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Technical

June 2010

The EOS 7D is a camera that is packed full of new technologies but has retained Canon’s use of Custom Functions to further increase a photographer’s choice and control over a wide range of shooting options. With 27 different Custom Functions, and 70 different settings within those, it helps to understand exactly what all the Custom Functions do and why you would use them. In this article David Newton examines all of the EOS 7D’s Custom Functions and suggests when you might deploy any of them when out shooting.

 

The EOS 7D has 27 Custom Functions with 70 different settings available within those 27 Custom Functions.

As with the Custom Functions on all other EOS DSLRs the EOS 7D’s Custom Functions are separated into four groups. Group I deals with Exposure settings; Group II with Image settings, Group III with settings for Autofocus/Drive settings; and Group IV with settings for Operation/Others – that is how you interact with the camera and how it works.

Amongst the new Custom Functions on the EOS 7D are Select AF area selection mode, Manual AF point selection pattern, Viewfinder display illumination, Display all AF points, Focus display in AI Servo/MF, and AF assist beam firing. You’ll find out much more about these and the rest of this impressively specified camera’s Custom Functions by reading on...

Custom Function Group I – Exposure settings

C.Fn I -1 – Exposure level increments

This Custom Function allows you to tailor how the exposure adjustments to shutter speed and aperture are made – Option 0 (default) will allow you to change exposure settings in 1/3 stop increments, while option 1 will change it to 1/2 stop increments. If you select 1/2 stop increments, the display in both the viewfinder and on the LCD panel will show two check marks for each increment, telling you it is a half stop change. Unless you have a specific reason to change it, it is best to leave this on the default 1/3 stop setting.

 

Canon’s EOS DSLR Custom Functions fall into four categories – Exposure, Image, Autofocus/Drive and Operation/Others.

C.Fn I -2 – ISO speed setting increments

This Custom Function, like C.Fn I -1, allows you to choose whether ISO adjustments are made in 1/3 stop or 1 stop increments. Unless you specifically want to set 1 stop ISO settings, perhaps to speed up changing the ISO at the expense of some options, it’s best to leave this on the default 1/3 stop option.

C.Fn I -3 – ISO expansion

By default the EOS 7D has an ISO range from 100 to 6400. However, switching C.Fn I -3 to option 1: On will allow access to the expansion setting of H1 - ISO 12,800. This setting should only be used when you really need it, as the image quality will not be as good as at the other ISO settings.

There is no harm in enabling the setting, so you may as well leave it turned on, unless you don’t want to even be able to accidentally select the higher setting.

C.Fn I -4 – Bracketing auto cancel

If you make use of the exposure bracketing or white balance bracketing functions of the camera this Custom Function will determine whether the settings are retained or not. The default setting is ‘On’ which will forget the bracketing settings if the power switch is turned to ‘OFF’. Any exposure bracketing will also be cancelled once a flash is ready to fire after turning it on. Option 1, for ‘Off’ will mean any bracketing settings will be retained even after turning the camera off and back on again. If you turn on a flash, the exposure bracketing will be cancelled, but the exposure bracketing settings will be stored in the memory and implemented once the flash is turned off again.

C.Fn I -5 – Bracketing sequence

Like Custom Function I -4, this deals with exposure bracketing and white balance bracketing. It determines the order in which bracketed images are taken.

With the default setting 0, it will take the metered exposure, the under exposed, then over exposed.

With setting 1, it will take under exposed, then metered exposure, then over exposed.

Depending on how you have set the white balance bracketing - i.e. in either Blue/Amber (B/A) direction or Magenta/Green (M/G) direction, this will determine what under or over entails. For adjustments in the B/A direction, under will have a blue bias, over an amber bias. With adjustments to the M/G direction under will be Magenta bias, over will be green bias.

C.Fn I -6 – Safety shift

Safety shift is an automatic setting to allow the camera to change your set exposure values before a shot is taken. If you are photographing a subject where the exposure changes rapidly and erratically, it is possible that you could end up with the wrong exposure.
Imagine photographing a footballer running from a shadow area to a highlight area. If the highlight is very bright, and your shutter speed is set to 1/500sec, you may find that the aperture cannot close down enough to achieve the correct exposure.

