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As you likely discovered as soon as you starting exploring the controls, features, menus, and Custom Settings of your 36.3 MP, full-frame Nikon D810, it is a powerful, highly customizable, and versatile camera. There are numerous Menu options and Custom Settings that you can make use of in order to fine-tune the camera to perfectly fit your needs, shooting style, and scene or situation. The autofocus system and exposure metering system can be adjusted according to your preferences, the camera controls can be customized and assigned to a variety of functions, the displays, White Balance, and Auto ISO can be tweaked according to your needs. Plus several new features have been added to the D810 compared to its predecessor the D800/D800E, and all of them enhance the shooting experience. Many of them will be explained throughout this article.

I’ve spent some dedicated time with the D810 as I’ve researched and written my e-book user’s guide to the camera called Nikon D810 Experience, and below are the some of the top “tips and tricks” I’ve discovered for setting up and photographing with this powerful dSLR. And be sure to read to the end of the article to learn about my free, detailed, and comprehensive Nikon D810 Setup Guide spreadsheet, which covers recommended Menu settings, Custom Settings, and exposure settings for various types of shooting situations!

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Detail of the Nikon D810 dSLR camera – photo by author

1. Take Control of the D810 Autofocus System: Before getting into some of the tips regarding features and functions specific to the D810, one first needs to take control of the basic functions of the camera, including the autofocus system and exposure metering settings. The D810 boasts the 51 point autofocus system of its predecessor the D800, with 15 centrally-located cross-type points. The large number of focus points and their positions in the Viewfinder will allow you to focus exactly where you wish – with minimal recomposing (when working in Single-Servo AF-S mode), plus will better enable you to track moving subjects throughout the frame when working in Continuous-Servo (AF-C) autofocus mode. The different autofocus modes (AF-S, AF-C) and the various autofocus area modes (Single Point, Dynamic Area, etc. plus the new Group Area AF) may be intimidating at first, but once they are understood, it is easy to determine which combinations fit your shooting needs. I wrote an entire post introducing the use of the Nikon autofocus system, its AF and AF-Area modes, and its controls. (Despite the larger number of AF points in the D810, the system works nearly the same as explained in the article.) If you have not used one of the more current Nikon dSLR models such as the D800, D7100/D7000, or D610/D600, you may at first be confused by the autofocus controls with the AF switch / button near the base of the lens (used in conjunction with the Command Dials), but you should quickly find that it is a quick and convenient way to change the AF modes and AF area modes.

Nikon D810 autofocus af system viewfinder book manual guide dummies how to tips tricks setting menu quick start
Simulated view of the Nikon D810 Viewfinder, with all 51 AF points shown for reference.

In addition, the D810 offers several Custom Settings to customize various aspect of the autofocus system, namely the ones in the a: Autofocus category. You can use these to tell the camera if achieving exact focus takes priority over maintaining the fastest continuous frame rate, how long the AF system continues to track a specific subject (distance) even if the subject momentarily moves away from the active AF point, and if the active AF point is illuminated in the Viewfinder. Using Custom Setting a5: Focus Point Illumination, you can now choose to display the cluster of all of the AF Points of a Dynamic-Area (such as 9-Point or 21-Point), rather than just the active middle point of the cluster. And you can even limit the number of selectable AF points to 11 if that helps you to more quickly or easily select your desired AF point. Most of these options are explained in my previous Nikon AF system post mentioned above.

The D810 also offers the ability to remember a specific AF Point so that the camera will automatically jump to the last point used when the camera is held in a specific orientation. For example, if you last used an upper-right AF Point when holding the camera in the grip-up position, then returned to shooting with the camera in landscape orientation, when you next hold the camera in the grip-up position, the camera will automatically jump back to that upper-right point. This is done through Custom Setting a9: Store by Orientation. You can register different points for each of the camera orientations. Similarly, you can assign the center Multi Selector Button to be used to jump to a Preset Focus Point of your choice, when the button is pressed during shooting.

2. Make Use of the new Group Area AF Autofocus Mode: The D810 borrows a new focus mode from the flagship Nikon D4s – Group Area AF, which makes use of a group of five AF Points arranged in a cross-shaped pattern. Instead of selecting a primary point with the surrounding points acting as “helper” points as with the Dynamic-Area AF modes, you will actually be selecting the group of five points which will all be used to attempt to focus on the subject. The Viewfinder will display the four outer points of the Group Area AF group of points, but not display the central point – perhaps so that you can better view the subject. Or you can use Using Custom Setting a5: Focus Point Illumination to display four surrounding dots rather than larger squares.

Nikon D810 autofocus af group area mode learn use setup quick start tips tricks viewfinder bif bird heron
Nikon D810 – Group Area AF – Simulated view of the D810 Viewfinder, showing what you will see in the viewfinder when making use of Group Area AF, with the cross-shaped pattern of the four outer AF Points of the Group visible. Background image shown at 65% opacity to better view Focus Points.

Keep in mind that with the other somewhat similar Dynamic-Area AF modes, you choose a primary point and attempt to keep the subject located at that point, and the surrounding points act as “helper” points if the subject happens to move away from the primary point. But with Group Area AF you select the entire group of AF Points, and they all work equally to focus on the subject. This mode can be used similar to Single Point AF but when it might be challenging to locate the subject under an individual point, which might cause you to accidentally focus on the background. When working in AF-S Focus Mode and using Group Area AF, the selected AF Points will give priority to faces if they are present, otherwise they will focus on the closest subject.

3. Take Advantage of the new [i] Button, and the “Hidden” Features it will Access: The D810 adds the [i] Button (on the rear of the camera) which gives you immediate access to the Information Display screen, where many shooting settings and functions can be viewed and changed. You can press this button to turn on the Information Display on the Monitor and immediately access these settings with the use of the Multi Selector and OK Button or the center touch-pad button. Press the [i] Button a second time or the Info button to “de-activate” the settings and simply view the camera settings on the Information Display Screen. Or, after the Info Button is pushed to display the camera settings of the Information Display screen on the rear Monitor, this [i] Button is pressed to “activate” the screen to enable changing the settings. In addition to the readily accessible camera buttons on the body of the D810, this [i] Button and Information Display screen can be a quick and easy way to change many of the camera settings without having to dig into the menus, such as Active D-Lighting, High ISO Noise Reduction, Color Space (sRGB vs Adobe RGB), and Long Exposure Noise Reduction. Plus you can use this screen to quickly access and customize the Preview (Pv) Button, AE-L / AF-L Button, and Fn Button Assignments.

Nikon D810 Information Display LCD monitor screen
The Information Display of the D810, accessed with the Info Button or i Button, and “activated” with the i Button.

The [i] Button can also be used during Live View shooting, Movie shooting, and Image Playback – to quickly access a number of applicable functions, some of them are sort-of hidden unless accessed this way, such as the LCD Monitor White Balance adjustment, and the Highlight Display for showing “zebra stripes” at potentially over-exposed areas of the scene during Movie Live View.

During Live View shooting, the [i] Button can be pressed to access settings including Image Area, Active-D Lighting, the new Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter, Monitor Brightness, Photo Live View Display White Balance (explained just below), or Split-Screen Display Zoom to compare two magnified areas of the scene in order to confirm that the image is level (as will be described in Tip 5 below). The Photo Live View Display White Balance feature allows you to set the white balance of the Live View screen differently than the current white balance of the scene. This may sound odd, until you realize it can come in handy when setting up a shot that will actually be taken with different lighting, such as a Speedlight or studio strobes. So using this feature you can set the LCD Monitor WB to better match how the final image will appear.

During Movie shooting, the [i] Button will access Image Area, Frame Size and Frame Rate, Movie Quality, Microphone Sensitivity and Frequency Response, Wind Noise Reduction, Destination to select the active memory card, Monitor Brightness, Highlight Display to view “zebra-stripes” at overexposed areas of the scene, and Headphone Volume. Plus during video playback, the [i] Button is also used to display movie edit options.

When reviewing images during Image Playback, the [i] Button will access the Retouch Menu, which will allow you to apply various image edits such as Color Balance, Filter Effects, and Distortion Control. Be sure to take advantage of the [i] Button in these various mode, rather than digging into the menus, to easily access some of the most often used features as well as a couple of the “hidden” features. I have written a separate post about the “Hidden” Features of the D810 so that you can explore them further.

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Nikon D810 Retouch Menu – Using the Cross Screen item of the Retouch Menu to create a cheesy starburst pattern!

4. Improve Exposures with the new Highlight Weighted Metering Mode: The D810 adds a brand new metering mode, Highlight Weighted Metering. This mode is designed for certain challenging lighting situations, in order to help retain detail in bright areas and avoid the overexposure of highlights. It does this by measuring the brightness in a scene then determining the best exposure level which will prevent the highlights from being overexposed (“blown-out”). It should prove to be a useful metering mode for those who shoot theater and live music performances where the lighting can suddenly and dramatically change, or even remain consistent but be prone to include bright “hot-spots” of illumination on a subject. It can also be used in other scenes that include a well lit subject against a dark background, particularly one that is moving and thus prevents the use of Spot Metering. And it can be used at a wedding reception where the bride may be under a spot light, and you wish to properly expose the scene and the subjects yet retain all the subtle details in the highlights of the wedding dress. Also take advantage of the quieter Quiet Shutter Release (Q) and Quiet Continuous Shutter Release (Qc) release modes when in theater, performance, or wedding situations, in order to reduce shutter noise as you take your shots.

With Highlight Weighted Metering Mode when the camera’s exposure settings are biased  to avoid the overexposure of highlights, they may result in some of the other areas of the scene, such as the midtones, being slightly underexposed. However, with the excellent sensor performance of the D810, even at higher ISO settings, you should be able to easily adjust the midtone and shadow areas of an image without increasing the appearance of digital noise. Shooting in the RAW file format rather than JPEG format will allow you more post-processing flexibility for these adjustments than will images in the JPEG format. Note that when using a lens other than a Nikon G, E, or D lens (typical current lenses) with the D810 set for Highlight-Weighted Metering, the camera will actually use Center-Weighted Metering.


The Highlight-Weighted Metering Mode of the D810 is designed for theater / performance scenes such as this, where a brightly lit subject is against a dark background, and is prone to overexposed hot-spots due to theater lighting.

5. New Features Ideal for Landscape Photographers: The D810 includes several new features that landscape photographers will want to make use of, as well as those shooting in other types of controlled situations such as macro and studio still-life shooting. While the 36.3 megapixel sensor of the D810 has the potential to create images with incredible resolution, the high megapixel count can also call attention to less-than-sharp images. You will need a high quality lens to take full advantage of the resolution, plus make use of some features that will help reduce camera shake and thus image blur.  In addition to the redesigned mirror/ shutter mechanism that is quieter and smoother, you can also make use of the new Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter to help reduce camera vibrations. When working in Mirror-up (Mup) Release Mode, this uses the sensor itself as the front curtain of the shutter, rather than a mechanical curtain. You can enable this with Custom Setting d5, as well as use it in Live View (press the i Button in Live View to access it). For maximum vibration reduction, you can also make use of:

-the Mirror Up release mode, which performs the jarring mirror-raising action prior to shutter release, requiring a second Shutter Button press to take the image. Use this with or without the Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter feature

-the Exposure Delay Mode (Custom Setting d4) to delay the shutter release for a couple seconds after you press the Shutter Button.

-and of course a tripod and a remote shutter release.

Landscape and architectural photographers can also make use of the new Split Screen Display Zoom during Live View, where you can simultaneously zoom in on two different areas of the frame (on the same horizontal plane) to help determine if they are level. Press the i Button when in Live View to access this feature, then navigate to the desired area of the scene, and zoom in or out. Press the Protect (key icon) Button to select the other half of the screen and navigate to the desired area of that side of the scene. Since this feature is used to determine if the framing is level, both sides of the screen will move up and down simultaneously when you navigate either side. Press the i Button again to exit the Split-Screen.

Nikon D810 Split Screen Display Zoom LCD monitor screen Live View
The Split-Screen Display Zoom of the D810, accessible during Live View shooting, to check if the framing of the scene is level.

You can also make use of the Electronic Level on the rear LCD Monitor, the Live View Electronic Level, or the Virtual Viewfinder Horizon level which is seen in the Viewfinder. Assign the Fn or Pv Button to display the Virtual Viewfinder Horizon level, via Custom Setting f4 or f5. And landscape photographers will also want to take advantage of the new, lower 64 ISO setting. This is a “native” ISO setting, not an artificial one created by processing. Landscape photographers (and videographers) often need to use dark ND filters in order to block some light so that they can take advantage of wide apertures settings, such as f/2.8. Or they are used so that you can obtain slower shutter speeds when desired, such as when you wish to blur the motion of water. By enabling you to lower the ISO below 100, it will reduce the need for an ND filter in some situations.

This article continues with Nikon D810 Tips and Tricks – Part 2, which can be read here:

http://blog.dojoklo.com/2014/08/29/nikon-d810-tips-and-tricks-part-2/

Remember, I also explain these features and functions in even more detail, as well as explain all the other aspects of the D810 in my e-book guide Nikon D810 Experience, available on my Full Stop website. The guide not only explains the features, functions, and controls of the camera, but more importantly explains when and why you will want to use them in your photography. Take control of your D810 and the images you create! Click the link below to learn more, preview, and purchase the guide:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Nikon_D810_Experience.htm

And, in conjunction with the book, I have created a detailed and comprehensive Nikon D810 Setup Guide spreadsheet, which has recommended Menu settings, Custom Settings, and exposure settings for various shooting situations such as Landscape, Performance, Sports, and Travel, in order to help you set up your camera. You can learn about and download this free “cheat sheet” spreadsheet here:

http://blog.dojoklo.com/2014/06/30/nikon-d800800e-nikon-d810-setup-guide-with-recommended-settings/

If you have found this helpful and plan to purchase a Nikon D810 or some lenses or accessories for it, please consider using my affiliate links for Amazon or for B and H, found at the left side of this page. Your price will be the same, but they will give me a small referral fee – thanks! And please feel free to spread the word if this blog has been helpful.

Canon 6D Experience, my newest Full Stop e book and the first EOS 6D user’s guide, is now available! This e book goes beyond the manual to help you learn the features, settings, and controls of the powerful and highly customizable full-frame Canon 6D. Plus most importantly it explains how, when, and why to use the functions, settings, menu options, and controls in your photography – including the autofocus system, exposure and shooting settings, and the in-camera features such as Multiple Exposure, HDR, RAW image processing, and the new Wi-Fi and GPS functions.

Written in the clear, concise, and comprehensive style of all Full Stop guides, Canon 6D Experience will help you learn to use your full-frame 6D quickly and competently, to consistently create the types of images you want to capture. This e-book is available in either PDF or EPUB format for reading on your computer, tablet, iPad, e-reader, etc.

