The body of the new camera doesn’t have any predecessors, being the first in its class, but we could say that it was built similarly to the concept of Nikon's D600 – the basic construction platform is almost completely taken from the middle class APS-C model, and in Canon's case, it is the EOS 60D (counterpart of Nikon D600 is the D7000). Of course, some things are improved, in order to justify the asking price. Let us look at how the new Canon 6D looks from the usual orthogonal projections:
It is clear that the basic goal of the design team was to reduce the overall size, and make a camera that won’t be too heavy, and won’t have a high production price, in order to keep the selling price as low as possible.
Therefore, the dimensions are conspicuously smaller than those of the next camera in the hierarchy (5D Mark III) and they are very similar to those of the aforementioned EOS 60D, and they are 145 x 111 x 72mm. Despite the larger sensor and the accompanying elements, the weight of 755g is literally identical to the one of the 60D, and such are the basic design lines. On the other hand, unlike the 60D, the new EOS 6D boasts a case that is mainly built from a combination of magnesium and aluminum alloy, and only the top part is made of plastic:
Magnesium-aluminum body of Canon EOS 6D, with a tinge of plastic*
Reasons for this stunt with materials should be searched in the saving of materials, weight, but more importantly – the GPS module, which is positioned to the right of the viewfinder prism, whose signal would be much weakened by a completely metal case, if not completely lost. Larger part of the body is covered with embossed rubber of hard texture and excellent grip, which is why Canon 6D will fit perfectly to one's hand, just as we were thrilled with the same characteristics of EOS 60D. For the same reason, working with heavier lenses that can be used without a tripod becomes a real pleasure, and the shape of the handgrip seems so comfortable and harmonious, without any surface that might bother you. And beside the fact that it is not on a par with prestigious models from the same company, EOS 6D boasts a trustworthy sturdiness, and the impression of robustness is intensified by the weather sealment, which enables you to use the camera even in bad weather conditions.
Schematic representation of sealing points and joints of the 6D*
(sealing points are marked red, and green represents additionally strengthened joints with reduced gaps)
The curtain is rated for 100,000 shots, which might be considered average, but it still lags behind the 150,000 shots provided by the curtain on Nikon's D600.
Like all other Canon DSLRs with a 35mm sensor (so called full frame; hereinafter – FF), Canon EOS 6D supports all EF objectives made to this day, with all functions they harness, while EF-S objectives, dedicated to APS-S bodies, are not supported. Metal thread, 1/4“ in diameter, designated for a tripod, is on the usual place, along the axis of the lens and center of the camera.
SENSOR, PROCESSOR, AND FEW MORE THINGS
Completely new sensor is one of the characteristics of the new Canon, although its resolution does not differ much from other models on the market. Due to these reasons (and some others, too), it has been criticized by the public for quite a long time, especially because the same principle was applied in the APS-C class, whose sensor, with less modifications, dates from 2009 and the EOS 7D model. A reminder, Nikon used to be severely criticized exactly for these reasons, because it was exploiting sensors of about 12MP in practically all classes and in several consecutive generations, until the current owners didn't start looking for other solutions. The situation changed in the meantime, Nikon made a drastic shift in business policy, we concluded that the sensors at the time of the EOS 60D were equal, and not long after that, Nikon took the initiative, consequences of which are still present, and in all segments of DSLRs.
But, let us go back to Canon 6D. It features a sensor from Canon's kitchen, built in CMOS technology, with a resolution of 20 MP (precisely 5472 x 3548), which is quite modest for current trends. As the sensor comes from a 35mm format family (dimension 36 x 24mm), crop doesn’t exist (more precisely – it is 1x), and the equivalent values of focal lengths are just those that are stated on them. This means that the field of view is just as it was planned to be during the design of the lens.
Completely new 20.2 MP Canon CMOS sensor*
ISO range featured by the 6D is not commonly seen on other models, it is found only on the EOS 5D Mark III model from Canon family. This gives it a level of exclusiveness, and it suggests extraordinary performance in the low-light segment. Basic ISO range goes from ISO 100 up to 25600, while the software extended values enable ISO 50 (L) as a lower value, and two values above the basic range – ISO 51200 (H1) and 102400 (H2). As the ISO range is drastically extended in comparison to the previously common values, it will be interesting to see the limits of the new sensor.
Electronic segment of the camera is taken from a higher-class model, the EOS 5D Mark III and is labeled Digic 5+. Its performance are far beyond the needs that Canon 6D can set, and it is important only to mention that it supports all current functions, including video recording, live-view, but also the HDR, basic processing and in-camera RAW conversion, algorithms for in-camera corrections of geometric and chromatic aberrations, etc.
Canon Digic 5+ processor*
Reduction of the dust from the sensor is entrusted to the technology Canon calls "EOS Cleaning System". The system includes a vibrating piezoelectric element, thus shaking off the dust from the low-pass filter, and it is placed in the chamber with the sensor, protected by a special antistatic coating, and grounded to the chassis of the camera, which reduces accumulation of static electricity, created by the charge of the sensor and friction of the mechanism of the shutter and the mirror. Unless customized otherwise, cleaning activates every time you turned the camera on/off. Additionally, you can activate it while you use the camera. The efficiency of the self-cleaning system is proven through years of presence in cameras of all classes, and a possible inability to remove certain particles can be compensated by using the software “cleaning” (Dust Delete Data) which can, combined with the dedicated software, help in removing the remaining dust, by mapping them on RAW shots.
