Tech Tips
June 2009

by Chuck Westfall

Is there a firmware update coming for manual video control on the EOS 5D Mark II?

On June 2, 2009, Canon posted firmware version 1.1.0 for the 5D Mark II.

Among other things, this update adds manual control of ISO, apertures, and shutter speeds in movie mode. The adjustment range for each setting is as follows:

ISO 100 – 6400 (12800 with ISO Expansion)
Shutter Speeds 1/30 – 1/4000 in ½ or 1/3 EV increments
Aperture Values According to lens (no restrictions)

Here are some tips for making the most of this new manual control:

• With this update, Auto ISO is fully functional (i.e., ISO values vary automatically as per the chart above) in manual mode for still photos* captured during movies or in Live View mode as well as video recording with the 5D Mark II. This can come in handy when you want to maintain correct exposure in changing light conditions with the shutter speed and aperture manually set. If you want to try Auto ISO for stills or movies, be sure to pick a shutter speed and aperture combo that's appropriate for the lighting conditions at hand.

• Although it is now possible to select wide apertures in any lighting condition, you may find that high shutter speeds can cause a "staccato" effect to moving subjects. ND filters are still very useful in bright light for this reason.

• Consider setting the shutter speed to approximately 1/50 to achieve a more "filmic" effect for video recordings with the 5D Mark II camera.

• Consider setting the camera's exposure level increments to the default 1/3 steps for finer control. (Custom Function I-1.)

• Consider the use of Highlight Tone Priority (Custom Function II-3-1) to preserve more highlight detail, especially in high-key or wide dynamic range shooting conditions.

*The EOS 5D Mark II must be set to Live View/Still + Movie/Movie Display in order to access variable Auto ISO in the camera's Manual mode. When Live View is off, Auto ISO is locked in at ISO 400 in the 5D Mark II's Manual mode.

For more detailed information on manual exposure control in movie mode on the EOS 5D Mark II, please visit the following Web page at the Canon Digital Learning Center:

My 5D is too loud! My 1D Mark II, the same! I have a "life-saving" PowerShot G10 which behaves perfectly for classical concerts where I have to shoot but the fact that I need to use ISO 800 or higher and no flash makes images rather grainy and the color range is limited. I'm considering the EOS 5D Mark II but does anyone know what is the quietest DSLR in the Canon line?

None of the EOS cameras can operate as quietly as a PowerShot G10, but the current models are very quiet when set appropriately as follows:

EOS-1Ds Mark III and EOS-1D Mark III: For quietest operation, select the Silent single shooting drive mode, identified by the letter S on the top LCD data panel. In this mode, the mirror makes a soft noise when it flips up, then the shutter fires very quietly. After the exposure ends, the camera remains totally silent with the mirror up until the shutter button is released by the photographer. At that time, the shutter and mirror are reset at a slower speed than normal, resulting in quiet operation. Alternatively, both of these cameras can be set to fire the shutter repeatedly with the mirror locked up by selecting Custom Function III-15-2. This can be very effective in situations where it is unnecessary to monitor the subject through the viewfinder prior to exposure.

EOS 5D Mark II and 50D: For quietest operation, activate the Live View mode and select Silent Shooting Mode 2. This mode is similar to the Silent single shooting mode described above, but it is quieter because the reflex mirror has already been raised when Live View is activated. The first shutter curtain is electronically simulated in this mode, so the only noise you hear when shooting is the sound of the second shutter curtain closing the shutter to end the exposure. Once again, the camera remains silent until the shutter button is released by the photographer, at which point the shutter is quietly reset and Live View resumes.

EOS 40D: This camera has the same settings as the 50D for Live View and Silent Mode 2, but it resumes Live View after the exposure without the need to let up on the shutter button. However, the shutter is not reset until you do let up off the shutter button, and the reset sound is a bit noisier than the 50D.

