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Upgrading to FF, need to upgrade the glass too... 5D mkiii and 1 lens, or 6D and 2 lenses?


I've been shooting for several years now, and my trusty 40D has been in dire need of an upgrade. I have had some good paying jobs in the last few months and I have some cash to play with. I've just been beating my head against the wall trying to figure out the best course of action.


I recognize that style determines one's needs, but my needs change. Sometimes it's portrait, studio/location... sometimes it's event, action... sometimes low light and long exposure. Increasingly, paid video is becoming part of my workflow.

I waited to see what the 70D would offer, I was impressed with the new AF system, fps, ISO performance, as well as the usefulness of the flip screen/wifi (more than I thought I would have been). The problem is that it's still a crop sensor, and still on the lower end of the "prosumer" line. I try not to let my ego get in the way too much, as I know that an expensive camera doesn't always make for a good photographer. However, after shooting the xxD line for many years (since the 10D), I would like to move up, and I don't know that I have the patience to wait for the 7D mkii.


I started looking at the 6D as the entry full frame option. The price is right, and if you put it together right, you can get the body and a good kit lens for around $2200. The limitations, as far as I can tell, would be AF system (number of points, and virtual lack of cross-type), fps, build quality, lack of headphone jack, single card slot, sync speeds, etc. If you are familiar with this camera, you are familiar with its functional shortcomings, especially when compared to the Nikon counterpart, the D600. However, I have to respect this camera in its sheer photo taking power, and that in some cases it carries better sensor ratings than the 5Dmkiii. The end result will be as good, if not better than the 5Dmkiii, so long as you are able to get the subject in focus and in frame due to the bogus AF system/fps rating. Seemingly, this camera will not do a lot of the work for you, not as much as it's big brother will, anyway.


I had the opportunity to shoot with a 5D mkiii, and I was blown away with every aspect of its layout and functionality. The AF system was stellar, the ISO performance was amazing, the IQ was well beyond anything I am used to. I was also able to use a full stable of L glass along with it, as well, so I could really express the potential of the camera. Every shot I got was in focus. The grouping options worked flawlessly, and I didn't have to focus/recompose as I have gotten so accustomed to. On the video side, I like the headphone jack and greater resistance to moire (supposedly). It felt solid in my hand, fit perfectly, and wasn't too heavy to carry around a 12 hour corporate gig (even with a broken finger). Was pretty stoked on it.


All of this being said, I need to upgrade the body. This much is clear. The limitation is that my lenses aren't up to par. Half of them are EF-S, and the EF lenses I have aren't much worth mentioning (28-135mm IS, 50mm f2.5 compact macro). The big question is, do I spend the money on the 5D for the greatly advanced features and functionality, and suck it up on the lenses for a while? Maybe just get the 24-105 and use that for basically everything? Or should I get the lesser 6D, and play with some classic lens options like the 16-35mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, etc? After all, the focus system wont matter if I don't have the lens to capture it anyway.


What is the better option?


1. Buy the more functional (expensive) body and maybe one lens to start.


2. Buy the less functional (cheaper) but equally IQ rated body and a few lenses, or other pro-business expenses?


Common knowledge seems to state that you invest in glass first.


In the past, I have felt limited by my camera's ability to keep up with low light and focus issues. I don't want to voluntarily step into an inferior system.  Conversely, I don't want to get saddled with a pricey body and no glass to use with it.  Are the technology gains in the 5D mkiii worth it if my budget is limited?


Just wondering if anyone has any insight to this dilemma?



It took me a while to get everything I needed to move from a 30D with EF-S glass (18-135 + 55-250) to get the low light, indoor, no flash photography I wanted to do at church events. 


As I had 30+ years with 35mm, mostly slides, I knew I would one day go full frame.  But I needed fast ISO capabilities more than full frame.  So, my first step was replacing the 30D with a 60D about 2 years ago.  That was a step in the right direction.  ISO 1600 was quite usable, and 3200 if I was desparate. 


But I still needed faster glass.  So the 18-135 was sold and a 24-105 f4L purchased.  I soon discovered that 24mm wasn't 'wide enough' for some indoor work, so that was supplanted with a 16-35 f2.8L ii.  My next replacement was the 55-250 with a used 80-200 f2.8L 'magic drainpipe'.  As finances allowed, I added an 85mm f1.8, 135 f2L and 200 f2.8L ii to my bag.  I also added a 24-70 f2.8L (shortly before the ii was announced) used it once, and sold it.  Too heavy for these geezer hands.  The fast glass was the cats' meow.  It allowed faster exposures (1/60...1/100) with fewer subject blurred rejects.  But at times, I had to slow down to 1/30 or thereabouts to get a decent exposure, which lowered the keeper rate to less than 1 in 10...but still worthwhile.  


