Review: Comparison Canon 5D MarkIII vs the Canon 6D
Close
Close

Review: Comparison Canon 5D MarkIII vs the Canon 6D

EOS 5D Mark III and EOS 6D

Now that Canon has two semi-professional full-frame cameras, the EOS 5D Mark III and EOS 6D, naturally photographers wonder which is the best model for them. As a former Technical Editor of EOS Magazine (the best magazine Canon owners could possible buy) I would like to share my insights.

But first, if you’re in the market for a full-frame EOS camera, let’s not forget the top of the range EOS 1D-X. This is a high-end, professional camera with a price tag to match. It’s big and heavy and built for the demands of a professional photographer’s life. Most photographers don’t need this much camera, but it’s interesting to look at because its size and price put Canon’s other full-frame cameras into perspective. Here’s a photo:

EOS 1D-X

EOS 1D-X

Big, right? The body alone weighs 1340 grams (nearly three pounds) and will set you back nearly $6800 USD+tax if you buy it from B&H Photo Video. The weight and price alone mean this camera isn’t suitable for most non-professional photographers, leaving Canon’s other full-frame models, the EOS 5D Mark III and EOS 6D, as the available choices.

Let’s compare – Canon 5D MarkIII vs the Canon 6D

Key differences

Let’s start by looking at what could be the deciding factor for some people – price. The EOS 5D Mark III costs around $3299. The EOS 6D is $1500 less expensive at $1799 (body only prices). That’s a huge difference, so why would anyone choose the 5D Mark III over the 6D? Let’s take a look.

Size and weight

  • The 5D Mark III weighs around 950g/2.1 lb.
  • The EOS 6D is Canon’s smallest and lightest full-frame digital SLR. It weighs 755g/1.6lb (body only, but including memory card and battery). It is also slightly smaller.

I own an EOS 5D Mark II and I can tell you that it gets heavy when I carry it around all day. If you’re planning to carry a camera on a strap over your shoulder for hours at a time, then it makes sense to buy the lighter model, and use light lenses (such as the EF 50mm f1.4 lens in the photo below).

EOS 6D

EOS 6D with EF 50mm f1.4 lens

On the other hand, if you are a landscape photographer, keep the camera mainly in the studio, or just take it with you on location and use it for a couple of hours then pack it away again, the weight probably makes no difference.

Bottom line: If size and weight are critical, then go for the EOS 6D. But not before considering autofocus performance!

Autofocus

Autofocus performance is the major difference between the two cameras. It is a big factor if you are into photographing sports, action, portraits or any moving subject.

  • The EOS 5D Mark III has a 61 point AF array with up to 41 cross-type AF sensors (depending on the maximum aperture of the lens mounted on the camera). Along with the EOS 1D-X, it has Canon’s most advanced autofocus system.
  • The EOS 6D has an eleven point autofocus (AF) array with one cross-type AF sensor in the centre.

Cross-type AF points are more sensitive, and therefore focus more accurately, than other AF sensors. This is especially important if you work at wide apertures (i.e. between f1.0 and f2.8) as depth-of-field is so narrow at these settings.

As an example, let’s look at how it works with portrait photography. Imagine that you’re taking a portrait of someone with an 85mm lens set to f1.8. Accurate focus is critical as depth-of-field is very narrow at this setting – you may have less than an inch of sharpness to play with. The normal way to focus in this situation is to use the AF point closest to the model’s eye. The photo below shows how this works by overlaying a diagram of the EOS 6D’s AF array over a portrait. The single cross-type AF point in the centre is shown in green, and the AF point the photographer would have to use is in red:

EOS 6D autofocus array

You can see the problem right away. As the only cross-type AF point is in the centre, you can’t use it to focus unless the model’s eye is also in the centre of the frame. You have to use one of the less sensitive, and therefore less accurate, AF points at the edge of the array.

With the EOS 5D Mark III the story changes. With up 41 cross-type AF points available (shown in red), it is far more likely you will find one to cover the model’s eye. The end result is that you will get more in-focus photos.

EOS 5D Mark III autofocus array

You can learn more about the autofocus of the EOS 5D Mark III in my article Understanding EOS Autofocus: The EOS 5D Mark III and EOS 1D-X

Bottom line: If autofocus performance is critical, then (budget allowing) go for the EOS 5D Mark III.

Wi-fi and GPS

This is another major difference between the two cameras. However this time, and somewhat counter-intuitively, it is the EOS 6D that has the features and the 5D Mark III that does not.

