Canon 6D Technical Info

by Mike Tomkins

Sensor. Canon has developed a brand-new full-frame CMOS image sensor for the EOS 6D. With an area of 35.8 x 23.9mm, it's microscopically smaller than the sensors found in the 5D Mark II and Mark III. The effective resolution is 20.2 megapixels. While that lags Nikon's 24.3 megapixel D600 just slightly, the Canon has a bit of an edge in photosite pitch. The Canon 6D's sensor spaces photosites at 6.55 microns, versus a 5.9 micron pitch for the D600.

Processor. Output from the new sensor is handled by a DIGIC 5+ image processor. That's the same type seen in the more expensive EOS-5D Mark III. Canon says that the EOS 6D uses 14-bit analog-to-digital conversion.

Performance. The Canon EOS 6D falls behind Nikon's entry in terms of burst shooting performance. Where the D600 was capable of 5.4 frames-per-second burst shooting in our tests, the Canon 6D provided a slightly less swift 4.4 frames per second, a difference of around 18%.

Canon rates shutter lag as around 60 milliseconds (we measured 59), which is near-identical to that of the EOS 5D Mark III.

Sensitivity. Although it's not the same sensor used in the EOS 5D Mark III, the Canon EOS 6D offers the same sensitivity range. By default, everything from ISO 100 to 25,600 equivalents is available. An ISO expansion function unlocks a wider range of 50 to 102,400 equivalents. By contrast, the Nikon D600 has an expanded range of ISO 50 to 25,600, of which the standard range is just ISO 100 to 6,400 equivalents. The Canon 6D's Auto ISO feature lets you specify the minimum and maximum ISO as well as minimum shutter speed, or you can let the camera select.

Autofocus. One area in which there's a very clear differentiation between the EOS 6D and Canon's more expensive full-frame models is autofocus--but interestingly, it's not a clear sweep for the 5D Mark III. Sure, that camera has a 61-point autofocus array with 41 cross-type points, where the Canon 6D has just eleven points in a diamond-shaped array, with the center point being the sole cross-type. (In that respect, it's closer to the 5D Mark II, which had a 15-point array with single cross-type, but relegated six of these as merely assist points.)

Where the Canon EOS 6D wins is in terms of low-light performance: it matches Pentax's recently-announced K-5 II and K-5 IIs with the center point being able to lock focus down to -3 EV. That's a full 2 EV further than Nikon's D600, although that camera offers a much more generous 39 autofocus points, of which nine are cross-types. The Canon 6D's increased center point sensitivity comes thanks to an increase in the number of light-sensitive elements making up that focus point.

Viewfinder. According to Canon, the 6D's optical viewfinder has approximately 97% coverage, which is just slightly behind the 98% of the EOS 5D Mark II. The 5D III and Nikon D600 both have about 100% coverage.

Displays. There are two main displays on the Canon EOS 6D, as you'd expect of a camera at this price point. The top panel is a monochrome LCD status display, handy for saving battery life and time as you check or change camera settings.

The rear panel, meanwhile, is a 3.0-inch Clear View LCD panel with a resolution of 1,040,000 dots. The Clear View designation means it still has an air gap, unlike the Clear View II screen on the EOS 5D III, so in like conditions, contrast will likely be lower and glare higher than that camera. It's also slightly smaller than the displays in the 5D III and Nikon D600, and has a wider aspect than the screen on the 5D II. Compared to that in the D600, though, the 6D's screen has a slightly higher dot count. Like that screen, the EOS 6D's panel has wide 170-degree viewing angles. There's also a high-transparency multicoating.

When framing in live view mode, Canon says the display has 100% coverage.

Flash. As you might expect, there's no built-in flash strobe in the EOS 6D. The Nikon D600 does have one, so if you're the type who likes to travel light, that's a potential advantage--but if you always carry an external strobe then it's merely an added expense and potential point of failure. Both cameras, not surprisingly, have standard hot shoes.