Proven efficient – the EOS Cleaning System*
Canon 6D takes pride in a well-known, iFCL 63-zone dual-layer metering system that, according to Canon, except incident light, meters the color specter and at the same time analyzes information received from each of 11 AF points and gives brunt to the object in focus, independently from the selected AF focus operation, implied by the acronym iFCL (intelligent Focus, Colour and Luminance). 63 zones allow a more precise metering, acquiring the average luminance from significantly smaller individual areas, and due to the fact that digital sensors are especially sensitive to red hues, additional balance is reached by dual-layer metering, each layer being sensitive to different wave lengths of light. One layer is particularly focused on red-green specter, and the other one is focused on the blue-green. In this way, wrong metering is maximally avoided in situations when red hues prevail, which is a commonly known fallacy of digital sensors. There are four metering modes: Evaluative, uses all AF points and provides light received by sampling the entire scene; partial, that measures 8% of the central zone of the frame; Center-weighted average, that measures the average with accent on the central zone; and spot, that measures only 3.5% of the area in the center. Metering is, according to specifications, functional in range of 1 to 20EV.
iFCL, 63-zone light metering sensor* and schematic representation of metering zones
Evenly leveled camera is key to many, even with the possibility to fix the tilted photo in processing, and that will be done by the Electronic Level, Canon’s version of this useful function, with which the camera will assist the photographer. Canon EOS 6D took this function completely from the 60D, meaning that the 6D does not feature a dual accelerometer, and the electronic level lost the suffix "Dual-axis". Thus, horizon leveling assist function is available only in horizontal axis (independently from the camera’s orientation), and you will still need to guide yourself by the feeling for the azimuth. In practice, unless you insist on a perfect horizon in the middle of the frame (which is an unwanted composition even from artistic point of view), you will hardly miss the other axis. Inclination degree can be displayed on the main screen, separately or by using live-preview, in the viewfinder and on the control panel, for which a light meter scale is used, which signals the direction in which you need to incline the camera to bring it into balance. Maximum deflection in the viewfinder and on the control panel is up to 9° to both sides, in steps of 1° and only in horizontal orientation of the body, while in graphical preview on the main screen there are no limits, neither for the displayed deflection, nor for the orientation of the camera. A tiny remark goes for the indicator itself, because it is not clearly marked by a referential value, which requires time to get used to. A big remark goes for the technique of the work – when you press the button for activating the leveling, its stylized preview will remain in the viewfinder until you press the release button to the first position in order to focus, and then it disappears, until you reactivate it by pressing the dedicated button. Although it appears as a nonsense remark, the problem is the inability of the user to run an additional check of the leveling, before releasing the shutter. Here is an illustration of the leveling in action:
Electronic Level system in action – inside the viewfinder (left) and on the main display (right)
The auto focus system is completely new. At least that’s what Canon would like us to think. It is a conspicuously improved system in relation to the one we could see on the 5D or 5D Mark III, but it is, in fact an improvement that is simply not enough for today's conditions. True, it really beats the crowd in some aspects, but the majority won’t find this too important.
The AF system is based on the phase TTL sensor with 11 points, with only the center point being cross-type and sensitive to the minimum aperture of f/5.6, and at f/2.8 and more, it becomes twice as sensitive. The points are laid out in a shape of a rhomb, they take the most important part of the frame, but with coverage that requires reframing more often than one would want. Otherwise, this AF system holds a record in terms of working conditions, it works even at -3, and up to 18EV, which in practice means usability with minimal light.
AF sensor with 11 points one of which is cross-type*
Canon 6D features three autofocus operations, standard for Canon. One-Shot is a focus operation that performs focusing at a one time basis, without additional corrections; AI-Servo is a focus operation of continuous focusing, which follows the pre-selected target, as long as it is covered by the assigned AF point; AI-Focus is a combination of the previous two focus operations and it initially confirms the focus similarly to the One-Shot focus operation, and then automatically switches to continuous focus operation if the sensor registers a change of distance of the selected subject. One-Shot focus operation is available in combination with one point or with the help of automatics, when the camera itself, based on the internal algorithm, sets the target, based on the parameters such as its vicinity to the camera.
As one could say that the AF system got improved in relation to the first two series of the EOS 5D, Canon has implemented a couple of options to the Custom Functions section, and they concern the fine settings of the continuous (Al-Servo) focus operation. All are available through Custom Functions menu. Tracking sensitivity is an option that sets the frequency of metering the distance of the selected target on a scale of ±2 steps, in order to render corrections faster or slower, depending on the needs. For example, in cases when there are obstructive elements between the lens and the target, the autofocus can be instructed to keep the focal plane on a previously set distance, with slower reactions to sudden changes of distance. The closer the scale gets to the responsive side, the swifter the reactions, but, in these situations, the camera will also capture everything that comes into “sight”, between the lens and the selected target. The second option – Acceleration/Deceleration Tracking is used to control the focusing speed in tracking mode, and the third and the fourth options – AI-Servo 1st Image priority and 2nd Image priority, are used for defining the priority in tracking mode. The first determines what is more important while taking the first shot in burst mode, speed of focusing or accuracy, and the latter does the same for other shots in burst mode, from the second shot, and on. The AF can adjust to all of these options, with high precision, and drastically reduce the number of missed shots.
The 6D features the possibility of independent selection of different AF points, depending on the orientation of the camera. This means that the camera can remember one selected point in horizontal orientation, and a completely different one in vertical orientation. The AF-assist lamp does not exist, and as Canon 6D also doesn’t have a built-in flash, the only modality of additionally illuminating a scene, for a more precise focus, is to use an external flash and its IR lamp.
