Cameras (Canon) -- handle reversion from specialty settings better

My Canon cameras have a variety of ways you can change their settings to certain specialty ones. You can set a manual white balance. You can set an exposure compensation for regular exposures or flash (to make it dimmer or brighter than the camera calculates it should be.) You can change various shooting parameters (saturation etc.) and how the images will be stored (raw or not, large/medium/small etc.) You can of course switch (this time with a physical dial) from manual exposure to various automatic and semi-automatic exposure modes. On the P&S cameras you can disable or enable flash with such settings. You can change shooting modes (single-shot, multi-shot.) You can turn on bracketing of various functions.

And let’s face it, I bet all of you who have such cameras have found yourself shooting by accident in a very wrong mode, not discovering it quite for some time. If you’re in a fast shooting mode, not looking at the screen, it can be easy to miss things like a manual white balance or even a small exposure compensations.

The camera already features an option to auto-revert on exposure bracketing, since they decided few would want to leave such a feature on full time. But auto bracketing isn’t dangerous, it just wastes a couple of shots that you can just delete later. And it’s also very obvious when it’s on. Of all the things to consider auto-revert for, this was the least necessary.

To my mind, the thing I would like auto-revert on most of all is manual white balancing. I recently was shooting fast an furious in a plane, and learned after lots of shots I still had the camera in an artificial light balance setting from the night before. The camera can do a good job here because it can usually tell what the temperature of the ambient light is, and can notice that the balance is probably wrong. In addition, it can tell that lots of time has passed since the white balance was set manually. It really should have a good idea if it’s out in daylight or indoors, if it’s night or day.

And I’m not even asking for an auto-revert here. Rather, an error beep which also pops a message on the screen that the white balance may be wrong. And yes, for those who don’t want this feature they can disable it. However, what would be cool would be if the screen that pops up to warn about a possibly bad retained setting, would be the ability then and there to say, “Thanks, revert” or “Don’t warn me about this again” or “Don’t warn me about this until the next ‘session.’” The camera knows about ‘sessions’ because it sees pauses in shooting with the camera off, and as noted, changes from night to day, indoors to out.

Of course it would still keep shooting. For extra credit if it suspected something wrong, it could hold the image in RAW mode in its buffer memory, and if you ask to go to another setting that only changes the jpegs, it could actually redo the jpeg right.

Now of course, photographers often shoot in manual modes for a very good reason, and they are doing it because they don’t want the camera’s automatic settings. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be reminded if, after a longish bout with the camera off, they are shooting in a way that’s very different from what the camera wants. That can include exposure. I’ve often left the camera in manual and then forgotten about it until I saw the review screen. (Of course P&S users almost always look at the review screen, they don’t get this trouble.) Again, I want the camera to shoot when I tell it to, but to consider warning me if I turn warnings on that the image is totally overexposed or underexposed. At night it would take a more serious warning since in night shots there often no “right” exposure to compare with.

A smart camera could even notice when you aren’t looking at the review screen, because you are shooting so fast. But like I said, those who want the old way could always turn such warnings off.

Another option would be an explicit button to say, “I’m going to make a bunch of specialty settings now. Please warn me if I don’t revert them at the next session.” This could extend even to warning you that you turned off autofocus. Review screens don’t show minor focus errors, so it would be nice to be reminded of this.

(I actually think an even better warning would be one where the camera beeps if nothing in the shot is in focus, as is often the case here. The camera can easily tell if there are no high contrast edges in the shot. Yes, there are a few scenes that have nothing sharp in them, I don’t mind the odd beep on those.)

Useful.

That would be quite useful. I do that from time to time, but then I also set certain things and want them to persist because I have the sleep timeout set to 30s, and I often (at gigs) set -1 or -2 exposure compensation for the whole gig. But yeah, auto-resetting most things would be good, and a couple more configurable beeps would rock. "attenion user: you have now taken 3 shots without a CF card in the camera" sort of thing.

Overall, what I'd like is more configurability. Even if it was via an SDK, it would still be useful - the Wasia hacks showed what can be done, and what people will put up with (the hack meant losing access to white balance but gaining a bunch of useful features on the 300D). Basically I'm talking skinning support, one step up from the current custom controls.

One thing that bugs me is that the 30D has a spare button but it's not user configurable. The "direct print" button can only be used when the camera is hooked up to a suitable printer. The other 100% of the time it has no function. None. That's just silly, especially as it's recessed and would be ideal for a "revert to custom settings" function or similar.

But ideally Canon woukld just let us geeky types run amok with linking buttons to functions. Like the old DOS QEdit did - you ran a separate configuration program that edited the exe so your chosen setting were hard-wired in and the exe was still under 64kB.

I also want to add a plug for DPreview's favourite bug: the camera dumping its buffer if you open the CF card door. Be serious people, just pause the sucker and if the card is the same when the door shuts, resume. And beep or something.

A session

Since the camera times out quickly (and powers on quickly) I would indeed not have that be a "session." But certainly if you don't shoot or even turn the camera on for hours should indicate the end of a session. Certainly going overnight. I even imagine a change in the colour temperature of the external light should count as a change of session if you are not in AWB. When the warning pops up, you can ignore it and keep shooting, or press a menu button to say, "don't warn me about this again today, or again ever."

Now in the old days of shooting most things in manual, the idea of forgetting sounds silly. But today even the most serious shooters make use of automatic modes, and forget sometimes what we've set.

I wouldn't mind warnings like:

* You're in a very noisy ISO (from last session) but the scene is quite bright. It would not warn you if you deliberately set high ISO recently. But it would save you from shooting at 1600 in daylight.
* You're still in 10 second timer mode after a long period of being off. I hate when I press the shutter and lose an action shot as it times down. Alternate -- take both the immediate shot and start counting down, and let me cancel the countdown (or not, in which case discard immediate shot.)

I just found your blog

I just found your blog today. Being an IT guy (20 years corporate computing) and recently going into photography I am finding your blog is an interesting place to visit.

I have to admit that I've not had the finances to move my camera up. I shoot with a Sony DSC-F828, and last year had to retire the DSC-F717 when a year of regular shooting had the camera screaming failures during shooting. Talk about frustrating! So far things with this one are pretty good.

I went to manual mode shooting immediately upon getting the F717. Automatic practically never gives me what I want. I can flip to that mode to check on what the camera thinks are good settings for the environment.

I do love the ability to set white balance - since I'm documenting behind the scenes of an indie film series getting the colors as close to the film camera is important. Filming is often with a blue tint and heavy on the saturation - this works for the sci-fi series InZer0. Yes it would be helpful if at the next session I knew that the settings were whack from a filming session. I do regularly check the view finder, so it isn't a concern too often. Gotta love digital photography for immediate feedback.

I'll have to check in to see what other thoughts you're sharing. If curious about my photos the linked website hosts about 40,000 photos I've taken since April 2005. I'm shooting events, fashion, film, and music around Detroit.

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