test

You are currently browsing articles tagged test.

The Nikon D750 has just been released, so I headed to the Falmouth Car Show on Cape Cod for some hands-on time to test it out, as I researched and worked on my guide to the camera, Nikon D750 Experience.

Falmouth Cape Cod lighthouse Nobska Nikon D750 review hands on
Nobska Lighthouse on Cape Cod – Woods Hole, Falmouth, Mass.

The camera performed great, and was used here with the 24-120mm f/4G lens. The handling and feel is similar to previous cameras such as the D610 and D7100, the autofocusing is quick and precise, and the Matrix Metering Mode did a great job in a wide variety of lighting and color conditions, as you can see below. The images below are all JPEG images, straight from the camera, with Auto1 WB, Standard Picture Control, and I don’t believe that Exposure Compensation was even used on any of these images. (The above image was processed.) While they could still use a little post processing tweaking, you can inspect the larger versions of these images in this Flickr Set:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dojoklo/sets/72157647479004672.

I’ll let the other sites discuss the image quality, sharpness, and noise of the D750 sensor, and instead share some user-oriented thoughts about the camera, along with some of my favorite images from the trip.

Nikon D750 JPEG test hands on tips tricks noise image quality book manual guide AF autofocus tips tricks quick start menu custom setting
1966 Ford Mustang GT Fastback – Falmouth, Mass., Cape Cod.

I made use of both the Viewfinder Grid and the Viewfinder Level (assign the Fn Button to the Level option) to help keep the compositions straight and level – though you can’t use both at once. I mostly worked in Aperture Priority Mode, typically with the aperture set at f/4 for dramatic depth of field. I assigned the Movie Record button to ISO so that I could more easily change it on the fly while shooting, even keeping the camera to my eye as my finger located the proper button. Although there is an ISO Button on the rear of the camera, I find it quicker and easier to use a top button near the Shutter Button for this.

Nikon D750 JPEG test hands on tips tricks noise image quality book manual guide AF autofocus tips tricks quick start menu custom setting
1962 Chevrolet Corvette in Honduras Maroon – Falmouth, Mass., Cape Cod.

I pulled out the articulating Monitor for a few overhead shots (not shown here). While some have said its framework seems sturdy and durable, it feels a bit delicate to me. The extended screen certainly wouldn’t survive an accidental drop, and the exposed ribbon cable seems like trouble in the making. Though if you are just using the movable screen while working on a tripod or carefully shooting, it should work and hold up just fine.

Nikon D750 JPEG test hands on tips tricks noise image quality book manual guide AF autofocus tips tricks quick start menu custom setting
1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray, Split-Window Fastback. (Notice the split-window shadow in the back of the car) – Falmouth, Mass., Cape Cod.

The Command Dials have a nice rubber texture to them, which is much more comfortable for extended use than other lower-end cameras with dials of a harder material. All the controls are pretty standard Nikon controls for the current models, and are easy to locate and use. The D750 has the handy i Button, and a new Information Display screen which works a bit differently than other current Nikon models. The i Button calls up the i Button menu during Viewfinder shooting (and Live View shooting), rather than directly changing the settings along the bottom of the screen. This is a handy way to change settings such as Image Area, Picture Control, button assignments, and Noise Reduction.

Nikon D750 JPEG test hands on tips tricks noise image quality book manual guide AF autofocus tips tricks quick start menu custom setting
1958 Chevrolet Impala – Falmouth, Mass., Cape Cod.

And when you press the Info Button to show the Information Display, you can directly change many of the camera settings as your view them on the screen. Rather than simply seeing an icon on the Information Display as you do with other Nikon models, the screen now says what the option is, and which dial to turn to change which setting. This is much more helpful than simply having to remember what dial to turn, or having to go with trial-and-error every time. For example, if you press the Info Button to illuminate the display, then press the AF-Mode button (located near the base of the lens), the screen will indicate that you turn the front Sub-Command Dial to change the AF-Area Mode, and the rear Main Dial to change the Focus Mode. A similar helpful screen appears for the other button settings such as WB, ISO, QUAL, Metering Mode, Flash, and BKT.

Nikon D750 JPEG test hands on tips tricks noise image quality book manual guide AF autofocus tips tricks quick start menu custom setting
1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT 350 Fastback – Falmouth, Mass., Cape Cod.

It is disappointing that Nikon did not include the AF-ON Button on the rear of the camera, which is used for autofocusing and back-button focusing on other models. You can still set up the AE-L/AF-L Button to be used to lock focus with or without also locking exposure, or you can set it up to perform AF-ON back-button focusing, it is not as versatile as other cameras because you don’t have separate rear buttons for exposure lock and focus lock.

As far as setting up all the the Menu and Custom Settings of the Nikon D750, I have created a comprehensive D750 Setup Guide Spreadsheet, with suggested settings for various shooting situations such as Travel, Landscape, Concert, etc. You can learn about and download the free Setup Guide Spreadsheet here:

http://blog.dojoklo.com/2014/09/25/nikon-d750-setup-guide-with-recommended-settings/

Nikon D750 JPEG test hands on tips tricks noise image quality book manual guide AF autofocus tips tricks quick start menu custom setting

1941 Oldsmobile – Falmouth, Mass., Cape Cod.

If you are considering purchasing a Nikon D750, or any lenses or accessories, please consider using my Amazon or B and H Affiliate Links, found on the left side of the page. And if you like this post and this blog, be sure to share it on forums or social media – thanks!

Learn how to take control of your D750 and the images you create, with my guide Nikon D750 Experience.

Nikon D750 JPEG test hands on tips tricks noise image quality book manual guide AF autofocus tips tricks quick start menu custom setting
1957 Dodge Custom Royal – Falmouth, Mass., Cape Cod.

The Canon 70D is hitting the stores today, and I was able to get my first hands-on experience with an actual production model.  As with most all of my posts, I will leave the “pixel peeping” to the other sites that do in-depth lab tests of image quality, noise, AF responsiveness, etc., and instead I will present some images and briefly offer some notes on the user experience. While numerous pre-production models of the EOS 70D have been on the loose (for reviewers, etc.) over the past few weeks, it does not appear that there are any major differences with the final, retail version (although the retail version is Firmware 1.1.1, so some menu bugs were likely fixed). Note that larger versions of all these images can be inspected on Flickr here.

Canon 70D  unbox unboxing book manual guide tutorial hands on tips tricks
Canon 70D Unboxing, at Newtonville Camera in Newton, Mass. (It was a body only kit, so I threw on the closest 18-135mm lens).

I’ve gotten to know the 70D very well over the past several weeks as I’ve been working on my latest Full Stop camera guide, Canon 70D Experience. This user’s guide goes beyond the manual to explain not only the functions, controls, and menus, but more importantly when and why to use them. Learn more about Canon 70D Experience at my Full Stop website here.

The Canon EOS 70D is the long-awaited upgrade to the EOS 60D. While the xxD line of Canon mid-level dSLR cameras has typically been updated every one-and-a-half years in the past, the 60D has been out for a full three years without an update! This hasn’t been a huge issue, as the 60D was very well-featured and has maintained its popularity, but none-the-less there are some welcomed improvements. I have recently written all about the camera’s specs, features, and new additions in this previous post Introducing the Canon EOS 70D, which you may wish to read first to learn about the camera’s specs, features, and improvements.

Canon 70D image quality detail sample focus autofocus hands on tips tricks
Canon 70D sample image – JPEG straight from camera. See enlarged detail below.

Canon 70D image quality detail sample focus autofocus hands on tips tricks
Canon 70D sample image – JPEG straight from camera. Enlarged detail of above image. If added sharpening is applied, the details will become even crisper.

Canon 70D image quality detail sample focus autofocus hands on tips tricks processed post-process, picture style
Canon 70D sample image – Processed version of above JPEG image.

