Friday, January 4, 2013

COMPARISON: Canon 6D vs 5D Mark III and Nikon D600

In the first part of my Canon 6D review I shared my early thoughts and some images that I got from this camera. Overall, I’ve been very impressed with the 6D but the inevitable questions come up:

  1. Would I choose the 6D over a D600?
  2. Is the 5D Mark III still worth it?

To answer these questions I’ll share my opinion on these cameras. Other sites have more scientific tables and comparisons of all of the tech data, so I’m not going to repeat that here. What I’m sharing here are my thoughts after having these models in my hands and using them in the real world as an average consumer would use them as well as using them in the studio as a professional photographer would use them.

Which camera body is the best from an ergonomics standpoint?

To begin, let’s just compare the backs of the cameras as that’s really where much of the most important features exist. Up top and up front these cameras are close enough that I don’t have a strong preference or disdain for any of them.

Canon 6D Rear View

Canon 5D Mark III Rear View

Nikon D600 Rear View

The Canon 6D shown at the top has a 60D like design that is very similar to the 5D Mark III, but lacks the all-important joystick multi-controller (which I use heavily for changing my focus point). The absence of the picture style and rate buttons don’t bother me much, so it really boils down to the usability of the 8-way pad on the rear dial. In a word – I hate it – BIG TIME!

The reason why I hate it is that there’s not a very good tactile feel like you find on the D600’s controller and when trying to change from the outermost AF point to one of the adjacent AF points frequently would change from single point AF selection to ALL AF points selected. This drove me insane to the point where I wanted to toss the 6D through a window – seriously! It’s also the reason why I personally would not buy this camera, but to be fair I’m very used to my 5D Mark III and 1D X, so I don’t need this camera and this doesn’t mean that I don’t recommend it. The 6D is an awesome camera and for those who aren’t coming from cameras with the joystick multi-controller, you probably won’t be bother as much as I am about this feature.

The 5D Mark III has more features that matter and therefore more buttons and Q menu features, but overall the things you will care about the most are found in the 6D. The built-in HDR support is certainly better in the 5D Mark III (and the best of any camera I’ve used). The 6D adds the consumer SCN mode which can be handy while on vacation and adds one more top button by the LCD to make things a little more straightforward.  The 6D’s addition of built-in GPS and WiFi will attract some, but personally I prefer the EyeFi over the Canon WiFi feature. The GPS is a battery vampire, so while it might be fun to use on vacation you’d better have one fully charged battery for every three or so hours you’ll be out with your camera (with the max GPS refresh rate). Even turning the camera off didn’t seem to conserve the battery when the GPS was on as I had a fully charged battery nearly exhausted in 24 hours with the camera turned off while GPS was enabled.

The D600 is probably the best overall designed body of the bunch. While some will appreciate its slightly larger LCD, the Canon’s have a much better result with Live View. Live View is the place where I think display size matters the most, but Live View magnification is noisy on Nikons making them much harder to focus than Canon’s in evening low-light scenarios. I did love using this body the most for all but the focus region challenges. Some great deals at B&H have almost caused me to buy this camera several times, but my lack of spare cash and need helped me to come to my senses. As a camera body though, this is my favorite to use. The addition of an on-camera flash also makes it the most practical overall.


None of these cameras are speed demons, and while the 5D Mark III is the fastest, the buffer on the Mark III is only a couple RAW files bigger than the 6D. As a result, I wouldn’t really classify either Canon body as a sports body, but both – especially in JPEG only mode – will be good enough to capture some basic action shots of kids running around. The AF system of the 5D Mark III blows away the 6D, so if you are going to shoot moving subjects it’s going to give you the best results over the 6D and D600.

I don’t have the D600 with me to re-test its buffer, but if my memory serves me right it was on par with the 5D  Mark III. The AF system of the D600 is about the same as the 6D in the real world, so I’d call them close enough to not make this a decision point when making a purchase. If AF performance is your most important factor, then the 5D Mark III is the only choice here.

Battery life on all three cameras was reasonable. I could easily get a couple days of real world use and shockingly the 5D & 6D use the same battery & charger (rare for Canon).

