are few and far in between. When tracking a moving subject on a D700, it had worked flawlessly and accurately, unlike the 6D, which tends to have a hit-and-miss. The middle autofocus point on the 6D is by far the focus point I use most of the time unless I am shooting at extremely shallow depth of field, which I will then use the specific AF point I need for the shot and hope for it to lock focus. By selecting the middle AF point and then recomposing a shot, the AF accuracy and speed is actually pretty good.
In very low light, the centre focus point works as rated. Despite being slightly slow, it still manages to lock focus accurately, without the need of an infrared beam to assist focus. It’s still better than having never lock at all and finding focus all the time. Even the outer focus points work in low-light, but I recommend sticking to the centre one if you want it to lock as quickly and accurately as you need it to be.
The 6D shoots at a maximum of 4.5 frames per second. Compared to my OM-D which shoots 9fps, the 6D feels a lot slower. Nevertheless, unless you want to feel your card with similar shots or burn your shutter count, I usually set my continuous burst to somewhere near 5fps anyway — enough to capture accurate movement, but not too many to slow down my workflow. In practical use, I find myself using single-shot drive or a low-FPS burst drive, and never near the 9 fps maximum of my OM-D.
I believe this is mostly a travel, portrait or landscape camera where the AF system does not need to continually search and track its subject constantly with precise accuracy. If you need such an ability in your camera for a lot of your work, the D610 would be a much better option. I also believe that Canon wants to protect itself from the sales of the higher-end DSLR market by giving the more affordable 6D a less sophisticated AF system compared to the 5D MK III.
Jamming in the forest: 6D + Sigma 35mm f/1.4; 1/320 sec, f/1.4, ISO 200
Last edited by derrickder; 10th May 2014 at 10:22 PM.
10th May 2014, 06:29 PM
Re: Canon 6D - Thoughts and Review
Noise and ISO Performance
Noise performance is impeccable on the 6D. Never in my life had I seen such clean images coming out at ISO 6400. When I first shot with a friend’s 5D MK II at ISO 5000 for a concert, I had thought that noise was really well controlled. Fast forward three years, and ISO 5000 on the 6D looked like ISO 800 back in those days. Heck, I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot at ISO 6400 the whole day without worrying about noise. Sometimes, I can pump the ISO to 12800 when the light gets too dim, because I know I can. It’s perfectly usable if you’re shooting for the web or not printing anything huge. Images shot from ISO 100 to ISO 3200 look crisp and clean with details retained pretty well. Pump it up a notch to ISO 6400 and some noise reduction from the processing engine kicks in, resulting in some loss in detail. I would not shoot higher than 12800 to be on the safe side, although sometimes getting the shot even if it’s noisy is still better than not getting any at all. I am also a sucker for shooting in natural light and avoid using flash as much as possible, hence a camera with great high ISO capabilities is one of my purchase priorities.
Low light sample: 6D + Canon 24-105 f/4L; 1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 800. At ISO 800, IQ is absolutely superb.
Another low light sample: 6D + Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM; 1/80 sec, f/2.8, ISO 5000, +2/3EV on LR5
Yet another low light sample: 6D + Sigma 35mm f/1.4; 1/100 sec, f/1.6, ISO 12800. As you can see at this ISO, noise is well controlled and still perfect for web use.
I leave my auto ISO range from ISO 100 to ISO 12800 but I set the upper limit of my ISO selection to 25600.
The menu was easy to navigate and settings were a breeze to set up. Unlike Nikon, Canon uses a more horizontal approach to set up the camera. Settings are customised horizontally and felt more intuitive and less complex, since a vertical approach would have made the customisation seem like it was a lot longer. I took less than 15 minutes to set up the camera to my liking, excluding the connectivity options below, which required slightly more work.
My Canon 6D + 24-105 f/4L, with my other lenses — the 85mm f/1.8, 35mm f/1.4, 40mm f/2.8 and 430EXII
WIFI and GPS
By far the most innovative and cool feature is the WIFI and GPS capabilities that are built in camera, without the need of third party or optional accessories that merely add bulk or inconvenience. The WIFI is practical — it allows me to shoot and then import photos (1280px) into my phone for upload on social networks or send them to my friends immediately, all through the EOS Remote App. WIFI also allows me to use my phone as a remote control, to view and shoot images at awkward angles or difficult positions. I can also trigger my camera remotely, use it as a wireless remote for group shots, or even set it up to take photos from a distance, without my presence.
The EOS Remote app also allows me to change my settings (exposure, shutter speed, aperture etc) from my phone without touching the camera. It also allows me to focus by touching on the screen and then shoot by hitting the virtual shutter button superimposed on the phone’s screen.
The GPS allows me to keep location data embedded into the photo’s EXIF, which is useful if I want to track down where the photo was taken. It requires a clear overhead (i.e. no ceilings, walls or roofs) for the satellite to establish a connection so it would probably only work outdoors.
All in all, these features are great and essential to have, and it’s a major selling point for this camera (compared to the D610). They work flawlessly as described, although the app is ugly and needs a redesign. Practically, I have no complains about it since it works without any major hiccups or problems.
Osaka Station: 6D + Sigma 35mm f/1.4; 1/125 sec, f/1.4, ISO 160
Last edited by derrickder; 10th May 2014 at 07:29 PM.