We are already used to the AF-Microadjustment option for fine calibration of the focus. On the new Canon, it features an expanded memory (settings for 40 lenses are stored now), and the settings can be configured in ±20 steps. The difference in relation to the previous solutions is that the calibration, just like on the EOS 5D Mark III, can be done for minimum and maximum focal lengths separately, in case you are using a zoom lens. Corrections in mid-range are in such a way done by approximation in relation to the predefined values at the ends of the range, which brings the accuracy to a completely new level and enables even greater number of successfully calibrated lenses in outstanding conditions! Amazing!
Bright optical viewfinder, designed in a form of a pentaprism that covers 97% of the display, with 0.71x magnification, visually very similar to the one we could see on the EOS 5D Mark III model. Unfortunately (or, for many - luckily), focusing screen doesn't feature a transparent LCD display, but the interchangeable focusing screens, just like the 5D Mark III. Eg-A II, the default focusing screen that comes with the camera, secures only the basic display of the metering zone, while you need to get one of the two additional tools. Eg-D is a focusing glass with an engraved grid for easier composing of the frame (AF points are understood), while the Eg-S is frosted glass, especially designed for manual focusing. The latter reduces illumination of the viewfinder, so it is not advisable to use it with the so called ”slow” lenses (lenses that let in less light). The focus points are shaped as large and clearly seen squares, and they flash bright red when confirming the focus, so that the focusing in bright light won't be much of a problem. The greatest distance from the eyepiece that allows you to see the whole frame is 21mm, which is particularly convenient for people with glasses. There is also a diopter adjustment wheel, with a range from -3.0 to +1.0. Here is a representation of the look through the viewfinder of the new camera, including the AF points, parameters, and frame coverage (edged in red):
A look through the optical viewfinder of the EOS 6D
Below the projection of the frame, the viewfinder displays most of the necessary parameters. From left to right, they are: warning symbol; battery status, exposure lock indicator (AE-Lock); flash activity indicator; flash power lock in E-TTL mode indicator (FE-Lock); “highspeed” flash mode indicator; flash compensation indicator; current exposure; aperture; light meter scale of ±3EV whose marker also signifies that red-eye effect reduction is ready, optical stabilization and leveling according to the horizon are activated; on the right hand side of the light meter scale is the Highlight-Tone-Priority indicator; current ISO value and buffer availability. All the way to the right is focus confirmation indicator. Information will simultaneously change with the change of focus operation or at certain settings, so that the set of information is even greater than the illustration shows.
CONTROLS AND OTHER DETAILS
As larger part of the design is taken from the 60D, controls are also similar to those of the mentioned APS-C camera. Their layout is very similar, but there are variations, and, if we can call them so – improvements. Although the ergonomics can hardly be completely objective, we will focus on some good, but also some bad details.
From the front, conspicuously dominant position takes the EF lens mount, marked with a red marker, which signifies the position of leveling with the EF (full-frame) lenses. Next to the mount is a big button for unlocking the lens, and above it, is the prism housing. Just below the name of the camera is a built-in microphone. DOF-Preview key is, as on the 60D, but also on all recent higher class Canon DSLRs, located on the left hand side (front view) of the lens mount, and its function can also be activating the electronic leveling in the viewfinder. This option comes with a nuisance that might get on your nerves. Namely, people in Canon think it is absolutely normal that, after activating the electronic leveling, it disappears from the viewfinder, as soon as you touch another button, especially the release button. This renders in almost unusable in all situations except when using a tripod. We are not sure what the reason is for this, but we are hoping that it will be fixed with the next firmware. Except the IR sensor on the handgrip, used for remote releasing by compatible remote controllers, the space between the handgrip and the lens mount is occupied by a lamp for reduction of the red-eye effect and signalizing delayed release.
A look from the top again discovers its role model – the 60D. Mode dial is placed on the left hand side of the prism and flash hot shoe. It contains a mechanical lever for locking the camera and a central button that must be pressed in order to turn the dial, and its purpose is to prevent accidental change of mode (?). We are surprised by this solution each time, and maybe we will get used to it someday. The dial itself has ten positions, three of which are used for automatic modes (Full Auto; Creative Auto and Scene modes), two of them are reserved for Custom (C1 and C2) programmable positions the user can define according to his needs, and the other five reprogrammable modes used for maximum control of the camera: Manual (M); Aperture Priority (Av); Shutter Priority (Tv);Programmed Auto and Bulb (B). Scene modes (SCN) are grouped on one position and contain seven different scene definitions: Portrait, Landscape, Close-up;Sports; Night Portrait; Handheld Night Scene and HDR Backlight Control.
Several commands occupy the space to the right of the flash hot shoe. Protruded on the top of the handgrip, lies the two-stage shutter release button. It is set to shoot at the second stage, while the first can be set to perform only metering, only focusing, or a combination of the two, which is default. Somewhat behind it is the rear control wheel. Its purpose is to control basic shooting parameters, and it changes depending on the selected focus operation or currently active function on the camera. There are five buttons in front of the LCD panel, and they are not combined, just as they weren’t on the EOS 60D, but each button is for only one function. This seemed to us as a bad solution, and after a longish period, we understood that we weren't wrong – it is still difficult to resist the impression that this stunt was made in order to widen the gap between higher and lower-end cameras, in this case, in relation to the EOS 5D Mark III. The problem that this solution bears is obvious – theoretically, it would even be good for one button to feature only one functions, but which are used in combination with the control wheel. From left to right, the first button (AF) activates the operation selection (focus operation and AF points). Drive is used for release mode selection, and there are six of them – Singe Shooting takes regular shots, one at a time; Continuous Shooting takes continuous shots, maximum speed of 4.5 fps; Slent Siingle Shooting is a silent version of the classic single shooting, which proved to be excellent and very quiet; Silent Continuous Shooting is a silenced version of continuous shooting with a speed lowered to 3 fps; Self-timer, i.e. delayed shooting, also available in two variants – with 10 or 2 seconds till the release. The third button is ISO button, whose purpose is self-explanatory, and right next to it is the metering mode selection button. Now that we mentioned ISO values, let’s mention the Auto-ISO function, or the possibility of automatic setting the ISO values in relation to the conditions and settings. Our remark on this issue goes to the defining the minimal speed, that is limited to relatively slow 2/250, which practically annuls the point of this option. The range in which the Auto-ISO function will function can be defined for minimum and maximum, in basic range, and that includes the values from ISO 50 to ISO 25600. Nevertheless, if you don't define the minimal exposure, the Auto values will suggest the camera to adjust to the unwritten rules of minimal speed that corresponds to the current focal length, in order to avoid shuddering. In this regard, the camera will set the exposure to 1/160 if the lens is set to 135mm, which is very useful. The last button in the row is used for temporarily illumination of the LCD panel.