The silent mode on the Canons make them ideal for wedding and event photographers, and ironically the 6D actually had less vibration and seemed marginally less noisy than the 5D Mark III. Both are quiet, but not as quiet as the old 1D Mark IV/1Ds Mark III, and definitely quieter than the D600.

Canon 6D Bookshelf Test Results

Thumbnails are useless -CLICK for original file and view at 100%
My favorite result was actually at ISO 200, instead of the usual ISO 100
6D, f/8 @ 100 mm, 6s,ISO 200, No Flash
Click for Original In-Camera JPEG

Thumbnails are useless -CLICK for original file and view at 100%
ISO 12,800 is totally usable to my eyes
6D, f/8 @ 100 mm, 1/10,ISO 12800, No Flash
Click for Original In-Camera JPEG

You can click here to view the gallery of original in-camera JPEG Bookshelf images from the 6D. Here’s a 100% crop of 25,600 that shows that it’s certainly usable (and third party noise reduction software is typically A LOT better):

Canon 6D In-Camera JPEG at ISO 25,600 at 100%
Canon 6D In-Camera JPEG at ISO 25,600 at 100%

High ISO Noise Performance – Comparison

You can see full details on my 5D Mark III & D600 photos in my article entitled COMPARISON: Nikon D600 vs Canon 5D Mark III using the latest 24-70 f/2.8 lenses. What I have here are just a couple quick 100% crops to show the 6D, 5DM3, and D600 high ISO noise performance at its nastiest setting – 25,600. The D600 & 5DM3 images were processed from their RAW original in Lightroom 4.1 with noise reduction and sharpening set to zero and they use the 2012 processing method, and the 6D was done using Lightroom 4.3 in the same way:

D600 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm, 1/200, ISO 25,600
D600 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm, 1/200, ISO 25,600 – 100% Crop from RAW in LR 4.1

Canon 6D 24-70mm II f/2.8 @24 mm, 1/200, ISO 25600 – 100% Crop from RAW in LR 4.3

5D Mark III 24-70mm II f/2.8 @24 mm, 1/200, ISO 25600
5D Mark III 24-70mm II f/2.8 @24 mm, 1/200, ISO 25600 – 100% Crop from RAW in LR 4.1

I did a quick check of the D600 and 5D Mark III in Lightroom 4.3 and didn’t notice much difference with their results so I didn’t update the article, but the new 6D image definitely shows some improvements in detail and dynamic range. Of the three, the 6D image is my favorite.

Now the reality is that none of these cameras are pretty at its maximum ISO, but if you click the images above you’ll go to their in-camera JPEG which definitely favors the Canon cameras over the Nikon. What this tells us is that Canon does a better job with its in-camera processing of noise and detail preservation, but with the raw file and a copy of Dfine or Noiseware and standard sharpening, you can probably match the performance of the 5D Mark III. The D600 has less color noise and the Canons have more detail thanks to its sharper 24-70mm lens. The Canon have more saturated images which I personally find more visually appealing, and the 6D seems to definitely have a wide range of color. It should be noted that this is all academic as post-processing can put all of these cameras on near equal footing, but I think the 6D image would still probably be the best of the bunch.

The 6D is a great value for sure

I’ve been a bit addicted to the image quality of the 6D (as I was with the D600) so I’m taking all sorts of pictures. Here’s a shot I took of a friends watch that wasn’t planned, but I decided to put it in the article tonight. I just tossed this watch under my lighting setup after a quick wipe off and clicked. It’s not a very good product shot for lots of reasons, but you get the idea that even with diffraction it’s going to give you some professional quality images.

In-camera JPEG with zero post-processing – Click for original out of camera file
Even with diffraction and lots of mistakes in this photo,
the image quality of the 6D is sure to please
Canon EOS 6D, f/14 @ 100 mm,1/100, ISO 100, AWB,
Studio Lights

Sample Images

Please visit the following galleries for more sample images from these cameras for your own review:


From an image quality standpoint these are all excellent cameras that are sure to please at their full range of ISO’s – especially when using in-camera JPEG’s.

