So my trusty Canon 5D Mark II is going to need a replacement soon…not so much “need” as photographers just “want”.  It has served me well.  The next logical progression was the 5D Mark III (I don’t think I need the 50MP capability of the new 5DS – yet).  But then I looked at the 6D.  Now I don’t know.

Update 5/4/2015: Based on my needs I’ve decided to invest in Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras.  You can read why in this post.

What’s the Difference?

Canon released the EOS 6D in 2012 as a full-frame version of the 60D, and the 5D Mark III was released a year later as a replacement to the 5D Mark II.  While the biggest overt difference is probably the price (the 6D retails for about $1,300 less than the Mark III), the other differences are very subtle and made me think twice about getting the Canon 5D Mark III vs the 6D.

Sensors

The Canon 6D has a full-frame, 20.2MP CMOS sensor.  As far as full-frame cameras go, this is one of the most affordable on the market.  And the sensor size isn’t too far behind the Mark III which has a 22.3MP CMOS sensor.  Both cameras also have the DIGIC 5+ processor, a step up from the Mark II’s DIGIC 4, reducing noise and processing faster.
So in other words, the sensors are just about identical.

Both cameras also feature the same ISO ranges, with a standard range of 100-25600 ISO, which can be expanded to 50-102800 ISO.

And both cameras feature Canon’s new “silent shutter” mode for discreet shooting.  This mode can shoot up to three frames per second.

Controls

Control layout in the 6D is very similar to the 60D, so if you’re upgrading to this full-frame big brother, it will be very familiar.  The Play, Zoom, and Delete buttons are on the right side on the 6D, while the 5D Mark III keeps them on the left side like it’s predecessor the Mark II.

Both cameras have virtually the same screen size & resolution and viewfinder.

Canon 5D Mark IIIWhere the 5D Mark III Wins

If it matters to you, the Mark III has 61 autofocus points while the 6D only has 11.  This may matter to photographers who do a lot of sports-style shooting, but I rarely use more than a few points.

The Mark III also has a maximum shutter speed of 1/8,000 sec.  The 6D only goes up to 1/4,000 sec…only?  Who shoots that fast anyways?

This could be an important one: the Mark III has both SD and Compact Flash card slots.  The 6D only has an SD slot.  If you’re concerned about having backup, the Mark III definitely wins.

The 5D Mark III has continuous shooting of 6 frames per second while the 6D is limited to 4.5 frames per second.

The Canon 5D Mark III dynamic range gets a boost over older models with built-in HDR shooting.  The 6D also features built-in HDR shooting, but the file output is only JPEG format.  The 5D Mark III can also output HDR in RAW for better post-processing control.  But I don’t shoot HDR.

Purchase from Amazon.com – $2,799 after rebate

Canon 6DWhere the 6D Wins

The Canon 6D includes GPS and WiFi capability, allowing you to geotag your photos and control the camera from your phone.  You can also do this with the 5D Mark III, but only after spending $1,000 in accessories.

Canon also claims that the 6D has better low-light autofocus capability, down to -3 EV.  In plain English this means that it can focus a scene that is almost what the human eye would perceive as near pitch-black.

And if you’re carrying the camera around all day, or are a serious backpacker like me where every ounce matters, the 6D is almost a half-pound lighter than the 5D Mark III, at 26.7 ounces.

Purchase from Amazon.com – $1,499 after rebate

The Bottom Line

On the outside both of these cameras are identical.  The sensors are virtually the same, they take the same batteries and, more importantly, lenses.  If you can’t spring $3,000 for a new camera body, the answer is easy – purchase the Canon 6D.  You lose some autofocus points, an extra memory card slot, and a high shutter speed that you’ll probably never use anyways.  But you can put your savings towards a new lens!  I think that’ll be my plan.

Until I “win” a 5DS.

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