In actual use, the 70D feels and functions great, as expected, both with a typical 18-135mm kit lens and with a bigger, heavier 24-70mm f/2.8L lens. The surface materials feel great, the camera is solid, the menus are well organized, and the controls are responsive and (for the most part) well-placed. There are a few changes in the controls from the 60D, including the relocation of a few buttons, the addition of the much more convenient Live View/ Movie Switch and button, and of course the addition of the top AF Area Selection Button to allow you to quickly change the AF Area Selection Mode (Single Point AF, Zone AF, 19-Point Automatic Selection). However, it is the addition of the Touch Screen that has the potential to make a significant difference in how you access the menus and settings. While you can still quickly change various settings using the buttons and dials on the camera body, you may soon find it is often easier to hit the [Q] Button or [Q] icon and access the settings and navigate the menus via the Quick Control Screen, using touch. The screen not only uses the multi-touch gestures that you are familiar with from your smart-phone or tablet, it is also an extremely responsive touch screen (which can even be set for more responsiveness if desired). The small menu tabs and options are easy to accurately tap, numerous settings can be changed directly from the shooting Quick Control Screen with taps and swipes, Live View and Movie autofocusing can be accomplished by touching the desired area of the screen (even during filming!), image playback can be done with multi-touch gestures just as on an iPhone, and image processing can be accomplished by making selections directly on the Playback Quick Control Screen.

Canon 70D image quality detail sample focus autofocus hands on tips tricks
Canon 70D sample image – JPEG straight from camera. See enlarged detail below.

Canon 70D image quality detail sample focus autofocus hands on tips tricks
Canon 70D sample image – JPEG straight from camera. Enlarged detail of above image. If added sharpening is applied, the details will become even crisper.

My one predicted gripe that I mentioned in the previous 70D post is indeed true – I’m a much bigger fan of the thumb-joystick Multi-Controller on the 7D and 5DIII rather than the Multi-Controller touch pad of the 60D and 70D. I find the joystick better positioned for selecting an AF Point while working through the viewfinder. Not to mention that you have to be careful when navigating menus with the 70D Multi-Controller thumb-pad and surrounding Quick Control Dial, as your finger may easily touch one or the other during an operation, and you may suddenly jump away from the menu item or settings option you were attempting to set.

What the manual fails to mention is that there are often several controls options that can be used to navigate menus, Quick Control Screens, and settings options. While the manual may tell you, for example, to press left and right on the Multi-Controller, often you can also use the top Main Dial and / or rear Quick Control Dial to accomplish the same thing. While there are some settings that require the use of one of these specific controls, you will find that with many other settings they can be used interchangeably. So be sure to try out the various options and use the controls that work most intuitively for you. There is also a nearly-hidden feature of the 70D that you may not pick up in the manual. There is a new Level icon in the Viewfinder that you can enable and then use with the camera in either the horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait) orientation, which you will likely come across. But what you may not realize is that you can use the Custom Controls to set the Depth of Field Button to enable a Level also – however, this level makes use of the autofocus points in the viewfinder rather than the Level icon. (There is also the Level on the rear LCD Monitor that can be viewed by pressing the INFO Button a couple times.)

Regarding some of the other customizations you can make to the camera’s controls, I’ve written a post called Tips and Tricks for the 70D about taking advantage of the camera’s Custom Controls. These will allow you to better set up the camera for your needs and shooting style.

Canon 70D image quality detail sample focus autofocus hands on tips tricks
Canon 70D sample image – JPEG straight from camera.

As with most current dSLR cameras, the 70D has a few menu settings “quirks” or conflicts that may drive you crazy if you are not aware why they are occurring. Most notably, some settings will be inaccessible or greyed-out in the menus, and you will not be able to select them if a “conflicting” setting is enabled. These are actually not arbitrary quirks, but are typically due to logical conflicts or camera limitations. Examples include certain functions like Multi-Shot Noise Reduction, Handheld Night Scene, HDR Backlight Control, or Live View Creative Filters, which are not accessible when the camera is set to capture files in the RAW or RAW+JPEG image format. You must then set the Image Quality to one of the JPEG-only settings. The use of Auto Exposure Bracketing, White Balance Bracketing, or Long Exposure Noise Reduction will also conflict with other settings including Multi-Shot Noise Reduction or the use of the Creative Filters. Similarly, the use of Auto Exposure Bracketing, White Balance Bracketing, Multi-Shot Noise Reduction, or Multiple Exposure will conflict with using the built-in HDR function. And Multiple Exposure cannot be set if White Balance Bracketing, Multi-Shot Noise Reduction, or HDR is set, or if Wi-Fi is enabled. In addition, Wi-Fi must be disabled in order to shoot a video.

While it is obviously not realistic for you to remember all of these conflicts, you can begin to see a pattern in the examples above. If you do encounter an inaccessible menu item, remember to check your Image Quality setting (RAW vs. JPEG), that Wi-Fi is disabled, and then make sure any of the above mentioned functions are disabled, as many of the same ones simply conflict with each other.

The 70D now offers a 3x-10x movie Digital Zoom feature, which will allow you to digitally extend the range of your lens and thus get closer to the action. However, when you enable this the framing will automatically jump to the 3X zoom. You can then use the controls or touch screen to zoom-in further. But it is important to remember that Movie Servo AF (automatic continuous focus) will not function when Digital Zoom is in use. And the camera will not make use of the advanced Dual Pixel CMOS AF phase-detection autofocusing during Digital Zoom, but rather will use the slower contrast-detection autofocusing. Also, for movie shooting, if you activate manual control of the audio level, you can adjust the level directly from the rear LCD screen via the [Q] Button or icon and then by pressing or selecting the Audio Level icon. This is an improvement over other recent models which required you to go into the menu to manually adjust the audio level.

Canon 70D  unbox unboxing book manual guide tutorial hands on tips tricks
Canon 70D Unboxing, at Newtonville Camera in Newton, Mass.

To learn more about using your Canon 70D and how to take full advantage of all its features, functions and controls – including back-button focusing, plus taking control of the autofocus system, making use of the various metering modes, and understanding the elements of exposure – have a look at my e-book guide called Canon 70D Experience. As with all my dSLR guides, Canon 70D Experience will help you to learn not only how but more importantly when and why to use the features, functions, and controls of the 70D. Learn more about the guide on my Full Stop website here.

PURCHASING: And if you are planning to purchase your Canon 70D online, please consider using my affiliate links and help support this blog – thanks!

Order your Canon EOS 70D from Amazon or B and H Photo:

Amazon:

Canon 70D – Body or with choice of kit lenses – $1,199 to $1,549

B and H Photo:

Canon 70D – Body only – $1,199

Canon 70D – with 18-135mm STM lens – $1,549

Canon 70D – with 18-55mm STM lens – $1,349

I was recently conversing with one of my readers – a Nikon D5200 user who was putting the camera through its paces for professional-level video shooting. He has given the camera a thorough field test, so I asked him to put together a review and a tutorial of the camera in regards to its video performance. So for today’s guest post, I introduce:

by Steve MacDonald of 5dhdvideo
I have recently put the Nikon D5200 through its video capability paces, in a couple of different shooting scenarios.  Scenario one was a bright sunny outdoor situation with mixtures of heavy sunlight and shaded areas, and the second was an indoor, controlled lighting situation.

Scenario one was tested with a Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 making use of a Schneider 4×4 polarizer and Schneider 4×4 1.6 graduated ND filters. Mind you, these are probably the harshest video acquisition lighting conditions.

Nikon D5200 video dslr manual movie mode
Still from dSLR video taken with the Nikon D5200, by Steve MacDonald

One of the biggest challenges of shooting with any dSLR camera is setting critical focus. One camera feature that can help is a really decent LCD screen. I found the Nikon D5200 screen to be less the stellar, but I suppose that is to be expected from a mid-level consumer camera. Using a Hoodman loupe on the back of this unit, at first, I thought the inability to see a somewhat sharp image was the kit lens. But even with a very expensive Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 zoom lens, manually achieving critical focus was challenging. Using the cameras focus assist the image never really seemed all that sharp, so it’s was a guessing game of finding what would be the sharpest focus point. I quickly abandoned using the LCD for critical focusing and used the cameras viewfinder with a right-angle viewer by Seagull. This worked much better, but it’s something I’m not used to, having come from shooting with many Canon DSLR models.

