Canon EOS 6D In-Depth Review
The EOS 6D shares the same DIGIC 5+ processor and most of the impressive video specs found on the EOS 5D Mark III and EOS-1D X. Video can be captured at 1080p resolution at 30 or 24 fps using one of two video encoding options. The 6D likewise offers SMPTE time code support for synchronizing external audio and/or footage from a second camera.
The camera is also happy to record for its maximum 29:59 minutes without a risk of overheating in normal working temperatures, and can split a single clip across multiple files so that it isn't impeded by the 4GB file limit of the FAT 32 file system. And borrowing from its Rebel-series models like the EOS 650D, Canon has also included its video snapshot feature, in which very short clips (8 seconds or less) can be combined in-camera for sequential playback. Unlike some current Nikon and Sony full frame DSLRs, the 6D fails to offer uncompressed HDMI output. Videographers may take heart, however, from the fact that after the 5D Mark III (which also shipped without uncompressed output) was released, Canon announced plans to add the capability to that camera with a firmware update, so it's just possible that this feature will be added in the future.
|The 6D's movie mode offers a choice of ALL-I and IPB video compression.||Support for SMPTE time code means you can easily sync footage shot with different cameras and external audio recorders.|
The 6D offers two video encoding choices. With the 'All-I' compression option, each frame is treated independently, rather than trying to identify and compress common areas for neighboring frames. This means higher playback quality and easier editing, though at the cost of larger file sizes (you'll fit 22 minutes of All-I footage on a 16GB card, rather than the 64 with the alternative IPB compression).
The 6D offers full manual control over both exposure and audio, including an attenuator for use in situations where sudden loud noises may cause clipping. As with all current EOS models except the 650D, the camera's built-in mic is monoaural, but there is a 3.5mm stereo mic input.
Somewhat controversially, Canon has chosen to omit the headphone jack that would actually allow you to monitor your audio. This has generated no small amount of ire from videographers who were entertaining thoughts of the 6D as a lower-cost alternative to the 5D Mark III. Assuming this omission was not made purely on cost grounds it seems unlikely that the size of the 6D would have been substantially increased with the addition of another 3.5mm socket. As it stands, the 6D is the only full frame DSLR to lack the option to plug in headphones; a move that whatever the reasons behind it, may reduce the camera's appeal to videographers, despite its otherwise impressive specifications.
Video quality options
|Sizes||• ALL-I or IPB
1920 x 1080p (30/25/24 fps)
1280 x 720p (60/50fps)
640 x 480 (30fps)
|Audio||Monaural sound, Linear PCM, stereo sound with external microphone|
|Format||H.264 / MPEG-4|
|Max file size per clip||4.0 GB|
|Recordable time||29:59 minutes|
Handling in Video mode
With the live view switch (shown below) set to movie mode, initiating video capture is as simple as pressing the record button once to begin recording and a second time to end it. Continuous AF is not possible, and even in the manual Canon advises that you first acquire focus before you begin recording.
|The basic process of shooting a video on the 6D is very similar to the EOS 5D Mark III. You set the Live View/Movie switch to the movie position to enter the movie mode and then press the start/stop button to record footage.
You engage autofocus with either a shutter-half press or by pressing the AF-On button.
In PAS modes you can set exposure compensation either before or while recording by turning the rear dial - with the lock switch in the left position - as you would do when taking stills images. In shutter priority mode, ISO and aperture are set automatically, you select shutter speed by turning the front dial. In aperture mode you turn the same dial to change aperture. In manual mode you turn front and rear dials for aperture and shutter speed respectively. You can change shutter speed and aperture while you are recording, although this will result in distracting 'exposure jumps' in the footage.
In the A+, CA and Scene modes the ISO is set automatically between ISO 100-12800. In PASM modes you can expand this to ISO 25600. The way to achieve this is a little counter-intuitive. You will actually have to select the 'H' setting for ISO, as in movie mode ISO 25600 is regarded as an expansion setting. If you set the ISO limit to 25600 in movie mode the camera will only go as high as ISO 12800.
|Although Quick mode AF is listed as an option in the video menu, it is actually only engaged if you shoot a still image while recording video.||The 6D offers both auto and manual control over audio levels, with a dB meter display.|
|Like the lower-end EOS 650D / Rebel T4I, the 6D offers both a digital wind filter and attenuator.||Alongside its high-end video specs, the 6D also offers Canon's decidedly mass market video snapshot feature.|
If you press any of the hard buttons, such as White Balance or AF mode, while you are in video mode the settings screen is overlaid on the live view images. Which buttons are active in video mode depends on the shooting mode you are in. Like in stills mode you can also use the Q-menu. A press of the Q-button will give you access to the Auto Lighting Optimizer, memory card selection, still image quality, movie quality and size, and the sound recording level.