Canon 6D EOS book manual dummies field guide instruction tutorial how to use learn full frame autofocus system

Learn more about it, view a preview, and purchase it here:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Canon_6D_Experience.htm

As readers have said about Full Stop guides:

“An excellent guide, clear and concise. A great tool for budding photographer as well as the seasoned pro. A sure way to get the most out of your camera.”

and

“I don’t know how I could fully take advantage of all the features the camera has to offer without this publication! It’s well-organized, easy to understand, and succinct enough to keep your attention while still containing a wealth of information to get the most out of your camera.”

Take control of your Canon 6D, the image taking process, and the photos you create!

For Intermediate and Enthusiast Photographers:

This instant download Canon EOS 6D e book is designed for enthusiast dSLR photographers who wish to take fuller advantage of the capabilities of their camera:

  • Go beyond Auto+ and Program modes and shoot competently in Av, Tv, and M modes.
  • Take full control of the versatile autofocus system.
  • Learn how, when, and why to use and customize the various controls, buttons, and features of the 6D.

To get you started, it includes explanations and recommended settings for all Menu settings and Custom Function options of the 6D.  It covers basic dSLR camera functions and exposure concepts for those learning digital SLR photography, and explains more advanced camera controls and operation, such as taking control of the autofocus system for sharp focus of still or moving subjects, using the various metering modes and exposure compensation for correct exposure of every image, and taking advantage of the newer features found in the 6D such as in-camera HDR and Multiple Exposure Modes.

For Experienced Photographers to get up and running with the 6D :
For experienced photographers coming to the EOS 6D from other models, this guide explains the new and advanced features and settings in order to quickly get you up and running and taking advantage of these capabilities.  Plus it explains the camera controls, the in-camera HDR and Multiple Exposures features, in-camera image processing, introduces the HD video capabilities, Wi-Fi and GPS functions, and guides you through all the 6D Menu and Custom Function items in order to help you best set up and customize the camera and its controls for your specific shooting needs.

Canon EOS 6D ISO     Canon EOS 6D af autofocus point

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Example images from Canon 6D Experience:
High ISO sample, Autofocus AF Points in Viewfinder,
Multiple Exposure Shooting Mode, Wi-Fi remote shooting using smart device.

Canon 6D Experience not only covers the various settings, functions and controls of the Canon 6D, but also explains when and why to use them for your photography. The guide focuses on still-photography with an introduction to the movie menus, settings, and options to get you up and running with HD video.  Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your EOS 6D – Explanations of all of the Canon 6D Custom Function settings and Menu options, with recommended settings for practical, everyday use. These settings are a significant part of what makes the 6D such a powerful and versatile camera.  Set up and customize the advanced features to work best for the way you photograph.
  • Camera Controls – Description of all of the camera’s controls, how to customize them for your needs, and when and why to use them.
  • Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv), and Manual (M) Modes – How and when to use them to create dramatic depth of field, freeze or express motion, or take total control over exposure settings.
  • Auto Focusing Modes and Drive Modes – How they differ, how and when to use them to capture sharp images of both still and moving subjects. Also how and when to use focus lock and back-button focusing.
  • Exposure Metering Modes of the Canon 6D – How they differ, how and when to use them for correct exposures in every situation. Also how to make use of exposure lock.
  • Histograms, Exposure Compensation, Bracketing, and White Balance – Understanding and using these features for adjusting to the proper exposure in challenging lighting situations or for capturing a range of exposures to combine into HDR images.
  • Wi-Fi and GPS – Introduction to the set-up and use of the camera’s built-in Wi-Fi and GPS. Wirelessly control the 6D, save, or share images with your smart device or computer, and geotag and map your photos.
  • Introduction to Video Settings – Explanations of the menus, settings, and options to get you started.
  • Composition – Brief tips, techniques, and explanations, including the creative use of depth of field.
  • The Image Taking Process – Descriptive tutorials for using the settings and controls you just learned to take still and action photos.
  • Lenses – Explanation of Canon lenses and choosing your next lens.
  • Photography Accessories – The most useful accessories for day-to-day and travel photography including those specific to the 6D, plus recommended photography books.

This digital guide to the Canon 6D is a 248 page illustrated e-book that goes beyond the 6D manual to explain how, when, and why to use the features, settings, and controls of the 6D to help you get the most from your camera.

Learn more about Canon 6D Experience, view a preview, and purchase it on my Full Stop website here:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Canon_6D_Experience.htm

Several weeks ago I wrote a post previewing the Canon EOS 6D, based on its specs and information available at its announcement. I’ve now had some hands-on time and have done significant research on the camera and its functions and features as I work on my latest e-book camera guide Canon 6D Experience. So now I am able to share some more insight into the body, controls, features, and handling of this very nice new full frame dSLR camera. And thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass. for getting it into my hands so quickly!

Canon 6D EOS unbox unboxing new full frame dslr review preview hands on test how to use manual guide dummies
The Canon EOS 6D Unboxing – shown here with a Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens attached, not the EF 24-105mm f.4L kit lens.

The EOS 6D is first “affordable” full frame camera from Canon, priced at about $2,100. This means it is a consumer level camera that boasts an image sensor the same size as a frame 35mm film – rather than the smaller APS-C sized sensors that have been the necessary compromise for so many years in order to offer highly capable dSLRs which are still affordable to enthusiast photographers. With the availability of the 6D, many more photographers will now be able to gain the benefits of full frame photography, including the ability to use your lenses at their “intended” focal lengths (no more 1.6x crop factor) as well as obtain great image quality, resolution, and low noise at high ISO settings.

The Canon 6D is aimed at intermediate and dedicated enthusiast photographers (and dSLR beginners willing to learn!), not only with its price and body size, but also with its features and straightforward controls and menus. It is obviously not as fully-featured as the professional-level 5D Mark III, yet it contains nearly every feature that the majority of “non-pro” photographers will need. Besides the much more basic 11 point autofocus system (vs. the 61 AF points of the 5DIII), what the 6D leaves off are often very specific customization options that even some pros never get around to figuring out or using. Plus the 6D adds a couple new features previously not yet seen on a Canon dSLR such as built-in WiFi and GPS.  Most importantly, with its 20.2 megapixel sensor, the image quality of the 6D should prove to be nearly at the level of the 22.3 megapixel 5D MkIII.

As the author of dSLR user guides, my primary interest is more with the controls, features, functions, and “real world” use of any camera – as opposed to the image quality/ sensor issues (resolution, dynamic range, noise, etc.), which I leave up to DP Review, DXOMark, and other sites to examine in depth.  Although I will discuss and give examples of some of these issues in this post, I direct you these other sites to view sample/ comparison images and read detailed discussions of sensor and image quality issues.

Body: Weight and Size: The very first thing I noticed when picking up the camera is how incredibly light it is.  Granted, it was just the body only without a lens attached yet, but I was pleasantly surprised at its light weight. The body only (w/o battery) weighs a mere 1.5 lb. (680g), much lighter (relatively) than the full frame 5D Mark III (1.9 lb./860g) and the APS-C sized 7D (1.8 lb./820g).  The EOS 6D is nearly the same weight – and size – as its closest sibling the (smaller APS-C sensor-sized) EOS 60D, and truly represents an important milestone in dSLR evolution where a full-frame sensor and several advanced features fit into a similar body as an mid/upper-level consumer camera.

Body: Controls and Feel:  The controls of the 6D are similar to those of the 60D. It shares many of the same buttons (though some are relocated) as well as the thumb-pad Multi-Controller that sits inside the rear Quick Control Dial. This replaces the thumb-joystick version of this controller that was seen on all non-Rebel Canon dSLR cameras up until the 60D. Personally I am still not a fan of this thumb-pad, as the joystick is more comfortably located for autofocus selection, and I also find that I sometimes accidentally hit the thumb-pad while turning the Quick Control Dial when navigating menus, and thus suddenly jump to a different menu option. I also prefer to have the Playback and Delete buttons on the left side, so that I can access them with my left thumb, perhaps due to much more experience and muscle-memory with that set-up. However, these are simply a matter of getting use to the locations and sensitivity of the controls – after some use, muscle memory and habit typically allows one to easily use the controls they are provided with. The top Main Dial (for adjusting aperture and changing various settings) has a great “soft” feel as if made of firm rubber rather than the harder plastic of lower-end models. The rubber of the grip areas also feels great, no complaints regarding the over-all ergonomics of holding and carrying the camera, and the body feels perfectly solid.

Canon 6D EOS unbox unboxing new full frame dslr review preview controls button autofocus hands on test how to use manual guide dummies
Detail of the Canon 6D, including some of the buttons and controls.

There are several “quirks” to get used to with the 6D if you are accustomed to working with a different Canon body such as a 50D, 7D, or one of the older 5D models. Primarily, the 6D has the new single Magnify Button introduced on the 5DIII, rather than the Zoom-in/ Zoom-out buttons of previous models. Your muscle memory will definitely cause you frustration with this one for awhile until you get used to reaching for this new button rather than using the top-right rear buttons for zooming in and out during image playback. Now during image playback, you press the Magnify Button located just above the Playback Button, and then use the top Main Dial to zoom in and out. One of the advantages of this Magnify Button is that its initial magnification level is customizable from 1x to “zoom-in immediately to pixel level on the area of the image where you focused” (Actual size from selected point). Instead of pressing the Playback Button and then zooming, you can simply press the Magnify Button and immediately view the image at your zoom-level of choice. I found that I actually prefer to set the Magnify Button for 1x zoom. Then after taking an image, I can press the Playback Button to view the thumbnail of the image with the histogram (since I leave this as my default Image Playback view), or press the Magnify Button to immediately see the image full-screen. Using the two buttons, I can easily toggle between these two views.  Others will enjoy immediately zooming in on the area where they focused to ensure that it is indeed in-focus.

As with the 7D and 5DIII, the 6D has the ability to customize the various buttons and controls of the camera. I recommend that you use these Custom Functions to set the Multi-Controller to AF Point direct selection. That way you can simply use the Multi-Controller to manually select your desired AF Point instead of having to first press the AF Point Selection Button. However, if you do this, the SET Button will not select the center AF Point, as you may be used to from other cameras. Instead it will activate whichever function you set the SET Button for. But if you press the AF Point Selection Button first and then use the Multi-Controller, you can then still use the SET Button to select the center AF Point, which can be very convenient for quickly choosing this point.

The 6D has the Live View/ Movie switch and START/STOP Button which makes it quick and easy to switch between the two, start Live View, or begin Movie recording. However, this may bring you to another “quirk” (ok, it is not really a “quirk,” more a necessity of design and function, but until you realize that you may feel like it is a quirk!).  There are a couple functions that will be greyed-out in your menus if you have a certain conflicting setting option set. For example, some features will not be available (like HDR Mode) if you have the image quality set for RAW or JPEG+RAW.  You will have to switch to JPEG only in order to access these features.  Or you cannot access the Multi Shot Noise Reduction feature if you have Long Exposure Noise Reduction enabled or if you are shooting in RAW. This is bound to aggravate you at first as you try to determine why the function is greyed-out and not accessible in the menus. So, back to the Movie function, you cannot begin movie shooting if you have WiFi enabled. Thankfully with this particular incompatibility, the camera will alert you to this on the rear LCD Monitor. With the other conflicting settings, you are simply going to have to learn and remember the conflicting option.

As with the 60D, the 6D has the top row of buttons that only access one function (such as ISO or Drive Mode) rather than two functions as with previous/ other Canon models. However, this means you can press the button and then use either the top Main Dial or the rear Quick Control Dial to change the function. Or you can always use the [Q] Button and Quick Control Screen to access these functions or other functions that there is not a dedicated button for, such as Image Quality, White Balance, or Flash Exposure Compensation. And Canon has continued the use of the locking Mode Dial, which I prefer as there have been many times my 50D Mode Dial was accidentally turned when pulling the camera out of its bag.

Brief Commercial Interruption: I have completed my e-book guide to the Canon 6D, called Canon 6D Experience. The guide covers all the controls, functions, features, Menus options and Custom Function settings (with recommended settings), autofocus system, exposure, metering, and more. Plus most importantly, it explains how, when, and why to use the various controls, features, and functions of the 6D. Click the link above or the cover to learn more, preview, and purchase the guide.

Canon 6D EOS book manual dummies field guide instruction tutorial how to use learn full frame autofocus system

Use and Response: There really isn’t too much I can say about the 6D in action, as it performs as expected.  Not really any complaints, aside from my personal issues with the controls issues I described above.  The autofocus response is quick and accurate in normal use. I realize now that I was paying more attention to my photographic tasks and wasn’t paying particular attention to the AF performance as I was out and about with the camera, and didn’t specifically test the center vs. outer points, so I need to get back out and do that.  But on the other hand I didn’t notice and wasn’t limited by any issues or shortcomings.  In low light, night-time scenes, such as the in-camera Multiple Exposure image below and the in-camera HDR image above, the camera locked right on and focused well with the center and outer points. In extremely low light when using the outer points, it did not seem to react as quick and instantaneous – in my experience so far – as the highly advanced AF system of the 5DIII. For example the 5DIII could immediately find focus on the black face of a cat in very low light, while the 6D needed me to find a slightly stronger area of contrast on the kitty’s face before it locked on. But you can see from the exposure settings and the lack of contrast in the focus area of the image below, it still performed rather admirably for the situation (I focused just above the eye and recomposed slightly).

Canon 6D eos in camera hdr mode autofocus af system low light high iso hand held
Canon 6D – In-camera HDR Mode, with three images automatically combined and processed in-camera. “Adjust Dynamic Range” setting +/-1, “Auto Align” enabled, hand-held. Resulting image 1/40, f/2.8, ISO 6400. This image was also automatically geotagged with the GPS, as can be seen on Flickr.


A closer look at the above image.  I focused at about the center of this image, where the white meets the blue dome, though it may have focused on the closer branches.  Keep in mind this was handheld, for 3 images that were aligned and combined in camera.

The center cross-type AF point of the 6D is said to be even more sensitive (both in specifications and by users in real life use) than that of the 5DIII (according to Canon, the 6D center point is EV -3 while the outer points are EV +0.5; 5DIII is EV -2 all points; 60D is EV 0 all points).  Unfortunately I now realize I did not test the center point in this situation, and I will have to go back and do that.  So, I acknowledge it is premature for me to take away any conclusions about the extreme low light AF performance of center vs. outer points before I re-examine this further. Others are already saying that the center AF Point is stellar in very low light. And I did not test the AF system for tracking moving subjects using AI Servo yet. What does all this EV info mean?  If you are a wedding photographer or a concert photographer and simply need to get the shot and capture a very precise moment with no delay, then you may prefer to work with the 5D Mk III. If you are not working on assignment and perhaps have 1 extra second to re-position an outer AF point on an area of slight contrast, or else use the center AF point and recompose in dark situations, then you will certainly still be able to capture great low light shots with the 6D.

