Canon’s EOS 6D – pressed into service

With Photokina drawing the crowds in Germany and with both Canon and Nikon announcing important new DSLRs I have (typically) been having a good look at a camera that has been on the market for ages. I bought my EOS 6D for a very specific reason; the ability to use it as a remote and control it from my smart phone. It performed that task rather well and I will definitely be making use of that function again but I also wanted to blog about what it’s like as a daily working camera.

Canon's small, light full frame DSLR. ©Neil Turner, September 2014.

Canon’s small, light full frame DSLR. ©Neil Turner, September 2014.

I was at another major show last week – The Southampton International Boat Show to be precise and I wanted to carry as little gear around with me as I could. Most of the work was going to be shot using EOS 5D MkIII cameras which have become my favourites (although they are far from perfect) for day-to-day jobs but I had a problem with one of them and decided to use the 6D as my second body once it had performed it’s (not able to post the pictures here) remote task. I had quite a bit of confidence in the camera having used a borrowed one when it was first launched and so I stuck a 16-35mm f2.8L lens on it and away I went.

Press day at the Boat Show is a mixture of dull press events, glitzy celebrity appearances and the search for different and interesting pictures that nobody else has. I found myself drawn to the official opening despite there being over a dozen other photographers there. To get something different I managed to get on board the tall ship Phoenix to see if I could shoot a different angle to everyone else. It wasn’t much of a gamble as the value of having the same picture as everyone else was pretty low on this job for me and I managed to get this nice frame of a couple of the invited children at the helm of the moored ship.

The sons of the late Olympian Andrew

The sons of the late Olympian Andrew “Bart” Simpson at the helm of the tall ship PHOENIX alongside Europe’s largest temporary marina. ©Neil Turner, September 2014.

Anyway, back to the EOS 6D. It is a tiny bit smaller than the 5D MkIII and it is a tiny bit lighter. It has fewer buttons and fewer megapixels (20 for the 6D and 22 for the 5D MkIII) and it only has a single SD card slot compared to the CF + SD combination on the 5D MkIII. It doesn’t have the same amazing auto focus and it isn’t as well built as the 5D MkIII either but, and it is a big but, it is really nice to use. It fits in your hands well and the controls are easy to use even with the camera to your eye – ergonomically speaking it ticks a lot of the boxes for me. I haven’t used it with a big lens attached yet and I suspect that with something like a 70-200 f2.8L IS it might feel a little unbalanced without a battery grip but with the 16-35 and with a range of primes including the 135mm f2L it feels great without a grip (I’m not a grip fan). The shutter sound is OK and the ‘quiet’ option is also pretty good.

I have written a lot about processing RAW files from various cameras recently and I found the 6D files to be remarkably similar to the 5D MkIII ones and that is a big plus for me.

As always there are a few things that I’d like to see changed on. Canon have this amazing knack of producing “almost perfect” cameras and the 6D is no different here. In no particular order:

  • I’d like them to add the ability to add custom file names in camera in the same way that you can in the 5D MkIII and the 1DX – surely this could be done as part of a firmware update?
  • All Canon cameras need to have the ability to lock the diopter adjustment on the eyepiece. Having to put bits of gaffer tape on every camera is getting boring.
  • I know that the camera already has built-in wifi but better Eye-Fi integration and the option to assign a button (the Q button?) to “protect” an image for transmission would be great.
  • Twin card slots on a MkII would be far better than the single slot that this version has. 2x SD would be fine.
  • Similarly, USB2 on a camera of this generation is poor.

I don’t shoot a lot of on-camera flash and I was caught out on this job where I only had a single 580exII with me. With not much time to work I found that the flash exposure with an older lens wasn’t great. It works well with the newer lenses and flash but the technology has left a couple of my older (but still great) L series lenses behind.

There was photocall with a couple of celebrities (Eddie Jordan and Claudia Winkleman) on the Sunseeker luxury yacht stand and I managed to steal the former Formula 1 team boss onto the bridge of a £3.8 million boat for a quick shot. I had to flash it and the head linings of the boat made a low but useable place to bounce from. Sadly my “exclusive” was ruined when a local agency photographer jumped in and did much the same shot. You win some and you lose some!

Former F1 boss Eddie Jordan on the bridge of a £3.8 million Sunseeker. ©Neil Turner, September 2014.

Former F1 team boss Eddie Jordan on the bridge of a £3.8 million Sunseeker. ©Neil Turner, September 2014.

So what about the 6D’s performance as a working camera then? It is good without being brilliant. Lovely to use but not perfect. I could have written the same summary of just about any camera I have ever used but for anyone needing a full-frame Canon body on a tight budget it really does represent a great buy. It will get used again soon and I will add anything that crops up. Anyone want to lend me a 7D MkII for a day?

11 comments

  1. Hi Neil, interesting read but I’m curious what the problem was with the 5D MKIII? Is it an issue others should be mindful of? I have a 5d MKIII which is miles better than the MKII, but my backup is still a MKI! Actually, I still love the files from the MKI, it’s just not as nippy as the MKIII.

    Anyway, I hope you can respond here or email me.

    PS I covered the Southampton boat show many years ago when it was still a bit fledgling and rough and ready. It sounds like they’ve upped their game a bit!

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    1. The problem with the 5D MkIIIs is a small one. The multi-controller buttons keep popping off. Normally you just grovel around the floor, find them and snap them back on (although the rubber seal doesn’t always go back properly) but this one was lost and it is hard to control the camera with the tiny stalk of the button. I think that others have had the same experience and certainly Fixation know all about it.

      I still have a MkII as well and still like the smooth files you get from it but mine is well over five years old and I get some odd WB shifts from time to time.

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      1. Wow, I’ll keep an eye on that! And in case you mis-read, my backup is the original 5D, not the MKII (which I sold because I prefer the original to the MKII). To be fair to Canon, if there is a “known issue” they’ll repair for free. They’ve done two such repairs on my 5D, each several years after the warranty expired. One was when the coating on the high-pass filter started to flake off, the second when the reflex mirror detached from the hinge mechanism. Each time they sorted the repairs foc.

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    1. No Grant, I haven’t used one enough. When I tried it I found it far too big for my small hands. I had 1 series cameras right up until the 1D MkII but the MkIII got a little bit bulkier and the 5D MkII came on the market and I loved that.

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      1. Ok i went for 2 i tried the 5Dmk3 i did love that too but there was just something i missed about the 1D. Some how the 5D just didn’t cut it for me, probably snob value. However 1Dx drawback 2 CF cards rather use SD.

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