Canon 6D video “HollyWood Test” using the Contax Zeiss 28mm f/2 @f2
When you see as many new camera models come to market as I do, you soon realize it would be almost impossible for me to test every single one. I try to pick and choose the products I review carefully. I like to take my time to really dig down into a product before forming an opinion, then work with it long enough to get to know it “up close and personal” in my real world projects.
So what do I do to decide which products to rent or try? I do the same things most of you do in choosing your own gear. I read online publications and reviews if available. I am blessed to have great friends, many working with the equipment daily so I listen carefully to what they have to say. And I read those endless, boring specification sheets until my eyes water. Once I have something of interest identified, I jump in the car and head down to my local camera dealer. I can not buy a new photo product as complicated as a digital camera without at least testing. If there is time and one available, renting is also a great way to get familiar with a new camera before being forced into a major financial investment I may regret for a long time.
I never buy major camera products online, as I do rely on the advice, service, and support of my favorite camera shops. Many good photographers staff the better dealer showrooms in their slow periods and between jobs. I always come away with ideas and tips that help make me a better photographer, as these guys work with the gear daily, and hear most of the good points discussed and certainly all of the complaints. John Donne (1572-1631) famously wrote that “No Man Is An Island.” He must have been a photographer. By giving a local dealer my business, it helps show the staff that all their help and many suggestions over the years are very much appreciated. They take good care of me, so I always try to reciprocate. It takes good teamwork to create a good production.
I start out working my way down my short-list by shooting the display model at my dealer’s counter. If I am testing a lens, I bring my own cards and a known reference body. If my test is a camera I bring my own reference lens, as I did in this case. My lens choice for this test was the Contax Zeiss 28mm f/2. AKA “the HollyWood.” I shoot a handful of still images, in whatever the manufacturer has set the default format to be, using aperture priority and whatever ambient light is available in the store. In most cases, sadly it is a JPG. I don’t invest time understanding how to change file formats on a camera if I have no interest in considering it further.
This first bar I call my “HollyWood Test.” It tests my ability to shoot a good still frame with the camera body set to its own manufacturer default settings. I then shoot a couple of short video clips, again set completely to manufacturer defaults. If the camera doesn’t pass this “hands on first look” my interest goes no further, and it is removed from my test list. Those that remain on the list have passed my HollyWood Test, so confirm my original interest in reviewing them further for my work. Products that don’t pass the HollyWood Test don’t get to ride in my bag!
The Canon 6D has made that grade. I’ve shot Canon products for many years off and on with consistently good results. The 6D impressed me with my first pickup. Controls are well placed and clearly understood. This intermediate sized body has nice grip feel, without the weight of its 1D series larger brothers. The 6D sports a good viewfinder and reasonably good screen for manual focus onto its full frame 35mm sensor. Shooting mostly APS-C and M43 sized sensors this past year has left me feeling a longing to get back to “full frame” where my lenses are their proper focal length marked on the lens barrel. Call me old school, but a 28mm lens always had a 28mm wide look when I first started using one. I personally have trouble trying to mentally convert the view for different sensor crop factors, even if I can deal with the math. When I need a “wide” it doesn’t mean a lens marked 28mm that in reality acts like a 56mm just because it is mounted on my GH3.
The 6D is right up there with the best low-light performers Canon has ever made, about a stop better than the 5D Mark III, likely thanks to the lower pixel count. If I’m using lighting, it’s not an issue, but when I need a camera that is small and flexible in ambient light only, I think the 6D could be a solid choice. My personal taste if I’m not doing noise reduction is not to go above 3200 ISO with my Panasonic GH3, or 6400 with my Fuji. From what little I’ve seen of the 6D, I think I could be perfectly fine shooting at 5000-6400 ISO with that camera, which is just phenomenal for the type of low light environments I often work in.