Nikon threw the photography world for a loop last week by announcing the D600 — a full-frame DSLR that hits a reasonably affordable price point. Apparently, Canon has its sights on the exact same market, as the company has just introduced the EOS 6D: the lightest, smallest, and least expensive full-frame DSLR the company has ever produced. Canon’s latest entry not only compares favorably with the D600, it also provides a compelling alternative to photographers who don’t have $3,500 to spare — but are nonetheless enamored with the 5D Mark III’s stacked spec sheet.
However, the 6D is far more than a repackaged 5D Mark III with some corners cut to achieve its $2,099 retail price — the camera is Canon’s first DSLR to contain integrated Wi-FI and GPS capabilities. This opens up a wide variety of features for users, including an EOS Remote app for iOS and Android that lets users remotely connect and control the 6D from their smartphone. It also allows users to view all the photos on the camera on their phone or tablet; full metadata is displayed and photos can be rated right on the device, as well. Of course, photos can be transmitted right from the camera to other devices.
As for the GPS, it geotags every photo taken on the 6D, includes a Coordinated Universal Time stamp, and lets users see a “photo trail” map that shows an exact route between all your shots. While Canon has offered Wi-Fi and GPS accessories before, having these features built-in should offer a much simpler experience.
As for its more standard features, the 6D comes with an all-new 20.2-megapixel full-frame sensor and is powered by the DIGIC 5+ processor, the same as that found in the 5D Mark III. While the sensor packs less pixels than that of Nikon’s D600, we’ll need to see sample images from both cameras before passing judgement on which is the superior option. The 6D also has an ISO range of 100 to a high of 25,600, with extended settings that go as low as ISO 50 and as high as ISO 102,400 — again matching the 5D Mark III and far surpassing that of the D600.
Another major upgrade is the 6D’s new autofocus system. While its 11 autofocus points and single cross-type sensor are far fewer than what’s in the 5D Mark III, Canon says that the autofocus sensor is the most sensitive sensor in low light the company has ever built. We’ll need to test this out before we can verify, but low-light shooters should appreciate the combo of high ISOs and improved autofocus sensitivity.
Of course, Canon had to make some changes to achieve the 6D’s significantly lower price point, and while none of them are deal-breakers, they might be enough to keep pushing pros to the more expensive 5D Mark III. From a physical standpoint, the 6D is indeed lighter and smaller than the 5D Mark III, but the outer body lacks the more expensive camera’s magnesium alloy construction. While it sounds like the camera is much sturdier and solidly built than Canon’s Rebel series, it’s not quite up to the same design standards as the 5D series — but the trade off is a camera that’s 10 percent lighter (770 grams, compared to the 860-gram 5D Mark III) and shaves size off of every dimension.
Other concessions include the optical viewfinder, which only offers 97 percent coverage, not the 100 percent seen in the 5D Mark III. The camera manages to shoot at a continuous 4.5fps rate, and saves files to a single SD card. That’s better than the 3.9fps for the 5D Mark II, but a good bit behind the 6fps pushed by the 5D Mark III. To go along with its smaller body, the 6D’s back LCD is a bit smaller as well — it’s a 3-inch display (with no touchscreen or swivel capabilities), but has the same 1.04 million-dot resolution as the Mark III’s screen.
Videographers in particular might have incentive to stick with Canon’s more expensive options — the company told us that the video quality should be more in line with the 5D Mark II than the 5D Mark III. We asked Canon to clarify whether this means that the 6D skips lines when downsampling video (which can lead to the unpleasant CMOS skew effect seen in lots of DSLR video), but we haven’t heard back yet. Unfortunately, the camera lacks the ever-important headphone jack that the company finally introduced on the Mark III earlier this year. Still, users can shoot 1080p video at 24, 25, and 30fps and shoot 720p video at 50 and 60fps.
Despite these few drawbacks, the 6D sounds like it’ll be an exceptionally compelling camera, particularly for photographers who’ve longed to shoot full-frame photos but not break the bank to do so. In many ways, the 6D feels much like what Canon’s 60D line has done for many years — provide advanced, enthusiast photographers who’ve outgrown the Rebel lineup with a fully-featured camera at a more reasonable price point than its top of the line models. With the $2,099 6D (body-only, $2,899 with the 24-105mm F/4 L lens), Canon’s finally bringing that philosophy to full-frame. Nikon will have a good head start on this segment (the D600 launches this week), but Canon fans will likely be able to wait until the 6D launches this December.