Hands-on with the New Canon 6D Entry-Level Full Frame DSLR

Canon’s new 6D is the company’s attempt to make full frame photography more affordable and accessible to more photographers. Our initial impression of the camera is exactly what the company is boasting about: that it’s small and light. The camera’s lightness makes it feel much more Rebel-y than its beefier full-frame siblings, but at the same time it doesn’t feel cheap. It’s not simply a full frame sensor stuffed inside a Rebel body. Canon has chosen to use magnesium alloy for key parts of the camera, giving it strength where needed, while using lighter materials for other parts to reduce the weight.

If you’re already shooting with a full frame Canon body, you probably won’t notice much difference in the way the camera behaves — you’ll just be struck by the fact that it’s noticeably lighter. If you’re currently on a crop sensor camera and would like to jump to full frame on the (relative) cheap, the 6D feels like a very worthy upgrade.

The back of the camera has less options and dials than the 5D Mark III. Missing is the thumb controller used to select an AF point with one directional push:

The top of the camera is very similar to the 5D Mark III, but has some minor differences. The mode dial lacks a third Custom Mode but gains a “CA” (Creative Auto) mode. Instead of having Autofocus and Drive combined into a single button on the right side, the 6D features separate buttons for those settings. There also isn’t a Multi-Function button (M.Fn) next to the shutter:

Aside from the spec and relatively minor design differences, the Canon 6D fits right into the new niche carved into the Canon DSLR lineup.

The camera’s viewfinder is large and bright — one of the big benefits of shooting full frame — and the 4.5 frame per second continuous shooting rate is pretty nice:

As long as the image quality of this camera is equal with the quality of other full frame DSLRs, this camera should be a serious consideration for those looking to jump into full frame for the first time. Pointing to the fact that the 5D Mark II currently sells for cheaper isn’t quite fair, since that camera has had plenty of time to see price drops since it was announced back in 2008.

When compared head to head with the 5DMkII, the 6D offers some nice advantages: a much higher maximum ISO (51200 vs 6400), a larger LCD screen (3.2-inch vs 3), HDR, GPS, faster in startup/shutter lag/fps, and more portable.

In the end, your choice will likely be determined by the price of the cameras at the time of purchase, since both the 5D Mark II and 6D seem to be worthy “entry-level” full frame options.

  • arian rassoul

    shame they put that shabby clickwheel on it

  • Rover Long

    so should i buy the 5dmk2 or 6d???

  • Tapo

    You clearly are a Canon fanboy …. LOL….Compared to the D600, this camera is DOA….

  • sabor

    Flash sync 1/180 … no way for me…

  • HD Cam Team

    Is it really a 3.2″ LCD screen?

    It looks like it is, even when the official press release says “3.0-inch”.

    It will be very interesting to see the stills & video quality delivered by this new 20MP full frame sensor (and how much Canon took advantage of it).

  • Michael Zhang

    I’m speaking to Canon fanboys. The relevant post for Nikon fanboys will come shortly :)

  • monteraz

    Nikon D600

  • Sporkguy

    I’m asking myself the same question. I reckon I’ll go with the 5D MK II to join my 5D Classic.

  • HD Cam Team

    P.S.: We still don’t understand (nor like) Canon’s decision to remove/replace the so useful (in Live View mode) 5x/10x magnification buttons located at the top right in previous models.

    Those buttons were there for years in most EOS models and worked so great, Nobody complained, so WHY to remove them?

    PLEASE CANON: put them back in place in the 5D Mark 3 via Firmware Update (along with many other very important and possible improvements…).

  • sasasa

    the main competition the D600 has better specs.. so if you buy new.. why would you buy the canon?
    there is no reason to go for teh canon as new buyer… when teh price of 2099$ is correct.
    the canon should cost 1599$ to make it worth to reconsider

  • Procentje20

    All the features of this camera make lots of sense for landscape photography. 4.5 fps is fast enough for handheld HDR. Its full frame, so your wide lenses all are wider. It has a nice megapixel count, so your prints will come out fine blown up. And its lighter than any previous FF canon DSLR. So stick a 17-40L on it and get our into the field. There are other cameras with better AF, faster speed, and higher flash sync like the 7D. For this money you cant buy an all rounder. Those tend to cost 6k+

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    5D mark II is without a doubt the best option

  • lloyd

    I don;t get why this is called entry level? why has terminology like this not disappeared?

    I don’t mean its a petapixel thing, I mean in general. Its imaginary barriers

  • sasasa

    the D600 has better specs.. cost the same.. how this camera makes sense then?

