My Experience with Canon 6D vs Nikon D600

Started Mar 10, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Jimmy K.
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My Experience with Canon 6D vs Nikon D600
Mar 10, 2013

I just want to provide my experience comparing Canon 6D and Nikon D600. Maybe someone can benefit from this.  I won't discuss the image quality, since I don't think I can do a better job than professional websites. I will talk about features and issues that are important to me.

I currently own Nikon D7000 (APS-C) camera. Looking to upgrade to FF, I borrowed Canon 6D, 5DM3, 5DM2, and Nikon D600 for about 4 hours in January. With 4 FF cameras plus my own D7000 as reference, there wasn't a lot of time dedicated to each camera.  In February, I used D600 for 1 week. Then I borrowed 6D and D600 for 4 days last week. I got plenty of hands on experience with these 2 cameras now. I also had 5DM3 again for 4 hours last week.

Lenses used on Canon is 24-105 f/4 kit lens and 50mm f/1.4. Lenses used on Nikon is 24-85 f/3.5-4.5 kit lens and 50mm f/1.8D. 
Viewfinder: 6D VF is brighter than D600. I cannot do 100% exact comparison because I don't have no way to mount same lens on both cameras. But comparing both the kit and 50mm lenses, 6D VF is brighter. I used D7000 and D600 before, and I never noticed. But side-by-side vs 6D and 5DM3, it is apparent. Surprisingly, D600 VF brightness is very similar to D7000; I thought FF suppose to be brighter and allow in more light than crop.
Viewfinder AF points: D600 and 5DM3 AF points are much easier to see than 6D. On D600 and 5DM3, AF points are not permanent so they don't distract my view normally. When the boxes show up, the lines are dark and thick, so easier to see. On 6D, the 11 AF points are permanent; the lines are thin and next to impossible to see in dark condition.
Multi-Controller: my D7000 doesn't have multi-controller, so I'm new to this button. On the feel, I like 6D multi-controller the best, then D600, and lastly 5DM3. With 6D, I find that it is very accurate and fast. On D600, the multi-controller is bit too small and too tall; just doesn't feel as accurate. I hate the multi-controller on 5DM3. Sometimes up/down is registered when I want to go left/right, and vice versa. As for location, I don't have any opinion. Maybe I'm not familiar enough with these cameras to use the multi-controller with my eyes glued to the VF. So whenever I had to change settings, I take the camera away from my eyes. Either 5DM3/D600 location higher up vs 6D felt similar.
AF-On: I use AF-On for focusing. 6D and 5DM3 dedicated AF-On button is a joy to use; plus location is great. D600 AF-On (AE-ck) button is way over to the left near the VF.
Auto AF in normal light: Although I never use Auto AF on D7000, my wife does, as she use Green Auto Mode.  So I want to test out the Auto AF mode. My D7000 Auto AF sometimes misses; every once in a while, it will focus on something behind the person. Comparing Auto AF on 6D vs D600, Canon's algorithm is better. Although 6D only has 11 AF points, it does a great job in picking the closest objects (as long as the objects be covered by a AF point). I had 100% success with 6D always locking on the closest object and never pick something behind it. On D600, around 1 out of 10 tries, it will pick something that is further away and behind the nearer subject. This D600 behavior is very similar to D7000.
Tracking vs Auto AF: I tested the tracking using stationary object and I move the camera. On D600 and 5DM3, tracking mode is different than Auto AF. I set the initial AF point, then camera locks onto the object. As I move the camera around, the tracked AF point will lit up.  6D on the other hand, doesn't have dedicated tracking mode. It is just Auto AF mode. 6D will not show which AF point locked on in AI servo mode. And as the AF point switches during tracking, there is no feedback if that occurred or which AF point is now active.
Extreme Low light AF: 6D center AF point sensitivity is rated down to -3EV. This is marketing BS that doesn't translate to real life usage, especially on human and pets. I saw YouTube videos that did focus test comparison on tape and objects, but not on human.  On inanimate objects with sharp edges or edges with distinct distances (like table edge, picture frame, books), both 6D and 600D performed similar in low light. But on human face (eyes or edge of human face) or cats' face (eyes, nose, ears), at low enough light 6D cannot lock at all, while D600 locked around 50-75% of time in exact same condition. I double checked that once I increase the lighting, 6D was able to find focus, so my daughter and my 2 cats are not abnormal
Also, another weird thing is that 6D has hard time focusing on color transition on flat surface in extreme low light. Examples are text on books, graphics on magazines, lines on paper, graphics and labeling on product boxes, graphics and text on battery, or piece of white paper sitting flat on a black laminated table. This is true even when the color contrast is significantly different, like white/black, white/blue, white/red, etc. On the other hand, D600 can lock AF on these color transitions or text on paper. I don't know the details and reason behind this. I speculate this might be why D600 is better with human and pets, where the edges are soft and maybe D600 picks up the color transition. 
Note: On the condition: I did the test in dark room lit by hallway light (some are tungsten and some are fluorescent with warm temp); room lit by PC monitor and LED flashlight. I just move further and further away from the light source into the far corner of the room, until AF failed. On the test, I only check AF lock confirmation. I did turn up the lights in the room and confirmed AF lock is reasonably correct. I didn't take photos and pixel peep to check whether AF is perfect. On camera settings: I made sure D600's AF assist lamp is off. I used both single center point and 9 point area expansion around the center point; both are similar. On 6D, I used single center point. When comparing kit lens, I used zoom range where Nikon's 24-85 lens has max aperture of f/4 (not f/3.5), to match Canon's f/4 kit lens. Then on 50mm prime, Canon is f/1.4, which is larger than Nikon's f/1.8. If anything, Canon should have slight advantage here. I'm not really disappointed with 6D, since I would rarely, if ever, shoot in this type of lighting condition. 
Normal indoor lighting: medium lit room at home using tungsten and florescent; well lit office. Both cameras have no issues focusing using the center AF point. On 6D, the peripheral focus points struggled. I didn't check D600 peripheral focus points.
Features vs Customization: To me, feature is something related to photography; examples are shutter speed, fps, # bracketed images, buffer size, hardware buttons, etc. Customization is firmware settings that aide in user usability. 
Feature Differences (that matter to me): 
- AF-On: dedicated button on 6D and 5DM3.
- AF mode: D600 shows AF mode on top LCD. Both 6D and 5DM3 do not.
- WB: 6D WB setting is thru menu system. Plus, no WB setting display on top LCD. D600 and 5DM3 have HW button for WB and both show WB on top LDC.
- Bracketing: D600 setting is thru HW button, but only has 3 photo bracketing. 6D and 5DM3 WB is thru menu system. On plus side, 6D bracketing is 7 photo.
- AF microadjust or fine-tune. I didn't set this because I don't want to get cameras' owners mad. I took a look. Seems Canon allows AF setting for Wide and Telephoto. Nikon only allows single AF setting.
Customization: I mentioned in previous posts on dpreview that Nikon has more customization than Canon 6D. This is definitely true. The amount of customization on Nikon D600 and D7000 is ridiculous compared to how bareboned 6D is, or even 5DM3. I really don't understand why Canon limits the customization. These are not really photography features, which I can understand if features used to segment the market.  But it doesn't make sense to limit customization.