Canon 6d autofocus af low light auto focus system sample image center outer af point
Canon 6D Autofocus in low light – I had to focus just above the eye where dark meets light, and then I slightly recomposed. But as you can see from the settings, it was very low light, and that type of performance is a major accomplishment for any camera: f/2.5 1/60 ISO 6400 (screenshot from DPP in order to show AF points.)


A closer look at the above image. I think due to the high ISO setting some sharpness was lost, but that could be recovered with sharpening.

WiFi: The Canon 6D is the first of their dSLR models to incorporate built-in WiFi and GPS capabilities. Neither of these is something I thought I needed – but I can already see the benefits. With the 6D you can wirelessly connect your camera to your computer, smart phone/ tablet, wireless network, printer, or TV to perform a variety of functions:

Computer: when wirelessly connected to your computer, you can make use of the included EOS Utility software to remotely control the camera (change settings and release the shutter) and save the images directly to your computer.  Previously you could do this only through the use of a USB cable.

Canon 6D wifi wireless tablet ipad iphone smartphone android share connect upload test review preview hands on
Canon 6D WiFi – Control the camera remotely with an iPhone, iPad, or tablet.  Here the aperture setting is being changed, and the focus area is positioned on the subject.

Smart Phone/ Tablet: You can also control your camera through your smart device (iPad, iPhone, Android phone or tablet) using the free EOS Remote app, and this takes it to a higher level than with EOS Utility. You can actually monitor on your device what the camera is seeing, as if you are seeing the camera’s Live View screen on your device.  You can change some settings (like aperture, shutter speed, ISO), move and resize the focus area to tell the camera where to focus, and release the shutter. You can also view the images that are on the camera’s memory card, and transfer images from your camera to the device, however they will be reduced size JPEGs.

Wireless Network – Internet Services: You can set up your camera with websites including Canon Image Gateway, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube, and directly send images or videos to these sites – straight from the camera! (Some instances like Twitter will merely share a link to the image on Canon Image Gateway, but with Facebook the actual image will appear.)

Canon 6D wifi wireless facebook share connect upload test review preview hands on
Canon 6D WiFi – Send your images directly to Facebook (or links to Twitter, or movies to YouTube) straight from the camera.

TV and Printer: You can wirelessly show a slideshow of the images on your camera with a compatible TV, or print images directly from the camera with a wireless compatible printer.

The great thing about these wireless functions is that they are actually easy to set up and use (at least in my experience). By following the simple instructions in the manuals and the prompts on the camera’s screen and the software and apps, you can just keep clicking OK (and enter your password and name your connections) as the camera finds the network or device and connects them together. The EOS Utility software also automatically installs a “device pairing” function on your computer that finds the camera and easily lets you connect. The biggest challenge was setting up the connections to the Internet sites (Facebook, Twitter)  since the instructions were not straightforward. But once you determine that you need to first connect the camera via USB to the computer then open EOS Utility, the right set-up screen is available on EOS Utility.  Then the Internet sites can be selected and registered with the camera, and it works great. There are lots of intimidating wireless set-up option screens on the camera that may have to be used if the connections to your wireless network or devices are not so straightforward.

GPS: The built-in GPS function can be enabled so that your images are automatically geotagged with data such as location and elevation. You can even log your camera’s journey – even when the camera is turned off (as long as it can “see” the satellites) – and then view the route on a Google map (with the included Map Utility software). You can set the camera to communicate with the satellites at anywhere from every 1 second to every 5 minutes, though note that this will drain the battery to some extent.

Functions and Features: The 6D has all of the features of the other current Canon dSLRs, such as in-camera HDR Mode, Multiple Exposure Mode, Handheld Night Scene mode, and various Noise Reduction features. In my standard camera use, I don’t typically have a need for many of these types of features, but they might come in handy or be fun to experiment with for many users. The image rating option is also included and can be quickly accessed during image playback. While initially this seemed unnecessary for me, I have found that it is a great time saver for marking either really good images or likely deletions, both of which require a quick review on a full size monitor once back at my computer – and now can be easily located with their 1 to 5 star rating.

Canon 6D EOS multiple exposure how to manual instruction use review preview hands on tutorial dummies guide book
Canon 6D Multiple Exposure mode used to create a multiple exposure image in-camera, combining three images. Multiple Exposure Control setting: “Average” used here, as it works best for night/ dark scenes. This image was also automatically geotagged with the built-in GPS, as can be seen on Flickr.

The fast Digic 5+ processor of the 6D also allows for some lens correction features – Peripheral Illumination Correction and Chromatic Aberration Correction – to correct for issues introduced with some lenses, several of which are pre-registered in the camera. These types of corrections can also be done with specific lens profiles in Lightroom or Photoshop, so you will need to decide if you want to make these corrections with more control in post processing.  However, if you will be outputting JPEG files, you may want to take advantage of this in-camera.  You can even apply the corrections in-camera after the fact if you have shot in RAW. There are also several other in-camera RAW processing options which will allow you to fully process the image in camera (for brightness, Picture Style, White Balance, JPEG size, etc.) and output a JPEG file for immediate use.

One other nice feature is that not only does the 6D have lens autofocus microadjustment capability to correct for minor autofocusing distance issues, but (as with the 5D Mk III) you can adjust separately for the wide end and tele end of a zoom lens! Of course this means a lot more work in your AF microadjustment process. Also, through the Custom Functions you can choose the number of shots to take during bracketing, either 3, 2, 5, or 7. This is extremely desired by HDR shooters who were previously frustrated with the 3 shot limit.

On the down-side, the 6D has a relatively slow continuous shooting speed of 4.5 frames per second, and no Low-speed and High-speed Continuous settings – unless of course you use Silent Continuous Shooting at 3fps (though be aware that use of the Silent Drive Modes can result in slight shutter lag). This slower maximum rate, along with the less sophisticated 11 point AF system may limit the camera’s appeal to sports and action shooters who need to track moving subjects. (“Less sophisticated” = not as many AF Points as the 7D or 5DIII, only 1 cross-type AF Point, not as many options to customize how it tracks and responds to moving subjects.) Action photographers should look instead at the Canon 7D or 5D Mark III.) On an unrelated note, I should also mention that the 6D has a slower 1/180 flash sync speed.

Menus and Custom Functions: The 6D has the standard menu interface and options as the other current models. You can adjust and customize a few more settings than with the 60D, but the menus are reduced and simplified a bit from the 5DIII.  For an enthusiast photographer this is generally a good thing, as the 6D contains most all of the customization options that you will need, without overwhelming you with extremely specific or advanced items that are found on the 5D Mk III. After becoming familiar with the 5DIII however, it is interesting to note what options were left off, such as additional Multiple Exposure and in-camera HDR Mode processing options, no Auto level for LCD Brightness, and the elimination of some of the extremely precise, nearly “hidden” Custom Controls sub-sub-menus and options.

But the 6D does contain the additional ISO settings used to specify the minimum and maximum ISO available for you – or the camera in Auto ISO – to select, plus the minimum shutter speed for the camera to use in Auto ISO.  If you choose to use Auto Lighting Optimizer, you can tell the camera to turn it off when shooting in M (since you will want full control of your exposures and don’t want the camera to over-ride your careful settings).  A nice feature is the Safety Shift options, where instead of merely enabling the camera to over-ride your settings if it needs to in order to obtain the proper exposure, you can specifically tell it shift either the shutter speed/ aperture setting, or the ISO setting.  Generally, I believe, it will be better to shift the ISO setting in order to obtain the exposure, as you probably intentionally selected your aperture or shutter speed. The Custom Setting for autofocus Tracking Sensitivity now helpfully lists the options as “Locked On” and “Responsive” rather than the previous vague and confusing notations, so you can tell the camera to remain locked-on to your subject or to be more responsive and begin focusing on a new subject that enters the field of view of your active AF Point.

The Orientation Linked AF Point feature is much simplified from the 7D and 5DIII in that you do not need to pre-register the desired points, but rather the camera makes use of the current, manually selected AF points for each specific camera orientation, and then returns to them when you hold the camera in that orientation.

Image Quality: I am not a pixel peeper, I am more of the “just get out there and shoot” variety, and I believe that most all the current consumer cameras – including the 6D – offer more than enough in terms of image quality and low noise for most every photography from enthusiast to semi-pro. So I will leave it up to DP Review and other sites to evaluate the image quality and sensor performance. I have shot some informal ISO tests, which can be viewed on Flickr. For pixel peepers, here is a 6400 ISO, 100% crop detail of the scene below, with no in-camera Noise Reduction or White Balance correction.

Canon 6D high iso noise full frame test review preview hands on
Canon 6D full frame sensor – high ISO noise performance. Click image to see larger version with notes of all the settings.

Video: Oops, I just realized that I forgot to discuss this in the review!  I will come back to this, but it is interesting to note that while the 6D has manual audio input level control, the Wind Filter and Attenuator, it lacks a headphone jack for monitoring audio.

Manuals: Canon has unfortunately followed the trend of not including the full printed manuals with the camera.  While the camera comes with the printed version of the basic instruction manual and “pocket guide” for the camera, plus the basic WiFi/ GPS manual, you have to access the PDF files on the included disc for the full camera manual, the full detailed manual for WiFi, plus the instruction manuals for the software including Map Utility and EOS Utility. Of course you need the full manual to properly set up and learn all the features of the camera, plus you will need to look at some of the the other manuals in order to learn how to get your camera connected to Internet services.  It is a bit frustrating not to have these at hand to quickly refer to.  Fortunately if you have an iPad or tablet, you can download the PDF version of all the manuals from the Canon website and easily read and search through them and take them with you.

However, to quickly learn all the essential and important features of the camera, how to set up the menus and Custom Functions, and learn how, when, and why to use the various controls, features, and functions of the Canon 6D, have a look at my e-book guide Canon 6D Experience.

Canon 6D EOS book manual dummies field guide instruction tutorial how to use learn full frame autofocus system

Conclusion: Overall I think the Canon 6D is an excellent dSLR camera, a very good value for the price, and should easily meet or exceed the needs of most enthusiast and dedicated photographers. It provides the wonderful possibility for a non-pro or aspiring-pro to finally shoot with an affordable full-frame camera. Landscape photographers should enjoy this, as their wide angle lenses will once again act as true wide angle lenses, and be able to capture sweeping vistas.  It should provide general, portrait, and travel photographers with the controls, features, durability, and image quality they desire. Sports, wildlife, and action photographers may not find what they need, however, due to the limited 4.5 frames per second continuous shooting speed and the less sophisticated 11 point autofocus system with only one cross-type point. edit 12/13/12DXOMark summarized it well when they concluded that the 6D “is a high-end, full-frame camera ideal for enthusiast and advanced photographers, or professional photographers looking for a second camera body. Its resolution and AF system mark it out as a camera that is aimed at those shooting portraits or landscapes, where good resolution and a full-frame sensor are key, but where the fastest AF is not as important.”

Designed as a consumer-level camera, a few features (or lack of features) – such as those mentioned – obviously prevent it from being a full-fledged professional level body for highly demanding users (at least not the primary body), but its sensor, image quality, and capabilities will certainly provide anyone with the potential to take professional quality images – and in most situations capture exactly the image you intend. And that, in the end, is the number one goal of photography!

If you enjoyed this post, please be sure to share it, mention it, or link to it!

If you are going to be ordering your Canon 6D online, please consider using my affiliate links below or on the left side of the page (Amazon, B and H, Adorama). Your camera (or other gear) will be the same price, but they will give me a small referral bonus – thanks!

Canon 6D on Amazon (body only or 24-105mm f/4L kit)

Canon 6D at B and H Photo – body only

Canon 6D at B and H Photo – with the 24-105mm f/4L IS kit lens

Nikon D600 Experience, my latest Full Stop e book and the first D600 user’s guide, is now available! This e book goes beyond the manual to help you learn the features, settings, and controls of the powerful and highly customizable Nikon D600. Plus most importantly it explains how, when, and why to use the functions, settings, menu options, and controls in your photography – including the sophisticated autofocus system and the in-camera features such as Multiple Exposure, HDR, and Time-Lapse Shooting.

Written in the clear, concise, and comprehensive style of all Full Stop guides, Nikon D600 Experience will help you learn to use your full-frame D600 quickly and competently, to consistently create the types of images you want to capture. This e-book is available in either PDF or EPUB format for reading on your computer, tablet, iPad, e-reader, etc.

Nikon D600 book ebook camera guide download manual how to dummies field instruction tutorial

Learn more about it, view a preview, and purchase it here:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Nikon_D600_Experience.htm

As one reader has said about Full Stop guides, “I don’t know how I could fully take advantage of all the features the camera has to offer without this publication! It’s well-organized, easy to understand, and succinct enough to keep your attention while still containing a wealth of information to get the most out of your camera.”

Take control of your Nikon D600, the image taking process, and the photos you create!

For experienced photographers coming to the D600 from previous models, this guide explains the new and advanced features to quickly get you up and running and taking advantage of these capabilities, including the advanced 39 Point Autofocus System and its Autofocus Modes, AF-Area Modes, Menu options and Custom Settings. Plus it explains the camera controls, the in-camera HDR, Multiple Exposures, Interval Timer and Time-Lapse Shooting features, introduces the settings and controls of the HD video capabilities, and guides you through all the Menu and Custom Settings options to help you set up the camera for your specific needs.

This guide is also designed for Intermediate and Enthusiast dSLR Photographers who wish to take fuller advantage of the capabilities of the camera to go beyond Auto and Program modes and shoot competently in A, S, and M modes; take control of the sophisticated 39 point autofocus system; learn how, when, and why to use the controls, buttons, and features of the D600, and much more. It covers basic dSLR camera functions and exposure concepts for those learning digital SLR photography, and explains more advanced camera controls and operation such as using the various metering modes and exposure compensation for correct exposure of every image.

