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Like the D600, that teenie-weenie price tag is the most compelling feature of all. On paper, the 6D's specs seem to lag behind Nikon's contender (resolution, autofocus, etc.). But if image quality is up to par, the so-called "entry-level" full-frame market could have its first rivalry.

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Box Photo

• Canon EOS 6D digital camera

• wall charger

• battery pack LP-E6

• neck strap

• USB cable

• A/V cable

• software and instruction manual CD-ROM

• Pocket Guide (English and Spanish)

• instruction manual (English and Spanish)

• warranty information

The 6D may be kitted with Canon's EF 24-105mm f/4.0L IS USM lens, which is a very high quality piece of glass that features optical image stabilization. The barrel features two switches on the left side, one for auto / manual focus, and one for stabilization. The zoom ring is a little thinner than we wanted, but both rings have smooth action, and there's a small window in between them that shows focus distance.

Canon's long-running EF mount is in use here, as expected, and it's compatible with EF lenses only, EF-S lenses will not work. The mount is all metal, and a lens release is easily accessed with the left hand.

Lens Mount Photo

The 6D's full-frame sensor is just as large as the image area on a 35mm frame of film, and due to the high manufacturing cost of such chips, here's where most of this camera's $2100 MSRP is put to use. Effective resolution is 20.2 megapixels, more than the 1D X but, importantly, less than the Nikon D600. A fact that is partly responsible for this camera's sharpness scores.

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Convergence areas of different sensor sizes compared

A bright, fixed pentaprism viewfinder resides at the peak of the rear panel, and it features both diopter adjustment and removable eye cups. All 11 focus points are represented as boxes on the focus screen, so that your subject isn't obscured. Each focus point lights up individually and precisely when a lock is achieved, in contrast to the generalized red light that Nikon SLRs use. Coverage is 97%.

An accurate 3.0-inch LCD resides on the rear panel, protected by an anti-reflective resin layer that's flush with the rest of the panel. Pixel count is 1,040,000 and frame coverage is approximately 100% according to Canon.

A cluster of connectivity ports is found underneath two rubber stoppers on the left side of the body. These include a remote control terminal, external microphone input, USB terminal with A/V output, and an HDMI output. There's also a hot shoe mount at the top of the body.

The 6D records data to SD, SDHC, or SDXC memory cards, and is compatible with Eye-Fi cards as well. Only one card slot is available, found underneath a locking door on the right side of the body.

Memory Photo

After some of the highest color accuracy and noise reduction results we've ever seen, it looked like the 6D would boast some of the best image quality on the entire market, regardless of its lower cost. Further encouragement came from our dynamic range and white balance scores, both of which were encouraging, however sharpness scores were far below the closest competition from Nikon, and brought the 6D's average back down to Earth. Still, we're highly impressed by the 6D's image quality overall.

We spent a lot of time with Canon's 24-70mm f/2.8L II, that's the kit lens from the 1D X, and while we allowed this excellent glass for sample photos, our resolution testing was limited to the 6D's kit: the 24-105mm f/4.0L IS. We also deactivated all of the 6D's numerous distortion compensation features, allowing us to test any genuine radial distortion or chromatic aberration produced by the lens. We also deactivated all sharpness enhancement, and shot in the "Faithful" picture style.

Sharpness was always best near f/9.0, as is often the case, while the widest apertures resulted in an acceptable drop in sharpness, but a drop nonetheless. Sharpness also usually tends to dip at very narrow apertures, and that's the case here as well. The difference between sharpness at f/9.0 and f/22.0 is around 35%, which actually isn't so bad. Strangely, the sharpest focal length is also the widest, 24mm, while 70mm and 105mm positions seem to challenge the glass equally. More on how we test sharpness.

The 6D's color representation takes after Canon's best camera: the 1D X. By comparing unprocessed JPEGS with the known values of an X-Rite ColorChecker, our test recorded an uncorrected delta-C color error of only 1.73, which is worse than the 1D X by only one-hundredth of a point. A typical professional body might return an error value in excess of 2.5 and still be considered excellent, but the 6D is far better than that. Color saturation was also perfect down to the tenth of a percent, which is a feat we almost never see. More on how we test color.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

This performance is far beyond any close competition, like Nikon's D600, or even tangential competition like Canon's own 5D Mark III, which costs $1000 more. We've included the 1D X in this comparison group for fun, yet it's the only camera that offers similar color accuracy to the 6D.