With Safety shift set to Option 1, the camera will change your shutter speed, in this case making it faster, so you can achieve the correct exposure. This setting will have no effect if you are shooting in Manual or Program mode.

C.Fn I -7 – Flash sync speed in Av mode

By default, Av mode will try to produce a balanced fill flash result. In low light this can mean the shutter speed becomes quite long and you are at risk of camera shake. This Custom Function will stop that. The default setting or 0 will allow any shutter speed to be set between 1/250sec and 30sec. Setting 1 will choose shutter speeds from 1/250sec to 1/60sec, so you’re unlikely to get camera shake, and setting 2 will lock the shutter speed to 1/250sec.

If light levels are low, then both setting 1 and 2 will most likely result in black backgrounds to your images although setting 1 may record some ambient light at the slower end of its shutter speed range. If you are not worried about the light in the background and achieving a balanced fill flash result, then you should make use of them.

Custom Function Group II – Image settings

C.Fn II -1 – Long exposure Noise Reduction

This Custom Function lets you choose how noise reduction for long exposures is performed.

The settings are:

  • Setting 0, the default, will not perform long exposure noise reduction.
  • Setting 1, Auto, will perform noise reduction on exposures over 1sec if noise is detected.
  • Setting 2, On, will perform noise reduction on all exposures with a shutter speed of 1sec or longer.

A form of dark field subtraction carries out noise reduction, so you may have to wait between shots while the camera captures another exposure of the same length as your set shutter speed. With a shutter speed of 10 minutes, it could take up to another 10 minutes to do the noise reduction. You will be able to continue shooting, as long as the burst indicator in the viewfinder shows ‘1’ or higher.

C.Fn II -2 – High ISO speed noise reduction

This Custom Function determines how much noise reduction is performed on images shot at all ISO settings. Although it is especially useful at high ISO speeds, it will also help minimize noise in shadows at low ISO speeds as well.

© David Newton

Highlight Tone Priority (HTP), C.Fn II -3, aims to improve the tonal gradation of highlight areas in an image. HTP shifts some dynamic range from the mid-tones to the highlights to produce smoother tones, with more detail, in the bright areas. With HTP set, the ISO range will be limited to 200-6400.

The options are Standard, Low, Strong and Disable. Since noise reduction smoothes digital grain, it may also smooth some fine detail. You should therefore experiment with these settings to find out what works best for you.

If you set Option 2, strong, the maximum burst rate will decrease as the camera has to carry out more complex calculations so image data is processed more slowly.

C.Fn II -3 – Highlight Tone Priority

Highlight Tone Priority aims to improve the tonal gradation of highlight areas in an image. All cameras have a fixed dynamic range, or range from shadow to highlight, that they can capture. Highlight Tone Priority shifts some dynamic range from the mid-tones to the highlights to produce smoother tones, with more detail, in the bright areas.

With Highlight Tone Priority set, the ISO range will be limited to 200-6400 and it is indicated by a D+ symbol in the LCD display.

This setting should not be used in low light or when shooting subjects with heavy shadows as it may cause more noise to appear in those areas.

© David Newton

The Custom Function screen for C.Fn III -1 that allows you to adjust AI Servo tracking sensitivity from standard (0) to two slower settings or two faster settings.

Custom Function Group III – Autofocus/Drive settings

C.Fn III -1 – AI Servo tracking sensitivity

This Custom Function has five levels, from slow to fast. The levels are:

  • 0 = Standard sensitivity. AF will momentarily pause if the AF point sees another subject while tracking.
  • -2 = Slow. Tracking will pause for a longer period when AF is disrupted to allow you to find the original subject with the AF point.
  • -1 = Moderately slow. Pause length will be between -2 and 0.
  • +1 = Moderately fast. The AF system will respond faster to a change in subject position.
  • +2 = Fast. AF system will not pause. If the subject escapes the AF point, the camera will instantly re-focus on the area the AF point is currently covering.

The focus tracking sensitivity refers to how the camera responds and switches to another subject during focus tracking. This response sensitivity refers to how long the camera waits before switching to a new target subject when the current target subject escapes an AF point. It doesn’t adjust how quickly the autofocus tracks. The shorter the response time, the faster it will switch subjects to track a new subject. Therefore, if you want to quickly track changing subjects, set the sensitivity to a faster level.

