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[Part 2] Clear Viewfinder and -3EV AF Ability! The EOS 6D’s Uncompromising Shooting Performance


Boasting with full-frame CMOS sensor but yet the small and compact body size, this Developer's Interview unveils the charm of EOS 6D. [Part 1] introduced the concept and body design, as well as the efforts on reducing the body size. Here in [Part 2], the Developers talk about the new AF system, the optical viewfinder, 20.2 megapixels full-frame CMOS sensor and many more! (Based on the interview held in October 2012) (Interviewer: Ryosuke Takahashi/ Photos of interviewees: Takehiro Kato)

Pages: 1 2

(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

Realizing a -3EV Limit for the Low-light Sensitivity Range

― Next, I would like to move on from design to talk about the devices. Is the LCD monitor for the EOS 6D a new model? How is it different from the LCD monitor of the other EOS models?

Urakami For the liquid crystal panel, we used the same TFT as the EOS 60D, but the coating of the protective cover is newly developed.

Red: Sunlight

Orange: Reflected light

  1. Smudge-resistant fluorine coat
  2. Anti-reflection coat
  3. Scratch-resistant hard coat
  4. Resin cover
  5. Anti-reflection coat
  6. Anti-reflection coat
  7. LCD panel

The layer constructions of the EOS 6D's LCD monitor. You can see here the five layers placed above the LCD panel.

― Can you tell us more about the characteristics of the new AF system and the background to adopting 11 AF points?

Ichinomiya Ever since the EOS 5D Mark II era, we have received feedback that nine AF points were not enough. This is why we added an AF point to each side of the center AF point to form an 11-point layout. The biggest characteristic of the AF system is the employment of a pixel structure for the AF sensor which is identical to that of the EOS-1D X. On top of that, we enhanced the sensitivity to realize a -3EV limit for the low-light sensitivity range. The structure of the AF sensor advances with time, and Canon has been introducing new structures continuously since the EOS-1D X. Added with the efforts to reduce noise, we succeeded in expanding the low-light sensitivity limit to -3EV. In terms of the AF metering capability in dimly-lit scenes, the EOS 6D boasts the highest performance.

Vertical-line sensitive focusing at f/2.8
Cross-type focusing at f/5.6
Vertical-line sensitive focusing at f/5.6
Horizontal-line sensitive focusing at f/5.6

EOS 6D employs the newly developed 11 point AF sensor. The center AF point combines the f/5.6 Cross-type sensor and the f/2.8 Single-type sensor to enhance capturing power of the subject at the same time realizing highly precise AF.

Nakano Not only have we added two AF points to make the total count 11, the AF points are also positioned slightly outward now. Since the main theme is located near the center in most cases, we have adopted a more efficient layout of the AF points so that the subject can be captured more easily.

─ The AF sensor layout looks similar to that of the EOS 5D Mark II, but am I right to assume that they differ completely in performance?

Nakano Yes. The enhancement in the low-light specs means the signal from the AF sensor is now stronger, which allows focus to be detected more quickly.

― Next, I would like to know more about the features of the viewfinder system. What was the most important emphasis in the viewfinder design of the EOS 6D?

Urakami Our focus was on its visibility. If you look into the viewfinder, you would find that the display is very clear. In fact, I have not seen any viewfinder as clear as this one. This was made possible, thanks to the new design that we have adopted for the focusing screen. By applying the miniaturization process in semiconductor manufacturing to the focusing screen to enable advanced control of the graininess and improve the diffusion capability, we were able to produce the finest focusing screen. Now that the focus peak can be identified more easily, users can also make use of manual focusing with ease.

The newly adopted focusing screen Eg-AII. By adjusting the graininess of the surface, now the focus peak can be identified more easily.

Nakano We are also confident that the slimmer design of the body has contributed to the better visibility of the viewfinder.

Urakami If you look at the structure of the internal components, you will find that a part of the circuit board is hollow. By allowing users to look into the viewfinder directly, a clear view can be obtained. With the rear LCD panel now positioned further away from the eyepiece, it is less likely that the nose would come into contact with the LCD panel when the user looks through the viewfinder. There is an optimal distance from the eye to the eyepiece when looking through the viewfinder. These modifications that we have made to the design allow users to view from the eyepiece more easily.

The rear LCD panel is positioned further away from the eyepiece to avoid contact with the nose.

― The viewfinder coverage of the EOS 6D is about 97%. Is there a reason for not increasing it to 100%?

Urakami While it is ideal to have a 100% viewfinder coverage, our priority was to design a compact and lightweight body for the EOS 6D. In order to achieve 100% coverage, a considerable amount of space would be necessary for adjusting the position of the viewfinder's optical system and the image sensor. Also, a larger pentaprism would affect the weight of the camera body. Taking into consideration the overall balance, we decided to fix the viewfinder coverage at approximately 97%.

