Tech Tips
March 2009

by Chuck Westfall

You are invited to submit questions about photo equipment, imaging technology, or photo industry trends that may have a bearing on your work or interests. I cannot promise to answer all inquiries, but I pledge to do my best to address the issues that concern you. (Please use the e-mail link provided at the end of this article.)

The purpose of the Comments section is to allow readers to respond to the content of each month's edition of Tech Tips. New topics or questions should be submitted by e-mail (using the link at the end of each column) in order to support the development of future monthly editions. I appreciate your kind support and cooperation. Thanks!

Last Wednesday I used my two EOS 5D Mark IIs in a three-camera music video shoot. The third camera was a Sony PMW-EX1. Audio was recorded on two additional devices. One audio recording device was an Edirol R4 Pro. The other audio recording setup was a Tascam USB Interface to a MacBook Pro. The Sony Camera, Edirol, and Tascam/MacBook Pro devices all synced sound perfectly over the full duration of the shoot (just over 20 minutes). To clarify - once the different sources are sync'd quickly and easily to the slate clap on the waveform at the beginning of the shoot, they all stayed perfectly in sync for the rest of the video. Both Canon cameras audio and video sync'd perfectly to each other but drifted significantly from the other three devices even over a 3-minute segment. This is a very serious problem for me and one that introduces significant post-production trouble and expense.

This issue was so unexpected (I haven't run into this in years of working with a range of equipment) that I performed three subsequent tests to confirm that the 5D Mark IIs run too fast. The results from the tests show both of my 5D Mark IIs run about 14 frames too fast in 10 minutes. Audio that is 1 full frame out of sync is noticeable on sharp sounds, causing an echo. Audio that is 2 or 3 frames out of sync causes echo on any sound and looks odd in terms of lip sync. That the two Canon cameras audio sync'd OK to each other tells me that the cameras can be calibrated to a standard. Evidently they are just calibrated to an incorrect standard. Anybody else experience this? Does anybody really know if this is likely a chip issue or a firmware issue? Does anyone know an easy, reliable way to get the clips to conform to the standard without time-consuming constant tweaking?

As you point out, the two 5D Mark II cameras sync perfectly with each other, but not with your other capture devices. The technical issue here is that the EOS 5D Mark II captures video clips (HD or SD) at a true 30.00 fps, while your other A/V devices record and playback at 29.97 fps, which is the standard for video in North America. This difference eventually results in a loss of synchronization when combining the EOS 5D Mark II video with your other content. You can transcode the EOS 5D Mark II footage to 29.97 fps, but it will take a long time. Alternatively, you can make a 29.97 timeline, drop the 29.97 footage on it, then add the EOS 5D Mark II footage. You will have to adjust the start of each take to audio match. This can be done in video editing software such as Apple's Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro or Avid Media Composer. It may be inconvenient, but at least it's doable, and it's the best workaround you're going to find for the time being.

I am having a problem with the file numbering of my 1Ds Mark II. The shutter was replaced by Canon Philippines as I had a bright banding on the top of the frame when shooting in landscape. The banding has gone but the file numbering (which is set to continuous) has jumped from 2000+ to 9000+. I don't know why that is and I did not get a reasonable explanation from Canon. Also, I don't know whether it can be put back to resume counting from the number it was before the shutter got replaced. I could of course just reset it to 0, but I would like to avoid that as it would prevent me from using the whole numbering I had left from 2000+ to 9999. Many thanks for any help you may be able to provide.

This usually happens when another memory card is used after the first shot was taken, and the second card has digital images with higher file numbers on it. Every EOS Digital SLR looks to two things before establishing a file number -- it already knows the most recent number assigned by the camera (whether it was a moment ago, or months ago), and it also examines the contents of the active memory card to see if it detects any files on the card. If so, it compares the highest file number on the card to the most recent file number assigned by the camera, then selects the higher of the two and adds "1" to it. And be aware, regardless of whether your system is set to Continuous file numbering or Auto Reset, in the scenario I mention here, every subsequent number would be in sequence with the suddenly-higher sequence, even if you changed back to a card with lower numbers you'd shot moments before. The system is designed this way to prevent the possibility of writing duplicate file numbers on the same memory card. If you have a card reader, there is a way to restore your previous numbering sequence. Here's how:
Let's review the order of events:

* An initial file numbering sequence is established by shooting a set of photos.