Nikon D600 Experience focuses on still-photography with an introduction to HD video in order to get you up and running with shooting movies, including the movie settings and menu options. Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your D600 – All of the D600 Custom Settings and Playback, Shooting, and Setup Menus, including Movie Mode Menus, with explanations and recommended settings for practical, everyday use. Set up and customize the advanced features of your dSLR to work best for the way you photograph.
  • Aperture Priority (A), Shutter Priority (S), and Manual (M) Modes – How and when to use them to create dramatic depth of field, freeze or express motion, or take total control over exposure settings.
  • Auto Focusing Modes and Area Modes and Release (Drive) Modes – The 39 point D600 autofocus system is a is a powerful tool, and taking control of it will enable you to successfully capture more sharp images, especially in action situations.  Learn the AF Modes, AF Area Modes, and AF Custom Settings, how they differ, how and when to take advantage of them to capture both still and moving subjects. Plus how and when to use focus lock.
  • Exposure Metering Modes of the Nikon D600 – How they differ, how and when to use them for correct exposures in every situation, and how to customize them for your needs. Also how to make use of exposure lock.
  • Histograms, Exposure Compensation, Bracketing, and White Balance – Understanding and using these features for adjusting to the proper exposure in challenging lighting situations, and setting custom white balance.
  • The Image Taking Process – Descriptive tutorials for using the settings and controls you just learned to take photos of both still and moving subjects.
  • Photography Accessories – The most useful accessories for day-to-day and travel photography including accessories specific to the D600.
  • Composition – Brief tips, techniques, and explanations, including the creative use of depth of field.
  • Introduction to Video Settings – Settings and explanations to get you started shooting HD video.

This digital guide to the Nikon D600 is a 217 page illustrated e-book that goes beyond the manual to explain how, when, and why to use the features, settings, and controls of the D600 to help you get the most from your camera.

Learn more about Nikon D600 Experience, view a preview, and purchase it on my Full Stop website here:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Nikon_D600_Experience.htm

Comparing the Nikon D600 vs. D7000 vs. D300s:

I’ve written a previous post comparing the Nikon D7000 vs D90 vs D300s, as well as one comparing the current Nikon dSLR line-up of the Nikon D7000 vs. D5100 vs. D90 vs. D3100.   Now that the full frame Nikon D600 has been introduced (and almost immediately made available for sale), I need to revisit these comparisons to include this latest Nikon dSLR.  I am going to focus on the D600 vs D7000 vs D300s here, with some D90 specs thrown in, but leaving out the D5100 plus the more expensive D800 full frame (FX) model for now until I get the chance to incorporate them into the discussion.

Nikon D600 vs D700 vs D300s compare choose which one decide review full frame fx dx size body weight
Nikon D600 vs Nikon D7000 – comparison of body size and controls of the full frame FX vs the APS-C sized DX format dSLR cameras – image by author, courtesy of Newtonville camera of Newton, Mass.

The introduction of the full frame (a.k.a. FX format) sensor sized Nikon D600 has expanded the Nikon dSLR line-up, and perhaps made it even more challenging to determine which camera is right for you.  To get a sense of where the D600 sits, it is designed to be the first full frame dSLR aimed at the photography “enthusiast” – in both features and price (about $2100).  (Full frame or FX format means that the sensor is the same size as a frame of 35mm film.) It does not have quite all the features, continuous frame rate speed, larger and more rugged body, external controls, and customization options as a professional level dSLR like the Nikon D800, yet it still offers more than enough in terms of image quality, features, controls, and durable construction for most any serious enthusiast.  I would even contend that it is plenty capable as a semi-pro’s full frame body or second body, or even a smaller, lighter weight option for sometime-use by a pro.

Sitting Between the D7000 and D800: The D600 has been described by Nikon as sitting between the APS-C sensor sized (DX) D7000 and the full frame (FX) D800.  What that means is that, first, it has the approximate size, weight, and “feel” of the pro-sumer D7000.  This “FX camera in a DX body” is a desirable feature for a lot of photographers, especially those carrying and using their camera all day such as when traveling.  Plus it incorporates the sophisticated and customizable 39 point autofocus system of the D7000, along with that camera’s “user-friendly” interface and controls (the autofocus system has actually even been improved over the D7000 in terms of greater sensitivity).  This makes it an easy transition for D7000 users wanting to go full frame, or wanting to simultaneously work with both bodies.  Yet is also boasts some technology borrowed from the higher end D800 like the HDMI output, uncompressed video recording, and improved exposure metering.

Nikon D600 vs D700 vs D300s compare choose which one decide review full frame fx dx
Detail of the Nikon D600 full frame dSLR camera – image by author

The Second Highest Rated Sensor:  Previously, in order to offer a high-quality, fully featured yet affordable camera for enthusiasts and semi-pros, the compromise was a smaller sensor – the APS-C sized sensor (or what Nikon calls the DX format) which is about two-thirds of the size of a full frame sensor.  Larger sensors have always been desired for several reasons:  they typically deliver better performance in terms of improved resolution, increased dynamic range, and improved low light / high ISO performance.  In other words, the images have much better detail and can withstand serious cropping, display a fuller range of colors and tones, and are cleaner with less digital noise, especially in low light situations.  And indeed the sensor of the D600 lives up to these expectations – in fact it is the second highest rated sensor on DXOmark, behind only the Nikon D800E and D800 (the D800E is the D800 without the anti-aliasing filter in front of the sensor). So in terms of image quality for the price, the D600 really can’t be beat at this point.

The full frame sensor will also affect the field of view of your lenses. For those moving from an APS-C sized (DX) sensor camera to a full frame body, a 50mm lens will now act as a true 50mm lens – no more 1.5x crop factor to consider. This means that your wide angle lenses will now act as true wide angle lenses, but your telephoto lenses will no longer have quite as much reach as you may be used to.  But in the interest of lens compatibility, Nikon DX lenses can be used with the D600 and the camera will automatically crop the images as if using a DX sized sensor (so the sensor is reduced to 10.5 MP).

I first introduced the Nikon D600 in my post The First Affordable Full Frame dSLR, and there you can learn about a lot of the camera’s specifications and what they mean as far as real-life photographic use.  Here I will try to spell out the difference in specs and how that might affect your choice.  As I always like to point out, when you are trying to determine which camera to purchase or upgrade to, you need to first consider and determine your needs, and then see which camera fills those needs. Not the other way around where you look at the new features and speculate if you really need or will use them. The latest cameras almost always have more impressive features and specifications than the preceding models, but if your needs and shooting style don’t required those upgrades then it is possible that you can save some money and be completely happy with a less expensive or earlier model (and spend your money on better lenses!)

Nikon D600 vs D700 vs D300s compare choose which one decide review full frame fx dx size body weight
Nikon D600 vs Nikon D7000 – comparison of body size and controls of the full frame FX vs the APS-C sized DX format dSLR cameras – Click on this image to have a closer look.  Image by author, courtesy of Newtonville camera of Newton, Mass.

Sensor and Image Quality: The image sensor of the D7000 was greatly improved over both the D90 and the D300s, and now the sensor of the D600 is an even greater leap.  The D7000 has 16.2 megapixels, where the D90 and D300s each have 12.3 megapixels.  The D600 boasts 24.3 megapixels.  In addition to its dramatic improvement in resolution, I noted above the other image quality advantages of a full frame sensor, as well as how that will affect your lenses’ field of view.  This increase in resolution will also allow for more intrusive editing of the files in Photoshop, the ability to crop a picture and still obtain an image with high enough resolution for printing or display, and allow for larger prints.  You can have a look at dxomark.com to compare the sensors – run your mouse along the red-to-green color bar to the right of the Measurement graphs (such as Dynamic Range) to see how these differences affect images.  You can see from the charts that there are some significant improvements over the sensor of the D7000.

Exposure Metering: As with the D7000, the D600 has a 2016 pixel RGB metering sensor – although Nikon has stated that this latest version is improved over the D7000.  Both of these are certainly improved compared to the D90 and D300s, and will result in better TTL metering performance of straightforward and complex lighting scenes, such as back-lit situations.  All of these Nikon cameras offer Matrix metering, Center-weighted average metering, and Spot metering. With center-weighted metering, the D600 offers the option of an 8, 12, 15, or 20mm center circle for its weighting, or simply an old-fashioned Average reading.  The D90 makes use of your choice of a 6, 8, or 10mm center circle for its weighting, while the D7000 and D300s add a 13mm circle option to that.  A nice feature of Nikon dSLR cameras is that the Spot Metering is linked to the active AF Point, so in the image below, the AF Point was placed on the subject’s face, and the camera determined metering there (rather than requiring me to first meter where I wanted and then lock the exposure as Canon Spot Metering requires).

Nikon D600 full frame FX sensor backlit backlighting active d lighting exposure metering spot
Nikon D600 – Use of Spot Metering and Active-D Lighting in severe backlit situation.  As you can see, you still need to know how to make use of the metering modes and determine a proper exposure, as the camera can’t perform magic.  Use of fill flash in this situation resulted in better exposure and contrast on the subject.

Autofocus: The autofocus system of the D600 is similar to the D7000 AF system, with its 39 AF points and 9 more sensitive cross-type points (clustered in the center).  However, you can see that the AF points are spread much more widely across the viewfinder with the DX sized D7000:

Nikon D7000 vs D600 viewfinder DX FX compare choose vs which one af autofocus point 39
Simulated view of Nikon D7000 viewfinder, showing the location of all the autofocus AF points (and the viewfinder grid that can be turned on or off)- image by author.

Nikon D7000 vs D600 viewfinder DX FX compare choose vs which one af autofocus point 39
Simulated view of Nikon D600 viewfinder, showing the location of all the autofocus AF points (viewfinder grid not show but is available to view)- image by author.

Each of these above images show the full simulated framing as seen in the viewfinder, and you can clearly see how the 39 AF Points of the D600 are limited more to the central area of the frame.  This means that you are likely going to have to do some significant “focus-lock and recomposing” as you create interesting compositions where the subject is off-center.  This will also impact the use of the AF Points when using AF-C Continuous Autofocus Mode to track moving subjects.  The moving subject will have to remain within the area of the AF Points in order for the camera to continue tracking it, so you will have to move the camera around to follow the subject more closely.  This again is going to seriously limit your compositions when using AF-C and tracking a subject, as the subject is always going to have to be located in the central part of the frame.  If you are a serious action, sports, bird, or wildlife photographer, you are going to have to seriously consider if this AF Point arrangement of the D600 is going to work for you.  Or else consider using the camera in DX Crop “mode,” where you use just a DX-sized portion of the sensor to capture the image.  Although you will only be making use of 10 megapixels, the AF Points will in effect be spread out over more of the frame, more similar to what you see in the D7000 viewfinder.

As mentioned above, the 39 AF Points of the D600 are more sensitive than those of the D7000, with 33 of them sensitive down to f/8.  This means when you use a teleconverter (such as with a long lens in order to turn a 200mm lens into a 400mm lens) which reduces the effective maximum aperture of your lens by a stop or 2 or 3, you can sill make full use of most of the AF Points.  As with the D7000, you can limit the number of selectable AF Points to 11 if you prefer to manually select your AF Point (as you typically should) and you find 39 too many to contend with.  Since the AF system of the D600 as well as its controls and autofocus Custom Settings are so similar to the D7000, you can have a look at this post Taking Control of your D7000 Autofocus System to begin to learn how to get the most out of it.  The AF systems of the D600 and D7000 (and D300s) allow for you to use the numerous autofocus points in various ways to best capture still subjects (typically using AF-S autofocus mode) or track and capture moving subjects (using AF-C autofocus mode), including Automatic AF point selection, Single Point AF, and Dynamic Area AF using your choice of 9 points, 21 points, all points, or all points with 3D-Tracking.

Regarding the D90 and D300s, the autofocus system of the D90 has 11 autofocus (AF) points with only the center one being the more accurate cross type. The D300s offers 51 AF points with 15 being cross type, and thus is ideal for sports, action, and wildlife – although it has begun to become outdated and superseded by many of the other features of the D7000.

Nikon D600 book ebook guide manual tutorial how to dummies instruction fieldBrief commercial interruption: I would like to mention that I have written an e-book user’s guide for the D7000 called Nikon D7000 Experience, and will be offering an e-book guide for the D600Nikon D600 Experience. The guides discuss not only how to use the features, controls, autofocus systems, and various settings of the cameras, but more importantly when and why to make use of them in your photography.  They also explain the metering modes, aperture and shutter priority modes and manual shooting, focus lock, exposure lock, and more.  Plus they describe all of the Menu options and Custom Settings, with recommended settings.  Learn more about my Full Stop dSLR camera guides here!

Body, Construction and Size/ Weight: The D600 and D7000 (and even the older D90) appear very similar at first glance, and both have a rugged partial magnesium alloy body (top and rear) with a polycarbonate front.  However, the D600 is actually slightly lighter than the D7000: 1.68 lbs. vs 1.7 lbs.  The D300s is slightly larger than the other 2 bodies, and weighs in at 2.2 lbs, with full magnesium construction. The sturdier construction of the D600 and the D7000, including their nice rubber gripping surfaces, creates the feel of a more professional body. The D600, D7000, and D300s all have weather sealing at the memory card and battery doors.  The D600 has a slightly larger rear LCD Monitor at 3.2″ vs. the 3″ rear LCD screen of the D7000 and D300s.

ISO: As mentioned in the Sensor/ Image Quality section above, the high ISO performance of the D600 is improved over the D7000, which was already improved over both the D90 and the D300s. The tests at dxomark.com tell this story.  The native ISO range of the D600 and D7000 is 100-6400 expandable up to 25,600.  The D300s and D90 have a native ISO range of 200-3200 expandable to 6400. This means that with the D600 you can use high ISO settings when required, such as in low light situations, and not have any difficulty with digital noise, particularly in the shadow areas of images. You can view my informal ISO test images on this post of Nikon D600 ISO Test Sample Images to see the excellent high ISO performance when shooting JPEG images.

Controls: The controls of the D600 are very similar to the D7000, with some minor changes such as the locking Mode Dial switch (a nice touch), the different Live View / Movie switch and relocated Record Button, and in the “why did they do that?” category the reversing of the zoom in and zoom out buttons.  The Multi-Selector thumb pad size has also been reduced on the D600, which I find to be less comfortable than the larger D7000 Multi-Selector.  Overall, all of the controls are easily accessible, user friendly, and quick and easy to access and use for changing settings on the fly.  Many controls make use of a button press and then either of the Command Dials to change the setting.  For example, press the AF-Mode Button at the base of the lens and then turn the Main Command Dial to change the AF Mode or the Sub-Command Dial to change the AF Area Mode, as you look on the top LCD Control Panel to see your choices.  I found myself always intuitively turning the wrong dial in conjunction with the ISO Button, but that will just take some practice (one dial enables Auto ISO while the other changes the ISO setting).

Nikon D600 vs D7000 controls buttons size compare side by side
Nikon D600 vs Nikon D7000 – comparison of body size and controls of the full frame FX vs the APS-C sized DX format dSLR cameras – image by author, courtesy of Newtonville camera of Newton, Mass.

