So, we finally have two affordable full-frame cameras from Canon and Nikon. A little over three years after Sony brought out their $1999 A850 beginner full-frame DSLR with a 24 megapixel FF sensor, Canon’s 6D is 20 megapixels and $2100, and Nikon’s D600 is 24 megapixels and also $2100.
Sound a little boring or under-whelming? I’m talking especially to the super-geeks out there who already own (or are considering) a 5D mk2, 5D mk3 or D800 / D700… Yep, the rest of the internet seems to agree after a few days of discussion, analysis, and rage in some cases. (BTW, the D600 is already shipping!)
I thought I would take a deeper look at the exact specifications of the new 6D, and consider what all these cameras’ target market could possibly be. Because really, what are Canon and Nikon thinking?
First, the Canon 6D:
Body only: $2099
With the 24-105 f/4 L IS: $2899
* All-new 20 megapixel sensor
(On the one hand, who cares about megapixels, but on the other hand, Canon is almost “falling behind”. The bottom line of course will be the actual image quality. Few people will care about the megapixels if the dynamic range and ISO Performance are some sort of incredible leap forward!)
* All-new 11-point AF system
(While many people are quickly judging this new AF system, and calling it inferior to the Canon 7D‘s AF, I’m not going to pass any judgment until I’ve heard some real-world feedback. Yes, it has “only” 11 points and just one cross-type point, however I think Canon has learned their lesson with crappy autofocus by now, and they’re not going to make the same mistake they made with the 5D / 5D mk2. I’m betting that this new AF system will at least have a killer center AF point, and the off-center points will be totally usable for most types of photography. (Maybe not for shooting a caffeinated model’s eyelashes at f/1.2, though…)
* ISO 10o-25600, with expansion to ISO 50 and 51200 / 102400
(This sounds promising, considering that it natively goes three stops higher than the 5D mk2, and two stops higher than the D600! Of course the proof is in the pudding, but historically most “native” ISOs are acceptable. Even if you knock off the topmost native ISO, and assume that 6400 / 12800 are “good enough” on the 6D, you’re still taking a pretty decent leap forward in my opinion. I’m excited about the 6D sensor for it’s high ISO performance.)
* 1/4000 shutter limit, 1/180 flash sync limit, no PC sync port
(OUCH. This is what many on the internet are complaining about. These specs are roughly the same as the Nikon D600, 1/400, 1/200, no PC sync) …however even the 3 year old Sony A850 has a sync port, 1/8000 shutter and 1/250 flash sync. Since this is the main focus of debate for many, I will expand on this situation below…)
* 1080p video at 30 FPS, or 720p video at 60 FPS
(Currently, the only DSLR-type cameras to offer 1080p and 60 FPS are the Sony A99 and the Panasonic GH3. I dunno why Canon and Nikon haven’t been able to deliver this feature yet, even with the massive buffers we’re seeing in cameras like the 1DX and D4.)
* Built-in Wifi and GPS!
(This is one of Canon’s shockers, to me. Canon has always been all about up-selling $40 accessories, but they have bitten the bullet on this one while Nikon chose to continue leaving these features to aftermarket accessories. (Cumbersome looking accessiries for any active shooter, I might add.) I’m glad Canon has done this, and I’m excited to see what people think up with a feature like this.)
* Single SD card slot
(This is another “ouch” for many. Even the D600 has dual SD cards, so if you don’t trust SD in general you can at least have a redundant backup. Personally, I have nothing at all against SD and I’m betting that much of the videography / hobbyist photography world will have no problem with the 6D’s use of SD cards. Personally, the only thing I’m bummed about is the lack of dual card slots. I think it will become par for the course rather quickly, for both high-capacity video shooters as well as security-conscious wedding etc. photographers.)
* Note that I have omitted many of the general specifications, because they are the usual slight improvements over previous generations. The best impression of the 6D would be, a cross between the Canon 60D, 7D, and 5D mk3.
Next, you can read about the D600 specs and a few of my thoughts HERE.
So, why the ruckus over these two new cameras? Let’s break the discussion down into sections… Unfortunately, I can only approach these cameras from the standpoint of a full-time professional wedding photographer, because that is who I am. However I will try very hard to perceive any usefulness that other types of photographers may find. As far as videography is concerned, well, in my un-educated opinion it seems like these two cameras are both going to be well-received. But I’m not a videography expert. So, let’s begin!
1.) Is the Canon 6D (by itself) especially disappointing in a particular respect?
Only if you’re a portrait / action photographer. The shutter speed / flash limitations, and potentially “average” autofocus, will make the 7D or 5D mk3 a much better choice. The 6D will feel pretty restricting to anyone who is used to having a 1/250 flash sync speed, a 1/8000 shutter limit, and especially a PC sync cord for things like wedding photojournalism. But then again, honestly if you’re considering being a professional wedding photographer, you should probably just pony up for a true pro-grade camera body like the 5D mk3 or D800. Wedding photojournalists such as myself are still perfectly happy with the D700, even!
