Canon 6D Review

 
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Canon 6D Video Recording

The Canon 6D is an interesting camera in Canon's lineup in that its video features are very similar to those of its more expensive brother, the 5D Mark III. The 6D is Canon's lightest and smallest full-frame DSLR with the ergonomics feeling like a mixture of the 7D and 60D. Nevertheless, the 6D packs a punch when it comes to video recording, including Full HD 1080p and 720p HD recording with the choice two video compression formats (ALL-I and IPB) as well as manual audio recording controls and visible audio levels while recording.

Canon 6D screen shot

The 6D features both automatic and full manual exposure controls in video recording mode giving both beginner DSLR video shooters and the seasoned advanced amateurs or pros ease of use and customization, respectively. Unlike the Canon T4i and the new T5i and SL1 consumer DSLRs (which all feature on-sensor phase-detect AF capability), the 6D does not offer full-time autofocus during video mode, which might dissuade users looking for a camcorder-like experience.

Regarding audio recording on the 6D, this camera again shares a lot of features with the 5D Mark III. Aside from the internal monaural microphone, you have the ability to attach an external third-party microphone with the 3.5mm stereo mic jack. In terms of control, the 6D features automatic and manual audio level adjustments. Users are given 64-step level adjustment increments for fine-tuned control. There is also an optional wind noise filter and an attenuator, which helps reduce over-blown sound (aka clipping) in very noisy environments.

Sure, there are a few features missing from the Canon 6D that advanced and professional users will find very important and might make them pick the 5D Mark III over the 6D. The Canon 6D lacks a headphone jack for monitoring audio, dual memory card slots and the touch controls for near-silent exposure and audio adjustments during recording. The 6D also isn't as good at avoiding moiré, and doesn't offer uncompressed HDMI output. However, for most users who are looking for a full-frame DSLR with very good video quality while not making as severe a dent in their wallet, the 6D will fit the bill quite nicely.

Canon 6D Basic Video Specs

  • 1,920 x 1,080 (Full HD / 1080p); 1,280 x 720 (720p); or 640 x 480 (VGA) recording
  • MOV file format, with variable bitrate MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 encoding
  • Choice of two compression types; ALL-I (intraframe) or IPB (interframe)
  • Manual exposure mode possible
  • Manual mode allows automatic or manual ISO control; sensitivity is controlled automatically in all other modes
  • Exposure compensation and lock are available
  • Shutter speeds range from 1/4,000 down to 1/30 seconds
  • Sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to ISO 12,800
  • Features like color space, white balance, picture control, auto lighting optimizer, peripheral illumination correction, chromatic aberration correction, and highlight tone priority are all available for video
  • If an external flash unit has an LED light, the 6D can automatically enable it in low-light shooting
  • TTL (through the lens) evaluative or center-weighted average metering using the main image sensor
  • Single autofocus with face detection and adjustable AF point, available before or during movie recording; continuous autofocus is not possible
  • Manual focus is also available
  • Capture can be started and stopped with dedicated movie button or optional RC-6 remote control
  • Seven-step LCD brightness adjustment available
  • LCD brightness must be adjusted before capture starts
  • If lens supports optical image stabilization, this operates at all times before and during capture unless switched off on the lens
  • Optional 16-bit, 48KHz, 1,536 Kbps Linear PCM audio from internal monaural microphone or external 3.5mm stereo jack
  • Automatic or 64-step manual audio level control
  • VU (audio level) meter display before and during recording when manual control is enabled
  • Optional wind cut filter function reduces levels for low-frequency audio
  • Records time code, and can be set to continue to increment code regardless of capture status, or only while movie capture is underway
  • Time code is recorded in hours, minutes, seconds, and frames, and can be reset, set to camera time, or set freely
  • Time code can be displayed on-screen during capture and playback
  • Drop frame function will correct time code slip at 29.97 or 59.94 fps, but not at 23.967 fps or PAL frame rates of 25p/50p
  • Cannot output uncompressed feed via HDMI
  • Movies can be "trimmed" in-camera, selecting just the portion you want and optionally saving it as a new file, but edits can only be made in one-second increments, not at specific frames
  • Video duration limited to 29 minutes, 59 seconds
  • File size restricted to 4 GB maximum; new file is automatically created when the 4GB limit is reached and recording is not interrupted
  • If sensor temperature threshold is exceeded, shooting may stop before either limit is reached; camera warns before threshold is reached
  • Single SD memory card slot. Uses SD, SDHC, SDXC cards.
  • Full-resolution still images can be capturing during video recording if your flash card is fast enough, but will interrupt the video feed for approximately one second, and won't fire an external flash
  • Continuous bursts of stills can also be shot, but they won't be reviewed on the monitor, and the video (obviously) pauses longer
  • Histogram is available in manual mode, but only before capture starts
  • Single-axis level gauge is available in all exposure modes, but only before capture starts, and not if using face-detection autofocus or HDMI output
  • Three grid displays (3x3, 6x4, and 3x3 plus diagonals) are available, but only before capture starts

