Recommended Canon 6D Settings

After we’ve published our series on recommended settings for Nikon D600 / D610 and D800 / D800E DSLRs, we received a lot of requests from our readers to provide similar information for Canon and Sony cameras. So, in this article, we will cover the Canon 6D and how we recommend setting up its menu. Especially for first-time Canon shooters, the Canon 6D’s menu can be very confusing, but this guide is a great starting point if you don’t know which settings to use. 

Before going into the camera menu, let’s first get started on the exterior controls. The Canon 6D has a lot of menu options, but there are some things that you can only control with the external controls. In addition, even if menu settings provide options to change particular settings, using external buttons / controls is simply faster.

Autofocus, Drive Modes and Metering

The Canon 6D has a very simple and uncluttered front, with a single programmable button that is by default used for exposure preview. The top of the camera, however, has a number of buttons that make it easy and convenient to switch between different camera modes. Here they are, to the right of the flash hotshoe:

Canon 6D Top Controls

Let’s go through each of these one by one. After you press the AF button, the top LCD of the camera will only display the currently set autofocus mode. In order to toggle between different autofocus modes, you either rotate the top dial, or the round dial on the back of the camera. This will make the camera go between “One Shot”, “AI Focus” and “AI Servo” modes. I won’t go into too much detail about each focus mode, since it is all explained in detail in this article that I wrote a while ago. Here is a quick recap:

  • One Shot – is used only for stationary subjects that do not move. When you half-press the shutter button, autofocus locks on the subject and if the subject moves, the focus will not change, resulting in a blurry picture. Only use this mode for photographing stationary subjects (landscapes, architecture, etc).
  • AI Focus – this mode is a combination of both One Shot and AI Servo (below) modes in one setting. The camera evaluates the subject/scene and automatically switches between the above two modes depending on what you are photographing.
  • AI Servo – this setting is used for photographing moving subjects. When you half-press the shutter button and your subject moves, the camera will re-acquire focus. I usually keep my camera in AI Servo autofocus mode when photographing people, especially my kids running around.

If you don’t know where to start, keep the setting on AI Focus, which will let the camera decide on how to focus in different situations.

The second “DRIVE” button is used to switch between different camera drive modes such as Single, Continuous, Single Silent, Continuous Silent, 10 second Self-Timer / Remote Control and 2 second Self-Timer / Remote Control. Here is a quick rundown of these drive modes:

  • Single Drive – pressing the shutter release button will only fire one shot. If you continue to hold, nothing will happen.
  • Continuous Drive – pressing and holding the shutter release button will continuously fire the camera at a speed of 4.5 frames per second.
  • Silent Single Drive – similar to the first setting, but the mirror is raised slower for less noise.
  • Silent Continuous Drive – similar to the second setting, but the mirror is raised slower for less noise when firing continuously.
  • 10 second Self-Timer / Remote Control – after you press the shutter release button or engage a remote trigger, the camera waits for 10 seconds before taking a picture.
  • 2 second Self-Timer / Remote Control – similar as above, except the wait time is reduced to 2 seconds.

Unless you are planning to photograph action (sports, wildlife, etc), keep the camera in either Single Drive or Silent Single Drive mode. Personally, I like the Silent Single Drive mode compared to the Single Drive mode – the combination of the mirror and shutter sounds is very damp, which is nice.

Next we have the ISO button for changing between different ISO sensitivity levels. Once you press the ISO button, rotating the top or rear dials will toggle between Auto ISO and regular ISO levels like 100, 200, 400, etc. all the way to ISO 25,600. Personally, I am a fan of the Auto ISO setting, as it automatically selects the right ISO for me depending on the brightness of the scene. If you are a beginner, I recommend using the Auto ISO setting, the behavior of which can be fine-tuned in the camera menu (as explained in detail further down below).