10th May 2014, 06:30 PM
Re: Canon 6D - Thoughts and Review
Compared to the Nikon D610, both cameras are solid choices. Both have decent specifications enough to get most of your job done. However, some factors might influence your choice of camera more than others. Firstly, if you have a lens collection belonging to either manufacturer, you’re more than likely to remain in that camp. Secondly, while the Nikon D610 has a better technical spec sheet, the Canon 6D delivers similarly on a practical front and perhaps better, on certain uses, for example, if you’re a social butterfly who needs that photo uploaded on Facebook instantly. While the Nikon D610 does have a superior AF system that shoots well in a wide variety of scenarios, the Canon 6D makes up for that by having a highly sensitive center AF point that shoots well in the dark. The Nikon D610 possesses a dual SD card slot for event or wedding photographers who need additional backup for their images when on an assignment, but you’re not missing out a lot on the Canon when you can wirelessly transfer your images off your card onto an online service for backup (although only at 1920x1280). All in all, they are both similarly matched at a similar price, but I decided to go for the Canon at the end despite owning the D700 because the wireless functionality is needed when futureproofing my camera (and it’s so cool it gets all kinds of attention from people!)
Compared to the Nikon D700, the Canon 6D feels remarkably lighter. The differences in weight and size is an immediate change in my attitude when deciding which camera to bring out for a shoot. At around 200 grams lighter, I can add a 40mm f/2.8 pancake to my Canon 6D at less the weight of the D700 body alone — that’s a world of difference since one can take photos while the other can’t!! Moreover, there’s no slim and light pancake lens on the Nikon front so I cannot ditch my DSLR into a small messenger bag. The D700 has much better autofocus performance and it’s obvious in usage, but the differences are not as much of a concern since I use my camera mainly for travel and fun, and not for shooting assignments in general. The 6D has the latest technologies built into it and is a delight to use while the D700 is built more like a tank and not falter in adverse conditions. Both are capable full-frame cameras but at about $700 more for a brand new 6D compared to a second-hand D700 (which probably still needs a $400 shutter replacement in the near future), the Canon is a really good choice.
Shot with the D700 and Sigma 35mm f/1.4; the D700 is also a fantastic full frame camera and does indoor shoots without flash pretty well. The only problem is that it weighs about 200g heavier than the 6D.
Finally, when compared to the Olympus OM-D E-M5, they are cameras at different price ranges for different purposes. I believe that the Olympus is catered more for people who love a small, lightweight and capable camera with a good quality selection of lens choices, especially lightweight primes that are sharp across the frame at all apertures. During my time of ownership, I used the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 and Olympus 45mm f/1.8 a lot.
It comes with IBIS and that’s fantastic for technically perfect shots and it shoots damn good out-of-camera JPEGs, especially with the highly raved 'Oly JPEG colours'. The Canon 6D is a heavier beast, shoots like a tank and built to take on more serious photographic assignments. You can shoot sports or events with a fast f/2.8 Canon telephoto but not with the Olympus (yet). You can shoot at incredibly shallow depth of field for that film look or for gorgeous portraits. You can shoot incredibly detailed panoramas or really wide landscapes with huge dynamic range and print them out at A1 size at full resolution without breaking a sweat. No doubt that the Olympus does well in similar situations too, and it's really more than enough if you're mainly keeping your photos at home or on the web. However, the Olympus battery also drains quickly after a few hours of use especially in cold weather and I had to change two batteries in a day of shooting. This is a major turnoff for me since I dislike carrying lots of spare batteries on vacations - charging them becomes another issue altogether. Honestly, I wished I had both systems around with me to complement each other but then... I have a budget to follow.
Maple Leaf: OM-D E-M5 + Panasonic 14mm f/2.5; 1/2,000 sec, f/2.5, ISO 200. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 shoots high quality photos in daylight; straight-from-camera JPEG
Last edited by derrickder; 10th May 2014 at 10:27 PM.
10th May 2014, 06:30 PM
Re: Canon 6D - Thoughts and Review
In conclusion, the Canon 6D is one remarkable camera at a price that makes owning a full-frame camera more affordable than ever before. It is by far the first camera that made me question about my own photographic ability in order to get the shot I wanted, since the camera does so much, so well. With features that are useful for most practical usage, the 6D is something that I haven’t found a reason not to like it at all. The fact that it’s also my birthday present to myself also makes me treasure how much it can do and realise how much photography, as a hobby, has impacted my life in the four short years. Although it’s still early to forsee whether I’ll upgrade to a better camera ten years down the road or when the Canon 6D breaks down, I believe that it’s the camera I’ve been waiting for all these while — full frame, affordable price, great ISO performance, shoots shallow depth of field beautifully and has an extremely high image quality.
Despite it not being the best camera out there, which obviously doesn’t exist at this point of time (or perhaps ever), it’s something that I will grow to love more fondly the more I use it. It’s a camera that does what I need effortlessly and beautifully, and that’s all I really ask for.
What do you think? Do share your thoughts or photos taken from the 6D below!
Last edited by derrickder; 10th May 2014 at 07:33 PM.
10th May 2014, 09:42 PM
13th May 2014, 12:18 PM
Re: Canon 6D - Thoughts and Review
Originally Posted by richiemccaw1
25th May 2014, 08:17 PM
Great read! Appreciate the effort!
8th August 2014, 09:07 AM
Very good review. I am also a happy owner of the 6D and am enjoying the image quality that I can get from it. I use mostly the centre focus point and recompose.