|, Gear, Photography, Reviews|My Impressions: Comparing the Canon 6D with the 5D Mark III

My Impressions: Comparing the Canon 6D with the 5D Mark III

By | 2016-12-18T17:00:48+00:00 June 4th, 2015|11 Comments

About a month ago I purchased a Canon 6D to try it out with my landscape and travel photography. I have been using the 5D Mark III ever since it was released, and while it’s a great camera, it is missing a few features that I have come to appreciate with some of the consumer-level and mirrorless cameras (such as the Canon 70D and Fuji X-T1, for example). These are my thoughts since I have started using the camera with my photography.

Please keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive review. There are plenty of sites out there with very detail technical reviews on each of these cameras (I recommend checking out the reviews on CameraLabs.com: Canon 6D and Canon 5D Mark III). This article is a personal look at the Canon 6D from my perspective, taking into consideration the type of photography I do and the features I want to have to make my photography experience more enjoyable.

The Canon 6D Has Two Features I Need When Traveling: Wifi and GPS

The biggest reason I wanted to try the Canon 6D is because of two features it has that are missing on my 5D Mark III: GPS and WiFi. When I travel, the easiest way to share photos is through my iPhone. In fact, I find that I share more of my images during my travels because of my camera’s WiFi. Being able to quickly transfer an image and post it to my Instagram account through my iPhone means that I spend more time out in the field and less time behind my laptop. I also have started to use a small Fuji Instax Share printer, which allows me to print images directly from my iPhone. A camera with WiFi means that I can immediately print photos and give them away, or use them in one of my #nicolesygram shots.

GPS is another feature I really enjoy having with my cameras. With the Canon 5D Mark III, I have been using an external device that sits on the hot-shoe of the camera and embeds the location data into each photo. That device works perfectly, but it is one more thing I have to carry with me and remember to use. With the 6D, the GPS is internal. All I have to do is turn it on in the menu and the location data is automatically logged into my images.

First Impressions with the Canon 6D

Before purchasing this camera for myself, I had heard some very good things about it which I found to be spot-on. First of all, it is definitely smaller than my 5D Mark III. Maybe not by a large amount, but it is noticeable. There are no buttons on the left side of the 6D, whereas the 5D3 has buttons all around the LCD screen. I’ve had to re-train my muscle memory to press the preview button, but other than that it doesn’t feel like it is missing anything.

Here are some of the things I noticed right away with the 6D:

  • The 6D is smaller than the 5D Mark III (both in size and weight).
  • The button locations are different than the 5D Mark III (no buttons on the left side of the 6D’s LCD).
  • I am unable to change the Set button to zoom in-and-out. I would use this all the time on my 5D Mark III, so I’m having to change my muscle-memory to use the zoom button instead.
  • The GPS needs to be turned off when not using it, as it still runs if the camera is turned off (which, in turn, quickly drains the battery).
  • One thing I will miss from the 5D Mark III is having two slots for memory cards. Having a second slot is mostly for peace of mind, just in case a card gets corrupted. I do prefer SD cards,  which the 6D takes, as I can plug it directly into my MacBook pro.

How I Will Use the Canon 6D

For now, the Canon 6D as my landscape and travel camera, and the 5D Mark III will stay home and be used as my dedicated food photography camera. I don’t need WiFi or GPS for food, so it is a good fit. In fact, I have a trip to Iceland and Norway coming up at the end of the month, and the 6D will be a perfect camera for that trip. I will also bring my Canon 70D along as a backup and second body (it has WiFi on it as well, so I can still easily transfer images to my iPhone, and it’s nice and compact).

A Note on Autofocus

When I mentioned that I got the Canon 6D, a few commenters asked me if I was concerned about the autofocus on the camera. The 5D3 has more AF points than the 6D, so that could be a concern for some. And it seems to be a bit slower to catch focus, although I haven’t done any serious AF shooting with it yet. Will it affect me? Probably not. Most of the work I do is from a tripod, and I don’t need a camera that works well handheld in low light, nor do I need fast auto-focus (the majority of my images are manually focused from a tripod). The gear I use is very much shaped by the type of photography I do, and for me, I don’t need a camera with fast autofocus.

Image Quality on the Canon 6D

I have been using Canon cameras since 2009, and have always been happy with the quality of my images with both their crop and full-frame cameras. I’ve also had a few chances to really use the Canon 6D, and have no doubts that I am getting good images The 6D has slightly fewer megapixels than the 5D Mark III, but it’s not a deal-breaker. And from what I can tell, image quality is almost identical. Here is a side-by-side comparison to show the difference in quality between the two cameras:

The images are uploaded in full-resolution.
Please click once on the thumbnail, and then right-click to view the photos in a new tab/window to see them up close.

But really, the bottom line for me comes down to two things: camera experience, and the end-use of the photos. The experience I get when using a Canon camera is great. I trust my gear, know it inside-and-out, and I know without a doubt that I will come home at the end of the day with great images. The last thing that I want is to be frustrated with a camera, especially when I am traveling and have no other option.

The other thing that I consider when choosing a camera is the end-use of the photos. When I analyze how my photos are used and where they are shared and viewed, the answer is almost always one of the following: on a website, on a mobile device, or in an eBook or tutorial. In other words, they are shared digitally, and usually at a much smaller resolution than the original file. Pixel-peeping is definitely a thing of the past for me, and even though I still upload to stock (currently to my Stocksy portfolio), I just don’t stress over it.