The fourth button from left is used for switching between different metering modes such as Evaluative, Partial, Center-Weighted Average and Spot. Once again, I won’t go over each mode in detail, as you can read my Camera Metering Modes article, where each metering mode is covered in detail. If you do not know where to start, keep your metering mode in the default “Evaluative” mode, which is the one that looks like an eye.

The last button is used to light up the top LCD of the camera, which can be useful when photographing in dark.

Camera Shooting Mode Dial

On the top left side of the camera you will find a camera shooting mode dial (often referred to as the “PASM” dial). I have my dial set to “Av” (Aperture Priority Mode) 90% of the time, because the camera does a great job in giving me good exposures. Once you get to know the camera better, I would recommend to explore the “C1” / “C2” settings (more on this below under Setup Menu), because they could save you time when switching between different shooting environments (say when switching between photographing landscapes to running kids).

Canon 6D Shooting Modes Dial

Some situations, such as when photographing panoramas or using off-camera flash call for using the Manual (M) mode, but I would only recommend to use this mode when you get comfortable with the exposure triangle.

Back Buttons

The Canon 6D has a number of buttons on the back of the camera that also serve particular needs. To the top right of the camera, you can find three buttons: AF-ON, AE Lock (Asterisk) and AF Area Mode. The AF-ON button can be used in conjunction with the Custom Functions (see below) for “back-button AF” that you can use for the focusing and recomposing.

The AE Lock button is used to lock the exposure, which can be useful for keeping the exposure consistent between shots or when using the above-mentioned focus and recompose technique.

The last AF Area Mode button is used for selecting a particular focus point. When you press this button once, the top LCD will display “SEL [ ]”, which allows switching between different focus points in the viewfinder, or switching to dynamic focusing / automatic selection (with all focus points activated). If you look through the viewfinder and rotate the rear dial, you will see the focus points go vertically from top to bottom and vice versa. If you rotate the top dial, the focus points will switch horizontally from left to right and vice versa. Personally, I do not like the fact that I have to press a button to activate focus points, so I always use the multi-controller instead, as explained in detail below.

There is one more button on the back of the camera that can be quite handy for making quick adjustments to the camera and that’s the “Q” button that is located to the right of the magnifying glass and playback buttons. I love this button, because it serves as a shortcut to get to the most important settings without having to dig through the many menu items. It gives you access to the exposure triangle, exposure and flash exposure compensation, WiFi, picture styles, white balance + white balance shift, auto lighting optimizer, custom controls, AF operation, AF point selection, drive mode, metering mode and image size / quality settings. So this button is a great shortcut to seeing a summary of all settings on the camera that are currently applied. From here, you can override the top buttons easily by simply using the multi-controller on the back of the camera.

Let’s go through the camera Menu settings now.

Camera Menu 1

Here are the settings I use for Camera Menu 1, with explanations:

  • Image Quality: RAW – I always recommend to shoot in RAW format. As explained in my RAW versus JPEG article, there is a huge difference between RAW and JPEG. With RAW, you also do not have to worry about other camera settings such as picture styles, white balance and lighting optimizer, because you can modify those in post-processing.
  • Beep: Disable – leave this disabled, since the camera will beep every time focus is achieved, which is annoying.
  • Release shutter without card: OFF / Disable – you do not want the camera to fire without a memory card, in case you forget to insert one.
  • Image review: 2 sec – I leave this at the default 2 seconds. After you take an image, it will be shown on the rear LCD for 2 seconds. If you want to preserve the battery life, you can turn this off as well.

Camera Menu 2

  • Lens aberration correction:
    • Peripheral illumin.: Disable
    • Chromatic aberration: Disable

    I usually leave both disabled, because lens corrections are only relevant to JPEG images. If you are a JPEG shooter, leaving these on will reduce vignetting and chromatic aberration.

