The EOS 6D boasts a full-frame CMOS sensor inside its compact body. As small as the APS-C format EOS 70D and EOS 60D, this camera is certainly a fine choice for users who want to carry their camera at all times. EOS 6D also employs the Wi-Fi and GPS functions. Realizing both the compact size and the advanced features, here the developers of EOS 6D unveils the development story. In [Part 1], they will talk about the concept, body design and the efforts on reducing the body size. (Based on the interview held in October 2012) (Interviewer: Ryosuke Takahashi/ Photos of interviewees: Takehiro Kato)
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(Back row, from left)
Haruki Oota, Design Center/ Toshifumi Urakami, Camera Development Center/ Satoshi Suzuki, Camera Development Center/ Yuka Minegishi, Camera Development Center/ Hajime Watanabe, Camera Development Center
(Front row, from left)
Takashi Ichinomiya, Camera Development Center/ Kei Tohyama, Camera Development Center/ Shingo Nakano, Camera Development Center/ Ken Hashimoto, Photo Products Group
Small sized full-frame DSLR maintaining a good balance with L type lenses
― First of all, can you give us the background to the development of the EOS 6D, and its basic product concept?
Hashimoto There is a strong demand for full-frame cameras not only from those who are already in possession of one, but also from existing APS-C format camera users. At the same time, however, it is also a fact that consumers are expecting improvements on the size, weight, and price of existing full-frame models. This led us to the development of the EOS 6D, which allows our users to enjoy photographing easily and swiftly in high image quality.
Nakano In fact, we embarked on the development of the EOS 5D series based on the same objective of designing a camera that allows users to enjoy the charms of a full-frame camera with ease. However, it turned out that there was a much higher demand from professional photographers, a response that was beyond our expectations. Also, there was an increase in the camera size as well as the price with the incorporation of more advanced features over the generations. This was the reason why we decided to develop a compact and lightweight EOS 6D as a new line based on the concept of the first-generation EOS 5D.
Dimensions：Approx. 69.0 x 33.0 x 93.0mm / 2.7 x 1.3 x 3.7in.
Weight (EOS 6D (WG))：Approx. 680g / 24.0oz. (Body only).
― What is your idea of the target EOS 6D user group?
Hashimoto The EOS 6D is a model that targets at those who want to perform shooting more swiftly with a full-frame camera, regardless of their age and gender. Specifically, we took into special consideration users who are planning to upgrade from an APS-C format camera to one with a better image quality. Also, the EOS 6D is positioned as a second camera to those who are currently using an EOS 5D or EOS-1 series DSLR.
― Which areas did you focus on during the development of the EOS 6D?
Nakano We were thoroughly committed to develop a compact and lightweight camera. You could say that this was the utmost priority that was used to determine many of the specs. However, we were also careful not to place excessive emphasis on downsizing, as an unnecessarily small size might make the camera less user-friendly. As a member who is also in charge of developing the EOS 60D, I took into account the balance when it is used with large lenses such as the L-type lens, and decided on a size that is almost the same as that of the EOS 60D.
EOS 6D with the EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM attached. Despite the small body size, a good balance is maintained even when a large L type lens is attached.
Newly developed small shutter unit realizes quiet shooting
― The EOS 6D does not come with a Vari-angle LCD monitor and Creative filter options. Are there any special reasons for excluding them?
Nakano The views of the development team were divided as to whether a Vari-angle LCD monitor should be adopted. We arrived at the current design after taking into consideration our top priority, which was to develop a light body, and also the availability of a built-in wireless LAN function on the EOS 6D, which allows a smartphone to be used in place of the Vari-angle LCD monitor.
Hashimoto It is a fact that Creative filters help to widen the variety of images that photographers can produce. However, since most of our anticipated users of the EOS 6D are probably first-time users of a full-frame camera, we wanted them to make the most of the fine image quality of the full-frame sensor as well as the performance of the EF lenses, hence the decision to exclude the Creative filter options.
