Getting the most from Canon’s EOS Utility software
© George Cairns
The EOS Solutions disc that comes with every Canon DSLR contains a useful suite of tools. CPN writer George Cairns explores the disc’s EOS Utility application that, unlike third party software, is designed to work specifically with your Canon camera...
The EOS Utility application is fully compatible with all EOS DSLRs, right back to the EOS D30 from 2000. In this article we’ll take a look at how the Utility software can be used to import photographs and movies from your Canon DSLR and even control various camera settings remotely.
Depending on your camera model it will need to be connected to your computer by either USB or Firewire cable, through the camera’s WiFi mode (on the EOS 6D) or via WFT transmitter. If your camera doesn’t talk to your computer then you may need to ensure that the correct setting is selected in the camera’s 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, launch the EOS Utility and switch on the camera. You will then be presented with the main window.
Manually downloading images from a memory card can be a slow and tedious process - selecting a location, creating folders, working out a naming scheme... the list goes on. The EOS Utility speeds up the importing and storing process and makes it more efficient. Click ‘Control Camera’ in the EOS Utility’s main window and the program provides two options for downloading files from the camera – it will download everything as a batch, or you can manually select which images or video clips to import. It will then automatically create and name folders for you to then store your imported photos and video clips.
Clicking on the ‘Starts to download images’ button downloads all the images and video clips on the camera’s memory card to your computer. By default, images are saved in your Mac or PC’s Pictures folder and sorted by date into sub folders. By default all JPEG images are opened in Digital Photo Professional after download, but you can set the application’s Linked Software preference to launch DPP after you’ve imported other formats such as .CRW or .CR2 format RAW files. After the batch download has been completed, the images will be displayed in the main window of Digital Photo Professional for you to then edit. You can also set the Linked Software preference menu to make EOS Utility launch alternative Canon applications such as ImageBrowser EX.
The EOS Utility’s Preferences button enables you choose a different Destination Folder (such as one on a portable hard drive). This is useful, as your computer’s Pictures folder will soon get clogged up with high-resolution stills and video clips. You can also refine how an imported shot is labelled – in the drop down menu go to Destination Folder, click Customise and choose labelling criteria such as Shooting Date and Owner’s Name. This is a handy option if several photographers are shooting in the studio and downloading their images to the same computer.
You can customise the Download Images Preferences to import all images on the card, images that have yet to be downloaded or even images whose print order settings were specified with the camera’s menu settings. You can also use Preferences to fine-tune the way EOS Utility works in Remote Shooting mode, such as getting it to sync with the camera when you start or stop Live View. We’ll talk more about the app’s powerful Remote Shooting options later.
Downloading all the images on the card can be convenient, as you can do other things while they import. You may save editing time – and hard drive storage space – by using the EOS Utility to select and download the best images to your computer (while leaving the unwanted shots on the card). The ‘Lets you select and download images’ button provides thumbnail previews of all the images on the camera’s memory card and allows you to tick boxes to indicate which shots should be downloaded.
A drop down filter menu at the top right of the EOS Utility enables you to fine-tune your import criteria. You can select all protected images from the camera, for example, or choose shots that you rated in-camera instead. Once you’ve selected the desired thumbnails you can choose to show only the selected images in the EOS Utility window.
After you’ve refined your image import selection, click Download. A dialogue box will appear, enabling you set the destination folder and the file naming convention. Click OK. A Quick Preview window will then show you a larger version of each photograph as it is downloaded from the camera into the relevant folder on your hard drive.
EOS cameras have increasingly sophisticated options for setting picture styles, white balance presets and other menu options. While it is possible to set all options in the camera menu, it’s often more convenient to work on the larger computer monitor and make the changes remotely using the EOS Utility. Take the task of assigning copyright details to your shots in-camera. It can be a time-consuming chore to use the camera’s cross keys to select a letter and then press Set to enter it. Even typing a name on an EOS 650D’s touch sensitive screen can be fiddly due to its relatively small size.
Once you’ve connected your camera to your computer, launch the EOS Utility software and go to the Camera Settings/Remote Shooting panel. After clicking the set-up menu icon you can then use your computer’s keyboard to input the Owner’s name and add Copyright details such as your website’s URL. This information will then be stored in the metadata of all the photographs that you capture in-camera.
