With $500 separating the pro-grade EOS 6D from its mid-range counterpart 7D, you might be asking whether the bump in price is worth it.
And I’m here to answer this question for you, with no equivocation whatsoever, by stating firmly: maybe.
We’ll take a look at the Canon 6D vs. 7D, and see what sets them apart.
Sensor Size: Full frame vs Cropped?
The answer to this depends on you. Do you need the 6D’s full frame sensor or will the 7D’s cropped sensor suffice?
It all depends, really. First things first, there’s one question you can ask that can make the decision really easy.
Do you need a full frame sensor in your camera?
If you answered “Yes” to that question, then the 6D is the natural choice of the two, owing to the fact that the 7D doesn’t have one.
If you don’t know what it means to have a full frame sensor, then go with the 7D. You don’t need it.
But if your answer was somewhere in the middle—maybe you’d like it, but not sure if you want to spend the extra money on it—then read on.
Image Quality & Max Resolution:
Let’s begin at the beginning, at the first spec nearly everyone looks at first—megapixels. It’s tempting to operate with the assumption that the 7D’s picture quality won’t stack up against the 6D, because of its 18 megapixel sensor (compared to the 6D’s 20). For some, that’s where the decision making process begins and ends, but it’s a misguided line of thinking.
Both the 7D & 6D offer ample resolution for most photographers
We’ve reached a tipping point with megapixels: we long ago passed the point where your eyes could tell the difference between one camera and another. Don’t believe me? Think about the last time you watched your 1080p HD TV and marveled at how crisp and beautiful the picture is, how you saw every blade of grass on the baseball field. That’s only 2 megapixels.
So, when you’re talking about the difference between 20 MP and 18 MP, it’s important to understand that the benefit is not in the picture you see on the computer screen, or even in an 8×10 print. The difference is when you need to decide whether you want your poster-sized photo print to be 2.5 or 3 feet tall. If you’re not going to print that big, there’s simply no need to make your decision based on the resolution differences of these cameras.
The 6D’s single DIGIC 5 processor beats the two DIGIC 4 processors on the 7D
The 6D definitely has its selling points, though, apart from the bigger sensor. Though the 7D is powered by two DIGIC 4 processors—nothing to sneeze at—the 6D absolutely blows that away with its DIGIC 5+ workhorse running the show inside.
The DIGIC 5+ is 17x faster than a DIGIC 4, and still handily beats the two that run the 7D. This means that in-camera processing of photos on the 6D, from writing the image to a file to more advanced noise reduction algorithms, will run circles around the 7D.
There’s no comparison for the low light abilities of the Canon 6D vs. 7D.
The processor is also the power behind the 6D’s low light capabilities. With a higher native ISO than the 7D—6D’s 12,800 to 7D’s 6,400—and the ability to push to 25600 when needed, along with those noise reduction algorithms I mentioned, there’s no comparison for the low light abilities of the Canon 6D vs. 7D.
The 6D’s built-in Wi-FI, beyond making it possible to transfer photos to your computer, can also help with low light situations. When dealing with very low light—and therefore long shutter speeds—even the slightest press of the shutter button is enough motion to ruin the shot.
Using an app for either iOS or Android smartphones and tablets, you can wirelessly use Live View mode to see what’s in the frame of your shot and configure settings on your camera. The app allows you to set the focus point, press the shutter button, change shooting modes, and adjust aperture, shutter, and ISO. It’s an enormous amount of control without ever touching the camera.
The DIGIC 5+ also makes HDR photography possible directly in the camera.
HDR—or High Dynamic Range— photography is when a photo captures the darkest and lightest parts of a photo, and both ends of the light spectrum are exposed properly.
Think of it this way: let’s say you tried to take a photo of a mountain on a sunny day. You could expose for the bright sky, closing down the aperture and speeding up the shutter, and your photo will be of a mountain shaped shadow under a perfectly blue sky. Or, you could expose for the mountain, and get the green of its trees and all the fine details, but be stuck with a totally washed out sky. HDR takes both of those photos, and then blends them together, so you only get the part of each that is properly exposed.