Canon 6D Video Speeds & Feeds: Image size, frame rate, and file format

The Canon EOS 6D, like the 5D Mark III, offers three different video resolutions and five frame rates, although only two or three rates are available at any given resolution.

Canon 6D Video Options
MPEG-4 AVC Format (H.264, .MOV files)
Resolution
Aspect Ratio
Frame Rate
Average Bit Rate

1,920 x 1,080

16:9

30p (29.97 fps)

ALL-I: 91 Mbps
IPB: 31 Mbps

25p (PAL)

24p (23.976 fps)

1,280 x 720

16:9

60p (59.94 fps)

ALL-I: 81 Mbps
IPB: 27 Mbps

50p (PAL)

640 x 480

4:3

30p (29.97 fps)
IPB: 10 Mbps

25p (PAL)


The Canon 6D, like all of Canon's video-capable DSLRs, shoot in progressive scan high definition formats. Although television broadcast video works well with interlaced formats, progressive video is more suited for computer playback, as well as the "Full HD" standard nowadays being a progressive scan format (hence the "p" in 1080p).

Canon 6D movie resolution options

As we saw with the 5D Mark III, Canon's new DIGIC 5+ image processor gives the 6D capability for both 1080p and 720p video recording. The previous-generation processor in the earlier 5D Mark II meant its users were stuck with only 1080p HD video at frame rates at 30p/25p/24p for high definition video. With the 6D, users now have the benefits of a full frame sensor and the ability to shoot 720p HD video at 60 frames per second, which is great for videos with lots of action and fast movement. Nevertheless, the 6D, along with all Canon video-capable DSLRs (with the exception of the $12,000 EOS 1D-C cinema DSLR) still do not provide the option of full 1080p video at 60 frames per second, which could be a drawback for more professional shooters who need that video format.

Many advanced shooters welcome the inclusion of the 24p mode, which has pretty much become a standard feature for video-capable interchangeable lens cameras. This frame rate comes from the days of motion picture film cameras, as the de facto standard frame rate for cinema. This is the frame rate movies have been shot in for many decades. Nowadays with video, the 24p frame rate gives videos the "film look and feel" that many filmmakers and video shooters want. It can, however, be difficult to use in fast action scenarios, with the lower shutter speed and frame rate making subjects susceptible to motion blur or, conversely, choppy if used with a faster shutter speed.

The 6D limits the minimum shutter speed depending on the frame rate. For 30p/25p/24p, users are limited to 1/30th of a second. For 60p and 50p video, you are limited to 1/60th and 1/50th of a second, respectively.

The inclusion of 720p HD video at 50/60 frames per second is a nice feature, which allows users to more easily film fast action scenes. The faster frame rate also helps should you want to produce some slow-motion video in post-production. It might not be the best format to use in low-light scenarios due to the slowest allowable shutter speed being 1/60th of a second.

The Canon 6D records all video using MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 encoding, at variable bit rates in the .MOV format. Like the 5D Mark III, the 6D gives users the option for two compression schemes in the HD resolutions, ALL-I or IPB. The difference comes from how each frame of the video is compressed. There is no uncompressed "RAW" video capability in the 6D. ALL-I format yields a higher image quality by compressing each frame individually, at the expense of memory card space, whereas IPB is an "interframe" scheme and compresses multiple frames at a time. This results in a slightly lower quality picture, but saves space on the memory card.

