When it comes to DSLRs, full frame cameras are the gold standard. Most professional photographers prefer full frame cameras for their ability to capture more light, show more detail, and perform better in dimly lit situations. The Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 6D are excellent full frame options.
Canon’s 5D Mark III has been the workhorse body of many professional photographers since it first came out in March 2012. This camera replaced the popular 5D Mark II and is a far superior piece of machinery. The 22.3 MP full frame sensor, 61 cross-type autofocus points, and dual card slots make this camera a photographer’s dream. But all that goodness comes at a price. The 5D Mark III is good—but at $2,600 it’s also expensive.
Canon introduced the 6D in September 2012 as an option for enthusiast photographers who wanted a high-quality, full frame camera. While the 6D lacks some of the features (such as the dual card slots and robust autofocus system) that make the 5D Mark III so popular with professionals, it is still an excellent full frame camera for both pros and hobbyists alike.
Canon 6D vs 5D Mark III
|Camera||Canon 6D||Canon 5D Mark III|
|Date Announced||September 17, 2012||March 2, 2012|
|Price in 2016||$1,500 (body only)||$2,600 (body only)|
|Format||Full Frame||Full Frame|
|Resolution||20.2 MP||22.3 MP|
|Max Resolution||5472 x 3648||5760 x 3840|
|Shutter Speeds||1/4000 to 30 seconds||1/8000 to 30 seconds|
|Storage||1 SD card||1 SD card and 1 CF card|
|LCD||3″ rear screen with approximately 1.04 million dots||3.2″ rear screen with approximately 1.04 million dots|
|Extended ISO Range||100-25600||100-25600|
|Battery||1x LP-E6 Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery Pack||1x LP-E6 Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery Pack|
|Shots Per Charge||1,090||950|
|Burst Rate||4.5 FPS||5 FPS|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/180 second||1/200 second|
|Autofocus Points||11, 1 cross-type||61, all cross-type|
|AF Modes||Continuous-servo AF (C)
Manual Focus (M)
Single-servo AF (S)
|Continuous-servo AF (C)
Manual Focus (M)
Single-servo AF (S)
|Build||Magnesium Alloy||Magnesium Alloy / Sturdier build|
|Size||5.7 x 4.4 x 2.8″||6.0 x 4.6 x 3.0″|
|Weight||1.7 lbs||1.9 lbs|
|Video Resolution||1080p at 30 FPS||1080p at 30 FPS|
|7 Day Rental||$78||$129|
Resolution: 5D Mark III Wins with 22.3 MP
The sensors on both of these cameras are able to capture plenty of megapixels, but the 5D Mark III is able to shoot at a slightly higher resolution than the 6D (22.3 MP vs. 20.2 MP). While 20 MP is more than enough for most applications, the higher resolution of the 5D Mark III will allow you to print larger photos or have more pixels to play with for cropping.
Storage: 5D Mark III Wins with two card slots
This is a big one for a lot of professional photographers, especially those who shoot weddings and other events. As with most “prosumer” level cameras, the 6D only writes to one card while shooting. The 5D Mark III has two card slots (one for SD cards and one for CF cards) so that you can write to both cards simultaneously. Shooting two cards at once greatly minimizes the risk of losing photos from a corrupted card. This isn’t a huge deal if you are using a camera only for personal use but it can be really important if you are being paid to take photos of someone’s once in a lifetime event!
Autofocus Points: 5D Mark III Wins with 61 autofocus points
One of the most significant differences between the 6D and the 5D Mark III is the autofocus system. The 6D has 11 autofocus points, with only the center one being cross-type but the 5D Mark III has 61 autofocus points, all of which are cross-type. Cross-type autofocus points are much better at detecting the differences in contrast that allow a camera to focus on a subject. With all those autofocus points, the 5D Mark III has dramatically better focus. With the 5D Mark III you’ll have fewer unusable shots due to focusing issues.
GPS and WiFi: 6D Wins
One area where the 6D beats its competitors is in GPS and WiFi connectivity. While these may be unnecessary features for some photographers, a lot of people really appreciate them. GPS allows the location of a photo to be stored in its metadata so that you can remember exactly where you took it.
This is especially useful for scientists and other people who do field work and need to know the exact spot where a photo was taken. WiFi allows you to transfer photos directly to a smartphone as well as to control the camera from your phone. The 6D has been WiFi and GPS built in while the 5D Mark III has neither.
Build: 5D Mark III Wins
The 6D is made mostly of plastic and feels a lot like a lower level DSLR in your hands. The 5D Mark III is much more solid and feels like a piece of professional level equipment. While both cameras can withstand a good amount of abuse, the 5D Mark III can take more of a beating due to its exceptional build quality and sturdy construction.
Weight: 6D Wins
Full frame DSLRs are all really heavy and weighing in at 1.9 pounds, the 5D Mark III is a bit of a beast. While the 6D is far from a lightweight, it is almost a quarter pound lighter. This may not seem like a lot but it may be the difference between having sore wrists and arms and being comfortable while you shoot.
Price: 6D Wins
The cost of the 5D Mark III has come down significantly in the years since it was released but it is still far from an inexpensive camera. The 6D is an excellent camera that costs over a thousand dollars less. The 6D will leave you with money to spare to purchase lenses and other accessories.
Professionals who shoot weddings, sporting events, and things that cannot be reenacted in the case of missed focus or card failure should consider the 5D Mark III. The dual card slots and robust autofocus system make it a safer bet for moments that can’t be redone. That said, this is a heavy, expensive piece of equipment and is a big consideration financially.
The 6D may be the best choice for photography enthusiasts and professionals who don’t need two card slots or absolute top of the line autofocus. This may be Canon’s least expensive full frame camera but it is a really good machine that will make just about anyone happy. Photographers who are looking for a full frame camera and also need to buy lenses and other gear may be best served by the 6D since it costs so much less.
The 6D and 5D Mark III compete with Nikon’s D800 which comes out on top in terms of resolution (36 MP in the D800 versus 20.2 MP in the 6D and 22.3 MP in the 5D Mark III). The D800 has fewer cross-type autofocus points than the 5D Mark III but more than the 6D. In reality, these are all very good cameras and the numbers do not tell the whole story. For most purchasers of full frame DSLRs, the decision between Canon’s 5D Mark III or 6D and Nikon’s D800 will likely come down to brand loyalty.
Nothing will help you decide which of these cameras is best for you quite like getting your hands on them. Renting a camera for a few days can be an excellent way to figure out which camera to purchase!