However, if you want to track the same subject as much as possible without switching to another subject, set this sensitivity to a slower level to force the camera to continue tracking the same subject, even if a distracting subject enters the frame or if the subject is erratic and likely to escape from an AF point.

You should try each of the settings out to find the one that works best for you, but generally, you will find that setting -1 or -2 for fast moving, erratic subjects produces better results.

C.Fn III -2 – AI Servo first/second image priority

For AI Servo shooting, you can adjust the priority for the first shot or the second and subsequent shots. It deals with two issues:

  1. How quickly the camera will fire if you suddenly press the shutter button fully.
  2. If the shutter button is held down for continuous shooting, whether AI Servo AF will always take time to ensure correct focus for each shot (which may result in slowing down the drive speed), or whether the camera will always fire at top fps speed (even if proper focus cannot be ensured for each shot in the sequence).

There are four settings:

  • 0: AF priority/Tracking priority – this will give more time to achieve focus before releasing the shutter and then during continuous shooting, focus tracking will be given time to keep accurate focus.
  • 1: AF Priority/Drive speed priority – like setting 0, the first shot will prioritise focusing. However, after that the camera will try to maintain the maximum shooting speed. This is useful if the subject is large and easy to focus on, or not moving over great distances.
  • 2: Release/Drive speed priority – this will fire the shutter as quickly as possible for the first shot, not giving as much time to finding focus. For subsequent shots, the camera will continue to fire at the maximum frame rate in preference to giving time to focus driving. If you have to capture the moment at all costs, this is a good option to use.
  • 3: Release/Tracking priority – this will work like option 2, in that priority is given to releasing the shutter, but for second and subsequent images, the camera will then pass priority to focus tracking, rather than trying to maintain the maximum frame rate.
 

The Custom Function screen for C.Fn III -3 that allows you to choose AI Servo AF tracking methods from a choice of 0: Main focus point priority – with this setting, the camera will focus on any subject that appears under the main focus point, even if it is closer than the subject you were tracking. The other option is 1: Continuous AF track priority – as long as one of the expanded AF points can still detect the subject, the camera will continue to focus on it, even if there is a different subject covering the main, selected focus point.

C.Fn III -3 – AI Servo AF tracking method

With more than one AF point active, using either automatic point selection or manual point selection with AF point expansion, this Custom Function instructs the camera how to handle a second subject that may enter the focusing point area.

In some situations you may want the camera to obtain focus on whatever the closest subject is you are tracking (C.Fn III -3 -0). At other times, you may want the tracking to stay with the initial subject you focused on regardless of what else enters the focusing area, even if it is closer than the initial subject (C.Fn III -3 -1).

The options are:

  • 0: Main focus point priority – with this setting, the camera will focus on any subject that appears under the main focus point, even if it is closer than the subject you were tracking.
  • 1: Continuous AF track priority – as long as one of the expanded AF points can still detect the subject, the camera will continue to focus on it, even if there is a different subject covering the main, selected focus point.

Continuous AF track priority is effective for sports such as football or slalom skiing or anything where subjects are likely to enter the AF area in front of the subject being tracked.

Football players often cross in front of each other, which can distract the AF system. If you are tracking a player with automatic AF point selection and another player cuts in front of your main subject to tackle him, the player in front could distract the autofocus. With automatic AF point selection, the camera will select a different autofocus point in order to maintain focus on the first target subject. If the player appearing in front of the first target is at almost the same distance as the first subject, the camera may not be able to distinguish the distance difference and might lose the target subject.

The main focus point is defined as the first AF point to start focusing when using 19-point AF auto selection and AF point expansion. With Zone AF it is the active AF point.

© David Newton

Lens drive when AF impossible (C.Fn III -4) is for some situations, where there is low contrast and no detail for the camera to lock onto, when the camera may simply not be able to focus. For example, photographing a bird against a blue sky – if the AF point drifts off the bird to the sky, the camera may not be able to focus. This Custom Function allows you to choose whether the camera attempts to focus or not.

C.Fn III -4 – Lens drive when AF impossible

In some situations, the camera may simply not be able to focus. These are usually situations where there is low contrast and no detail for the camera to lock onto – a good example is photographing a bird against a blue sky – if the AF point drifts off the bird to the sky, the camera may not be able to focus.

