With a sensor the same size as a 35mm film negative and almost twice the surface area of an APS-C chip that’s found in the majority of DSLRs, full frame DSLRs offer numerous image quality advantages, including better detail and ISO performance.
Until six months ago, if you wanted a full frame camera, you had to dig pretty deep for a pro-spec model, putting them out of reach for many. Now though, with the arrival of the Canon EOS 6D and Nikon D600, full frame photography looks set to reach a wider audience thanks to both cameras offering full frame sensors, but in smaller, lighter and more affordable bodies…
Sensor – 20.2MP CMOS
Output size – 5472 x 3648px
Lens mount – Canon EF
Shutter speeds – 30secs-1/4000sec, bulb
Max flash sync – 1/180sec
ISO 100-25,600 (Extendable to 50-102,400)
Drive mode – 4.5fps
Movie mode – Full HD (1920 x 1080) @ 30/25/24fps
Display – 3in, 1,040k-dot 3:2 screen
Field of view – 97%
Focus points – 11
Dimensions – 144.5 x 110.5 x 71.2mm
Weight – 770g
Sensor – 24.3MP CMOS
Output size – 6016 x 4016px
Lens mount – Nikon FX
Shutter speeds – 30secs-1/4000sec, bulb
Max flash sync – 1/200sec
ISO 100-6400 (Extendable to 50-25,600)
Drive mode – 5.5fps
Movie mode – Full HD (1920 x 1080) @ 30/25/24fps
Display – 3.2in, 921k-dot screen
Field of view – 100%
Focus points – 39
Dimensions – 141 x 113 x 82mm
Weight – 850g
Canon EOS 6D vs. Nikon D600 ? Features
Let’s start by looking at their main selling point – their full frame sensors. The Canon EOS 6D features a 20.2MP chip, while the Nikon D600 offers a slightly higher resolution at 24.3MP. In the real world, this equates to a non-interpolated 240ppi file at 16.7 x 25in compared to 15.2 x 22.8in from the Canon EOS 6D, while the file size is roughly 69.1MB for the D600 compared to 57.1MB for the Canon 6D.
The Canon EOS 6D edges out the D600 when it comes to its sensitivity range, offering a standard ISO range from 100-25,600, that can be expanded to an ISO equivalent of 50-102,400. This compares to a standard ISO range of 100-6400 for the Nikon D600, with the ability to expand this to an ISO equivalent of 50-25,600. While it’s not necessarily going to be used frequently, the extra two stops that the Canon EOS 6D provides adds that bit of versatility when required.
One of the most noticeable differences though is the AF. Whereas the Canon 6D has a very modest (some could say stingy) 11 AF points, the D600 features a much more generous and pro-like 39 AF-point arrangement. Not only that, but while the D600 has the luxury of nine of the AF points being the more sensitive cross-type variants, the 6D makes do with a single cross-type point at the centre – even the Canon EOS 650D features nine cross-type AF points, so it’s disappointing to see just the one cross-type point in the Canon EOS 6D.
The rear screens differ slightly, with the Nikon D600 featuring a 3.2in screen with a 921k-dot resolution, whereas the Canon 6D features a 3in screen, but with a 3:2 aspect ratio display that’s more suited to the dimensions of the sensor and a higher 1,040k-dot resolution. The Nikon D600 does gain some ground back with the viewfinder.
Both have large and bright optical viewfinders – anyone upgrading from an APS-C DSLR will notice the difference immediately – but the D600 provides 100% coverage as opposed to 97% with the Canon 6D. This 3% may seem insignificant, but you’ll be surprised what can creep into the edge of the frame when composing your shot.
The Nikon D600 also boasts a useful built-in flash that’s handy for fill-in and can be set-up to control multiple Speedlights for off-camera flash techniques, while it also has the slightly faster flash sync speed.
Both DSLRs feature Wi-fi connectivity. The Canon EOS 6D has a built-in system; the D600 requires the £65 WU-1b Mobile Adapter. Both offer apps to let you control the camera remotely, even providing a live view feed to your mobile, and images can be transferred wirelessly between the camera and other devices.