The D300s has entirely different switches, dials, and buttons than the D600 and D7000, however this allows for quicker and easier direct access to a few more features and settings on the D300s.  As with the D7000, the D600 offers two customizable user settings (U1, U2) on the mode dial for pre-setting a combination of camera settings and Custom Settings.  For example, you can set up your camera for landscape photography with all the settings you use for that and assign these settings to U1, and then configure your camera for studio/ portrait use and assign that combination of settings to the U2 mode.  You can also assign numerous functions of your choice to certain buttons such as the Fn Button, such as quickly and temporarily changing to Spot Metering Mode or turning on the built-in level display.

Wireless Flash: All of these Nikon cameras allow for advanced wireless lighting using the built in flash as a remote Commander for Nikon Speedlights, allowing you to make use of and remotely control simple or complex off-camera lighting set-ups.

Viewfinder: As with the D7000 and D300s, the D600 has a large, bright 100% optical viewfinder coverage.

Processor: The D90 and D300s have the Nikon Expeed Processor, the D7000 has the improved Expeed II processor, and the D600 boasts the speedier Expeed 3 processor. This allows for more video options including full 1080p HD at all the frame rates and overall faster processing of stills and video files especially when using in-camera processing features while shooting such as Vignetting Control or High ISO Noise Reduction.  The fast processor also allows for quick results when taking in-camera HDR or Multiple Exposure images.

Continuous Shooting Speed: The D600 can shoot at a maximum continuous frame rare of 5.5 frames per second (fps) up to 100 images when shooting JPEG or up to 16 images when shooting at the best RAW setting.  This allows you to capture exactly the right moment of an action situation, or a rapidly changing expression on a subject.  The D90 can shoot 4.5 frames per second (fps) up to 100 images, the D7000 shoots 6 fps up to 100 shots, and the D300s shoots 7 fps – or 8fps with the battery grip. If you often capture action and really need the highest frame rate, such as for sports or wildlife shooting, you are going to have to seriously consider the D300s or D800 over the D600.  Otherwise, 7 or 8 fps is often complete overkill in typical real-life use.

Memory Card: Like the D7000, the D600 accepts 2 SD cards, where the second card can be used in a variety of ways: overflow, JPEG on one / RAW on the other, or mirrored backup of the first card. The D300s uses 1 CF card and 1 SD card, which also can be configured in a variety of ways. The second card can definitely come in handy if one is shooting a lot of still and video files or wants instant back-up of all images.  There is a “trick” for choosing which memory card slot is viewed during image playback:  Press and hold the BKT Button and then press Up on the Multi-Selector and follow the prompts to make your choice.

Battery: The D600 and D7000 both use the high capacity EN-EL15 battery, which will last for over 1000 shots.  TheD600 accepts the optional, new MB-D14 battery grip for the use of two batteries – and to perhaps make the camera more comfortable for some users particularly when using larger lenses or working often in portrait orientation.  Similarly, the D7000 accepts the optional MB-D11 battery pack/ vertical grip,  and the D300s uses the EN-EL3e battery and the optional MB-D10 battery pack/ vertical grip. The D90 also uses the EN-EL3e battery and its optional battery pack/ vertical grip is the MB-D80.

Full HD video: The D600 offers full HD video with manual control and all the usual frame rates (1080p at 30/25/24 fps and 720p at 60/50/30 fps), for up to 20 minutes of recording at the highest settings. As with stills, you can switch to DX (as if you were using a smaller DX sized sensor) for a “telephoto boost,” and it is capable of full time autofocus, though most dedicated videographers still prefer manually focusing. The camera records mono audio but is compatible with optional stereo mics, and has a headphone jack for audio monitoring.  The D90 and D300s offer 720p video at 24 fps, with a 5 minute shooting time. The D7000 improved upon that with full 1080p HD video at 24 fps for up to 20 minutes with full-time continuous autofocus. Plus it offers 720p at 30, 24, and 25 fps.

Price: Just under $2100 – may vary slightly at different retailers.

Shooting Experience: The D600 feels and performs absolutely wonderfully. Its body and controls are comfortable and responsive in the hands, with the exception of what I think is a too-small Multi-Selector pad.   All controls are easily accessible for quickly changing all the essential settings such as autofocusing modes, ISO, white balance, metering modes, bracketing, etc. The Shutter Button is thankfully less sensitive than that of the D7000, thus allowing focus lock or exposure lock using a half-press, without accidentally taking the shot.  The Matrix Metering works great to properly determine exposure in a wide variety of situations, and the Auto White Balance even captures sunset colors nicely rather than turning them into less warm daylight colors as many previous cameras might have done.  The D600 has carried over all of the nice touches from the D7000 such as the optional grid in the viewfinder, the ability to limit the AF points to 11 – for quicker manual selection, the ability to change the continuous low shooting speed between 1 to 5 shots (which Canon has yet to do on their non-pro cameras), and the versatility to change the size of the central spot size for center weighted metering.

Choosing a Camera:  So which camera is best for your needs? At this point I would be hesitant to recommend to D300s to most users, simply due to the fact that it is an “older” model.  While it is still a highly capable camera, the image resolution and many of the features have been improved upon by the current models.  So if you plan to use your dSLR for several more years, just consider how “outdated” it will be in 4 more years.

The D600 and D7000 are similar in so many ways that a big part of the decision comes down to the full frame sensor vs. the APS-C sized sensor.  Of course the D600 has improved resolution, dynamic range, etc, but remember that all that is relative. You can still capture excellent, professional quality images on the D7000, or even the D90.  Pixel peepers will certainly find a difference, but it may not be significant enough for many users.  The full frame will also allow you to capture wider more sweeping views with your wide angle lenses, and indirectly more dramatically shallow depth of field.

This is because depth of field is affected by not only your aperture setting but also by the camera-to-subject distance.  So say that you were to use the full frame D600 to frame a shot with a 50mm focal length and f/2.0 aperture, from 10 feet away.  To “recreate” this same shot with the APS-C sensor-sized D7000 and a 50mm focal length, you would have to back up several feet to have the same field of view.  The full frame sensor will capture a wider field of view, while the APS-C “crops” the scene due to its smaller size.  Even though you use the same f/2.0 aperture setting, the depth of field does not appear as dramatically shallow because the camera-to-subject distance has increased.  So…indirectly…a full frame camera can contribute to more dramatic depth of field. (However, this all gets a bit more complicated and a lot of photographers, including myself until recently, misunderstand the role of the focal length in this – namely that it does not affect this issue: http://www.bluesky-web.com/dofmyth.htm)

However, since the autofocus points of the D600 are grouped more closely to the center of the frame, they are not as useful as the more widely spread AF points of the D7000 for tracking and capturing moving subjects when working in AF-C autofocus mode.  If you intend to shoot lots of sports, action, birds or other wildlife, the D7000 may work better.  The faster continuous frame rate of the D7000 will greatly assist with action photography as well.  Plus the D7000’s DX sensor will “extend” the reach of your telephoto lenses in these situations.  You can always use the D600 in DX Mode to “widen” you AF point spread and “extend” your telephoto reach, but the tradeoff is that you will only be using 10 megapixels of your sensor.

Purchasing these cameras: If you plan to buy any of these cameras, accessories, or anything else through Amazon.com or B and H Photo, I would appreciate it if you use my referral links. Your price will be the same, and they will give me a little commission for referring you, which will help support my blog.  Thank you for supporting my efforts!

Order your D600 today on Amazon or B and H – it is already available and shipping!

Nikon D600 on Amazon (body only or kit)

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – body only

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – with the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens

Purchasing from the UK? Use my Amazon UK referral link here.

 

Nikon D600 book ebook guide manual tutorial how to dummies instruction fieldBrief commercial interruption: And don’t forget, I will be offering an e-book guide for the D600Nikon D600 Experience. The guide discusses not only how to use the features, controls, autofocus systems, and various settings of the cameras, but more importantly when and why to make use of them in your photography.  It also explains the metering modes, aperture and shutter priority modes and manual shooting, focus lock, exposure lock, and more.  Plus it goes over all of the Menu options and Custom Settings, with recommended settings.  Learn more about my Full Stop dSLR camera guides here!

I got my hands on the Nikon D600 and spent the weekend playing around with it.  I have written an introductory post about it here.  I am working on a detailed specs review and comparison post, and I will have to write a “hands-on” review.  But for now I can confidently tell you, from a handling, shooting, and image quality point of view, it is a great camera.  And if I wasn’t locked into my set of Canon L lenses I would seriously consider it as an “affordable” full-frame camera for myself.  A special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass. for getting a D600 in my hands so quickly!

Nikon D600 unboxing unbox full frame FX kit lens 24-85mm dslr
Nikon D600 with 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 kit lens – unboxing

I also did an informal ISO test, and here are the JPEG images below.  You can view all these images and more ISO samples in a larger size on my Flickr site here.  All images were taken with the kit lens – 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VRLong Exposure Noise Reduction was On, and High ISO Noise Reduction was set at Norm.  As you can see, they look great up to ISO 3200, and images taken at ISO 6400 may have an acceptable amount of noise based on your shooting situation and output size and use.  At this size, they all look virtually the same, and that actually doesn’t vary much when viewing them larger (until getting up to the very high ISO settings).

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on 100

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on 800

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on 3200

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on 6400 digital noise

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on Hi 1 digital noise

If you are considering buying a Nikon D600 or any other gear, please consider using my affiliate links (below or at the left of the page) to make your purchase on Amazon, at B and H Photo, or Adorama – thanks!  The D600 is already available and shipping:

Nikon D600 on Amazon (body only or kit)

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – body only

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – with the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens

Introducing the Canon 6D Full Frame dSLR Camera

First, I have been corrected – the Sony a850 was the first “affordable” full frame (meaning ~$2000 price at introduction), followed by the Nikon D600, then the Canon 6D. But as I unfortunately only have time in my work day to mostly follow, research, and write about Canon and Nikon news and dSLR cameras, this one slipped by me.

Just as I have been digesting the specs and features of the new Nikon D600 full frame dSLR, Canon quickly follows on their heels with their version of a “pro-sumer” full frame camera, the Canon EOS 6D.  The big deal about these two cameras – and indeed they are a big deal – is that they are the first full frame cameras priced at around $2000 at first release.  In fact they are each priced at just under $2100.  dSLR cameras with full frame sized sensors (sensors about the size of a frame of 35mm film – remember film?) have typically cost several hundred, if not $1000 more than this when first introduced. The Canon 5D, though also referred to as “affordable” at the time, was around $3300 when introduced as a professional camera. The Canon 5D Mark II was about $2700 at introduction, and the Nikon D700 and D800 were each about $3000.  The latest Canon full frame, the 5D Mark III is around $3400, but Canon knew they would be coming out with the 6D to fill in the price point vacated by the 5D Mark II.

Canon EOS 6D full frame dslr review
Canon EOS 6D

Previously, the compromise in order to put a high-quality, fully featured camera into enthusiasts’ and semi-pros’ hands was a smaller sensor – the APS-C sized sensor which is about 64% of the size of a full frame sensor.  Nikon calls the smaller size the DX and the full frame the FX format, while Canon really doesn’t have a special name for either that I can recall. But larger sensors have always been prized for several reasons.  They typically deliver better performance in terms of improved resolution, increased dynamic range, and improved low light / high ISO performance.  In other words, the images have much better detail and can withstand serious cropping, display a fuller range of colors and tones, and are cleaner with less digital noise, especially in low light situations.  The full frame sensor will also affect the field of view of your lenses. For those moving from an APS-C sized sensor camera to a full frame body, a 50mm lens will now act as a true 50mm lens – no more 1.6x crop factor to consider. This means that your wide angle lenses will now act as true wide angle lenses, but your telephoto lenses will no longer have quite as much reach as you may be used to.

I have long warned that Canon users should carefully consider buying EF-S lenses that are only compatible with APS-C Canon dSLRs, and my reasoning was that one day you would either want to upgrade to a full frame 5D that does not accept AF-S lenses, and/ or eventually full frame bodies would become more affordable.  Well, that day is today!  The 6D is the “affordable” full frame camera, and indeed it does not accept EF-S lenses, only EF lenses.

For those who can’t or don’t wish to spend $3400 on the 5D Mark III yet still want the full frame experience, the 6D is now a reasonable option.  The 5D Mk II of course is currently under $2000, but it really isn’t very desirable anymore with its relatively slow and outdated 9 point autofocus system and relatively slow 3.9 frames per second continuous shooting speed.  Not to mention the wide variety of feature, HD video improvements, and in-camera processing features that have been added to more recent models.  However, based on its controls, autofocus system, and other features (whether included or left out), the 6D can be considered a full frame version of the 60D, and thus sits firmly in the enthusiast range rather than the professional range. Again, some compromises were made in order to offer a well-featured full-frame camera at an enthusiast photographer price point.  But its full frame coupled with its smaller, lighter body (more like an APS-C camera body) will make it a great option for everyday and travel use.

Canon 6D EOS book manual dummies field guide instruction tutorial how to use learn full frame autofocus system

Brief Commercial Interruption: I have written an e-book camera guide to the Canon 6D, Canon 6D Experience, now available. Click the link or book cover to learn more, preview, or purchase this guide (as well as all my other e-book camera guides for Nikon and Canon dSLR cameras).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canon EOS 6D full frame dslr review
Canon EOS 6D

Here are some of the specs of the Canon 6D, and more importantly what they mean. After reading about what the camera offers, be sure to also read my Canon 6D Hands On Reveiw:

Sensor: The 6D sits between the 7D and the 5DIII in terms of resolution, with 20.2MP compared to the 18MP of the 7D, 21MP of the 5DII, and 22.3MP of the 5DIII. As mentioned above, a full-frame size sensor promises not only improved image quality but also increased dynamic range and improved low light / high ISO performance (100-25,600 max. ISO expandable up to 102,400). Have a look just below and at my images here to see some example images of the performance of the 5DIII at various ISO settings.  The 6D may not be quite as excellent, but it should be very close (edit: my informal ISO tests of the 6D can now be seen below and here.  And as noted above, the full-frame sensor will also affect the field of view of your lenses. Your wide angle lenses will now act as true wide angle lenses, but your telephoto lenses will no longer have quite as much reach as you may be used to.

Canon 6D high iso noise digital camera slr pixel test compare preview
Example image of the Canon 6D ISO performance and digital noise. Image by the Author – click on the image to view larger.

A full frame sensor also affects your depth of field…indirectly.  This is because depth of field is affected by not only your aperture setting but also the camera-to-subject distance.  So say that you were to use the full frame 6D to frame a shot with a 50mm focal length and f/2.0 aperture, from 10 feet away.  To “recreate” this same shot with the APS-C sensor-sized 7D and a 50mm focal length, you would have to back up several feet (6 more feet I believe?) to have the same field of view.  (The full frame sensor will capture a wider field of view, while the APS-C “crops” the scene due to its smaller size.)  Even though you use the same f/2.0 aperture setting, the depth of field is not as dramatically shallow because the camera-to-subject distance has increased.  The depth of field in this case changes from less than a foot to over 2 feet.  (I may be wrong about backing up from 10 feet to 16 feet for this example, which means my final numbers are off, but none-the-less, the dof increases as you move back.)  So…indirectly…a full frame camera can contribute to more dramatic depth of field.