* Subsequently, a memory card with a higher file numbering sequence is used. The EOS digital SLR resets its internal file numbering system to the new numbering sequence.

* The user wants to revert to the initial file numbering sequence.

If this is the case, then the correct procedure to get back to the original file numbering sequence is going to depend on a couple of conditions.

CONDITION A: The user still has a memory card with images that are exclusively from the initial file numbering sequence, ideally from the end of that sequence. In this case, use the following procedure:

  1. Find a spare memory card that you don't mind formatting.
  2. Set the EOS camera's file numbering setting to Auto Reset.
  3. Format the spare memory card. This resets the file numbering sequence to 100-0001.
  4. Set the EOS camera's file numbering sequence to Continuous.
  5. Replace the spare memory card with the memory card that has the last image from the initial file numbering sequence. The camera will resume file
  6. numbering from that point.

CONDITION B: The user no longer has a memory card from the original file numbering sequence. In this case, use the following procedure: (Please note, this procedure requires a card reader.)

  1. Find a spare memory card that you don't mind formatting.
  2. Set the EOS camera's file numbering setting to Auto Reset.
  3. Format the spare memory card. This resets the file numbering sequence to 100-0001.
  4. Set the camera's file numbering sequence to Continuous.
  5. Take a photo on the spare memory card.
  6. Remove the memory card from the camera and mount it on your computer's desktop via the card reader.
  7. Open the DCIM folder and locate the folder named 100CANON. Open this folder to locate the image named IMG_0001.JPG. (If you are using an EOS-1D/1Ds Mark II or Mark III, the first 4 characters in the filename will be different.)
  8. Rename the image to the desired sequence number, i.e., one number higher than the last image from the original file numbering sequence. For example: IMG_0238.JPG.
  9. Rename the 100CANON folder to the desired folder name. For example: 204CANON.
  10. Place the newly renumbered memory card in the EOS camera and take at least one shot. The camera's file numbering sequence is now reset as originally intended.

A few other tips: All of this is unnecessary if you decide to rename your files with Canon software such as EOS Utility, DPP or 3rd-party software with file renaming capabilities. If you really want to keep the camera's file numbering sequence intact, be very careful to control exactly which memory cards you are using. Only use your own cards with the desired file numbering sequence. As a matter of general "good housekeeping," consider following this procedure:

  1. Start by locating the memory card that has the most recent image from the file numbering sequence you wish to preserve. Put this card in a safe place and don't lose it.
  2. Gather all the rest of your memory cards in one place.
  3. Set camera to auto-reset.
  4. Format all the rest of your memory cards.
  5. Set camera file numbering back to continuous.
  6. Reinsert the card that you saved with the desired file numbering sequence.

This way, you'll ensure that you don't end up losing your place, so to speak, by using a card with a higher numbering sequence.

I own the EOS 30D, 40D and 50D cameras. Incredible value cameras and I just can't bring myself to get rid of any so I just use them all. I always use DPP and think it's an awesome program. I just got Photoshop CS4 and am considering its RAW converter. My question is, will Adobe Camera RAW support my Picture Styles, or will it throw out that information and just convert the files as plain RAW, like Neutral Picture Style? Could you please explain to me what happens to that info if I use a RAW converter other than DPP?

Adobe Camera RAW 5.2 in Photoshop CS4 has a feature that attempts to emulate some of the Picture Style settings available in recent EOS cameras with that feature. You can access Adobe's 'Picture Style' support by clicking on the Camera Calibration icon (7th icon in from the left; looks like an SLR camera) in the toolbar below the histogram in the upper right corner of the ACR 5.2 window. Click on the pulldown menu in the 'Camera Profile' window to see the available settings. I don't know when Adobe added this feature, but it must have been relatively recently. You could check with them for details if you're interested. Also, you'll note that I refer to Adobe's 'emulation' of Canon's Picture Styles, because strictly speaking, only Canon software like DPP and RAW Image Task can truly be said to support the camera's Picture Style settings as faithfully as possible. This is because Picture Style settings by themselves are basically processing instructions for the RAW image data -- they are not part of the image data itself. Moreover, Adobe's RAW conversion software algorithms are different than Canon's. Therefore, Adobe's interpretation is their own, just as Canon's interpretation is ultimately proprietary. I am not sure whether any of the other independent RAW converters (such as Capture One, Bibble, Aperture, etc.) emulate Canon Picture Styles in their current versions, but it wouldn't surprise me if they eventually did.

