Initially released in the fall of 2012, Canon’s 6D is their entry-level full-frame DSLR to join alongside the 5D and 1D series. It’s a camera Canon designed to provide full-frame image quality and low light performance at a price point tailored towards budding enthusiasts looking for an upgrade. And at the time of release, it was their most affordable option. However, it received mixed feedback during its launch.
Some claimed it was a 7D counterpart with a full-frame sensor jammed inside, and not a true full-frame option. However, on paper, it appears to obtain a similar feature set as the pricier 5D Mark III, which does make it a compelling choice for the price.
And it would appear to be well suited towards enthusiasts looking to upgrade to full-frame or those wanting an alternative to the higher-end 5D bodies. Canon aims this camera as a competitor to Nikon D600. In today’s post, we assess its strengths and weaknesses and answer whether or not it remains relevant today.
Jump to a Section
- What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Canon 6D?
- Image Quality
- Video Quality
- Low Light Performance
- Focusing Performance
- Battery Performance
- Display & Viewfinder
- User Interface
- Physical Layout & Ergonomics
- Niche Features/Extras
- Video Capabilities
- Autofocus Performance
- Lacking Features
- Is this a good beginner camera?
- Is this a good camera for you?
What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Canon 6D?
It features a brand new 20.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor with an Optical Low Pass Filter and the DIGIC 5+ image processor. While it’s not the same 22.3MP sensor used in the 5D Mark III, the camera manages to maintain excellent resolution and resolving ability in the RAW format. Overall, image quality, despite its age, remains outstanding. Its 14-bit RAW images are reasonably sharp to today’s standards with good contrast and a pleasing color. The colors provide strong tonality with natural and accurate rendering. Plus, the images also have good latitude in dynamic range for post-processing before artifacts occur. And the JPEGs also control chromatic aberration well across high contrast edges.
The camera uses the 63-zone dual-layer iFCL metering system, the same system used on the 5D Mark III. This is a tried and true system, that’s for sure, and one that does an excellent job at judging scenes for proper exposure. It’s a bit dated to today’s iterations but works quite well.
The camera also offers different sized RAW images, ranging from small to large to reduce storage demand.
It offers continuous shooting speeds of up to 4.5 fps. Sure, it’s not particularly fast, but it’s fast enough for most day to day activities and moderate sports. The buffer depth is excellent, however. It provides 1,250 JPEGs and 17 RAW images before buffering.
It shoots videos at 1080p full HD up to 30 fps and 720p HD video up to 60 fps, the same frame rates as the 5D Mark II, and it shoots these to the MPEG-4 codec to the MOV format. Video quality has improved dramatically over the 5D Mark II, however. The camera boasts better low light performance during recordings and less rolling shutter when panning. Plus, it now offers the higher-end All-I compression, as well as standard IPB.
Like many cameras in this class, it provides the standard 29 minute 59-second recording limit.
Low Light Performance
Low light performance is excellent and directly comparable to the Canon 5D Mark III. And it shows substantial improvements in high ISO testing over the outgoing 5D Mark II. The camera provides a native ISO range from ISO 100 to 25,600, which is further expandable to ISO 102,400. And users can expect usable images up to ISO 6,400 or 12,800, with minor processing.
It features an 11-point AF system, where the center-most point is cross-type compatible. One of the touted features on this camera is its ability to focus in extremely low light. In this case, that’s – 3 EV. At the time of release, that was a class-leading feature, and today, it still outcompetes many cameras at this price. Overall, autofocusing performance, even in low light, is excellent. And the camera is well suited for night photography or event work where dimly lit scenes are the norm. For tracking action, while the camera doesn’t have Zone AF like the 5D Mark III, it performs well nonetheless. And autofocusing across the board is fast, consistent, and accurate.
Battery life and longevity are excellent. It uses the long-standing LP-E6 battery, which Canon rates for 980 shots per charge.
Display & Viewfinder
It features a 3.0-inch TFT LCD with a resolution of 1.04M dots, a similar configuration as the 5D Mark III. The screen also offers an anti-reflective AR coating, preventing glare during use. And overall, it’s sharp, with accurate colors, and enough brightness for use outdoors.
It features an optical viewfinder. And it also offers a built-in electronic level, helpful for straightening landscape shots.
It features standard Canon user interfaces and menus, though they are the older iterations. The menus, while clear, are not as clear as more recent cameras. Nevertheless, they’re still quite intuitive and easily mastered.
It obtains the customizable Quick (Q) Menu, which calls up an on-screen menu for quick setting changes.
It obtains the customizable My Menu, where up to six programmable top-tier functions are available.
It offers two custom user-defined shooting presets on the Mode Dial, C1 and C2.
For amateurs, it also offers Canon’s Creative Auto Mode. This mode allows newcomers to achieve a certain aesthetic without knowing the camera settings involved. For example, you can slide a toggle to switch between a sharp or defocus background, simplifying the process.