At that point, I knew I was headed for a 1D mark iii or iv camera, but that was a pricey jump to make.  Then the 5D mark iii was announced.  After waiting for the dust to settle and reading rave reviews seeing the results, I was hooked.  I bought my 5D iii last November and the 60D sold shortly thereafter.  The high ISO capabilities and 'to die for' AF were 99.9% of why I had to have it.  I also realized the 85m and 200mm primes were not getting used, so I sold them as well.


Although the mantra is glass before body, but I needed more pixels as I sometimes change my mind with a picture and crop pretty strongly.  The 8mp RAW from the 30D was the largest limiting factor for me.  So I replaced it first.  The doubling of pixels and improved ISO speeds were a major step for no flash work.  But then it was upgrade the glass time, and finally, the body once again.  It'll still take a while for me to get the credit cards paid off.  But I think it was worth it.


I can really appreciate your situtation.  If I still had the 30D and EF-S glass today, I'd most likely start with the 6D.  It's full frame and has the super ISO capabilities to match the 5D iii.  But if I could, I'd go for the 5D iii.  The high ISO capabilities of either camera will be a boon for your low light photography.  Then you can start upgrading your glass as needed and wallet allows.    

Hi bratkinson, thanks for your reply.  Sounds like you had to consider some of the same steps.  I know the ISO performance from the 40d to the 70D is a huge improvement (along with everything else), so I wouldn't be disappointed with it.  But I just don't know if I would love it.  And that's the difference I'm trying to contend with.  However, the 6D present its own limitations, which is why I'm here. 


I've been checking out the 80-200 "drainpipe."  By all accounts, a very respected lens.  Very affordable on ebay when they are around.  Also, a little bit less conspicuous than the newer 70-200.  I know it might take some lens juggling to figure out what works best for me... It just gets a little pricey when you start doing it with big glass.  Fun, though.  The body leap-frog was also a consideration.  I have been asking myself which I would prefer as the future-back-up-but-main-body-in-the-mean-time camera.  That thought is a little frustrating, because I don't want to settle at this point.  It feels like I would be entering into a new relationship with the proverbial, "my future ex-wife," kind of mentality... and that concerns me.  However, I would be limitng the potential of the 5D if I spent the majority of my budget on the body itself, with little room for usable glass...  So I would have an aging race horse, and no saddle to ride it.


I suppose that all digital camera bodies are always going to be our "future ex-wives," any how.  Nature of the beast that they will be present for the shot only as long as the technology is relevant, and they don't fall apart.  The lenses are the real long-term relationships in this scenario... Hence the mantra: invest in glass first. 


Thanks for your input...




I recently moved to the 6D after years of crop sensor cameras.  I love my 7D for action and wildlife so it remains in the stable, but the 6D is amazing.


I can truthfully say that it is the first camera that actually changed the way that I work.  I no longer, or at least rarely, need to carry a tripod.  On a recent trip to Scotland 99% of my shooting was hand-held, very unusal for me.


The results at ISO settings of 6400 and above are very useable, even at 25,800!!!!


When I moved from an EOS 1V to my first digital (20D) I was suddenly free of the concern over cost of film/processing... very liberating.  I feel the move to the 6D has been equally exciting and liberating.


I also got the new 24-70 f/4L and the combination is fantastic.


By the way, the 28-135 and 50 macro are decent lenses so don't feel you need to replace them right away.  Use them for a bit and your future needs will suggest themselvs.



Hi jadphoto, thanks for getting back.  I shot film for many years as well.  It gave me a really good foundation for making sure that you do everything as right as possible before hitting the shutter.  Making the change to digital was certainly revolutionary in the way that I was able to approach photography (cost, learning curve, instant gratification).  I was hoping that the move from crop to FF would be liberating and vision-changing, as well. 


Not needing a tripod as often would be awesome.  I do some long exposure stuff that will always require it, but I would like to be able to get some sharp, clean, hand-held images when I don't feel like lugging it around.  I was at a music festival recently, and basically all of my night shots were hand-held, or taken with the camera resting on something.  A lot of the shots were unusable because of blur or noise.  The lighting in those scenarios can be tough, and I've read that the 6D and 5D can basically focus in the dark.  Not needing external flash and a tripod would be great.  On the 40D, I don't like to push the ISO above 1250 (defintely the extreme end for that camera, in my opinion).


