Choosing between the Canon 6D, 5DM2 and 5DM3

Canon

When I moved up to full frame, from my Canon 7D, I had 3 choices. There is the Canon 5D Mark III, the older Mark II and the newest entry, the Canon 6D. I didn’t consider the Pro level 1D X. Between the three models, it was actually pretty easy to decide. The following are the things I considered.

Here were my requirements. I no longer needed a fast action, “sports” type camera. That is one of the reasons I’m getting rid of the 7D. I wanted great image quality, especially for low light, high ISO photography. As you know, I do a lot of urban night photography. I also wanted the smallest, and lightest possible camera with a full frame sensor that, of course, works with my Canon lenses.

ISO

I ruled out the older 5D Mark II pretty quickly. While its low light quality is better than the 7D, it doesn’t match the quality of the 5D Mark III or 6D. The focusing system is old too. Basically unchanged from the original 5D. Size wise, the camera was larger than my 7D.

The 5D Mark III is a solid upgrade from the previous model. The main improvement is the sophisticated focusing system which addresses the biggest deficiency of the older model. Low light image quality is improved as is the frames per second shooting speed. Canon also increased the price by a healthy $800 and even made the body slightly larger and heavier.

The Canon 6D is the newest and smallest full frame DSLR. It’s the lower priced offering that is meant to complete with the Nikon D600. Many people were disappointed with this camera since across the board, its feature set seems inferior to Nikon’s. I thought so too. The 11 point focusing system seems barely more capable than the 9 point system on the old 5D Mark II. The total megapixels reduced slightly to 20.

However, as I looked into the 6D, I noticed that it was actually a very nice package. It addressed my two most important considerations. First, it was noticeably smaller and lighter than the Canon 5D Mark III. If fact, it was even a tad smaller and lighter than my 7D. As of this writing, it is the smallest and lightest full frame DSLR from any company. This is a good thing. For a person used to the light weight mirrorless cameras, any weight reduction is welcome. Its high ISO image quality is fantastic and is even slightly better than the Mark III’s. And while the focus system is fairly basic, it has a special low light center point sensor. Canon claims that it is sensitive to negative 3EV which is the lowest of any of their DSLRs. Good low-light focusing is what I want over sports oriented multi-sensor systems anyway.

6D

I read in a review that the 6D was designed as a travel / landscape camera. In many ways that makes sense. Landscape cameras don’t need advanced focusing systems but a low light focusing ability would be welcome, especially in those pre-dawn hours. It’s also smaller and lighter which makes it easier for travel. Finally, it has built-in WiFi and GPS that’s great for tethered shooting and tracking one’s progress though the countryside or, in my case, the urban jungle.

Finally, there is about a $1500 difference between the Canon 6D and the 5D Mark III. A nice chunk of change, for sure. It also just happens to perfectly cover the cost of a Fujifilm X100S, if I someday succumb to its charms. While there’s a slew of minor differences between the two cameras, it boils down to this. Do you need or want to pay $1500 for a better / faster focusing system? If you plan to do fast action and sports, the answer is most probably yes. Get the 5D Mark III. For most other people, the 6D will be more than good enough. And you know, back over 3 years ago, before I got my 7D, I used a Canon 20D and Rebel XT for sports. My keeper rate was decent, especially for a non pro sports shooter — I’m taking weekend kids soccer, not the Olympics. Even the comparably simple 6D focusing system is going to be better than a mirrorless camera at fast action sports.

I’ll talk more about the Canon 6D, the camera I purchased (if I wasn’t clear enough), in future posts. Here are some photographs I shot with the Canon 6D.

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