Processor: The 6D incorporates a single speedy Digic 5+ processor – the latest processor that is also included in the 5DIII (there as one of two processors). This allows you to take more continuous photos at the maximum frame rate, as well as to keep up a fast rate as the camera applies optional in-camera processing to the images, such as lens aberration corrections.  The speedy processor also allows for the in-camera HDR and Multiple Exposure features.

Viewfinder: The 6D also has a nice big and bright 97% view viewfinder, not as awesome as a 100% viewfinder would have been to be able to frame the entire scene to be captured, but excellent none-the-less.  Unfortunately, there is not an electronic grid included in the viewfinder view as there is with the 7D.  In order to get a grid, you will have to make use of the optional Eg-D matte focusing screen.  You can see a simulated view of the viewfinder below the Autofocus section.

Autofocus (AF) System / FPS: The Canon 6D has a new 11 point autofocus system with only the center point as a more accurate cross-type point.  Not quite the 19 AF point system of the 7D as one might have expected, and also significantly lower than the 61 AF point system of the 5DIII.  In terms of number of focus points, it is a minor improvement to the 5DII.  However, I am sure that it is a system that will react and perform significantly faster (even despite only one cross-type point) as well as offer numerous customization options. This AF system, along with its 4.5 frame per second (fps) continuous shooting speed, indicates that the 6D is not intended to be a sports and action camera, but rather a camera geared towards standard photography, weddings, portraits, travel, etc.

Canon 6D EOS autofocus AF viewfinder 11 points compare choose dummies guide book digital dslr
Simulated view of the Canon 6D viewfinder, showing the Spot Metering circle and the 11 autofocus AF Points

Body, Size, Battery, Memory Cards:  Regarding size and weight, the 6D is nearly the same size and weight as the 7D – in fact it is not quite as wide and as deep as the 7D, stands at the same height, and weights a little less.  Overall it is 145 x 111 x 71 mm, weighing 770g (with the battery) compared to the 860g of the 7D.  The 6D accepts the same excellent LP-E6 battery as the 7D and 5DIII, as well as SD memory cards (single card slot).  The body is constructed primarily of magnesium alloy, is weather sealed against dust and moisture, and should prove to be quite durable for any everyday-type use plus more rugged situations.  It boasts a 3″ LCD screen – fixed not articulating – with 102,400 pixels, making it large, clear, and sharp – but not a touch screen as originally speculated.

Interface and Controls: The controls on the body of the 6D closely resemble those of the EOS 60D, with a few changes.  The Multi-Controller pad is used for autofocus AF point control rather than the thumb joystick of the 5D cameras, the top row of buttons control one function only, and the Mode Dial has the handy center locking button.  The power switch has been moved to the typical current location for Canon dSLRs – at the Mode Dial.  The row of buttons on the rear left side, common on most Canon dSLRs without a rotating screen, has been pared down and moved to the right of the screen.  Rather than the zoom-in and zoom-out buttons, there is a single Magnify button that was first found on the 5DIII and initially drove users crazy due to the muscle memory of their thumbs that had to be retrained.  The exposure lock and focus lock buttons remain, thus allowing for back-button focusing and easily separating focus and exposure functions.

Canon EOS 6D full frame dslr review
Canon EOS 6D

New Features: The 6D is the first Canon camera to offer built-in wireless and built-in GPS capability.  The Wi-Fi feature will allow photographers to do some great wireless stuff, including cable-free “tethered” shooting and camera control using EOS Utility and a computer, easily sharing images on Facebook and other social networks straight from the camera, controlling the camera (in Live View) from a smartphone or tablet – including focusing and changing some settings, using the smart device to view and transfer images that are on the camera’s memory card, and Wi-Fi connection to a TV or printer.  And the GPS will allow geotagging of images with the coordinates, altitude, and orientation, and mapping the route of the camera.

Accessories: Of course there will be a battery grip for the 6D, the BG-E13, for the use of two LP-E6 batteries for longer shooting.  The larger body size created by the grip is also more comfortable for some, especially when shooting often in the portrait orientation and/ or when using larger, heavier lenses.  There are also a couple optional focusing screens that are compatible, the Eg-D and Eg-S matte focusing screens which make manual focusing eaiser.  The Eg-D offers a grid as well for assistance with compositions and keeping the framing straight.  This means that there is no electronic grid built into the viewfinder, as with the 7D.

The typical remote shutter releases are certain to be compatible, such as the Canon Remote Switch RS-80N3 or Canon Wireless Remote Control RC-1 or RC-5 or RC-6.  These remotes will allow either self-portraits or the ability to release the shutter without pressing the Shutter Button thus preventing possible camera shake. There is also the Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3 for time-lapse or long exposure photography.

Flash: Similar to the 5D line of cameras, the 6D does not include a built-in flash, though it is fully compatible with all the Canon Speedlite flashes such as the new Canon 600EX-RT as well as the older but still highly capable 580EX II.  It will certainly be compatible with the Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT radio wave wireless transmitter, which can control and trigger up to 5 groups of 15 flashes, up to 30 meters, with no line-of-site required. (Currently only compatible with the Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite.)

HD Video: And of course the 6D offers full HD video with manual control and all the usual frame rates (1080p at 30/25/24 fps and 720p at 60/50 fps plus 480p at 25/30 fps. The new sensor is not capable of full time autofocus, though most dedicated videographers still prefer manually focusing anyway. The camera records mono audio but is compatible with optional stereo mics, and unfortunately lacks a headphone jack for audio monitoring.

Bracketing: The offers 3, 2, 5, or 7 frame Auto Exposure Bracketing, which will please HDR shooter. There is also a built-in “HDR mode” which combines and processes three automatically bracketed images in-camera, and a Multiple Exposure mode that can “overlay” and process up to 9 images in-camera. And there are a couple more multi-shop options where the camera takes a few shots in a row and then combines them for a better final result, such as the multi-shot noise reduction option, and the hand-held night scene.

Of course the 6D offers the usual 63-Zone dual layer exposure metering system for consistent, accurate exposures in all types of situations including challenging scenes like back-lit ones.  It has the usual Canon Metering Modes and Drive Modes as well as the familiar Picture Style settings and in-camera image processing and filter/ art effects as found in the 7D, 60D, and 5D Mk III.

Conclusions:  Just as with the new Nikon D600 full frame camera, I expect the Canon EOS 6D to be an extremely popular camera, offering an affordable full-frame dSLR for dedicated enthusiasts, aspiring pros/ semi-pros, or a highly competent second body for semi-pros and pros on a budget. There is nothing lacking in this camera that would prevent any photographer from capturing the highest quality, professional level images in most every shooting situation, be it general photography, portraits, street photography, studio work, wedding photography or travel use.  Its pairing with the professional 24-105mm f/4L lens is an indication of its exceptional image quality capabilities.  Plus it offers the ability, although somewhat limited by its autofocus system and maximum continuous frame rate, to capture sports, wildlife, and other action type situations.

The 6D may not be the “fully featured budget pro-sumer full frame dSLR” that many had hoped for, however.  Its 11 point AF system with only one cross-type point is clearly on the consumer/ enthusiast level, as are its external controls such as the thumb pad Multi-Controller and the single function top buttons.  Its inclusion of the Scene Modes on the Mode Dial also indicates that it is targeted to enthusiasts, as well as its single SD memory card slot.  But these are the types of compromises that had to be made to keep the price within reach of more enthusiast photographers while still offering full frame image quality.  As Canon says in their 6D press release, “the EOS 6D bridges the gap for budget-minded photographers, videographers and cinematographers who are eager to step up into the world of full-frame imaging.”

Be sure to also read my subsequent Canon 6D Hands On Reveiw, written after the camera became available.

As I work on a comparison post of the current Canon dSLR line-up, have a look at these other Canon related posts, including how to take full advantage of your autofocus system.

The camera will be offered as a body-only or with the 24-105mm f/4L IS (image stabilized) lens, and is expected to be available in December 2012.

Canon 6D EOS book manual dummies field guide instruction tutorial how to use learn full frame autofocus system

And as I mentioned, I have written the first guide to the Canon 6D, my Full Stop e-book user’s guide for the Canon 6D – Canon 6D Experience, now available.

Order your 6D today on Amazon or B and H:

Canon 6D on Amazon (body only or 24-105mm f/4L kit)

Canon 6D at B and H Photo – body only

Canon 6D at B and H Photo – with the 24-105mm f/4L IS kit lens

Introducing the Nikon D600 Full Frame dSLR Camera and the updated Nikon D610:

(With additions made at the end of this article to explain the features added to the updated Nikon D610)

(First, I have been corrected on the title of this post – the Sony a850 was the first “affordable” full frame (meaning ~$2000 price at introduction). But as I unfortunately only have time in my work day to mostly follow, research, and write about Canon and Nikon news and dSLR cameras, this one slipped by me!)

The day has finally arrived!  For a couple years I have been suggesting to my readers that when choosing lenses they anticipate the time that, someday soon, full-frame cameras will be more affordable.  This was both to address the possibility that certain DX lenses could not be used on an FX body, plus how a lens’ field of view will be affected by a full frame vs. a cropped APS-C sensor.  Well that day has now arrived with the introduction of the Nikon D600.  Initially priced at $2100 (body only), it can certainly be considered the first enthusiast full-frame (or in Nikon terminology, FX Format) camera – and which should also be more than rugged enough and capable enough for a semi-pro or a second body.  And as icing on the cake, DX lenses are indeed compatible with this new FX camera (although the resulting image will be a 10MP DX crop).

(Of course the full-frame Canon 5D Mark II is under $2000 at this time, but that is due to it recently being replaced by the 5D Mark III.  When the 5D Mark II was new, it was priced at around $2700, and didn’t go below $2400 for most of its active life.  And you don’t want the 5D Mk II anymore – its continuous frame rate is slow and its AF system isn’t so hot, especially compared to current models.)

Nikon D600 unbox unboxing full frame FX dSLR camera 35mm new kit lens
Nikon D600 full frame dSLR camera, shown with kit lens Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR – Image by author.  Special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass.

Sensor, Viewfinder: The D600 sits between the D7000 and the recent D800, being closer – I would say – to a full-frame version of the D7000 (with a few more megapixels).  It boasts a 24.3 megapixel image sensor (over the 16.2 MP of the D7000) and the same 39 point autofocus system with 9 cross type points and similar custom settings options as the D7000. This full-frame size sensor delivers not only improved resolution but also increased dynamic range and improved low light / high ISO performance (6400 max. ISO expandable up to 25,600).  As noted above, the full-frame sensor will also affect the field of view of your lenses.  For those coming from an APS-C sized sensor camera, a 50mm lens will now act as a true 50mm lens – no more 1.5x  crop factor to consider.  This means that your wide angle lenses will now act as true wide angle lenses, but your telephoto lenses will no longer have quite as much reach as you may be used to.  However, the D600 offers a DX setting so that you can act as if you have a DX sized sensor.  This camera also has a nice big and bright 100% view viewfinder so that one can easily see their subject, make use of the AF Points, and frame their images.

Interface and Controls: Much of the user interface (menus, displays) as well as the controls are also similar to the D7000, with a few changes such as the addition of the Live View/ Movie switch, a locking Mode Dial switch, and the addition of a Picture Control button.  The newly locking Mode Dial contains the customizable user modes U1 and U2 so that you can set up the camera to quickly switch to your desired mode and settings, including your desired Custom Settings parameters.  In the“why did they do that?” category, Nikon has swapped the position of the Image Zoom [+] and [-] buttons used during image review.  So overall, any D7000 user will be immediately comfortable and familiar with this D600 body.  Changing the AF Mode and AF Area Mode of the D600 is done with the “hidden” button inside the AF/M switch at the base of the lens, in conjunction with the Command Dials (as with the D7000).  The D600 offers two customizable Function Buttons on the front of the camera to set for whichever functions you desire.

Nikon D610 book manual guide how to autofocus settings menu custom setup dummies learn use tips tricks     Nikon D600 book ebook camera guide download manual how to dummies field instruction tutorial

Brief Commercial Interruption: Of course I offer a Full Stop e-book user’s guide for the Nikon D610Nikon D610 Experience, and one for the D600, Nikon D600 Experience.  This first book is currently the highest rated D600 guide on the market, with nearly 50 five star reviews!  Click the links to learn more about the guides and all my other e-book camera guides for Nikon and Canon dSLR cameras.

Nikon D610 D600 autofocus af system full frame use choose decide book guide manual how to dummies
Simulated view of the Nikon D610 / D600 viewfinder showing the location of all 39 autofocus AF Points

Autofocus (AF) System / FPS: As mentioned, the D600 makes use of the 39 point autofocus system with 9 cross-type points of the D7000.  For those not familiar with this system, it is somewhat sophisticated in that it offers several combinations of autofocus modes (for still subjects or a variety of situations with moving subjects), autofocus area modes (how many of the AF points are active and how they track), AF related Custom Settings (to tweak the performance of the system to your subject and needs), and customizable controls (to set which buttons do what).  There is a bit of a learning curve in order to take full advantage and full control of it, but once mastered it enables a photographer to consistently and successfully capture sharp images of still subjects and to track and capture moving subjects in a variety of ways.  You can start to learn about this system in my post explaining how to Take Advantage of the Nikon D7000 Autofocus System.  You can put the AF subject tracking to good use as you shoot up to 5.5 frames per second with the D600.  This is a great frame rate for most action, sports, or wildlife photography – any slower misses important moments and any faster starts to give you nearly identical multiple shots which become a time and memory space drain when backing up and editing. (Of course if you shoot something like motorsports or professional sports, you likely need the faster frame rate of a full-fledged pro camera!)

Body, Size, Battery, Memory Cards: Regarding size and weight, the D600 is slightly larger than than the D7000, but surprisingly 20g lighter (with the battery.)  It shares the same EN-EL 15 battery as the D7000, and offers a new MB-D14 battery grip for the use of two batteries – and to perhaps make the camera more comfortable for some users particularly when using larger lenses or working often in portrait orientation.  The top and rear of the camera body are constructed of strong and light magnesium alloy, and the body is weather sealed against dust and moisture (including the battery and memory card doors).  Although the entire body isn’t magnesium like the Canon 7D or 5D Mk III, it should prove to be more than rugged and durable enough for most any photographer’s needs.  The D600 has two SD memory card slots which can be configured in a variety of ways including overflow (when one card fills images are automatically then saved to the 2nd card), simultaneous back-up (each image is saved on both cards), or stills on one card and movies on the other. The LCD monitor on the rear of the camera is now a slightly larger 3.2 inches (compared to the 3″LCD of the D7000) with 921K pixels, and is optimized for minimum glare and good contrast in sunlight.

