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5D Mk III vs 6D, Not A Case Of Which Is Better, But Of Which Is Better For You

By Anthony Thurston on February 19th 2014

One of the bigger questions that we get now that Canon has an entry level Full Frame DSLR, in the form of the Canon 6D, is if people should choose the 6D or the Canon 5D Mark III. On paper the 5D Mark III is “better” in many ways than the 6D, but the question that you need to ask yourself is not, which camera is better, but which camera is better for your needs.


Caleb Pike over at DSLR Video Shooter just released a new video on this exact topic, and shared his own reasons why he chose the Canon 6D over the Canon 5D Mk III. The video clearly states the biggest differences and similarities between the cameras and gives you the information that you need in order to make your decision.

[REWIND: DSLR WiFi Connectivity: Valuable Feature or Marketing Gimmick?]

One thing I need to correct from the video though, is the bit about RAW video not being available on the 6D via Magic Lantern. That is incorrect. You can get the RAW video recording on the 6D via Magic Lantern, it is just a bit more involved in getting it installed than on the 5D Mark III due to the fact that Magic Lantern on the 6D is still in alpha.

When I bought my 6D, I had to go through a similar process in deciding my camera, but in the end, the biggest factor to me was the price. I simply could not justify or afford the 5D Mark III and so the 6D was really my only option. That said – I could not be happier with the 6D and am very happy with my purchase.


So, now I have a question for those of you who have also had to make this choice. What did you choose? Did the Canon 5D Mark III or the Canon 6D better fit your needs?

For those of you still thinking about the purchase, has this video helped at all? Do you absolutely need that better AF or Moire filter? Or is $1500 or more in savings more important to you? Share your thoughts in a comment below to join the discussion.

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Lister Cruz

    Better to spend on glasses.  Get a basic level full frame body and invest in glass. A lot of people think that their camera is the most important part of their gear. This is not to say that better glass will make you take better pictures, it won’t. But what it will do is help you take the images that you want. Good glass provides sharp pictures and the tasks which body does can be changed during post-production (RAW file).  20- megapixel camera is more than enough. My choice is 6D  Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens  / EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Lens

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  2. Lister Cruz

    [Lister Cruz has deleted this comment]

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  3. Paul Wójtowicz

    You can purchase the 5d3 for about $2199 now. Check out canon price watch. The price gap is much smaller now which makes the decision a no brainer. Should pick the 5d3.

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  4. Kayode Olorunfemi

    Am still on the fence even though I should have paid for one yesterday. Each time am about to press buy, I make an argument for the other one. Right now I am 70% 5D mk3 as I shoot mostly video and want to move away from .h264 to ProRes using Ninja star (no clean HDMI out on 6D), on the other hand, at the price of the 6D I have more money for a few other things…. decision, decisions. I think ProRes will win in the end.

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    • Kayode Olorunfemi

      Yep ProRes won, been using the 5D for a few months now and just got my Ninja Blade which will shoot ProRes. Loving it…

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  5. tabakhi

    6D is the best reasonable Full-Frame !!!

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  6. DAVID

    I kept my 5D mkII and got a Sony a7R with an adaptor for the Canon lenses.

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  7. Tom

    Is the 5D3 overpriced? Yes. Is it better than the 6D? Yes. If you can afford/are willing to pay then buy the 5D3. ALL Canon product is overpriced!

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  8. Kurtz A.

    I owned the 6d and i paired it with 5d2. I am very happy with the 6d, i found the 5d3 is overrated and over price. Id rather have the quality lens and my 6d, the 6d really go with the L prime lenses.

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  9. Rick

    I just purchased a 6D; moving up from a T4i. For me, it was mostly about budget. But there were also some very key things I liked over the 5D MkIII: WiFi (I plan to do alot with the EOS remote app); smaller size; better sensitivity in central AF point.

    When looking at all the various cons of the 6D, most didn’t affect me. For example, I never shoot video on DSLRs (instead use a dedicated camcorder). So lack of headphone jack and moire issues wouldn’t ever apply.

