Want the very best enthusiast-level digital SLR without blowing your budget on a fully professional body? There are two main contenders– the Canon EOS 6D vs the Nikon D750.
Canon and Nikon’s range of ‘professional’ digital SLRs kick off with the 5D Mk III and D810, both of which cost roughly £1,000/$1,000 more than their range-topping consumer-class cameras.
The Canon 6D feels like it’s been around for yonks, having been announced back in September 2012. The Nikon D750 is two years newer and fresher, and outguns the Canon for features and specifications. It has a newly designed image sensor and the same Expeed 4 image processor as the very latest D810A and D7200.
By contrast, the 6D looks a bit of a poor relation, especially compared with Canon’s latest APS-C format camera, the 7D Mark II, which boasts a newer generation of processor and a more sophisticated autofocus system.
Even so, the majority of enthusiast photographers will still prefer to go full-frame, for its greater creative control over depth of field and wider choice of top-grade lenses. So let’s see how the well-established 6D holds out against Nikon’s D750 scene-stealer.
Canon EOS 6D vs Nikon D750: Features
Rightly or wrongly, many of us check out the megapixel count before anything else when we eye up a prospective new camera. The 6D has a somewhat modest 20.2MP sensor, whereas Nikon takes an early lead with its 24.3MP sensor.
Nikon claims that its new design delivers “exceptional” image quality that’s cleaner than ever before at high ISO settings.
Even so, the 6D stretches a full f/stop further than the D750 in its native and expanded sensitivity ranges, to ISO 25,600 and 102,400 respectively.
A little curiosity is that the D750 bucks Nikon’s trend with its other recent digital SLRs and retains an OLPF (Optical Low-Pass Filter) in front of its image sensor. This comes with an anti-alias filter to guard against moiré patterning and false colour. This is the usual Canon stance, and the 6D also has an OLPF.
The D750 looks the sportier camera of the two, with a 6.5fps maximum drive rate. That’s two whole frames per second faster than the 6D can muster.
And where the 6D has sufficient buffer capacity for 17 shots in raw mode, the D750 can stretch to 33 shots.
However, you can only squeeze that many raw shots into the buffer if you switch to 12-bit compressed mode. In 14-bit uncompressed raw mode, there’s only enough space for 15 shots. At least Nikon gives you choices over bit-depth and compression settings, unlike Canon.
Tracking action should be another sporty win to the D750, as it features a new-generation 51-point autofocus module.
This includes 15 cross-type points for resolving detail in both horizontal and vertical planes, as well as enabling 11 points to be used where your widest available aperture is only f/8. It comes into its own if you need to add a 2x tele-converter to an f/4 telephoto lens.
By comparison, the 6D is a real under-achiever in the autofocus stakes. It has a mere 11 AF points in total, with just a single cross-type point at the centre, and none of them can function at apertures narrower than f/5.6.
Both the 6D and D750 feature bright and sharp pentaprism viewfinders rather than cheaper pentamirror units.
However, the 6D’s viewfinder only gives 97% frame coverage, whereas the D750 shows you the whole picture. The 6D lacks the ‘intelligent’ viewfinder display options that are available in many of Canon’s newer SLRs, including the 70D and 7D Mk II APS-C format cameras.
Up above the viewfinder, the D750 adds a pop-up flash which is omitted in the 6D’s design. You could argue that photographers at this level are unlikely to use a pop-up flash, but it can be useful for the emergency filling of shadows, as well as for wirelessly triggering off-camera flashguns that are compatible with Nikon’s wireless master/slave flash modes.
Around the back, the D750 boasts a slightly larger and higher-resolution LCD screen than the 6D. The Nikon also adds a tilt facility that’s missing on the Canon. It’s not fully articulated and, unlike in some current cameras, the range of tilt doesn’t extend to flipping the screen over completely for selfie mode shooting.
Even so, it’s a bonus for high-level or low-level Live View and movie shooting. The D750 also includes two SD slots rather than the 6Ds’s one. The extra slot is useful for instantly creating backups of your images while shooting, or for saving raw and JPEG files to separate cards.
Both cameras are compatible with SDHC and SDXC cards, and are able to make use of the performance increase offered by the UHS-1 (Ultra High Speed) bus.
The Nikon can capture 1080p movies at maximum frame rates of 50 or 60 frames per second rather than the Canon’s 25 or 30fps, but neither camera is capable of 4K video capture.
Both have built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, and the only notable feature that’s included in the 6D but lacking in the D750 is built-in GPS for geo-tagging images.
Canon EOS 6D vs Nikon D750: Build and handling
The build quality of the Canon EOS 6D vs Nikon D750 feels very similar in most respects. Both use a mix of reinforced polycarbonate and magnesium alloy sections.
The Nikon has alloy sections at the top and rear, with a polycarbonate front panel, whereas the Canon has alloy front and rear panels and polycarbonate up on top. Both feature weather-seals.
