Less than a week after arch-rival Nikon grabbed headlines with the D600, Canon responded with an announcement of its own price-conscious full frame DSLR, the EOS 6D. And just like that, a new market segment was born: the mid-range full frame DSLR. It was only a decade ago that full frame DSLR performance was limited to those with pockets deep enough to spend $7999 on the 11MP Canon EOS 1Ds. And while the barrier to entry has dropped considerably since then, for many potential buyers, the most-talked about feature of the EOS 6D may well be its price. It debuts at $1400 less than the company’s standout EOS 5D Mark III.
As the full frame DSLR market grows ever-more crowded though – Canon, Nikon and Sony each offer at least two full frame models – the appeal of the 6D may well rest on things like handling and feature set. While Canon obviously needs to maintain clear distinctions between the 6D and the pricier 5D Mark III, the challenge is to offer enough incentive for current EOS owners who lack a substantial lens investment to resist the similarly priced and slightly higher-resolution Nikon D600.
And as is Canon’s wont, they have opted for the allure of familiarity and consistency. The EOS 6D is perhaps best understood as a full frame version of the popular EOS 60D – indeed it’s very similar in both control layout and dimensions. While slimmer front-to-back, and lighter than the Nikon D600, the 6D primarily seeks to distinguish itself on the spec sheet with built-in Wi-Fi and GPS, a ‘silent’ shutter mechanism and, according to Canon, unprecedented low-light focusing sensitivity. Whether this combination will be enough to satisfy enthusiasts who’d appreciate the D600’s distinctly higher spec’ed autofocus system, dual card slots and built-in flash remains to be seen.
Canon EOS 6D key specifications
- 20.2MP full frame CMOS sensor
- DIGIC 5+ image processor
- ISO 100-25600 standard, 50-102800 expanded
- 4.5 fps continuous shooting
- ‘Silent’ shutter mode
- 1080p30 video recording, stereo sound via external mic
- 11 point AF system, center point cross-type and sensitive to -3 EV
- 63 zone iFCL metering system
- 97% viewfinder coverage; interchangeable screens (including Eg-D grid and Eg-S fine-focus)
- 1040k dot 3:2 3″ ClearView LCD (fixed)
- Single SD card slot
- Built-in Wi-Fi and GPS
- Single-axis electronic level
The EOS 6D is built around a new Canon CMOS sensor, which offers a pixel count of 20.2MP (compared to the Nikon D600 and Sony SLT-A99’s 24MP, and the 5D Mark III’s 22MP). In concert with the DIGIC 5+ processor it offers a standard ISO range of 100-25600, expandable down to 50 and up to 102,400. The AF system has 11 points, but only the central one is cross-type (sensitive to both vertical and horizontal detail). However, the 6D’s trump card is the ability to focus in extremely low light levels; right down to a claimed -3 EV – a full stop dimmer than the 5D Mark III. This figure might not mean much to you, but for reference, -3 EV is roughly equivalent to the light cast by a full moon.
Notable additions include integrated GPS and Wi-Fi – with the latter offering the ability to control the camera remotely via your smartphone. The 6D also benefits from some features we saw in the EOS 5D Mark III, like Canon’s silent shutter mode, which offers quieter, more discreet shooting. It also inherits in-camera HDR and Multiple Exposure modes, but disappointingly implements these as JPEG only options, unlike on the 5D Mark III which also records Raw files.
The 6D omits some of the more interesting goodies Canon introduced on the EOS 650D, too. There’s no on-chip phase-detection to aid autofocus in live view or movie mode, nor does Canon’s superb touchscreen interface make an appearance. As usual for a full frame DSLR – the Sony SLT-A99 being the sole exception – the rear screen itself is fixed, rather than articulated as it is on the EOS 60D. Canon says this is for maximum durability and to keep the camera’s size down.