The range of information of the LCD panel is solid, but not without deficiencies... The first and most conspicuous deficiency is the lack of White Balance indicator, which had to be its basic element, because it is practically not possible to determine that the WB is not appropriate, not until you take the photo and see it on the monitor, or check on the Quick Control Screen or through the system menu and find the option for setting the white balance. Instead, its spot is taken by, from the viewpoint of priorities, the completely insignificant HDR function! Inconceivable! We can only conclude that the priorities of the manufacturers do not always correspond to those of the users. The LCD panel, aside from the HDR, includes a mediocre list of information: autofocus operation; shutter speed; ISO; Highlight Tone Priority indicator; metering mode; Wi-Fi function status; GPS status; aperture and exposure; number of remaining shots on the currently used memory card; light meter scale of ±3 EV; bracketing function indicator; multi-exposure shooting and multi shot noise reduction. Aside from these, the information on the panel will change, depending on the used options or current focus points operation, so the display will include electronic level marker, battery status, buffer availability, countdown in delayed release mode or the selected autofocus operation.
The rear side is somewhat redesigned in relation to the EOS 60D. Some new solutions are applied, but some good ones are missing, too. First, we will mention that the 3-inch monitor and the viewfinder dominate the back of the camera, and on their left side are only two buttons – Menu, used for opening system menu, and Info, which activates Quick Control Screen and turns off the display if needed. Most of the buttons are located on the right hand side of the monitor and the viewfinder. Right next to the viewfinder and its dioptric adjustment knob is a circular switch for selecting between the video and photo mode. Its center is occupied by a button that activates Live View shooting (hereinafter, LV) while the camera is in photo mode, and it starts and stops video recording when the switch is set to video mode. The top right corner features a well-known set of three buttons. The first one (AF-On) performs focusing or some other activity in focusing and light metering field, depending on the settings, while the second locks the exposure or flash power, if flash is activated. All the way to the right is a button for choosing the AF point, which is a solution we didn’t expect on a camera in this class, regardless of the desire to make a distinction from the more expensive 5D Mark III. This is why you first need to press this button and then press Set button in the center of the wheel if you want to activate the central AF point. The cursor can be used for selecting peripheral points, while you need to look through the viewfinder and manually bring the marker into the central position in order to select the central point. It is absolutely intolerable that a camera like this shares control solutions with the cheapest Canon DSLRs! When you get used to it, the AF point selection process won’t be so tiresome. But, did it have to be like this? We don’t think it did! The last two buttons come with another needless stunt – instead for zooming in and zooming out images, both in LV and preview modes, only one button is designated for this function, and it is marked with a symbol of magnifying glass, which will magnify the image to the needed degree without a possibility to zoom it out. If you want to bring the image to the default size, you will need to press the button until the image goes back to normal. A strange and very annoying solution. A positive thing is that the button can be set so that just one click brings the image to a certain degree of magnification. We decided it to be 100% image, so we could periodically check the position of the focus on the shots. It is not bad, but only if you don’t have any previous experience with Canon DSLRs, and you don’t have what to regret for. "Ignorance is bliss”, someone once said... and was obviously right.
Somewhat below the magnification button is a button for switching to preview mode, and not far from it is a button marked with the letter “Q”. It activates interactive control of parameters on the LCD monitor (Quick Control Screen), when you can toggle between the parameters via cursors and control wheels. A bit below is the rear control wheel, and just like the front wheel, it controls basic parameters and options, depending on the current focus points operation. In the center of the control wheel is an eight-directional button we mentioned earlier, used for navigating through the system menu, previewing the shots, and selecting the AF points. Below it is a delete button, and on the right is the Lock switch for locking the function of the rear control wheel, if needed.
A huge remark for the ergonomic aspect of the new camera definitely goes to the lack of some buttons. For example, White Balance is a crucial parameter to many, and Canon didn't predict that users would sometimes have the need to correct it. Along with the problem on the LCD panel, this appears almost like some kind of conspiracy.
Memory card slot is located on the right hand side of the camera, protected by a plastic cover, strengthened with a spring. It is admirably sturdy and precisely built, so that there are no gaps between it and the body of the camera. As it was mentioned in the first part of the story about the body, the slot is not protected by any sealing material, which suggests a not so high degree of protection against bad weather conditions. On the rim of the grip, just above the memory card slot, is the LE diode that signals that the camera is busy during operations with the memory controller. In case of accidental opening of the cover of the memory card slot during writing, the LCD monitor will prompt the appropriate warning, and the process of recording will end.
Memory controller is, as opposed to the previous cameras in this class, instead of Compact Flash, compatible with SD cards, including all subsequent versions, like SDHC, SDXC, and UHS-l, and the newest Eye-Fi¬ technology is also supported, if you use an appropriate compatible device.
