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|| News Item: Posted 2012-10-13

Peter Read Miller shares his Canon EOS-1D X secrets
The Sports Illustrated photographer takes all the mystery out of shooting with Canon's newest camera.

By Peter Read Miller and Jerry Ward

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Shot with Canon EOS-1D X: 2000 ISO. 1/1600 @ 4.0
I have been shooting the Canon EOS-1D X camera since late June of this year. I have shot the track and field trials, the gymnastics trials, the Olympics, football, baseball and several lit portraits (including an SI cover) with the camera. I thought I knew it pretty well so agreeing to write something on the settings for seemed pretty straightforward.

Then I really started going through the menus and began to suspect that there were a few things I didn’t know about the camera. Then I called my old friend Jerry Ward (one of Canon’s top tech reps and a long time sports shooter) and found out there was a whole lot I didn’t know about the camera!

What follows is based on my experience with the camera combined with Jerry filling the gaping holes in my knowledge. I am not going to address every menu option. I am already writing a book and don’t want to start another one. Also many of these options just don’t apply to the way I shoot. Any errors are completely on my part.

Note: Canon has names for all the sections of the menu, but most of us refer to them by color. Here they are anyway: Red-“Shoot”, Magenta-“AF”, Blue-“Play”, Yellow-“Set Up”, Orange-“CF” and Green-“My Menu”.

It should also be noted that almost everything I discuss here also applies to 5D Mk III. The main exception is the Auto AF pt sel. EOS iTR AF which is explained below.

The “Q” button: Located in the middle of the camera back to the right of the LCD and above the “Quick Control Dial. I am a little embarrassed to admit that in five months shooting with the camera I never used it- or even noticed it until Jerry pointed it out to me- really. Push it and you get most all of the major functions of the camera in one handy screen. Navigate around with the joystick and you can control aperture, shutter speed (depending on mode you are shooting in), white balance, exposure compensation and a bunch of other functions. Handy! It will also allow you to navigate around the menus when they are open. Cool!

The “INFO.”: As you cruise through the various menu options you will often see a little white square with the word “INFO.” in it. When you see this you can push the “INFO.” button on the camera and voila- information on the particular menu item appears. Huh-who’d a thought?

Color Space (Red1): Although most conventional wisdom has been to shoot sRGB to avoid out of gamut colors. This is based on the color gamut that could be achieved with old style “wet” color printing. Jerry points out that modern printers like the Canon Pixma PRO-1 can reproduce a wider gamut of colors than in the past, so Adobe RGB is the way to go. I don’t pretend to be a color space expert so I will defer to Jerry on this one.

Lens Aberration Correction (Red 1): Definitely a plus to leave this one turned on. With most Canon lenses the camera will correct for any know aberrations in the lens, much quicker and easier than doing it in post.

Multiple Exposure (Red 1): A very cool feature! See my piece on the Olympics in last month’s newsletter ( and have fun with it.

ISO Speed Settings (Red 2): Seems oblivious right? One thing, the camera comes out of the box without the highest and lowest ranges enabled. Will you ever need ISO 50 or ISO 204,800? Maybe not, but it’s nice to have all the options.

Release Shutter Without Card (Red 3): I ALWAYS turn this off. It avoids the digital equivalent of shooting without film in your camera.

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Shot with Canon EOS-1D X: 4000 ISO. 1/1250 @ 4.5
External Speedlite Control (Red 3): This will allow you to completely control both a speedlite on the camera, and in the case of the radio controlled 600EX-RT, a speedlite a or group of speedlites off the camera. Why not use the controls on the flash you ask? Of course you can, but the flash menus are much easier to read on the camera LCD than on the flash.

LV (Live View) (Red 4): Set to stills it is super handy for setting up remotes. Cycle through using the “INFO.” Button to bring up the super cool level feature. This is Shawn Cullen’s personal favorite. You can also hit the magnify button to check critical focus at two levels of magnification-5X or 10X.

AF Mode (Red 4): Set to “Quick Mode”. This is the AF mode intended for still shooting. This gives the camera the best AF performance. Why would you set it to anything else?

AF Cases (Magenta 1): I think we are all still learning about these. Canon sure gave us a lot of choices. Here’s my experience gained from shooting the sports I listed at the beginning of the article combined with talking to other Canon shooters and Jerry. There are a lot of sports I have not shot with this camera; so-as they say “your mileage may vary”. Note: there is an “INFO.” button on the AF Case screen. Use it and text will “explain” each setting. Worth a read.