Nikon D600 unbox unboxing full frame FX dSLR camera 35mm new kit lens
Unboxing of the Nikon D600 full frame dSLR camera, shown with kit lens Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR – Image by author.  Special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass.

Accessories: Nikon is offering a Wireless Adapter, the WU-1b, which will allow you to immediately share your images through mobile devices, remotely save images, or remotely fire the shutter through a smartphone.  It is also compatible with the Nikon GP-1 GPS unit for geo-tagging your images.

Flash: Unlike the full-frame Canon 5D series that forgo the built-in flash, the D600 (like the D800) has a built-in flash that also acts as a wireless Speedlight Commander to control remote flashes (up to two groups).  The camera of course has a hotshoe for optional external Speedlights like the Nikon SB-900, SB-800, SB-700, or SB-600.

HD Video: And of course the D600 offers full HD video with manual control and all the usual frame rates (1080p at 30/25/24 fps and 720p at 60/50/30 fps). As with stills, you can switch to DX (as if you were using a smaller DX sized sensor) for a “telephoto boost,” and it is capable of full time autofocus, though most dedicated videographers still prefer manually focusing. The camera records mono audio but is compatible with optional stereo mics, and has a headphone jack for audio monitoring.

Bracketing: The D600 unfortunately only offers the choice of 2 or 3 frame Auto Exposure Bracketing (up to +/- 6 EV), which doesn’t help the HDR shooters who would prefer 5 or 7 bracketed shots.  There is a dedicated BKT Bracketing Button on the camera body to initiate this process.  There is also a built-in “HDR mode” which combines and processes two images in-camera.

Nikon D600 book guide ebook instruction manual how to dummies field guide
Image of a gorgeous Nikon F taken with the Nikon D600 and kit lens (24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR)  Unprocessed JPEG straight from camera (with watermarks added), ISO 2500.  Image by author – click to see larger.  Special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass. 

Of course the D600 offers the usual Metering Modes, Drive Modes, and White Balance options, as well as the familiar Scene Modes, Picture Style settings, Multiple Exposure mode, Interval Timer for time-lapse photography, and in-camera image processing and filter/ art effects.

I expect the Nikon D600 to be an extremely popular camera, offering an affordable full-frame camera for dedicated enthusiasts, aspiring pros, and semi-pros, or a highly competent second body for semi-pros and pros.  There is nothing lacking in this camera that would prevent any photographer from capturing the highest quality, professional level images in most every shooting situation, be it general photography, portraits, street photography, studio work, wedding photography, or travel use.  Plus it offers the ability, although somewhat limited by its frame rate and centrally clustered AF Points, to capture non-professional sports, wildlife, and other action type situations.  (See the image at the bottom of the page for the AF Points locations.)

As I work on a comparison post of the current Nikon dSLR line-up, have a look at these other Nikon related posts, including how to take full advantage of your autofocus system.

The camera is offered as a body-only or with the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens (image stabilized).

And as I mentioned, I will be coming out with a Full Stop e-book user’s guide for the Nikon D600 – Nikon D600 Experience, possibly as soon as November 2012.

Order your D600 today on Amazon or B and H – it is already available and shipping!

Nikon D600 on Amazon (body only or kit)

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – body only

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – with the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens

Nikon D600 full frame FX dSLR camera unbox unboxing 35mm new kit lens 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5
Nikon D600 full frame dSLR camera, shown with kit lens Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR – Image by author.  Special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass.

The Nikon D610 was introduced in October of 2013, and has added a couple minor, but important features to the camera. The D610 incorporates a new shutter mechanism which enables a faster six frames per second (fps) continuous shooting speed and a new Quiet Continuous shutter-release mode for taking a burst of images up to three frames per second and with decreased shutter noise. In addition, the D610 has an improved Auto White Balance setting which promises more natural color reproduction both indoors under artificial lighting and outdoors. As mentioned above, the previous D600 model marked an important moment in the evolution of digital SLR cameras as the first dSLR with a full-frame sized image sensor to also be priced at about $2000 at release, thus putting it within the reach of far more photography enthusiasts. With the D610, Nikon has retained a similar price. And although a number of D600 users reportedly experienced issues with dust or oil spots on the camera’s sensor, it is expected that the new shutter mechanism of the D610 will eliminate this concern.

Nikon D610 D600 autofocus af system points full frame viewfinder
Another simulated view of the Nikon D610 / D600 viewfinder, showing the location of all 39 autofocus AF Points.  Image of Nikon F SLR by author, taken with Nikon D600 with kit lens – 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR, ISO 2500.  Special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass. 

It is here!

Canon 5D Mark III pre-orders available at Amazon.com and at B and H Photo (my affiliate links – thanks for supporting this blog by using them!):

pre-order your Canon 5D Mk III from Amazon

pre-order your Canon 5D Mk III from B and H Photo

 

It is expected to be available and start shipping on March 22, 2012.

THE INTRODUCTION of the CANON EOS 5D Mk III

The long awaited and highly anticipated Canon EOS 5D Mark III has finally been announced!  There has been wide speculation of what the camera will include (including predictions at one time that it would be split into two camera lines for still vs. video).  It seems that the most current leaked specs were accurate, and the new 5D boasts such features as a whopping 61 point autofocus system, improved exposure metering system, fast DIGIC 5+ processor, and dual card slots for CF and SD.

I myself made some educated guesses back on August 5, 2011 as to what the camera was likely to offer.  I have included my predictions below in red, and my reactions and comments are in blue:

Canon EOS 5D Mk III specs:

  • 22.3 MP Full Frame Sensor. (26 to 28 MP Full Frame sensor.)  This is a surprise that they didn’t increase the sensor resolution very much, but as anyone who has used a 5D Mk II is aware, it already has amazing resolution and great high ISO/ low noise performance.  It appears from early test samples that this new sensor is going to show significant improvement in the high ISO/ low noise area, with perfectly acceptable, low noise, usable images all the way up to 12,800.  Yes, 12,800 ISO.
  • DIGIC 5+ Processor. (Single or Dual DIGIC 5 processors).  A nice, fast processor to keep up with the 6 fps frame rate, HD video, and all the image info coming from the high resolution sensor either in RAW or JPEGs that are being processed in-camera to include various settings such as Auto Lighting Optimization, Picture Controls, and other user-set adjustments such as the newly included Lens Aberration Correction.  This higher processing speed will also allow long continuous bursts even with the in-camera processing settings being used on JPEG images as they are being captured.
  • Full HD Movie – ISO 100-12800 H:25600.  (Full HD video at all the frame rates, perhaps with RAW video, perhaps with full time autofocus).  With two different compression formats to choose from, time codes with multiple options, and audio control plus a new headphone jack.
  • 6.0 frames per second high speed continuous shooting.  (7 frames per second high speed continuous shooting.)  Not quite as fast as I expected, but this is actually a much more useful rate for most situations.  This higher fps rate combined with the new 61 point AF system is going to allow the 5D to be used a bit more as a sports and action camera.  It does not appear the this desired feature that I hoped for is included:  Ability to customize Continuous Low and High settings so that you can choose your own rates.
  • ISO 100-25600, expandable to L: 50 H1: 51,200, H2: 102,400.  (ISO 100 to 12,800 or more, and then expandable.)  The new sensor, as mentioned, is likely to have tremendous performance in low light, high ISO situations with minimal noise, and preliminary samples and tests indicate this is indeed the case.
  • 3.2″ 1.04 million pixel Clear View II LCD screen.  Not articulating.  (3” very-high resolution LCD screen – Non-articulating?  Articulating?  Touch screen?)  A nice, high-resolution rear LCD screen, with a wider ratio to match the sensor and great for video shooting.
  • 61 point autofocus system with up to 41 cross type sensors.  (19 point (or more) autofocus system, all cross-type, with numerous configurations and customization options, as taken from the 7D.  Plus the new Autofocus menu system of the new 1D X to make configuring and taking full advantage of the AF system much easier.)  This is the biggest surprise for me.  I expected something like the19 point AF system of the Canon 7D, maybe with 20-30 AF points – but the 61 points is a shock.  While this will be awesome for tracking moving subjects and action, it is also customizable to reduce the number of choosable AF points and make it reasonable workable for “still” photography, as demonstrated in this still grabbed from a Canon video.
      Canon 5D Mk III mark III autofocus points 61 41 15 9
    Still from Canon video on the 5D Mk III

What this is showing is that if you wish to manually select a single AF point – which you should typically do in non-action-tracking situations to ensure that the camera autofocuses exactly where you want – you can limit the number of selectable AF points so that you don’t have to  manually click across dozens of points to quickly get to the one you want.  You can limit it to 9 points (as with the 5D Mk II or 60D), 15 points (similar to the 19 points of the 7D and likely the one I will most often use), just the cross-type points (which will number up to 41 depending on which lens you are using), or all 61 of them.

  • When using Center AF Point with an f/2.8 lens, the 5D Mark III is able to focus in EV -2, which according to Canon, “is the equivalent of shooting by the light of a full moon.”  This is an incredible improvement over the autofocusing abilities of the 5D Mk II, which struggles in low light.
  • 63-zone dual layer metering sensor.  (Improved 63 zone+ exposure metering system)  This is a similar metering system as in many of the current Canon cameras, such as the 7D and 60D, which has proved to be excellent as determining the proper exposure even in challenging lighting situations.  This metering system takes into account color, luminance, as well as information provided by the active AF point(s) to best determine the exposure.
  • Magnesium alloy body with improved durability, water, and dust resistance.  (Magnesium alloy body with weather sealing – already has this, not much improvement required.)  A durable, go-anywhere camera is now even more durable and resistant!

Additional features of the new 5D Mk III:

  • “Intelligent viewfinder” which means it includes the 7D type viewfinder with the LCD grid that can be turned on or off, sensitivity to light and dark to automatically illuminate the AF points when needed, if desired.
  • Silent and Low Vibration Modes.  These are likely designed to enable one to use the camera more stealthily – not just surreptitiously, but in situations such as dance and theater performances where you need the shutter and mirror to be quieter.  Low vibration is handy for optimal sharpness in certain hand-held and tripod shooting situations.
  • Dual memory card slots – CF and SD.  This is a new feature for the 5D line.  (It will likely and hopefully retain the CF card)
  • LP-E6 battery – thankfully they have retained the same battery as the 5D Mk II and 7D.  (It will likely retain the LP-E6 battery)
  • HDR Mode – This is an in-camera feature that will take and combine 3 images, either at auto-levels of exposure or user-selected EV increments.  You can then choose from various options of how you wish the camera to process the final image.  The original 3 images will also be saved for your own use.  The camera also offers an improved 7 stop EV latitude of exposures for auto bracketing, for those who wish to do more with HDR using other software and post-processing themselves.
  • Multiple Exposures – Nikon has had this feature for a while, so it is nice to see it on a Canon.

The 5D Mk III has also incorporated many of the menu and Custom Function features of the 7D, such as the ability to customize many of the buttons and controls of the camera, as well as the new, easier to use and comprehend Autofocus Menu system as the one seen in the Canon 1D X.  By putting all the AF options in one menu, it makes it considerably easier to take advantage of the powerful AF system options without having to access and understand various menus items and Custom Function options (as you do with the 7D).  There are also AF “presets” so you don’t have to remember and set the variables such as “Tracking Sensitivity” and “AF Point Auto Switching.”  The Custom Functions of the 5D Mk III have also been grouped into 3 categories now for ease of use.

There is also an image comparison feature where you can compare two images side by side on the rear LCD to see the effects of your adjustments – double chimping!

Hopefully there will be the options to customize the size of the Center-Weighted, Spot, or Partial Metering circles, and to adjust the Hi Speed and Low Speed Continuous shooting rates, and perhaps some additional WB options such as more Fluorescent option.

Built-in GPS, wireless flash, or wi-fi?  No, they all still require optional, external devices.  But we will see these in-camera features eventually.

I will soon be starting to write an e-book user guide for the Canon 5D Mk III to join my current Full Stop camera guide line-up which includes Canon 7D Experience and Your World 60D. You can check out my Full Stop bookstore website to learn more:

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If you are interested in pre-ordering your Canon 5D Mk III, please use my referral links to the 5D Mk III on Amazon.com or B&H Photo. Using these links will help support my blog and my work.  Thanks, I appreciate your support!

If you are in the UK, please click here for the UK Amazon referral link.

And if you are in Canada, please click here to use my Canada Amazon.ca referral link.

BandH Photo

Direct Link to Canon 5D Mark III pre-order at B and H Photo.

These are retailers that I have purchased equipment from (excluding Amazon UK/ CA), and I recommend them based on my good experiences, their extensive selection, competitive prices, great customer service and responsiveness, and fair return policies.

This was originally written for the Nikon D7000, but as the Nikon D7100, the Nikon D7000, the Nikon D610 / D600, the Nikon D810 / D800, and the Nikon D5200 / D5300 all share a similar Autofocus system, most of this information will apply to all of them.  And even though some of the models have 51 AF Points instead of the 39 AF Points of the other cameras, all the same settings and actions apply.

The Nikon D7100, the Nikon D7000, the Nikon D610 / D600, the Nikon D810 / D800, and the Nikon D5200 / D5200 dSLRs all share very similar, and quite sophisticated autofocus systems – especially if you are coming from a D90, D5100, or earlier camera.  With their 39 AF points or 51 AF points that can be used independently or together in a variety of ways, its Autofocus Custom Settings that affect many of the functions of the AF system, and the three different Autofocus Modes that are used in various combinations with the four different Autofocus AF-Area Modes, it is no wonder that users are having difficulty figuring it all out. (Plus the D810 offers an additional Group Area AF Area Mode!)

Nikon D600 D7000 autofocus af system 39 point auto focus control learn use how to dummie book guide manual
Some of the Autofocus controls of the Nikon D600, located near the base of the lens (to the left of the FX badge and below the Lens Release Button).

First, the Autofocus Controls on the D810/ D800, D610/ D600, D7100, and D7000 are a bit different than previous cameras.  You can change the Autofocus Mode and AF Area Mode by pressing the AF Mode Button (located inside the Focus Mode Selector switch) and then use the Command Dials to adjust the settings as you view them on the top LCD Control Panel or in the Viewfinder.

Focus Mode Selector – This switch is used to turn on or off autofocus. Set to AF for autofocus and M for manual focus. Be sure to set the similar switch on the lens as well. If your camera does not seem to be autofocusing, be sure to check this switch and the one on your lens.