Event photographers are probably going to be best served by the 5D Mark III because of its best of class AF performance – especially in low-light (the 6D definitely focus hunts way more), and due to its dual memory card benefits. It’s still worth the money for those who genuinely need these features, but if you don’t then you should consider the cheaper but equally excellent alternatives.

Parents on a budget looking for a great camera that is easy to use will enjoy both the Nikon D600 and Canon 6D as they both offer outstanding quality at an excellent price. If you haven’t invested in either platform then my advice is to get the one that is cheapest and prepare to be thrilled. The D600 might be a slight advantage due to its built-in flash which performs well, but the Canon has built-in WiFi, GPS and more so they kinda cancel each other out.

Parents who do a lot of indoor shooting of active kids will find the most happiness with the 5D Mark III again due to its best of class AF performance.

Casual DSLR shooters who rely on auto modes will appreciate the 6D the most out of the cameras in this comparison.

For working professional photographers on a tight budget, I’d say go for the D600 if you are a Nikon shooter (duh) and the 5D Mark III if you are a Canon shooter with a current camera that has the joystick. If you are used to cameras without the joystick, then the 6D will serve you very, very well.

Where to Buy


Please support this blog by clearing out your shopping cart and using these links when ordering:





Nikon D600




Nikon 24-70 f/2.8




Canon 5D Mark III




Canon 24-70 f/2.8 II




Canon 6D





Other articles you might enjoy…


If you make a purchase using links found on this article, I may make a commission. B&H has also provided me with a loaner Canon 6D for the purpose of doing this review.

NOTE: This site requires cookies and uses affiliate linking to sites that use cookies.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity


HenryH said...

I just got my wife a 6D as an upgrade to her faithful and beloved 60D. She loves it so far. The controls are exactly where she expects them and the lighter weight of the camera is much easier on her shoulders. Her only regret is the lack of pop-up flash. I bought her a 90EX Speedlite to keep in her bag. It's a great little flash that was introduced as part of the EOS-M series, but works just as well on the big DSLRs. It can also act as a master to remotely flash other Speedlites.

I did find your comment about batteries to be a bit odd. The 6D shares the same battery as the 5D Mark III, the 5D Mark II, the 7D, and the 60D (my wife and I own or have owned all of these models). Prior to that, the original 5D shared batteries with the entire xxD series (D30, D60, 10D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D plus the G5 and G6). Canon has their faults, but that's not one of them, at least at this level of camera.

Otherwise a good write-up and I look forward to more on the subject.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great reviews.
I was switching t FF from Pentax so for last couple of months I was trying to decide what to buy and as much as I like nice colours and jpgs of Canon, partly thanks to you I decided to go with Nikon D600. Apart of that it looks like more universal camera than 6D in terms of applications for stills, the price difference in my country is huge! Nikon D600 with 24-70 f/2.8 price was almost same as for 5D MkIII body only! And 6D with Canons 24-70 f/2.8 would cost over 1000 euros more than Nikon...So when we have two cameras that are performing on the similar level, why should I pay over 4000euros instead of 3000 (camera+lens)?

Ax said...

Hi Ron,

I'm in the middle of choosing the 6D camera but it is not clear to me if it is "tropicalized" or not? did you ever have the chance to verify? said...


I don't believe it's weather sealed, so if it that is really important to you my advice is to consider a 1D series pro body.

Unknown said...

Thanks, nice review!
I personaly hate 8-way click-pad (i hate it soooo much!). Canon corrupted really great camera with poor af and this stupid clickpad. And I have to pay about twice more for less quality but with joystick(
So sad... said...


There's still lots to love about the 5D Mark III, so you won't be disappointed if you go that route either.


Gautam said...

The joystick did it for me and had to go for the mkiii after the mark ii which I was shifting from, even though the 6d features and lighter weight were more suitable for what I do.

Having said that the mkiii is excellant and next up will look for a change when full frame dslrs offer a wider and larger af sensor coverage area.

I now use the mk iii and the Leica m9 when I want to work slowly with the super lenses.