Secure Digital memory card slot
Speed requirements of the new camera are mediocre and determined by the capacity of the memory buffer in the first place. For comfortable work you should use at least series 10 card for photographs, and class 6 for video if you use IPB compression, or class 10 if you record in ALL-l compression. It is desirable to choose one of the UJC-l cards that have enough reserve of speed, in case the flow rate becomes critical. Average memory requirement is similar to the one we saw on Canon's sensors of 21 M, so Canon 6D will pack about 360 RAW files on a 8 GB memory card, 1250 JPEG or nearly 300 RAW+JPEG files, of course – of the highest quality. With the growth of noise, the files require more space, so you can expect up to 30% bigger files in bad weather conditions. Video is, of course, more demanding, and a 8 GB card will be enough for 20-27 minutes of video recording in maximum quality – 1080p @30fps (fullHD, 1920x1080), including sound.
Canon EOS 6D is another camera in a row that uses the LP-E6 "smart” battery, previously seen on nearly all, except DSLRs in Rebel (xxxD) class. The internal chip, boasted by the battery, is responsible for “smart” capabilities that enable the communication of the battery with the body. This allows a detailed monitoring of the battery status, as well as its lifespan. Based on this information you can precisely predict the period of discharging and time for replacement, when the battery drastically loses its capacity. Information about the batteries is kept in camera’s internal database, after registering each under a unique code.
LP-E6E charger with LP-E6 Li-Ion “smart” battery
Capacity of the battery is 190 mAh, and after charging which takes around two hours, the battery will provide energy enough for around 1000 shots, if we are to believe the specifications provided by CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Association) tests. In practice, when live-view is reduced to a minimum, and you don’t preview the photographs, you can expect up to 1350 shots with one charge, and that number is drastically lower is you use combined RAW+JPEG recording. Video recording is more demanding, not only because it requires the use of the monitor (because it is recorded in live-view mode), but also due to the fact that the recording process itself is not continuous, but implies permanently active live-view, even when you are not recording. This is why Canon gives a more realistic estimate that the battery will withstand around two hours, and the average in our tests was between 90 and 100 minutes of effective recording, which is acceptable, especially with the size of the sensor and the monitor that need separate power supply.
The connectors are located on the left side of the body, below the two-part rubber cover. There are four of them. On the left are the N3 connector for remote control and 3.5mm microphone stereo in jack, while a mini-USB and mini-HDMI terminals are n the right. Mini-USB is multifunctional. It is used for transferring files to a computer without a card reader, as an interface for controlling the camera from a computer via a dedicated EOS Utility application or as an A/V interface for sending signals from the camera to an external display, be it a monitor, a TV, or something else. These devices can be used for previewing the files in the camera or as a bigger monitor for live-view mode, with all positive and negative sides of the originals, except the image is much larger and in higher resolution. There is no need to emphasize that this type of work can be useful in controlled studio shooting. Mini-HDMI terminal has the same purpose, too, only its image is in digital form, which guarantees higher quality, but also some characteristics like HDMI-CEC compatibility, which enables you to control the camera in preview mode, via a remote control of some TV sets.
Connectors:N3 for remote control and stereo 3.5mm microphone in jack (left),
combined USB-A/V and miniHDMI (right)
For years a strong point of Canon DSLRs – the display, is on a high level on the newest camera, too. Unlike the model whose design it carries (EOS 60D, for those who didn't follow), Canon 6D doesn't feature a swivel display. The reason is probably the need to reduce the weight of the body, and if we disregard that, the rest is more than excellent! 3-inch diagonal and resolution of 1.040.000 pixels make it a perfect control tool for previewing the taken photos or video recordings. Of course, the display can never substitute a classic computer monitor, but it can be very helpful in determining the position of the focus, correct white balance, or exposure. At least approximately. And that is enough in most situations.
Unfortunately, the EOS 6D doesn’t feature an ambient light sensor, so you will need to reach for the option that customizes the display illumination in seven steps, if you are working in such conditions that the default value is not adequate. Aspect ratio of 3:2 will render the display 100% utilized, while previewing the files, as well as in LV mode, because 3:2 is also the ratio of the sides of the sensor.
Although Canon EOS 6D features a dedicated LCD panel, it also boast the Quick Control Screen, a possibility to use the main display as a kind of the LCD panel, with a larger set of information. Quick Control Screen is activated by pressing the “Q” button, located right below the rear control wheel. Aside from the layout, you can change the parameters interactively, by repeated pressing the same button, after which you navigate and choose them via cursors and SET button, as well as change the individual parameters.
Display of the basic parameters on the Quick Control Screen
The number of parameters that can be accessed in this way varies depending on the currently active focus operation, and the most of them are available in manual mode (M). Aside from the basic ones – exposure, aperture, and ISO values, there are also light meter scale of ±3 EV range, indicators for Highlight tone priority and Auto Lighting Optimizer option, shutter release mode, color style, selection of focus operation and currently active AF point, light metering mode, battery status indicator, artificial horizon, Wi-Fi function indicator, as well as shortcuts to options for setting shooting quality in the main menu. Options for setting the white balance and flash power compensation are also available, and this is the only way they can be accessed, if we leave out the rummaging through the menu.
As using the main display instead of the LCD panel requires more power, it is advisable to use it only when then there is a valid reason for it. Otherwise, the battery will drain faster than in regular conditions.
Live View mode, a basic element of the majority of today’s cameras, has been neglected for years in the DSLR world. One could say – completely justified, because such a way of use is more appropriate for easier cameras (read: compact), on which the DOF doesn’t play a major role, and this renders the possibility of inaccurate focus practically irrelevant. The exceptions were known in studio and controlled macro conditions, landscape photography and alike, and the rise of popularity of this way of use has soared after video recording became an option in the DSLR world. Thus, the live-view became an essential need, instead of mainly useless, but still desirable function that everybody "loves", and few really use. As live-view developed so much over the years that there is little to reproach, all that is left for us to do is to present the way it works, in case you haven’t used it on DSLRs.