I decided to give auto-focusing a try, since, a lot of my shots that day were stationary subjects – and that feature seemed to be dead on. The only downside to using this is that in certain lighting situation, the Nikon will throw a beam of light from the AF-Assist Illuminator. Not a big deal, untill you realize the AF-Assist Illuminator is eating into your battery faster than you can imagine.  (Note – you can turn off the Built-in AF-Assist Illuminator using Custom Setting a3.) The battery life of the EN EL14 has already been documented as being less than adequate, which I can confirm.

Nikon D5200 video dslr manual movie mode
Still from dSLR video taken with the Nikon D5200, by Steve MacDonald

Another quirk I found with this Nikon is discrepancies between metering in the viewfinder then switching back to live view. Many times after setting a dead zero meter in the viewfinder and not moving anything, switching back to live view, could at times , show an almost full stop difference. Switching metering methods didn’t seem to change the situation.

We’re all familiar with the nagging Nikon situation of having to come out of live view to change aperture settings, which is indeed a pain, but what I didn’t realize is if you keep the camera pointed at your subject, it will meter that subject in live view. This brings me to the subject of trying to run and gun with this camera: in two words, very difficult. The reason being is having to come out of live view to change the aperture, making a moving subject next to impossible to keep properly exposed. The way around this is to buy manual lenses with the aperture on the barrel and not controlled by the camera. Or, one would think that is a viable work around – not so. Nikon has further limited video functions on this camera by not offering any metering with a manual lens attached, which in my opinion renders this camera far less than ideal from a professional video acquisition standpoint. (Note: the Nikon D7100 and D7000 offers the ability to register non-CPU lenses in the camera, thus allowing access to additional functions including color-matrix metering – though they suggest you make use of Center-Weighted or Spot Metering in these situations.  The D7100 and D7000 also offer the ability to assign aperture selection to the aperture ring on lenses which have this ring, thus allowing aperture change while shooting video.)

Nikon D5200 video dslr manual movie mode
Still from dSLR video taken with the Nikon D5200, by Steve MacDonald

It goes without saying, for professional use an EVF (electronic viewfinder / monitor), such as the SmallHD DP4 EVF, is pretty much a must with any DSLR. False color, peaking, and many other features they offer make for a better user experience.  Sure, you could rely on an EVF to set proper exposure levels with a manual lens attached to the D5200, but you’re going to pay a grand for a good one.

The indoor shooting scenario was a two camera interview situation, with the other camera being a Canon T3i. One feature I really liked was Nikon’s ability to tweak the White Balance presets in movie mode, in order to dial in a match between the two cameras. The picture quality of the Nikon looks very good, and the ability to output a clean HDMI will no doubt attract many. Shooting the indoor scenario was much easier, although none of the issues mentioned above disappeared.

At the end of the day, my take on this camera is that it just isn’t full equipped for demanding or professional-level videography. It takes fantastic still images, since as with any of these dSLRs, that is their main function. While its video capabilities and performance may fulfill the needs of a casual video user, there are just too many roadblocks with this camera to make it a sensible choice when it comes to professional video work. One should instead consider the additional video capabilities of the D7000 or D7100, which both improve upon some of these video shortcomings of the D5200.

Nikon D5200 video dslr manual movie mode
Still from dSLR video taken with the Nikon D5200, by Steve MacDonald

Manual exposure and white balance for the videographer with the Nikon D5200

Although the Nikon D5200 has the quirk of having to come out of live view to change aperture, and the fact it won’t meter a manual lens, this section of the article focuses on methods to help you gain proper exposure for shooting video.

Recently, I purchased two Rokinon Cine Lenses for the D5200, knowing full well the camera would not meter these lenses. If you don’t know what that means, basically, the built in light meter of the D5200 will not give you a reading with these lenses or any manual lens. My main reasons for buying these manual lenses was to avoid having to come out of live view to change the aperture, not to mention, for the price, these are great prime lenses!

So my quest after buying these Rokinon’s was to find a way to get a proper exposure, without having to resort to buying a light meter. Don’t get me wrong, having a light meter is well worth having,  but I just spent a chunk on these lenses, so that’ll have to wait. What I did buy was a Photovision one-shot target.  Targets are used to set 18% gray level, but with this particular target, it also has a white and black section outside the middle gray, so in essence, it sets your highlight and black level as well. The target works by first lighting your scene, then setting the target in front of that scene and taking a photo of the target.  You’ll want to make sure the white side of the target is towards the key light of your scene, and that the entire target is filling your screen with the white, gray, and black columns in sharp focus.  You’ll also want to make sure your shutter speed and ISO are set for your video shoot at hand. Next, set your D5200 play back display options by accessing the menu, highlighting the display icon, top icon on the left, then making sure all those options have a check mark beside them. Now, hit your playback button and bring up that photo of the target.

By clicking on the bottom portion of the multi-selector you can scroll through the various information provided for that particular photo. What you’re looking for is the histogram display. This histogram display will show you three distinct spikes. The left most spike being the black level, the middle gray, and the far right spike is your highlight. It’s this highlight we want to set so that it’s not clipping.  Clipping would have the far right spike at or very near the far right side of the histogram. Now, by adjusting your f-stop (aperture setting) for subtle changes in exposure, and taking a photo of the target after each f-stop adjustment, you’ll be able to view that photo in playback and determine if that exposure gives you the proper histogram.

After determining which histogram suits your best exposure, you’ll want to set that target photo as a custom white balance within your D5200.  Note: although by default the camera sets the last photo you’ve taken as your white balance, I choose to select the photo just to make sure its definitely the right one. You’ve now not only set a proper white balance, but you’ve also set an exposure level. One thing to keep in mind is that you need to light your scene for proper levels because the target has no idea how light or dark your subject is, it only reflects what lights you’ve set up for a particular scene.

Now, with all that being said, this target wouldn’t work in a run and gun situation, it would just take way to much time. For these types of situations, you can still utilize the histogram feature of the D5200 to get a proper exposure. To do that, set your f-stop (aperture), take a photo of your scene, review that photo and look at your histogram. If the highlights are slammed against the right side, lower your f-stop (aperture), take another photo and review it’s histogram reading.  The advantage of using the histogram in this manner, is that you’ll soon recognize what’s over exposed just by viewing it in the LCD, because you’ve been in these situations enough times and have looked at enough histograms to know what’s over exposed just from viewing your scene from the LCD.Utilizing the one-shot target, as well as, learning to read your histograms will give you a big advantage in gaining proper exposures with your Nikon D5200.

Several weeks ago I wrote a post previewing the Canon EOS 6D, based on its specs and information available at its announcement. I’ve now had some hands-on time and have done significant research on the camera and its functions and features as I work on my latest e-book camera guide Canon 6D Experience. So now I am able to share some more insight into the body, controls, features, and handling of this very nice new full frame dSLR camera. And thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass. for getting it into my hands so quickly!

Canon 6D EOS unbox unboxing new full frame dslr review preview hands on test how to use manual guide dummies
The Canon EOS 6D Unboxing – shown here with a Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens attached, not the EF 24-105mm f.4L kit lens.

The EOS 6D is first “affordable” full frame camera from Canon, priced at about $2,100. This means it is a consumer level camera that boasts an image sensor the same size as a frame 35mm film – rather than the smaller APS-C sized sensors that have been the necessary compromise for so many years in order to offer highly capable dSLRs which are still affordable to enthusiast photographers. With the availability of the 6D, many more photographers will now be able to gain the benefits of full frame photography, including the ability to use your lenses at their “intended” focal lengths (no more 1.6x crop factor) as well as obtain great image quality, resolution, and low noise at high ISO settings.