What we normally call Color Modes are represented by Picture Style settings on Canon cameras of this level. There are ten settings: Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, three custom settings, and Auto; the last of which will detect the scene and choose for you. Aside from tweaks to the color gamut, each Picture Style makes certain adjustments to sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color tone.

As you may have guessed, Faithful is the mode accurate Picture Style, though Neutral and Standard are also both acceptable. Faithful also makes no adjustments to sharpness or anything else, so we used this preset for the remainder of our testing.

High-end cameras can be hit or miss when it comes to white balance, but the 6D does a better job than most. Under both daylight and fluorescents, the automatic white balance algorithm will be perfectly adequate. Here we recorded color temperature errors of less than 150 Kelvin, and a manual white balance won't give you any advantage. Incandescent light is a different story, and you'll want to perform a manual white balance beforehand under such conditions. That's because the automatic system has trouble with incandescent (almost all cameras do), and returns average color temperature errors in excess of 1500 K. A custom white balance will bring that number back down to 100 K under incandescent light.

Since the 6D is capable of sky-high ISO sensitivities, maxing out at 102400, powerful noise reduction software will be essential for many shooters. Luckily, this camera's noise reduction capabilities are exceptional.

Even without noise reduction, simply the quality of the sensor is enough to prevent overall image noise from crossing 1.00% until ISO 3200. Yet with only the "Standard" level of noise reduction, this threshold is pushed off to ISO 25600. In fact, with enough noise reduction, even the extended ISO levels—51200 and 102400—can be smoothed down to 1.17% and 1.64% noise respectively. This unlocks borderline-printable photos even at maximum sensitivity, an amazing accomplishment. More on how we test noise.

Native ISO range is 100 to 25600, however this can be extended down to 50 and up to 102400 without any resolution penalty. Note Auto ISO will never choose a value below 100 or above 25600, regardless of whether or not you've unlocked extended settings.

The 6D offers fantastic dyanmic range through ISO 1600, but drops off sharply from there. From ISO 100 all the way to 1600, dynamic range begins at a whopping 8.55 stops, and only drops to a little over 7 stops. But at ISO 3200, D-range quickly falls off to 4.88 stops, then 2.98 stops at 6400, and so on. Our test only measures the range of what we call "usable" data (that's a signal to noise ratio of 10:1), so these figures may differ from scores recorded by other publications. More on how we test dynamic range.

Since the 6D's dynamic range performance is divided evenly between excellent and sub-par results, the numbers average out to an overall score that is competitive with the Nikon D600, in fact the 6D comes out on top by a narrow margin. A closer competitor is actually the 5D Mark III, which offers almost identical dynamic range performance.

Chromatic aberration is distributed rather evenly across various focal lengths and apertures, minus a few particularly impressive areas. Fringing is least severe at 70mm, the middle of the focal range, especially while using narrow apertures like f/9.0 and above. The widest focal length and aperture value together produce the most severe chromatic aberration.

With compensation turned off, radial distortion is very severe, maxing out at a whopping 4.17% barrel distortion at the widest focal length. The effect drops off at 70mm and 105mm, producing 1.96% and 1.92% pincushion distortion respectively.

At maximum resolution and compression quality, the 6D maxes out at 30 frames per second, and this causes quite a bit of trailing that detracts from the smoothness and realism of the footage. Aside from this, video clips are very attractive. We detected only the slightest bit of compression artifacting, and no frequency interference. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.

Under both average and dim lighting, the 6D and 24-105mm kit lens are slightly less sharp than the D600 kit. The 6D achieved approximately 625 lp/ph horizontally and 650 vertically under 3000 lux studio illumination. Note this results aren't immune to a bit of moire, which is visible in areas of fine repetitive detail. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.

When we took ambient lighting down to 60 lux, the 6D lost some sharpness, but not much. This time we recorded 600 lp/ph horizontally and 625 vertically, which is still impressive.

Like many high-end Canon SLRs, the 6D is also capable of shooting video in extremely low light. Our lab test measures the light level at which a camera is no longer able to gather 50 IRE of video image data, assuming maximum sensitivity and kit lens aperture. The 6D's sensor was able to maintain 50 IRE until we dimmed the lights all the way down to 2 lux. This is an amazing score, surpassed only by Canon's own 1D X.