The 6D and D750 make great everyday walkabout and travel cameras, with compact dimensions for full-frame SLRs. They’re noticeably smaller than the Canon 5D Mk III and Nikon D810, and nowhere near as big as the top-flight 1D X and D4S models with their built-in vertical grips.
The 6D is marginally smaller the D750 and somewhat lighter at 755g compared with 840g. The D750 has better stamina, with 1,230 shots from a freshly-charged battery rather than the 6D’s 1,090 shots (Cipa-tested).
Both of these SLRs have conventional shooting mode dials that include a Scene position for access to various scene modes, as well as a fully automatic shooting mode that has intelligent real-time scene analysis.
The Nikon goes a step further with an Effects position on the shooting mode dial, for applying special imaging effects while shooting, whereas the Canon adds a more serious and enthusiast-friendly Bulb mode.
Both cameras add two user-defined positions on the shooting mode dial for quick access to preferred set-ups.
Further similarities in handling include a top-panel info LCD for showing important shooting settings and various other parameters like battery status. In front of this LCD, the Canon has a bank of buttons for accessing AF mode, drive mode, ISO and metering mode.
The Nikon only has a metering mode button in front of the top screen, other functions being dispersed to buttons and dials at other positions around the camera.
The Nikon also adds an exposure compensation button just behind the shutter release-button. We prefer this to the Canon’s rear-mounted rotary dial for exposure compensation, which is easy to adjust accidentally unless you engage the adjacent locking switch.
The now ubiquitous Quick or Info menu is available on both cameras, for quick and easy control over shooting settings via a specialist on-screen menu on the rear LCD. Both are pretty slick and well thought out, although Canon wins out for intuitive design.
Overall, the layout of controls and general handling of the 6D and D750 are typical of Canon and Nikon designs respectively, and will feel immediately familiar to photographers accustomed to either brand.
Canon EOS 6D vs Nikon D750: Performance
With equivalent high-quality lenses that have fast ring-type ultrasonic autofocus, there’s practically no difference in the speed with which the two competing cameras can lock onto stationery objects.
At least, that’s the case when using the central AF point, which is equally effective in both cameras even in very low lighting conditions.
However, the D750 is more competent than the 6D at autofocusing with off-centre AF points, and it’s better at tracking moving objects in continuous autofocus mode. Nikon’s advanced, 3D-tracking AF mode is particularly good for this.
Both cameras have consistent metering, although the 6D tends to give marginally brighter images in centre-weighted metering mode. In evaluative or matrix metering mode, the 6D biases results more exclusively to brightness levels at the AF point (or points) that achieve autofocus, whereas the D750’s value judgments are based more on the whole scene. The D750 is more safety-conscious in its efforts to avoid blown highlights when using matrix metering.
For colour rendition, the Canon’s images are typically a little warmer whereas the Nikon often tends to pump up saturation a little more and adds a little extra punch and vibrancy. This arguably makes the 6D a little more flattering for portraits, and the D750 a bit more dramatic for landscapes.
There’s very little to choose between the two for dynamic range at the base sensitivity setting of ISO 100.
However, from ISO 200 and upwards, the 6D gives better detail in lowlights, and more convincing tonal range. This remains the case whether the Canon’s Auto Lighting Optimizer and Nikon’s Active D-Lighting features are enabled or switched off.
The D750 improves on the older Nikon D610 and easily outclasses the D810 for delivering clean, noise-free images at high ISO settings.
Low-light, low-noise imagery has recently been a Canon strong point but the D750 proves every bit as good as the 6D at producing clean images with impressive fine detail.
Results are superb even at super-high sensitivity settings of ISO 6,400 and 12,800, although the Canon is slightly better at the top of its native sensitivity range of ISO 25,600, at which point the Nikon is already in its expanded range.
Canon EOS 6D vs Nikon D750: Lab results
Canon EOS 6D vs Nikon D750: Verdict
The Canon 6D and Nikon D750 are both excellent cameras, ideally suited to expert and enthusiast photographers. The D750 reaches out a little more to beginners with its additional Effects modes.
Both cameras strike a great balance between size and natural handling: the 6D has a more intuitive Quick menu, whereas the D750 adds a tilting rear screen.
For overall features and specifications, the D750 is a clear winner over the 6D. As for performance, both cameras have strengths and weaknesses.
The Nikon delivers punchier-looking images and has better autofocus, especially for moving objects. The Canon has better dynamic range and is more able to retain detail in bright highlights and dark lowlights.
Both cameras also give stunning low-light performance, delivering amazingly clean images even at super-high sensitivity settings. All things considered, however, the Nikon D750 is the better camera, and well worth its higher asking price.
Canon EOS 6D
Build & Handling: 4/5
Build & Handling: 4.5/5
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