The Canon 6D is aimed at intermediate and dedicated enthusiast photographers (and dSLR beginners willing to learn!), not only with its price and body size, but also with its features and straightforward controls and menus. It is obviously not as fully-featured as the professional-level 5D Mark III, yet it contains nearly every feature that the majority of “non-pro” photographers will need. Besides the much more basic 11 point autofocus system (vs. the 61 AF points of the 5DIII), what the 6D leaves off are often very specific customization options that even some pros never get around to figuring out or using. Plus the 6D adds a couple new features previously not yet seen on a Canon dSLR such as built-in WiFi and GPS.  Most importantly, with its 20.2 megapixel sensor, the image quality of the 6D should prove to be nearly at the level of the 22.3 megapixel 5D MkIII.

As the author of dSLR user guides, my primary interest is more with the controls, features, functions, and “real world” use of any camera – as opposed to the image quality/ sensor issues (resolution, dynamic range, noise, etc.), which I leave up to DP Review, DXOMark, and other sites to examine in depth.  Although I will discuss and give examples of some of these issues in this post, I direct you these other sites to view sample/ comparison images and read detailed discussions of sensor and image quality issues.

Body: Weight and Size: The very first thing I noticed when picking up the camera is how incredibly light it is.  Granted, it was just the body only without a lens attached yet, but I was pleasantly surprised at its light weight. The body only (w/o battery) weighs a mere 1.5 lb. (680g), much lighter (relatively) than the full frame 5D Mark III (1.9 lb./860g) and the APS-C sized 7D (1.8 lb./820g).  The EOS 6D is nearly the same weight – and size – as its closest sibling the (smaller APS-C sensor-sized) EOS 60D, and truly represents an important milestone in dSLR evolution where a full-frame sensor and several advanced features fit into a similar body as an mid/upper-level consumer camera.

Body: Controls and Feel:  The controls of the 6D are similar to those of the 60D. It shares many of the same buttons (though some are relocated) as well as the thumb-pad Multi-Controller that sits inside the rear Quick Control Dial. This replaces the thumb-joystick version of this controller that was seen on all non-Rebel Canon dSLR cameras up until the 60D. Personally I am still not a fan of this thumb-pad, as the joystick is more comfortably located for autofocus selection, and I also find that I sometimes accidentally hit the thumb-pad while turning the Quick Control Dial when navigating menus, and thus suddenly jump to a different menu option. I also prefer to have the Playback and Delete buttons on the left side, so that I can access them with my left thumb, perhaps due to much more experience and muscle-memory with that set-up. However, these are simply a matter of getting use to the locations and sensitivity of the controls – after some use, muscle memory and habit typically allows one to easily use the controls they are provided with. The top Main Dial (for adjusting aperture and changing various settings) has a great “soft” feel as if made of firm rubber rather than the harder plastic of lower-end models. The rubber of the grip areas also feels great, no complaints regarding the over-all ergonomics of holding and carrying the camera, and the body feels perfectly solid.

Canon 6D EOS unbox unboxing new full frame dslr review preview controls button autofocus hands on test how to use manual guide dummies
Detail of the Canon 6D, including some of the buttons and controls.

There are several “quirks” to get used to with the 6D if you are accustomed to working with a different Canon body such as a 50D, 7D, or one of the older 5D models. Primarily, the 6D has the new single Magnify Button introduced on the 5DIII, rather than the Zoom-in/ Zoom-out buttons of previous models. Your muscle memory will definitely cause you frustration with this one for awhile until you get used to reaching for this new button rather than using the top-right rear buttons for zooming in and out during image playback. Now during image playback, you press the Magnify Button located just above the Playback Button, and then use the top Main Dial to zoom in and out. One of the advantages of this Magnify Button is that its initial magnification level is customizable from 1x to “zoom-in immediately to pixel level on the area of the image where you focused” (Actual size from selected point). Instead of pressing the Playback Button and then zooming, you can simply press the Magnify Button and immediately view the image at your zoom-level of choice. I found that I actually prefer to set the Magnify Button for 1x zoom. Then after taking an image, I can press the Playback Button to view the thumbnail of the image with the histogram (since I leave this as my default Image Playback view), or press the Magnify Button to immediately see the image full-screen. Using the two buttons, I can easily toggle between these two views.  Others will enjoy immediately zooming in on the area where they focused to ensure that it is indeed in-focus.

As with the 7D and 5DIII, the 6D has the ability to customize the various buttons and controls of the camera. I recommend that you use these Custom Functions to set the Multi-Controller to AF Point direct selection. That way you can simply use the Multi-Controller to manually select your desired AF Point instead of having to first press the AF Point Selection Button. However, if you do this, the SET Button will not select the center AF Point, as you may be used to from other cameras. Instead it will activate whichever function you set the SET Button for. But if you press the AF Point Selection Button first and then use the Multi-Controller, you can then still use the SET Button to select the center AF Point, which can be very convenient for quickly choosing this point.

The 6D has the Live View/ Movie switch and START/STOP Button which makes it quick and easy to switch between the two, start Live View, or begin Movie recording. However, this may bring you to another “quirk” (ok, it is not really a “quirk,” more a necessity of design and function, but until you realize that you may feel like it is a quirk!).  There are a couple functions that will be greyed-out in your menus if you have a certain conflicting setting option set. For example, some features will not be available (like HDR Mode) if you have the image quality set for RAW or JPEG+RAW.  You will have to switch to JPEG only in order to access these features.  Or you cannot access the Multi Shot Noise Reduction feature if you have Long Exposure Noise Reduction enabled or if you are shooting in RAW. This is bound to aggravate you at first as you try to determine why the function is greyed-out and not accessible in the menus. So, back to the Movie function, you cannot begin movie shooting if you have WiFi enabled. Thankfully with this particular incompatibility, the camera will alert you to this on the rear LCD Monitor. With the other conflicting settings, you are simply going to have to learn and remember the conflicting option.

As with the 60D, the 6D has the top row of buttons that only access one function (such as ISO or Drive Mode) rather than two functions as with previous/ other Canon models. However, this means you can press the button and then use either the top Main Dial or the rear Quick Control Dial to change the function. Or you can always use the [Q] Button and Quick Control Screen to access these functions or other functions that there is not a dedicated button for, such as Image Quality, White Balance, or Flash Exposure Compensation. And Canon has continued the use of the locking Mode Dial, which I prefer as there have been many times my 50D Mode Dial was accidentally turned when pulling the camera out of its bag.

Brief Commercial Interruption: I have completed my e-book guide to the Canon 6D, called Canon 6D Experience. The guide covers all the controls, functions, features, Menus options and Custom Function settings (with recommended settings), autofocus system, exposure, metering, and more. Plus most importantly, it explains how, when, and why to use the various controls, features, and functions of the 6D. Click the link above or the cover to learn more, preview, and purchase the guide.

Canon 6D EOS book manual dummies field guide instruction tutorial how to use learn full frame autofocus system

Use and Response: There really isn’t too much I can say about the 6D in action, as it performs as expected.  Not really any complaints, aside from my personal issues with the controls issues I described above.  The autofocus response is quick and accurate in normal use. I realize now that I was paying more attention to my photographic tasks and wasn’t paying particular attention to the AF performance as I was out and about with the camera, and didn’t specifically test the center vs. outer points, so I need to get back out and do that.  But on the other hand I didn’t notice and wasn’t limited by any issues or shortcomings.  In low light, night-time scenes, such as the in-camera Multiple Exposure image below and the in-camera HDR image above, the camera locked right on and focused well with the center and outer points. In extremely low light when using the outer points, it did not seem to react as quick and instantaneous – in my experience so far – as the highly advanced AF system of the 5DIII. For example the 5DIII could immediately find focus on the black face of a cat in very low light, while the 6D needed me to find a slightly stronger area of contrast on the kitty’s face before it locked on. But you can see from the exposure settings and the lack of contrast in the focus area of the image below, it still performed rather admirably for the situation (I focused just above the eye and recomposed slightly).

Canon 6D eos in camera hdr mode autofocus af system low light high iso hand held
Canon 6D – In-camera HDR Mode, with three images automatically combined and processed in-camera. “Adjust Dynamic Range” setting +/-1, “Auto Align” enabled, hand-held. Resulting image 1/40, f/2.8, ISO 6400. This image was also automatically geotagged with the GPS, as can be seen on Flickr.