The results are often dreamy, stunning and hyper-realistic. Previously, this could only be accomplished by bracketing your exposures, and using Photoshop or some specialized software to create the HDR.
The Canon 6D does this all before the photo is written to an image file on your memory card, saving you plenty of post-processing time. If you’re a landscape or architecture photographer, the combination of a full frame camera and HDR raises all kinds of creative possibilities, and makes a compelling case for the extra investment.
The 7D has some strong points too:
It would seem, though, that there is no answer to the question of which camera is better when discussing the Canon 6D vs. 7D.
The 7D is far superior when it comes to autofocus
Each has its strong points, and where we’ve seen that the 6D is superior to the 7D for photographers dealing with static subjects and low light, the 7D holds its own—and even beats out the 6D—when it comes to more dynamic, action oriented photography. Surprisingly, the 7D has a superior autofocus system—and I’m not just saying it’s better. I’m saying it’s superior, significantly.
The 7D’s got 19 autofocus points, all 19 of which are cross-type. Cross-type sensors are preferable, able to focus on a horizontal and vertical plane simultaneously and offering greater precision. The more cross-type sensors there are, the more likely you’ll be getting a perfectly focused shot as your subject moves around the frame. The 6D’s got less over all focus points—just 11—and only one is a cross type.
7D wins when it comes to speed
The 7D is also the faster camera, in terms of actually taking a picture. The shutter lag—the time in between pressing the shutter button and when the photo is actually taken—on a 7D is 131ms, and it can shoot 8 frames per second to the 6D’s 4.5. Additionally, the 7D has a faster maximum shutter speed, 1/8000, twice the 6D’s top setting of 1/4000.
Simply put, the 7D runs circles around the 6D for high speed photography. Following around a fast moving subject, and and relying on your camera’s autofocus system to identify that subject, then focus and release the shutter requires a lot of little things to happen quickly, and the 18 extra cross type focus points on the 7D ensure a greater precision in getting a sharp picture when time is of the essence.
The 7D offers 100% coverage to the 6D’s 79%
The 7D’s viewfinder also plays a role here. Though both cameras use a pentaprism viewfinder—which shows you exactly what the lens is seeing—the 7D’s significantly larger, showing you 100% of the image (the 6D only shows 79%).
This is important in shooting moving targets, because if you’re trying to compose while following the subject, you don’t want to have to think about whether or not the final product is going to be the same as what you saw in the viewfinder. You want to line up your shot, focus, and snap. And you want what you get to be what you saw. Sometimes there can be distracting little items that show up in the picture’s edges, and you don’t want to have to crop down and potentially ruin what you thought would be a quality image.
EF-S Lens Compatibility:
The 7D is compatible with EF-S lenses; the 6D is not!
A final point that may—or may not, depending on your perspective—be in the 7D’s favor is its compatibility with EF-S type lenses. These are lenses designed to work only with the cameras that use the APS-C sensor. The optics are not as sharp on these as with something like a Canon L series lens—though that’s not a condemnation of the EF-S lenses, per se—but the price point puts them more squarely in the territory of consumer-friendly.
With the 6D, as we’ve said, you’re going to get a lot more picture out your lenses, and if you already have some EF lenses handy, it’s worth considering the extra investment in the 6D body. But, if you’re starting fresh and will be purchasing a lens with the body , and then more lenses as time goes on, think about how much you’re willing to spend on them. You could be looking at a hefty amount of money over the long haul.
Want full-frame? Go with the 6D.
Want a great cropped sensor camera? Go for the 7D
Regardless of which way you go, though, you’re going to get a high performing camera that will shoot excellent quality images.
The decision between the Canon 6D vs. 7D is reliant upon what kind of photos you see yourself taking as much as the financial implications of the cost difference. For the landscape shooter, or any one focusing on wide, static shots, the 6D is a clear winner. It’s got the features and specs that make it ideal for your interests.
But the 7D is nothing to scoff at, even if it is a “consumer grade” camera. As we’ve seen, it’s autofocus system is far more advanced, and if you need that kind of speed and precision, I’d recommend it to you even if it were more expensive than the 6D.