Shooting with the Canon 6D

It has been a long time since I shot a full frame 35mm camera. Not since I shot film have I used a camera with a full 35mm image size. My older DSLR cameras have use APS-C sized sensors. The Canon 6D is a full frame camera with a 36x24mm sensor, something that has quite an impact on the camera’s capabilities.

The Gate
Vines now keep this old gate permanently shut, Canon 6D and 24-105mm f/4 L lens
A few months of shooting have given me a better appreciation of the camera. the camera is great to use. It is an enjoyable camera to shoot. The photos speak for themselves, the thousand words thing applies here. I have gotten shots where none of my other cameras would have, particularly in low light. The Canon 6D is one of the best cameras currently available for use in low light. It even edges out its more expensive siblings the Canon 5DmkII and III for making the best use of every available photon. Not just astronomy either, but star parties and lecture halls. The astronomy capability is excellent, attaching the camera to a telescope allows capture of more than just our small world.

Blackjack and bokeh, Canon 6D and 50mm f/1.8 lens
There are other implications of full frame… The large format sensor behaves much differently than smaller sensors when it comes to focus. Depth of field changes the game. Very small sensors, particularly cell phone sensors, have enormous depth of field by nature of the optical design. Nearly everything is in focus, from near to far. Photographers love shallow depth of field, it allows the subject to be isolated from the background. Everything closer of further away becomes a soft blur, something photographers call bokeh.

Summit and Winter Milky Way
The winter Milky Way over the summit of Mauna Kea, Canon 6D and Samyang 14mm f/2.8 lens, 30s at ISO 6400
The primary reason I chose a full frame camera is low light capability. A large sensor with the attendant large lens gathers more light per pixel, simply a matter of photon flux. This provides a better signal to noise in the same situation. There are many variables here, such as pixel size, better processing circuitry, or using a faster lens. However, when all things remain equal the larger format camera has a distinct advantage. Looking through the pages of Darker View gives an appreciation for how often I shoot in the dark. The low light performance of a camera is a prime consideration for me.

Combined with the 14mm f/2.8 Rokinon lens the camera is capable of capturing impressive starscape photos. Fifteen seconds at ISO6400 reveals a beautiful starry sky over the landscape. I had often attempted these sort of photos before, the results had fallen short of what I knew was possible. Shooting the new camera on several expeditions into the dark skies of Mauna Kea have resulted in a collection of very satisfying images.

The Rosette Nebula
The Rosette Nebula, Canon 6D and TV-76mm, 54x240s+10x60s+10x15s @ISO6400
Not everything is perfect… The control layout could be better. Having the menu and info button on the far left side of the camera is annoying, they are beyond reach of my right thumb I use for the other controls, they require a second hand to operate. I use the camera in the dark a lot. The buttons are sometimes difficult to distinguish by feel. The Q-button in particular is one that would be nice to have a better tactile feature to allow detection by touch. Just a little nub of plastic would do it.

The lack of a tilt screen is also something I miss. The tilting screen on the 60D is endlessly useful, I would have no problem with the slightly smaller screen the tilt requires. The other feature I find surprising useful is the touch screen interface of the EOS-M, I continually find myself touching the 6D screen attempting to magnify the photo for inspection. I wonder if these features will find their way onto a future full frame model.

Too often non-photographers confuse a good camera with the ability to take good photos. Any camera that is working can take good photos, a good camera can take lousy photos. It is the photographer’s skill that makes the difference. A good camera will open up expanded possibilities to a good photographer, the ability to capture the image under a wider range of conditions. The Canon 6D is simply the best camera I have ever owned in terms of technical specifications. Lower noise, incredible high ISO performance, and the creative possibilities offered by a full frame sensor. Is my skill enough to take full advantage of the possibilities? I am working on that.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

4 thoughts on “Shooting with the Canon 6D”

  1. Thanks Andrew- I was looking forward to a review of your new camera and specifically how it works WRT astronomical imaging. I too was concerned about some of the features like the lack of articulated screen and on-camera flash, but look forward to someday having the wider field that the full frame sensor allows. It sounds like you love it! Given how often new models come out I may end up waiting another generation or two, but it is gratifying they are getting closer to what we want at a “reasonable price”. BTW, the gate/vine picture has a dead link… -Dean

    1. I duplicated the problem with IE on Win7, the attachment seems good and the link properly formatted. Deleted the photo from the WordPress database and reloaded, seems to work now. Just no clue why it did not work in the first place… Oh well.

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