Display simulation, as its main advantage, is improved to the level where there is no room for remarks. Everything is simulated, from scene illumination, white balance, aperture, and some parameters are permanently present, such as influence of the ISO values, color styles, and generally, all parameters that affect the result. The advantages offered by this mode are especially appreciated in studio conditions, because you can use your laptop for remote shutter release, when its large display serves as a gigantic version of the LV display.
Shutter release mode, along with the already standard ones, offers two modes of silent release. As the mirror in LV mode is already in the upper position, shutter release is spared of the sound of mirror folding, and only the curtain performs mechanical movement, and the sound is maximally silenced and close to the operation in "mirror lockup" mode. It is convenient in situations when you need a minimal level of vibrations or simply don’t want to bother or draw any attention.
The main lack of this mode is still the autofocus, though we are witnesses that some manufacturers, Olympus in the first place, efficiently solved almost all questions on the speed and precision. As the live-view doesn’t rely on the system, phase autofocus system, the technique of sharpening is reduced to contrast detection method (Contrast Detection Auto Focus; hereinafter CDAF), which performs its function by moving the focus plane until it reaches the sharpest transitions between neighboring contrast areas, without metering the distance of the selected object. This type of focusing stands for a very precise one, and its main defect is tardiness, due to the need of the algorithm to “move” the focus plane all the way through focus range, in order to perform sharpening. The speed of the CDAF focusing system because of that is far from something DSLR cameras can take pride in. The problem lies in the shallow depth of field, which is why the algorithm has more difficulty bringing the focus plane to the wanted distance. This is the reason why continuous focus is almost a mystery in the CDAF of the DSLR world, and the first baby steps belong to Nikon that ventures to implement continuous contrast focus in its D3100 and D7000 cameras. Except for the default focus points selection, which places the focus plane on a previously determined focus field, there is also the “face detection”, the algorithm with which the camera can recognize up to 35 faces in the frame and focus them automatically. Astonishment over that option on DSLR cameras will hardly ever stop, but it can be categorized as “keeping up with the market trends”.
Luckily, phase autofocus is still available and all defects of contrast focus can be eliminated by simply activating the classic AF, be it through the appropriate option in the menu, or simultaneously, while shooting. When the phase focus is used in combination with the LV mode, the procedure of focusing works similarly to classic shooting, with a difference that, by pressing the shutter button half-way, the mirror descends for a moment, the focus is brought to the desired position, and then the mirror goes back to its original position, and the LV mode returns to the main display. Although relatively noisy, this system offers significantly quicker focusing, but also brings a number of errors, because it is necessary to keep the selected point on the subject all the time during focusing.
When performance is not essential, the highest accuracy (in absolute terms) can be achieved by manual focus, which receives a completely new dimension in the LV mode – it is possible to magnify the image 5 and 10x, and move the focal plane for tens of millimeters. If the image is static, what more could you wish for:
Magnification in LV mode
LV can also display standard parameters in photo and video modes, and you can turn them off if you want:
Parameters in LV mode
Other tools are also available, such as grid pattern for easier framing. It is available in variants of standard 3x3, 6x4, but also a new 3x3 field with diagonal lines. There is the electronic level that can also be seen in the LV mode:
Grid pattern and display of electronic level in LV mode
Unfortunately, even with the presence of camera orientation sensor, the layout of parameters on the screen still does not follow the rotation of the camera into vertical position, which, though not a crucial fault, still casts a shadow to the complete impression. Especially when we know that, more or less all manufacturers have long since implemented this function into their cameras. Novelty is the possibility to select the format of photographs, by cropping from the selected 3:2 format resolution, and available formats are 16:9, 4:3, and 1:1. This option is primarily designed for JPEG format, but the information about the selected ratio is also saved in RAW, so the appropriate format will be kept in post-processing, if there is a need for it and if you use the accompanying software (Canon Digital Photo Professional).
Video recording, considered futureless in the DSLR world until only several years ago, today is practically on its own in this segment, and the improvements usually amount to trifles and correcting errors. With Canon 6D, the thing gets slightly different, because tiny improvements are no longer possible. All that could have been fixed without major actions has been done on the EOS 5D Mark III.
The basic characteristics are (in theory) more or less the same – aspect ratio of the video is 16:9 and it is available in two popular HD resolutions and one classic VGA. FullHD at 1920x1080 (i.e. 1080p) can be recorded at 24/25fps frame rate for PAL, or 30fps for NTSC standard, and the lower HD resolution at 1280x720 (720p) at 50fps for PAL, and 60fps for NTSC standard. 4:3 VGA (640x480) resolution can be record only at 25 or 30fps.
The recording is encoded real time in MPEG-2 (H.264) format and together with the uncompressed PCM sound at 16-bit and 44KHz, stored in a MOV container. The difference in relation to previous Canon models is in the way of compressing video files. Just like the 5D Mark III, the EOS 6D also features the option to choose between the IPB and ALL-I methods of compression. The IPB requires less space, because it performs stronger compression of several frames simultaneously. In this way it prolongs the maximum duration of an individual recording, at the expense of quality. If the ALL-I method of compression is used, compression is performed frame by frame, rendering a larger file, but also a higher quality, thus making processing easier.
