So I’ve taken the plunge and switched from my Canon EOS 5D (mk1), and purchased a new Canon EOS 6D. This is not intended as a full technical review, think DP Review etc all have that covered, more, as a 5D owner how I ended up here, and what I think of it versus my old 5D.
I’ve also, in the interest of having a lightweight & discreet package to carry around, and probably influenced by all the X100 love going on, added an original Canon EF 35mm F/2 to the arsenal, which has suddenly become my favourite lens this past week.
Some reviewers mentioned the new 6D was more closer in size to the 60D, than the 5D, and as I rather liked the 5D size, I was worried the 6D may feel a bit on the small side. However, unlike handling the xxxD/xxD series back to back, the differences are just a few mm and hardly perceivable, you will notice the 5D has a ever so slightlly chunkier held grip back to back, shooting with just the 6D for the week, I never noticed it. The 5D also has that nice smooth magnesium chassis, the 6D as we knowhas a polycarbonate top plate (so the wifi & GPS can work), and the magnesium casing has a textured finish to match the plastic areas of the camera, however, non of it feels weak or unsubstantial. Definitely not that ‘plastic’ feel of the 400D I used to have. Also, whilst I don’t really take my cameras out in bad conditions, it is nice knowing the 6D has a better level of weather sealing equivalent to the old EOS1N, rather than the 5D mk1 which had non, for when you get caught out in a shower
One thing you do notice is the shutter, the 5D has a huge shutter slap, and the whole action sounds like a 35mm film advance, the 6D is a much quieter, kerflunk, and this is even before you enable the eerily quiet discreet quiet mode.
although I’m afraid the video makes them both sound about as loud as each other.
There are of course some other differences, there’s a few layout changes, a few extra specs (things have moved on in the 7 years between their releases), there’s that “SD” card only, and that restricted 1/4000th shutter speed (and the flash 1/180th sync)
To be honest, I’d have preferred the dual slots of the 5D3, I’d have preferred the 61 focus points of the 5D3, and that 1/8000th shutter speed. But, I’ve revamped a bit of my kit recently to save on the weight, I’ve ditched the grip (300g), swapped the 24-70 for the 24-105 (another 250g) and the 6D is another 180g lighter than the 5D3, it’s also 125g lighter than the 5D mk1. Where the 6D is also significantly lighter is on the wallet, with it being almost £1000 cheaper than the 5D3. When the price gap was closer at launch, it could have been a tougher decision, now they’re not, it’s become a no brainer. Remember of course this is coming from the view of an amateur, not a pro, so our key priorities differ.
What the Canon EOS 6D gains is both GPS & WiFi (another £900+ options on the 5D3), and a centre focus point sensitive to -3EV, all of which are superior to the 5D3. I contemplated the 5D2, but it shares much of its spec with the mk1, so whilst it added live view, it still shared some of the weaknesses, such as that 9 point AF system, and the older metering system.
The button changes are pretty logical and hardly noticed in use. Yes there’s some differences to get used to, but this is like getting a new (i)OS, things move, refined, it’s strange the first week but a few weeks in, they become second nature, unless you’re the type that keep shouting you still can’t use something six months later because it’s not WinXP/Nokia anymore… The relocated DoF preview button falls easier to hand, the menus are a lot more detailed & advanced, and the MyMenu allows quick access to a few favourites. Shooting all week, with mainly the 35mm F2 on the front, I did clip that 1/4000 limit a few times in bright conditions, shooting at F2 and ISO100, of course dropping to F4, or using an ND filter would sort this. I can of course see this gives a bigger issue to those that like big bad F1.2 glass wide open in bright conditions…, though you’d argue they’re the type most likely to have bought a 5D3 anyhow.
The rear screen of the 6D is noticeably bigger when looking side by side, I can’t say as I’ve noticed the difference when out in the field with it though.
So what did I notice on the Canon EOS 6D? The AF, only two more focus points than the 5D1/2, but, that centre focus point locks a lot more confidently than the 5D1 in low light, or, a lot more importantly for me, with the ten stop ND3.0 on the front. That, combined with live view, has just changed my ND3 workflow. With the 5D, this was often, compose (hugely difficult through the viewfinder with the ND on), find the hot shoe spirit level, attempt to focus, also difficult, so I’d often have to remove the ND3.0, focus, replace ND3, remember to cover the rear eyepiece, dig the mirror lockup setting in custom functions, shoot an ISO1600 wide open test shot, recompose, reset to ISO100, move because the tides coming in/going out, forget AF is turned off… The white balance on shots with the ND3 would then be utterly out, though this had the small bonus the shots stood out a mile in Lightroom. I’d end up with keepers ruined by fixing the alignment removing key elements from the shot, test shots at 1600 ISO getting the key moment, cocked up focus…
On the 6D, this becomes put on ND3, hit live view, press info so the horizon tool comes up, compose/align the shot, half press the shutter to lock focus, if it doesn’t get the centre point aligned on something to focus, change timer to two seconds. Shoot. This has sped up my long exposure workflow and keeper rate, at an instantly noticeable amount. This alone, in my book instantly impressed me, and has been worth the price of admission of the upgrade alone.
The Wifi is a useful tool too. Sounds a bit of a gimmick, but then we remember we’ve all been there, laying at some silly angle to see the viewfinder, taking shots then grabbing camera to see if we’ve nailed it, trying to get the camera back roughly where we had it, but 3º to the left…
So here’s the wifi in use, to the iPhone EOS app, live view of the rear screen to the phone, so you can position the camera, even when it’s in a position you can’t easily see the rear screen. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t perfect, you can’t change everything you want from the phone, but still, it’s better than not having it at all. The next great thing of course is you can then use the same app on the phone to view, and download a copy to your phone. So you can text/tweet/email your DSLR pictures from the middle of nowhere, assuming of course coverage.