  • External Speedlite control: default – leave this at default, unless you want to change flash behavior. Some settings will not work unless you attach a compatible flash unit.
  • Mirror lockup: OFF – unless you want to reduce vibrations from the camera when the mirror is raised (when shooting at very low shutter speeds on a tripod), leave this turned off. When mirror lockup is on, pressing the shutter release or firing the camera with a remote will raise the mirror and the second time you trigger the shutter will start the exposure, then lower the mirror at the end of the exposure.

Camera Menu 3

  • Expo.comp./AEB: 0 – this is for setting exposure compensation or exposure bracketing. I would not bother with setting exposure compensation through the menu, since you can do it much quicker with the large rotary dial on the back of the camera
  • ISO speed settings:
    • ISO speed: Auto – as explained earlier, I like to use the Auto ISO feature, since I do not have to worry about the exposure.
    • ISO speed range: 100-25600 – this setting affects what you are able to see when changing ISO through the ISO button or through the Quick menu. I want to keep the entire range for ISO selection, so I leave it at 100-25600 range.
    • Auto ISO range: 100-6400 – now this setting is particularly useful when shooting in “Auto ISO” mode. I am not comfortable with noise above ISO 6400 on the 6D, so I keep the maximum range limited to ISO 6400.
    • Min. shutter spd.: Auto – with the “Auto” setting, the camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed of the camera to the current focal length of the lens. When using the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art, I noticed that the camera would toggle between 1/40 and 1/50th of a second. For steady hands and good posture, this might be sufficient. However, if you have shaky hands, then the “Auto” setting might not do justice to keep you away from camera shake. If you notice blur in your images, I would change this from “Auto” to something faster than the focal length of the lens. For example, for the same Sigma 50mm lens, setting the minimum shutter speed to 1/60 might be better than 1/40 or 1/50th of a second. And if you set it to 1/125, it will be plenty even for shaky hands. Unfortunately, unlike Nikon, Canon does not allow for automatic “faster” or “slower” compensations and you are limited to 1/250 shutter speed maximum. This is a deal breaker for sports and wildlife photographers, because they have no options for fast shutter speeds like 1/2000. For those particular situations, you will probably be better off turning Auto ISO off.
  • Auto Lighting Optimizer: OFF – ALO settings are only applicable to JPEG images and I usually keep them turned off.
  • White balance: AWB – Just like ALO, white balance setting also does not matter, as you can adjust it later in post-processing.
  • Custom White Balance – unless you have a gray card to set custom white balance, skip this setting.
  • WB Shift/Bkt.: 0,0/±0 – don’t mess with this unless you know what you are doing.
  • Color space: Adobe RGB – although color space does not matter for RAW images, Adobe RGB gives a slightly more accurate histogram to determine the correct exposure (since the camera shows histogram based on camera-rendered JPEG image, even if you shoot exclusively in RAW).

Camera Menu 4

  • Picture Style: Standard – does not matter for shooting RAW images. I set mine to “Standard” and use the Standard camera profile in Lightroom for consistency. For more details about this, check out my article “how to get accurate Canon colors.”
  • Long exp. noise reduction: OFF – I leave this off, but you might want to turn it on if you are planning to shoot very long exposures such as when doing astrophotography.
  • High ISO speed NR: OFF – another one I leave off, as it only affects JPEG images.
  • Highlight tone priority: OFF – unlike Auto Lighting Optimizer (ALO), Highlight tone priority does affect RAW data, since it actually underexposes an image to recover highlights. Unless you shoot JPEG, instead of letting the camera underexpose images with HTP to keep highlight details, I would recommend to properly expose images and even slightly over-expose, then recover the data in post. This technique is known as “Exposing to the right” and it gives you better results, especially when dealing with noise.
  • Dust Delete Data – this is used for removing dust in images if you have dust particles on the image sensor. I never use this feature, since I prefer cleaning the camera sensor instead.
  • Multiple exposure: Disable – this is used for creative photography when stacking photos on top of each other.
  • HDR Mode: Disable HDR – this is automatically disabled when you choose RAW format.

