Monday, October 29, 2012

First Look: Canon 6D Mini-review

Canon 6D first lookCanon 6D pre-production unit

While at the Photo Plus Expo in New York this past week I had the opportunity to sit down with the real Chuck Westfall and get my hands on the Canon 6D.

Canon is saying that this camera offers 2.5 stops improvement over the 5D Mark II (Adorama)  which makes it compelling upgrade for existing 5D users who can’t afford the leap to the 5D Mark III. With AF illumination and low light auto focus that is allegedly better than the 5D Mark III, one can conceivably argue that this camera is a great second body for Mark III users as well.

This camera is closer to a 5D Mark II overall than a 60D or 5D Mark II, but there’s lots of 5DM3 goodness especially on the build quality.

Image Quality

Canon claims that they did not cut corners on the 6D’s 20+ megapixel image quality to get the price down, so that’s great news for those who are holding out for an affordable upgrade. It uses the Digic 5+ image processor which has been excellent on the 5D Mark III and 1D X. They also confirmed that the ISO range remains the same as its more expensive siblings, so there is a lot to like about this camera.

Build Quality

Right away I was pleased to see that the build quality seems very good. It has the same magnesium alloy case as the Canon 5D Mark III and shares its rotating locking knob. There were a few more plastic bits than on the 5D Mark III and a much different jog wheel, but it was on par with the quality that I’d expect for this price point and felt superior to the Nikon D600. While I was a little disappointed that the layout of the controls was different from the 5D Mark III, I think 7D and 60D users will feel right at home.


One of the features introduced in the 5D Mark III and 1D X was the concept of feature groups . At first I didn’t like them, but I quickly began to appreciate them once I learned that I could use the Q button to jump between groups. I was a little surprised with the 6D’s omission of groups as it went back to the old design. Given the larger number of menus this made it a little cumbersome making the full loop between all of the menus, so I’m not sure I agree with this design. Since this unit was a pre-production unit, I’m hoping that might change on the final product.


Canon 6D Rear View
Different but familiar rear view

Canon claims a 1090 jpeg shot rating for the new battery vs 850 for 5D Mark II, so that should be welcome news to wedding and event photographers who I think will flock to this camera. The extra battery is going to come in handy too because that shot count will drop once you enable the built-in GPS and Wireless radio triggering of the 600EX-RT.

I was thrilled to see that the DOF button is reprogrammable to the OneShot/AI Servo toggle like the 5D Mark III. This feature alone is a worthy upgrade to anyone who has struggled with AF challenges and the 5DM3 matching ISO performance means that this will likely be my new recommended camera for parents.

Wedding photographers are going to appreciate its excellent silent shutter mode, but will miss the CF card slot featured on the 5D Mark II & III. For the 6D Canon chose to go SD only which is great for EyeFi users, but a frustration for 5D Mark II upgrades who will now need all new memory cards. Expect to see Craigslist flooded with used CF cards when this unit ships this fall!

60D upgraders will also be disappointed to see that Canon opted against having a built-in flash. Wedding photographers will also need to be mindful of the 1/180 sec sync speed when using radio triggers (up from 1/100 sec on the 5D Mark II). They will however appreciate that the 600EX group mode feature works on the 6D (whereas it doesn’t on the 5D Mark II & 60D).

GPS supports both its own internal GPS as well as external devices.


There’s also my favorite 5D mark III feature – a proper in-camera HDR with auto align, but I as devastated to find out that there would be no support for keeping the original images as there is on the 5D Mark III. Hopefully Canon will address that in a firmware update as HDR became so much more practical with the III when you can just do the HDR shot for instant feedback on your camera and then later use the original source files in Photomatix or HDR Efex Pro 2 (see reviews and discount coupon code page). It is also limited to only the Natural effect which makes the lack of original files being included all the more frustrating. The good news though is that up to 7 bracketed shots are supported as well.


I didn’t really dig in on the video. What I did confirm is that there will be No HDMI uncompressed output.

The 6D has a 29'59" individual clip limit (vs approximately 12 minutes for the 5DM2), time code support, selectable compression modes, and manual audio levels.

Pricing and Availability

The EOS 6D Digital SLR Camera will be sold in a body-only configuration at an estimated retail price of $2,099.00 and it will additionally be offered in a kit version with Canon's EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM zoom lens at an estimated retail price of $2,899.00. Both configurations are expected to be available in December 2012.

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