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High ISO noise and detail

Compared to the Nikon D600 and Sony Alpha SLT-A99 (JPEG)

We all know that shooting in Raw mode will give you more control over image quality, but this doesn't mean that JPEGs are a non-starter. They're much more convenient, for one thing, but ultimately, JPEG image quality from modern DSLRs is extremely high, even at high ISO sensitivity settings. In this test, we're looking at the EOS 6D's image quality at ISO 6400, 12,800 and 25,600, compared to two of its closest peers, the Nikon D600 and Sony Alpha SLT-A99.

The scene below was shot under low color-temperature (Approx. 2600K) artificial light, designed to be representative of typical indoor lighting. This accentuates the appearance of noise due to the low level of blue light in the spectrum of the light source. Therefore, to achieve accurate white balance the blue channel has to be amplified strongly, and the green channel to a lesser extent - thereby increasing the visible noise. It's a stress test, basically. We've made two 100% crops per ISO sensitivity for each camera. Click on the first one (with the magnifying glass icon at lower right) for the full-sized original image.

All cameras were set to default noise reduction and color settings, in highest quality JPEG mode, and with identical exposure settings on 85mm lenses (we shot at F10 for good depth of field). Framing was matched as closely as possible and white balance was set to custom on all three cameras.
Canon EOS 6D
Nikon D600
Sony Alpha SLT-A99
ISO 6400 (100% crop) ISO 6400 (100% crop) ISO 6400 (100% crop)
ISO 12800 (100% crop) ISO 12800 (100% crop) ISO 12800 (100% crop)
ISO 25600 (100% crop) ISO 25600 (100% crop) ISO 25600 (100% crop)

In this low-light test the Canon EOS 6D compares very well to the Nikon D600 and Sony A99 - both of which use versions of the same 24MP CMOS sensor. It is clear that at default NR settings, images from the 6D are cleaner, less gritty but similarly detailed as those from the Nikon and Sony cameras. Of the three cameras in this comparison, the D600 gives the grittiest results, but in terms of detail capture, we'd be hard-pressed to say that it was any better than the smoother JPEGs from the 6D. The A99 gives similar results to the D600 but without the yellowish blotches of chroma noise which can be seen in some areas of files from the Nikon camera at ISO 12,800 and 25,600.

Multi Shot NR

The EOS 6D offers - as an additional option in the NR menu - the ability to capture four successive shots (presumably at 4.5fps) in a single burst and combine them into a single image. Because noise is a random event, the advantage of capturing multiple images and then merging them together is that you can average out the noise in the final processed image.

Multi Shot NR is a JPEG-only feature. You cannot select it in any of the 6D's raw-enabled modes. And once it is activated, switching the mode dial to any of the basic shooting modes, recording a movie, using the bulb setting, or powering off the camera will revert the NR setting back to its default, Standard setting.

The process of combining the separate images and averaging out the noise takes a bit of time. A 'busy' status is displayed for several seconds after the final exposure. While you cannot take another image during this time you can access the camera's menu system.

Using the same low light scene in which we compared the EOS 6D against two of its peers on the high ISO comparison page of this review, we compare the 6D's Multi Shot NR setting against both the default and 'high' NR settings.

ISO 25,600, 1/30 sec. @ F10 Multi Shot NR 100% crop
NR Standard (default) 100% crop NR High 100% crop

Multi Shot NR mode does a very good job of minimizing noise and image artifacts without sacrificing any of the fine-edged detail present in either of the single shot NR modes. The multiple exposure NR mode does, however, edge dangerously close to a 'plasticky' appearance, so if you have an aesthetic fondness for film grain-like structure, it may be best to use one of the other NR options.

The really good (and surprising) news here is just how effective the NR High mode is at minimizing noise while avoiding the heavy-handed smearing that we saw in our EOS 5D Mark III review. We've found that at sensitivities above ISO 6400, NR High actually now becomes a desirable option, striking, to our eyes, the most pleasing balance between noise suppression and image structure.

As you'd expect with any multi-shot mode, Canon cautions against excessive camera shake or shooting moving subjects, stating that the NR results will be 'less effective' in such situations.

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Comments

Total comments: 49
Chrissy4605
By Chrissy4605 (2 weeks ago)

Very comprehensive review. The most thorough review that I have ever seen. I commend you for such great documentation. I look forward to other reviews when I have the time.