― Is there any particular device or technology that contributed to the realization of a body size as compact as that of the EOS 60D?
Toyama It was a challenge to fit all the mechanical and electrical components into the smaller body.
Inner construction of the EOS 6D. The compact body is packed with components required for full-frame DSLRs.
- Metering lens
- Metering sensor
- Eyepiece lens 1
- Eyepiece lens 2
- Eyepiece lens 3
- Information display LCD
- Information display LCD prism
- Main board
- Image sensor
- LCD monitor
- Secondary mirror
- Total reflection mirror
- Infrared-blocking filter
- Secondary image-forming lens
- AF sensor
- 45-degree main mirror
- Focusing screen
- Reflective plate
Urakami Among the mechanical components, the shutter unit was the biggest challenge. The design adopted for the EOS 5D series was too wide, so we devised ways to make the size more compact, while maintaining the specs at a satisfactory level, with a shutter performance of 1/4,000 second. Also, the unit is downsized with the use of a smaller drive motor.
Nakano The size of the mirror box is big particularly in the case of full-frame cameras, so there would be limited space left if we fix the external dimensions of the camera at the beginning. It was a difficult task having to fit all the devices into the small space. About the motor that Urakami mentioned earlier, simply reducing the size of the motor would lower the output, and cause a drop in the frame rate. To address this problem, we modified the layout of the mechanical components and enhanced the efficiency of the mechanism so that the performance as indicated by the specs can be obtained from the smaller motor.
― Specifically, which components were made more efficient?
Nakano Mainly the mechanical system. We made revisions ranging from the lever for moving the mirror up and down to the driving gears. To put it more simply, to prevent the efficiency from deteriorating when a large number of gears are used to drive the mechanism, we tried to reduce the distance between the gears.
The newly developed shutter unit of the EOS 6D. New dual-motor system has been adopted, with a separate motor dedicated to the shutter drive and the mirror drive respectively. Adjustments were made to the strength of the spring and the drive system to realize silent operation with minimal sound caused by movement of the main mirror.
- Shutter charge system
- Shutter charge motor
- Main mirror
- Mirror drive system
- Mirror charge motor
― The operation of the shutter seems very quiet. Was this one of the goals you aimed to achieve at the time of development?
Nakano Yes. We wanted to develop a quiet design for the drive system, including the shutter unit. During the film camera era, Canon released the EOS 100 with "silent EOS" as the catch phrase. The drive sound of the EOS 6D is as quiet as, or even quieter than that of the EOS 100, thus helping to minimize vibrations caused by operation of the shutter as well as movement of the mirror.
Secret of the light weight lies in the combination of magnesium alloy and polycarbonate resin
― The exterior of the EOS 6D's body employs a combination of magnesium alloy with polycarbonate. If you are pursuing a lightweight design, wouldn't it be better to make use of resin material only?
Urakami Our focus here is on the hold of the camera. Of course, it would be possible to use resin material for the entire exterior, but our priority is on the feel of the grip when you hold the camera in your hand. Whether a camera evokes a sense of reliability ultimately depends on the texture that the camera conveys. Besides a robust body, we also wanted our users to appreciate the joy of holding the camera. This is why we used magnesium alloy for the front and rear covers.
An illustration of the outer cover of EOS 6D
- Top cover
- Front cover
- Back cover
― What is the reason for using polycarbonate for the top cover?
Nakano The Wi-Fi and GPS units are embedded beside the pentaprism, so covering the body entirely with metallic material would block the radio signals. That is why we adopted different materials, while maintaining the robustness of the body at the same time.
The positions of the Wi-Fi and GPS units are indicated by the red and blue circles respectively. The technical hurdle of embedding the units into a limited space was hard to clear, but nevertheless it was overcome thanks to the constant research efforts of the design and engineering teams.
― Would using resin for the entire body reduce the camera weight dramatically?