A closer look at the above image.  I focused at about the center of this image, where the white meets the blue dome, though it may have focused on the closer branches.  Keep in mind this was handheld, for 3 images that were aligned and combined in camera.

The center cross-type AF point of the 6D is said to be even more sensitive (both in specifications and by users in real life use) than that of the 5DIII (according to Canon, the 6D center point is EV -3 while the outer points are EV +0.5; 5DIII is EV -2 all points; 60D is EV 0 all points).  Unfortunately I now realize I did not test the center point in this situation, and I will have to go back and do that.  So, I acknowledge it is premature for me to take away any conclusions about the extreme low light AF performance of center vs. outer points before I re-examine this further. Others are already saying that the center AF Point is stellar in very low light. And I did not test the AF system for tracking moving subjects using AI Servo yet. What does all this EV info mean?  If you are a wedding photographer or a concert photographer and simply need to get the shot and capture a very precise moment with no delay, then you may prefer to work with the 5D Mk III. If you are not working on assignment and perhaps have 1 extra second to re-position an outer AF point on an area of slight contrast, or else use the center AF point and recompose in dark situations, then you will certainly still be able to capture great low light shots with the 6D.

Canon 6d autofocus af low light auto focus system sample image center outer af point
Canon 6D Autofocus in low light – I had to focus just above the eye where dark meets light, and then I slightly recomposed. But as you can see from the settings, it was very low light, and that type of performance is a major accomplishment for any camera: f/2.5 1/60 ISO 6400 (screenshot from DPP in order to show AF points.)


A closer look at the above image. I think due to the high ISO setting some sharpness was lost, but that could be recovered with sharpening.

WiFi: The Canon 6D is the first of their dSLR models to incorporate built-in WiFi and GPS capabilities. Neither of these is something I thought I needed – but I can already see the benefits. With the 6D you can wirelessly connect your camera to your computer, smart phone/ tablet, wireless network, printer, or TV to perform a variety of functions:

Computer: when wirelessly connected to your computer, you can make use of the included EOS Utility software to remotely control the camera (change settings and release the shutter) and save the images directly to your computer.  Previously you could do this only through the use of a USB cable.

Canon 6D wifi wireless tablet ipad iphone smartphone android share connect upload test review preview hands on
Canon 6D WiFi – Control the camera remotely with an iPhone, iPad, or tablet.  Here the aperture setting is being changed, and the focus area is positioned on the subject.

Smart Phone/ Tablet: You can also control your camera through your smart device (iPad, iPhone, Android phone or tablet) using the free EOS Remote app, and this takes it to a higher level than with EOS Utility. You can actually monitor on your device what the camera is seeing, as if you are seeing the camera’s Live View screen on your device.  You can change some settings (like aperture, shutter speed, ISO), move and resize the focus area to tell the camera where to focus, and release the shutter. You can also view the images that are on the camera’s memory card, and transfer images from your camera to the device, however they will be reduced size JPEGs.

Wireless Network – Internet Services: You can set up your camera with websites including Canon Image Gateway, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube, and directly send images or videos to these sites – straight from the camera! (Some instances like Twitter will merely share a link to the image on Canon Image Gateway, but with Facebook the actual image will appear.)

Canon 6D wifi wireless facebook share connect upload test review preview hands on
Canon 6D WiFi – Send your images directly to Facebook (or links to Twitter, or movies to YouTube) straight from the camera.

TV and Printer: You can wirelessly show a slideshow of the images on your camera with a compatible TV, or print images directly from the camera with a wireless compatible printer.

The great thing about these wireless functions is that they are actually easy to set up and use (at least in my experience). By following the simple instructions in the manuals and the prompts on the camera’s screen and the software and apps, you can just keep clicking OK (and enter your password and name your connections) as the camera finds the network or device and connects them together. The EOS Utility software also automatically installs a “device pairing” function on your computer that finds the camera and easily lets you connect. The biggest challenge was setting up the connections to the Internet sites (Facebook, Twitter)  since the instructions were not straightforward. But once you determine that you need to first connect the camera via USB to the computer then open EOS Utility, the right set-up screen is available on EOS Utility.  Then the Internet sites can be selected and registered with the camera, and it works great. There are lots of intimidating wireless set-up option screens on the camera that may have to be used if the connections to your wireless network or devices are not so straightforward.

GPS: The built-in GPS function can be enabled so that your images are automatically geotagged with data such as location and elevation. You can even log your camera’s journey – even when the camera is turned off (as long as it can “see” the satellites) – and then view the route on a Google map (with the included Map Utility software). You can set the camera to communicate with the satellites at anywhere from every 1 second to every 5 minutes, though note that this will drain the battery to some extent.

Functions and Features: The 6D has all of the features of the other current Canon dSLRs, such as in-camera HDR Mode, Multiple Exposure Mode, Handheld Night Scene mode, and various Noise Reduction features. In my standard camera use, I don’t typically have a need for many of these types of features, but they might come in handy or be fun to experiment with for many users. The image rating option is also included and can be quickly accessed during image playback. While initially this seemed unnecessary for me, I have found that it is a great time saver for marking either really good images or likely deletions, both of which require a quick review on a full size monitor once back at my computer – and now can be easily located with their 1 to 5 star rating.

Canon 6D EOS multiple exposure how to manual instruction use review preview hands on tutorial dummies guide book
Canon 6D Multiple Exposure mode used to create a multiple exposure image in-camera, combining three images. Multiple Exposure Control setting: “Average” used here, as it works best for night/ dark scenes. This image was also automatically geotagged with the built-in GPS, as can be seen on Flickr.

The fast Digic 5+ processor of the 6D also allows for some lens correction features – Peripheral Illumination Correction and Chromatic Aberration Correction – to correct for issues introduced with some lenses, several of which are pre-registered in the camera. These types of corrections can also be done with specific lens profiles in Lightroom or Photoshop, so you will need to decide if you want to make these corrections with more control in post processing.  However, if you will be outputting JPEG files, you may want to take advantage of this in-camera.  You can even apply the corrections in-camera after the fact if you have shot in RAW. There are also several other in-camera RAW processing options which will allow you to fully process the image in camera (for brightness, Picture Style, White Balance, JPEG size, etc.) and output a JPEG file for immediate use.

One other nice feature is that not only does the 6D have lens autofocus microadjustment capability to correct for minor autofocusing distance issues, but (as with the 5D Mk III) you can adjust separately for the wide end and tele end of a zoom lens! Of course this means a lot more work in your AF microadjustment process. Also, through the Custom Functions you can choose the number of shots to take during bracketing, either 3, 2, 5, or 7. This is extremely desired by HDR shooters who were previously frustrated with the 3 shot limit.

On the down-side, the 6D has a relatively slow continuous shooting speed of 4.5 frames per second, and no Low-speed and High-speed Continuous settings – unless of course you use Silent Continuous Shooting at 3fps (though be aware that use of the Silent Drive Modes can result in slight shutter lag). This slower maximum rate, along with the less sophisticated 11 point AF system may limit the camera’s appeal to sports and action shooters who need to track moving subjects. (“Less sophisticated” = not as many AF Points as the 7D or 5DIII, only 1 cross-type AF Point, not as many options to customize how it tracks and responds to moving subjects.) Action photographers should look instead at the Canon 7D or 5D Mark III.) On an unrelated note, I should also mention that the 6D has a slower 1/180 flash sync speed.

Menus and Custom Functions: The 6D has the standard menu interface and options as the other current models. You can adjust and customize a few more settings than with the 60D, but the menus are reduced and simplified a bit from the 5DIII.  For an enthusiast photographer this is generally a good thing, as the 6D contains most all of the customization options that you will need, without overwhelming you with extremely specific or advanced items that are found on the 5D Mk III. After becoming familiar with the 5DIII however, it is interesting to note what options were left off, such as additional Multiple Exposure and in-camera HDR Mode processing options, no Auto level for LCD Brightness, and the elimination of some of the extremely precise, nearly “hidden” Custom Controls sub-sub-menus and options.

