Choosing between full frame Canons…

The Canon EOS6D, EOS5D MkIII and the EOS1DX

The Canon EOS6D, EOS5D MkIII and the EOS1DX

A couple of years ago I wrote about how, as a working photographer, I make purchasing decisions. The formula is simple: assess the actual need against the purchase price and proceed accordingly. On that basis I own Canon full-frame digital SLRs (the cost of switching to another brand would be too high – even if I wanted to) and about ten Canon lenses. My last crop-frame DSLR was the EOS7D which was lovely to use but utterly useless to me above about 640 ISO and I shoot at 1000 to 2000 quite a bit these days. I’m always interested in new kit but rarely do I buy something just because I want it.

The chances are that all three of the cameras in the picture are nearing the end of their model lives. The rumours of an EOS5D MkIV and even an EOS1DX MkII (or whatever they choose to call it) are already swirling around the web and it cannot be long before the EOS6D gets an update either. That doesn’t make them bad cameras – far from it, they are all exceptional bits of kit.

I was asked the other day by a talented amateur photographer that I happened to be shooting a portrait of whether it was worth his while “going full-frame”. There’s never a right or wrong answer to questions like that: Are they rich enough to buy on a whim? Can they afford the new lenses that they might need? Will it improve their photography? All I can do is to say that I love the image quality that the larger area sensors undoubtedly give you in low light. Any of the three cameras above (and their Nikon equivalents) will happily operate at 3200 ISO which is about as far down the road to shooting in the dark as I tend to need to go and so I’m happy to work with any of them.

The EOS1DX is three times the price of the 6D without seeing much (if any) jump in image quality. Of course you get huge jumps in build quality, speed of operation and in the flexibility offered and it is those options and features that you need to assess to justify the extra cost. The weight and size differences are also considerable and in using and carrying them it becomes obvious after a few seconds that they are very different animals and that choosing which one to buy is all about ‘horses for courses’.

Sitting neatly between the 6D and the 1DX is the 5D MkIII. Small enough to be carried everywhere, built well enough for most jobs and with plenty of options too. The speed of operation is good without being blisteringly fast and the files that it produces are right up there with the very best. It is no surprise that the 5D MkIII is my favourite for the work that I do and has been for the last couple of years.

On top of all of that there is the ‘mis-matched camera syndrome’ that I and a lot of photographers suffer from. Put simply, working with two cameras as many of us do becomes a bit harder when the two cameras are not the same model. Not only are the controls and menus different when you are shooting but so are the memory card options and (most importantly) the batteries and chargers. It can be really infuriating if you are travelling and have to bring two or more different camera battery chargers as well as multiple types of memory cards. Luckily Canon only use Compact Flash (CF) and Secure Digital (SD) but that’s still more options than you might like.

If you are reading this Canon Inc (or Nikon for that matter) – can you do something about standardising chargers and maybe adopting charging and even file transfer over USB Type C as an option in your next releases? Standardising batteries across the range is probably a step too far but it might be a good idea if you can pull it off. How about making all cameras twin slot with CF and USB? How about making one of the CF slots on the 1DX replacement compatible with a quality CF to SD adapter? I’ve got lots of ideas and I’m available for consultancy (insert smiley icon here).

If your one of those disciplined souls who can ignore all new equipment rumours and announcements then you’ll have missed Canon’s upcoming EOS5DS and EOS5DSR – two 50+ Megapixel full-frame DSLRs which will have the pixel-peepers going nuts. The rest of us have looked at the specification and decided whether or not we are interested. I’m a ‘not-interested’ and will wait for the much-rumoured EOS5D MkIV to be announced later this year or early next. That doesn’t mean that I’ll just buy one – it means that I’ll think about it when I’ve actually seen one. The same goes for anything else that hits the market by the way.


  1. I have never used Canon before and am considering the new EOS5DSR. I have seen full-size sample images on Canon’s Japanese website and must say that I’m not impressed. If you don’t mind my asking, why are you in the “non-interested” camp? Another option I’m considering is the forthcoming 42MP camera from Sony but only on the assumption that the image-blur issues that plague the A7R have been resolved. Your thoughts however brief will be much appreciated.


    1. Too many megapixels for the kind of work that I do makes the new camera a lot less interesting than the rumoured 5D Mk4. I don’t like mirrorless because of the electronic viewfinder and so the choices are pretty limited for me.


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