First Impressions, Canon 6D

Meet Opal, our newest addition to the family.  Photographed at ISO 50.

Meet Opal, our newest addition to the family.  Photographed at ISO 50.

After testing the camera for a few days, customizing some settings, and reading the entire manual, I wanted to share my initial impressions of the 6D. This includes the features that I think are well done, and some aspects that could have been better, or should be improved with a firmware update in the near future. 

What I liked

The beveled ISO button is a welcome feature as it feels different and makes it easy to find without looking away from the viewfinder. When changing ISO on the fly, it's saves time which is valuable when mere seconds can be the difference between capturing or missing the shot. 

ISO sensitivity appears to be acceptable to 6400. This is a two stop improvement for me as the highest I felt comfortable with on the 40D was ISO 1600. While the 6D is capable of going to 102,400, the visible noise artifacts increased a great deal. Still, in a dark museum 12,800 and 25,600 may come in very handy and clean up well with a little noise reduction in Lightroom 4. 

With these kinds of impressive numbers, it's easy to get caught up in the possibilities of high ISO . A little known fact about the 6D however, is its ability to shoot at ISO 50. Once again, a throwback to my film shooting days when I was working with Fuji Velvia at ISO 50. Once you enable this in the menu it shows up as "L" for low. 

Multiple Exposure mode is very well done with the ability to shoot up to 9 images onto one frame. This was always so much fun with my film cameras and provides endless creative possibilities. 

In-Camera Double Exposure.  Miles is always a willing subject.

In-Camera Double Exposure.  Miles is always a willing subject.

Wifi - It took about 5 minutes to set up in my house and was a bit confusing at first. Once I got it though, it was amazing to see how it really works.  

Wirelessly transfer the images from the 6D to an iphone or ipad.

Wirelessly transfer the images from the 6D to an iphone or ipad.

Autofocus is quite fast even on the outer points. For all the talk about the 11 points being a weakness of the camera, I was very surprised at how well it performed with fast subjects (running dogs). I also did some tests in very low light indoors, and it absolutely locked on quickly. 

The LCD screen has beautiful resolution making it possible to chimp with the best of them. 

When all the reviewers on Youtube said the camera "feels good in your hands" they were not lying. The rubbery grip makes it easy to grasp the camera with confidence. While the body is very light, it still feels solid and well made. 

The shutter is ridiculously quiet and that is in the normal mode. There are also modes for silent continuous and silent single shooting which make the shutter almost inaudible. This will definitely be a good thing when photographing subjects where being discrete matters. 

The menu screen has 14 different tabs which open into drop down screens of options. Rather than forcing you to scroll through all of these choices, there is a "My Menu" feature which can be customized to hold 6 items of your choosing. I set mine to enable/disable Wifi, Multiple Exposure, Image Quality, External Speedlight Control, Mirror Lockup, and Battery info. 

Size does matter, as the full frame sensor offers a whole new level of detail. 

The viewfinder has nearly 100% coverage, and is big and bright. 

The full frame sensor allows for ultra wide compositions.

The full frame sensor allows for ultra wide compositions.

Changes I Hope to See

There should be a dedicated WB button. To go into the "Q" menu is an extra step that slows down the whole process. One of the five buttons on top could pull double duty for example Metering Mode/White Balance. 

I believe you should be able to link the spot meter to the active AF point, but this feature is not even available on the Canon 5D Mark III which costs $1000 more. The workaround is simple in manual exposure mode. You use your center af point to spot meter the subject and take a meter reading. Set your exposure, focus on what is important, and shoot. Of course you could also use Evaluative metering, but I find this less precise. 

I would like to see an eventual software update that allows for more customization of each button. For example, I'd like to change the SET button to enable wifi, etc. There are some possible changes I can make now, but they don't go far enough. 

The multi controller pad takes a little getting used to to maneuver with accuracy. This is perhaps my biggest issue with the camera right now. On the 40D, I could either used the dial on top or the rear wheel to scroll through all 9 AF points. With the 6D however, the top dial (near the shutter button) will move the AF points from left to right, but you have to use the rear wheel to move the points up and down. You can also use the multi controller pad but I'm finding that awkward to use quickly. 

Overall, Canon has done a wonderful job at creating a camera that is fun to shoot with, and doesn't get in the way with unnecessary complexities. Though it features cutting edge technology like built in Wifi, in many ways it responds much like my old Elan 7 did with a silent shutter, multiple exposure mode, and ISOs as low as 50. Most importantly, the image quality is simply awesome. The few functions that could be done better appear to be easy fixes with a firmware update from the version 1.1.2 I was using.