I tend to shoot a lot of images in my EOS 5D Mark II's portrait orientation (i.e., the camera is positioned vertically). I would like to be able to have the camera display the image in portrait orientation during playback and review. From what I can determine, by default the camera will show the image briefly after capture in the portrait position but if you hit the play button, it will show the image in the portrait position with the screen in the landscape orientation, which really cuts down on the size. Isn't there a setting for the camera to allow it to show a portrait image in the portrait orientation on playback, but not force you to manually rotate the file in the computer?

Go to Set-up Menu 1 (look for the yellow tab at the top of the LCD screen with the wrench and 1 dot) and locate the Auto Rotate menu. Press the SET button and select the middle setting. It says "On" followed by an icon of a computer monitor. After you select the middle setting, press the SET button again to register the setting. This one will automatically rotate your portrait images in the computer when using Canon software and other applications that read the rotation flag in the image file, but not during review or playback on the camera's LCD screen.

I've been working in failing light with an EOS 30D, EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM and Speedlite 580EX II. My question involves the remarkably accurate flash exposures that I seem to be getting while shooting in Aperture-Priority mode with evaluative metering. My understanding is the flash biases its exposures toward the selected focus point(s). With multiple active focus points, those additional values are metered as well. Also, according to my understanding, flash exposure compensation and ambient exposure compensation can be adjusted independently from each other. Is this correct? I have to say that using the 580EX II in conjunction with the EF 70-200 provides magnificent results, and is incredibly easy to use. My hope is that one day Canon will bring out wireless-capable macro and ring lights that support E-TTL II as well.

Thanks for your message! It appears you have some misunderstanding of Canon's Speedlite System. Here are a few pointers:

1. It's the camera that determines whether E-TTL or E-TTL II is used, not the Speedlite. All EOS Digital SLRs released since 2004 use E-TTL II. This includes your EOS 30D, which was released in 2006.

2. The EOS 30D supports E-TTL II with all EX-series Canon Speedlites, including the MR-14EX Macro Ring Lite and the MT-24EX Macro Twin Lite as well as the 220EX, 270EX, 380EX, 420EX, 430EX, 430EX II, 550EX, 580EX and 580EX II.

3. The original version of E-TTL always based its flashmetering on the location of the active focusing points, but E-TTL II flashmetering has no direct relationship to the camera's focusing system.

4. With the EOS 30D, there are two user-selectable flashmetering patterns for E-TTL II: Evaluative and averaging. In evaluative flashmetering, flash exposure is primarily based on the camera's determination of the main subject's size, position and reflectivity. This determination is made by comparing preflash data to ambient metering data just after the shutter button is fully pressed. With this system, focusing data is ignored and the subject can be positioned anywhere in the area read by the 30D's 35-zone metering system. Depending on the size of the subject, anywhere from 1 to all 35 metering segments may be used. When the 30D is set for averaging in E-TTL II, all 35 segments are read equally.

I just bought, but haven't received yet, a new Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens to use with my EOS 50D. I've read a bunch of conflicting reviews. Some say the lens has a two-stop IS, and some say it has a three-stop IS. Could you tell me which is true? Also some reviews say that the IS must be turned off when used on a tripod; others say the lens has a sensor that automatically shuts the IS off if it senses you are using a tripod. Can you tell me the real answer?

As per Canon Inc.'s Web site, the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens can correct camera shake up to two full shutter speed steps:

This lens shuts off its IS mechanism automatically when tripod use is detected, but I suggest shutting off the IS function with the switch on the lens under these conditions for the following reasons:

  1. It saves battery power.
  2. The IS mechanism is centered and locked when the IS switch is off; not so otherwise. I discussed this issue at greater length in the last Q&A of the June, 2008 edition of Tech Tips.

Chuck, thanks so much for your time and insight. I have a question about the 5D Mark II AF system. I love shooting with the camera in most situations, but have difficulty getting focused shots when shooting sports. In fact, the AF system seems inferior to the 40D I've used. If I'm reading correctly the 40/50D have high-precision cross-type AF points at all 9 AF points while the 5D Mark II has cross-type only at the 1 center point. If this is true I can't understand why the 5D Mark II would have an inferior AF system to the lower end 40/50D cameras. Any insight?

