Please note that the camera comparisons are only based on image quality. Also note that all images were down-sampled / normalized to 20.3 MP resolution.
Compared to Nikon D600
Let’s take a close look at how the Canon 6D compares to the Nikon D600 in terms of ISO performance. If you look at the EXIF data, you will notice that there is a full stop difference in shutter speed between the two cameras. When performing comparison tests, I noticed that the Nikon D600 was yielding brighter exposures. My light meter was showing consistent exposures with both cameras mounted, so I know that the difference was not in my lighting or setup.
For consistency, I used two Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lenses – one for the Canon mount and one for the Nikon mount. Both were stopped down to f/5.6. I have two theories for this difference – either one of the cameras is not able to stop down the lens correctly, or there is a real difference in brightness between the two cameras.
When looking at lenses on both cameras, the aperture diameter of the Canon 6D certainly looked smaller, but I am not sure if that’s normal, given the fact that Canon’s mount is larger and the flange distance is different in comparison. Interestingly, the Canon version of the Sigma lens had its diaphragm flipped! Either way, the only fair way to compare performance between the two cameras was to normalize the brightness. After several tests in 1/3 EV increments, the optimal brightness level was reached at a full stop mark. Images might appear a little brighter for the Canon 6D, but reducing the exposure by 1/3 was too much for the shadow area, which is why I did not change it any further.
Canon 6D vs Nikon D600 ISO Comparison at Low ISOs
Here are some low ISO image comparisons between ISO 100 and 800 (Left: Canon 6D, Right: Nikon D600):
It is hard to see much difference between the two cameras at low ISO levels – both perform really well from ISO 100 to 400.
The same with ISO 800 – both cameras deal really well with noise.
Canon 6D vs Nikon D600 High ISO Comparison
Let’s see what happens at ISO 1600 and above:
Both cameras add a bit of noise, but it is hard to say which one looks better.
At ISO 3200, the Nikon D600 seems to have a little bit more shadow noise.
And as we push to ISO 6400, the Nikon D600 clearly looks worse in comparison. There is more noise in the shadows and there are some false colors added. This is despite the fact that the Nikon D600 image is down-sampled to 20.2 MP resolution, so its pixel-level performance is definitely worse.
The situation gets even more clear at ISO 12800 – the Nikon D600 is visibly worse throughout the image, especially in the shadow area.
And we see the same situation at ISO 25600, with the Canon 6D leading the game. Notice how much better the colors are retained on the Canon 6D in comparison, especially in the area under the ship. Noise levels are much higher on the D600, the grain looks bigger and there is more loss of details.
Canon 6D vs Nikon D600 Summary
As you can see from the above comparison, the Canon 6D performs very well when compared to its direct competitor, the Nikon D600. Although there is practically no difference in noise performance at low ISOs, the Canon 6D clearly takes over past ISO 1600. The Nikon D600 shows higher noise levels / larger grain, more false colors and loss of colors throughout the image, and more loss of details at ISO 6400 and higher. The difference is not drastic, I would say between 1/3 and 2/3 of a stop, but it is still there. Please note that the above comparison was “normalized”, with D600 images reduced from 24.3 MP to 20.2 MP to match the resolution of the Canon 6D. If you were to look at pixel level performance of the two cameras, the D600 would appear even worse in comparison.
Since the D610 has exactly the same sensor as the D600, the above comparison is also valid for the D610.
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