Canon EOS 6D vs. Nikon D600 ? Design and Performance
Both use magnesium alloy in their construction, but not to the same extent as either of the two DSLRs mentioned above, with the Canon 6D featuring magnesium alloy plates on the front and rear, while with the D600, Nikon has opted for the top and rear plates, with the remainder on both models constructed from quality high-impact plastics.
Both offer weather-sealing, with the Nikon D600 claimed to feature the same level as the D800, while the Canon EOS 6D comes up a little short compared to the 5D MkIII. Overall, the 6D tips the scales at 770g while the D600 is slightly heavier at 850g, making them only a little bit heavier than either the 60D or D7000.
When it comes to fit and finish, both cameras don’t have quite the same ultra-rugged feel of either the 5D Mk III or D800, but that’s to be expected at the price and both leave you in no doubt that that they are quality pieces of kit.
Decent-sized handgrips can be found on both models, providing a firm and comfortable grip when shooting with a variety of lenses. Overall though, the general consensus was that the Canon 6D delivers a slightly more pleasing feel when you pick it up, though this is only marginal.
Aimed at those upgrading from an APS-C DSLR, it’s no surprise to see that both cameras take the design cues and exterior control layout from these models, with the Canon EOS 6D mimicking the way the 60D’s controls are laid out to some extent, while it’s a similar story with the D600 and the D7000. This means that plenty of exterior shooting controls can be quickly accessed on both models, such as ISO, Drive and White Balance, for example, with both of them featuring a mode dial and LCD display on the top plate.
Both cameras are a pleasure to shoot with – main shooting controls fall to the hand, while both have a comprehensive menu system that allows you to fine-tune the settings of each to your liking. Out of the two however, the Nikon D600 is the slightly more intuitive for the newcomer, but existing owners looking to upgrade will feel right at home on either camera. If you’re looking at either of these cameras as a second body to your full frame kit, the slightly different button arrangement on both models will take a little getting used to when swapping between camera bodies.
When you look through the viewfinder of each camera, both models see their AF points grouped quite tightly in the centre of the frame, with the Canon EOS 6D‘s 11-point arrangement looking noticeably more sparse than the D600’s 39 points. You’ll find that you’ll have to focus then recompose a lot more with the 6D than the D600 thanks to the broader coverage offered by the Nikon, but this will be the case with both cameras when the main point of interest is off-centre.
AF acquirement is fast on both models – the Canon EOS 6D (provided you use the central cross-type AF sensor) has the edge in low light thanks to a detection range going down to -3 EV compared to -1 EV on the Nikon D600, but with the nine cross-type sensors offered by the Nikon, it edges when it comes to most shooting situations.
If you intend to shoot a lot of action, the D600 has the edge again. Provided that your subject also sticks relatively close to the centre of the frame, the D600 offers similar advanced focus-tracking options as its pro stablemates, being able to track subjects across its 39 AF points, using its Scene Recognition System to help maintain focus.
Both cameras offer large rear displays, but the Canon EOS 6D is the winner here. While the screen of the Nikon D600 looks fine in isolation, providing a decent amount of sharpness, it’s only when it’s placed next to the 6D’s display that their differences become pronounced. The Nikon D600’s screen renders a fairly noticeable green cast compared to the 6D, while it can’t quite match it for crispness and contrast either. That’s also not forgetting the 3:2 aspect ratio of the 6D’s display.
As far as burst shooting goes, both offer fairly conservative continuous shooting modes, with the D600 capable of shooting up to 5.5fps (frames per second) and the Canon EOS 6D being a touch slower at 4.5fps. In use with a Class 10 installed, the 6D can sustain this burst for 90 large JPEG files compared to 42 for the Nikon D600, while it’s a dead heat when shooting Raw, with both capturing 16 files before the buffer slows.
Canon EOS 6D vs. Nikon D600 ? Image Quality
With both models sharing similar high pixel counts and full frame sensors, the 20.2MP 6D and 24.3MP D600 both deliver an impressive amount of detail.