  • The EOS 6D’s built-in GPS lets you geotag your photos with the camera’s location as you take them. You can then use that to see where they were taken on a map, help organize or search your images in Lightroom, or as extra information if you sell your photos to a stock library. If you want to do the same with an EOS 5D Mark III, you have to buy a GPS unit separately.
  • The EOS 6D’s built-in wireless lets you upload your photos via a local wi-fi connection to a computer as you take them (useful in a studio or even on location if you have a laptop with you), upload photos to Facebook, or remotely control your camera using a Smartphone app. Again, you have to buy a separate wireless unit, which comes built-in to a portrait grip, to do the same with an EOS 5D Mark III.

Bottom line: If you need GPS or Wi-fi, then buying the EOS 6D will save you a lot of money.

EOS 5D Mark III

EOS 5D Mark III with EF 24-70mm f4 lens

Dual card slots

  • The EOS 6D has a single card slot for an SD type memory card (it also accepts SDHC and SDXC cards)
  • The EOS 5D Mark III has two card slots. One takes CF cards, and the other SD (plus SDHC/SDXC cards)

One benefit of dual card slots is speed. CF cards are faster, which helps give higher burst speeds and assists with recording movies.

Another is security. You can set the EOS 5D Mark III to save photos to both the CF card and SD card slots at the same time, giving you a back-up in case one fails. Bear in mind it will slow the camera down as it takes longer to write a file to two cards, but it may give you peace of mind on important shoots. I imagine wedding photographers will greatly appreciate this feature.

Having said that, if you look after your memory cards, and buy a reputable brand, they are highly unlikely to fail. Most memory card failures are the result of corruption caused by user error, such as removing a card from a reader while the computer is writing to it.

Bottom line: If dual card slots matter to you, then you need the EOS 5D Mark III.

EOS 5D Mark III dual card slots

The dual card slots of the EOS 5D Mark III.

Minor differences

There are lots of minor differences between the two cameras, so I’ve provided some links to in-depth reviews so that you can get more information before making a purchasing decision. You’ll also see some photos taken with both models. In the meantime, if you own or have used either of these cameras, why not tell us what you think in the comments. Why did you choose one or the other, and do you think you made the best choice?

EOS 5D Mark III reviews

EOS 6D reviews

Understanding EOS

Understanding EOS ebook cover

My ebook Understanding EOS is written for photographers who want to learn to get the best from their EOS cameras. Click the link to learn more.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like...

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category.

Andrew S. Gibson is a writer and photographer living in New Zealand. He is the author of over twenty photography ebooks and he's giving two of them away. Sign up to his monthly newsletter to receive complementary copies of The Creative Image and Use Lightroom Better.

  • http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198051596340/ Traingineer

    I decided on the 6D mainly because mounting options aren’t as great as I expected and the 6D is pretty good.

  • Christian Dela Cruz

    Wait, Where did you got the 6d with a pop up flash? It must be a limited edition :)

  • Kangaroo Be Stoned

    Haha, You’re right.

  • godzillaser
  • http://www.andrewsgibson.com/blog/ Andrew S. Gibson

    Sounds like a good decision. Gavin’s review about the A7r sums up the difficulties involved in using Canon cameras on the Sony bodies:

    http://digital-photography-school.com/camera-review-sony-a7r

  • Brian Reese

    I think maybe they were thinking since a full frame camera without a popup flash was a bit more professional, the audience they would be attracting would be people knowing how to use HSS.

  • Alex Dyskin

    Excuse me, are you Stephen I know?

  • Stephen Richter

    I don’t think so. Living in Canada.
    German last name ring a bell?

  • Alex Dyskin

    I used to work in IT with the guy same first and last name

  • Bri

    Have you noticed any loss of quality in the auto focus feature? The review above mentions the Mark III is much better but I’m upgrading from a t3i so I’m guessing I’ll notice a huge improvement there, right?

    Thanks!

  • Steve S

    In most case 1/180 is fast enough to sync for most subjects, and if you can not reduce your ambient light enough, then add a ND filter to lower the light.
    My 7D has a sync speed of 1/250 which come in handy at times when I really want to lower bright ambient light (sun light), but am also fine with my 5D III having 1/200.
    I often sync as low as 1/100 – 1/180, which allows me room to move (exposure) without having to change my speedlite power when off camera.
    Remember that the duration of a flash is only a micro second.

