I received my new Canon 6D December 7 from B&H. I ordered September 17th (announcement day) but Canon didn’t deliver the camera to dealers until about December 1, 2012. In fact Canon, as of this writing, has not delivered the battery grip to any retailer yet.
This is my first Full Frame DSLR and I have to admit I really love it. The body is priced at $2,100 so it is mostly a pro/semi-pro camera. While I love it, I have to admit it’s not perfect.
Being a full frame camera did require me to buy a new travel zoom lens as my previous cameras were all APS-C (smaller sensor size). My Tamron 18-270mm Dii, which is designed for use on an APS-C camera, vignettes badly on the 6D, so I got a Tamron 28-300mm Di which is designed for full frame cameras. I’ll discuss the new lens at another time.
So why was I so excited about the Canon 6D that I ordered it the day it was announced. There were actually 4 main reasons:
- Very high ISO capabilities (up to 102,400 ISO)
- Built in WiFi
- Built in GPS, and
- In Camera High Dynamic Range (HDR)
I’ll cover each of these in detail and cover a few other observations.
1/160 f5.6 ISO 12,800
High ISO – I remember only a few years ago when ISO 1600 was the fastest speed available. More recently 6,400 ISO was the top speed. So what’s the big deal. Using 6,400 ISO as a starting point, 102,400 ISO is 4 f-Stops more light or it will expose in 1/32 of the light. In plain English you can take a properly exposed photo in almost total darkness. The downside is that at ISO 102,400 the noise (think grain) is definitely noticeable. But I compared the noise to my other camera, a Canon T2i, and the noise on the 6D at ISO 56,200 is about the same as the T2i at 6,400. In my tests so far noise is manageable at ISO 12,800 or lower. Here are two examples shot at ISO12,800. Click on images to see detail in a much larger version (they don’t look sharp at this small size.) Use the back button on your browser to return to this site.
1/4 sec f8.0 ISO 12,800 – click on the photo for a bigger sharper view
WiFi – Remember I’m a tech guy so WiFi seems a natural evolution. I predict that within 2 years all DSLRs will have WiFi. Why do I think it is so important? Basically because WiFi tethered shooting (Canon calls it remote control) offers so much. I do a fair amount if studio style work and the ability to immediately see the picture on a large screen is really helpful. If I had a permanent studio, I’d have the camera WiFi hooked up with my computer and a secondary display on my computer that is 32-40″. This would allow the models/subjects see how things are going and make coaching a lot easier. From the computer you can control all the majors settings. Besides actually tripping the shutter from the computer there is an interval timer. So if you’re into time lapse photography this is your ticket.
The WiFi feature supports 6 different hook-ups including:
- Computer remote control (Windows and Mac)
- Phone and Tablet remote control (Android and iOS – but currently limited on an iPad)
- Web Services – you can upload to 1 of 4 services including Canon’s free iMage and Facebook
- Camera to Camera transfers (really?)
- Direct to WiFi printers (I never print without some post processing), and
- DLNA Streaming (think Media Player)
Personally I’ll never use the last 3 features.
GPS - The good news is it is built in and works as advertized. I’ve found it to be extremely accurate (about 10 ft). It can even tell when photos are taken in different parts of my house (which isn’t a mansion.) So what’s the bad news? If you enable GPS it is busy figuring your location EVEN when the camera is turned off. This is important because it depletes the camera battery even when the camera is turn off. I’ve found that GPS depletes the battery about 15% per day, with an update every 30 seconds, even if the camera is turned off and not used. I’ve set up update to 5 minutes and the battery drain appears to be about 8%/day. I don’t think I should have to remember to turn on my GPS. I don’t need to remember to turn on a function for any other meta-data and I’d like the GPS coordinates not to be an exception. Frankly, since it doesn’t really have anything to do with taking a picture I often forget to turn it on. Finally I was hoping that with the battery grip turned off, there would be no GPS battery drain… but GPS still flashes and drains the battery.
I’ve submitted to Canon suggestions to add some new Custom Functions to disable GPS when the camera is turned off. Since this is all software based, hopefully they will release a firmware update to optionally change how GPS operates.
HDR – High Dynamic Range. Well there are actually three somewhat related functions located under “SCN’ on the dial mode. All in one way or another deal with multiple exposures. IMPORTANT NOTE – ALL SCN functions only work with JPG images and settings. This is sort of a pain since I always shoot in RAW.
First HDR. In this mode the camera (which can be handheld) takes three shots in rapid succession varying the exposure. The camera then aligns the photos and makes a composite that takes the shadows from high exposure, the middle tones from the middle normally exposed image, and the highlights from the the low exposure. This is great for backlit scenes. There are advanced ways to do this in post processing if you remember to bracket multiple exposures, but the in camera operation works really well and it’s easy. One word of caution, for this to work well everything in the frame needs to be absolutely still. I took an HDR photo that looked out of focus, because the trees were swaying gently in the breeze.
Next is Handheld Night Scenes. In this SCN mode, 4 photos are quickly taken, aligned in the camera and combined to produce an image that is really very acceptable and no tripod is necessary even though it is a very low light shot.
The final SCN I’ll discuss is Night Portrait. This isn’t really a multiple exposure and requires a flash. The way it works is a long exposure is taken to expose the background, then at the end of the exposure while the shutter is still open, the flash is fired to light the foreground subject. So since the 6D doesn’t have a built in flash you’ll have to mount an external flash for to enable this mode. I think it is interesting that the camera will let you use this setting even without a flash mounted.
Other Observations – there are several other nice and not so nice things with this camera. The following is a list of what I have found in no particular order.
- Plus – The mode dial has a lock button. This is really great as everyone without a mode dial lock has accidentally changed the mode (P, Av, Tv, M, etc.) and ruined at least one shot.
- BIG Plus – Increased AF sensitivity. The AF ability seems to be based on the f Stop the camera displays in the viewfinder. In tests I’ve found that the outer AF points can focus in outdoor lighting beyond f8 meaning I can use my 2x extender outdoors with my f3.5-6.3 zoom lens through it’s entire range (with the doubler in place the REAL f Stop is f7.0 to f13… 2 f stops higher). The center point AF is more sensitive and works in lower light situations up to f5.6 as displayed in the viewfinder. I have had an issue with the doubler where the camera got confused and wouldn’t take a picture because it could not determine the AF mode. I had to remove the doubler, take a picture, then but the doubler back in place and all worked fine.
- Minus? – The On/Off switch is in a new location, located next to the Mode Dial. While this seems like a pretty good location, it takes 2 hands to raise the camera and turn it on.
- Plus – Auto ISO range is fully adjustable with a Minimum value and a Maximum Value when combined with a Minimum shutter speed and the very low noise image using Auto ISO really works. BTW – prior to this camera I’ve never thought auto ISO was worth using.
- Minus -The Depth of Field preview button is in a new location and difficult to reach.
- Minus – There is no button or selectable button to bring up Automatic Exposure compensation or bracketing.
- Plus/Minus – Camera Battery. The good news is that is appears to be very smart. It has a serial number so you can track its performance. The bad news is there seem to be problems using ANY of the generic batteries. I tried some and they would register in the camera (but the camera worked but showed the battery dead) but the big issue was they didn’t appear to charge.
While I’ve used the camera extensively for the last four weeks, I’m sure I’ll uncover a few more thing things that I like and dislike. As I do, I’ll update this post.