Case 1: I shot almost the entire Olympics on this setting. I gotta say-it just works. If you never used the other Cases the 1D X would still be the best auto-focusing camera Canon has ever made. Ever.

Case 2: I thought this case might be good for football to follow a player through the crowd of blockers and defensive players. I found it to be very slow to acquire and I really didn’t like it. I tried it a little at swimming to avoid focusing on the splash, but I didn’t really shoot enough to come to any conclusions. It should work well with volleyball or any sport that involved shooting through a net.

Case 3: I tried this Case at a night football game using a 400mm with a 1.4 extender. My reasoning was that the extender slows the AF so using the fastest Case would make up for it. In a way I guess it did- even with the 1.4x it grabbed players FAST, but it lost them almost as fast and when it lost someone the AF headed for the hills. Very reminiscent of the AF in the early Canon film cameras. Jerry thinks it would be good for bikes or auto racing. I say use with care.

Case 4: I have had very good results with this Case. It seems to work well for football especially at night. I have also heard this from several other shooters. I think this one is a keeper.

Cases 5 and 6: Honestly I have not really messed around with these two. The auto- switching of the AF points is impressive technology. I have to play with these more. Note: if you read the “INFO.” Screen for Case 6 it lists the “suggested” sport as Rhythmic Gymnastics, so all you RG shooters out there-get to it!

AI Servo 1st and 2nd Image Priority (Magenta 2): I have both these set to “Equal Priority”. The AF in this camera is so good that I don’t think there is any need to skew this either way.

Auto AF pt sel:EOS iTR AF (Magenta 4): I saw this and I thought whatever it is it can’t be good so I turned it off. In London the Canon people told me to turn it on as it allows the camera to use color information to help with the AF focus better. Jerry says the same thing. Turn it on.

Selectable AF point (Magenta 4): I had this set to 61 points. Why not use them all? Jerry pointed out that 61 is a lot of AF points to move through and suggested that I only use “Only cross-type AF points”. Makes sense to me. On the other hand, if you are shooting a portrait or something else that you are composing using “the rule of thirds”- the 61 points will cover nicely.

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Shot with Canon EOS-1D X:
Select AF area selec. Mode (Magenta 4): This basically allows you to enable or disable the various AF point modes. Boy, we’ve come a long way from “just use the center spot”. The “INFO.” screen is a good read on this one. I like the 2 varieties of “Expand AF area”. I think the one left, one right, one up, one down is my fav. Jerry suggests the “Auto Selection”- the mode all the way on the right on this screen. I’m going to check it out.

Orientation linked AF point (Magenta 4): This allows you to set different AF points for horizontal and vertical shooting. A no brainer.

Manual AF pt. selec. Pattern (Magenta 5): A matter of taste. Would you rather see all the AF points all the time or just the ones you are using?

Magnification (Blue 3): Here buried in the Blue menus that I always skip is something useful. By setting Magnification to “Actual size” when you hit the magnify button the image comes up showing you on the AF point you were using so you don’t have to scroll around the screen to see if something is sharp. Handy.

Record func+card/folder sel (Yellow 1): This is another matter of taste. I set it on “Auto switch card” stick in two cards and let it rip. Some people do other things. Note that if you start pulling out one card- as we did in London- and then replace it you may get confused as to which card the camera is writing to. This led to several frantic texts that mostly said “your f***ing card is blank!”.

File Numbering (Yellow 1): Continuous. Remember when Canon’s stopped at file number 9999? You could never figure out why the camera wasn’t working.
Save/Load cam settings on card (Yellow 4)- Everyone knows this- right? This is how you save your precious settings when the camera goes in to CPS and they zero it out. Also helpful for setting up rented/borrowed cameras.
Restrict drive modes (Orange 4): This is how you turn on the 14 fps frame rate (only with JPEGs mind you). It is not enabled when the camera comes out of the box.

Custom Controls (Orange 5): Cool camera pictogram makes it simple to change buttons and dials. I like my back button focus control on the * button. It’s a little less stretch for my thumb, or you can set both back buttons for AF and double your chance of hitting one on a grab shot.

Shutter release time lag (Orange 6): Shortened! Read the “INFO.”

My Menu Settings (Green): This is where you can group all the functions you use frequently in one easy to reach screen. I have “Battery info”, “Format card”, “Custom controls” and some AF adjustments. It sure beats frantically thumbing through the screens. Another good function to keep here is the “External Flash Control”.

OK, so this what I know about the camera-so far. It’s an amazing camera and I’m sure we will learn more as time goes on. It can only get better.

Related Links:
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