Grebe on the Marked Waterway

While this year we’ve rarely crossed our paths with great crested grebes, last year presented numerous opportunities to explore color contrast between these beautiful birds and their surroundings.

Grebe on the Marked Waterway

It was funny to observe that grebes travelled mostly between the flower strips, as if it was some kind of waterway marking.

The 5DS R produces magical environmental portraits, and the 500mm paired with the 1.4x teleconverter is about the perfect focal length for this purpose. If you haven’t done so, check out my former post on using this rig for grebe photography.

The EOS R Diary : Customizing Controls

I highly regard the contemporary Canon DSLR user interface design. It provides a great experience out of the box, with just the right amount of customization abilities. The EOS R clearly inherits a lot from this. And it is good. But is also inherits from the PowerShot / EOS M cameras, and from the prevailing over-customization mania, which isn’t.

Late Fall Sunset – EOS R + RF 50/1.2

All three of my current DSLRs (1DX II, 5DS R, 7D II) are configured to have the exact same control layout, so that I can pick any of them and everything is in the place I expect it to be. My goal with customizing the EOS R is to make it as much identical as possible to my DSLR setups.

Please keep in mind that this customization is designed for my still (mainly landscape) photography. I don’t shoot video.

If you haven’t done so, it is now time to read chapter 5 and chapter 7 of the EOS R user manual. I’m not going to replicate what’s there, and how to set the mentioned options.

Dials

The mail dial controls aperture in manual mode, as I use Av and M modes 99% of the time, so I prefer aperture to be on the same dial. Its direction is reversed, so that turning it to the right will add more light.

The quick control dial is used to set shutter speed in manual mode. Otherwise it is used to set exposure compensation. Its direction is reversed, too (there’s one setting that applies for both dials). As a side note, I disregard any camera with a dedicated exposure compensation dial that cannot be used for anything else. I’m glad Canon finally abandoned that concept even on the M series.

Feedback to Canon: +/- 3 stops of compensation range isn’t always enough. It should be +/- 5 stops, like on any recent single digit Canon DSLR.

The lens control ring is configured to set ISO, but only while metering is active. The ring on the RF 50/1.2 is a tad too loose to be used without an interlock. There’s one drawback for the latter: auto ISO cannot be set with the control ring this way.

Focus ring rotation behavior (ill-named as sensitivity in the menu) is linked to rotation degree. Honestly, I wouldn’t have bought the camera without this option. I find it totally impossible to manually focus with the rotation speed sensitive behavior.

Buttons

The EOS R team did a great job with minimizing the number of physical buttons. Well, actually went one button too far with removing seldom used stuff.

I strongly believe that metering and AF should be on separate buttons, so the shutter release half-press only initiates metering on my cameras. AF ON turns focusing on, with a side effect of also initiating metering. But the general idea is to be able to release the shutter without AF, and this configuration makes it possible.

M-Fn have AE lock and hold assigned. Like on all my cameras. This is really handy when shooting frames for a stitched image and want to ensure the same exposure for the entire series, but also enjoy automatic exposure setting to get into the ballpark of the final exposure.

In general, I prefer to place all-point, auto point selection AI Servo AF to the * button, but unfortunately it’s not an option on the EOS R. So it toggles between one shot and servo AF for me.

I configured the AF point button to switch directly between AF methods. This is something I use a lot, and I also limit AF methods to face+tracking, single, expand area (both) and zone AF.

Cross keys are set to move the AF point around, with the center Q/SET button set to reset the AF point position to the center of the screen. The erase button has the exact same functionality, but its way more natural to press the center of the cross keys to move to the center instead of finding another button.

While we are here, there are a few things where I would welcome a change in further firmware releases.

Feedback to Canon: During picture taking the erase button has the fixed functionality of resetting the AF point to the center. This is rather cumbersome, as I described above. Instead, the erase button should have assignable functionality during picture taking, for example one can assign the depth of filed preview to it (since there’s no physical DoF preview button on the camera – the place I think Canon went too far with button removal).

Feedback to Canon: During image playback, every single contemporary single digit DSLR can be configured to use the SET button as a magnification button. I would welcome this option on the R, or at least an option to be able to switch the SET button’s functionality with the magnify button.

The Mosquito Hut – EOS R + EF 35/2 IS

MODE is left at its default function. Let me stop here for a moment. There is sizable hysteria around Canon’s choice of the mode button instead of the mode dial. Well, the MODE button comes from 1-series DSLRs. And it is rather convenient if you shoot tethered. For example you can switch the shooting mode from within Kuuvik Capture. Try to do that with a mode-dial-equipped camera when it is mounted 4 meters high. Yes, I do prefer to have a MODE button.

I’m glad that there’s a video record button, and that I’m not shooting video. This button is a key element of my customization. It’s assigned function is DIAL FUNC. The R lacks the usual camera-top buttons like WB, drive mode, ISO, etc. DIAL FUNC is an amalgamation of those. After pressing the DIAL FUNC button, you can choose between different functions with the quick control dial, as well as different values of the chosen function with the main dial. Up to five functions can be selected for DIAL FUNC. I have ISO (for cases when the attached lens have no control ring, and for selecting auto ISO), drive mode, and metering mode (I usually leave it on evaluative, but there’s no way to set it via the menu).