This Custom Function allows you to choose whether the camera attempts to focus or not. If focus search is set to on, setting 1, the lens may hunt through the range. With it set to Off, setting 2, the lens will not try to acquire focus until there is something to focus on. This is useful as if the lens hunts for focus, it is possible you won’t be able to see the bird at all, even when pointing directly at it, as it could be completely out of focus. In situations like this, you should set setting 1.

If you use this setting though, remember that in low light, the camera may simply decide there is nothing to focus on and it will not try. Unless you are aware you have this set, it can be quite frustrating.

This setting is most commonly used with long telephoto and super telephoto lenses.

C.Fn III -5 – AF Microadjustment

When looking at your images, you may notice that they are not exactly in focus where you want to be. You can only tell this after looking at lots of images – you will build up a feel for whether your lens and camera focus slightly in front of where you think they should, or slightly behind.

AF Microadjustment allows you to adjust the calibration between the camera and lens to bring the plane of focus to the point you expect it to be.

The settings are Disable, Adjust all by same amount or Adjust by lens. The camera can store adjustments for up to 20 lenses at a time. This lens data is stored by lens model, not serial number so, if you have two lenses of the same model, the camera will treat them the same.

You can adjust the plane of focus by up to +/-20 steps forwards or backwards. If you find the camera requires a lot of adjustment, it is best to send it into a service centre to have the camera and lenses adjusted by computer calibration.

If you clear all the Custom Function settings, the camera will still retain any calibration you have done but the setting will be 0 – disable.

This setting is not something you should use by default. It is more for use when you are in the field; knock or drop your lens and cannot get the camera and lens to a Canon Service Centre to be recalibrated. If you think your lenses are a long way out of alignment, you should send them to a Canon Service Centre to have them properly calibrated.

© David Newton

AF point expansion and Zone AF are two of the five AF selection methods available on the EOS 7D in Custom Function III -6 – Select AF area selection method.

C.Fn III -6 – Select AF area selection method

This Custom Function allows you to choose which of the five AF point selection methods are available to you – Spot AF, Zone AF, AF point expansion, Auto AF point selection, or Single AF point selection. By default AF point expansion and Spot AF are disabled. If there are only two AF point selection methods you use, you can disable the others from here to speed up selection and avoid accidentally choosing the wrong AF area selection.

C.Fn III -7 – Manual AF point selection pattern

With 19 AF points to choose from, you may find that if you often select one of the edge AF points, it can be harder to do as you may shoot straight past to the opposite point. This Custom Function allows you to decide whether the AF point selection stops at the edges or continues to rotate around the points to the opposite side.

 

The AF point expansion options available in C.Fn III -6.

 

The Zone AF options available in C.Fn III -6.

The options are:

  • Option 0 – stops at edges. Will make it quicker and easier to choose edge AF points.
  • Option 1 – continuous. Will allow you to rotate though the points moving to opposite points quickly and easily.

This Custom Function will take affect in all AF point selection methods except Zone AF and auto AF point selection.

C.Fn III -8 – VF display illumination

The EOS 7D features an electronic illuminated viewfinder with the option to show AF points and grid patterns. This custom function controls when the grids or AF points are illuminated in red.

The options are:

  • Option 0 – Auto will light them when light levels are low.
  • Option 1 – Enable will light the displays whatever the ambient light conditions.
  • Option 2 – Disable – this will stop them showing at any point.

C.Fn III -9 – Display all AF points

Here you can choose whether all AF points are shown in the viewfinder either when shooting or during AF point selection.

The options are:

  • 0 – Disable will show all AF points during AF point selection, but only the active AF points when you’re actually shooting.
  • 1 – Enable will show all AF points both when selecting AF points and when shooting.

It is personal choice as to which you prefer though the reason for having them shown all the time is not default, because it can be distracting to the eye.

C.Fn III -10 – Focus display in AI Servo/MF

If you shoot in AI Servo or manual focus, this Custom Function will allow you to decide when the AF point and focus confirmation light will show. By default it is set to enable (0) so with Zone AF and 19 Point AF auto selection, the AF point or points that are achieving focus will light and focus track the subject. In Manual focus, the focus confirmation light will show when focus is achieved.