Enhanced Reproduction Capability at High ISO Speeds

― About the image sensor, can you tell us how you arrived at the pixel count of approximately 20.2 megapixels, and also the features of the new image sensor?

EOS 6D's approx. 20.2 megapixels full-frame CMOS sensor.

Suzuki We arrived at the pixel count of about 20.2 megapixels after considering the balance between the high ISO speed performance and resolution. I believe most of the users who purchased the EOS 6D are first-time users of a full-frame camera, and we wanted to meet their expectations by offering an image quality that befits a full-frame DSLR. The reproduction capability at high ISO speeds is enhanced with a wider pixel pitch of 6.55μm.

EOS 6DFull-frameApprox. 6.55μm × 6.55μm
EOS 5D Mark IIIFull-frameApprox. 6.25μm × 6.25μm
EOS 5D Mark IIFull-frameApprox. 6.4μm × 6.4μm
EOS 7DAPS-CApprox. 4.3μm x 4.3μm
EOS 60DAPS-CApprox. 4.3μm x 4.3μm

Among the existing middle-class EOS cameras, the EOS 6D boasts the widest pixel pitch. A wider pitch allows more light to reach the photodiode, thus enhancing the high sensitivity characteristics.

― Is it true that widening the pixel pitch helps to improve the image quality?

Suzuki Yes. The S/N ratio plays an important role in determining the high sensitivity characteristics, which is a property of the image sensor. In order to increase the intensity of the signal (S), which can be converted into images, it is vital to direct as much light as possible to the photodiode. In this sense, there is great advantage in having a wide pixel pitch, that is, a large opening at the front of the photodiode, as it affects the S/N ratio significantly. Also, the full-frame sensor has a wide area, and the edge of the image sensor is located far away from the center of the optical axis. Thus, there are many cases where the incident light enters obliquely when a bright lens or wide-angle lens is used. A wider pixel pitch therefore allows more light to reach the photodiode, and is advantageous in many ways.

― Canon has developed many types of image sensors so far. How would you position the EOS 6D in terms of its image characteristics?

Minegishi First of all, the EOS 6D is equipped with a new image sensor, which, coupled with the characteristics of the image processor, realizes a standard ISO speed that is two stops higher than that of the EOS 5D Mark II. So, you can say that the EOS 6D performs better than the EOS 5D Mark II at high ISO speeds. Compared to the EOS 5D Mark III, the EOS 6D has an edge in the properties attributable to the wider pixel pitch, but the final image quality of the two cameras is on par.

― Are the performance and layout of the micro lenses the same as before?

Suzuki The shape of the micro lenses and the phase are identical to the EOS 5D Mark III generation. As for the efforts on the design of the image sensor to achieve a high image quality, we adopted a thinner metallic wiring layer to realize a "low profile" so that oblique incident light can reach the image sensor more easily. We have been making continued efforts to lower the height each time we develop a new model, and this applies to the EOS 6D too.

Red: Photodiode

Gapless micro lenses arrayed on the image sensor. The layout is basically the same as that of the EOS 5D Mark III, except that it is optimized according to the pixel pitch of the EOS 6D.

― Which are the shooting functions that are made possible by the DIGIC 5+ image processor? Can I assume that these are the areas that cannot be achieved (or good results cannot be obtained) using DIGIC 5?

Minegishi DIGIC 5+ on the EOS 6D processes signals considerably faster than DIGIC 5. This allows users to enjoy a smooth photographic experience as the number of possible shots during continuous shooting does not decrease even when the camera is performing noise reduction as well as lens and chromatic aberration corrections.

Thanks to the new and powerful DIGIC 5+, number of possible shots during continuous shooting is maintained even when noise reduction and color aberration correction is performed.

― The SCN (Special Scene) mode includes Handheld Night Scene as well as HDR Backlight Control. Are they similar in mechanism and performance to those on the EOS 650D?

Minegishi Yes. The functionality itself is identical to the EOS 650D. However, in the case of Handheld Night Scene, the image quality at a high ISO speed is enhanced, so you can produce shots in a higher quality.

Convenient Wi-Fi and GPS Features

― About the Wi-Fi function, which is one of the highlights of the EOS 6D, can you provide an outline of the system, and what this feature is capable of?

Hashimoto The Wi-Fi function comprises two main pillars, one of which is a wider scope of expression, which is based on the premise that peripheral devices are used. The other pillar is a broader scope of communication through the images. As a company that specializes in imaging technologies, we felt that it was necessary to expand these scopes, hence the decision to include the Wi-Fi function for the first time in the EOS series on the EOS 6D.