I took delivery of my first 5D Mark II this week and have two questions. I have previously been using a couple of 5D bodies for reference. The first question is about the RAW and sRAW1 load times in DPP. Counterintuitively, the big RAW files load pretty fast in DPP at about 4 seconds. But the sRAW1 will take anywhere from 16 seconds to 26 seconds depending on ISO. Up to ISO 800 it is around 16 seconds; at 1600 and 3200 it is 26 seconds. Why is this, and can I do something to optimize the load time?

The slower loading time for 5D Mark II sRAW1 preview images in the edit image window of DPP 3.5.2 is a known issue. It has already been reported to Canon Inc., and we'll have to wait and see if there's anything they can do about it. I suspect the longer loading times have something to do with fix for vertical banding noise in 5D Mark II sRAW1 images that was resolved with version 1.0.7 firmware for the 5D Mark II camera. The loading time can also be affected by the speed of your computer. On my 2.5 GHz Intel Core2 Duo MacBook Pro, I'm getting a load time of 7 seconds for these images, in Windows XP (via Boot Camp) as well as Mac OS X 10.5.6. There is no ideal solution yet, but here are a couple of things you may want to consider:

  • If you want to continue using DPP and wish to speed up your workflow with 5D Mark II images, consider going back to full-resolution RAW files rather than sRAW1.
  • If one of your goals is to browse your images at a reasonable viewing magnification, consider using DPP's Quick Check tool, which is available in the Main Window of the program (i.e., thumbnail view). This will be much quicker than viewing the files in the Edit Image window, and it will also allow you to rank your images with checkmarks so you can sort them more easily when it's time to work on your selects.

I have a remote flash control (3rd party), a Canon Speedlite 580EX II, and a Canon Speedlite 430EX II. I can use the flash control to fire the 580EX II via the PC Sync cable. It works flawlessly. I can set the 580EX II to use its internal meter and still be fired remotely. What I want to do is use the 580EX II in an umbrella and the 430EX II as a background or secondary light. When I put the 580EX II into master mode, it will no longer fire from the PC cord. Is this user error?

I'm not so sure I would call it user error, but there is definitely an equipment limitation here. The issue is that once you set the 580EX II for external flash metering (auto or manual), it can no longer be set to Master mode to control another flash. Or conversely, you have to set the 580EX II to ETTL, M or Multi in order to access its wireless features. In your case, I would recommend using either a Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 or another 580EX II in the camera's hot shoe as a master unit, then set up your 580EX II and 430EX II off camera as slave units. If your lighting set-up is static, as it appears to be, I would further recommend setting both of the off-camera flashes to Manual flash mode and adjusting their power settings along with the camera's ISO and aperture settings as necessary to get a correct exposure.

I have Canon ImageBrowser software installed on my Mac's hard drive, but I don't use it for downloading CF cards. I prefer to use Adobe Lightroom, as it will embed keywords and it lets me save the image in a second location. But whenever I insert a card into my reader, the Memory Card Utility automatically opens. Is there a preference to turn this off? I would like to keep IB ready to use, but hate to always have to stop the Memory card utility.

On your Mac, navigate to the Applications folder and launch Apple Image Capture. From the Image Capture menu, open Preferences and change the setting for "When a camera is connected" to the application of your choice, or "none."

Why does Silent Shooting cause incorrect or irregular exposures in some cases? Are these peculiarities of metering (since this is normally done via the viewfinder light path) or of the electronic first curtain? Is there any reason to disable silent shooting when not using vertical shift or extension tubes?

Any time you take a picture without looking through the camera's optical viewfinder, the eyepiece should be covered. If you don't, the exposure may be thrown off. This is mentioned in the instruction books for cameras with a Silent Shooting mode, like the 5D Mark II and the 50D. (See page 100 in the 5D Mark II instructions, page 105 in the 50D instructions.) An eyepiece cover is built into the neckstrap that's supplied with the camera.

A question about AEB sequence: If I understand correctly it is not currently possible to set AEB to make the first exposure the "+" exposure. Why I would want this: As I tend to expose for the land at the "+" point, perhaps with just half-stop lift, and strongly underexpose for the sky and sun at the "-" and "0" points, the "0" EV shot may be several stops underexposed. When looking at images (in Adobe Lightroom) it would be much easier for me to have the shot closest to 0 EV on the land portion of the image (which would actually be the "+ " exposure of a sequence of exposures) at the beginning of that sequence, not at the end as it currently always is. This would help me enormously as a reference point for that shot to assess composition, organize, etc. So my question may be a request to have some way, if there isn't already, to assign the "+, 0, -," sequence to AEB. I hope I have made sense, thanks.