Most computers and editing programs made within the last few years should be able to play 6D files with little problem, but high-def files may strain older systems, especially during editing of IPB video. For users shooting video destined for video editing software, ALL-I format video is the format to pick if your memory card can handle the space and increased bit rate. File sizes for the 6D's ALL-I clips can be massive; expect around 10-11MB/second of video shot. Canon specifies approximately 685 MB/min for 1080 24p video, for example. IPB compression produces much more manageable sizes, with around 3-4MB/second of video. ALL-I video does capture noticeably more detail than does IPB, though. If you can handle the storage requirements, choose ALL-I. Canon recommends using at least 20MB/second or faster Secure Digital memory cards for ALL-I, and 6MB/second or faster for IPB. Even faster cards will be needed if you plan on shooting stills during video capture, which happen with a brief interruption to the video feed. If your card is not fast enough, a five-step buffer fill warning will appear on the LCD screen.

Canon 6D Video Quality

Here are some examples of video shot with the Canon 6D in ALL-I mode. Since YouTube does not support ALL-I video natively, please download the full-resolution video in order to assess the image quality:

Canon 6D: All-I Mode
All-I mode not supported by YouTube at this time - please download original file.
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second, ALL-I
Download Original - 168 MB
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second, ISO 3,200, f/4, ALL-I - NIGHT
Download Original - 272 MB


The 6D produces very high image quality in video, with great, crisp detail and accurate color rendition. The contrast in bright daylight, for example, looks under control and not overly "contrasty" even on the Standard Picture Style. Shadow areas were not crushed and had detail. Even in low-light scenes, the 6D did fantastically well with great detail overall and a clean, low-noise image.

We saw much-improved handling of moiré and aliasing effects in the 5D Mark III compared to its predecessor, and had hopes that we'd see similar behavior in the 6D. Alas, that wasn't the case. In our test videos, a fair number of moiré pattern artifacts could be seen in the standard problem areas like window screens, roof shingles, and fine patterned fabrics. In some cases, moiré artifacts look similar to those seen on the 5D Mark II. This isn't a deal breaker by any means, but be careful where you shoot and of the patterns of people's clothing, etc.

Below you can see our standard array of sample videos for the 6D (in IPB mode):

Canon 6D: Video Samples
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second, IPB mode
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 24 frames per second, IPB mode
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MOV, Progressive, 60 frames per second, IPB mode
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second, ISO 3,200, f/4, IPB mode - NIGHT
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 24 frames per second, ISO 3,200, f/4, IPB mode - NIGHT
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MOV, Progressive, 60 frames per second, ISO 3,200, f/4, IPB mode - NIGHT
Download Original

Canon 6D Video: Focusing

The full-frame Canon 6D does not provide full-time autofocus with video. Shooters can use single-point autofocus prior to recording video to set focus on their subject. The 6D does provide the option of magnifying the Live View display by factors of 1x, 5x, and 10x to get a precise look at manual focusing prior to the start of recording, but users looking for simple, camcorder-like video recording with full-time autofocus should look elsewhere.

  • Single autofocus operations can be triggered before or during movie recording by half-pressing the shutter button or pressing the AF-ON button
  • Depending on the lens in use, on-camera audio will likely pick up significant autofocus drive noise. This can be minimized by using an external microphone, however
  • Continuous autofocus is not possible for movies
  • Face detection autofocus is available prior to recording, and continues to track face locations during capture, but does not adjust focusing
  • AF point can be positioned with the joystick before or during recording, but cannot be placed at the extreme edges of the frame
  • Manual focus is also available during movie recording

Canon 6D Video: Exposure Control

Canon 6D screen shot

Like most previous Canon DSLRs with video recording, the 6D allows for full manual exposure settings and adjustments including full control of shutter speed, aperture and ISO before and during recording. In all modes, except for M, the 6D switches to automatic exposure adjustments while in live view movie mode. As such, the 6D is very user friendly for both kinds of shooters: those that want a simpler video shooting experience and more advanced users who want more control over how their videos look.