But the 6D does contain the additional ISO settings used to specify the minimum and maximum ISO available for you – or the camera in Auto ISO – to select, plus the minimum shutter speed for the camera to use in Auto ISO.  If you choose to use Auto Lighting Optimizer, you can tell the camera to turn it off when shooting in M (since you will want full control of your exposures and don’t want the camera to over-ride your careful settings).  A nice feature is the Safety Shift options, where instead of merely enabling the camera to over-ride your settings if it needs to in order to obtain the proper exposure, you can specifically tell it shift either the shutter speed/ aperture setting, or the ISO setting.  Generally, I believe, it will be better to shift the ISO setting in order to obtain the exposure, as you probably intentionally selected your aperture or shutter speed. The Custom Setting for autofocus Tracking Sensitivity now helpfully lists the options as “Locked On” and “Responsive” rather than the previous vague and confusing notations, so you can tell the camera to remain locked-on to your subject or to be more responsive and begin focusing on a new subject that enters the field of view of your active AF Point.

The Orientation Linked AF Point feature is much simplified from the 7D and 5DIII in that you do not need to pre-register the desired points, but rather the camera makes use of the current, manually selected AF points for each specific camera orientation, and then returns to them when you hold the camera in that orientation.

Image Quality: I am not a pixel peeper, I am more of the “just get out there and shoot” variety, and I believe that most all the current consumer cameras – including the 6D – offer more than enough in terms of image quality and low noise for most every photography from enthusiast to semi-pro. So I will leave it up to DP Review and other sites to evaluate the image quality and sensor performance. I have shot some informal ISO tests, which can be viewed on Flickr. For pixel peepers, here is a 6400 ISO, 100% crop detail of the scene below, with no in-camera Noise Reduction or White Balance correction.

Canon 6D high iso noise full frame test review preview hands on
Canon 6D full frame sensor – high ISO noise performance. Click image to see larger version with notes of all the settings.

Video: Oops, I just realized that I forgot to discuss this in the review!  I will come back to this, but it is interesting to note that while the 6D has manual audio input level control, the Wind Filter and Attenuator, it lacks a headphone jack for monitoring audio.

Manuals: Canon has unfortunately followed the trend of not including the full printed manuals with the camera.  While the camera comes with the printed version of the basic instruction manual and “pocket guide” for the camera, plus the basic WiFi/ GPS manual, you have to access the PDF files on the included disc for the full camera manual, the full detailed manual for WiFi, plus the instruction manuals for the software including Map Utility and EOS Utility. Of course you need the full manual to properly set up and learn all the features of the camera, plus you will need to look at some of the the other manuals in order to learn how to get your camera connected to Internet services.  It is a bit frustrating not to have these at hand to quickly refer to.  Fortunately if you have an iPad or tablet, you can download the PDF version of all the manuals from the Canon website and easily read and search through them and take them with you.

However, to quickly learn all the essential and important features of the camera, how to set up the menus and Custom Functions, and learn how, when, and why to use the various controls, features, and functions of the Canon 6D, have a look at my e-book guide Canon 6D Experience.

Canon 6D EOS book manual dummies field guide instruction tutorial how to use learn full frame autofocus system

Conclusion: Overall I think the Canon 6D is an excellent dSLR camera, a very good value for the price, and should easily meet or exceed the needs of most enthusiast and dedicated photographers. It provides the wonderful possibility for a non-pro or aspiring-pro to finally shoot with an affordable full-frame camera. Landscape photographers should enjoy this, as their wide angle lenses will once again act as true wide angle lenses, and be able to capture sweeping vistas.  It should provide general, portrait, and travel photographers with the controls, features, durability, and image quality they desire. Sports, wildlife, and action photographers may not find what they need, however, due to the limited 4.5 frames per second continuous shooting speed and the less sophisticated 11 point autofocus system with only one cross-type point. edit 12/13/12DXOMark summarized it well when they concluded that the 6D “is a high-end, full-frame camera ideal for enthusiast and advanced photographers, or professional photographers looking for a second camera body. Its resolution and AF system mark it out as a camera that is aimed at those shooting portraits or landscapes, where good resolution and a full-frame sensor are key, but where the fastest AF is not as important.”

Designed as a consumer-level camera, a few features (or lack of features) – such as those mentioned – obviously prevent it from being a full-fledged professional level body for highly demanding users (at least not the primary body), but its sensor, image quality, and capabilities will certainly provide anyone with the potential to take professional quality images – and in most situations capture exactly the image you intend. And that, in the end, is the number one goal of photography!

If you enjoyed this post, please be sure to share it, mention it, or link to it!

If you are going to be ordering your Canon 6D online, please consider using my affiliate links below or on the left side of the page (Amazon, B and H, Adorama). Your camera (or other gear) will be the same price, but they will give me a small referral bonus – thanks!

Canon 6D on Amazon (body only or 24-105mm f/4L kit)

Canon 6D at B and H Photo – body only

Canon 6D at B and H Photo – with the 24-105mm f/4L IS kit lens

I got my hands on the Nikon D600 and spent the weekend playing around with it.  I have written an introductory post about it here.  I am working on a detailed specs review and comparison post, and I will have to write a “hands-on” review.  But for now I can confidently tell you, from a handling, shooting, and image quality point of view, it is a great camera.  And if I wasn’t locked into my set of Canon L lenses I would seriously consider it as an “affordable” full-frame camera for myself.  A special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass. for getting a D600 in my hands so quickly!

Nikon D600 unboxing unbox full frame FX kit lens 24-85mm dslr
Nikon D600 with 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 kit lens – unboxing

I also did an informal ISO test, and here are the JPEG images below.  You can view all these images and more ISO samples in a larger size on my Flickr site here.  All images were taken with the kit lens – 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VRLong Exposure Noise Reduction was On, and High ISO Noise Reduction was set at Norm.  As you can see, they look great up to ISO 3200, and images taken at ISO 6400 may have an acceptable amount of noise based on your shooting situation and output size and use.  At this size, they all look virtually the same, and that actually doesn’t vary much when viewing them larger (until getting up to the very high ISO settings).

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on 100

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on 800

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on 3200

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on 6400 digital noise

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on Hi 1 digital noise

If you are considering buying a Nikon D600 or any other gear, please consider using my affiliate links (below or at the left of the page) to make your purchase on Amazon, at B and H Photo, or Adorama – thanks!  The D600 is already available and shipping:

Nikon D600 on Amazon (body only or kit)

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – body only

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – with the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens

I recently returned from a trip to Guatemala, where I was taking photos for an NGO that works with children, literacy, and education. It gave me the perfect opportunity to try out a bunch of new equipment and really put it to the test in the field.


San Miguel Duenas, Guatemala – Canon 7D, 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 78mm, 1600 ISO, 1/100, f/5.6

Jump to the Custom Function section

First and foremost, it was the first time I really had the opportunity to use the Canon 7D body (I discuss the additional gear in this related post). The camera performed wonderfully in many ways, however, I did have autofocus related problems – namely a serious front focus issue. With both wide angle and telephoto L-series lenses, the camera was consistently focusing several inches or more in front of the subjects. I played around briefly with the AF Microadjustments, with the intention of taking a closer look at the situation when I returned home.  (Body was later exchanged for another that focuses properly.)

I had another, odd and unexpected complaint in the field, and that is with the high speed shooting modes. One has the choice of 3fps or 8fps, yet I needed something more like 5fps! I’ve included some images throughout the post that are straight from the camera (I merely converted from RAW to JPEG). Anyway, on to the review and instructions for many of the camera’s settings, and how and when to use them in real world situations. And at the end there is some info about video tutorials available for downloading and watching.

If any of the digital photography terms you come across in this post are unfamiliar, be sure to refer to this great glossary for assistance.