As on other cameras, video is, regardless of the selected quality, limited to a maximum of 4GB each, due to the limit imposed by the FAT32 file system, used on memory controllers of today’s cameras. If this limit is reached during recording, the camera will stop recording, automatically creating a new file in sequence. Logically set limit is still the same, and that means 30 minutes of continuous recording. We would say – more than enough for a continuous recording. For the sake of information, reasons for this can be found in the regulations of EU, whose regulatory body considers devices that can record videos more than 30 minutes video equipment, to which different customs rates apply. Hence the limitation mentioned above.
Recording control is flexible and available in full auto or manual focus operation, with shutter speed between 1/30 and 1/4000. For less informed – the faster the shutter the visually smoother the video, and the most like the one rendered by a TV camera. As opposed to this, slower shutter (closer to the selected frame rate) yields blurred frames, which results in “softer” projection, closer to film shooting technique. Aperture can be set to any value limited by the lens, but it is not recommended to change it during recording, because of leaping shifts, characteristic for diaphragms of camera lenses. ISO value in video mode is limited to the basic range, which is logical, because additional illumination of each frame for a certain number of degrees would be almost impossible without a maximum involvement of processor, and the camera's battery. AutoISO mode is also available, but with a limitation that imposes the maximum value of ISO 12800.
Classic, phase focusing is available only when taking photographs, and you are “sentenced” to use the CDAF when recording video. Pretty sloppy performance of this way of sharpening (though it is better with the use of newer STM lenses, such as 40mm f/2.8 STM), will easily convince you that it is advisable to listen to the manufacturer and finish focusing prior to recording. Unless you decide to leave everything to chance, and perform sharpening manually, which is often seen with video of this class.
Audio is recorded at 44KHz with 16-bit depth, and it is written uncompressed in PCM format. Without additional equipment, sound recording can be turned off or left to the built-in microphone, whose output signal can be controlled manually or automatically. There is an option for filtering the noise produced by the wind, and it is intended exclusively for the built-in microphone. It is too sensitive in most situations, which is understandable due to its position inside the body. As unwanted sounds from the body cannot be eliminated, it is advised to obtain an appropriate external microphone for any serious recording, and the support is provided by the 3.5mm stereo in terminal. Condenser microphones that require additional power from the connectors are not supported, so you need to obtain the corresponding external equipment for them.
The rest of the possible settings include all predefined and subsequently defined color styles, white balance, vignette reduction for the lens in the internal base, and the Auto Lightning Optimizer and Highlight Priority options. Noise reduction in not supported during recording because it is too demanding for the processor, and you need to rely on post processing.
In preview mode, you can perform some basic operations on video files, such as basic trimming of the recorded video and recording it under a different name on the memory card, and leave the original intact. A nice possibility for instant processing without getting into too many details, that will be welcomed by beginners and all those in a need of instant results without turning on the dedicated software.
Even with the EOS 6D, Canon maintains the tradition that FF bodies should not feature a built-in (pop-up) flash. For this reason, prospective buyers of the camera will be forced to buy an appropriate flash if they need additional lightning. All E-TTL/E-TTL II compatible flash models are supported. The AF-assist on an external flash is performed by a special IR lamp, extremely powerful, at least in situations when the 6D will cause you problems (they are pretty rare if you are using central AF point). If the compensation is set on the flash itself, it has the priority over the in-camera settings, and this innovation is important because Canon hasn’t designed an individual button for setting the level of compensation.
The maximum flash sync speed is limited to only 1/180 which is, we must admit, highly incomprehensible! Flash is really not something that one should save on, and this limitation might repel some buyers with its uselessness in some situations, and some others more because of the principle than real need. Anyway, we think this is a completely useless stunt and it will bring more damage than one could imagine. Disregarding the fact that the sync speed is for the majority if users imaginative more than real, because the exposure of 1/180 can be selected only if the exposition and aperture in special settings of the camera (Custom Functions menu) are set to 1/2 values, instead to 1/3. In practice, this means that you won't get more than 1/160 with the 6D, which can simply be insufficient for some situations. In aperture priority mode, aperture can be set to 1/160, 1/180 or automatically determined. Flash exposure bracketing, multiple shots with predefined set of flash intensities, can be set for three shots in sequence, and there is also support for Multi flash, burst shooting with the selected intensity, at a certain frequency.
Canon 6D brings a system support for the new generation of Canon flashes and remote controllers, so it will cooperate with recently presented Speedlite 600EX-RT flash and ST-E3 RT Speedlite Transmitter, which can be used for compensating the lack of wireless flash control, available on the APS-C role model, EOS 60D. For this reason, if not some other, Canon should have integrated a pop-up flash. The solution might be to incorporate a dedicated radio module that would function just like the ST-E3 RT transmitter, which would secure “the new six” another advantage against the main competitor that boasts it thanks to the built-in flash, but without radio option. But, there's no use crying over something that simply does not exist, so we will focus on the features that are available.
Just like the 60D, a PC-Sync in not an option on the 6D, too. As this can be compensated with very inexpensive additional equipment, many will disregard it.
We used to dream about this function watching dedicated WFT (Wireless File Transmitter) grips that Canon offered with most of its cameras in middle and high class, but for prices far above the budget of interested users with the exception of those who quickly covered the initial investment by their professional engagement.. Today we are witnessing that the EOS 6D, which is not even in the high-end class of cameras, offers all this for a reasonable price!
And what is it really about? Wi-Fi function, shortly, secures the possibility of wireless connection between the camera and a compatible device. Canon 6D incorporates six different Wi-Fi connection modes, and it seems that we can hardly think of another application, which is not already on the list. Still, not to make everything so perfect, its realization is not flawless, and because it is the early fruit, we are prepared to turn a blind eye and forgive. The next iteration will hopefully be better!
