Hands-On Preview of Canon’s Svelte Full-Frame 6D DSLR for Prosumers (NEW PHOTOS)

September 19, 2012

By Dan Havlik

We got some hands-on time with the new 20.2-megapixel Canon EOS 6D at a press event on the eve of the photokina show in Germany last night and came away impressed. Priced at $2,099, the slimmed-down 6D is Canon’s attempt to entice photo enthusiasts to buy a full-frame digital SLR.

It seems a compelling argument, at least based on our brief time shooting with the 6D at the press event.

Like the 24.3-megapixel Nikon D600, which was announced last Thursday and was slated to go on sale this week also for $2,099, the Canon 6D feels like a slightly smaller version of the step-up model. So, if you’re in the market for a full-frame DSLR and can’t afford the Canon 5D Mark III — or simply want something slimmer and lighter — Canon is offering the 6D as an alternative.

But, as one commenter pointed out in our original story about the 6D yesterday, the new camera is not designed for serious professionals working in a studio environment. The 6D has a maximum flash sync speed of just 1/180th of a second, which doesn’t make it ideal for freezing motion using ambient lighting in the studio and/or strobes.

And while the 6D is 20 percent lighter than the 5D Mark III and weighs just over 24 ounces (body only), it has a more plastic build and feels slightly less sturdy. (In an effort to make the camera smaller and lighter, Canon has also eliminated the pop-up flash on the new camera.) The 6D is built with an aluminum chassis inside but the outer body is made of polycarbonate.

One redeeming factor though is the extensive use of rubber on the 6D’s exterior, both on the hand-grip and the opposite front and back of the camera. The rear right thumbrest side of the camera is also rubberized, making the 6D feel comfy and robust.

Canon says the 6D is as weatherized as its APS-C-sensor-based 7D DSLR, which it closely resembles. All in all, the 6D feels a lot more ergonomic and substantial in person than it did when described.

The feeling of shooting with the 6D is much like the Nikon D600 — which we are currently testing — in that after a few minutes of using the camera, you completely forget you’re shooting with a “more affordable” full-frame DSLR aimed at prosumers.

At the same time, as with the D600, the 6D didn’t feel significantly lighter or more svelte than the step-up model. It’s noticeable, yes, in that you might be able to squeeze two 6D bodies into a bag that could only fit one 5D III but add a zoom lens to it and the difference is somewhat negligible.

When shooting with the 6D, I expected the camera’s new autofocus system with 11 focusing points and one cross-type point in the center, to feel slower and less responsive than Canon’s higher-end EOS DSLRs, but it was surprisingly fleet afoot.

Swinging the 6D from target to target during a brief test at the press event, the camera quickly locked in on the subject and fired off a seemingly — at least according to playback on the LCD screen — sharp shot, even in mixed lighting conditions. Though it may not be designed for sports shooting, the 6D’s 4.5 frames per second burst speed, felt more than adequate for capturing basic motion and candid shots.

Of course, more extensive testing is necessary but I came away pleasantly pleased with how responsive the 6D was. For what is being marketed as a small and inexpensive full-frame camera for prosumers, felt pretty darn professional in our time shooting with it.

Looking forward to testing it out more seriously before it ships in December.

For more details on the Canon 6D, check out our original story on the announcement news here.