Can You Understand This Baffling Camera Setting?

Can You Understand This Baffling Camera Setting?

Do you ever get the feeling that people who make menu settings on cameras and manual instructions to follow are having a laugh at your expense by making things so confusing? Can you explain this Canon menu riddle to me? Because it's baffling me.

Call me old fashioned or even plain and simple, but if I look at the menu settings on a camera and I see something that I can change and tinker with to suit my preferences, then I kind of expect that option to stick once I've pressed the save button. Normally, my prehistoric wishes are catered to by the good folk at Canon, but I've recently (re-)found something that has left me rather confounded and flustered. In a recent article here on Fstoppers, a reference was made to the use of Auto ISO, the advantage being that when you set up the Auto ISO feature in your menu settings, you can also set the minimum shutter speed value, among other things. Take a look at the image below for a clearer picture of what I'm referring to.

In my Canon 5D Mark IV, you go to the red menu and select the second sub-menu, called "SHOOT2." From there, you can select ISO speed settings, as seen above. Once you click that picture, you get the options seen in the image below.

From there, you select Auto, giving the camera the ability to choose what it deems the best ISO settings for you when you're out shooting so that you can get a correctly lit exposure. As the picture above suggests, you can also set the ISO range for both stills and the Auto setting. For the purposes of experimentation, I set both to 6,400 rather than the default 12,800. I don't like shots at ISO 12,800 anyway and feel that for my own needs, shots taken with such a high digital noise factor are seldom useable. But it's the bottom setting that I was most interested in: minimum shutter speed. Once you press that, you get the option of choosing the minimum shutter speed you'd like the camera to keep in certain circumstances.

As you can see, you get a lot of options to go with. I chose 1/125th of a second, because I need that speed to keep my subjects relatively sharp. The only time I'm really shooting in the dark where I need to bump up the ISO is in and around shrines and temples here in Japan, which can often be very dimly lit. Using a flash doesn't often go down too well with the locals or the monks, but I really don't like bumping the ISO as high as 12,800. The problem is that sometimes, it can get so dark that if I'm in simple aperture priority mode and my lens isn't fast enough, my camera makes the decision to either bump up the ISO to 12,800 and/or reduce the shutter speed to something so slow that it's impossible to get a crisp, sharp handheld image of my subject. So, the idea of setting a minimum shutter speed in the menu was very appealing to me, despite the obvious risks that might come with it in low-light situations.

The picture I had in my mind when I went through this menu process on my 5D Mark IV was that the camera would follow my saved settings and do me the courtesy of adhering to the wishes I'd manually entered. Oh, how stupid of me. When I took a few test shots, I was left dazed and confused. I checked my saved settings once again. ISO 6,400, check. Minimum shutter speed, 1/125th of a second, check. Aperture wide open, check. I took three shots in dark settings, and each time, I got the same result: the camera had not obeyed my wishes! See what I mean in the image below.

You can see from the red circles that the camera did indeed keep the ISO to a maximum of 6,400, but it did not keep the shutter speed to a minimum of 1/125th of a second. I deliberately chose a lens that wasn't particularly fast just to test this out. So basically, what happens is (in my nicest possible words) the camera doesn't give a toss about the settings you've manually entered and saved and does what it wants. To hell with the user, it's all about me, the camera! I looked around the web and discussed the issue with fellow Fstoppers writers, and it seems that the camera does indeed override the settings you've entered and saved. Say what?

Yes, the theory being (according to those defending this mutinous behavior by the camera) that the camera's main job is to give you an image that is exposed correctly. Therefore, if the camera deems that there is not enough light via the aperture or the parameters you've set for ISO, it will reduce the shutter speed so that you do get enough light. It was interesting to me that people seemed to be split on this. To me, I'm emphatically against a camera overriding my settings.

If the option is there for me in a menu to enter values that I want and the option is there for me to save those values, then the camera should follow the values I've entered. If I get an underexposed image that looks like it was taken deep inside someone's pocket, so be it. That's on me and my settings. But to hell with the idea that the camera can override my own choices and do what it thinks is best for me and my image. That would be like a satellite navigation system giving you five options to choose from on your route from A to B. So, you choose option two for whatever reason, then halfway through the drive, you suddenly realize that your navigation has redirected you to route four without telling you. Thanks, but no thanks.

Of course, you could say that I should enter a higher value for my maximum ISO settings or use a faster lens, but that's not the point. The point to me is that if your camera's menu gives you the option of selecting particular options and saving them, then the camera should follow those settings, regardless of whether your image comes out correctly exposed or not. What do you think? Are you happy for the camera to override your own custom settings and make choices for you? Or would you be as (faux) angry as me?

Let me know in the comments below. And also, does this happen with other makers, such as Nikon and Sony? Or is it just a Canon thing?

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150 Comments

Makes perfect sense really, the logic is:
use the lowest iso, and lower shutter speed until you get to the minimum. If that's impossible, go for the minimum and increase iso. Since you've set an upper limit for iso your only option to get a proper exposed picture is drop the shutter speed. The alternative is underexpose the picture and it's ruined, or throw up an error saying it's impossible and you'll miss the shot. Your best bet at a salvageable image is lowering the shutter speed further (given that you've told it you don't want your iso higher up than your upper limit)

Alternatively there is something to say for give us the option of taking an underexposed image instead, but then you'd have to increase the iso in post, giving us the same result as setting a higher max iso.