  • miki

    bought the 5d mark II a bit after the 5dmkIII and still think it’s the best price-performance option in the canon world. If I wouldn’t have canon gear already, than probably I would buy something else

  • quickpick

    If had to make choice between 5DmkII and 6D i’d go for the latter because it’s newer design and has many up-to-date features to last for years to come.. Only reason to go for the 5DmkII IMHO would be a dead low-price bargain. Maybe there will be an all-must-go sales for it soon as there are problems with the Chinese factories closing down due to the riots, thus Canon might have a need to focus only on the newer line of products..

  • Chris Popely

    As far as bang for your buck goes, you’re probably right.

  • quickpick

    Saying that, what I don’t like about both Canons mentioned is the lack of focus points and focusing functionality. I really can’t understand what makes Canon overlook the importance of auto focusing in their lesser than top notch cameras, and even they are behind the Nikon’s equivalents. Since I’m not married to Canon through a stack of lenses, I’d seriously consider Nikon D600 as the first alternative in this game for it’s better functional features, foremost in focusing.. I just haven’t had a chance to get familiar with Nikon like I have with Canon before but that could easily change.. :)

  • Csaba

    It’s marketing. Calling it “entry level” will make people to buy it even tho they would be just fine with a lower end model.

  • Csaba

    “How this camera makes sense then?” Are you really asking this question? So let’s say, you are shooting with Canon and collected multiple lenses over the years. Are you going to sell all your gear so you can have extra 4 MP? Nikon and Canon are head to head. Any fanboy should only read their own company’s announcements, so ridiculous comments like above would finally disappear.

  • M

    The cheapest option in a category is entry level. Simple as that. (the 5D mkII is cheaper, but that’s because it is old, not because it was designed down to a price like the d600/6d)

  • M

    Might be if you’re starting from scratch (i.e. no lenses or only own ef-s lenses). Camera systems are called systems because that’s what they are… systems. Would you buy a D600 if you own a lot of ef lenses, canon flashes etc.? Would you buy a d600 as a back up to your 5d?

  • sasasa

    im speaking about new buyer…. not people who are stuck into a system and have to buy mediocre products because they have too much canon glas.
    your should use your brain clown….

  • sasasa

    and a shabby AF system.. how in hell will that attract new DSLR buyer?!
    ok people with canon glas will maybe still buy this mediocre product.. because they have to. poor fellows….

  • Csaba

    And you reckon someone would just buy a full frame DSLR as an entry to the photography world? I doubt that.

  • Eddevil

    Why would you buy a Nikon D600 then? Im not convinced on Nikon Optics, Canon has L series, which is more robust and better quality, Nikon lenses seem cheap and not convincying…

  • Jared Monkman

    as a user of the 5d mkiii, I can tell you that having more auto focus points isn’t necessarily better. What would be better, is if those points were spread more evenly around the frame, instead of being cramped into the center. So, the lack of auto focus points shouldn’t be a huge detriment. The only problem that I see, and this is a problem with the 5d mkiii as well, is the stupid flash sync! It’s near impossible to use flash in the middle of the day without running apertures of 18, unless you use a ND filter.

  • Curio

    Comparing it to the 5D II at its current price is completely fair unless the 6D brings better specs along with its newness. And it is not clear that it does, pending a review of its actual performance.

  • Guest

    but someone who buys the 6D because its cheaper than the 5D3 probably doesn’t want to shell out a lot of cash for L lenses but instead goes for the non-L EF lenses (you can get some pretty decent non-L lenses though)

  • Guest

    but if you upgrade from an APS-C camera you might very well only have EF-S lenses which you’d have to replace anyway – so why not go for another manufacturer?

  • Jeffery

    Nikon lenses seem cheap? Ridiculous comment. Nikon lenses are almost always sharper than the Canon equivalent, more expensive and built better. I was issued a 5D MKii with 24-70 2.8 while attending photo school and ended up purchasing a D700 and 24-70 halfway through the year. The difference in quality between these 2 set-ups was laughable. Before writing off the brand that you don’t own you should at least educate yourself and use both systems.

  • Tim

    List 3 things that the 5DMK2 does better than a 6D. Struggling? Thought so….

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    well for a start the 5D2 still has a joystick, the controls are better positioned, the wheel on the back isn’t ripped from a XXD model, 100% viewfinder, changeable focusing screens (no idea if the 6D has this or not), smaller body = tighter grip – not good for regular sized adult hands, oh.. and what’s that other thing – it’s cheaper

  • Tim

    Exactly. The price of this will also drop, and since the iso handling is 3 stops better than the 5d MK2, it’ll be a good option. The AF on the 5DMK2 is pretty old now so if the AF and IQ on this new 6D is adequate (which i suspect it probably will being a canon) then it makes sense to go for this over the MK2 any day, especially as a step up to the MK3.

