Canon 6D Full-Frame SLR Review

Full-frame SLR cameras are generally pretty expensive, especially the latest models. So getting into the full-frame SLR game on the cheap means you have do two things: 1) buy older models, 2) buy used. Buying a used Canon 6D, which was released in 2012, satisfies both criteria. And it’s still got a lot of modern features photographers have come to expect, such as WiFi and GPS. Image quality is exceptional and ISO noise is amazingly clean, even at very high speeds. 

Canon 6D Quick SpecsCanon 6D

  • Resolution: 20.2 Megapixels
  • Sensor size: 35mm (35.8mm x 23.9mm)
  • Viewfinder: Optical + LCD
  • ISO Range: 100 – 25,600 (extended: 50 – 102,400)
  • Shutter Speeds: 1/4000 – 30 seconds
  • Size: 5.7 ” x  4.4″ x  2.8″ (145mm x 111mm x 71 mm)
  • Weight: 1.68 lb (760g) – Body only with battery

Camera Overview

The  Canon 6D is basically a less expensive full-frame SLR for what Canon calls “prosumer” photographers. Think of it as a smaller, lighter, cheaper 5D MkIII, but not as over-built and with a far more basic autofocus system. In fact, DxOmark.com ranks the 6D slightly higher than 5d MkIII in overall score.

The Good Stuff

The main draw is that it is a full-frame SLR at a lower price point (especially used). It’s got a relatively high-resolution sensor (20.2 MP), which provides plenty of pixels for post-processing and cropping. The general consensus is that the image quality is excellent, and I concur.

Another standout quality of the 6D is its low-light / high-ISO performance. At the time it debuted, it had better high-ISO noise characteristics than any other Canon SLR to date, full-frame or otherwise). I’ve had excellent results all the way up to ISO 6400 and beyond. From about ISO 2400 and down to 1200, it’s very clean but my need minor noise tweaks in Lightroom or Photoshop. Anything below that almost never needs noise reduction correction in post-processing. These are my experiences, but other owners and reviewers have reported similar findings. This is critical to me, as I prefer to shoot mostly with available light.

Video quality is excellent. Although it tops at 1080p, there  are a range of size and framerate options.  It offers two compression options (ALL-I and IPB).  The audio recording level can be set manually, and there is a visual bar chart showing the strength of audio input.

There are other nice features as well, such as: WiFi control via smartphone app, geotagging via built-in GPS receiver, shooting speed of about 4.5 FPS, weather sealing, and a robust buffer to keep things from slowing down when shooting lots of images quickly.

Some ShortcomingsCanon 6D

Compared to many other cameras, the autofocus system is very simplistic. There is only one cross-type focusing point, and it’s the one right in the middle of the viewfinder. Even entry-level SLRs have at least 3 or 5 cross-type points, and snazzier bodies will have a dozen or more. This means that the 6D isn’t the fastest focusing body out there, and it doesn’t track moving subject as well as other cameras with a more advanced AF system. But still, the one center cross-type AF point is fast to focus and accurate, and I use it 95% of the time.

The 6D has a non-articulating screen. This means it’s the regular-old flat kind built into the camera body and it doesn’t move or swing out. For me, this is not a problem about 75% of the time, but there are other times when it would be nice or make a shot much easier to get.  Also, there is no touch-screen capability at all.

The Verdict

I believe that, as of the time of this writing, the Canon 6D is the absolute best value full-frame SLR in Canon’s entire lineup. It performance amazingly well and delivers a nice suite of features. You can expect to get a used 6D body online for around $950 USD, maybe a little less for a local sale. That’s a lot of money to most of us, but it’s also a whole lot of camera. There are other cheaper and older full-frame SLR Canon bodies available, but they do not compare with the 6D in terms of image quality and ISO performance.

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