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June 2008

Getting the most from EOS Utility

Photographers often ignore the free software that comes in the box but Canon's EOS Utility software provides a wide range of functionality that can make life easier and improve your workflow. So, ignoring it is either a mistake or, at the very least, a missed opportunity!

EOS Utility is installed via the software solutions disk that’s included in the box with every EOS digital camera. It's a part of the software suite provided by Canon that also includes Digital Photo Professional (DPP). Depending on your camera model it will need to be connected to your computer by either a USB or Firewire cable. Don’t forget to go into the camera menu to ensure that the correct setting is selected in the communication menu; normally this will be set to ‘Normal’ or ‘PC connect’ (it's worth checking your user manual to be sure).

Once the correct settings are made, start EOS Utility and switch on the camera. You will be presented with the initial screen:

The main screen of EOS Utility.

The application is extremely simple to navigate and is fully compatible with all EOS DSLRs, right back to the EOS D30. The key functions of EOS Utility are easily accessible from the main menu but there are some useful options that are not obvious, so there's a definite benefit to be gained from reading the whole user manual. The user manuals for EOS Utility and the rest of the software applications provided by Canon are on the ‘EOS DIGITAL Software Instruction Manual Disk’ in the box with your camera.

Select ‘Camera Control’ from the main window of EOS Utility.

Downloading images

Image download can be slow and a real nuisance - select a location, create folders, work out a naming scheme... the list goes on. EOS Utility provides two options for downloading files from the camera – batch download and download selected - and it creates and names folder automatically.

Selecting ‘Start to download images’ batch downloads all images on the camera memory card. By default images are saved into the pictures folder on your computer and sorted by date into sub folders. After download, the images are displayed in the main window of Digital Photo Professional.

Preferences are available to change the download location, the images that are downloaded by default and the software that opens once download completes. It is also worth being aware that the default is to open DPP only for JPEG images that have been downloaded. Other file types can also be selected in preferences (see Preferences below).

Downloading all images on the card can be convenient, but it is often easier to do a basic edit by only selecting and downloading required images to the computer.

The ‘Select and download images’ function provides a preview of all images in the camera and allows the user to select the ones to be downloaded. To view the images in detail it is possible to magnify the images on the rear screen of the camera whilst it's connected to the computer - this is perfect for checking focus detail on eyes.

The screen provides an indication of those (if any) that have been previously downloaded. Check the box for the images that you require and click the download button.

A dialogue box appears to allow you to set the destination folder and the file naming. Multiple options are available to suit most needs and a preview shows how any selected naming scheme will affect the files that are to be downloaded.

© Nick Wilcox-Brown

A preview of each image is displayed as it is downloaded.


By default all JPEG images are opened in Digital Photo Professional after download. Other Canon camera formats are supported and the preferences allow these to be selected, along with the default application to view the images. Preferences allow a number of options for default locations for downloaded images, folder and file naming schemes.

When the batch download function is used, images will be downloaded to the pictures folder and placed in subfolders named according to shooting date.

The file name preference determines that the images will be automatically renamed to a scheme using shooting date and serial number, for example, 20080519_0001. This serves to provide a logical naming system and ensures that no doubling up of file names can occur.

Remote controlling an EOS-1D Mark III.

Camera settings

EOS cameras have increasingly sophisticated options for picture styles, personal white balance presets and menu options. While it is possible to set all options in the camera menus, it often makes more sense to work on the larger computer screen and to make the changes remotely.

EOS Utility is extremely easy to work with and operates in the same way as changing the menus on the camera. In most cases it is far quicker to work in the software. A good example is setting the owner name for the camera. In the software it is as simple as double clicking the name panel and typing in the name. On the camera, the whole process is prolonged as one tries to scroll backwards and forwards with the control wheel to select the correct lower and upper case letters.

Picture Styles are a powerful way to enhance the appearance of your images. Working with JPEG files, the changes made are ‘permanent’, but by shooting in RAW and opening the images in Digital Photo Professional (DPP), the files can be customised further. A good way of achieving the same level of customisation is to adjust it within either EOS Utility by selecting the preferred style and then using ‘Detail Set’ to enhance it.

The Picture Style editor that can be accessed from the EOS Utility Accessories menu provides similar options to those found on the camera and above, but adds the ability to fine tune specific colors within the image to ensure perfect accuracy, for instance to enable accurate replication of brand colours.

The functionality of EOS Utility is determined by the EOS DSLR that you use. The EOS-1 Mark III cameras and the EOS 40D have new features such as Live View and My Menu. My Menu is an invaluable feature, allowing the selection of six frequently used menu items to be grouped together for quick access.

Selecting a picture style in EOS Utility.

Customising the landscape picture style.

Changing aperture remotely with Remote Capture.

Remote capture with Live View

One of the most useful functions of EOS Utility is that which allows you to control remote capture from the computer. EOS Utility offers full control of aperture, shutter speed, ISO and remote shooting direct from the computer keyboard.

This functionality has recently become substantially more useful with the arrival of ‘Live View’, a live video feed direct from the camera sensor on the EOS 450D, the EOS 40D, the EOS-1D Mark III and the EOS-1Ds Mark III cameras. Live View is extremely powerful and allows real–time composition and precision focus setting to the existing camera control technologies.

As well as real-time composition and precision focus setting Live View additionally provides a preview of exposure with continuous lighting, depth of field and even a choice of crop aspect ratio - this is particularly useful on the larger sensors of the full frame EOS cameras.

For studio photographers or anyone needing to work remotely from their camera, the system is superb and so easy to set up because a simple USB cable controls it all.

© Nick Wilcox-Brown

Remote shooting Live View window.

