D600 Vs 6d...Wide-Field Astrophotography

Started Feb 14, 2013 | Discussions thread
Astrophotographer 10 Forum Pro • Posts: 10,455
Re: D600 Vs 6d...Wide-Field Astrophotography

I do this type of photography as well. I am interested to some degree about this.

I currently use D800E and wonder sometimes what a 5D3 or 6D would fare in comparison. I post often at an astrophotography site where most use Canon 5D2. That camera is limited to ISO3200 and banding can be significant in shadows when pushed but kept within its limits its a fantastic nigthscape camera. I have seen sample 6D shots but they are hard to evaluate as the imager took shots too basic to tell.

What I can say is the D800E is amazing I shoot routinely at ISO6400 and use a Nikon 14-24mm F2.8ED lens which many consider to be the finest lens in its category. The Samyang 14mm F2.8 is also a popular choice in this category.

The D800E has a slight yellow/green bias in its images compared to Canon which has a slight bluish bias in its images. I shoot at white balance 4200k and knock down green/magenta -1 and I get a pleasing colour. Shot at aut white balance and you'll get too much green from night glow in the atmosphere. The Nikon's (seen a D4 image as well) do seem very sensitive to green.

If you do time lapse, then Nikon's internal time lapse and interval timer functions are fantastic. I use them a lot as well to do nightsky time lapses. The camera makes a movie file of the time lapse so its ready to go straight out of the camera. Canon does not have that. D600 has that.

I followed the D600/6D and 5D3 very closely. Canon seems to be lagging in sensor development compared to Nikon who uses cutting edge Sony sensors which as the best on the market. But Canon has adopted an approach to make up for a slight lack in sensor performance with cutting edge jpeg engine and the power of its Digic 5. So its using computer power to process its jpegs. 6D appears to have implemented that better than 5D3 where jpeg output was smeared too much from the noise control which is essentially blurring.

Also 6D has lower read noise, slightly higher QE than 5D3 and noticeably lower high ISO noise in JPEG. The gain in RAW is probably less but still there. So for this reason I would chose a 6D over a 5D3 for astro work. I have yet to see a decent 60D astrophoto so at the risk of making too broad a pronunciamento I would only consider a 5D3 or 6D in the Canon range or 1DX (probably the best but expensive).

Between 6D and D600, not withstanding reported dust/oil on sensor issues of D600 I would probably still lean towards D600 due to the basically superior processor, the better lens selection for widefield (Novoflex makes an adapter for $200 to fit Nikon lenses on Canon EOS and it works well) and the internal time lapse and interval timer functions (time lapse only shoots jpeg, doesn't save individual images but outputs them in a .mov file, interval timer does shoot RAW if you want to do a time lapse in RAW).

QE on the D600 is higher than 6D as well. Not a lot though, 53% versus 50% for 6D but read noise is much lower in 6D, full well depth is much the same for either and much larger than for D800.


I notice my D800E picks up the subtle and hard to record night glows of ionised gases in the atmosphere which are subtle reds, magentas and greens very well that I don't see in many Canon images. Again I haven't seen virtually 1 well done 6D image so hard to conclude but the D600 is likely to be a bit more sensitive to light than 6D.

Dynamic Range should be similar at the higher ISOs you'll be using but better in the D600 at lower ISOs.

Its a close thing but I think D600 is ahead by a whisker and it may come down to which makers overall image look you prefer. Canon dominates in the astro world but more and more are using Nikons since D800 came out.

In conclusion I would go for D800 if you can but if that is not in the budget then I would go for D600 over 6D at this stage until I see more proof the Canon is more than a sophisticated jpeg engine and shows high end RAW performance in low light like I know for a fact the D800E does (D600 seems to be very very similar).

Put it this way, there is no way I would swap my D800E for a 5D3 and 6D/D600 are a similar model choice.

Sample D800E night images:




Another choice you could consider is an astro modified Sony Nex 5r or Nex 6 (Spencers have them).


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