We have had many requests recently to publish the settings that I use with my two Canon EOS-50D bodies so here goes. Bulletins readers will note that they are almost identical to the settings that I used with my Canon EOS-40D body. I have, however, added explanations here where applicable. While some of these settings are camera specific most are generic and a good read may yield some worthwhile info for Canon users and general and even for Nikon or other brand users as many of the options are similar.
(Shown for the most part only if settings are different from the default settings).
Red Menu 1.
Quality: RAW. All serious photographers should be using RAW capture.
Red-eye: Off. Turn this on only when photographing people in low light situations.
Beep: On. I find the focus confirmation beep helpful.
Shoot w/o card: Off. Setting this to “On” can only lead to disaster. Why not take advantage of idiot-proofing?
Review time: 8 seconds. This is entirely personal preference. As I use the vertical grip with the two batteries battery life is not an issue.
Peripheral illumination correction. I do not concern myself with this at all as it prevents vignetting only with JPEGs and is much more of a problem when using full frame cameras with long lenses and wide open apertures. Various methods of dealing with vignetting in both Photoshop and in ACR (during conversion) are covered–along with tons of other great techniques and info and our complete digital workflow–in our Digital Basics File. Learn more here: http://www.birdsasart.com/digitalbasics.htm
Red Menu 2.
Color Space: Adobe RGB.
Picture Style: Neutral, customized as follows: Sharpness: 3, Contrast: 0, Saturation: -1, Color Tone: +1. With the Sharpness set at 3, I have never encountered a situation where the image is over-sharpened after conversion. The settings for Saturation and Color Tone are brand new changes that I hope will deal with the Red/Magenta cast in some images. the +1 Color Tone setting adds more Yellow (and possibly less Red). Others have had large Red/Magenta color casts; I wonder what there settings here are? Another important point, unless you are using DPP or Breezebrowser to convert, these settings are meaningless as they only affect JPEG images. If you convert with DPP or Breezebrowser the Picture Style settings are applied. If you convert with ACR (or anything else) they are not applied.
Blue Menu 2.
Highlight Alert: Enable. Working without Highlight Alert Enabled is like buying a Corvette without an engine. Your goal should be to have just a very few flashing highlights with each image; this assures that you will be exposing to the right as you should be. JPEGs show more than RAW files and a few apparently overexposed pixels can easily be recovered during the conversion process.
AF Point display: Enable. This is strictly personal preference.
Histogram: RBG. While I use the RGB histogram all the time, it is most important to utilize it when creating images of colorful sunrises and sunsets. At such times, it is easy to over-expose the red channel; you must guard against this and you can do so by taking a good look at the Red channel on the histogram. Of course it would be a lot easier to read and evaluate the histograms on all Canon cameras if they would put a light colored border around the histogram (as I and others have been suggesting for several years at least).
Yellow Menu 1.
Auto Power Off: 30 minutes. Lots of folks set this at 1 minute or 2 minutes thinking that they will save their batteries. Over the course of a lifetime they would save about 2 cents worth of electricity while missing dozens of great images as they wait that fraction of a second for the camera to wake up. Even worse are those who turn the cameras off constantly to save battery power…
File Numbering: Continuous.
Auto Rotate: ON/computer. This allows me to see verticals full frame on the back of the camera but see them rotated (and therefore smaller) on the laptop.
Yellow Menu 2.
LCD Brightness: one notch below the brightest. Folks think that this may make the image look over-exposed. You need to be judging your exposures by looking at the histogram, not at the back of the camera. A bright setting here helps me to view the histogram in sunny conditions. Oh for that yellow box around the histogram…
Date/Time: Make sure that the date and the time are set accurately at all times even when you travel to new time zones. It will make various aspects of your photographic life simpler and easier.
Custom Functions (Shown only if settings are different from the default settings).
C Fn I-group (Exposure).
C Fn I-3/ISO Expansion: 1: On.
C Fn-I-6/Safety Shift: Enable (TvAv). This will keep you in the ballgame when working in Av or Tv mode in rapidly changing lighting conditions.