    Back to budget. Coming from an EF-S kit lens, I needed to invest in EF glass. That in turn required investment in different sized filters (e.g. ND, CP), different secondary battery, etc. That really adds up as everyone knows.

    Finally, I viewed the 6D ultimately as being in a very good sweet spot for me in terms of its cost and capabilities. I plan to stick the majority of future budget into glass. I have no doubt that in say another 3 to 5 years, I’ll probably be moving to a new body. It will be exciting to see what the capabilities will come at that point. For now, the 6D will do everything I want to do now and also give me some decent room to grow.

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  10. Cdos

    I agonised between these two, having used a 7D for years.

    Went for the 5iii because it is so similar to the 7D in layout so use was intuitive when swapping between them.

    Oh, and the autofocus is sublime. I shoot a lot wide open at f1.4 and where the 7D requires manual focus on live view the 5iii nails it every time, especially using the multi way Central three points. Nature wise it is fast enough to track swallows in flight.

    The silent shutter mode is excellent too. I use it as my default.

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  11. Lars Elling Lunde

    Well, as I usually do when choosing the lesser of two evils, I just chose BOTH. I do tend to use my 5D MkIII for video and the 6D for stills, but not always. The 6D image is just as gorgeous as the 5’s in pretty much every set up I’ve run and they compliment each other incredibly well. I just shot 2nd unit material that went head to head with the 1st units RED Epic and C300 and the 6D & 5D MkIII held up very nicely so far in the edit. I’m looking at the 1D-C REALLY hard now…

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  12. Karen Julia

    It’s a shame the 5DIII is more expensive, but it’s definitely worth it for the AF alone. The 5DII AF was seriously questionable & I bet canon have lost many photographers due to that…

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  13. Dennis

    I owned both cameras, using the Mark III as my main wedding and portrait camera and the 6D for a backup. I just sold the 6D last week after being frustrated by the AF too many times, not just with portrait photography, but even with something as simple as doing real estate photography. Its AF is sufficiently (and embarrassingly) limited so that the camera wouldn’t “get out of my way” and just let me focus on photography and the subject matter. I knew that, for me, if pressed to use it as a main wedding camera, I would constantly be thinking about the camera and what shots I was going to miss (not a question of “if” I would miss, but a question of “how many” shots I would miss). I am emphatically happy to have sold it and the new owner is absolutely in love with it. So it worked out well.

    One response that I’ve seen from people when comparing the AF of the two cameras is that the 6D center point is actually “better” because of its rating to -3EV. One only has to spend time with both cameras to know that this rating does not translate into the center point being aggressively responsive, consistently accurate, and overall palpably robust like on the Mark III. There is no comparison. The AFs are worlds apart. One should also note that the Mark III has 5 dual cross-type points with lenses f/2.8 or brighter. The 6D … well … doesn’t. And you can definitely tell it doesn’t.

    I also have my Mark III set up to only have cross-type points selectable. This reduces the number of selectable points to a very manageable and helpful number while insuring that focus stays aggressive, consistent, and images are always sharp regardless of what point I choose. And during weddings I choose different points a lot!

    I understand that the 6D, like the 5DI and 5DII, will be producing amazing and award-winning photos in the right hands for years to come. It’s a good camera that Canon unapologetically handicapped. And I understand that the center point is actually an improvement on the previous 5D series. But the Mark III has set a benchmark for me in terms of what I expect from an AF system and the camera is therefore able to “get out of my way” when photographing.

    The price is, without a doubt, the biggest factor. As many praises as the 6D continues to get, I doubt it would win the purchasing battle on very many occasions if both cameras were priced the same.

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    • Cdos

      Completely agree.

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    • Candice Michelle

      this was one of thee MOST informative responses. Thank you, this  helped me immensely in trying to decide between the two.

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  14. Onzia

    Coming from the 60D, just starting out as a weddingfashion photographer not having the buck for the 5D I chose the 6D. I AM SUCH A HAPPY MAN! Don’t need the AF points & dual SD.

