Canon 6D versus Olympus E-M1

The Canon EOS 6D and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 are two enthusiast cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2012 and September 2013. The 6D is a DSLR, while the E-M1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a full frame (6D) and a Four Thirds sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 20 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 15.9 MP.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Canon 6D and the Olympus E-M1 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the 6D – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Canon 6D vs Olympus E-M1 front
6D versus E-M1 top view
6D and E-M1 rear side
Body view (6D on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-M1 is notably smaller (24 percent) than the Canon 6D. Moreover, the E-M1 is substantially lighter (35 percent) than the 6D. Cameras that are aimed at professionals or semi-pros tend to be a bit bulkier in order to give them the necessary environmental and shock resistance. 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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (6D) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-M1). Mirrorless cameras, such as the E-M1, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.

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 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 6D (⇒ rgt) 5.7 in 4.4 in 2.8 in 27.2 oz 1090 YES 2012 2,099discont. check
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft) 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 17.5 oz 350 YES 2013 1,399discont. 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 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.0 oz 1210 YES 2016 5,999 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 C (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.2 in 6.5 in 3.3 in 54.5 oz 1120 YES 2012 14,999discont. 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
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 YES 2013 1,999 latest check
Nikon D600 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 YES 2012 2,099discont. check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.9 in 3.3 in 1.8 in 16.5 oz 310 YES 2015 1,099 latest check
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.7 in 3.2 in 1.8 in 14.0 oz 320 no 2014 699discont. check
Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.8 in 2.7 in 1.5 in 14.8 oz 330 no 2013 999discont. check
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.8 in 3.5 in 1.7 in 15.0 oz .. YES 2012 1,299discont. check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.2 in 3.7 in 3.3 in 19.8 oz 500 YES 2014 1,499discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-M1 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 33 percent) than the 6D, 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

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 6D features a full frame sensor and the Olympus E-M1 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-M1 is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the 6D has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-M1 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Canon 6D and Olympus E-M1 sensor measures
Sensor size

With 20MP, the 6D offers a higher resolution than the E-M1 (15.9MP), but the 6D nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.58μm versus 3.75μm for the E-M1) due to its larger sensor. However, the E-M1 is a somewhat more recent model (by 11 months) than the 6D, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the E-M1 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

6D versus E-M1 MP
Sensor resolution

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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 review, the 6D has a notably higher overall DXO score than the 6D (overall score 9 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 0.6 EV of lower dynamic range, and 1.6 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 6D (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 20.0 5472 3648 1080/30p 23.8 12.1 2340 82
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/30p 23.0 12.7 757 73
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 26.0 6240 4160 1080/60p 24.4 11.9 2862 85
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.0 5472 3648 4K/60p 24.1 13.5 3207 88
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 C (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 17.9 5184 3456 4K/24p - - - -
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
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.2 6016 4016 1080/30p 25.1 14.4 2925 94
Nikon D600 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.2 6016 4016 1080/30p 25.1 14.2 2980 94
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 23.0 12.5 842 73
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/30p 22.8 12.3 884 72
Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/30p 22.8 12.4 895 72
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60i 22.8 12.3 826 71
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 4K/30p 23.2 12.8 791 74

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/30p).

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the E-M1 has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the 6D has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 6D, the Olympus E-M1, 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 6D (⇒ rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 fixed no 4000 4.5 no no
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft) 2360 no 3.0 1037 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 swivel YES 4000 6.5 no no
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1620 fixed YES 8000 16.0 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 C (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 14.0 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
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 4000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D600 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 921 fixed no 4000 5.5 12 no
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 no 3.0 1037 tilting YES 4000 8.0 5.8 YES
Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 1037 tilting YES 8000 9.0 7 YES
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 no 3.0 610 tilting YES 4000 9.0 no YES
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 no 3.0 1036 swivel YES 8000 12.0 17 no

Both the 6D and the E-M1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The 6D was replaced by the Canon 6D Mark II, while the E-M1 was followed by the Olympus E-M1 II.

Summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Canon 6D better than the Olympus E-M1 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


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Advantages of the Canon EOS 6D:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (20 vs 15.9MP) with a 14% higher linear resolution.
  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (9 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (1.6 stops ISO advantage).
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1090 versus 350) on a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2012).

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Reasons to prefer the Olympus OM-D E-M1:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.6 EV of extra DR).
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster shutter: Has a higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 4.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (130x94mm vs 145x111mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 273g or 35 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (33 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (11 months) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the E-M1 is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 8 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features.

6D 08:13 E-M1

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 6D or the E-M1 handle or perform in practice. 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 why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites. The detailed reviews can be accessed, respectively, on the websites of cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Canon 6D (⇒ rgt) HiRec 83/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 2,099discont. check
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft) HiRec 84/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,399discont. check
Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 80/100 4.5/5 4/5 4/5 2017 1,999 latest check
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 5,999 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 C (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - - - 2012 14,999discont. 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
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 87/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,999 latest check
Nikon D600 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 87/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 2,099discont. check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 81/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2015 1,099 latest check
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 80/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 699discont. check
Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 78/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 999discont. check
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 80/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2012 1,299discont. check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,499discont. check

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Other comparisons

If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make your choice using the following search menu. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If the camera you are interested in is not available, kindly get in touch, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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