What about the Fuji X-T1?

If you follow any of my work, you may know that I also have a Fuji X-T1. In fact, I recently took it with me to Thailand and kept the Canon gear at home. I’ll be honest, I’ve had some great frustration and also some great success with the camera, and will need more time with it to have more confidence with it. As a handheld travel camera, it’s great. The gear is light-weight, and it is not intrusive. But I still have doubts about it as a landscape camera, which is why it’s staying home during my trip to Norway and Iceland later this month.

Right now I am definitely a Canon girl, with a Fuji X-T1 on the side. I trust my Canon, but love the light-weight body and lenses from the Fuji. One of these days I’ll write a much longer post detailing my inner struggle with choosing the right camera, but for now, I’m “camera agnostic”. I believe that there can be more than one “right” camera for a single person. :)

About the Author:

My name is Nicole and I'm a photographer, author, & educator living in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. When I'm not making photos I'm writing books and tutorials for my online store, Learn more about me and my story here.

11 Comments

  1. Marty Cohen June 5, 2015 at 7:13 am - Reply

    Nicole, have you tried using the remote shooting functions on the Canon 6D and the Canon Remote iPhone & iPad app? The app, while it could use some refinement, is great when shooting on a tripod. You can adjust most the 6D’s settings and review the images you just shot on the larger iPhone or, especially, iPad screen. And, with the wireless function, no cables needed between the camera and the iPad/iPhone (androids as well).

    • Nicole S. Young June 5, 2015 at 9:51 am - Reply

      Hi Marty, I haven’t tried that yet but it sounds pretty interesting! I’ll test it out soon, thanks for the tip. :)

  2. Ainsley June 21, 2015 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    Hi Nicole, I like your article. I currently own a Canon 70 D and wanted to upgrade to Full frame camera. I keep hearing mix reviews bet the 6d and 5D 3. Can someone help me out, I want to shoot weddings and family portrait. Also landscape time time.

    • Nicole S. Young June 26, 2015 at 3:25 am - Reply

      Hi Ainsley, I don’t really photograph weddings or portraits, but from what I know of the two cameras you may want to consider the 5D3. It has faster AF than the 6D, but for me it doesn’t really matter (I mostly shoot landscapes with it). I prefer the 6D for the WiFi and GPS features, so if you don’t need those (and the price is not an issue) then I would suggest the 5D3.

  3. Ainsley June 27, 2015 at 8:26 am - Reply

    Hi Nicole, thank you for your response . I will keep shooting various subjects, if I enjoy Landscape then I will purchase the 6D and events, portraits and weddings 5D3. Thanks again.

  4. Hollis Lefever July 14, 2015 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    Appears to me that you demonstrated quite well that the 6D is lacking in resolution alongside the 5DIII

  5. Judy knights July 15, 2015 at 9:03 am - Reply

    Hi Nicole – I have had a 6D for almost 2 years now – I wanted to up-grade to a full frame but found the 5D’s too heavy – I love it!
    I am essentially a landscape photographer and have had great results using both tripod & handheld – am sure you will get fantastic results in Norway.

  6. Marty Cohen July 15, 2015 at 10:27 am - Reply

    Hey Nicole– I agree with Judy Knight’s comments and have had my 6D for a couple of years. As for travel photography, I was very happy with the results of my 6D images on a trip to Morocco. http://www.mscgallery.com/Current-Pages/Travel/Morocco And the weight difference is a big factor when traveling.

  7. Charlie July 16, 2015 at 10:50 am - Reply

    I have near of three years with a Canon T3i and a less than 3 months with a Canon 6D and is good to read a article about this camera on Landscape photography. Maybe someday I upgraded the T3i for another Canon Crop Sensor :)

  8. Andrew November 4, 2015 at 9:03 am - Reply

    Thanks for the write-up!

    I’ve had a 6D for three and used it with the 24-105mm L and a 35mm f/2 prime (both with image stabilization) for a trip to Germany and Austria. Image quality was fantastic and autofocus performance was very fast and accurate (I also shoot a Leica M9 rangefinder), even for capturing quickly changing scenes on the street.

    Since buying the Leica system, which is much smaller, I don’t often use the 6D for travel photography, but it remains my go-to camera for family travel in which photography is not the main purpose. Unlike the manual-focus Leica, I can hand the 6D to any stranger and actually have some photos with me in them, and know that anyone carrying a Canon DSLR will be right at home using it.

    I can see where the AF system would not be up to sports, but locally I shoot a lot of indoor events and find that the 6D with a 35mm f/2 and 85mm f/1.8 is a perfect setup for that role. The center AF point locks quickly even in low light, and I believe is still among the best AF systems for low-light use three years later.

  9. Nick English April 19, 2016 at 6:04 am - Reply

    Interesting article, and Im in the same position as you, owning both 5DIII and 6D (and also disliking the Fuji XT1 after being frustrated with it one too many times)!

    The one thing that lets the 6D down (for me) is the lack of AF points, or should I say, the reliability of anything other than the central AF point, as I use a lot of tracking-while-walking type photos with a fixed 35mm f1.4 lens – which on a 5Diii is child’s play, but next to impossible on the 6d!

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