Using our resolution test chart and Sigma’s excellent 105mm f/2.8 Macro lens on each camera, the D600 delivers slightly more detail at ISO 100, only failing to reproduce the lines separately on our chart down to a measurement of 32 compared to a still very impressive 30 from the 6D. In real-world conditions, you’d be hard-pushed to notice the difference between the two, with images needing to be studied at 100% to see any real noticeable difference.
Above the base ISO, the D600 has the edge until ISO 3200, where they become almost impossible to split, although the 6D does have the benefit of an extra two stops in sensitivity.
Looking at the Raw files and, as you’d expect, image noise is very well controlled by both the 6D and D600 at ISO 100, with lovely smooth and detailed results, leaving nothing to choose between the two. Increasing the sensitivity still sees some very impressive results, with only minimal luminance and colour noise patterns beginning to make themselves known at ISO 3200. Out of the two cameras, it’s at this sensitivity that image noise is a little more pronounced in results from the 6D, but you’ve got to look closely, and results are still very good.
Increasing the ISO sensitivity by a stop to 6400 sees more luminance and colour noise become apparent in both sets of results/ However, results are still more than usable, especially if you’re prepared to process the images in Adobe Camera Raw where you’ll find that you can reduce both luminance and colour noise.
At ISO 25,600, image noise is an obvious issue, with the 6D displaying more luminance noise than the D600.
Raw and JPEG
Looking at the files from the 6D, the first thing you notice is the level of sharpening that’s been applied to the JPEG file over the Raw, becoming more pronounced as the sensitivity increases – it’s too much for our liking, with the image looking oversharpened.
At higher ISOs some in-camera noise reduction has also been applied, resulting in a slight smudging effect on the image, while colours have a bit more punch.
The D600 doesn’t apply quite the same level of sharpening to its JPEGs, delivering a more pleasing result, while saturation and contrast has also been boosted over its Raw equivalent. As expected, in-camera noise reduction has been applied to the JPEG file, resulting in a smoother, but not quite as detailed file as the Raw image.
White Balance & Colour
Using both the Datacolor Spyder Checkr and real-world testing allowed us to get a good hold on how both cameras handle colour. Auto White Balance on both DSLRs was well judged in most conditions, with the D600 delivering slightly warmer results in some scenarios, though not to the point where it’s undesirable. Both models also offer a host of presets.
Both delivered faithful results through the ISO range, with only the highest sensitivities for both the 6D and D600 showing minor signs of the saturation decreasing ever so slightly.
Canon EOS 6D vs. Nikon D600 ? Verdict
Canon EOS 6D
Excellent image quality
Only one cross-type AF point
No pop-up flash
Single SD card slot
Excellent image quality
39-point AF system
No aperture control during video capture
Screen could be sharper
If you’re an owner of a APS-C based DSLR thinking of upgrading to either one of these models, then you won’t be disappointed with the results they are capable of achieving – but which one do you go for?
Each camera has its own set of advantages and disadvantages compared to its rival. While the Canon EOS 6D has a slightly more satisfying hold, a broader ISO range, aperture control during video, built-in Wi-fi and a sharp and crisp display, the Nikon D600 has the stronger all-round feature set. This includes an advanced 39-point AF system, dual card slots, built-in flash, 100% viewfinder coverage and slightly quicker burst shooting.
The rear screen could be better though, while the inability to control aperture during video capture should deter videographers, while the Canon EOS 6D‘s 11-point system seems out of sync with a camera of this class.
When it comes to image quality, both deliver stunningly detailed images that will allow you to produce high-quality, large prints. Technical testing though reveals that the Nikon D600 has the edge here ever so slightly when it comes to the ultimate detail rendered and ISO performance.
On balance then, especially when you factor in the price, the Nikon D600 just edges it here out of the two, so is a natural choice for Nikon DX-format DSLR owners as well as those shooting with other systems looking to make the jump to full frame. That’s not to say existing Canon DSLRs who are looking for a full frame option should offload all their kit and swap to the Nikon D600 as there really is very little to separate them, and both are excellent DSLRs.