Nikon D600 Vs Canon 6D – Entry Level Full Frame Scrap

Photographers should be happy, both Nikon and Canon have released ‘affordable’ full frame cameras into their lineup. Nikon is already shipping theirs while Canon simply announced a camera with availability in a few months. Nothing like a ‘me too’ announcement when the competition gets the jump on you. Nikon is first to market with the D600, a $2100 USD, 24 megapixel camera. Canon follows up with the 6D, a $2100, 20 megapixel camera.

This year, there seems to be a shift towards Nikon in terms of technical camera performance. Before the latest models were released, Canon had a highly successful offering in the 5D Mark II, a 21 megapixel full frame camera with high quality video capability for $2700 (at launch).  Nikon could not compete on video spec, or resolution with the D700 and D3S having only 12 megapixels.  The insanely priced D3X had 24 megapixels but at $8000 it did not compete well with Canon’s offering.

Fast forward to 2012 and Nikon has a 36 megapixel D800 ($3000), a 24 megapixel D600 ($2100), and a 16 megapixel D4 ($6000).  Canon in turn released the 5D Mark III adding only 1 megapixel for a total of 22 and is now charging $3500 for the body.  It follows that with a 20 megapixel 6D for $2100 and an 18 megapixel 1D X for $6800.  Megapixels are not everything, but looking at the full frame landscape today it’s obvious that Nikon didn’t like taking a back seat and has come back with a vengence.

All those megapixels don’t mean much if they don’t perform well.  Not only did Nikon ratchet up the resolution they also developed some high quality sensors as well.  Looking at the DxO Mark scores you can see that Nikon is at the top of the pile in DSLR performance these days.

DxO Mark D600 D800 5D Mark III


Looking at the scores, it’s a thorough trashing of Canon. The Nikon cameras have a history of good dynamic range, but the new sensors really take it up a notch. Even the entry level D600 beats Canon’s 5DIII. Unfortunately, the 6D scores are not available yet but I’m sure they will be lower than those of the 5DIII. Canon has some catching up to do in the next refresh of the lineup though I doubt Nikon will rest on their laurels.

With the sensor discussion out of the way (mostly), we can see how other features of the two entry level cameras stack up. Comparing the physical cameras first.

Left side view

Nikon D600 Full Frame Camera : Left Side

Canon 6D Full Frame Camera : Left Side


Rear view

Nikon D600 Full Frame Camera : Back


Canon 6D Full Frame Camera : Back


Front view

Nikon D600 Full Frame Camera : Front


Canon 6D Full Frame Camera : Front


Top view

Nikon D600 Full Frame Camera : Top


Canon 6D Full Frame Camera : Top


Nikon seems to put more buttons on their cameras, especially on the front. I can’t comment much on the handling of the Canon cameras as I haven’t spent much time with them so I’ll reserve judgement on ergonomics and accessibility of features only to say that Nikon is clearly better ;)


Now looking at the basic specs.


Nikon D600

Canon 6D

Sensor Resolution (MP) 24.3 megapixels 20.2 megapixels
Max Image Resolution 6,016 x 4,016 5,472 x 3,648
Viewfinder Pentaprism Pentaprism
Viewfinder Coverage 100% 97%
Built-in Flash Yes (with wireless control) No
Storage Media Dual SD card Single SD card
Frame rate 5.5 fps 4.5 fps
Max Shutter Speed 1/4000 to 30 sec 1/4000 to 30 sec
Shutter Durability 150,000 100,000
Native ISO 100-6,400 100-25,600
Boosted ISO 50-25,600 50-102,400
Autofocus 39-point AF with 9 cross type 11-point AF with 1 cross-type
Autofocus Detection f/8 f/5.6
GPS Via adapter Built-in
Wifi Via Eye-Fi Built-in


Nikon is clearly ahead in almost all of the performance specs. It has higher resolution, faster frame rates, better autofocus, and dual storage cards. Canon has better ISO numbers but I suspect the D600 will be clearly superior in low light performance compared to the 6D. Makes no difference if the 6D goes to 100K ISO, those photos are not usable. The DxO Mark scores already show that the D600 is better than the much more expensive 5D Mark III so it’s unlikely the 6D will fare any better. Canon throws in some gizmos like GPS and Wifi to try and distract you from the obvious performance gap.

It’s unlikely anyone would jump ship form one brand to another as an investment in lenses usually means the cost to switch is significantly higher than simply the cost of the body. I’m sure the 6D will be a capable camera however if you are new to the DSLR world and considering these two models the Nikon D600 is a technically better camera.

Also see: Nikon D7000 vs D600 vs D800.