The feature you're requesting is already available in the 1D/1Ds class cameras, and it's been there since the beginning. In the Mark III series, you can select from the following options for AEB exposure sequence:

Custom Function I-5

0: 0, -, +
1: -, 0, +
2: +, 0, -

With these cameras, you can also specify the number of shots in an AEB sequence at 2, 3, 5 or 7 via Custom Function I-6; and you can keep the mirror locked while conducting an AEB sequence via Custom Function III-15. I can understand that you may want to see some or all of these Custom Functions in cameras like the 5D Mark II or 50D, but the chances are good that Canon will restrict them to the 1D/1Ds series for marketing differentiation reasons.

I have two EOS 40Ds, neither of which will allow ISO expansion to 3200. Also, one of them has "lost" the last three menu tabs. Any ideas? Thanks.

There are easy explanations for both situations:

1. On the EOS 40D, the ISO range is restricted from 200 to 1600 when Highlight Tone Priority (HTP for short) is turned on (Custom Function II-3-1). See the note on page 157 of the EOS 40D instructions. This is true regardless of the Custom Function setting for ISO expansion. You can tell when HTP is on by observing the ISO display in the viewfinder data display and the camera's top LCD data panel because the last two digits of the full-stop ISO settings show up as "oo" rather than "00."

2. The last three tabs on the LCD menu screen are unavailable whenever the EOS 40D is set to a Basic Zone shooting mode like Full Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Action, Night Portrait or Flash-Off. This is because Custom Functions, My Menu settings, and certain Camera Setup adjustments cannot be set in Basic Zone modes. You can see all of the menu tabs in Creative Zone modes such as P, Tv, Av, M and A-DEP as well as C1, C2 and C3.

I bought an EOS-1D Mark III and I wonder if it is better to use in-camera noise reduction instead of no NR and do it later during post-processing. Having your appreciated attention, I also would like to ask you which setting is favorable for AI Servo sports shoots: using all the focusing points or using the center one following the object?

There are two kinds of in-camera noise reduction with the EOS-1D Mark III camera: High ISO noise and long exposure. If you're concerned about long exposure noise reduction, I recommend using the camera for that purpose because it's more effective than trying to resolve the issue in post-processing. On the other hand, unless you use an in-camera JPEG workflow such that you must deliver images to clients straight out of the camera, I would recommend performing noise reduction during post-processing. The reason is that you'll have more control over individual types of noise reduction, including chrominance and luminance. If maximum image quality is the goal, then consider capturing RAW image data and performing noise reduction in your computer.

As for your second question, the best choice for focusing point selection in AI Servo AF (automatic vs. manual) depends on the subject matter, the shooting conditions, and your personal preferences. Generally speaking, it's usually better to select focusing points manually when you know in advance where the subject will be when you shoot. It is also very important to begin collecting subject tracking data by starting the AF system with the manually selected point positioned over the subject for about one second before releasing the shutter.

Thanks for reading Tech Tips! That's it for now. See you in April!

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© Chuck Westfall

After earning a degree in Professional Photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology and accumulating some valuable on-the-job experience during a 10-year stint in commercial photography and photo retail, Chuck Westfall began his corporate career with Canon U.S.A. in 1982 as a Technical Representative. He has steadily advanced through the ranks to achieve his present position as Technical Advisor for the company's Consumer Imaging Group, working out of Canon U.S.A.'s headquarters office in Lake Success, NY. Among his many assignments, Chuck Westfall is currently Canon USA’s main media spokesman for new camera products. He also provides a unique insider’s perspective to financial analysts who follow the company’s CIG sales and marketing activities.

Chuck’s involvement with digital cameras began in 1994, when he assisted Canon and Kodak engineers in developing the EOS-DCS series of professional SLRs. Since then, his responsibilities have expanded to include participation in the development and launching of many other Consumer Imaging Group products including Canon's professional and consumer-oriented digital cameras. Most recently, he has been developing content for online and on-site consumer education projects in Canon USA’s Professional Products Marketing Division.

On the personal side, Chuck enjoys sightseeing, photography, reading, music, and family life with his wife Ying and their beautiful daughter Anna.