Photography / Tips and Solutions

Canon DSLRs: Don’t Fear the Custom Settings


So, you’ve been shooting with your Canon DSLR for a while now; you’ve mastered the manual mode, even made tweaks to some of the buttons and settings to your liking, but there’s still that “Custom Functions“ menu you’ve yet to mess with. Tucked away in this section are options that can help you program the camera to function more in line with your needs, and maybe you will find that missing feature that will make your next job much easier.

Many customizable options are dedicated to making sure that you always get a properly exposed image. You can change the increments for exposure settings, such as shutter speed and aperture, from 1/3 stop to 1/2 stop. This can speed up the process of maintaining correct exposure under changing lighting conditions. ISO increments can be adjusted, as well, from 1/3 stop to full stops. This menu section is also where you can take your bracketing and HDR shooting to the next level by adjusting a variety of other settings. This includes changing the sequence of bracketed images, the number of bracketed shots (2, 3, 5, or 7), and automatically canceling bracketing upon powering off; so the next time you use your camera, your first exposure isn’t way off.

Same Exposure, New Aperture

Next, there are a couple of lesser-known custom features that can help out dramatically when you are learning about manual exposure, or if you just want to take it easy. If the auto-exposure range under which a manually selected aperture priority or shutter-speed priority setting is not able to help capture a proper exposure, “safety shift” can automatically change the otherwise manual aspect of those priority settings to avoid creating an image that is too bright or too dark. The other setting is “same exposure for new aperture.” Specifically, if you put on a new lens, attach or remove a teleconverter, or use a variable-aperture zoom lens, the camera can be set to change the shutter speed or ISO automatically to make up for the change. I see this feature as most useful for zoom lenses where the constant aperture change is not always easy to account for when working quickly.

In terms of more operational tools, Canon cameras allow users to make great use of their viewfinders with multiple warning options. These icons can be set to appear for many reasons, such as whether you are shooting in monochrome or spot metering. Each of these viewfinder warnings helps to ensure that you don’t accidentally shoot a job with the wrong settings. Here, also, is where users can tune their controls, including the ability to change dial direction for aperture and shutter speed. This can be done to make the feeling of setting those dials more natural, or simply to match other cameras you may have in your arsenal. Users can also take almost complete control over their camera with numerous buttons that are able to be programmed with a more commonly used function. And, as one final note, you can “add cropping information” to your files, which is extremely useful if you are shooting for a specific layout and want lines to double-check composition when reviewing shots.

In summary, the custom functions of your Canon DSLR should be embraced, as they can help make your images become more consistent, as well as to simply make the camera much more intuitive for you to use. So dive into your manual or just go straight to the camera to try them out.

This article was written based on the settings available in the Canon EOS 5DS R and some features may not be available in older models.