AF Mode Button – This button, located inside the Focus Mode Selector switch, may be confusing at first to those who have not previously seen or used it on the Nikon D7000 or D600, though you should quickly find that it is a convenient design. It is used to select the Focus Mode as well as the autofocus AF-Area Mode. Press this button and turn the rear Main Command Dial to select the Focus Mode, such as AF-A or AF-C, while viewing the setting on the top Control Panel or in the Viewfinder. Press this button and turn the front Sub-Command Dial to set the AF-Area Mode, such as Single-Point AF or 39-Point Dynamic-Area AF. Again, you can view the selected setting on the top Control Panel or in the Viewfinder. The autofocus system including the Focus Modes and AF-Area Modes will be explained below.

Next you will need to set up some of the autofocus Custom Settings to begin to customize how the AF system functions for your needs (Some of these options may not be available with the D5200):

AF-C priority selection – This setting determines if attaining focus is top priority when you are in Continuous-servo AF (Auto-Focus) Mode (AF-C), or if you just want the shots to be taken even if exact focus is not attained for each shot.  If exact focus is your priority, set on Focus.  If getting the shots at all costs is the priority, set for Release.

AF-S priority selection – This is similar to above, except that this setting is for when you are working in Single-servo AF Mode (AF-S), typically used when your subject is not moving.  Since AF-S is typically used with subjects that are not moving, it makes more sense to make sure focus is attained, thus you should typically select Focus for this setting.

Focus tracking with lock-on – This setting determines how the autofocus system reacts to sudden, dramatic changes in the distance of the subject when you are working in AF-C or AF-A modes.  Decide if you wish to have the camera quickly refocus on a new or closer subject (1-Short), wait awhile until it ideally picks up the intended subject again (5-Long), somewhere in between, or immediately refocus on a new subject at a large distance from the initial subject (Off).  Keep this option in mind with the various AF-C and AF Area Mode configurations, as it may change depending on your subject and situation.  Sometimes you don’t want the camera to quickly refocus on a closer or more distant subject, while other times you do.

AF point illumination – This is used to set whether or not the selected autofocus point (AF Point) is illuminated in the viewfinder.  Since you pretty much always want to know where your camera is focusing, this should be set for On.

Focus point wrap-around – This determines if the AF Point selection will “wrap around” to the other side of the screen when you reach an edge.  In other words, if you are selecting your AF Point (as you should be doing at almost all times) and you reach an AF Point on the far right, when you click right again, do you want to “wrap around” to a focus point on the far left, or do you wish to stop at the edge and not continue to the other side?

Number of focus points – This setting determines the number of autofocus points that are available for selection in your viewfinder.  If you are always selecting your AF Point (as you typically should) you may find that it is quicker and easier, at least at first, to limit the number of AF Points to 11 – AF11.  If you prefer to have all the AF Points available for your selection, set this at AF39 (or AF51 with the D7100).  If you set to 11 AF points your selection will be limited to those 11 AF points, but the additional surrounding AF points will still be active to be used by the camera in the AF-Area Modes and in subject tracking, so the camera is still taking advantage of all the AF points of the autofocus system.

Built-in AF-assist illuminator – This is used to enable or disable the autofocus assist light.  Turn this On to assist you in autofocusing in low light, but be sure to turn it Off if you are working in situations where it will be distracting, unwanted, or unnecessary.

and

Assign AE-L/AF-L button (f4 on the D600 and D7100) – This is to assign the function of the AE-L/AF-L Button.  You may want to use this in conjunction with the Function or Fn Button and use one to lock exposure and the other to lock focus.  In that case, you would typically set this to AF lock only to use this button to lock focus.

I go into much more detail about each these Custom Settings, how you may wish to set them up, and recommended settings in my e-book guides for all the current and previous cameras including Nikon D600 Experience, Nikon D7100 Experience, and Nikon D5200 Experience – but this should get you started.

Nikon D600 book ebook camera guide download manual how to dummies field instruction tutorial     Nikon D7100 book ebook manual tutorial field guide how to learn use dummies

 

Using Autofocus
Now on to using the AF system.  (All of the information below is also adapted from my e-book user’s guides, so I hope you will have a look at them to learn more.)

One of the essential steps in taking a successful photo is controlling where the camera focuses.  If you allow the camera to autofocus by choosing its own Focus Point(s), it typically focuses on the closest object or a person in the scene.  This may or may not be what you want to focus on.  So you should choose where the camera focuses using the autofocus Focus Points.  But first you will need to select an appropriate Autofocus Mode and an Autofocus Area Mode, based on your subject and situation.

Autofocus Modes
The D7100, D7000, D600, and D5200 each have three different Autofocus Modes to choose from, typically depending if your subject is still or moving.  They also have four different Autofocus Area Modes (see below) to specify how many of the AF points are active and how they track a moving object.  You can set these two functions in various combinations.  First the Autofocus Modes:

Single-Servo AF (AF-S)
Use this mode when your subject is stationary, or still and not going to move, or if your subject is not going to move very much, or if the distance between you and the subject is not going to change between the time you lock focus, recompose, and take the shot.  Lock focus on the subject and recompose if necessary.  When using AF-S, you can select from two Autofocus Area Modes, either Single-Point AF where you select the AF point, or Auto-Area AF, where the camera selects the AF point(s) for you.  I suggest you nearly always select your own desired AF point.

Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C)
Use this mode when your subject is moving.  If the subject is moving towards you or away from you, the camera will keep evaluating the focus distance, as long as the Shutter Button is kept half-pressed.  You will need to use this in conjunction with the Autofocus Area Modes to determine if and how the camera tracks the subject laterally to the surrounding AF points, or if it will only track the subject if it remains at the initially selected AF point.  If the subject is going to be difficult to follow or is moving across your field of view, set the AF-Area Mode to one of the Dynamic-Area AF modes or to the 3D-Tracking mode.  Focus on the moving subject with the selected point if using Single-Point, one of the Dynamic Area Modes, or 3D-Tracking, or let the camera select the AF point in Auto-Area AF, and then as long as the Shutter Button remains half-pressed the camera will track the subject as it moves closer or farther in distance.  Depending which AF Area Mode you are using, the camera may also maintain focus or track the subject to some or all of the surrounding focus points if it moves away from the initially selected point.  More about this in the Autofocus Area Modes section just below.

Auto-Servo AF (AF-A)
This mode is a hybrid of the two other focus modes.  It starts in Single-Servo AF (AF-S) mode then changes to Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) mode if your subject starts moving.  Why shouldn’t you use this all the time, then?  Well, if you are focusing and then recomposing, as you may often be doing, your movement of the camera may fool it into thinking that the subject is moving and your resulting focus may not be where you want it to be, or may not be as accurate as it might be if you are using Single-Servo AF.

Nikon D600 autofocus 39 point af system use learn tutorial how to auto focus mode area
The arrangement and position of the 39 AF points of the Nikon D600, shown with the optional viewfinder grid display.

Manual Focus
Sometimes you may be taking several photos of the same subject from the same distance, or for some other reason want to keep the same focus distance and not have to keep re-focusing and re-composing.  Or you may be taking multiple photos for a panorama.  In these situations, turn off the auto-focus on your lens by switching from AF to M with the camera’s Focus Mode Selector switch and with the A/M switch on the lens itself.  Just remember to switch them back when you are finished.  You may also wish to do this if you want to precisely manually focus with the focus ring on your lens.  For lenses with “full time manual focus” however, you don’t need to switch to M in order to manually override the autofocus with the lens focus ring.  These lenses will have M/A and M on the lens focus mode switch instead of A and M.

Autofocus Area Modes
The Autofocus Area Modes are used to set if just a single AF point is active or else how many AF points surrounding your selected AF point will be used to maintain focus or to track a moving subject if you are using AF-C or AF-A Autofocus Modes.

Single-Point AF
Only one AF point will be active, and surrounding AF points will not become active to maintain focus or to track a subject that moves away from the one selected point.  This is typically used along with Single-Servo AF (AF-S) to focus on a stationary or still subject, or in a situation where you will be reframing the shot after you lock focus at a specific distance.  It can also be used with accuracy with AF-S mode for moving subjects if you take the photo quickly or if you recompose and take the shot quickly after locking in focus, especially if the camera-to-subject distance does not change at all or very much in that period between locking focus and taking the photo.  Use the Multi Selector to choose your active AF point as you look through the viewfinder and use the OK Button to quickly select the center AF point.  Also, remember that Custom Setting a6 allowed you to choose between having all 39 AF points available or to limit the camera to 11 AF points.  If you are just starting out with manually selecting a single Focus Point, you may wish to limit them to 11 now, and when you get the hang of it or when you are using one of the other AF Area Modes described below, increase it to 39 to take full advantage of all the AF points of the D7000 autofocus system.  If you choose Single-Point AF with Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) or Auto-Servo AF (AF-A) for tracking moving subjects, it will only track the subject as long as it is positioned at the selected AF point, and it will not be tracked laterally to the other, surrounding points.  In other words, the single AF point you select will track a subject if it moves closer or farther away, but the AF system will not follow or track the subject if it moves left, right, up, or down and away from your selected AF point.  To do this, you use Dynamic-Area AF Mode or 3D-Tracking.

Dynamic-Area AF
With the Dynamic-Area AF Modes, you select an AF point to tell the camera where to autofocus, and if your subject briefly moves away from that point to a neighboring point or if you lose the subject from your AF point while panning, the camera will use the surrounding AF points to help maintain focus on it.  Select one of the Dynamic-Area AF options (below) when you are photographing moving or potentially moving subjects using Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) or Auto-Servo AF (AF-A).  These modes are ideal for a subject moving closer or further from the camera but which may also move laterally away from the selected AF point faster than you can react in order to keep it located at that point, or for when you are panning and following the subject and attempting to keep it located at the selected AF point, but may have a little or a lot of difficulty doing so.  Remember that you need to keep the Shutter Button half-pressed in order for the continuous focusing at the initial point or the surrounding points to occur.  Note that the camera may pick up and start tracking a new subject that falls under the selected AF point if you lose your initial subject, in part determined by your setting for Custom Setting a3.

9-Point Dynamic-Area AF will use the immediate surrounding AF points to help maintain focus on a subject that briefly leaves the selected AF point.  This can be used with predictably moving subjects, like a runner or vehicle moving towards you or one that you can easily follow laterally by panning.

21-Point Dynamic-Area AF will use even more of the surrounding AF Points, more than half the total AF Points, to help maintain focus on a subject that briefly leaves the selected AF point.  This should be used for more unpredictably moving objects, like sports players on a field, which may quickly move further away from your selected AF point before you have a chance to realign that point over the subject.

39-Point Dynamic-Area AF (or 51-Point Dynamic-Area AF with the D7100) will use all of the 39 AF points (or 51 points) to help maintain focus on a subject that briefly leaves the selected AF point.  It can be used for very quick and unpredictably moving subjects, like pets, birds or other wildlife, and all 39 AF points will be used to maintain focus on the subject as you attempt to realign the selected AF point with the subject.

The Dynamic-Area AF Modes are not used to track and maintain focus on a subject that is moving across the various AF points in the frame, but rather are used to stay focused on a moving subject that you attempt to keep located at your selected AF Point.  To track a subject that is moving across the frame, intentionally passing from one AF point to the next, use 3D-Tracking.

Nikon D5200 autofocus af system viewfinder 39 point how to use learn manual guide book instruction dummies tutorial area mode dynamic
A simulated image of the Nikon D5200 viewfinder, showing the autofocus focus points active with 9-Point Dynamic Area AF area mode, when the center AF point is selected. (Image shown at 50% opacity to better view AF points.)

3D-Tracking
This mode is used for subjects moving across the frame in any direction, or subjects moving erratically from side-to-side in the frame, and they are tracked by areas of color.  This is used when you don’t wish to necessarily pan or follow the subject to keep it located in the same part of the frame, but rather when you wish to keep the camera relatively still as the subject moves across the frame.  You may select this option when you are tracking and photographing moving subjects using Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) or Auto-Servo AF (AF-A).  Again, you choose the initial AF point to locate the subject and begin the tracking.  If the area of color you wish to track is too small or if it blends into the background, this mode might not be very effective.

Auto-Area AF
The camera uses all 39 AF points to detect what it thinks is the subject and automatically choose the appropriate AF point(s).  Typically, the camera will select the nearest subject or a human in the frame, so it may not focus on exactly what you wish to focus on.  That is why it is best to use one of the other modes and select the AF point yourself.

Group Area AF
The Nikon D810 and D4s include the Group Area AF autofocus area mode, which makes use of a group of 5 AF Points arranged in a cross-shaped pattern. And instead of selecting a primary point with the surrounding points being “helper points,” you will actually be selecting the group of five points, which will all be used to attempt to focus on the subject. Unlike the other AF Area Modes with multiple points, the Viewfinder will actually display the four outer points of the group, but for some reason not the central point – perhaps so that you can better view the subject.

Keep in mind that with the other somewhat similar Dynamic Area AF modes, you choose a primary point and attempt to keep the subject located at that point, and the surrounding points act as “helper” points if the subject happens to move away from the primary point. But with Group Area AF you select the entire group of AF Points, and they all work equally to focus on the subject. This mode can be used similar to Single Point AF but when it might be challenging to locate the subject under an individual point. When working in AF-S Focus Mode and using Group Area AF, the selected AF points will give priority to faces if they are present, otherwise they will focus on the closest subject.

 

The next step is to learn to lock focus independent of locking exposure, and customize the camera’s controls to perform these functions how you wish.  But you are going to have to have a look at my e-book guides Nikon D7100 Experience, Nikon D7000 Experience, Nikon D600 Experience and Nikon D5200 Experience to learn about this and many other important functions of your sophisticated Nikon D600, D5200, or D7000!

Nikon D600 book ebook camera guide download manual how to dummies field instruction tutorial      Nikon D7100 book ebook manual tutorial field guide how to learn use dummies

 

To learn about another important reason why you need to take control of your autofocus system, see the related post:

Don’t Let the Locations of the AF Points Dictate Your Composition

What do you do when, with your desired framing, your subject is not located exactly under or near an AF point? Even with all the AF points of an advanced Nikon D7000 and D600, this will often be an issue. Have a look at the above post to learn why this is an issue and how to resolve it.

Still need to purchase your D7100, D7000, D5200 or D600.  Please use my links to have a look at them on Amazon:

Nikon D7100 24.1 megapixel DX format dSLR camera

Nikon D7000 16.2 megapixel DX format dSLR camera

Nikon D600 24.3 megapixel full-frame FX format dSLR camera

Nikon D5200 24.2 megapixel DX format dSLR camera

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