Body & Design

The EOS 6D bears a strong family resemblance to recent EOS designs - it's perhaps best-described as a fixed-screen 60D with a bit of 5D Mark III mixed in. It gets all of Canon's latest design touches, including the power switch below the mode dial, combined live view/movie control beside the viewfinder, and Quick Control 'Q' button. The buttons are clustered for operation mainly by your right hand, with only the Menu and Info buttons on the left below the mode dial and power switch.

The magnify button for checking focus in live view or playback occupies a new position compared to previous EOS bodies, and is now positioned for operation by your right thumb, but this means there's no place for the joystick multicontroller to move the AF point that's seen on other high-end EOSs. Its functions are taken by a 60D-like 8-way controller at the hub of the rear dial, with the familiar SET button in its centre. The disadvantage of this design is that the AF point selector is no longer directly under your thumb, but rather lower down the body, where it's less convenient with your eye to the finder.

Construction is solid, if perhaps not offering quite the same bullet-proof feel as the EOS 5D Mark III or EOS 7D. In part this is because the 6D has a plastic top plate, which according to Canon is necessary to allow the Wi-Fi and GPS to work. The rest of the body uses a magnesium alloy shell, and Canon describes it as 'dust and drip-proof'.

In what's sure to be controversial move in some quarters, the EOS 6D becomes Canon's first full frame SLR to rely solely on SD cards for recording, rather than Compact Flash. Chances are, though, that if you're buying a new body you'll be getting new cards for it anyway, and fast high-capacity SD cards are readily available and affordable. What you can't work around, however, is the fact that the 6D only provides a single card slot, with all its full frame DSLR rivals offering dual slots for more flexible storage options (on the Nikon D600, for example, we like being able to use one card for stills and the other for video).

Top of camera controls (right)

The EOS 6D's right hand top-plate has essentially the same control layout as the 60D. The front dial, that's placed immediately behind the shutter button, changes the primary exposure parameter for the selected mode - program shift in P, aperture in Av, and shutter speed in Tv and M. Behind it are a strip of buttons giving direct access to autofocus and drive modes, metering pattern and ISO (the latter being markedly better-placed for operation with the camera to your eye than on the Nikon D600), along with one that illuminates the top-plate LCD.

Next to the viewfinder is a switch-and-button control that's used to enter live view and initiate video recording. The AF-ON button activates the camera's autofocus, and the 'Star' button next to it is a customizable autoexposure lock. Beside it is the AF point selector - press this and you can move the focus point around using either the front and rear dials, or the directional pad inside the rear dial.

Top of camera controls (left)

On the other side of the pentaprism you'll find the power switch and mode dial. This has the familiar four exposure modes - Program, Aperture priority, Shutter Priority and Manual - plus Bulb shutter mode and two custom positions into which you can save camera settings for specific commonly-encountered scenarios. There's also 'Auto+' and 'Creative Auto' modes, the latter offering results-orientated creative control, and a new SCN position that consolidates Canon's long-running scene modes (sport, landscape etc.) in one place. One change compared to previous EOSs is that the mode dial rotates freely though 360 degrees, with no end-stops. The dial locks into whatever mode you've selected, and is unlocked by depressing the small circular button at its center.

Below these, there are two buttons to access the camera's menus and change the amount of information displayed on the rear screen.

Rear Controls

The rest of the EOS 6D's major shooting controls are on the back, arranged for operation by your right thumb. The Q button brings up an interactive control screen while shooting, allowing you to change camera parameters that can't necessarily be accessed directly through external buttons. It also brings overlaid option menus in Live View and Playback modes, offering rapid access to features such as in-camera RAW conversion.

Above and to the left of this is the magnify button, which is used to zoom in and check focus in live view and playback. Below that is the playback button itself, with the delete key underneath it towards the bottom of the camera.

The rear dial is used to change exposure compensation in P, Av and Tv modes, and change the aperture in M. Set within it is an 8-way controller that's used for such things as changing the focus point, navigating menus and scrolling around images in playback. The rear dial can be locked against accidental settings changes by sliding the switch below it to the right.

Front of camera controls

The only control on the front of the EOS 6D is the depth of field preview button, which is customizable to one of nine other functions if you prefer.

The depth of field preview button is placed far down the side of the lens throat, the same location as on the EOS 60D. And like the 60D we find its position makes it difficult to access when shooting in portrait format.

We prefer the EOS 5D Mark III's layout, where this button can be reached with your shooting hand still wrapped around the grip.
Functions assignable to depth-of-field preview button
Depth of Field Preview (default) AF-Off AE lock/FE lock One shot / Ai Servo AF IS start
Electronic level (in viewfinder) AE lock hold AE lock FE (flash exposure) lock Off (no function)