0 upvotes
Chrissy4605
By Chrissy4605 (2 weeks ago)

I am very happy with the Canon EOS 6D camera. I purchased the kit with the 24-105 mm f4L IS USM lens. The quality and fit is exemplary of the 6D. It is more than a Pro-sumer camera. I will keep using this camera until I can replace it with the Canon 5D MkIV.

0 upvotes
Cezar Tabac
By Cezar Tabac (1 month ago)

I have a 5Dmk2 and i want to change my camera for a Canon 6d. I want to ask you, if it worth for wedding photography. It is just for photos, movies are occasionally. I know it is better on ISO and focus on the center AF point on low light, and it is what i want.

It worh to make the exchange ?

Thank you!

0 upvotes
Chrissy4605
By Chrissy4605 (2 weeks ago)

I am going to tell you that I have shot weddings with a Canon 50D successfully. Is the 6D up to the task. I certainly think so. I recently upgraded to the Canon 6D and I can say it is quite worth the moderate expense to move forward with the Canon 6D. The only limitation would be the 11 point AF system. But hey, you need to ensure that everything you want is in focus in the first place. Good shooting!

1 upvote
Jeffa4444
By Jeffa4444 (3 months ago)

jzami69
Ive been taking photographs for 45 years and work in cinematography. Personally I think digital has surpassed film for color photography but NOT for black & white photography where film grain adds to the medium.
I bought a Canon 6d because Im invested in Canon and have been since 1972 (although I also have Olympus Pen cameras) I didnt want to pay the cost of the 5d MKIII for amateur use but wanted full-frame the 6d was it.
The pictures consistantly impress me from this camera far outstrip my 7d in IQ and the only weakness is limited focus points otherwise as a travel & landscape camera it hits the mark perfectly.

3 upvotes
deltaskyking
By deltaskyking (1 month ago)

Just rented the 5d MkIII, 6d and Sony A7r. The 6d had better low light performance, slightly sharper than the 5d MkIII and better controls and autofocusing than the A7r. I've also owned the Nikon D600. I'm so impressed with the 6D that I'm going to get one this week, it's bang-for-the-buck rating hits the mark for me. Well, at least until the 5d MkIV.... ;)

3 upvotes
Mangoman232
By Mangoman232 (1 month ago)

I'm just believing there'll still be that $200.00 rebate by the time I have enough saved to get one.

Comment edited 14 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
CityHunter
By CityHunter (3 months ago)

Any info about Canon might announce 6D Mk II during Photokina 2014?

1 upvote
jzami69
By jzami69 (4 months ago)

Okay, someone explain. Don't compare the 6D to its peers, compare it to a camera 2, 5, 10, 50 years ago when people were creating beautiful images. The ratings annoy me because they're based on current technology and not historical technology. They're not even based on picture quality. You're nitpicking, pixel counting. Except for a lab analyst, your reviews are totally useless.

4 upvotes
fuzzywazzy
By fuzzywazzy (4 months ago)

I actually agree with you and would like more reviews comparing current digital technology to the old SLR cameras of the years past. Great suggestion, I hope they listen!

2 upvotes
Mangoman232
By Mangoman232 (3 months ago)

Since they're totally different mediums, wouldn't that be comparable to the apples/oranges thing? I think in some ways it would be, and in others, no. Again, the beauty of a photo is always subjective; I probably lost a contest because of the judges, who knows? Some contests I didn't bother to enter back then, 'cuz you had to use Kodak film, and I saved a lot of money by buying Fujifilm at Sam's Club; A LOT of money! But, I'm getting off the subject here - this is a truly remarkable camera for the price. I've used one for a weekend, and can't wait to own one!

2 upvotes
jgg1013
By jgg1013 (2 months ago)

welll.. a camera is a box that captures light. Comparing the cameras is all well and good, but the thing that captures the light is the film.. or sensor.. or glass negative.. or whatever the "film" medium is. The glass-which lets the light in is comparable today to anything you used in the past- superior even.. so the question is.. are the final prints from your digital sensor as good as the final prints from your film days? Answer to that.. well yes i agree that there are BW mediums that result in fantastic images. Whether you can duplicate that printing process -- and what about that- Traditional enlarger and papers? Inkjet? Laser? == even in the days of film: Ansel Adams classic books.. the first serious books I ever read about photography: The Camera - The Negative - The Print. .. if you are only talking about one of these- the camera, you are leaving a whole lot out of the discussion.