We were immediately impressed by the 6D's menu interface and usability, which is remarkably simplified for a full-frame SLR, yet deep and detailed when the need arises. This is true even when compared to Canon's own full-frame offerings, like the 5D Mark III. The 6D is more flexible in the hands of an expert, but requires no such expertise to get started. Physically handling the camera is also very comfortable, and controls are laid out wisely, minus only a few questionable design choices and the lack of a detailed autofocus menu.

The 6D is remarkably beginner-friendly for a full-frame camera, which makes sense considering this model's potential audience of full-frame first-timers. A fully automatic green mode is available from the mode dial, and deep customization options exist for variables that are automated. For example, it's possible to define a minimum shutter speed for shutter priority, or specific a range of ISO sensitivities to use. It's even possible to let the camera automatically detect whether or not your subject is moving, and toggle the autofocus servo mode accordingly.

The 6D's control scheme is similar to other full-frame options from Canon, save for a few changes, some for the better and some...not. Again we're treated to a long diagonal thumb rest area on the rear panel, which provides easy access to nearby hot keys for AF-On, AE-L, and AF-point. The still/video mode switch is off to the left, surrounding the handy live view button. Below that, where the joystick would've been located on a 7D, we get an array of new buttons, including one to open up a quick menu, as well as playback and zoom keys.

At the bottom of the rear panel, the rotating dial has been redesigned to incorporate a separate directional pad inside the circular wheel. This will take some getting used to, and we wish the directional pad was a lot more robust, but it works as long as you aren't wearing gloves.

Fans of the Canon interface philosophy will love the 6D's menu system. The main menu is a horizontal tab-based system that's quick and easily navigated via the control wheel. Options are legible and detailed, without being confusing or unintuitive. The quick menu is equally useful, taking advantage of the dual-function rotating dial / directional pad for painless usage.

Coming directly from our D600 review was certainly a jarring transition. Nikon's interfaces are more difficult to use, but more expert-oriented and hands-on. For certain consumers, this could mark an advantage or a disadvantage. Personally, we tend to prefer the way Canon handles their menus, and for relatively new photographers, who might even be splurging on their first SLR, we think this interface is easier to digest.

The hefty 6D handles like a dream. On the front panel, we're treated to a large, rubberized hand grip that leaves plenty of surface area for the full length of fingers to latch onto. There's a deep indentation near the top, lending the middle finger some extra leverage. We only wish the main control wheel had been placed in front of the shutter release, rather than behind.

Handling Photo 1

The rear panel also leaves a nice large, rubberized area for the thumb, without compromising the control scheme. We spent most of our time shooting two-handed, so there's also some rubberization on the left panel to accommodate photographers like us.

Handling Photo 2

The 6D's control scheme is similar to other full-frame options from Canon, save for a few changes, some for the better and some...not. Again we're treated to a long diagonal thumb rest area on the rear panel, which provides easy access to nearby hot keys for AF-On, AE-L, and AF-point. The still/video mode switch is off to the left, surrounding the handy live view button. Below that, where the joystick would've been located on a 7D, we get an array of new buttons, including one to open up a quick menu, as well as playback and zoom keys.

At the bottom of the rear panel, the rotating dial has been redesigned to incorporate a separate directional pad inside the circular wheel. This will take some getting used to, and we wish the directional pad was a lot more robust, but it works as long as you aren't wearing gloves.

Buttons Photo 1

Remaining buttons are located either to the left of the viewfinder, or up above the secondary display, near the the shutter release. The former always require relocating your left hand the press them, however many of the keys near the shutter release can be reached for with the pointer finger. In this same area, we hate the location of the command wheel, which faces straight up, instead of forward on the right hand grip.

Buttons Photo 2

An accurate 3.0-inch LCD resides on the rear panel, protected by an anti-reflective resin layer that's flush with the rest of the panel. Pixel count is 1,040,000 and frame coverage is approximately 100% according to Canon.

A bright, fixed pentaprism viewfinder resides at the peak of the rear panel, and it features both diopter adjustment and removable eye cups. All 11 focus points are represented as boxes on the focus screen, so that your subject isn't obscured. Each focus point lights up individually and precisely when a lock is achieved, in contrast to the generalized red light that Nikon SLRs use. Coverage is 97%.

The full sized mode dial obviously includes all the typical "PASM" shooting modes, plus a fully automatic green mode, Creative Auto which offers slightly more control, Scene, Bulb, and two user-customizable modes.

