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PhotographyJam - the photographer's resource: Exploring the Canon 350D/Rebel XT custom functions
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Exploring the Canon 350D/Rebel XT custom functions · by Simon Mackie

In this article, I’m going to take a quick tour of the custom functions provided on the Canon 350D/Rebel XT, and give you an idea of when it might be useful to use them.

Update – as the custom functions are the same, this article also covers the Canon 400D / Rebel XTi

“Custom functions? Sounds complicated!” I hear you cry. In actual fact, the custom functions are mainly just a way of customizing your camera to your liking. However, hidden in those menus are some features that can be very useful in certain circumstances – the most useful of these are probably the long exposure noise reduction, shutter-curtain sync and mirror lockup.

To get to the custom functions menu, press the Menu button and select “Custom Functions (C. Fn)”. Press the up and down buttons on the cross keys to get to the custom function that you’d like to change.

Note that these custom functions only work in the “creative zone” modes (in other words, program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual, or A-DEP)

SET button/Cross keys funct.

This option customizes how the cross keys and “SET” buttons behave on your camera. The default setting of 0 means that theses buttons will behave normally as written on your camera and the SET button doesn’t do anything until you’re inside a menu.

By changing this setting to 1: SET: Quality, pressing the SET button while shooting will bring up the image quality menu (without having to press the MENU button and navigate to the quality menu).

By changing this setting to 2: SET: Parameter, pressing the SET button while shooting will bring up the paremeter menu, allowing you to quickly change the parameter settings in your camera (you can use this menu to change to black and white mode for example, or adjust the amount of sharpening and saturation the camera applies to the image) Personally, I don’t use this menu much anyway, as I shoot all of my images in RAW and do all of my processing in Photoshop afterwards, but if you use JPEGs and don’t want to do much post-processing, this might be a useful feature.

Setting this function to 3: SET : Playback means that pressing the SET button while shooting will put the camera in playback mode, just like pressing the playback button (the little blue triangle). I’m not sure why you’d want to do this, but maybe some people find it more convenient.

The final setting, 4: Cross keys:AF Frame select. Changes the function of the cross kkeys while shooting. You can use the cross keys to select the autofocus point, rather than having to hold down the focus point button and rotate the command wheel. This is a pretty useful feature if you need to move the focus point a lot, or if you’re used to similar features on other cameras.. SET selects the central point.

Long exposure noise reduction

This option is very useful when taking long exposure shots (in bulb mode). One of the big problems with long exposure shots at night is that you sometimes get “hot pixels” – these show up as colored specks and are particularly noticeable against the black sky in nighttime shots. By switching this function on (to 1, rather than 0) , the camera takes two images, one with the shutter open and one with the shutter closed. It uses the second image (with the shutter closed, which takes the same amount of time as the exposure of the first image) to deal with the hot pixels in the first image, by subtracting the noise from the second image from the first. This is very useful, and it’s incredibly effective – although it does mean that you have to wait twice as long for your shot. Remember to switch it off when you don’t need it. It’s worth noting that the noise reduction will only kick in on exposures of 30 seconds or more

Flash sync. speed in Av mode

Using this mode, you can fix the the flash sync speed to 1/200th of a second in aperture priority (Av) mode. You might like to use this ifthe camera is using a slow sync speed (it decided that you just need fill flash) but you actually want it to use the flash as the main light source – you don’t want motion blur, for example.

Shutter button/AE lock button

This setting affects the the AF/AE lock button (*). In standard mode,pressing this button locks the exposure and autofocus.

Setting this option to 1 stops the button locking the autofocus – this is useful if you want to meter your shot and focus it seperately.

Option 2, AF/AF lock, no AE lock, is only useful in AI Servo autofocus mode. Pressing the button freezes the autofocus – you might like to do this to stop objects thtat come between you and your subject (in crowds for example) throwing your focus off. Personally, I’ve never found it tat useful.

The final setting is AE/AF, no AE lock. Like setting 2, this mode only works in AI Servo autofocus mode., the button will start and stop the servo autofocus This could come in handy with a subject that is stationary for a while and then starts moving.

AF-assist beam

This function has three settings. The default is emits – in low-light situations, the camera will emit a beam to assist the autofocus. Note that it’s not really a beam at all – it strobes the popup flash on the camera to assist with focusing (if it’s popped up). You can switch it off by setting this function to 1:Does not emit – you might like to do this if you don’t want the subject to e disturbed by the flash strobing until you’ve taken the picture. If you set this to 2:Only emits ext. flash, the camera will only use the AF assist beam built into dedicated Canon flash units.

Exposure level increments

This sets the amount each click of the command wheel changes your exposure value (aperture, shutter speed). The default is 1/3 stop increment but you can change this to ½ if you like. This gives less fine grained control, but makes rapid changes quicker.

Mirror lockup

One of the inherent problems with SLR camera is that when each shot is taken, the mirror inside the camera slaps against the bodywork of the camera. Normally, this doesn’t present much of a problem (apart from the noise), but on macro shots, long exposure shots, and extreme telephotos, the vibration caused by the “mirror slap” can cause blur. To make a really sharp image, enable this function. When shooting with this function, the first press of the shutter release swings the mirror up, and the second press releases the shutter.


This setting affects how your camera meters the scene. The default setting is fully automatic, where the camera uses evaluative metering for all conditions. You can set this to 1, average, which menas that you may have to dial in some exposure compensation.

Shutter-curtain sync.

Normally, the flash on the camera fires the moment the shutter opens – this captures the scene at the exact moment you press the shutter release button (called first curtain sync). However, using this on slow shutter speed images with light trails (an image of a moving car at night for example, for example) can result in light trails that appear to be in front of the moving subject and look unnatural. In these circumstances, it’s better to fire the flash later, just before the shutter closes (called second curtain sync). This results in more natural looking images with light trails behind the moving subject. Second curtain sync is enabled by setting this option to 2: 2nd curtain sync. You can also use this for some creative photography – see this blog post for more details on secon-curtain sync.

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