Comment edited 23 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Mohsensh
By Mohsensh (4 months ago)

I want to buy 6D for filming. I don't know what's the problem. it says that 6D have morie or something like that. What is it? someone plz answer me

0 upvotes
Esrold
By Esrold (4 months ago)

Moiré patterns are visual interference patterns that can occur in high resolution digital cameras. Anti-alias filters are designed to reduce or eliminate moiré patterns, but have been left out of some recent cameras in order to attain the highest possible resolution. I'm not sure whether or not the 6D has such a filter. Dpreview explains moiré patterns at this address...
http://www.dpreview.com/glossary/digital-imaging/moire

2 upvotes
futuretro
By futuretro (6 months ago)

The BIGGEST WORST thing Canon did with the 6D,
is the omission of a headphone jack.

It's just UNFORGIVABLE.

Anyone who is interested in the 6D,
will end up getting a 6D,
simply because they can't afford (or justify the price of) a 5D3.

So why would you give them a handicapped tool?!

0 upvotes
Ben in Black
By Ben in Black (5 months ago)

Call me old-fashioned, but I use an SLR to take photographs. The ability to shoot the odd video is merely a useful extra. I can understand the advantage of a headphone socket but it is hardly a deal-breaker for a still photographer.

6 upvotes
Zolton
By Zolton (5 months ago)

I use my 6D primarily for video, but I record proper sound with an external recorder and only use the camera recorded sound as back up or for synching.

If that is the worst thing you don't like about the camera - you must really like what it was designed for ;)

5 upvotes
Zolton
By Zolton (5 months ago)

Additionally, the 6D uses exactly the same digi video processor as 5D3... so no I considered the 5D3 but couldn't justify the addition $k for no functional value given how I planned to use it.

2 upvotes
BGTY
By BGTY (5 months ago)

For my needs, the 6D really fell into a nice little niche. I don't shoot video, so the headphone jack was a non issue. I don't shoot sports, so the AF system wasn't a big deal.

It saved me a lot of money by omitting features of the 5DIII that weren't of huge (or any) importance to me, personally.

3 upvotes
taurinh
By taurinh (5 months ago)

As someone who has shot numerous videos with DSLR's (5D mk2, Mk3) and a canon c100 i personally dont think the headphone jack is that big of a loss. Most of the time anyone really serious about audio for a production will use external recorders and HD processing for audio as the DSLR compresses audio a bit. There have been a handful of times I use the internal audio for the final edit, even with external wireless or boom mics. I prefer separate source, slate it and combine in post. But that's my personal preference after 12 years in the biz.

So, all that to say for the price different between it and the Mk3, I am getting the 6D for my stills and 2nd video camera on set.

4 upvotes
PRohmer
By PRohmer (6 months ago)

This rating of the 6D is weird to say the least. Almost every reviewer out there rated video capabilities of 6D as definitely better then Nikon d610. How on earth here it gets much lower video rating then d610?? Yet focusing is rated relatively high? What's going on? What am I missing?

Thank you.

3 upvotes
hdr
By hdr (6 months ago)

Does anyone know if the wi-fi on the 6D supports the Pictbridge printing interface? I'd love to get the camera if it does.
Thanks much.

1 upvote
Chrissy4605
By Chrissy4605 (2 weeks ago)

Yes the 6D does support Pictbridge printing.

0 upvotes
Ahgre
By Ahgre (6 months ago)

Only 22 comments on this popular review???

0 upvotes
Sad Joe
By Sad Joe (6 months ago)

PLUS: Solid likeable camera with decent performance. CONS: That you know its the least they could get away with for the maximum money (roll on the MK2).

1 upvote
Oceans Media
By Oceans Media (6 months ago)

I bought this camera 7 months ago and I absolutely love it for what I use it for. I live to shoot Lightning, astrophotography, long exposure etc. and the 6D shines beautifully due to its amazing low noise sensor up to ISO6400. The standard kit lens 24mm-105mm f4 L series is amazing. So sharp and accurate.

Where it lets me down is in the studio. In the field I manual focus everything, in the studio however I prefer to use autofocus at times. The autofocus on this camera sucks. Yes it can focus on the light of a full moon, but for everyday use it’s about 3 years behind the market. My guess is that the 6D came out after the 5dIII and Canon had to make sure that people still bought the 5dIII even though the 6D sensor is better in low light hands down. The 5DIII focus system is great!