Live View Menu 1 and 2

Live View settings do not affect images, so I usually leave them at default settings.

Movie Menu 1 and 2

If you have the Live View switch on the back of the camera to “Movie” mode (red camera), instead of the above Live View menus you will see two movie menus. I don’t shoot video, so these are also set to default settings.

Playback Menu 1 and 2

Playback menus are used for altering images after they are captured. I normally do not mess with these and leave the settings in Menu 1 and 2 at default. The only setting I do change is in Playback Menu 2 – Image jump with rotary dial. I personally do not like the fact that the images jump by 10 by default when rotating the top dial, so I set it to “Display images one by one” instead. This way, whether I turn the top or the rear dials, both will display images one by one without skipping.

Playback Menu 3

The playback menu 3 has some important settings that I often use:

  • Highlight alert: Enable – this will show the “blinkies” when there is overexposure / loss of highlight data.
  • AF point disp. Enable – when displaying images, I want to see where the focus point was.
  • Playback grid: Off – it is nice to see a grid in the viewfinder, but I don’t want to see it after the image is captured.
  • Histogram disp: Brightness – if you want to see a histogram for each color channel, pick RGB.
  • Movie play count: Rec time.
  • Magnificatn (apx): Actual size – this allows me to see 100% crop when I press the magnification button when playing back images.
  • Ctrl over HDMI: Disable.

Setup Menu 1

  • Select folder – you can use an existing folder or create a new one where photos will be stored.
  • File numbering: Continuous – I want the camera to increment file numbers even if I change the memory card.
  • Auto rotate: On (middle setting) – rotating vertical images in landscape view makes them appear much smaller. I prefer the camera to write the orientation to images, but not actually rotate them when displaying.
  • Format card – used for formatting the inserted memory card.

Setup Menu 2

  • Auto power off: 1 min – I leave it at 1 minute to turn off the camera when it is not in use.
  • LCD brightness: Middle – default is good, although you might want to increase or decrease brightness depending on shooting conditions.
  • LCD off/on btn: Remains on – this is used for displaying the information screen. I don’t use the information screen, so the setting is not important.
  • Date/Time/Zone: make sure to keep the date and time zone settings accurate.
  • Language: English.
  • GPS: Disable – I enable GPS when traveling and turn it off if I need to preserve battery life. It is a neat feature that I wish all other cameras had!

Setup Menu 3

  • Video system: NTSC.
  • Feature guide: Enable.
  • INFO button display options: All checked – good for looking at important camera settings and the level works pretty well for shooting on a tripod.
  • Wi-Fi: Disable – keep this disabled to preserve battery life and only enable when you need to transmit images or control the camera remotely.
  • Wi-Fi function – Wi-Fi-specific functions.

Setup Menu 4

  • Sensor cleaning:
    • Auto cleaning: Enable – the camera will shake off dust when turned on or off.
    • Clean now – to clean the sensor now.
    • Clean manually – this is different than the above options, since it is used for manually cleaning the sensor. The mirror will lock up and you can proceed to cleaning the sensor.
  • Battery info. – shows battery level.
  • Certification Logo Display – displays certification logos.
  • Custom shooting mode (C1, C2) – there are two C1 and C2 setting banks on the shooting mode dial as previously covered. Once you set appropriate settings for a given scenario, you can save them in these two modes.
    • Register settings – this will allow to save your current settings to either C1 or C2 shooting mode. Once saved, all you have to do is switch to the appropriate mode and the settings will be retrieved. I usually save two different scenarios – one for landscapes and one for people. For C1 (landscapes), I have Auto ISO turned off, set to ISO 100. Exposure mode is set to Manual (M). AF mode is set to One Shot. For C2 (people), I keep Auto ISO on, with exposure mode set to Aperture Priority (Av) and AF mode set to AI Focus.
    • Clear settings – used to clear the above-mentioned modes and revert to defaults.
    • Auto update set.: Disable – I do not want the camera to automatically save adjustments in C1 or C2 modes. This way, if I change a setting, it is only a temporary change. If I need to make a permanent change, I go to “Register settings” menu above.
  • Clean all camera settings – this will reset everything on the camera and revert to factory defaults.
  • Copyright information – I always put my name and copyright details when I first setup the camera.
  • Camera firmware ver – displays current camera firmware.