Watanabe We have included many different modes that enable communication in various ways. Even when there are no access points, communication is possible such as with a smartphone.

  1. Transfer images between cameras Exchange images
  2. Viewing images using a media player View images
  3. Send images to a Web service Save and share images
  4. Operate the camera remotely using EOS Utility Remotely control the camera
  5. Print images using a Wi-Fi printer Print images
  6. Connect to a smartphone Make images viewable and remote shooting

The Wi-Fi function of the EOS 6D can connect to your smartphone directly, without any availability of access points.

― What is the maximum distance for Wi-Fi transmission?

Watanabe The transmission distance varies with the environment, so it is hard to give a definite figure in meters, but if the radio signals are not obstructed, communication is possible within about 30m.

― Are there any points to pay attention to when using the Wi-Fi and GPS functions? I am asking you this because I believe many users are using the Wi-Fi function for the first time.

Watanabe It is a wireless radio communication device, so the general precaution to take is to note the country and location of use. For use inside a hospital or airplane, users will need to follow the rules and regulations accordingly.

― What are the things I can do when I use the smartphone as a remote control?

Watanabe Basically, you can adjust settings such as shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, and ISO speed remotely, but the exposure mode needs to be set directly using the Mode Dial on the camera. For playback images, you can view the images in the camera, or erase or rate them via the smartphone.

By using the "EOS Remote" application, EOS 6D can perform remote shooting using your smartphones. Settings such as aperture and shutter speed can be adjusted too.

― Which are the AF modes that support shooting via a smartphone?

Watanabe In addition to FlexiZone - Single, remote shooting is possible in all the AF modes that are available during Live View shooting. However, smartphones cannot be used to switch the AF mode, so you need to select a mode on the camera in advance.

― Can you tell us what exactly is the GPS logger function and what it is capable of?

Watanabe The GPS logger is a new feature that we have introduced to match the characteristics of the EOS 6D. Specifically, it keeps track of the routes travelled by the camera, such as when you are on a trip. This route can then be viewed together with the photos using the supplied software program, Map Utility. When the GPS logger feature is in use, the GPS unit of the EOS 6D remains active even when the power of the camera is turned off, so the route is automatically recorded even when you are not photographing.

The upper LCD panel shows the status of Wi-Fi and GPS communication. Even when the power of the camera is turned off, the GPS unit continues to capture radio signals and record information on the current location.

― Is there any advice that you can offer to those who are using the GPS unit for the first time?

Hashimoto I find it truly interesting that by using the GPS logger, you can relive the memories of the journey after returning home from a trip. Also, the Map Utility is a handy program that allows you to identify where a photo was taken. The longitude and latitude information is stored as part of the Exif data in the image, so, for example, after capturing a landscape shot of a particular location in winter, you can return to exactly the same spot in spring to take a second photo. Time is also stored in addition to the location information, allowing for precise shooting. This is a feature that is much sought after by professional photographers.

You can make use of the supplied software "Map Utility" to record your route during the trip. Note that the built-in GPS function must be turned on.

― Lastly, please give a message to the users.

Ichinomiya As a member in charge of AF, I hope you can get an actual feel of the ultimate performance of the -3EV AF limit. The camera can probably achieve focus even in the moonlight.

Urakami It is a breakthrough indeed to be able to build a full-frame sensor into a camera with a weight equivalent to that of the EOS 60D. Besides still images, I hope you can enjoy the fine movie quality of the EOS 6D too.

Ota Now that full-frame cameras have become more accessible, I hope you can enjoy the charms of the EOS 6D to the fullest.

Nakano A wide array of new features have been packed into the EOS 6D. I hope you can enjoy using them with an open mind.

Watanabe Instead of us making the proposals, I hope you, the user, can devise new shooting styles with the wireless feature, and also ways to make full use of it.

Suzuki I hope you can have an actual feel of how powerful the full-frame sensor is. Take particular note of the excellent depictive performance, which is made possible by the wide pixel pitch, as well as the image quality when shooting at dimly-lit locations.

Minegishi The image quality is on par with that of the EOS 5D Mark III. At the same time, please try out the SCN mode, which offers options to help you produce images easily.

Toyama Despite the small body, no compromise was made in terms of its performance. This is a camera which I personally would love to own too.

Hashimoto With ISO 25600 usable as a standard ISO speed, you can now capture a wider array of scenes without the need of a tripod, thus helping to reduce the total weight of your shooting equipment. To me, the EOS 6D is a product of our users' feedback. I will continue to value the voices of our users, and use them to produce even more appealing cameras.

Now with the EOS 6D, ISO 25600 is usable as a standard ISO speed. You can also expand the range up to ISO 102400.

― Thank you very much.