  • Tim

    All your answers are a superficial crock! Especially the one about changeable focus screens. You’re a joke mate. Here a few REAL differences to educate your little mind:

    – Better iso handling (3 stops better than the MK2),
    – Better rear LCD
    – Better weather sealing
    – Wi Fi & GPS
    – Better AF (willing to bet on it)
    – The price will drop relative to the MK2, it WILL be cheaper.

    It dosen’t matter that the wheel is ripped from the 60D, if you don’t realise what ENTRY LEVEL means then you’re obviously a Plum. Canon have nailed it with this camera, if the IQ is as good as expected then it will blow whatever you are shooting with out of the water.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    “nailed it” hmm, that’s why so many people have so many problems with this camera – for the price the AF system is diabolical

  • Tim

    Well let’s see what the AF system is like when it’s tested shall we?

  • sam

    am i read wrong… 1 cross-type AF point?
    are they kidding.. or i must be reading it wrong..

  • wilmark johnatty

    Why do you call this a “Hands On” when its just descriptive about stuff you can see from pics and specs? Hands on mean that you are using the camera – how does the focusing work, especially in the darker conditions, how is the noise performance? Heard that it focuses better than even the 1Dx in the dark. Does the camera feels like plastic compared to the 5D and 7D builds? I heard it does, and suspect because of GPS/wifi and weight. Does the build at least exceed the 7d? If it doesnt, it should not be called the 6D. Do you fee Canon is making any progress to alleviate the common notion that it has run out of sensor tech in the past year? Its very odd that they put touch screen on this. If this was really a hands on you would post some of these issues instead of what we can see from manuf pics and spec sheets.

  • Nobody

    How much experience do you have with both of them? I would like to see some real world results.

  • Babar Asghar

    nice HANDS ON THE CAMERA picsview (not preview)
    but nothing revealing or no tests … :S

  • Felipe Paredes Schulz

    Love to see nikon fans making fun of this camera, and how the canon boys get so mad. jajaja

  • kennyc

    6d actually comes with 2 extra focusing screen for free
    eg-d and eg-s
    i have a 5d mark 2 for 4 years and love it, the focus does not bother me as it spread across the frame quite well now i’m consider 6D for back up (for budget) or mark 3 and use mark 2 for back up,
    just have to wait for 6D to come out and test them.
    I really like the wifi feature, studio user will or even using outside,
    you can review image in big screen tablets for detail.
    control the setting, and fire the shutter from a distant.
    just hope the focus is fast as 7d and ISO close to mark 3
    cross our fingers.

  • Ofir

    “3 stops better than Mark II”…really?… :/ :|

    Even the Mark III is only 1/2-1 Stop better, but takes away details from ISO3200 and above (RAW of course, in video its even more obvious).

    But nice try.

  • Ofir

    HAHAHAHA “nailed it” with an 11-AF points camera…I think my laughter was heard even at a different continent.

  • Nicanonnicon

    If for you 97% viewfinder does not mean anything…if u want a full frame camera for portrait and landscape..u wont need to carry cumbersome gps accessories like the nikon boys this canon 6 d is cool for u.but u should consider the nikon d600 also though u will have to connect a fugly gps receiver to it and each time u put your dslr back in your bag ..u risk to break your camera becose of the gps connected to it.

  • nikonnicanon

    Not really the same since u have to add 80 usd at least for a is selling his gps for 312usd and add the wifi adapter 59 usd.same price? Ok with its 100% viewfinder,2 card slots and so many extra features we can forget these extra cost.anyway i still believe nikon d600 would be much better with a built-in gps while the canon 6d would have been a killer with a 100 % viewfinder and 9 cross type af points.

  • asuwad

    “stupid flash sync! It’s near impossible to use flash in the middle of the day without running apertures of 18, unless you use a ND filter.”

    use your lowest ISO setting (50) and set your flash to high speed 1/8000th..that is the solution to use the flash in the middle of the day

  • Jared Monkman

    that’s only if you have wireless transmitters that allow you to send that kind of a signal to a flash with that capability. Also, that is a poor way to cope, it sucks a lot of power

  • luke floyd

    I notice on ebay that the canon 24-105 kit lens can bring about five hundred more than the nikon 24-85 kit lens. if you take that $500.00 and apply to the 6d you could actually buy just the 6d camera in theory for $1399.00 with no nikon oil changes.