Canon 6D supports all current types of wireless connections, be it via an Access Point, infrastructure configuration, or Ad-Hoc connection. Each setup can be saved separately, settings are not limited to one external device but you can adjust the connection to a variety of devices and se them when needed. As the settings require an extensive documentation, we will recommend you the original user manual, attached in the conclusion of this review. Let’s look at the things offered by the Wi-Fi module of the EOS 6D:
Transfer images between cameras – assuming that they are newer cameras (models from 2012 and newer) and not camcorders, if both feature a Wi-Fi module (Eye-Fi is not supported!), you can exchange the information in both directions, as long as you use JPEG shots. Yep, this is the flaw of the first option, limited to JPEG; RAW cannot be transferred. However, many will hardly find this option useful, but we don’t doubt that it can be used wisely. The need is the only question. Another limitation concerns the total amount of shots, so you can send a maximum of 50 shots, and the transfer is not performed in real time (during shooting) but you need to start a special procedure in the camera. On the other side, there is also a very useful option – a possibility of simultaneous resolution reduction prior to sending the file, in order to speed up the process.
Connect to smart phones – although many probably do not think about automatically sending the photos to social networks, it is a very different, and for the majority of potential users, probably the most interesting option in the Wi-Fi section of the camera. It is a possibility of exchanging and previewing the photos on smart phones, and more importantly – the possibility of a wireless control of the camera via a phone, and in a way that significantly surpasses the usual functionality offered by commercial remote controls. Namely, with the help of publicly available and free app for Android and Apple phones, a phone can serve as a multifunctional remote control, but also a wireless LV module. This means that the projection from the sensor is shown on the phone’s display, and you can control the camera almost as an internal camera of the phone! In practice, this means that you can control the aperture, ISO values and exposure, select the active AF point, focus and release the shutter, but also preview the photos. Unfortunately, video recording is not supported, and we don't know why. Anyway, it is a very flexible option that can raise the convenience of operating to a level, undreamed of until now. Still, not to make everything so perfect, we must mention that the official EOS Remote application, links are included above, is not too stabile, and besides that, some of the functions still seem as trial versions. We have no doubts that this will be sorted out soon, but we reckon everything should be improved and fixed before the product hits the market, even with a free application, as this is the case. Be this as it may, to enjoy this kind of conformism, you need to have at least Android 2.3.3 (Gingerbread) or Apple iOS 5.0 or newer. Tablets are not directly supported, so the functionality will vary from case to case. We also hope this will be improved in the future.
Printing from a Wi-Fi compatible printer – as the title implies, this option allows you to print directly of Wi-Fi printers, compatible with PicBridge standards, developed precisely for communication between a camera and a printer. All types of connections are supported, whether you connect the camera directly to a printer or via a network. The camera already features a variety of different options for adjusting the final appearance of the material prior to printing, and just like for all other connections, the camera can remember more profiles, for each device separately. A profile you set can be used later, until you change the parameters of the connection.
Remote control via the EOS Utility – well informed users know of Canons free EOS Utility application that can be used for controlling all compatible EOS cameras. Although this option was available earlier, it became useful only in 2007 when Canon introduced live view to its cameras. The usability is indisputable for all controlled operations from a tripod, and considering the fact that functionality was on an enviable level and allowed practically all operations except magnification that was done physically on the lens, Wi-Fi brings all this to an even higher level. Aside from controlling basic parameters such as aperture, ISO values, and exposure, it is possible to select the color style, choose the position of the focus, etc. Besides that, you can see photos directly on the computer’s monitor, which can be especially neat in situations that include operating with delicate lightning.
Upload to Web services – this is an option connected primarily with Canon Image Gateway. It is a web-service created a couple of years ago by Canon, and it is a public server for creating your own photo albums, where Canon users can create their own profiles, and upload up to 10 GB of photos and organize them as they like. Photographs can later be shared, organized thematically or chronologically. Each photograph or video can be shared publicly or protected with a password, and there is a support for comments by other users, just like on most other similar web-services. As you need only need to be in a possession of a qualified device, we think that many will use it as free storage space for their precious photos. The option in the Wi-Fi section of the EOS 6D will place this on yet a higher level, allowing the user to send files almost automatically. As this option is not connected exclusively with Canon service, you can send files to Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, as well as via email. Too bad the list is not extended to the most popular photo services, but there is no use complaining. This is a start, too.
View images on DLNA devices – if you own a DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) compatible device, media player, or TV with Wi-Fi option, you will be able to view the photos without connecting the camera using an A/V or HDMI cable. Operating it is almost identical, except that the LV mode is unavailable.
GPS function is not a novelty on cameras, but this is the first time it is integrated on a DSLR in this way. Except for the basic information on current location, altitude and satellite signal, which is available while GPS is active, there are also two significantly more important functions. The fist one is classic geotagging, i.e. recording precise coordinates in EXIF of each taken photo, and the other one is GPS-logger, an option of automatic logging of entire route of movement while GPS is active. Log file is not attached to the photographs, but stored in camera’s internal memory, separately. You can later transfer that file to memory card, and see the route on a detailed map (Map Utility) whose installation is provided on the accompanying disk. The logger received a remark. Namely, even with various options for detailed settings, such as the interval in which coordinates are stored, GPS will remain active even when the camera is turned off. Although this even sounds good, because you can track your movement even when you are not using the camera, it uses the battery without need and any warning. To make things even worse, there is no option for turning off GPS together with the camera, but you must turn off the logger manually. Of course, when you get used to it, it is no longer an issue, but until you do so, battery will discharge incredibly fast, even if the air temperature is not problematic. We had better not know how it looks in cold weather. Anyway, if there is a need for frequent logging the covered route, it is advisable to have at least two-three charged batteries.