Option 1, Disable, will show no focus confirmation in the viewfinder with manual focus. In AI Servo with AF point expansion, Zone AF or 19-point AF auto selection, the points currently tracking the subject will not be displayed.

For most uses, it is best to leave the default setting unless you want a completely uninterrupted view through the viewfinder.

© David Newton

AF assist beam firing (C.Fn III -11) – if you are using an external Speedlite, you can choose whether to have the AF assist beam firing to help with focusing in low light or not. This setting can be over-ridden by the Custom Function on the Speedlite. On the EOS 7D, you can modify whether the AF assist beam from only the external Speedlite is used (setting 2), or, with setting 3, you can stop some flashes from firing a burst of low power strobe flash and instead rely on the IR beam only.

C.Fn III -11 – AF assist beam firing

If you are using an external Speedlite, you can choose whether to have the AF assist beam fire to help with focusing in low light or not. By default it will emit a grid, but if you are working with other photographers photographing the same subject, it is possible that another photographer may take a picture and see your AF grid if you happen to be focusing at the same time. This setting can be over-ridden by the Custom Function on the Speedlite – if the Speedlite is set to not fire, then this Custom Function in the camera will have no effect – the beam will not fire even if this Custom Function is set to have it firing.

On the EOS 7D, you can modify whether the AF assist beam from only the external Speedlite is used (setting 2), or with setting 3, you can stop some flashes from firing a burst of low power strobe flash and instead rely on the IR beam only.

C.Fn III -12 – Orientation linked AF point

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’re shooting portraits, you’ll find this especially useful as it will save you from manually having to change the AF point when you switch from horizontal to vertical orientation.

The EOS 7D 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.

This Custom Function can prove especially useful to sports photographers. 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.

The options are:

  • 0: Same for both vertical/horizontal – so the AF point will not change when you rotate the camera (this is the default setting).
  • 1: Select different AF point.

If you set option 1 and register AF points, then be aware that clearing camera settings will also clear the saved AF points and the centre point will be used for all.

C.Fn III -13 – Mirror lockup

When shooting at fairly slow shutter speeds and using a tripod, it can be advisable to use mirror lock up. This will then require two presses on the shutter release – one to raise the mirror and the second to take an image. By raising the mirror well before the exposure, any vibration caused by the mirror motion will not affect the image.

This Custom Function is best used with shutter speeds from around 1/60sec to around 1sec and should only really be used if you are using a remote release. If you don’t have a remote shutter release touching the camera will negate any advantage of mirror lockup.

Most users will actually find mirror lockup to be less useful now as Live View provides all the benefits of mirror lockup, with the added advantage of accurate focusing on the rear LCD and exposure adjustment with a live histogram.

Custom Function Group IV - Operation/Others settings

C.Fn IV -1 – Custom controls

In a break from the other cameras in the EOS range, the EOS 7D allows you to map the function of all the buttons on the camera to adjust their function to suit your needs.

The most common usage for this will be to set back-button focus. This is done by setting the function of the shutter button to either ‘Metering start’ or ‘AE Lock’, and either the AF-On button or AE Lock button to ‘Metering and AF Start’.

The function of the multifunction button can also be changed to one of Flash Exposure Lock, AE Lock, One-touch RAW+JPEG shooting or activating the electronic level in the viewfinder.

C.Fn IV -2 – Dial direction during Tv/Av

Some photographers prefer the dials on the camera to work in the opposite direction, so rotating the main dial right in Av makes the aperture larger rather than smaller. To do this, you can reverse the dial direction using C.Fn IV -2 -1.

If you activate this function, then in Manual mode, both the Main and Quick Control Dials will be reversed. In Tv and Av, only the Main dial will be reversed while the Quick Control Dial will function the same.

C.Fn IV -4 – Add aspect ratio information

If you are shooting images to fit a particular aspect ratio, you can have guides displayed during Live View and movie shooting, and the data appended to captured images for automatic cropping in Digital Photo Professional. When shooting with this setting enabled, the whole image will be captured so you can change your mind later.

The options are:

  • 0: Off
  • 1: Aspect ratio 6:6
  • 2: Aspect ratio 3:4
  • 3: Aspect ratio 4:5
  • 4: Aspect ratio 6:7
  • 5: Aspect ratio 10:12
  • 6: Aspect ratio 5:7