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  15. pv

    6d for the win. …. put the other money in glass plus I have a used 1dmkiii for speed so two Cameras for under the price of a 5d iiii … better option

    Now when will a price drop in the 1dx happen

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  16. joel

    I owned the 5d1 (loved it) and the 5d2 (liked it a lot) and when it was time to upgrade I had to make this decision. I had access to both the 6d and 5d3 through friends and while the 5d3 was clearly the better camera, so I played with their cameras a bit and asked them some questions.

    To me it came down to 2 issues…. AF and dual card slots… The 5d3 AF system was by far better and of course the 6d doesn’t have dual card slots. Were those things worth that dramatic price difference?

    Not for me… While the old 5d focus system occasionally frustrated me, it never stopped me from doing my job. Same with dual slots. I was fine with a single card slot on the older 5d models so I couldn’t pretend like that was suddenly a must have for me.

    I ended up picking up two 6d’s, one used and one new… I paid $2800 for the pair which was a couple hundred less than the price of the cheapest new 5d3’s at the time.

    The ISO is killer, AF has actually surprised me a bit, it’s notably better than the old 5d1/5d2, I actually use the wifi quite a bit and the affordability of SD cards are growing on me… I kind of miss the joy stick though.

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    • joel

      I need to proof read:

      **I owned the 5d1 (loved it) and the 5d2 (liked it a lot) and when it was time to upgrade I had to make this decision. I had access to both the 6d and 5d3 through friends so I played with their cameras a bit and asked them some questions.

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  17. Aaron

    I was fortunate enough to purchase 4 6Ds for my students in my filmmaking class. They are amazing. I was hoping to use the bulr in wifi so I could control the camera with an iPad or iPhone. I was sad to realize you can only take photos when connecting devices. Is there any way you can shoot video while controlling camera with iPhone or iPad. Or maybe even hooking it them up physically? Thoughts?

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  18. Caleb Pike

    Thanks for sharing my video Anthony.

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  19. Aaron

    I upgraded from a Canon Rebel XTi back in November. Back when I bought the XTi in 2007, I knew my next body would be full-frame, and made sure to buy only good EF lenses along the way. Fast forward to the present…I hadn’t even been aware of the 6D until my brother bought a 70D and I started looking again. The 6D’s price point is what initially attracted my attention, as it’s at a point that the average prosumer would actually consider it. As with the XTi, I only use the center AF point, mainly because of the low-light sensitivity and the fact that it’s the only cross-type in the camera. Personally, I think with only 11 AF points, they really should’ve made them all cross-type, but I digress.

    I weighed several factors between the 5D3 and the 6D: dual/single card slot, AF system, IQ, price, weight, etc. I currently don’t make money off of my photography, so I couldn’t justify the initial cost of the 5D3 and the 5D2 was technically inferior to the 6D for roughly the same cost used. I didn’t feel that dual card slots was necessary for me at the moment, and the video benefits of the 5D3 weren’t either as I didn’t see myself shooting much video. With the 6D, I can focus with the center AF point in light that is dimmer than allows me to see clearly in the viewfinder…good enough for me. Being able to shoot up to ISO 6400 with decent noise characteristics, and 12800 or 25600 in a pinch if I need it is amazing considering the XTi was useless over ISO 400. Also, coming from the Rebel-series, the weight and size of the 6D was a point in its favor. Now, if/when I do upgrade to a 5Dx camera, it won’t be as big of a jump. I don’t use the GPS often due to battery life impact, but when traveling, it is a very nice feature to have. As for built-in WiFi, I thought it would be a gimmick, but it’s proven useful. When out and about, if I want to post a picture online, I no longer have to pull out my iPhone to snap an inferior pic…I can just connect to the 6D and pull off a picture and post it. In the home-studio, I can tether wirelessly. If I was to complain about anything, it would be that going from a 1.6x crop to a FF camera, my lenes telephoto range was neutered. I recently bought a Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS and haven’t looked back. In fact, picking up the XTi now…it feels like a toy, and I don’t know how I never upgraded to a x0D body for ergonomics alone. Otherwise, no regrets on this purchase, I’ve been very pleased so far!