Urakami What we are most concerned about is the damage when the camera is dropped. With the weight of the lens added to the DSLR, the body exterior would have to be considerably thick if only resin were to be used as the material. If this were the case, it would not be very much different from using magnesium alloy, which has a low strength-to-weight ratio. Though more costly, we decided to adopt magnesium alloy after considering the different factors.
The design work that aims on fusion of agility and class
― What is the image, concept or keyword that you take particular note of in determining the design?
Ota Our keyword is "agility." We tried to express the values that our users are seeking, including the impression created by the texture of magnesium alloy. In terms of design, the EOS 6D should not be seen as a lower-end version of the EOS 5D Mark III. Both of them are standard digital SLR cameras with a different character. While the EOS 5D Mark III is designed to evoke a strong sense of stateliness, the features of the EOS 6D are its swiftness and agility added with a touch of elegance.
― In which part of the design is this concept most clearly expressed?
Ota While paying attention to the overall balance, we made the edges look sharp. The EOS 5D Mark III exudes "magnanimity," while the EOS 6D adopts a sharp design that resembles the image of a sports car. Compared to the two lines at the top of the EOS 5D Mark III, there is only one line on the EOS 6D, which makes it look sharper. Also, we tried to slim down the shoulder of the area at the top to create a tightly-spaced design compared to the gradual and gentle curved surface of the EOS 5D Mark III.
The top part of EOS 5D Mark III and EOS 6D. EOS 6D only have one line on its contour to produce a sharper impression.
― Did you decide at the design phase to build the Wi-Fi and GPS units into the area at the top
Nakano Yes. Considering the communication efficiency, this position is the most ideal.
― Was it a challenging task to create a design given this requirement?
Ota Yes, indeed. We needed to embed the devices, while at the same time ensure that the top area looks compact. To do so, we utilized the shadows created by it together with the line that I mentioned just now.
― The curve around the emblem seems to resemble that of the EOS 5D series. Was this an intentional effort?
Ota Yes. The curved lines and planes that form a charming contour is a feature that defines the identity of the EOS series, which is why we have adopted a similar design. While taking on an appearance similar to other members of the EOS family at the first glance, we also added a unique character to each of the models.
― The EOS 6D uses a combination of magnesium alloy and glass fiber-reinforced polycarbonate. Were there any difficulties involved in the combined use of different materials?
Ota Using different materials made the final finishing process a challenging task. The temperatures needed to dry the coating for magnesium and that for resin are not the same, and this difference may become visible in the final finishing. The key point, therefore, is to ensure that the components blend well with each other despite the fact that the coating materials used and processes applied are different. Also, the Canon logo characters that you see at the top of the camera were actually engraved, and filled later with white ink.
The line at the top of the camera is made sharp, while the protrusion on the two sides is reduced to create a slim look.
Simple and user friendly button layout
― That is a lot of work. Additional processes are needed too, am I right?
Ota We devised many different plans at first, such as using a separate resin part for the radio transmission component and logo, and casting the logo with a mold. However, doing so would result in a larger number of parting lines, which would impair the appearance quality, hence the decision to design an integrated resin part. It was necessary to plate the parts other than the component for transmitting radio signals, so the process was time-consuming and costly.
― I can see that various know-how has been employed in the use of the materials. Not only so, it seems that you have also incorporated many ideas into the button layout on the rear face to make it look simple.
Ota As with the material, we would adopt the optimal design for each model upon taking into consideration the users of the camera. For the EOS 6D, we decided on a layout that enables the users to operate the camera with one hand. The EOS 5D series targets at professional users, hence a design that allows the user to check a large number of images efficiently with both hands. In contrast, the priority of the EOS 6D is on the ease of use, hence a layout that suits a wide range of users, including beginners.
Nakano One example is the Magnify button. We placed it above the Playback button so that the user can review an image immediately after it is captured.
Ota Operation of full-frame cameras tends to be complicated, so we addressed this problem by adopting a simpler design.
All the main control buttons related to image playback are positioned on the right side of the rear face, enabling images to be magnified, reduced or erased with the right hand.