Canon 6D Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops comparing the Canon 6D with the Canon 7D, Canon 5D Mark III, Nikon D600, Nikon D800 and Sony A99.

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction. All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses.

Canon 6D versus Canon 7D at ISO 100

Canon 6D at ISO 100
Canon 7D at ISO 100

We put the 7D into the comparison to show the relative advantage of stepping up to a full-frame sensor over an APS-C sensor. The results are obvious in all 3 images, as the depth and detail of the 6D crops are head and shoulders over the 7D.


Canon 6D versus Canon 5D Mark III at ISO 100

Canon 6D at ISO 100
Canon 5D Mark III at ISO 100

The 5D Mark III has 2.1 more megapixels than the 6D, but also costs a lot more. For the money the 6D actually stands up fairly well here to its highly touted older brother, including looking perhaps slightly sharper on the lower pink swatch, though the 5D III's representation of the mosaic is incredible.


Canon 6D versus Nikon D600 at ISO 100

Canon 6D at ISO 100
Nikon D600 at ISO 100

The D600 renders our red fabric swatch about as well as any camera in its class, but notice how the 6D outperforms on the pink swatch. Interesting.


Canon 6D versus Nikon D800 at ISO 100

Canon 6D at ISO 100
Nikon D800 at ISO 100

The 36-megapixel D800 is a monster for good image quality and makes the comparison difficult due to the size difference. Across the board, the D800 demonstrates phenomenal detail though the 6D is no slouch.


Canon 6D versus Sony A99 at ISO 100

Canon 6D at ISO 100
Sony A99 at ISO 100

The A99 has almost 4 more megapixels than the 6D, but the 6D not only holds its own but is sharper and clearer in some areas, especially the Mas Portel bottle.


Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1,600, 3,200, and 6,400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1,600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1,600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Canon 6D versus Canon 7D at ISO 1,600

Canon 6D at ISO 1,600
Canon 7D at ISO 1,600

Again, the 7D's APS-C sensor has less than half the surface area of the full-framed 6D, and the disparity is clearly on display here. 7D owners interested in stepping up should find these images intriguing.


Canon 6D versus Canon 5D Mark III at ISO 1,600

Canon 6D at ISO 1,600
Canon 5D Mark III at ISO 1,600

The 6D stands up admirably here against its big brother the 5D Mark III (which is just a bit better), both of which handle ISO 1600 with good image quality across all target areas with no obvious weaknesses.


Canon 6D versus Nikon D600 at ISO 1,600

Canon 6D at ISO 1,600
Nikon D600 at ISO 1,600

The 6D outperforms the D600 here with less noise in the shadows behind the bottle and a clearer mosaic imager. The D600 wins the battle on the tricky red swatch, and yet loses most of the detail from the pink swatch.


Canon 6D versus Nikon D800 at ISO 1,600

Canon 6D at ISO 1,600
Nikon D800 at ISO 1,600

The D800 also shows more shadow noise, although the image size difference due to the disparity in resolution makes an accurate comparison more difficult. The red swatch is certainly clearer and much more detailed.


Canon 6D versus Sony A99 at ISO 1,600

Canon 6D at ISO 1,600
Sony A99 at ISO 1,600

The 6D wins every battle here against the A99, with a cleaner representation of the Mas Portel bottle and the shadows, a crisper mosaic pattern and a more detailed representation of our red swatch.


Today's ISO 3,200 is yesterday's ISO 1,600, so below are the same crops at ISO 3,200.

Canon 6D versus Canon 7D at ISO 3,200

Canon 6D at ISO 3,200
Canon 7D at ISO 3,200

Yet again, the older 7D with its APS-C sensor clearly can't stand up against the 6D at higher ISOs.


Canon 6D versus Canon 5D Mark III at ISO 3,200

Canon 6D at ISO 3,200
Canon 5D Mark III at ISO 3,200

Another very tight race between these two relatives, but the 6D costs much less in comparison, so if low light performance on a relative budget is your goal, the 6D should certainly make your short list of full-frame cameras to consider.


Canon 6D versus Nikon D600 at ISO 3,200

Canon 6D at ISO 3,200
Nikon D600 at ISO 3,200

Similar to the comparison results at ISO 1600, the 6D handles most of the elements with more clarity and less noise than the D600, with the red swatch being the one notable exception.


Canon 6D versus Nikon D800 at ISO 3,200

Canon 6D at ISO 3,200
Nikon D800 at ISO 3,200

The 6D shows a remarkably low amount of noise in the shadows behind the bottle in the first image, and is clearer in the mosaic image. It does however start to loses detail in the red swatch at this ISO.


Canon 6D versus Sony A99 at ISO 3,200

Canon 6D at ISO 3,200
Sony A99 at ISO 3,200

As with ISO 1600, the 6D clearly wins the battle for ISO supremacy against the Sony A99 in virtually all respects.


Detail: Canon 6D versus Canon 7D, Canon 5D Mark III, Nikon D600, Nikon D800 and Sony A99.

Canon
6D

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Canon
7D

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Canon
5D Mk III

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Nikon
D600

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Nikon
D800

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Sony
A99

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Detail comparison. High-contrast detail is also important, pushing the camera in different ways, so we like to look at it, too. Overall the Canon 6D performs admirably here, and tends to be a bit sharper across the ISO range than most of its competitors, with the 5D Mark III being the only exception and clearly better in the details.

 

Canon 6D Print Quality

The Canon 6D prints superb images. Stunning 30 x 40s at ISO 50/100/200; an excellent 16 x 20 at ISO 1600; and a good 5 x 7 all the way to ISO 25,600.

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageISO 50/100/200 images look terrific at 30 x 40, with sharp detail and rich colors. Makes a nice wall display print up to 40 x 60.

ISO 400 prints look great at 24 x 36 inches, crisp and vibrant, and are fine for wall display up to 36 x 48.

ISO 800 prints remain sharp up to 20 x 30, introducing some minor luminance noise in shadows and softness in our red swatch at 24 x 36 inches but still quite usable for less critical applications.

ISO 1600 makes an excellent 16 x 20 inch print, while 20 x 30s here show some noticeable loss of contrast in our target red swatch.

ISO 3200 prints a very nice 13 x 19, with 16 x 20s losing some contrast in our mosaic bottle but still fine for wall display prints.

ISO 6400 yields a good 11 x 14 inch print, with good color renditioning for such a high ISO.

ISO 12,800 prints a good 8 x 10, though is starting to introduce some loss in color fidelity and a bit more noise in some shadowy areas.

ISO 25,600 makes a nice 5 x 7 inch print.

ISO 51,200 prints a good 4 x 6, if just a bit on the grainy size.

ISO 102,400 does not print a usable 4 x 6 and is best avoided.

With a full-frame sensor and 20 megapixels, it should come as no surprise that the Canon 6D prints look excellent in comparison to all but the best cameras out there today. But with its relatively low price tag for a full-frame camera, this model will surely draw attention to anyone wanting to step up to this level of quality without breaking the bank to do so.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageTesting hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 



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