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  20. Jed Hall

    Bought the 5d almost entirely based on the redundancy of two memory cards. Cannot in any way afford for an sd card to fail on me during a wedding and risk losing thousands in income.

    $1500 more up front is worth way more than paying back $2500 for losing photos and hurting my business with negative word of mouth :)

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    • Kayode Olorunfemi

      I know that feeling, but I do video on 60D at the moment and an SD card has never failed on me. Having said that, I only use SanDisk extreme pro both for video and photography.

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  21. Glenn

    I chose the 6d and Canon EF 24-70 F/2.8L II over the 5d3 with EF 24-105 F/4L as they were both close the same price and for my shooting style I decided it was better for me with the better glass.
    AF on the 6d is quite good and I love to push the shadows in raw witl Lightroom 5.

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  22. Cody Edger

    I was a 60D shooter for about 2.5 years and I was ready for an upgrade. I had a really hard time deciding between the 70D, 6D, and 5Dmk3. Ultimately, I decided that I really wanted to go full frame, so 70D didn’t make the cut (even though it is a fantastic camera). Then of course the 6D and mk3 had to battle it out. Honestly, from the research I did, the cameras are VERY VERY VERY similar when it comes to image quality. Nit picky professionals are probably the only ones that would be able to notice the differences. So I went with the 6D. I’ve had it for almost 6 months and I absolutely love it. I highly recommend anyone, that wants to go full frame, and doesn’t have the extra 1500 bucks to spend on the 5Dmk3, to get a 6D. You won’t regret it!

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  23. Philipp Boulanov

    I went through a lot of this & in the end decided that the 5D would be a better purchase, the speed and rigidity of CF cards, the second slot (for eye-fi card), the standard controls for iso/wb/shutter/metering/etc near the lcd like all the previous camera’s I’ve used (30d & 50d) and the AF! That AF has made my life so much simpler, I think I wouldn’t be able to go back to single point. Keeping in mind; I shoot weddings, so focus, recompose & shoot is not a luxury I have.
    May pick up a 6d for second camera/travel in a few years.

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  24. E_PO

    I had to do that exact choice for concert photography and finally bought the 6D with a good lens and honestly, I don’t regret it ! :)

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  25. Zees

    I would wait for 6d upgrade. Need more focus points in it.

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  26. Gary

    I got my 6d for 1499$ in December new ! 400$ cheaper

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  27. Shaun

    I purchased the 6D. I refuse to pay Canon what they are asking for the 5DM3. Yes, it’s an incredible camera. Yes the focus options are better. Not really worth the price tag. And honestly, if Canon doesn’t innovate and come up with something new, my next camera will be another brand. Yes the wi-fi and GPS is cool. However, they are falling behind Sony, Olympus and Panasonic. An easy example, the M. Like someone I follow on Twitter said, “I love the camera, but it’s too bad Canon doesn’t.”

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    • Graham Marley

      See, I keep seeing this “innovate” complaint and I just don’t get it. How are the Oly’s and Panasonic cameras objectively “better” than the 5DIII? The jump from the 5DII to the III wasn’t about numbers, it was about real world performance, and in that sense it was a completely worthwhile upgrade. Aside from lagging in DR response, I’ve never worked with a camera that I have so much confidence in. If I’m upset about anything, it’s over how much of a dog the mkII was compared to the III. Canon also recently (relatively) released an absolutely killer lighting system in the 600EX. All the other companies are releasing interesting products, but I absolutely love Canon as a comprehensive platform and I don’t see anyone outside of Nikon offering tempting competition in that broader sense.

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    • joel

      While I respect you opinion, it seems a little short sighted to me. I use Canon because I love their lens selection and the way Canon renders colors. I could never switch systems based on who has the latest cool camera body… camera bodies come and go. Companies are always leap frogging in terms of camera bodies.