Physical Layout & Ergonomics
The camera is substantially smaller than its 5D counterparts. Yet, it maintains an excellent build quality and comfortable ergonomics. It features a robust magnesium alloy shell, where only the top plate is made of polycarbonate plastic. This construction affords the camera weather sealing, though not the same level as the 5D Mark III. Nevertheless, it is rugged enough for use in adverse conditions. The camera also provides a good compromise between weight and portability, coming in at 680 g. And it creates a well-balanced platform that works well with large lenses. It also offers a deep and comfortable grip, which can easily accommodate those with large hands.
The placement of the controls, and its physical layout, while mostly identical to the 60D, is excellent. It provides comfortable one-handed operation, and the controls are quite convenient.
It offers dual command dials, to quickly control shutter speed and aperture.
The Mode Dial features a lock, preventing accidental changes during transportation.
It has built-in Wi-Fi and GPS for wirelessly transferring images, remotely controlling the camera, and geotagging. And it was the first Canon DSLR to obtain this feature, finally removing the need for pricy external adapters.
It has a microphone input.
It offers HDR backlight control for built-in HDR images.
It offers built-in multiple exposures.
It offers AF micro-adjust to fine-tune the attached lens.
The video quality does show its age quite a bit, especially when compared to its still performance. Videos lack fine details and the sharpness of more modern cameras. And files do display moiré when shooting in certain scenes, most notably when filming jeans.
The camera doesn’t have any high frame rates in 1080p, be it 60 fps or 120 fps, or 4K video recording. However, this makes sense, considering the camera’s age. But overall, the performance here makes it better suited as a casual video tool than a professional one.
Compared to modern autofocusing systems, the camera’s 11-point system is quite archaic in overall coverage and capabilities. Firstly, the camera only offers a single cross-type point, unlike the 7D, which offers 19. While Canon doesn’t target this camera towards sports or action, it’s slightly limited to other cameras. Secondly, Canon’s positioned all of its points in a diamond configuration around the center of the frame. And their positioning makes it challenging to compose towards the outer edges on the thirds of the frame. Thus, focus recomposing is a necessary technique with this camera. Nearly every shot taken off-center will fall outside of the camera’s coverage. Lastly, the camera doesn’t provide continuous AF during video whatsoever. With that, if you plan on shooting video, it will be strictly manual focusing only.
The rear display is fixed and lacks touch capabilities. A shame considering Canon’s Rebel bodies at this time offered these features.
The optical viewfinder only offers 97% frame coverage, not 100%. Strange considering the rear screen offers 100%. With that, be cautious when composing as unwanted elements can easily creep into the outside frame.
Unlike the 5D Mark III, the camera does not offer an AF joystick for quick AF point selection and menu navigation.
The Depth of Field Preview button is in a challenging position to reach. Canon’s placed it on the bottom of the camera, and it requires a second hand to engage.
The camera has quite a limited flash sync speed. In this case, it only offers 1/180, not the 1/250 that’s typical in this range. In all, this means that it’ll be challenging to shoot at wide-open apertures, overpower the sun, or shoot action when using a strobe.
It lacks a headphone input.
It lacks a built-in pop-up flash.
It only has a single SD card, which makes it the only full-frame camera in Canon’s lineup to provide this limitation.
It has a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000, not 1/8000.
Is this a good beginner camera?
It makes an excellent choice as a beginner’s camera, considering its price, performance, and feature set. Canon’s tailored this camera to a broad demographic of users, from amateurs to pros. And they’ve included the full suite of automatic, semi-automatic, and Creative Auto modes, which are all perfect for beginners. And it also provides the necessary feature set so that you can progress confidently. It’s a camera very much about pro-quality images, loaded with enthusiast features creating an excellent stepping stone.
Is this a good camera for you?
Compared to the outgoing 5D Mark II, this camera represents a significant improvement in overall capabilities. It provides a better sensor with superior low-light performance, AF, and also offers built-in wireless connectivity. Current 5D shooters should consider an upgrade.
It is not ideal for action and sports photography, however, with its slower flash sync speed, shutter, and lack of Zone AF.
It is not ideal for pros who require redundancy while shooting or the maximum ruggedness a full magnesium alloy chassis affords.
It makes an excellent choice for those looking for a backup body for other Canon full-frame DSLRs, most notably the 5D Mark III.
It makes an excellent choice for those looking to upgrade to full-frame from an APS-C body. It provides outstanding image quality in a light, comfortable, and easy to use package.
In the end, Canon’s 6D remains a capable option for the price, despite its age. Sure it has a few notable flaws. However, for the vast majority of users, it’s an excellent still-centric option that provides ample value for those looking for a budget full-frame camera. It doesn’t necessarily excel in one key area or another, but it’s quite a good all-rounder. And while it’s not as powerful as the pricier 5D Mark III, it’s a very confident option. At the time of release, it was Canon’s most affordable full-frame offering. And to date, it remains that way. It offers good value for the money spent. And it’s a compelling package for enthusiasts and working photographers.
Canon’s 6D is a camera that’s very much about pro-quality images, plus features enthusiasts appreciate. And, surprisingly, it’s mostly Canon’s 5D Mark III, minus a few features. But, overall, it remains an excellent choice today, despite its age.