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Canon EOS 6D: Let the Affordable Full-Frame DSLR Competition Begin
by Theano Nikitas -  9/16/2012

Just days after Nikon launched its $2100 full-frame D600, Canon countered with the EOS 6D, a similarly featured and priced DSLR, also targeting prosumers, advanced amateurs and photo enthusiasts. The EOS 6D will also cost $2,100 (body only) or $2,899 bundled with the Canon EF 24-104mm f/4L IS USM zoom lens. Unfortunately, the camera won't be available until December.

Competition is a good thing for consumers, so we're happy to see that the Nikon vs. Canon debate extends to this new category of DSLRs. Now, both Nikon and Canon DSLR users have a new option for upgrading to a full-frame camera (or choosing a more moderately priced backup). And photographers looking to move up (way up) from an advanced compact camera can add full-frame to their shopping lists.

Canon EOS 6DCanon EOS 6D

Built around a new 20.2 megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor, the 6D offers a number of benefits over the 5D Mark II (see chart), although the actual sensor size is a hair smaller at 35.8mm x 23.9mm (vs. the 5D Mark III's 36mm x 24mm sensor size and the Nikon D600's 35.9mm x 24mm). The 6D is also equipped with Canon's latest DIGIC 5+ image processor and, thanks to this sensor/processor combo, the 6D's native ISO range of 100-25600 can be expanded to a low of 50 and to impressively high settings of 51200 and 102400 - far beyond the Nikon D600's extended 25600! Of course, we'll have to wait until we get some hands-on time (and do some lab tests) so we can see what kind of image quality the camera is capable of capturing at those extended sensitivity settings.

Along with the extreme ISO, the 6d uses a new 11-point AF system with a center cross-type point that is sensitive to EV -3 (at release time, the lowest light sensitivity of any DSLR), which should increase responsiveness and accuracy when focusing in low light. Full resolution JPEG continuous shooting clocks in at 4.5 frames per second (vs. the Nikon D600's 5.5 fps).

Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs Canon EOS 5D Mark II vs Canon EOS 6D

 5D Mark III 5D Mark II 6D
Sensor size Full-frame
(36mm x 24mm)
Full-frame
(35.8mm x 23.9mm)
Effective pixels ~ 22.3 million  ~ 22 million ~ 20.2 million
Image processor DIGIC 5+ DIGIC 4 DIGIC 5+
ISO 100-25600 (H:51200,102400) 100-6400 (H:12800) 100-25600 (H:51200,102400)
AF points Up to 61
(41 cross-type)
9 + 6 assist
(1 center cross-type)
Up to 11
(1 center cross-type)
Low-intensity AF EV -2 EV -0.5 EV -3
Continuous shooting ~ 6.0 fps ~ 3.9 fps ~ 4.5 fps
Release time lag ~ 59 ms ~ 75 ms ~< 60 ms
Viewfinder coverage 100% 98% 97%
Metering 63 zones 35 zones 63 zones
LCD 3.2-inch 3:2,
1.04 million dots
3.0-inch 4:3,
920,000 dots
3.0-inch 3:2,
1.04 million dots
Records to CF and SD CF SD
GPS Requires dongle Built-in
Wi-Fi Requires dongle Built-in
Dimensions 152.0 x 116.4 x 76.4 mm 152.0 x 113.5 x 75.0 mm 144.5 x 110.5 x 71.2 mm
Weight ~ 860g ~ 810g ~ 770g

We were happily surprised to learn that wireless and GPS functionality are built in (wireless and GPS for the Nikon D600 are only available via optional accessories). Free Android and iOS apps will be available for remote shooting.

Canon EOS 6DCanon EOS 6D

The single card slot (the Nikon D600 has dual card slots) is compatible with SD/SDHC/SDXC cards, including UHS-1 (Ultra High Speed) cards. A fixed 3-inch, 1.04 million dot LCD complements the camera's optical viewfinder, which offers about 97% coverage.

Other notable features include a multiple exposure mode that, similar to Olympus' multi-exposure mode, allows you to use a RAW image as the base photos, but with the 6D, you can combine up to 9 shots and use special features in-camera (additive, average, bright, dark) to composite the images. An HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode is also available, which captures and combines three images. From what we understand, only the final combined image is available; the separate bracketed shots are not.

Canon EOS 6DCanon EOS 6D

Of course, the 6D offers full HD video, with 1080p available at 30/24/24 frames per second (fps). For 720p, the 6D offers frame rate options of 60fps and 50fps. Standard video is available at 30fps and 25fps. Video footage can be recorded for up to 29 min/59 sec continuously and users can select All i-frame or IPB compressions with embedded timecodes. Full manual exposure and adjustable audio controls for the camera's stereo sound (built-in or via an external microphone) can be implemented while recording. In comparison, the Nikon D600 offers more extended options, including a headphone jack for monitoring audio, uncompressed HDMI output to an external hard drive and the ability to view footage simultaneously on an external monitor and the camera's LCD.

For more press images, be sure to check out our photo gallery.

We wish the Canon EOS 6D was available sooner for side-by-side testing with the Nikon D600, but we'll do our best to keep you apprised of the differences (and similarities) between the two along the way. Naturally, DSLR owners who have invested in lenses will probably go with their current brand. But photographers who aren't married to a particular DSLR system will have a much more difficult choice since the Canon EOS 6D and the Nikon D600, at first glance, both offer very good value for the price.