  • VivekKhanna

    Ok…. so would it be correct to infer that unless you’re using f/2.8 or larger aperture lenses the superior focus system of the 5D3 wouldn’t work and hence the 6D is a better bet for those with f/4 and smaller aperture lenses ??

  • VivekKhanna

    ….. and with high speed sync on the 6D does this really matter?

  • Pablo

    I LOVE my 6D id go for it over the MKIII nos only because of the price but its a better value. Imagine it this way, if you have the option of buying the 6D and they tell you that for $1700 you would get a special edition 6D more cross type focusing and one more memory slot, would you pay it? probably nos because those are the main differences, the rest of them are very minor. 6D may have one cross type sensor but it is a damn good one especially in very low light, I can focus anything every time, it is in fact a great sensor. Canon had to put only one cross type sensor to make it less than the MKIII, I`ve had to learn to focus-recomopose, focus-recomopose, before i selected the focus point with my 60D. I got used to shooting that way and i kinda like it now. It´s a minor gripe, but not a deal breaker by any means.
    GPS and WIFI are a novelty and quickly become useless.
    Bodies loose their value very quickly, by 2016-17 you will see a MKIV. Buy a great lens with the money you save, lens keep their value and can be used for many years.
    Buy a 6D over a MKIII you won’t regret it. I really mean it.

  • http://www.photographyrechereche.com Mohsin Ansari

    Have a 6D – bought 2 months ago. Love it. Focusing is not a issue – 5D3 obviously much better. Upgraded from 20D to 6D and love it. Also have a T3i. HIGH ISO is awesome in 6D.

  • http://www.photographyrechereche.com Mohsin Ansari

    Agree. Have 24-105 f//4 on 6D. Want to add 70-200 F/2.8 and 85MM f/1.2 for primarily portraits.

  • http://www.guillaumeerard.com Guillaume Erard

    I am planing to use this mainly for documentary and dance videos but also would like to take decent photos every now and then, do you have an advice or resource to point out for that type of use?

  • Lapeque

    I’ve had my 6D for six months now. I absolutely love it! It’s low light performance is just amazing… At my school we can rent 5D3s and I have done so many times out of fear my 6D won’t be up to the challenge but I have ALWAYS ended up with better pictures from my 6D. I love traveling with it, I love shooting with it at night, it captures so many hues and detail in shadows it’s just perfect. I’m absolutely in love with this body.

  • http://www.dynamiceyephotography.com Anna

    This was really helpful! And so were the comments. I currently have a T2i and I am buying a 6D I have been wondering if it is a good choice to make.

  • dorsan

    Thanks for the feedback, everybody. It’s interesting that most of the lenses mentioned are primes. But not surprising as they are ideal for portraits.
    ????? ?????????? ???? ????

  • tore

    As with all things, Stellage, everyone’s opinion counts. My experience with this kit has always been quite positive.
    ??? ????????
    ????? ????
    ?????? ???? ????

  • Shawn Wreghkt

    Having had both 6D and 5D III, the 6D has slightly sharper images due to no AA filter and the 6D does in fact have less ISO noise than the 5D. I do a lot of low light/night photography and the 6D was the clear winner. After getting the 5D, that was one of the first things I’ve noticed. Many reviewers also back my statement up, just look some up.

  • Sayantan

    Canon India website : For Professional Users >> 1Dx & 5D Mark III

    my question is where canon says 5d mk3 is not a pro cam ?

    source : http://www.canon.co.in/personal/productfinder?productfinder=personal-eos&languageCode=EN

  • SuperSVGA

    Usually I’ve seen the 1D line referred to as “Professional” while the lower 5D3 and 6D are “Enthusiast”.

  • Sayantan

    Usually who create this :P canon or end user? :P

  • truebeam

    Thanks so much for the review and discussion. I’m having a hard time choosing between 6D and 5D Mark III. I currently have an Olympus EM5. While I love this little camera, it doesn’t do low light and moving subjects that well. I do portraits (little kids and weddings) primarily. I don’t care about videos that such. Seems like 6D can handle those situation well? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated!

  • David2014

    Semi-professional means semi-paid.

Some older comments

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Sign up to the free DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER

DPS offers a free weekly newsletter with: 
1. new photography tutorials and tips
2. latest photography assignments
3. photo competitions and prizes

Enter your email below to subscribe.
Email:
 
 
Get DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS feed