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Canon EOS 6D gives great photo quality for the money (pictures)

The EOS 6D delivers extremely good photo quality, even at high ISO sensitivities.

Lori Grunin
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Lori Grunin
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1 of 14 Lori Grunin/CNET

Noise and JPEG processing

The 6D displays excellent JPEG processing and noise reduction, as well as generally low noise. JPEGs are pretty clean up to ISO 800 and good up to ISO 1600. JPEG images can be usable as high as ISO 25600, though only if they have little or no detail.

Note that the shutter couldn't operate fast enough for a proper exposure at ISO 25600.
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2 of 14 Lori Grunin/CNET

ISO 100 JPEG

The 6D can produce extremely sharp, artifact-free JPEGs.

(1/125, f4, Cloudy white balance, ISO 100, spot metering, Sigma 35mm f1.4 lens)
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3 of 14 Lori Grunin/CNET

Highlight recovery

The camera has excellent dynamic range, with a lot of recoverable detail in the highlight areas.

(1/125, f2.5, Cloudy white balance, ISO 100, spot metering, EV +1, Sigma 35mm f1.4 lens)
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4 of 14 Lori Grunin/CNET

Shadow detail

While the 6D preserves a lot of shadow detail without introducing significant noise, that's not really unusual for cameras in its class.

(1/125, f1.4, AWB, ISO 500, spot metering, Sigma 35mm f1.4 lens)
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5 of 14 Lori Grunin/CNET

ISO 800 JPEG

By ISO 800 you usually expect to see some softening of detail in JPEGs, but the 6D's are extremely clean.

(1/200, f3.5, AWB, ISO 800, spot metering, EV +0.33, Sigma 35mm f1.4 lens)
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6 of 14 Lori Grunin/CNET

ISO 800, no noise reduction

While there's quite a bit of color noise in the raw images, it's pretty fine-grained.

(1/200, f3.5, AWB, ISO 800, spot metering, EV +0.33, Sigma 35mm f1.4 lens)
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7 of 14 Lori Grunin/CNET

ISO 1600, D600 vs. 6D

These images are roughly comparable, but were shot months apart with different settings. Still, you can see how the Nikon JPEG settings err on the side of more detail/more noise compared with Canon's less noise/less detail approach.

(Canon: 1/100, f2.2, AWB, ISO 1600, spot metering, Canon 50mm f1.2 lens; Nikon: 1/40, f4.2, AWB, ISO 1600, spot metering, Nikon 24-85mm lens at 52mm)
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8 of 14 Lori Grunin/CNET

ISO 1600, raw vs. JPEG

Canon's JPEG processing is excellent. Although I could get a little more detail and sharpness by processing raw, the JPEG version isn't bad. I was able to get prints of detailed night scenes from ISO 1600 JPEGs that displayed few artifacts.

(1/100, f2.2, AWB, ISO 1600, spot metering, Canon 50mm f1.2 lens)
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9 of 14 Lori Grunin/CNET

ISO 3200 JPEG

The camera retains detail in the well-lit portions; darker areas get soft, but have no color noise.

(1/100, f3.2, AWB, ISO 3200, spot metering, Canon 50mm f1.2 lens)
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10 of 14 Lori Grunin/CNET

ISO 12800, raw vs. JPEG

By ISO 12800 I could get significantly better results from processing raw over shooting JPEG.

(1/100, f5.6, AWB, ISO 12800, spot metering, Canon 50mm f1.2 lens)
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11 of 14 Lori Grunin/CNET

ISO 25600 JPEG

For scenes without a lot of detail, ISO 25600 is relatively usable. Out-of-focus areas show lots of artifacts, but scaled down to about 50 percent it just looks like some grain.

(1/100, f2.8, AWB, ISO 25600, spot metering, Sigma 35mm f1.4 lens)
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12 of 14 Lori Grunin/CNET

Color

The colors are relatively accurate, even in the camera's default settings.
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13 of 14 Lori Grunin/CNET

Picture Styles

While the Auto (default) and Standard Picture Styles still push contrast and saturation a bit too far, they don't seem as bad as I've seen from previous Canon models; reds are a little too deep, but the hue shifting isn't as bad as I've seen.
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14 of 14 Lori Grunin/CNET

Auto color vs. Neutral, reds

The camera captures deep, saturated colors without losing detail.

(1/125, f2.5, Cloudy white balance, ISO 100, spot metering, Sigma 35mm f1.4 lens)

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