Is the 20 megapixel resolution a disappointment? Probably to a few, but most photographers are going to be happy with 20 megapixels, and more excited about other potential improvements in image quality. As they should be.
I think part of the disappointment is that Canon users have always dreamed of a mythical “EOS 3” type camera that was both extremely affordable, AND high-powered. When these folks saw the $3500 price tag on the 5D mk3, they convinced themselves that Canon either had a $2500 “EOS 3” type camera up it’s sleeve still, or that if Canon went all the way to “beginner FF” it would cost only $1500-$1900. But you can’t just expect a magical $1,500 discount on the 5D mk3. If you were expecting the 6D to be something along those lines, sorry!
2.) So then, who is the 6D actually targeted at?
The 6D looks quite promising as an overall hobbyist / advanced amateurcamera. Any photographer who cares more about overall image quality than anything else will see great value in the 6D. This is assuming, of course, that the 6D sensor can perform much better than the 4 year old Canon 5D Mk2 sensor. Unfortunately if the 6D sensor is merely a “match”, then it will be in my opinion an utter failure. (I highly doubt this, though.)
If the 6D (and D600) can achieve noticeable improvements in overall image quality alone then landscape, architecture, fine art etc. type photographers will be thrilled with the size, weight, and price of these cameras.
When you think about it, this target market may actually be the largest segment out there! The “uncle bobs” who don’t worry that much about shutter speeds or advanced flash techniques, but still value the image quality that comes with a full-frame sensor.
In my opinion, this sizeable target market is simply being pushed aside by the louder voice of the internet. I predict the Canon 6D and D600 will sell very well, just not to you or me. Actually, I hope that there are plenty of people out there reading this article and thinking “hey the 6D might be exactly what I’m looking for!” But those types of people hardly ever make a ruckus because they’re too busy buying their cameras and going out to take amazing photos. ;-)
3.) How does the 6D compare to the Nikon D600 and the Sony A99?
Clearly the 6D is targeting the same market as the D600 and A99. Admittedly the A99 is $2800, and is more directly competing with the Canon 5D Mk3 and Nikon D800. But there will still be some market overlap.
Either way, the bottom line is that Sony is innovating like crazy these days, while Canon and Nikon aren’t really doing anything other than (finally) joining the affordable full-frame market.
The D600 and 6D are pretty darn equal themselves, though. One big difference for many photographers is going to be the lack of Wifi / GPS in the D600. The name-brand GPS and Wifi accessories for Nikon are not cheap! You could get generic accessories for under $100 total, though. I think that 90%+ of potential buyers will NOT see either of these cameras as a reason to switch; if anything I bet the Sony A99 will win as far as ship-jumping is concerned.
4.) So, bottom line- are the 6D and D600 over-priced?
To be honest, I feel like Canon and Nikon are taking advantage of (or at least feeding) the “upgrade addict” photographers who just buy every new camera, simply because it’s new. These cameras aren’t really “over-priced, it’s just that digital cameras have reached a point where the previous generations are still truly spectacular. The bottom line is that yes, these cameras may be a leap forward in affordability and image quality, however there are already plenty of other great options out there especialy for anyone willing to shop used.
5.) Finally, is there anything that could still dramatically change this?
One thing I am keeping my eyes on is whether or not Canon can improve their dynamic range with the 6D. This is one of the biggest differences between almost all of Nikon and Canon’s recent DSLR’s. In short, Canon shadows are very difficult to recover, at any ISO. If Canon’s new 20 MP sensor can take a leap forward with dynamic range, it could prove to be much more desirable for landscape photographers than the 5D mk2, or even the 5D mk3.
Probability of happening? Medium. There will be a riot if the Canon 6D had incredible improvements in IQ over the 5D mk3… SO I’m not holding my breath. Maybe the next generation will be the one where Canon climbs back on top of the “overall image quality” hill.
The next thing I am curious about is the autofocus performance. It is possible that both the 6D and the D600 could fall short of their more expensive older brothers, however I’m not ready to make a judgment call. I am willing to bet that they will both come very close to the 5D mk3 / D800 as far as sheer performance goes, at least in the center AF point… One thing I am excited about is that Canon claims to have broken new ground with regard to low-light capability, specifying the 6D as being able to shoot in light as dim as -3 EV. (To any newbies out there, I am not talking about simple EV compensation, I am talking about an actual brightness measurement, roughly equivalent to shooting by the light of a full moon and nothing else. Impressive!)
Clearly neither the 6D or the D600 are marketed for action photographers, so all these cameras have to do is deliver decent good and great image quality, and they’ll satisfy a huge portion of the amateur / hobbyist market.
Image quality tests are already out for the D600, and it is second only to the D800 / D800E according to DXO Mark. The 6D has yet to be tested, however I expect that it will not surpass the D600’s dynamic range, though it might win for ISO performance or overall color / detail…