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    • Andy

      Seriously Shaun? If you believe that Canon are falling behind Sony, Olympus and Panasonic then you have been taking something illegal!! Canon has one competition and that is Nikon! They also have (like Nikon and the others) who have bought into a system and couldn’t change even if they wanted to. To say “I would choose another brand if Canon doesn’t innovate’ means one of two things. You have more money than sense and can afford a whole new set up or you have barely any kit and nothing to lose all because the grass looks greener on the other side.

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  28. Derek

    I’m a 7d shooter now, and I love the way the camera feels in my hand-it’s almost perfect ergonomically. I rented a 6d for a week-long series of shoots and it kind of drove me nuts to use it; maybe Mire time would have helped me get around the lack of joystick and the single function top plate buttons. The IQ of the 6D is great, and I could probably have worked around the simpler AF in time…but it just didn’t ever feel “right” the way my 7d and a 5d3 do in my hand when shooting.

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  29. Vincent

    Doing a bit of web search I found a couple of online stores selling the 5d iii for under $2k .does anyone have experience with these shops? Is this legit?


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    • Anthony Thurston

      Anyone advertising a new 5D Mark III for under $2000 is a scam, straight up. Only reason I can think of for selling a 5D Mark III that cheap is if it was used and in bad condition.

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  30. Lee

    My 6D underwent intensive snow and rain during the first few days of my 3 week trip, and survived, just bring along a towel to dry it when bringing it indoors.

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  31. Jorge

    One other factor that you failed to mention is the 5D’s weatherproofing. I believe it’s sealed against dust and moisture much better than the 6D.

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  32. James

    The key factor that stopped me upgrading to a 60d and instead holding out until I am financially secure enough to justify a 5d3 was sync speed. That 1/50th of a second is significant considering i shoot mainly lit action sport. I don’t know why the 60d has such a low sync speed, but it’s something I find essential, and really a needles area for the 60d to lack

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    • James

      *replace 60 with 6. It’s late…

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    • Peter

      If you’re shooting sports, you’re likely going to need faster than 1/250 sync speed if using a hotshoe mounted flash, so the discrepancy between 1/200 and 1/250 is a moot point: it’s not going to freeze sports action regardless. And if you’re shooting with strobes, can manual sync with PW units… But you say well lit, so why would you need the 1/250 sync?

      Then again, if you’re shooting with strobes/OCFs powerful enough and fast enough for faster than 1/250 sync, you’re likely able to drop down another $700 on the 5DM3 (some dude on eBay selling new ones for $2,600 today), so you wouldn’t be complaining regardless.

      Sometimes some comments just don’t make sense.

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  33. Lee

    Yes I understand there’s a muted option, but by default, it’s disabled, so have to remember to activate prior to any noise sensitive situation. Also the GPS on the 6D is good for travel photography to document and pin point the exact location, so one can revisit the images few years later and know where was the place the image was taken.

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  34. Léo Lachenal

    Hy ! I’m a French urban and sometimes fashion photographer that worked on Fuji S5. I wanted to upgrade to a full frame camera and hesitated between Canon 5DIII and D610 or D800. As I just couldn’t afford 5D and as my lenses were not good enough for D800 quality, I finally choose the Nikon D610.

    If I had seen this video before, I would have chosen the D6 that offers me Canon quality with a price that allow me to renew my lenses !

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  35. Silvia

    I picked 6D in the end mostly because of the price as well. I’d rather spend the money on a good lens, which I did and I am glad. :-)

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  36. Lee

    I cannot justify paying extra $1500 for additional 50 AF points which I only use the center AF point (since the 20D days) and will never use other points. Plus the shutter mechanism of the 5d3 is far noisier than the 6D

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    • Tyler Rippel

      Lee, the 5D3 has a great silent shutter drive mode as well (single and continuous silent options). For me the dual card slots was a bigger determining factor than he AF, but I definitely appreciate the AF system and feel a bit limited when I don’t have it available.

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  37. Tyler Rippel

    I own both. I couldn’t pass up the 5d3 for dual card slots and the autofocus tracking for action at weddings/events. The 6d ensures I have the same image quality and aesthetic from my 2nd shooter and/pr backup camera. I always encourage portrait photographers to consider the original 5D as well. It’s an absolute steal at used prices!

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