Customization differences (that matter to me): 
- I need to correct something in my previous posts. I want to setup the Shutter, Aperture, and ISO dial direction so that I turn the dial in the opposite direction indicted by the exposure meter. So if the meter is to the left of 0 (underexposed), I want to turn Shutter, Aperture, and/or ISO dial to the right for correct exposure. I incorrectly stated before that Canon cannot to do this. I was able to get Canon to do this if reverse dial direction is enabled. 
- Canon allows ISO to be set to Auto vs manual ISO in by the dial. Nikon requires going into the menu. I haven't use this enough to know which is better. If you use only Auto or Manual ISO exclusively, Nikon might be better. If you switch back and forth between Auto and Manual ISO, then Canon is probably better. 
- Time out. This one really got under my skin. On Canon, meter turns off after 4-5 seconds. I guess I'm too slow. On Nikon, different time out setting can be set for meter, Info screen on LCD, Menu on LCD, etc, etc.
- C1/C2 or U1/U2 Custom or User settings. Canon allows C1/C2 to be automatically saved once settings are changed, in addition to saving the settings. I haven't use C1/C2 mode in the automatic saved mode enough to know how useful this is. There is some quirky behavior to 6D's C1/C2 during time out. Someone else posted this before. If the camera times out and goes to sleep, the C1/C2 saved settings are recalled. If camera is powered off, current settings are temporarily stored, as it should. The saved settings are recalled once exiting the C1/C2 mode and returning to the mode, as it should.

- Nikon allows customization of the main and quick control dial (or sub-dial) in Av and Tv modes.  Canon main dial controls aperture in Av mode and shutter speed in Tv mode.  The reason is that I shoot 99% in Manual mode.  But I might use Av and Tv mode every once in a while.  It is just easier for me if the the same dials are used for aperture and shutter in all 3 modes.

I hope this helps those looking at 6D vs D600.

In summary, I would say 6D and D600 are so similar that the camera should not be the deciding factor. Decision should be made based on the system, lens, or existing gear. For me, I made the choice to go with Nikon APS-C system because of the cost; there are many more "cheaper" crop lenses available. But now entry level FF is available, I believe Canon's FF lenses are a bit cheaper or better value. My D7000 is sufficient for my needs for now. I plan on moving to Canon FF when the 6D prices drops or when 6D Mark II comes out.

Canon EOS 5D Canon EOS 600D (EOS Rebel T3i / EOS Kiss X5) Canon EOS 6D Nikon D600 Nikon D7000
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