Exposure modes. The selection of exposure modes on offer in the Canon EOS 6D almost exactly mirror those in Nikon's competitor. There's a choice of Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and Manual exposure modes that most enthusiasts and pros will seldom leave, plus consumer-friendly Auto+ and Scene modes. There are also two Custom modes. The Canon adds a dedicated Bulb mode, and its Creative Auto mode, which aims to provide a little control without using terminology confusing to amateurs.

Metering. The Canon EOS 6D meters exposures with a 63-zone, dual-layer iFCL metering sensor. First seen in the EOS 7D, it's the same chip used in the 5D Mark III. The top layer is sensitive to red and green, while the bottom layer detects blue and green. This full-color metering allows better subject detection, information which is also fed back to the autofocus system to further aid subject tracking. Nikon, by contrast, has a much finer-grained 2,016 pixel RGB metering system, branded as 3D color matrix metering II.

Shutter. Another point of differentiation between the Canon EOS 6D and 5D III can be found in their shutter mechanisms. Where that in the 5D III is rated as good for a lifetime of some 150,000 cycles, just like that in Nikon's D600, the Canon 6D's shutter is rated for a much shorter life of 100,000 cycles. That's not to say it's a certainty not to outlive 100,000 shots--these values aren't set in stone--it's just less likely to do so than the shutter in the other cameras.

Creative. There are a couple of handy creative options on the Canon EOS 6D that mirror--but don't quite match--those found on the 5D III.

The first of these is the high dynamic range mode, which captures three separate images with varied exposure, then combines them into a single image with greater dynamic range than is possible in a single shot. The HDR mode is similar to that in the EOS 5D III, but doesn't allow the source images to be saved. Instead, the merging is done solely in-camera, and if you're not happy with the result, you'll need to reshoot the scene. (With the 5D III, if you change your mind and decide to create the HDR manually on your computer, you have the option to save the source images that were used to create the in-camera composite.) There's also a smaller variety of HDR effects in the 6D than can be found in its pricier sibling.

The other creative option that's particularly interesting is the Multiple Exposure mode, which overlays multiple images upon each other. It's a technique that's useful to simulate a longer exposure, to reduce noise, or simply for the effects that can be achieved. You can overlay up to nine images, and you can use an existing raw image file as a starting point for the series. There are two compositing methods: Additive and Average, yielding a different look. Cleverly, you can preview the compositing result on the LCD panel, and can choose to undo the most recent addition to the multiple exposure if you didn't get the result you were after. There are more compositing modes in the EOS 5D III (it also has Bright and Dark), but this still seems a great tool for EOS 6D shooters.

Level gauge. Another point of differentiation between the Canon EOS 6D and the 5D III can be found in their respective level gauge functions. The Canon 6D offers a single-axis level gauge, indicating only side-to-side roll. That's plenty if all you want to do is ensure horizons are level, of course. The 5D III has a dual-axis level gauge, though, which can also show the degree of front/back pitch. That's great for architectural photography, panorama shooting, and other areas where you want to ensure your verticals don't converge.

Dust reduction. The EOS 6D includes Canon's EOS Integrated Cleaning System, which uses a piezoelectric element to shake dust particles off of the low-pass filter in front of the sensor. The dust is then trapped by an adhesive strip along the base, preventing it from causing further nuisance. The camera can also map the locations of stubborn dust spots that remain on the sensor after cleaning, then store their locations as Dust Delete Data that can subsequently be used to subtract the spots during post-processing.

Movie. Canon has included much of the video capture feature set that made its 5D-series models so popular with videographers in the new EOS 6D. That includes Full HD (1080p; 1,920 x 1,080 pixel) recording at 30, 25, or 24 fps; 720p (1,280 x 720 pixel) capture at 60 or 50 fps, and VGA (640 x 480 pixel) at 30 or 25 fps. Movies are limited to 29 minutes, 59 seconds of capture, and automatically partitioned at 4GB intervals. ALL-I intraframe video requires a UHS-I compliant flash card, while IPB interframe-compressed video can be recorded on regular SD cards. Exposure and audio levels can be controlled manually, and there's both an internal, monaural microphone and an external stereo microphone jack. So what's missing from the 5D III? The most significant thing is the lack of a headphone jack, meaning you can't monitor audio at capture time.

