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Canon 5D versus Canon 6D

The Canon EOS 5D and the Canon EOS 6D are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2005 and September 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The 5D has a resolution of 12.7 megapixel, whereas the 6D provides 20 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Canon 5D vs Canon 6D

The physical size and weight of the Canon 5D and the Canon 6D are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the 5D – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Canon 5D vs Canon 6D
5D versus 6D top view
5D and 6D rear side

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 6D is notably smaller (6 percent) than the Canon 5D. Moreover, the 6D is markedly lighter (14 percent) than the 5D. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Canon EF Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the 5D gets 400 shots out of its BP-511A battery, while the 6D can take 1090 images on a single charge of its LP-E6 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Canon 5D (⇒ rgt) 6.0 in 4.4 in 3.0 in 31.6 oz 400 YES 2005 3,299discont. check
Canon 6D (⇒ lft) 5.7 in 4.4 in 2.8 in 27.2 oz 1090 YES 2012 2,099discont. check
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.7 in 4.4 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 1200 YES 2017 1,999 latest check
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 YES 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 7D II (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.9 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 32.1 oz 670 YES 2014 1,799 latest check
Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.5 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 26.6 oz 920 YES 2013 1,199discont. check
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 33.5 oz 950 YES 2012 3,499discont. check
Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.7 oz 1120 YES 2011 6,799discont. check
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.0 in 4.5 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 850 YES 2008 3,499discont. check
Canon 50D (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.9 in 29.0 oz 800 YES 2008 1,299discont. check
Canon 1D Mark II N (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 55.2 oz 1200 YES 2005 3,999discont. check
Canon 1Ds Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 42.9 oz 1200 YES 2004 7,999discont. check
Canon 1D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 54.1 oz 1200 YES 2004 4,499discont. check
Canon 1Ds (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 44.6 oz 600 YES 2002 8,999discont. check
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 YES 2008 2,999discont. check

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The 6D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 36 percent) than the 5D, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison: Canon 5D vs Canon 6D

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the large-sensor cameras that aim for top notch image quality. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon 5D and Canon 6D sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the 6D offers a higher resolution of 20 megapixel, compared with 12.7 MP of the 5D. This megapixel advantage translates into a 25 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the 6D has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 6.57μm versus 8.25μm for the 5D). However, it should be noted that the 6D is much more recent (by 7 years and 1 month) than the 5D, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size.

5D versus 6D MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the 6D offers substantially better image quality than the 5D (overall score 11 points higher). The advantage is based on 0.9 bits higher color depth, 1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.8 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Canon 5D (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 12.7 4368 2912 no 22.9 11.1 1368 71
Canon 6D (⇒ lft) Full Frame 20.0 5472 3648 1080/30p 23.8 12.1 2340 82
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 26.0 6240 4160 1080/60p 24.4 11.9 2862 85
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 50.3 8688 5792 1080/60p 24.6 12.4 2308 86
Canon 7D II (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 20.0 5472 3648 1080/60p 22.4 11.8 1082 70
Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 20.0 5472 3648 1080/30p 22.5 11.6 926 68
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 22.1 5760 3840 1080/30p 24 11.7 2293 81
Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 17.9 5184 3456 1080/30p 23.8 11.8 2786 82
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744 1080/30p 23.7 11.9 1815 79
Canon 50D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 15.1 4752 3168 no 21.8 11.4 696 63
Canon 1D Mark II N (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-H 8.2 3504 2336 no 22.3 11.2 975 66
Canon 1Ds Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.6 4992 3328 no 23.3 11.3 1480 74
Canon 1D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-H 8.2 3504 2336 no 22.3 11.1 1003 66
Canon 1Ds (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 11.0 4064 2704 no 21.8 11.0 954 63
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 no 23.5 12.2 2303 80

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The 6D indeed provides for movie recording, while the 5D does not. The highest resolution format that the 6D can use is 1080/30p.

Feature comparison: Canon 5D vs Canon 6D

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 5D and the 6D are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 5D, the Canon 6D, and comparable cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Canon 5D (⇒ rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 3.0 no no
Canon 6D (⇒ lft) optical YES 3.0 1040 fixed no 4000 4.5 no no
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 swivel YES 4000 6.5 no no
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Canon 7D II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 fixed no 8000 10.0 11 no
Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 swivel YES 8000 7.0 12 no
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 6.0 no no
Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 14.0 no no
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 3.9 no no
Canon 50D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 6.3 13 no
Canon 1D Mark II N (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 8.5 no no
Canon 1Ds Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.0 230 fixed no 8000 4.0 no no
Canon 1D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.0 230 fixed no 8000 8.3 no no
Canon 1Ds (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.0 120 fixed no 8000 3.0 no no
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 8.0 12 no

Both the 5D and the 6D have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 5D was replaced by the Canon 5D Mark II, while the 6D was followed by the Canon 6D Mark II.

Review summary: Canon 5D vs Canon 6D

So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 5D and the Canon 6D? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 5D:

  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2005).

Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 6D:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (20 vs 12.7MP), which boosts linear resolution by 25%.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (11 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.8 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4.5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 125g or 14 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1090 versus 400) out of a single battery charge.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (36 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 7 years and 1 month of technical progress since the 5D launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 6D is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 2 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

5D 02:12 6D

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the 5D and the 6D in practical situations. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Canon 5D (⇒ rgt) 88/100 HiRec reviewed reviewed - 2005 3,299discont. check
Canon 6D (⇒ lft) HiRec 83/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 2,099discont. check
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 80/100 4.5/5 4/5 4/5 2017 1,999 latest check
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 83/100 Silver 5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 7D II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 84/100 Silver 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2014 1,799 latest check
Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 83/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 1,199discont. check
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2012 3,499discont. check
Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2011 6,799discont. check
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 91/100 79/100 HiRec 4/5 5/5 - 2008 3,499discont. check
Canon 50D (⇒ lft | rgt) 90/100 HiRec HiRec 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2008 1,299discont. check
Canon 1D Mark II N (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - - - 2005 3,999discont. check
Canon 1Ds Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec - - - 2004 7,999discont. check
Canon 1D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec - reviewed - 2004 4,499discont. check
Canon 1Ds (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec - - - 2002 8,999discont. check
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) 89/100 HiRec 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2008 2,999discont. check

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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