Built-in GPS

The GPS unit built into the EOS 6D includes exactly the same functionality as on the company's compacts - it can embed location data into every image, and has a logging function that can keep track of where you've been through the day. This, we suspect, will be quite popular with landscape and travel photographers, as this GPS data can be read by image management software like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4. Overall the function works very well, but like the 6D's Wi-Fi functionality, be aware that it does drain the battery over time.

In the GPS submenu you can adjust the rate at which the camera updates its satellite position, with longer intervals presumably extending battery life. You can enable GPS log data to be saved independently of the image files. This information can then be downloaded to the SD card as a text file, for use in third party applications.

While there is no shortage of third party apps that support GPS functionality, you can also leverage this data with Canon's supplied Map Utility software. Powered by Google Maps, it allows you to view image locations on a map and even add location metadata manually to images that lack it.

Images tagged by the 6D with GPS metadata can be displayed in a Google-powered map in either Map... ...or Satellite view. You can zoom in and out, pan, perform address searches and even click to web pages via hyperlinks.
For images with no GPS data, you can manually tag them by clicking on the appropriate location on the map. After hitting the 'save' button the image is now embedded with GPS coordinates that can be read by other GPS-aware applications.

HDR mode

The 6D, like the 5D Mark III, goes beyond Canon's traditional Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) mode in dealing with high contrast scenes. A multi exposure HDR mode is available that aims to expand the dynamic range to include more information in both highlight and shadow regions. When enabled, three consecutive images are captured - each at different exposure - with the files then merged into a single composite image.

Unlike on the 5D Mark III, however, HDR is a JPEG-only mode on the 6D. And while you can specify the bracketing range of the three exposures, from +1, +2 or +3 EV, you can not access the individual bracketed images, as Canon saw fit to restrict this very helpful feature to the more expensive 5D Mark III, for little apparent reason other than protecting sales of the higher-priced EOS model.

In the samples below, we compare HDR mode with a normal single shot exposure. Both images were shot in aperture priority but you'll notice the HDR enabled image was shot at a higher shutter speed. With the camera set to Auto ISO, the 6D deliberately raises the ISO in order to minimize camera shake during the multi-image capture. Once the exposures have been captured, the three files are blended into a single composite image containing areas of highlight and shadow that would have exceeded the dynamic range of a single capture.

HDR enabled: ISO 400, 1/60 sec. F8 Single exposure: ISO 100, 1/250 sec. F8
100% crops

As you can see, HDR mode is able to preserve real information in the highlights that had been clipped in the single-shot exposure. The shadows appear ever so slightly more open in this mode, but clearly the emphasis is on maintaining highlight detail. With a moderately steady hand, the composite image suffers no noticeable quality loss compared to the single shot exposure. It's not magic, but in our experience has consistently allowed for greater highlight detail without venturing too close to the polarizing 'HDR'-look popular on photo sharing sites.

Canon's implementation of HDR mode deserves some praise, with well considered options that make HDR more practical to use. Once enabled, your first option is whether HDR is employed for just the next shutter press or remains active until you explicitly disable it. This is a handy way of ensuring that you don't accidently fire off multiple frames the next time you pick up the camera if you've forgotten to turn off HDR. Your next choice is whether to let the camera choose the bracketing range or to set it manually. In shooting test images under high contrast outdoor scenes, we were generally satisfied with the automated settings the camera chose.

The final option in HDR mode is whether to have the camera auto align the images before blending them together. Doing so can result in the image being cropped out near the edges, so when you're shooting on a tripod or with steady hand-holding technique, you can disable the alignment process.

As with any shooting mode in which multiple images are blended together, HDR mode works best with static subjects. That's because any movement during the three exposures can lead to ghosting, where an object partially appears in multiple locations.