Wireless networking. There are quite a few places where the Canon 6D bests even its more-expensive sibling, however, and one of these is its inclusion of built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. To be fair, the 5D Mark III still wins on range: the IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi radio in the 6D isn't terribly powerful, with a rated range of just 30 meters. That's barely 20% of the range possible with the 5D III and the optional WFT-E7A Wireless File Transmitter, which is said to work with a 150 meter range in ideal conditions. However, the 6D doesn't need to rely on a clumsy, external device to provide Wi-Fi networking. If you're shooting with the intent of transferring images to the internet via a smartphone in your pocket, 150 meter range is overkill. If you're more than 30 meters from your phone, chances are you've lost it. ;-)

It's not only smartphones with which you can communicate. Canon says the 6D's Wi-Fi connectivity supports WPS security, and that the camera can connect to certain PowerShot-series cameras and Android or iOS tablets as well as smartphones and PCs. You can also share images on social networking sites. They're transferred to your chosen destination via Canon's iMAGE GATEWAY cloud service, which requires registration.

Better still, it's not just sharing of images that's possible. You can also remotely control your EOS 6D from the attached device, using a free Canon EOS Remote application (you'll need an iOS 5 or Android 2.3+ / 4.0+ device for this), or from a PC running Canon's EOS Utility.

Geolocation. Another area where the Canon 6D offers something its pricier sibling doesn't is its built-in GPS receiver. This allows the camera to determine its location, then record the latitude, longitude, elevation, and UTC time stamp in the EXIF data of each image. The 5D III requires a separate device to achieve this. Once tagged, you can view the capture locations of your images on a map using the supplied Map Utility software. There's also a logging function to track movement at set intervals, and you can even set the camera's internal clock to local time via GPS.

Connectivity. In addition to the aforementioned built-in Wi-Fi and GPS radios, the Canon EOS 6D includes several connectivity choices. There's a combined USB 2.0 High Speed data / standard-definition composite A/V output, a high-definition Mini HDMI (Type C) video port with CEC support, a 3.5mm stereo microphone jack, and a wired remote terminal. The 6D also supports Canon wireless infrared RC-6 remote controller. As mentioned before, what's missing compared to the 5D Mark III is a headphone jack for monitoring recorded audio. And, unlike the 5D Mark III, the Canon 6D's HDMI port does not output uncompressed HD video. Also note that the WFT-E7A Wireless File Transmitter is not compatible with the 6D, for obvious reasons.

Storage. The Canon EOS 6D is compatible with Secure Digital cards including the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types, however there's only one card slot (competing models offer two). It also supports -- and indeed requires -- the higher-speed UHS-I cards, if you intend to shoot ALL-I Intraframe-compressed video. Unlike the EOS 5D II and III, there is no longer any support for CompactFlash cards.

Battery. If you're shooting with the EOS 60D, 7D, 5D Mark II, or 5D Mark III already, you're in luck. The EOS 6D uses the exact same proprietary LP-E6 lithium-ion battery packs, so you can share batteries between your cameras. Canon rates battery life to CIPA testing standards as some 1,090 shots at 23°C/73°F, and 980 shots at 0°C/32°F when using the optical viewfinder. Battery life when using GPS and Wi-Fi isn't stated. A dedicated LC-E6 battery charger is included in the bundle.

If the battery life isn't sufficient, or you just want duplicated controls for portrait shooting, an accessory BG-E13 battery grip is available. The grip supports up to two LP-E6 battery packs or six AA-size/LR6 batteries. As you'd expect, an optional AC adapter kit is also available (ACK-E6).

Availability. The Canon 6D became available in December 2012. Two choices were offered -- a body-only version that originally listed at US$2,100, or a kit including the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM zoom lens that originally listed at US$2,900. The body can now be readily purchased at US$2,000, and the kit at US$2,400.


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