Two Must-Know Features on Most Cameras

July 29, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Use what you have and learn what your equipment can do.   Before I upgraded to my current camera I tasked myself to learn what every button, switch, and menu option on my previous camera had.  My first revelation was there were some buttons that I had never seen before.  It was as if someone put them on my camera right before I had declared my quest to learn about all the buttons.

I learned there were a lot of features and capabilities in the camera I had but did not know existed or how to use them.  As I inspected and watched Youtube videos I began using them.  Some features I found it was obvious I may never use so decided not to learn them. 

This blog post will be about two features that exist on my Canon t5i and also on my Canon 5D Mark IV.

1.  Back button focus

This by far was the most useful feature I discovered and was the first thing I set up on my 5D Mark IV when I got it.  Back button focus allows me to combine two focus modes into one.  To understand this better here are some excerpts from Canon DSLR Focusing Basics – How to choose the right AF mode – LensProToGo Blog

In AI Focus AF, the camera is left to make all the decisions about subject movement and when to stop or start focus. The computer inside your camera isn’t smart enough to make these decisions, so we’ll pretend this mode doesn’t exist. Trust me, your photos will be better for it!

In One-Shot mode, the camera stops focusing once it achieves focus until you release the shutter button. This is a great mode for people who like to focus and then recompose their shot. You also get a visual (or auditory) confirmation that the camera has achieved focus. The other behavior by default is that your camera won’t take a photo unless the camera thinks it's achieved focused on something. As long as you and your subject are not moving, it works great. If either of you is, then you want AI Servo.

AI Servo AF is designed to continue focusing as long as you’re half-pressing the shutter button. This means that if you or your subject is moving, the camera will continually try to keep it in focus. Unlike One-Shot mode, AI Servo mode prioritizes the release of the shutter, so you never miss a moment, but it still will take a photo of whether your subject is in focus or not.

Like I said above back button combines the best of the two:  One-Shot Mode and AI Servo AF Mode.   With back-button focus it is will take a photo of whether the subject is in focus or not so that is the feature from the AI Servo AF Mode.  However, if I don't want to track a subject and want to focus and recompose, the back-button focus mode works there as well.

2.  AEB - Automatic Exposure Bracketing

This is another feature that I also like, but don't use every time.  It is great for landscapes or when the dynamic range of light cannot be captured in a single shot.   The human eye and brain are so much more powerful than our cameras and I can demonstrate that for you right now.  The next time you are in your home or a building with windows on a bright day look out the window and notice that you can clearly see what is outside and inside without much effort.  The camera, however, will only be able to see what is inside or outside.  Not both.  But with exposure bracketing, you can take multiple photos and stack them in a program like Photoshop to make the inside and the outside visible in the final output.  Most bracketing shots are done with at least three photos, but in some cases, 4 or 5 photos may be needed.

What is really cool, is even my t5i can do this automatically for you.  Below is an example of what AEB looks like.  The first three photos are combined to make the final photo with a high dynamic range.  If you have heard of HDR photos, this is what it is all about.  Unfortunately, some overdue the HDR and really make the photo look fake.  What I am after is a better representation of what the human eye would have seen if they were with me on the photoshoot.

In this grid, you see four photos.  The top left photo is under-exposed just a little.  The top right is what the camera believes is the correct exposure.  The bottom left is slightly over-exposed.  The bottom right is a blending of the three photos using Lightroom HDR blending.  It is a subtle difference in this photo because I didn't have any deep shadows or overly bright sky to deal with.  But notice the final image has a much better color.

Automatic Exposure BracketingAutomatic Exposure BracketingAutomatic Exposure Bracketing




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