Design – The camera is extremely comfortable to hold and use, especially due to the size, shape, and material of the grip, and it felt to be designed perfectly for my hands. It is nicely weighted with both a 16-35 f/2.8L II and a 70-200 f/4, and carries well with an R-Strap attached to the camera body (the 70-200 f/4 doesn’t come with a collar). Due to its similar design and button placement as previous Canon models, it was easy to get used to changing various settings on the fly – everything from ISO right up on top to Flash Control in the menus. There are a few settings that I quickly fell into, but that I would like to experiment with a little more with before I settle permanently into. Here are a few notes, in no particular order of importance:

Av Mode – I set the camera to Av mode for 99% of the time, as that is how I typically work (because I always want to control the depth of field). About the only time I took it out was when I was experimenting in an HDR type situation where I was in Manual and bracketing, trying to properly expose both a dark colonnade I was under and the cathedral in bright sunlight beyond. I haven’t yet worked on combining the exposures, but here is a nice shot that came from that situation:


Antigua, Guatemala – Canon 7D, 16-35 f/2.8L lens at 16mm, 1600 ISO, 1/500, f/16

(edit – I added the camera and lens information to these images.  Please note that the camera settings used for these various images may not necessarily be the “best” or “ideal” settings to use in the specific situations, but camera settings are always the result of changing situations and lighting, coming from another scene, going back and forth between action and still subjects, adapting, experimenting, and sometime just plain not paying attention!)

ISO – I had high hopes for Auto ISO, thinking I would finally be given the freedom to stop worrying where I left it set, but I quickly found that in Av, I didn’t like the slow shutter speeds that were resulting when I selected the aperture and the camera selected the ISO. So I ended up never using it. I would like to experiment with it some more, and figure out if there is something I can do to keep the shutter speeds in a better range. It is wonderful to have the versatility to change ISO on the fly, but one often gets caught up in shooting, and forgets to change it to an appropriate setting, and thus sometimes the shutter speed isn’t the most ideal. So, I just have to stay in the habit of paying attention to where all three settings are as I go from indoor to out or change lenses, etc. This is aided by these settings being visible in the 7D viewfinder.

High Speed Continuous Shooting – many people marvel at the 7D’s ability to shoot 8fps in High Speed Continuous Mode. However, for my purposes on this trip, that proved far too excessive. I often shoot a burst of photos when someone or something is in motion and I want to capture the peak of action or a flattering pose, or when a gesture or facial expression might change rapidly. Unfortunately, 8fps results in a lot of unwanted files, and as I will soon address, these files are HUGE and rapidly fill up a hard drive. But sadly, the Low Speed Continuous drive setting is only 3fps, which is too slow to capture the rapid changes in a scene. The 3fps speed was one of the main drawbacks of my previous body, and a major reason for upgrading. What I need is something in between, maybe 5fps! Perhaps Canon or someone will tweek the firmware to allow this…


San Miguel Duenas, GuatemalaCanon 7D, 16-35 f/2.8L lens at 35mm, 800 ISO, 1/500, f/3.5

Custom Functions – In order for you to get the most out of the 7D, and to set it to function best how you work, you need to dig into the Custom Functions. One of the settings I use is customizing My Menu, and then having My Menu always appear first when I hit the Menu button. (My Menu Settings / Display from My Menu=enable) I played around with different items on My Menu, but have settled for now on the ones that I use most often or that I may quickly need and want to access without digging into the menus. They are:

Flash Control
– you can quickly adjust all the settings for the built in flash, external flash, wireless flash. You can even control all the setting of the 580EX II remotely – when it is not attached to your camera. Very cool.
Exposure Compensation/ AEB – exposure compensation is easy to change at any time with the big dial, so this shortcut is for using when I want to bracket (AEB).
Review Time – I found that I was often shooting away without chimping (looking at the LCD), so I often just turn off the LCD review altogether. Other times, however, I want to review.
ISO Expansion – I haven’t used this yet, but I wanted it handy in case I want to use the high ISO. I typically have this turned off because I didn’t want the camera to default to High ISO during any situations. But considering I wasn’t using Auto ISO, this all seems unnecessary, and now that I realize this, I will have to replace this with something else on the menu! I never went above 1600 ISO, which I did have to use sometimes in very dark classroom settings along with the flash. Upon quick review of those images, the lack of noise in these files is really good.
Format – this is to format the memory card in preparation for use the next day. Always reformat the card, never simply erase them or use the Erase All option if your camera had that (the 7D does not). However, after formatting, turn the dial to select another menu item so that next time you hit Menu, Format isn’t still selected and you quickly make a grave mistake of pressing it.
Highlight Tone Priority (II-3) – this is a great setting to use in a high key situation, or with a bright subject or scene. It helps to retain detail in the highlights so they don’t get blown out, such as a white wedding dress, or a snow or beach scene. I never did use it, but I keep it in this menu to remind me it is there for the day when I do need it!


Chichicastenango, Guatemala – Canon 7D, 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 155mm, 200 ISO, 1/80, f/4

Other important Custom Function Settings

(please note, this post was initially written to explain how I used these settings in a specific travel situation.  I go into more detail about each of the Custom Function settings, with clear explanations of what they are and when and why to use them, in my e-book Canon 7D Experience, which is discussed below.)

Safety Shift (I-6) – I sometimes enable this setting. It allows the camera to shift the shutter speed or aperture automatically, without your expressed permission, in order to get the shot. This is great for situations where the light suddenly and dramatically changes, such as at a concert.  However if you are carefully choosing your settings, or working with a flash, you will want to disable this so that the camera isn’t overriding your careful settings.

AI Servo Tracking Sensitivity (III-1) – This dictates how quickly focus tracking switches to another subject when it momentarily loses the initial subject, such as when another subject passes in front of it. You can choose to have it stay focused on the initial subject (Slow), or focus quickly on a new subject that moves in front of your initial subject (Fast). Typically I want to stay focused on my selected subject, and ignore someone or something that momentarily passes between us. If you want to quickly focus on different subjects at different distances, put it on fast.

AI Servo 1st/2nd (III-2) – Is your priority focusing on the subject, tracking the subject, firing off rapid shots? Look at the manual to see which situation works best for how you shoot.Personally I think 0 or 1, with the autofocus (AF) Priority, is best. (The camera makes sure it focuses first before taking the shot. It may cost you a microsecond of time however.) Regarding tracking vs. drive, I keep it at 0. Setting 0 continues to prioritize focusing possibly at the expense of speed, while setting 1 will prioritize the speed of subsequent shutter releases at the expense of focus.

AI Servo AF Tracking Method (III-3) – This works with autofocus modes where more than one AF point is active. The names of the choices are a little confusing but what they do is Setting 0 will focus on a closer subject that enters into your view, not necessarily in front of your subject. while setting 1 will remain focused on the initial subject. I keep mine on 1, since I want to stay focused on my initial subject.


San Juan del Obisbo, GuatemalaCanon 7D, 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 200mm, 100 ISO, 1/1000, f/4

AF Focus Mode (III-6) – I enabled all the AF modes in the Custom Functions – by default, several of them are not available to you unless you change that setting. I started out using Single Point, but sometimes changed to Spot for more precision. The cost of using Spot is that it may not focus as quickly or as well when hand held or with a moving subject, and is generally not necessary unless you are trying to focus on a very small, precise area, such as through a fence to a subject beyond.  I occasionally used AF Point Expansion when photographing rapidly moving children. I don’t know how other photographers work (according to a Canon rep who gave a 7D presentation at B+H, there are big name professionals who still just focus with the center point and recompose), but I always choose the focus point I want manually, using the Multi-Controller button. This takes a little longer, now that I am dealing with 19 focus points, but that enables me to quickly get the composition I want, makes sure the camera focuses on what I want it to, and to get subsequent shots without too much reframing. There is an important menu setting so that you can use the Multi-Controller directly to change the AF point without having to press the AF thumb button first – I believe it is on the screen where you can customize all the camera’s buttons. Oh, and I changed the custom settings so that all the focus points always show, and that they light up upon achieving focus, even in bright sunlight (which they would not do if you had this setting on Auto or Disable). That way I always know when it has focused.  And I set Custom Function III-7 to stop focus point selection when I reach the edge and not loop around to the other side. I’m also thrilled that the 7D has a grid display that you can turn on in the viewfinder, which helps me keep my horizons and compositions straight. The viewfinder looks pretty busy, filled up with AF points and the grid, but when you are shooting away and focusing on your subject, you don’t even notice they are there.