You can take stills images while shooting video. A half-press of the shutter button will display still image shutter speed and ISO at the screen bottom. If you full-press the image is recorded but will result in an approximately one second long 'still moment' in the video. Therefore taking stills images can only be recommended if you plan to edit and cut your video footage in post production.
Video image quality
As mentioned earlier, the 6D offers two types of video compression -IMB and ALL-I.
IBP compression compresses multiple frames at a time which results in smaller file sizes while ALL-I compresses only one frame at a time. This results in significantly larger file sizes but gives you more flexibility when editing the video files. That said, in terms of image quality, we found it very difficult to spot a difference between the two modes when viewing footage on consumer computer displays. Our advice to a casual video shooter is to stick with the default IBP for the sake of the smaller file sizes.
Like the 5D Mark III, the EOS 6D's 35mm full frame sensor brings with it all the depth of field pros and cons that come with larger sensors. It allows for much easier isolation of subjects and gives you, in combination with Canon's extensive range of EF lenses, better creative flexibility than the smaller sensors of APS-C or smaller sensor cameras.
The 6D's video looks very good, displaying pleasantly sharp output at full size compared to other DSLRs. Exposure and white balance are well-judged in a variety of scenarios, with the latter struggling primarily in warmly lit low-light environments. The most impressive aspect of the 6D's video performance is, by far, its low-light high ISO performance. The noise levels at high ISO settings, while visible, are impressively minimized. As you'll see in the section below, you can get usable footage even at ISO 25,600, which is the maximum sensitivity allowed for video. For casual video shooters looking to document events exclusively for their personal use, the 6D is a very capable video camera.
Serious videographers, however, will be extremely disappointed in the 6D's tendency to produce aliasing artifacts, including very distracting moiré patterning, in a very wide range of subject matter. In our time spent shooting video for this review, we found examples of aliasing in the overwhelming majority of our footage. Brick buildings and roof shingles, bodies of water, and even street markings elicit artifacts that make the clips unsuitable for professional work. Moiré can be reduced, to an extent in post-processing, but it is almost impossible to eliminate after the fact.
The following video samples were shot using the EOS 6D's 1920 x 1080 All-I compression setting with the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens. We've included handheld and tripod-mounted samples at both base and maximum ISO sensitivities.
Sample videos 1 and 2Avoiding moiré is a primary concern for any videographer who wants to shoot with a DSLR. Unfortunately, as you'll see in these two clips, the 6D produces very obvious moiré patterning in the brick facades of buildings. The fact that repeated patterns like brickwork can produce moiré is no surprise. The prominent nature in which this occurs on the 6D, however, is very disappointing.
|1920 x 1080 30 fps, .MOV file, 12 sec, 127 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
Below you can see another example of the aliasing pattern. It's worth noting that the problem cannot always be eliminated by simply moving a bit closer or further to the offending subject. In each of these scenes, we saw visible moiré from multiple camera to subject distances.
|1920 x 1080 30 fps, .MOV file, 11 sec, 121 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
Sample video 3
This video clip highlights the low-light capabilities of the 6D's sensor. This night scene was shot at ISO 25,600, which is the maximum setting available in video mode. This allows for both a faster shutter speed to capture the movement of the pedestrians as well as a reasonably narrow aperture setting to increase depth of field.
The noise suppression here is very impressive. In fact, even at full size, you'll see only a little more chroma noise than in a similar scene shot for our Sony SLT-A99 review, and that sample was recorded at a full two stops lower ISO sensitivity (ISO 6400 versus 25,600). Unfortunately, aliasing artifacts are again very prominent. Here you can see them in both the street markings and anti-slip mat at the crosswalk.
|1920 x 1080 30 fps, .MOV file, 29 sec, 306 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
Sample video 4
This handheld video clip demonstrates Canon's image stabilization built into the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens. You can also see how the 6D handles motion of the penny as it swirls increasingly faster down the funnel. The camera was set to a manual exposure with 1/60 sec at F8, with Auto ISO enabled.
|1920 x 1080 30 fps, .MOV file, 26 sec, 251 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
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