  • Defaults to fully automatic Program exposure in all modes except for Manual mode
    • Aperture and shutter priority modes revert to auto-exposure when recording video. ISO, Shutter Speed, and ISO are set automatically
  • Manual mode gives access to both shutter speed and aperture, and allows automatic or manual ISO control
  • ISO sensitivity is controlled automatically in all other modes
  • Exposure compensation adjustment is available with a +/-3EV range in 1/3 EV steps in Program or priority modes, but not in A+ mode
  • Exposure can be locked with the * button and canceled with the AF point button, except in A+ mode. This also applies in Manual mode if shooting with Auto ISO sensitivity
  • Adjustments to all exposure variables can be made either before or during recording, but they are applied immediately, so the effect is not subtle. Aperture mechanism noise will vary depending on the attached lens
  • Available shutter speeds range from 1/4,000s down to 1/60s for 60p or 50p, and 1/30s for 30p, 25p or 24p
  • Apertures depend upon the lens in use
  • Sensitivity varies from ISO 100 to ISO 12,800
  • Highlight tone priority is available, but disables the ISO 100 position
  • Color space, white balance, and Picture Control settings apply to movie recording. Picture Control types are Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, and User Def 1-3, and each can be adjusted for sharpness and contrast, plus saturation and color tone for color styles, and filter / toning effects for monochrome
  • Picture Control, white balance, exposure, auto lighting optimizer, peripheral illumination and chromatic aberration correction, and highlight tone priority effects are all previewed on LCD monitor
  • If an attached flash strobe has an LED light, the 6D can automatically enable it in low-light shooting in all except Manual mode

Canon 6D Video: Audio Recording

ports

The Canon 6D has similar audio recording features to the 5D Mark III. Like many previous Canon video DSLRs, the 6D gives users the choice of recording audio with an internal (mono) microphone or a third-party external stereo microphone via a 3.5mm mic jack. Audio levels are fully adjustable, with wind-cut filter and attenuator options.

The big downside to the 6D's audio capabilities is that, unlike the 5D Mark III, the 6D does not feature a headphone jack for monitoring audio. This was a much-lauded feature when it was finally introduced into the Canon DSLR lineup with the 5D Mark III. Many advanced video shooters will surely be a little disheartened to find this feature missing.

  • Audio is recorded as 16-bit, 48KHz, 1,536 Kbps Linear PCM
  • Internal monaural microphone
  • Defaults to automatic level control (aka Automatic Gain Control)
  • Manual level control available via Shooting Menu item, with 64 levels available. Left/right balance is not adjustable
  • VU (audio level) meter display is displayed on the same menu screen, and includes peak hold indication
  • VU meter display is also available as an overlay during recording by pressing the Info button
  • VU meter only available if using manual audio levels
  • External 3.5mm stereo mic input. Use external mics for better sound quality, control over stereo effect / directionality, and to eliminate camera / lens noise
  • Audio can be turned off entirely
  • Optional wind cut filter function reduces levels for low-frequency audio
  • In A+ shooting mode, audio levels are controlled automatically, and the wind cut filter is always active

Canon 6D Video: Rolling Shutter Artifacts ("Jello effect")

Like all video-capable DSLRs and interchangeable lens cameras on the market today, the Canon 6D has to contend with rolling shutter artifacts. These image distortions are caused by the way the image is read from the camera's sensor. Data is read line-by-line, rather than the entire frame at once, so the top of the image is recorded at a slightly different time than the bottom. Therefore, when panning or moving the camera side-to-side quickly, vertical lines in the image can appear to bend and slant back and forth in a "Jello-like" effect.

The 6D did pretty well controlling the amount of rolling shutter distortion. At the 1080p resolution, rolling shutter distortion was noticeable but minimal, and even less so at 720p. As long as you are mindful of this effect, and avoid quick pans or back-and-forth motions, particularly around objects with vertical lines like trees and buildings, you will probably not notice the rolling shutter distortion.


Canon 6D: Rolling Shutter Artifacts
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 24 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MOV, Progressive, 60 frames per second
Download Original

 



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