What do all of the selections on your camera dial mean?
There are a bunch of letters littering your camera dial. What do they all mean and why are they there? There are too many cameras and settings to cover every camera so here are various settings that can be found on many of the Canon cameras on the market today.
Scene Intelligent Auto Mode (AKA the “Green Zone”)
This automates everything. Auto Picture Style, Auto Focus, Auto ISO, Auto Shutter, Auto Aperture, Auto White Balance, etc. When you need something quick and don’t want to worry about settings this may be a good choice. When you want to reproduce a point and shoot, set it and leave it then this may give you worry free shooting. One caveat is that it will only save JPG files in this mode.
By choosing this mode you are once again giving the camera the ability to automate all of the functions. The difference between this and A+ is that now you do have the ability to make adjustments. You can adjust your focus points and should you need to raise or lower your exposure then you have that ability using the camera’s main dial to change exposure and the camera will factor in any change needed to get the right shot automatically.
Neither A+ or P may be right for you or for any given situation but they are both there as ways you can broaden your options and quickly get the shot you need at any time.
Shutter Priority or Time Value
In situations where the shutter needs to be given priority over the other settings you can turn to TV on your dial. This gives you complete control over the speed of your shutter. Say you are shooting a sporting event outdoors and there is a lot of very fast action that you want to capture. With a very fast shutter speed everything can look like it is standing still which is not ideal for some sports. You want to be able to feel the speed and yet freeze the parts of the action that make sense like a race car, runner, speed boat, etc. On the other hand a slow shutter speed may introduce too much time for you to be able to reasonable capture the action without everything becoming blurred. So many sports require a very specific shutter speed to capture the best of the action. With TV you have that control. Sports are just one example of where TV can be a good choice on your dial. TV stands for Time Value and this name comes from the fact that you are prioritizing the shutter time opening and closing.
Aperture Priority or Aperture Value
This mode gives you the ability to drive all other settings around your aperture. You choose where to set your aperture and the camera will make the necessary adjustments to the other settings to get the best shot. For example a good use of AV mode may be that portrait shot where you need to be ready and in a position to take a shot quickly without needing to make a whole lot of adjustments. Point, adjust your aperture and shoot. On the Canon 5D Mark III the speed dial on the back of the camera is easily accessible and right there when you need to make quick finite adjustments to the aperture.
Everything is adjustable, all of the time. My best suggestion when using Manual mode is to plan ahead. Set up your camera in advance for the type of shoot that you are going to be doing and make minor adjustments as you need to on the fly. If you get to a shoot and have nothing prepared then you can waste time having to run through settings and changing things. This can mean that you can miss shots. If what you are shooting is not staged; like a sporting event for example then great shots can be there and gone by the time you get set up. Plan ahead and let Manual Mode work for you by making a comprehensive set of options available to you, but by preparing you are limiting the work needed to get the most from the camera.
This mode will allow you to take long exposure shots up to and beyond the standard 30 secs built into the other modes. As long as you hold down the shutter button the shutter will stay open. On the Canon 5D Mark III the length of the exposure time will be displayed on the LCD panel. However be aware that you should not use the light on the an LCD panel as the camera will pick up that light and potentially ruin your shot. It may be best to have another way to time the length of your exposure.
Here are a couple of other tips when using Bulb mode: Most cameras will recommend that you turn your lens Image Stabilizing mechanism off. Bulb mode is best used when you have the camera mounted on a tripod.
C1, C2, C3
Custom Shooting Modes
In order to use C1-3 effectively you will need to register your settings in the camera menu. These three modes allow you to store settings for various types of shoots. For example if you are are a portrait shooter but also shoot sports and landscapes you can set up your camera for your portraits and then in the camera menu store that to C1, and then set it up for sports and store in C2, etc. As I mentioned earlier when using your manual Mode one of the best ways to help the camera to help you is to plan ahead. By storing settings appropriate for different types of shoots you can quickly give yourself a starting point to work from. Think of Custom Shooting modes in the same way you think of Bookmarks in your browser. Rather than having to Google everything your browser allows you to save links to the websites you use most often as a convenience. Your camera is allowing you to save your settings for the types of shoots you do the most.
The above settings are from one of my Canon cameras. Each camera and each camera manufacturer provide different settings but there is a lot of overlap (with perhaps some differing nomenclature).
For reviews and more information on some of the Canon equipment I use please visit my YouTube channel here. I hope you found this useful.