Full Frame Battle – Canon 6D vs Nikon D600 – Hands On Preview

Which one takes the cake?

The Big Two have finally showed their hands with their first ever “budget” full frame models: the Nikon D600 and Canon EOS 6D. Priced the same at $2099, there’s quite a bit of an uproar in the Canon camp, with Nikon seen as including as much of the D800 as possible, while Canon being seen as skimping as much as possible. We got our hands on both models at Photokina, and have drawn several conclusions.

First, a side-by-side chart of the basic features of each camera, then a bit of analysis.

Essentially, the 6D is a full frame extension of the Canon 60D, and the D600 a full frame extension of the Nikon D7000. Those two bodies did battle two years ago, and their full-frame counterparts are doing battle now. And just like two years ago, the Canon is getting ridiculed while Nikon is being praised. But how do both bodies actually compare? Let’s take a look.

Body

This is probably a matter of taste. I’m a Canon user and partial to Canon ergonomics. The mostly right-handed operation of the 60D is present here, with the addition of a stills/video switch. Some might not like the “dumbed down” top plate controls, but I think it simplifies things where you’re often left guessing which wheel controls what function. The D600 has the same basic ergonomics as the D7000, with a bit of the D800 thrown in. Handling is a matter of taste, but I think Canon wins out on this front. Otherwise, they both have weather sealing and should prove plenty durable.

Sensor

Some might wonder why Canon has produced a 3rd new full frame sensor in just one year, when they could have used the 5D3 sensor in the 6D…probably for marketing reasons with having “fewer” megapixels. But for all intensive purposes, the same. The Nikon gets a new 24mp sensor that is probably the same as that in the Sony A99. If predictions prove correct, the Nikon should have better dynamic range, with the Canon having slightly better ISO performance. Either way, both sensors will perform.

Features

This is where the cameras start to diverge. Firstly, the Nikon features a 39 point autofocus system while the Canon features an 11 point system. However, it’s not so clear, as the Nikon system is less than that of the D300s, and the Canon center point is now sensitive down to -3EV. That’s pretty impressive. The Nikon has a pop-up flash with TTL control of their speedlites, something that has always been lacking from Canon full frames.

On the other hand, the 6D features Wifi and GPS, a first for a DSLR camera. These will likely be useful to many in this ever more connected era. The tethering abilities of wifi has much potential, especially in the studio.

Conclusion

As a Canon shooter, honestly the 6D is a bit disappointing. It’s basically a full frame extension of the 60D, but without its defining feature – the swivel LCD screen. And Nikon has one-upped Canon by squeezing as much of the D800 as possible inside the D600. It would have also been nice to see a pop-up flash with TTL control like the Nikon has. But at the end of the day, we should be glad that we have full frame cameras down around the $2,000 mark – previously uncharted territory. Once people start shooting with the 6D, I’m sure they’ll stop complaining. But if you’re just starting out and aren’t knee-deep in a lens collection, Nikon is giving you a very compelling reason to choose them over Canon.

Pictures from Photokina

Nikon D600 Front

Canon 6D Front

Nikon D600 Rear

Canon 6D Rear

Nikon D600 Mode Dial

Canon 6D Mode Dial

Nikon D600 Top Plate

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