Autofocus features and performance are on par with the previous generation of cameras in this segment, so the 6D seems to lag behind relevant competition (specifically the Nikon D600) here. Acquisition speed is faster than just about every contrast based system, however tracking a moving subject isn't responsive enough for the most demanding applications. We had a hard time tracking one very excited dog, for example, during our time with the camera, and we imagine sports or action photography will be challenging too.

Remember this is an 11-point autofocus system, in contrast to the D600's 39. Options and the interface have also been simplified, you may choose between using all 11 points, or pick one individually using a combination of the front and rear dials. Although some users will certainly begrudge the lack of advanced features here, the simplicity could be just right for a certain type of photographer, especially one relatively new to SLRs.

Five resolutions, most with two compression levels each are available for JPEG photography. RAW shooting may also configured to conserve space, by shooting at 20, 11, or 5 megapixels. JPEG and RAW settings may be configured independently but shot simultaneously, making this a totally flexible setting.

Canon claims the 6D is capable of 4.5 frames per second continuous shooting and that's close to the truth. We clocked the camera at a still-impressive 4.44 frames per second. Using the silent continuous mode, which suppresses shutter and mirror noise for wildlife photography, maximum speed is 2.99 frames per second.

Self-timer options are surprisingly lacking, especially for a Canon. Access is via the drive mode menu, and only simple 10 second or 2 second countdowns (with remote functionality) are available. Unlike the Nikon D600, a built-in interval timer does not exist.

Autofocus features and performance are on par with the previous generation of cameras in this segment, so the 6D seems to lag behind relevant competition (specifically the Nikon D600) here. Acquisition speed is faster than just about every contrast based system, however tracking a moving subject isn't responsive enough for the most demanding applications. We had a hard time tracking one very excited dog, for example, during our time with the camera, and we imagine sports or action photography will be challenging too.

Remember this is an 11-point autofocus system, in contrast to the D600's 39. Options and the interface have also been simplified, you may choose between using all 11 points, or pick one individually using a combination of the front and rear dials. Although some users will certainly begrudge the lack of advanced features here, the simplicity could be just right for a certain type of photographer, especially one relatively new to SLRs.

Some of the minor features found in competition like the D600 are omitted from the 6D, such as a built-in interval timer and updated autofocus features. The 6D does include some ancillary features like built-in WiFi and both built-in or external GPS functionality, however the value of such features are subjects of ongoing debate in our office. Video features are certainly impressive though, with full manual control of all variables. We also loved using continuous drive mode, which is slower than the D600, but faster than the 5D Mark II.

WiFi

The 6D features a built-in WiFi transceiver but, as usual, it's unclear why we'd want to use it instead of simply popping out the memory card. Activating the WiFi module also limits some of the camera's functions. Movie recording, for example, is disabled, and so is the USB device connection.

GPS

Aside from the the built-in GPS receiver, the 6D also supports external GPS connections via a terminal on the left side of the body. A menu setting exists to swap between the two, and while active the camera will "geotag" the EXIF data with latitude, longitude, elevation, and UTC information.

Video recording options are numerous and slightly unintuitive. Full 1920x1080 resolution is available, but only in 30p and cinematic 24p. 60p is also available, but it's necessary to step down to 1280x720. Compression settings are ALL-I or IPB, the former of which is the higher quality option. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

Video shooting controls are almost as deep as their still shooting counterparts. If you're willing to shoot in manual mode, all variables such as shutter, aperture, and ISO are all unlocked, all while a recording is in progress. Autofocus cannot be set to continuous servo while in video mode, however the AF-On button will command the contrast-detection system to acquire a lock at any time. Focus zone may also be changed on the fly. This level of flexibility still isn't something we see on every SLR, even at this level of the market, so we're happy to see it here.

The 6D features both a wind filter and attenuator, which may be enabled or disabled individually. Microphone recording level may be set manually, automatically, or disabled entirely. A microphone jack resides on the left side of the body, and two-channel level display is available while a recording is in progress.

Box Photo

• Canon EOS 6D digital camera

• wall charger

• battery pack LP-E6

• neck strap

• USB cable

• A/V cable

• software and instruction manual CD-ROM

• Pocket Guide (English and Spanish)

• instruction manual (English and Spanish)

• warranty information

Meet the tester

Christopher Snow

Christopher Snow

Managing Editor

@BlameSnow

Chris was born and raised less than ten miles from our editorial office, and even graduated from nearby Merrimack College. He came to Reviewed after covering the telecom industry, and has been moonlighting as a Boston area dining critic since 2008.

See all of Christopher Snow's reviews

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