A bit of a feature I’d been a bit of ‘meh’ about in reviews was “Auto ISO”, I can change ISO when I need too, it’s not that hard. I’m now in love with it. The 6D has such a useable ISO range, and you can configure the setting to allow as much, or as little of the range as you wish, and also have the manual ISO range to be completely different. I’ve got it set to 100-12,800, and left the minimum shutter speed to ‘auto’ (based on focal length) knowing that if you lift the camera to your eye to grab a shot, you won’t suddenly be caught out by a slow 1/2th sec ker-thump as you suddenly find yourself at ISO100 F8 in low light grabbing a one off shot…
The low light performance knocks that of the 5D into the proverbial cocked hat, there’s noise in those ISO12,800 shots, but I’d swear it’s cleaner than the 5D at ISO1600.
100% Crop of the ISO12,800 shot in the slideshow with no noise correction.
This shot above at ISO 2000, the original on the right, post processed with +1.5 exposure, +100 shadows, and no noise reduction. Click on it should open it up in a new window. All have been shot in raw, so there has been no in camera processing.
Another feature I like is the GPS, not really essential, but I like to geotag all my photos, the issue is before, really the only things that got tagged were those added to Flickr. You can of course geotag photos via Lightroom, but easier in bulk, than singularly trying to be accurate.
Turned on, the GPS remains active even when the camera it turned off, and will poll the satellites every x seconds/minutes, so can affect the battery life to the extent if not turned off your battery will be flat in a few days. I’ve added GPS (and wifi) to the quick menu, so GPS gets turned off at the end of any days shooting. You can also choose for it to take a GPS log too, so you can have the GPS track too.
I’ve just shot a heavy weeks holiday (1200 shots), and was seeing 400-550 shots per Hahnel battery, the Canon battery is in now, has done 400 odd shots and still has 40% capacity left. As the manual claims a possible 220 shots using live view, and 1090 shots using just the viewfinder, I’ve been using GPS, some live view, some test movies, Wifi, learning the menus, I’m pretty happy with those results.
*Addition – [This last week I’ve then shot a conference for the day job, 400 odd shots in a day, IS lens (24-105mm), no GPS but a bit of on/off wifi usage to grab some shots & tweet them on the corporate account. Magic. Then, off to Chatsworth a few days later for a full day at the Beyond Limits sculpture exhibition, GPS on all day, live view on a bit for some long exposures, small amount of wifi-phone, another 500 odd shots, over 50% shot with the IS lens again. Then a little shoot at home. Anyway, finally changed the battery today, it was reckoning on having 17% left but having being left for a few days, it now thinks 9%, but 1100 shots on that battery! Happy? I’m completely blown away by those results! Oh, and this is the 3rd party Hahnel again! ]
Other good bits, it’s nice to have a built in sensor cleaner again, the 5D was a bit of a dust bunny magnet, luckily the tools in Lightroom have got progressively better to save my sanity. Apparently it has more megapixels too, to be honest for my own needs the 12mp of the 5D has been ample, I’ve A2 prints on the wall and I’m very happy. The few extra mp of the 6D, in my mind just gives me a bit more post shot cropping opportunities. It also apparently can shoot video, I can take an OK picture, I’m crap at video, doubtful it’ll be a feature I’ll be using much. The boost to 4.5fps for sports over 3fps of the 5D1 is useful, but not something I use much, as often I still stick to single shot, and try and pick my moment.
Niggles. Well it’d be nice if that GPS turned off with the camera body (or configurable to) for those of us that do just use the switch at the start & end of the day. Also whilst the buttons on the 6D seem very configurable, there also quite limited at the same time, eg you can have depth of field preview set to the DoF button, or the viewfinder electronic level, but not both (and I see no reason why it couldn’t do both at the same time), and neither can be assigned to any other button. Absolutely non important petty little niggle, and I’m sure others with different needs would pick on something else.
Besides that 1/4000th cripple, there’s also that 1/180th flash sync cripple. I was half hoping as I like to dabble in strobism, that this might just be an artificial limit set by the electronics with an EX unit on the hot shoe, however with the RF-602 triggers, quickly learned it wasn’t. I also discovered in manual mode you can’t get to 1/180th, so shooting manual your sync speed is actually 1/160th
In a few shots at 1/160th I also got some shutter banding, but suspect this will be down to the cheap RF602 triggers or ageing batteries. I’d have a £1 on this not been seen by Pocket Wizards. Of course moaning about such matters, is a bit like buying a Prius and complaining it won’t do 0-60 in 5 seconds, I knew these limitations before purchase, but that trade off was in the price.
I’m very happy with the Canon EOS 6D, you can see a huge selection of shots from my first week with it on my Devon 2013 post. The price in the UK has now dropped to £1400, and currently there’s £150 cashback to sweeten the deal (which is what made me crack). On top of this Canon are bunging a copy of Lightroom & Photoshop Elements in, which near as damned it makes it £1000 for a brand new full frame camera (man maths in full swing there). Image quality is everything you’d expect of a 20mp full frame, that silent shutter is eerie, the high ISO performance is mind bogglingly good. Those combined with the new features, for me make the dD a worthwhile upgrade over the 5D mk1.