Your EOS DSLR’s Picture Styles feature provides a powerful way to enhance the look of your images. When working with JPEG files, the changes to colour, tone and sharpness are made ‘permanent’, but by shooting in RAW and opening the images in Digital Photo Professional (DPP), the look of the files can be edited. EOS Utility enables you to customise in-camera Picture Styles by clicking on the Shooting menu tab. You can then click on the Picture Style label and modify default styles such as Monochrome. This provides a quick and easy way to fine-tune the Monochrome Picture Style’s Contrast and Sharpness sliders, as well as changing filter effects to lighten or darken greyscale tones of specific colours in the original scene. This mimics the traditional technique of placing coloured filters over the lens when shooting in black and white.
EOS DSLRs such as the EOS 650D have a My Menu settings tab that stores your six favourite menu commands. The EOS Utility’s Camera Settings tab enables you to customise your My Menu command with ease, thanks to a handy list of all the menu options available. Don’t forget to hit the Apply to Camera button when you’ve customised My Menu. Other changes that you make to Picture Styles or copyright information will also be uploaded to your camera.
Remote capture with Live View
One of the most useful and powerful functions of the EOS Utility is a feature which allows you to remotely control properties such as your camera’s aperture, shutter speed, ISO and shutter button from your computer. This is especially useful if you’re shooting in a studio and want to preview your tethered camera’s composition on a larger screen and control other camera settings from your Mac or PC.
Thanks to EOS DSLRs with Live View, you can click the EOS Utility’s Live View Shoot button and view the video feed in the Remote Live View window on your computer. You can use the Remote Live View window to make the camera focus on a particular object just by clicking on it with your cursor. The Remote Live View window even supports Face Detection and Tracking if your camera has those features. You can also remotely control White Balance settings, turn on a depth-of-field preview and use the Compose window’s tools to overlay a photo from your hard drive into the Live View scene to help with composition. There’s also a selection of aspect ratio overlays available to help you compose your shots, as well as the option to summon a handy Rule of Thirds grid.
You can also jump to Remote Movie Recording mode to record video via remote control and even take control of audio recording features such as sound levels. You can even activate a wind filter when shooting outdoors with your camera tethered to a laptop. When you’re happy with your sound levels, click the red recording button in the Remote Live View window to start EOS Movie recording.
If you want to capture a series of stills taken at precise intervals and then run them together as a timelapse sequence, you could spend money on a programmable remote control timer device. Alternatively, you can tether your camera to a laptop, fire up the free EOS Utility application and click the Remote Shooting label. A little stopwatch icon launches the Timer Shooting window and from here you can set your camera to shoot at regular intervals, from one shot every five seconds to a single shot every 99 minutes and 59 seconds. EOS Utility will record your series of shots straight into your Picture folder, so you don’t need to worry about the camera’s memory card filling up.
Once you’ve decided on a timer interval just click Start and let the application do the rest. You can then stitch the series of stills into a timelapse movie using software such as iMovie.
You can also use the Timer Shooting window to remote control the duration of your EOS DSLR’s Bulb exposure and capture moving lights from passing cars for example, or star trails in the night sky.
The EOS Utility’s Accessories tab enables you to launch other Canon apps such as the Picture Style Editor. This enables you to customise various default Picture Style settings. You can also use Accessories to launch the WFT Utility, which is used to set parameters for Wireless File Transfer. Once the chosen accessory application has been opened, EOS Utility shuts itself down.
Monitor Folder Function
The EOS Utility’s Monitor Folder option is designed to work with dedicated Canon Wireless Transmitters such as the WFT-E1, WFT-E2 and WFT-E3.
If you want to enhance your in-camera slideshows with music, then click on the Register Background Music label in the EOS Utility’s Main Window. By default you’ll find five copyright-free tracks from the EOS Sample Music folder. You can click Add and browse to other audio files on your computer, too – just click on a track and then click the arrow icons to move it up or down in the playlist. When you’ve chosen a playlist, click Register to transfer the files to your connected camera’s memory card. You can then go to your camera’s Slideshow menu and turn Background music to On.