All three of these models have 9 selectable AF points, but only the EOS 5D Mark II has an additional 6 Assist AF points surrounding the center focusing point. So, although it is true that the 8 outer points on the 40D and 50D are cross-type whereas the 8 outer points on the 5D Mark II are single-axis, it is also true that the center point on the 5D Mark II has extra capabilities for tracking moving subjects that the EOS 40D and 50D do not. And incidentally, the 8 outer points on the 40D and 50D are standard precision cross-type. Only the center point on those cameras is a high-precision type because of its longer baselength. For additional information on these cameras including a comparison of their AF systems, please check out Canon's EOS 50D & 5D Mark II White Paper document on the Canon Digital Learning Center Web site.

I recently received an EOS-1D Mark III from the newspaper I work for in Brazil and I have several questions about the noise reduction. When the newspaper bought the new camera, they did it because they wanted us to have a camera whose high ISO can be managed more easily and with more quality. The first question is, should I always turn the noise reduction CF on for using High ISO? Or should I use it on all the time? I'm asking because I have to shoot soccer pictures in terrible light conditions, and now I'm thinking about using the new lens I've received, the EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM. Besides that, I love to shoot pictures in two different formats, using different memory cards. Yesterday, for example, I had to shoot pictures that way. Using ISO 1250, I could shot 1/500 at f/2.8 using a 300mm lens, recording both RAW and JPEGs. But the number of total files I can shoot at once decreases dramatically to 14 when the noise reduction custom function is used. When the noise reduction is off I can shoot 22, which is way more acceptable than 14 for shooting this kind of sports. Can you help me decide what to do? Can you help?

When the EOS-1D Mark III was introduced in 2007, it had the lowest noise of any EOS digital SLR released up to that point. Its low noise performance at high ISO speeds has been surpassed recently by newer cameras, but it is still quite good. The 1D Mark III's custom function for High ISO Noise Reduction cuts noise even further, but it definitely reduces the number of frames that can be captured in a single burst. I would recommend leaving it on when burst rate is not an issue, but it's probably better to shut it off for sports photography. As I mentioned in last month's column, it's better to perform High ISO noise reduction during post-processing if possible, and it doesn't take very long.

I have a very quick question. I was hoping you could shine some light on the subject. Here we have a photo of the 400D auto focus sensor:

Could you please explain how on this sensor and other similar sensors the two vertical bars on the left and right side of the sensor can combine to create a horizontal sensitive sensor? How exactly does that work? If we place a subject matter in the middle of those two sensors .... how is the proper focus detected? I'm not looking for a patent trade secret answer, more like I'd just like an understanding of the basic functions of these sensors. The topic is rather confusing to me and my readers.

Please take a look at the diagram of the TTL Secondary Image Registration Phase Detection AF system on this Web page:

The optical path for an EOS Digital SLR is more involved than this, because incoming light passes through a series of mirrors after it exits the photographic lens on the front of the camera, but before it arrives at the field lens in the base of the mirror chamber. The concept of the secondary lenses splitting the incoming light into two beams and projecting them on a pair of linear arrays for each single axis AF point is the same for an EOS DSLR as shown in this diagram. The positioning of the linear arrays, as seen on the photograph of the AF sensor unit you supplied, corresponds to the position of each AF point in the viewfinder, but you have to use your imagination to conceptualize it. In the case of the extreme left and right focusing points for the Rebel XTi, for example, you can imagine taking the two pairs of long vertical black lines at the far left and right sides of the sensor, then superimposing them on each other, and moving the resultant single lines to a position that is midway between the centerpoints of each line. This corresponds to the position of the right and left focusing points in the viewfinder. The fact that the sensor arrays for the left and right focusing points are vertical when the camera is held horizontally is the reason why those focusing points are said to be sensitive to horizontal lines in the subject matter, but the reality is that they are sensitive to all kinds of subject contrast other than that which is parallel to them.

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

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 everything, but I pledge to do my best to address the issues that concern you.

P.S.: 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!

© 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.

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