With regards to the multiple exposure and HDR modes. Both are features that I think all serious SLR cameras should have moving forward. They are fantastic!

2 upvotes
l_d_allan
By l_d_allan (8 months ago)

> And as is Canon's wont, they have opted for the allure of familiarity and consistency

Am I living on a different planet? I have a 5d2, T3i/600d, and now a 6d. With just the 5d2, I got familiar enough with the user interface to work in the dark.

But the three cameras turn on/off differently. The LiveView works differently. The Mode PASM works different. Many controls are relocated. Magnify is different. Re-assign buttons is different, etc. etc. etc.

I get it that the UI has to change with fewer thumb wheels on the 600d, and missing the joy-stick on the 6d However, the on/off changes, Mode, etc. seem like poor choices.

I really didn't expect to have a re-learning curve from the 5d2 to the 6d. If I forget a head-lamp, it really slows me down at night.

Seems more like "change for the sake of change" rather than compelling improvement. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

Am I the only whiner that feels this way?

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
siggo
By siggo (8 months ago)

Does the 6D lack an anti-aliassing filter?

0 upvotes
l_d_allan
By l_d_allan (8 months ago)

It has an anti-aliasing filter. AFAIK, I'm not aware of any Canon camera that doesn't have the AAF (aka OLPF?)

BTW: the reviews I read on the Nikon cameras is that lack of the AAF is over-rated. The 800e implementation seems like a joke ... pay more to have them put a compensating "something" over the existing AAF.

Seems kind of like a lens having a UV filter built-in, then paying to have an anti-UV filter on top of that ?

1 upvote
Machinemad
By Machinemad (5 months ago)

hahahaha! well said! @l_d_allan.

0 upvotes
tallguy600
By tallguy600 (8 months ago)

Used to own a D600, sold it, prefer the 6D by a margin and love the Wi-Fi implementation.
No clue about that DP review of the D600, I find it misleading as the D600 was clearly a camera released too hasty without proper quality control.
Using Lightroom 5, does everything I need, never touched the Canon software CD.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
5 upvotes
Just Ed
By Just Ed (8 months ago)

I have a very similar experience. Love my 6D and the Canon L lenses. Really enjoy how the Canon cameras capture the colors of nature. I was always fiddling with the greens on my Nikon images from both the D600 and D90 it replaced.

0 upvotes
westerner
By westerner (6 months ago)

You can fix the green tint with one click in the white balance menu...set one click towards magenta, and the green goes away. Forever. That's ridiculous to switch brands for that. Better yet, shoot RAW, and who cares what the white balance looks like? Fix it in post.

1 upvote
cadby
By cadby (9 months ago)

Finally ready to make the jump to full frame after 8 years with Olympus DSLR's. After considerable research and gnashing of teeth I pulled the trigger on the 6D. I really wanted to go with the Nikon D 600 based on DP Review and various other reviews, based on features, output quality and MP, but the ongoing concerns over the sensor dust and oil spots and Nikons recalcitrant PR approach to these issues pushed me to the 6D. I just could not imagine investing $3k in full kit only to experience ongoing sensor issues. I am excited to experience the full frame format and take my amatuer photography to the next level.
How is Canon's photo management & editing software? Should I look into purchasing another package, and what does the forum recommend?

5 upvotes
Sten298
By Sten298 (8 months ago)

Fully agree with your comments! I was about to go to Nikon D600 but was so much disappointed with their no-customer (snob) oriented approach that eventually decided for the 6D. I couldn't be more satisfied for such a decision. I liked Nikon so much in the past (before digital era) they made so beautiful film cameras, but this is the past...the present looks different.
As for the software: I always shoot RAW and develop with Capture One and that's excellent for other cameras, particularly for Fuji X raw files, but for 6D RAW files I found out that Canon software (Digital Photo Professional) gives better results. The only drawback of DPP is that it is very slow.