Custom Functions I: Exposure

Custom Functions menu is used to fine tune the many parameters of the camera. Some of them are very important and should not be messed with, while others make it easier to use the camera. Let’s go through each one of them, one by one.

  • Exposure level increments: 1/3 stop – this will allow adjusting the exposure in 1/3 or 1/2 increments. I prefer 1/3 increments.
  • ISO speed setting increments: 1/3 stop – same here for ISO.
  • Bracketing auto cancel: On – if you turn bracketing on, the setting will not be permanent – it will turn itself off when you turn off the camera.
  • Bracketing sequence: -, 0, + – I prefer bracketing in this order.
  • Number of bracketed shots: 3 shots – depends on how you bracket. I usually go between 3 and 5 shots.
  • Safety shift: Shutter speed / Aperture – used when the camera maxes out in Aperture Priority (Av) or Shutter Priority (Tv) modes. For example, if the exposure is too bright and the camera is also maxed out at 1/4000 shutter speed, with this setting the camera will stop down the aperture to balance out the exposure.

Custom Functions II: Autofocus

  • Tracking sensitivity: 0 – useful for tracking moving subjects in AI Servo mode. Move the slider towards Locked on to keep focus on the subject and towards Responsive to quickly switch between subjects. I leave it at 0.
  • Accel./decel. tracking: 0 – leave this at 0. This setting is used for making quicker focus adjustments to subject tracking.
  • AI Servo 1st image priority: Middle – if set to Release, the camera will fire even if the subject is not in focus. If set to Focus, the camera will not fire until the subject is in focus. The Middle setting is a combination of the two and the camera will try to focus as quickly as possible before taking the shot.
  • AI Servo 2nd image priority: Middle – for the second and other shots in the sequence, the camera can be set either to “Speed” or to “Focus”. In “Speed” mode, the camera will fire continuously, whether the subject is in focus or not. In “Focus” mode, the camera will only fire if the subject is in focus.
  • AF-assist beam firing: IR AF assist beam only – if you have an external flash unit, this setting allows setting the type of AF assist beam to fire, if it has one. Since infrared is more accurate than a regular lamp, I prefer to keep it on IR AF assist.
  • Lens drive when AF impossible: Continue focus search – if focus cannot be achieved, the camera can continue searching or stop. I prefer to let the camera continue to search.
  • Orientation linked AF point: Same for both vertic./horiz. – you can set different autofocus points depending on the orientation of the camera. I set this to be the same.
  • Superimposed display: On – I want AF points to light up in red when I half-press the shutter button or press AF-ON, so I leave this at “On”.
  • AF Microadjustment: Disable – unless you want to specifically adjust phase detection autofocus, do not touch this setting. If you want to make AF adjustments, read my detailed article on calibrating lenses.

Custom Functions III: Operation/Others

  • Dial direction during Tv/Av: Normal – I leave this at normal, but if you want to flip the direction of dials, you can set it to “Reverse direction”.
  • Focusing Screen: Eg – A II – default, only applicable if you are using an optional focusing screen.
  • Multi function lock: Quick Control Dial – this controls what gets locked when the Lock switch on the back of the camera is used. I leave this on the default Quick Control dial.
  • Warnings ! in viewfinder: When monochrome set, When WB is corrected – shows an exclamation mark in the viewfinder if these conditions are met.
  • Custom Controls – this is one of the most important menus in the camera, as it allows customizing function button behavior. Let’s go through each one by one: