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Technical

December 2009

By David Newton

All EOS DSLR cameras feature Custom Functions that allow you to tailor the camera to the subjects you shoot and the way you like to work. Moulding the camera to yourself or your subjects ensures that when you are shooting it becomes second nature to change a setting or adjust a menu function. This makes it quicker and easier to use especially in the sort of fast paced action and sports environments that cameras like the EOS-1D Mark IV and EOS 7D will often be used in.

With each new EOS camera new Custom Functions appear or the options for existing Custom Functions are changed or added to. The EOS-1D Mark IV and EOS 7D are perfect examples of this as they both represent a very large step forward from the cameras that preceded them.

The great thing about Custom Functions is that you probably won’t need to use all of them, but they are there when required. You will find there will be some that you never have need to change and, if that is the case, you can forget about them as they deal with aspects of the camera not suitable to your subjects or shooting methods. However, it’s useful to know they’re there for the times you may step out of your normal shooting style into something different.

 

The EOS-1D Mark IV features 62 Custom Functions.

EOS-1D Mark IV

The EOS-1D Mark IV is the camera that sports and news photographers have been waiting for in earnest. It is the successor to the EOS-1D Mark III and it solidly improves upon its predecessor in just a few key areas. It’s why in terms of Custom Function options there are only four new additions - taking the total number available on the camera to 62.

CFn I-16 and CFn I-17: AE and FE Microadjustment

In most normal shooting situations you will never need to adjust either of these Custom Functions, however, there are times when it may prove useful. Essentially these settings allow you to tailor the response of the exposure meter within the camera.

If you find the standard exposure given by the camera is consistently over or under exposed, you can modify the response in 1/8th stop increments up to +/- 1stop in total. Since no two exposure meters are identical in the way they read the light, these settings can also be used to match the response of two cameras so that they provide exactly the same exposure in any given situation. This could be useful when you are photographing a subject with two or more cameras simultaneously. By matching the exposure response you can ensure they produce identically exposed images that can then be put together more easily with no adjustment required to each image independently.

 

The AE and FE microadjustment Custom Function screens.

CFn II-4: Auto Lighting Optimizer

Auto Lighting Optimizer (ALO) may seem like an inclusion from more consumer orientated cameras but it has been included on the EOS-1D Mark IV for a very good reason – it speeds up your workflow. In time sensitive situations, like submitting images to a newsdesk to a tight deadline, the image that looks best and arrives first will be used as a placeholder. If no better image comes in, that image will be used. In a professional situation this is the difference between selling an image or not.

Auto Lighting Optimizer performs in-camera processing to even out contrast and correct brightness. Combined with the use of Picture Styles, it can and make your image look its best so you can send it to the picture desk without wasting valuable time editing it first. It is especially effective in backlit situations or when shooting with flash. With four options – Standard, Strong, Low and Disable - you can experiment to find out what works best for you.

© David Newton

These two images – ALO off and ALO on - illustrate the difference that Auto Lighting Optimizer can make when evening out contrast in portraits.

CFn III-9: Multi-controller while metering

With 45 cross-type AF points, being able to select them quickly is important if you’re to capture the moment. Custom Function III-9 allows you to make use of the multi-controller to do this. Instead of having to press the AF point selection button and then use the front and rear command dial, the multi-controller can be moved to directly select any of the AF points. If you want to make use of the extra AF points (39 of which are cross-type sensitive) for freedom in composition especially when tracking moving subjects, then being able to get to any one of them with the use of only one button will make it quicker and easier to do.

CFn III-16: Orientation linked AF point

Like CFn III-9, this Custom Function is designed to make it faster for you to switch AF points when you change from shooting horizontally to vertically. If you are shooting portraits, you’ll find this very useful as it will save you from manually having to change the AF point when you switch from horizontal to vertical orientation. The camera can be configured with three different AF points that are selected automatically when you turn the camera. You can have a point for horizontal, and a point for each vertical – grip up and grip down. The only thing to be aware of is if you shoot ‘creative’ angles – the camera can detect this as a rotation and it may jump to a different AF point.

© David Newton

Both the EOS 7D and the EOS-1D Mark IV feature orientation linked AF points as a Custom Function to allow for rapid changes in the way the camera is held without needing to change AF points.

This Custom Function will also find use in sports, for example when photographing a 100m race – you can start with the camera horizontally to get the whole field in, then as you turn to a portrait shot for the winner crossing the line, the AF point can already be selected by the camera.

This Custom Function is also present on the EOS 7D, where it is CFn III-12. Here it works in the same way and allows you to select not just different AF points for each orientation, but also different AF selection modes – so for example you may have Spot AF set for shooting horizontally, AF point expansion with the grip up, and Zone AF with the grip down.

EOS 7D

 

The EOS 7D incorporates 27 Custom Functions.

The EOS 7D heralded a sea change in the EOS range. Like the original EOS 5D, it marked a new market segment that offers the performance of an EOS-1 series model with the benefits of an APS-C sensor camera. The design and build mimics the EOS-1 series of DSLR models in many areas and, fittingly for the market the camera is aimed at, it features many Custom Functions to fully customise the camera to your needs. With 27 Custom Functions, offering 70 different settings in total within them, almost all aspects of the camera can be controlled.

Most of the Custom Functions in the EOS 7D pertain to the AF system and the way it works and, in many cases, the most important ones to understand relate to how you interact with the camera.

CFn III-6: Select AF area selection mode

The EOS 7D features five different AF point selection methods – Zone, Spot, Manual, Expansion and Auto selection. These all have very discrete uses and you will find them useful in different situations – no longer are you stuck with the single central AF point and a composition with the subject in the centre.

By default, Spot AF and AF point expansion are not available and must be turned on in this Custom Function. However, it is about more than just accessing other AF modes. For example, if you discover that you only ever use Zone AF and Spot AF you can disable to others so that switching between the AF modes is quicker and easier to achieve without taking your eye from the viewfinder.

© David Newton

AF area selection allows you to choose from five different AF point selection methods such as Zone AF to track fast moving sports action.

CFn III-8 and CFn III-9: VF Display illumination and Display all AF points

One of the ‘firsts’ included in the EOS 7D is the transmissive LCD screen that removes the need to change focus screens and instead provides the ability to show or hide any of the viewfinder display information you may wish to see. CFn III-8 and III-9 control this.

When shooting in low light, it can be useful to illuminate the AF points or grid lines to make them easier to see. CFn III-8 allows to you do this by illuminating them in red. There are three options – Auto, which will illuminate the points automatically under low light conditions; Enable where they will be illuminated no matter the ambient light levels are; and Disable so you can stop them illuminating at all.

If you combine CFn III-8 with CFn III-9 you can have as busy or simple view through the viewfinder as you like. CFn III-9 lets you choose whether all AF points show up while you’re choosing an AF point only or whether they all stay on while you’re shooting as well. For some situations it may prove useful to have all the points visible all the time, but for most it will prove more beneficial to only show the active AF point as it will give you a clearer view through the viewfinder.

 

AF viewfinder display showing orientation linked AF points.

The EOS 7D is not all about Custom Functions for customising the camera though. In fact, one of the most common Custom Functions used has been moved from the Custom Function menu, where it previously appeared, and put into a more accessible area – the Custom Control screen. This is Back Button Focus. Back Button Focus is used to separate the function of the AF and Metering from the shutter button. In essence it allows you to keep the camera in AI Servo at all times and yet still focus and recompose on static subjects, by simply activating and de-activating the AF with a press of the AF-ON or AE Lock button.

The Custom Control settings, accessed from the Quick Control screen, make this even easier to set up by giving access to 10 buttons and dials on the body and providing the option to change their function. So, to set Back Button Focus on the EOS 7D, you should select the Shutter Button and choose Metering Start or AE Lock (depending on your preference) and then either the AF-ON button or AE Lock button and choosing Metering and AF Start.

 

The EOS 7D’s Custom Controls Custom Function - CFn IV-1 - allows you to customise camera controls and buttons with 10 buttons that can be reassigned to various functions.

For further ease of use the Auto Lighting Optimizer has also been removed from the EOS 7D’s Custom Function menu and moved again into the Quick Control Screen. Being easier accessed means it is quicker to change for different circumstances and it should therefore find more use in a wider variety of situations – when shooting with flash or if you have a backlit portrait to capture for example.

Overall, although many people fear Custom Functions, and may be hesitant to use them, there is no reason to be fearful. If used properly they will transform your camera from a good picture-taking tool to an extension of your body that you can use without thinking about it. They really can make the difference between getting a shot and missing it. If you do change things a little too much, then there is always the option in the Custom Function menu to ‘Clear All Custom Functions’ and return all of the settings back to factory default.