Single Point Focus vs. Spot Focus Size – This controls the size of the area being looked at for focusing purposes on the 7D.  With Single Point AF Area Mode, the camera is actually looking at a cross shape area (all focus points are cross type, center point is dual diagonal as well at certain apertures) that extends about 2x as big as the actual square you see in the viewfinder. With Spot AF Area Mode, the size of the cross is about the size of the square you see, I think perhaps slightly larger.  Now you might think that using Spot AF will be more accurate all the time and sounds like a great idea and will get you sharper pictures, but this is not necessarily the case.  Since Spot AF is so precise, and since autofocus works by looking for an area of contrast, Spot AF may not focus as well or as quickly in many general situations (because it may be looking at such a precise area that is all one color or  tone).

Spot AF is for when you need a really precise “focus beam” to pinpoint, for example a bird in a tree, and not the branches and leaves surrounding it and all around it, which may be closer to you and the camera.  Or if, say, you are shooting through a chain link fence and you want the camera to focus on the animal beyond and not on the fence.  If you were to use Spot AF all the time, you would have to continue to act in a slower and more precise manner, so that you ensure you are focusing on an area of contrast or a nice line.  For example, if you capture a shot of a person, you want to focus on the eye typically.  If you do this quickly with Single Point AF, you can aim at the general area of the eye and you will likely include it in the area being looked at by the camera.  However if you grab a quick shot with Spot AF, you may  be a little off and the camera is looking at an area of cheek to focus on, which will be difficult since there isn’t much contrast there.

Orientation Linked AF Point – This setting allows you to choose your favorite AF points, and when you are hold the camera horizontally or vertically, those points are automatically selected. However, it is very complicated to set, so much so that is would seem Canon doesn’t even understand it. The Canon rep did not fully explain it properly at the B+H presentation, the instructions in the manual do not work, and after 3 different instructions by email from Canon, I may finally have the correct way. I still have to try their latest directions. (note- nope, latest instructions still don’t work properly) **12/17/2009** AHA!! Here it is, finally explained in its entirety.

I also changed the button/ dial function settings so that in Manual mode, the big dial controls shutter speed and the top dial controls aperture. The default is the opposite. I changed this because I almost always shoot in Av mode, where the top dial controls aperture, so when I switch to Manual mode, I want that to remain the same.

Additional edit – August 2011:
I have written a popular e-book user’s guide for the Canon 7D
called Canon 7D Experience. It not only explains all of the features, functions, and controls of this powerful, sophisticated, and highly customizable camera, but also when and why to use them in your photography – including EVERY Menu item and Custom Function setting, with explanations and recommended settings for real-life use.  You can learn more about the guide, preview it, and purchase it here.

 

AF Microadjustments – This is a setting on the 7D which enables you to tweak the auto-focusing to your different lenses. A site about AF micro adjustments that look to be helpful is below:

http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/article_pages/cameras/1ds3_af_micoadjustment.html#Anchor-Canon-49575

Here is a micro-adjustment focus test chart you can use.

Viewfinder – The viewfinder on the 7D is big and bright and wonderful. It is nearly 100% view of the image you will capture. The aperture and shutter speed info is of course displayed below, along with the current ISO setting, which one should get in the habit of glancing at often. See the AF Focus Mode category above for more info on what you can view in the viewfinder to assist with focusing and composition.

Picture Style – I had this on Standard, since I shoot in RAW and intend to post-process, however, I would like to do a comparison of the styles to see which one best matches my visual preferences – although the Picture Styles will only affect JPEGs and, it is important to know, the image you see on your rear LCD screen when shooting RAW.


Jalapa, GuatemalaCanon 7D, 16-35 f/2.8L lens at 35mm, 800 ISO, 1/2000, f/8

File Size – I shot RAW for almost the entire trip, and quickly discovered that these files are HUGE. The files range from about 21MB to around 31MB each. I used SanDisk Extreme III 16GB cards, which worked great, and one card often lasted much of the day. I have no good reason for using SanDisk over Lexar, other than the fact that the Lexar people haven’t approached me about sponsorship… :) The Extreme III cards have been replaced by the new Extreme and Extreme Pro cards, and are thus the old ones are much cheaper at the moment, especially with current rebates. At 30MB/s, they were fast enough for the types of shooting and short bursts I was doing. However, downloading them to my computer and external HD were pretty slow using the SanDisk ImageMate CF card reader. Eventually I’m going to have to spring for a card reader that goes right into the PC slot. I used Adobe Bridge to simultaneously save the day’s files to 2 external hard drives. The 160GB Iomega Ego filled up before the trip was over, but fortunately I also had a Lacie 500GB. I am dreading the number of external hard drives I am going to have to buy for travel and for home storage, but once you go RAW, it’s hard to go back to shooting just JPEG. I’m going to have to look into the Drobo system that many rave about.

Battery Life – The battery life of the 7D is excellent. When you get new batteries, first charge them all the way. Do not recharge until they are completely drained. Do this one or two cycles. I know they say you no longer have to do this, but some claim that seasoning the batteries like this will maximize their charge life. Anyway, one battery lasted well into 2 days of shooting, maybe longer, I didn’t keep track. They just keep going, even with heavy use, chimping (LCD reviewing), frequent use of an external Speedlite flash, and use of image stabilization (IS) on the 70-200 lens. I carried 3 batteries, but probably could have gotten away with 2. The spring-loaded battery door that pops right open for quick battery changes is a nice touch.


Antigua, Guatemala – Canon 7D, 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 78mm, 100 ISO, 1/250, f/4

Automatic Sensor Cleaning – Like most good dSLRs these days, the 7D automatically cleans the sensor at start up and shut down. Since the dust that is shaken off is collected on a tiny sticky strip at the base of the sensor, it seems to me that you should hold the camera straight as this happens. I’m not sure if this is actually true, but I think I read in the manual that it even says to place the camera flat on a table as you use this, so I have gotten in the habit of holding it straight and still as I turn it off and on. Yeah! No more having to clean the sensor manually with a Rocket Blower!

Video – I did not have a chance to even experiment with the HD video on the 7D yet…so much to learn, so little time…

The next post will review all the other gear I used on the trip – the camera backpack, R-strap, accessories, etc. – and perhaps some of the other lessons learned. Read it here.

Purchasing: If you plan to buy the Canon 7D or any other camera or equipment from Amazon.com, I would appreciate it if you use my referral link by clicking on the text or logo below. Your price will be the same, and they will give me a little something for referring you, which will help support this blog. Thanks!


See and buy the Canon 7D on Amazon

And due to popular request, if you are in the UK, here is my referral link to Amazon UK.

And for those wishing to purchase from B&H Photo, Adorama, or directly from Canon just click their logos on the left side of the page.


Jalapa, GuatemalaCanon 7D, 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 200mm, 200 ISO, 1/1600, f/4

Again, be sure to check out my e-book user’s guide for the Canon 7D called Canon 7D Experience. It not only explains all the features, functions, and controls of this powerful, sophisticated, and highly customizable camera, but also when and why to use them in your photography. You can learn more about the guide, preview it, and purchase it here.

I’ve run across a nice set of video tutorials (link below) for using the Canon 7D. You can watch them online, or even download them to your camera for viewing. The one on AF Custom Fuctions is especially helpful at clarifying those setting. Be sure to look around on the Canon Digital Learning Center to find all kinds of other cool stuff about using your camera plus useful tips and instructions from pros who use them.

link to Canon 7D Video Tutorials

The distinctive voice you hear in the 7D tutorial videos is Canon guru Rudy Winston, and the photo samples are his images as well. If you are in NYC, you can often find him leading workshops and presentations at places like B+H and Adorama. I went to a wonderfully informative introduction to the 7D that he gave a B+H a month or 2 ago, and these videos are pretty much the same presentation.

Here is additional information from Canon Europe about custom functions of the 7D:

http://cpn.canon-europe.com/content/education/technical/custom_functions_eos_1d_mark_iv_and_eos_7d.do