And finally, the LCD illumination button is used for just that. No inadvertent switching between different top LCD information modes, thank you.

Touchable Thingies

A controversial topic, I must admit. Yes, the M-Fn Bar is a gimmick, and I would prefer a joystick, or button(s) in the same place. Or a button plus a display mode selection switch (more on this in a later post). But touch and drag AF is genuinely useful. Actually so much, that I constantly find myself reaching for the LCD even on the 5DS R and 1D X II…

So let’s see first how I configure touch and drag AF. Positioning is relative, as I wasn’t able to develop a muscle memory for absolute positions. And only the right side of the screen is active, as I want to drag the AF point with my finger, not with my nose.

The M-Fn Bar is arguably a thing that needs to be worked around. It’s safety lock is upsetting, but without it you’ll definitely change settings inadvertently. But there’s a solution! The multi-function lock that I never ever used on any of my cameras before the R. So the LOCK button locks the M-Fn Bar for me (only works during shooting, and NOT during playback, though).

During picture taking, the M-Fn Bar’s assigned function is to zoom in and out on live view. This is a seldom used function for me on a travel camera. And on a tripod, I can safely disengage the lock with no fear to make an uncorrectable error.

During playback the right side of the control toggles between one and zero star rating.

Conclusion

The EOS R is a rather minimalistic camera. This isn’t bad. On the contrary, I enjoy shooting with it mostly because it lets me focus on the bare essentials. I know from experience how much thinking goes into making a camera minimalistic. So hats off for the EOS R team.

But you definitely have to think about your needs and configure the camera for those. The all too common “I want it all, just in case” thinking will not work here.

Turbulences

Water is an inexhaustible source of inspiration. It isn’t always fluid, it isn’t always blue. But it’s always changing and invites you to experiment. And along the way you may discover fragments of it’s hidden nature.

Turbulences

This image is part of my “Colors of a Lake” series, a long running project that explores unusual colors and forms of one of my favorite places.

The EOS R Diary : Whys

This is the first installment of what I plan to be a long(ish) series of posts about my experience with the Canon EOS R system. Yes, while I’m not a big fan of mirrorless in general, I bought an EOS R along with an RF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens. Why?

First and foremost for software development and testing purposes. ShutterCount was the first and as far as I know still the only app that can read the shutter counter of the R (plus the M50). Kuuvik Capture provides tethered shooting support for the EOS R for macOS Mojave users as well (Canon’s own software is not supported on Mojave).

And there’s another reason. I have been looking for a camera system that requires less disciplined technique than my 5DS R plus Zeiss/Rodenstock glass for a very long time. For those occasions where spending half an hour on a single frame isn’t feasible (think travel, for example). What the 5DS R produces is pure magic, but sometimes I would love to stop down beyond f/7.1 or have auto-focus.

November Sun – EOS R + RF 50/1.2

I had tried many options: APS-C, full frame, medium format. From Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji and Hasselblad. And they all failed. Either in the image quality department, or I just gave up amidst frustration because of their awkward user interfaces.

Regarding image quality, I look at the whole imaging chain. The EOS R, with the RF 50/1.2 and Capture One as the RAW converter is capable of producing excellent image quality. (Lesser RAW converters, such as Lightroom or DPP, produce lamentable results, so everything I say here refers to Capture One converted files.) No, it’s not in the league of a Zeiss Otus or a Rodenstock HR-Digaron on the 5DS R, but close enough so I don’t regret leaving the big boys at home.

The freedom those larger pixels and AF brings is charming. I do warn people longing for high resolution cameras that it’s hard work to use them properly. The R’s full frame sensor with 30 megapixels is a little more than what I would consider as an easy-to-shoot camera, but still manageable. And the resulting images can be printed quite large.

As you probably guessed, I like the camera. It won’t replace any of my DSLRs, but already opened up new possibilities, and hope it will do even more in the future.

This brings me to the next why.

Based on the exorbitant amount of negativity on the net about the R you may think it’s a bad camera. Well, from my experience it’s clear that, to put it mildly, most of those reviewers aren’t on the top of their craft. And all this darkness irritates the hell out of me. I expect Canon to make the paying customer (me) happy. I don’t care if the professional we-know-everything-better haters aren’t happy.

Each camera offers a feature set for its target audience. If it’s not for you, then move on, choose another one that fits your needs better. Finding workarounds and solutions to make a system a better fit for one’s needs is a sign of intelligence. Yet I seldom run into constructive and helpful writings. The stupid mud-slinging that goes on and on is a sign of arrogance. Honestly, some of those guys should seek immediate medical assistance.

With that said, if I had been in charge of leading the camera’s development, there are things I would definitely have done differently. But as someone who does user interface design for more than three decades, I can understand the motivation behind most of the team’s decisions. And as someone who knows way more about the internal working of Canon cameras than any of the regular reviewers, I’m confident that in the upcoming diary entries I will be able to shed light on the whys of the EOS R.

That’s for the introduction, next time I’ll discuss camera customization. Homework: download the camera’s user manual and read chapter 5 and chapter 7.