C Fn II group (Image).
C Fn II-1/Long exposure noise reduction. I leave this on all the time as it will kick in only for the long exposures (that usually only occur when I am creating scenics, bird scapes, or intentional wind or waterfall blurs.
C Fn II-2/High ISO noise reduction. I leave this on Standard because running NR with the higher ISOs does not reduce the size of the buffer anywhere near as much as it does with the EOS-1Ds Mark III. My gut feeling with this and the previous setting (C Fn II-1) is that in-camera NR is to be preferred to any other type of NR, either during or after conversion.
C Fn II-3/Highlight Tone Priority: Enable. As far as I know, there is no reason to leave this off as enabling it increases both highlight detail and dynamic range for tones lighter than a middle tone.
C Fn III group( Autofocus/Drive).
C Fn III-1/Auto focus/Drive/Lens may be helpful to some when photographing birds in flight at a relatively consistent distance. If there are birds flying close by and others at a distance, the lens will not even attempt to focus when switching from the close birds to the more distant subjects, so with C Fn III-1 set to 1: Focus search off, you will need to pre-focus manually in most cases. Why go to all this trouble? Once you have locked focus with C Fn-1:1 set, the AF system is supposed to be less likely to drop the subject and search for a different subject if the sensor momentarily falls off the subject. This was and is an important issue with the EOS-1D MIII bodies, but the 50D does such a good job of focus tracking that I rarely switch from the default setting, C Fn-1: 0.
(Folks interested in the details involved in setting up C-Fn III-1, C Fn IV-1 and C Fn IV-2 are referred to the Mark III User’s Guide: http://tinyurl.com/2pumhq<
C Fn III-2/Lens AF stop button function. I only recently began setting C Fn III-2: 2 when I had a problem while handholding my 400mm f/4 IS DO lens (especially for flight or action photography). The index finger of my left hand, which I use to support the lens barrel, would inadvertently press the focus stop button that is located just this side of the lens hood. (Others using this lens may or may not have this problem depending on how exactly how they hold the lens when handholding.) In any case, with C Fn III-2: 2 set, accidentally depressing the AF stop button will lock the exposure rather than stopping focus.
C Fn III-6/Mirror Lock which is enabled only when needed, most often with macro work and/or long exposures.
C Fn III-7/AF Micro-adjustment. I have been happy with the AF accuracy if my 50D that I have not found it necessary to perform these adjustments. Again, users who would like to learn to do there adjustments are referred to the MIII Users Guide: http://tinyurl.com/2pumhq
C Fn IV group (Operation/Others).
C Fn IV-1/Shutter Button/AF-ON Button: 1 Metering + AF start/AF stop. Inspired by Jim Neiger, I have been using this set-up for quite some time now but still do not have 100% confidence in it. It is sort of the opposite of the old CF-4-3 setting that I used to use on occasion and that some good photographers use full time. With C Fn IV-1 set to 1, I keep AF set to AI Servo AF. The shutter button controls metering and AF, If you press the shutter button you get the exposure data and as long as you keep the shutter button half-way down, AF will be active and the camera will focus track. Now here is the key with these settings: Rather than having to switch to One Shot AF for static subjects when you need to lock focus and recompose, you can focus on the bird’s eye and hold down the star button to lock focus. (Be sure to see the next item so that you understand why you are pressing the star button rather than the AF ON button.) Now you can recompose the image by shifting the lens as need be; the point of focus will not change as long as you keep your thumb on the star button. It takes some practice but can be quite useful.
C Fn IV-2/AE-ON/AE lock button switch: 1: Enable. The functions of the AE-ON button and the star button are switched. Now, whether you are using the star button as AF-ON or as AF-OFF (as with C Fn IV-1 immediately above) you do not have to arch your thumb to reach the AF-ON button. In addition, these functions were always assigned to the star button on previous cameras and the star button was has always been in the same position, just to the left of the AF Grid button.