A useful preference to be aware of for remote shooting is to ensure that images are captured to both the computer and the memory card by checking the ‘save also on the memory card’ box.

Timer shooting options

Long a feature of EOS DSLRs with various software packages, timer controlled shooting is now a powerful tool when combined with EOS Utility. It comes in various flavours depending on the camera model. Timer shooting effectively means a delayed shutter release, a longer version of the familiar and built-in self-timer setting.

Have you ever wondered how time-lapse movies are made? Now you can make your own with no more equipment than your DSLR and EOS Utility. The process is simple to execute. Click the stopwatch icon, check the ‘Interval Timer Shooting’ and enter the required values.

Careful consideration should be given to the type of activity that you are seeking to capture when setting the interval. The minimum is 5 sec and the maximum is 99 minutes, 55 seconds between frames.

Think also of the way the images will be used – within a video or as a series of stills? A sequence of a flower opening will take many hours and movement will be slow. A frame every five minutes may be sufficient. On the other hand, a time lapse of a sunrise or moving clouds for a movie may need a frame every five or 10 seconds to provide smooth motion in a sequence.

The number of shots is limited by the amount of space on the computer hard disk. Mains power for camera and computer are likely to be essential considerations. But when the options have been set, just click ‘Start’ to run the capture sequence.

Bulb Exposures

An additional feature on the latest generation of EOS cameras (the 450D, 40D, EOS-1D Mark III and EOS-1Ds Mark III) is the ability to make a ‘Bulb’ exposure.

In days gone by, there were two types of long exposure: ‘B’ and ‘T’ - Bulb and Time. For the former the shutter was held open for the necessary time, usually with a rubber bulb lens release. Exposures longer than a minute were usually done on the ‘T’ setting, where the shutter was released with a cable release and then closed again at the end of the exposure, again using the cable release. Some photographers still use such functionality with mechanical shutters, on large format cameras.

Canon has managed to combine both functionalities in the simple to use ‘Bulb exposures’. This is perfect for creating star trails in a night sky or milky surfaces on moving water.

Set the required Aperture, select the Clock icon and enter a value for the exposure time between 5 seconds and 99 minutes, 59 seconds in 1second increments. Click the black ‘Shutter’ button in the software. Remember that if long exposure noise reduction is set in the Custom Functions (it should be), the effective exposure will be doubled. The second part of the exposure is a noise subtraction process and if it is a cold winter night, the process can, at a push, be achieved in the car with a lens cap on.

Monitor Folder Function

Monitor Folder is designed to provide specific functionality for use with the dedicated Canon Wireless Transmitters - the WFT-E1, WFT-E2 and WFT-E3.

By clicking the icon, a monitor folder window appears. Browse to choose the folder where wirelessly captured images are being saved and select ‘Monitor subfolders’.

Select or create the folder where the images should be transferred (these should not be the same folder). Click the ‘folder with blue arrow’ icon. When images are captured and saved into the folder, they will automatically transferred to the second folder and then displayed in Digital Photo Professional or other, third party software.

Hidden beneath the surface is additional undocumented functionality that is explained later in this article under the 'Real World Use' heading.

The accessory view of EOS Utility.

EOS Utility and Accessories

Additional to the camera control functionality within EOS Utility is the ability to work with accessory software. Under the accessory menu is the previously described Picture Style Editor and the WFT Utility (used to set parameters for Wireless File Transfer). EOS Utility provides a simple way to access these two software applications. Once the accessory application has been opened, EOS Utility shuts itself down.

Real World Use

EOS Utility has some great functionality, but how can this be leveraged to really save some time and work in the real world? The Monitor Folder is designed to work with images downloaded by WiFi, using the Wireless File Transmitters, but the fact that it also works extremely well for downloading images to a folder is undocumented.

Many photographers will work with two cameras. Perhaps one fitted with a wideangle zoom lens and one with a portrait lens such an EF85mm f/1.2L USM. Keeping memory cards separate can be difficult. Similarly, when two or more photographers are shooting a job together, images need to be separated to ensure that they are correctly credited.

The monitored folder is placed on the desktop.

Here is how EOS Utility can help to ease the workload:

Go to ‘Control Camera’ and select ‘Monitor Folder’. A single folder has been created as a dropbox on the desktop called ‘Image Dropbox’. In EOS Utility, select the monitored folder by clicking the browse button and navigate to ‘Image Dropbox’. Check ‘monitor all subfolders’ if, for example, images are going to be copied in there from a remote storage device where they may be in subfolders corresponding to different memory cards.

Now a destination folder is needed, so click on the ‘Change’ button. This brings up an option to change the destination folder. Note: This function moves images to prevent duplicates. It does not copy them. A new folder has been created called ‘Sorted images’ on the desktop.

There is an option to ‘Customize’ the folder into which the images are moved (within ‘Sorted images’). Here images are going into a subfolder structure decided by camera model, a dash and body number.

This could easily be changed, for example, to the owner's name taken from the EXIF data stored with each image. If both users name their cameras, all the images can be downloaded into one folder and then separated out into folders based on who shot them. By adding a body number parameter to the owner, multiple cameras can be dealt with as well.

Naming files by owner’s name, shooting date and sequential number.

Finally, you also have the option to modify the file names as they are being moved.

Select the drop down in the top left of the screen, and the file name option.

Choose the ‘Customize' button to get the same customisation screen as we had before for the folders.

Here it is set to owner’s name, shooting date, and sequential number.

From now on, whenever you look at a file that’s been processed through this system, it will be located in a folder named after camera model and body number and each image will named with owners name, date and a sequential number, separated with dashes. Combined with a good set of keywords or captions, you should never lose a file again.