I was looking at the 24-70 2.8, or the 24-105 4 IS in that range.  The 24-70 has a lot of clout, and I like the lens.  I really like the bokeh/DOF of a 2.8.  However, the 24-105 has a little more reach, and the IS which is nice.  So I don't know that I would want to do double duty in that range, and like everything else, they seem to spread the awesome features around a bit.  I have really enjoyed the 28-135 over the years.  It has a solid build, really good optical results, but it can be a bit long on a crop sensor, so it gets limited indoor use.  I also recently dropped it from about chest high onto the street... while attached to the body... lens down (first time I've ever done something like that).  It slipped out of the tri-pod collar which was not fully secured.  The filter shattered, and I had to convince the barrel to go back into position so it would zoom properly, but everything alse still works fine.  Still sharp with fast AF.  Pretty incredible.  The 50 compact macro can be a lot of fun for still-life/detail/nature stuff, but I rarely take it out for portrait because the AF is loud and slow, and the results are not always spot-on.  Could be user error.  I might need to keep trying it out, but it doesn't get a lot of love in the paid portrait department.  My 50 1.8 had a cheap build too, but would take some pretty awesome photos (sometimes). 


I figured the rest of the kit would make sense once I settled on a mid-range.  I have an 11-18 EF-S that I would have to find a replacement for.  The 24mm on a FF was impressively wide, and might require less immediate attention.  Makes me realize the tunnel vision effect of the crop (good when you want it for reach)...  With that being said the 70, 105, and even 135 might need some help reaching on the FF.... and I've always wanted a fancy, beige/white 70-200.  I just don't know what would get the most use yet.  I was able to use a 70-200 2.8, and I loved the cross-room candids I could get when I wasn't all up on people.  A lot of time, they didn't know I was shooting them.  It's just a beast, though.  It's big, and not too discreet, which can serve the ego but can get you in trouble too.  I can imagine that it is a great tool to have when you need it.



Hope my previous post was somewhat helpful...


On our recent Scotland trip I found the 6D, 17-40L, 24-70L (new f/4 version w/IS), and 70-200 f/4L was all I needed.  Even though the f/4 lenses are on the slow side with the high ISO quality of the 6D I was fine (I also packed a 28 f/2.8, 40 f/2.8 and 85 f/1.8 I never needed the extra speed) .


For what it's worth, the 24-70 f/4L IS is much sharper than the 24-105 f/4L that it replaced.  At least as compared to the one that I had.  The 24-70 is also noticeably more compact, it really handles well on the 6D.



Hello Blair:


Seems like you’ve done your research.  I’m not sure there’s too much I can say that you don’t know, and the 6D has been beaten to death by the internet critiques, so I don’t really have anything new.  The decision is a subjective one, and in my opinion is 95% dependent on your AF needs.  However, I’ll comment on a couple of points.


First, if you want the best high ISO you can get, and you’re sticking with Canon, you have 3 options.  From there it’s a personal decision on budget and features, nothing more.


As you rightly concluded, the AF system of the 6D is nothing compared to the 5d3, but in my opinion it’s not as bad as the internet purports it to be.  It’s going to be lackluster if shooting fast moving subjects, but anybody who has done their research knows that.  I’ve used it for sports, and when it got the shot it was great, but my yield was a lot less than it probably would have been with other AF systems.  I’m not professional sports photog, so although I look though I miss some and every once in awhile there’s a heartbreaker that ‘woulda been’ great, it’s no big deal (for me).  It was worth it for me, if it’s not for you, then get the 5d or 1dX.


That, to me, is pretty much where it ends. 


Single Card Slot: This might bother me if I was a professional wedding Photog, but I’m not.  The moiré and lack of audio output might bother me if I was a videographer, but I’m not (I though video usually uses a separate sound track, no?). 


Build Quality: The build quality argument isn’t built off of one solitary piece of data that I know of.  The build quality is quite solid, until I see data suggesting otherwise it’s all just internet banter.    There would maybe be an argument for all metal _if_ the expected product life of a dSLR was 10+ years, but it’s not, and it amuses me when these internet gearheads that salivate all over the next big thing try to make this argument.


FPS: Just not something I need.   Maybe if I was a sports photog, but if so I’m sure the AF would be more of an issue.


Sync Speed: Mostly insignificant.  It bothers me more to ask why the engineers had to reduce this a measly 1/20 of a second.  In real world use, if I’m shooting off camera flash (which is primarily what I shoot) and it’s an important shoot then I’m at 1/160 anyway just to give my triggers some wiggle room.  If every bit of shutter absolutely counts then I’d probably just go to 1/200, shoot a little wide and crop.  Or do the ole shoot with the camera upside down trick…  which in addition to working usually gets a chuckle out of observers.

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