6 upvotes
robogobo
By robogobo (9 months ago)

After a long deliberation, I decided to upgrade from my 5Dii to the 6D. Some may call it a sidegrade or even a downgrade, but for me, image quality is everything, and the ablity to focus and shoot in low light is paramount. I'm very happy with my decision, and so far I don't miss any of the 5D line features. I'm getting shots I wouldn't have gotten with the 5Dii (maybe not even with the mark iii), and most importantly I can afford to upgrade every one or two years with the current price point of the 6D rather than three or four with the 5D. I'd rather have more frequent updates of sensor technology instead of being left with a better built, feature packed but obsolete camera for the same money.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 1 minute after posting
5 upvotes
LongerVogue
By LongerVogue (9 months ago)

Anyone tried eos 6d with 12mm lens. How is it?

0 upvotes
l_d_allan
By l_d_allan (8 months ago)

Well, it is ultra wide. What info are you looking for?

Sharpness? Vignetting? Which 12mm lens? Electrical connectivity? Focus speed?

0 upvotes
Ruud Wilschut
By Ruud Wilschut (9 months ago)

@ Alwynj:
The difference is more obvious when you look at the brown fibers right on top of the color chart with the lady's face. Also the black and white squares in the corners are a lot sharper with the Canon, but perhaps the used Canon lens performs better resolving detail in the corners than the Nikkor used with the D600 what might explain the difference in detail.

1 upvote
Alwynj
By Alwynj (9 months ago)

I don't understand DP Review. Compare the Canon 6d and Nikon D600 and they'll have you believe that the D600 edges ahead in the high ISO dept, but to my eyes the 6d wins when I use the comparative tool. Images appear slightly cleaner and sharper (in RAW). Move the box to the face of the lady and see for yourself

4 upvotes
l_d_allan
By l_d_allan (8 months ago)

Some of that may be because the comparison may be on a pixel vs pixel basis. A single Canon pixel may have lower noise than a single Nikon pixel, but there are many more Nikon pixels.

And I tend to get fuzzy when comparing crop cameras to full-frames. It can be "apples and oranges".

0 upvotes
Segaman
By Segaman (3 months ago)

Great camera the 6D, so far I get great pics at high iso, so for a live show its a must, sure the Nikon as great qualities, but at high iso....Canon wins hands down, by 2 stops......
If you are a Canon user stick to Canon, if you are a Nikon user stick to Nikon, they are both great cameras, depending on what you intend to shoot

0 upvotes
Buck_Lovell
By Buck_Lovell (9 months ago)

Please quaitfy the autofouce performance in video mode....fast, medium, slow? Continuous autofocus is what I need....fats continuous....

0 upvotes
l_d_allan
By l_d_allan (8 months ago)

I am mostly ignorant about video and the 70d, so "consider the source". My impression is that the Canon 70d is the only Canon camera with decent auto-focus.

0 upvotes
MABurney
By MABurney (10 months ago)

"The EOS 6D is Canon's attempt to entice DSLR owners who are looking for the benefits of full frame shooting - including shallower depth of field and wider-angle lens coverage, but can't afford the EOS 5D Mark III."

". . . Canon's compromises have turned what could have a been a truly great camera into merely a very good one. "

This is interesting. Do we want 6D to be like the 5D Mark III? Then why not buy the $3,500.00 camera.

1 upvote
l_d_allan
By l_d_allan (8 months ago)

> then why not buy the $3,500.00 camera

Seems like you've answered your own question ... the 5d3 is a Lot More Expensive, especially if your photography equipment isn't a write-off.

0 upvotes
WillieG
By WillieG (6 months ago)

The 6D would never be considered a great camera compared to the 5DMk3. More than likely the compromises that make the 6D "merely a very good one" are those with respect to the D600.

1 upvote
Thomas Karlmann
By Thomas Karlmann (Sep 11, 2013)

DPR: Can you please insert a photo in ALL your reviews showing the AF sensor array? Thank you.

0 upvotes
Maddrew
By Maddrew (9 months ago)

Assuming we are looking into the camera's OVF horizontally, the vertical coverage of the 6D's sensor array is about 1/3 the height of the OVF, spreading from the centre AF point. The diamond shaped array is slightly wider, almost covering 2/3 the width of the EVF, but just almost. Shooting vertical portraits with extreme DOFs (like using the 50mm F1.2 L wide open) can be tricky, because the furthest points of the diamond AF array misses the subject's eyes (under normal compositions) a little too much. But to be fair, the 5D Mark III's high density AF array is not that much spread out either, especially when compared to Canon's APS-C EOS bodies.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Total comments: 49