Canon’s affordable full-frame ticks all the boxes on paper, we find out how it handles and where it sits in the ever-expanding market.
The affordable full-frame DSLR market is beginning to take shape now that Canon has officially entered the fray with its latest model and contender, the EOS 6D. Joining both Nikon and Sony in this new consumer market, the 6D is designed to bridge the gap between high-end DX-format DSLRs and pro-level full-frame models. With a recommended retail price of around £1,799/$2,099 (body only), it’s also Canon’s most affordable full-frame yet. It now seems that deep pockets aren’t necessary to purchase pro-level kit, so we took the new EOS 6D out on test this issue to find out whether its performance can really compare to its pro-priced counterparts.
Under the bonnet, so to speak, the EOS 6D houses a 20.2-effective megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor with a DIGIC 5+ processor, promising high-quality shots and fast image-processing speeds. Some of the camera’s other key features include a vast ISO range between ISO 100-25600 (expandable to ISO 50-102400) for enhanced low-light performance and a full 1080p HD-video mode. The 6D also offers two new notable features including an integrated GPS module and inbuilt Wi-Fi capabilities.
The camera’s Wi-Fi addition quickly became one of our favourite features during testing. It’s designed to enable you to connect the camera to your smartphone, another camera, computer or even printer so that you’re able to share your shots instantly. We downloaded the free EOS remote app for Apple devices onto an iPhone and were able to review captures on screen, compose images and remotely control the camera. It’s a fantastic feature if you’re shooting with slower shutter speeds, as you can change the camera’s settings and release the shutter from a safe distance.
As it stands, the EOS 6D is currently Canon’s smallest and lightest full-frame DSLR, which made it the perfect companion on longer shoots and excursions. On test, we found it powers up pretty quickly and is ready to shoot in just a matter of seconds. The controls are also easy to navigate so you can change your exposure settings effortlessly during a shoot. There’s even a handy locking button around the mode dial that’ll ensure that the mode you’re working in doesn’t change should it be knocked accidentally in your camera bag or while you’re shooting.
During testing, we found the camera is pretty quick to focus and it offers an 11-point AF array. This is noticeably a lot less than Canon’s own DX-format DSLR, the EOS 7D, which boasts 19 cross-type AF points, and even the 6D’s direct competitor, the Nikon D600, which offers a staggering 39-AF points in comparison. However, you’ve got to expect some compromise for an affordably priced full-frame Canon model. Although 11 AF points isn’t as much as we’re used to, it was no less accurate. Under low-light the camera’s focusing capability really excelled, as promised by Canon. The manufacturer stresses that the EOS 6D is even capable of focusing under moonlight alone. Our low-light images look great up close with very little noise, even after working in high ISO settings. Image quality only seemed to become affected when working in settings upwards of ISO 6400.
Generally we found the EOS 6D perfect for day-to-day and on-location shoots. The camera does a great job at accurately metering the light for the best exposure results, even when faced with challenging light conditions. There’s also a multiple exposure mode so you can make the most of the shadows, midtones and highlights in the scene. Landscape shooters will also appreciate the in-built Live View mode and single-axis electronic level, which helps to ensure all of your horizons appear perfectly straight in-camera. Keen wildlife photographers will also value the added silent-shutter mode, which enables you to shoot discreetly without scaring off skittish subjects.
Studio shooters on the other hand, may find that the EOS 6D isn’t as well prepared for flash photography.
If you don’t have a wireless studio setup, you’ll be let down by the absent flash sync port on the camera’s body, which is present in all of Canon’s other full-frame models. You can still buy an adapter for the hot shoe of course; just don’t expect to start shooting straight out of the box. If you’re also used to your flash syncing up to 1/250sec shutter speed, you may be disappointed by the fact that the EOS 6D can only sync up to 1/180sec. This doesn’t automatically rule the camera out of studio work, but it may be a deciding factor for many who are thinking about investing.
We were pleased to find that the camera’s lower-than-expected megapixel amount has no bearing on the 6D’s image quality. When reviewing our high-resolution test shots we noted fantastic detail and warm, rich colour reproduction, a reputable Canon trait. Shots also appeared perfectly sharp and well balanced in terms of exposure. Overall, the EOS 6D offers fantastic image quality and then some.
In addition to great stills, the camera also records high-quality video footage. Keen videographers can switch seamlessly between stills and video via the dedicated dial on the back of the camera body. In this mode users can set their desired recording quality and frame rate, which includes full 1080p HD at 25 and 30fps, and 720p HD at 50 and 60fps. We tested the camera’s 1080p HD movie mode at 25fps and found that the EOS 6D coped well in changing light conditions and the focus was able to keep up with subjects while on the go. The video mode in general is fantastic for those who intend to use it sporadically but it’s likely to disappoint serious videographers who had high hopes for the Mark Ill’s more affordable sibling. This is mainly due to the fact the camera is devoid of an essential headphone jack, which enables you to monitor sounds while recording. It’s still possible to work with microphones however as a mic jack is located on the left-hand side of the camera body.
Overall we found the EOS 6D to be an impressive contender in the new mid-range full-frame DSLR market. It’s aimed directly at the price-conscious consumer who wants pro-level kit with high-image quality without it costing them the earth. The camera also comes packed full of great features. Here at DP we’re looking forward to seeing how this new consumer market maps out.