Alternatively, go into manual mode, set aperture and shutter speed and activate auto iso, and see if that works (I don't have a Canon, so not sure if it'll work)

Edit:
I just checked how my A7III handles this. On aperture mode it functions the same way your camera does. On Manual it will start blinking to indicate it's at the highest allowed iso and take an underexposed picture.

Burt Johnson's picture

Yep. You beat me to it, but I was about to say the same thing.

And yes, I use this on my Sony 7R3 and 7R4 all the time, changing those settings as appropriate for the type of photos I am taking...

Iain Stanley's picture

Interesting regarding your last paragraph. As I said in the article, I’d prefer an underexposed image to tell me my settings were off rather than the camera override my settings. But that’s just me and why I threw the question out there. Cheers

John Adams's picture

The problem with your complaint is that it makes no sense and it's just stupid to get an underexposed image. If you want that then use all manual-mode That is not the point of minimum SS and Auto-ISO, otherwise this function is going to be completely useless. I don't know what experience you have with cameras but that sounds like the complaint of a complete novice. I don't wanna bash you but this whole article is completely retarded.

I agree, if you don't like it, use full manual and the camera will NOT do this, you chose the Auto options and the camera is designed to capture a correct exposure. I found this problem long ago on my D4, however it would just up the ISO on me anyways, it didn't lower the shutter speed ever. I still use Auto ISO and usually Manual mode for shutter and Aperture. So at an MLB game or High school football, I set the camera to 1/1000th or 1/1250th and f/2.8 on both my 400mm and 70-200mm f2.8 lenses. The Auto ISO lets the camera choose the ISO between 100-9000 in my case. I first attempted to set the High ISO to 6,400 as well, but noticed the camera would just end up at 8,000 ISO anyways. I guess at the end of the of the day it doesn't matter if I set it or let it overide the settings, but my theory was overriding could slow down the camera. I don't want my fast camera's to have to process anything more than they already do. I'd rather get sharp photos that have a higher ISO value than I intended than underexposed images, which I'd just have to push in post anyways. I know many people say camera's are ISO invariant and I'm not sure if the D4s bodies I use are, but I certainly am one to get it right in camera and don't want to ever rely on post for exposure adjustments.

Uneternal Van de Dood's picture

So basically what you're saying is: The camera is right to ignore your wish for slowest shutter speed and instead risk a shaky and unuseable picture. Just so the picture comes out correctly exposed. Um sorry but I respectfully disagree, this doesn't make sense.

Iain Stanley's picture

my argument precisely. What point is a correctly exposed image if it's blurry?

John Adams's picture

You don't understand, this is aperture priority, and not shutter-speed priority. What you set is preferred shutter-speed. You'll get it some day don't worry.

Uneternal Van de Dood's picture

It has nothing to do with the AV setting. You seem to completely ignore, that he set a minimum shutter speed and not a "preferred shutter speed".
From the info text in camera: "ISO speed is automatically shifted so that the value is not lower than the specified shutter speed."
Its basically the same like the camera would ignore the max ISO setting and just go up to 256000, cause your max ISO is just a "preferred ISO setting".
Nope sorry, its a limit you set, and the camera ignoring it is a bug and not a feature, no matter how you try to twist it.

John Adams's picture

You don't understand, all cameras have this feature, and I'm very very confident that the problem is the lack of your understanding how this mode works. I'm pretty sure Canon, Nikon, and Sony know very well what they do and there is no way they all share the same "bug".

I'm with you that any camera should always do exactly what the setting is there for and to stick to what you've set it to. But... I think you've got some things mixed up here. The setting above is there for automatic adjustment of the shutter speed relative to your iso settings. And it is staying true to those settings. In the boundaries which are set by the available light. That your cam will still alter the shutter speed is due to shooting in aperture priority. And this mode's purpose is to change shutter speed until you get a properly exposed image.

Iain Stanley's picture

Good points. But it would be pointless in Shutter priority coz you’re setting the SS yourself anyway....

Jim Kennedy's picture

:-0). Yep. Shoot Nikon

…Or Pentax, or Sony, or Olympus.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Another article sponsored by Sony? I don't understand what you don't understand. It's obviously too dark. Set a higher max Iso and you'll see a faster shutter speed. Did we really need a whole article for this on Fstopper? Hell no.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Dude, he shoots Canon. I swear, some of you here have SDS (Sony Derangement Syndrome). Whenever the word "Sony" is in an article, even in the most minute way, you get all triggered and shit.

Iain Stanley's picture

I don’t even know how to respond to that. Every pic in the article is from a Canon menu. Good Lord

Steven Magner's picture

*Clicks article*
*Hits Command+F to open up finder*
*Search: Sony*
*1 result (not even related to the article)*

"OH MY GOD FSTOPPERS ARE YOU OWNED BY SONY?!?!?"

Rayann Elzein's picture

Haha you're funny, I'll give you this. No, I didn't even read the word Sony in the article. I just get annoyed by this site where every single article is a good excuse to bash Canon, especially on such a futile topic. The camera is doing what it's supposed to do, why on earth do we need to flood the internet with an article about this?

Eric Salas's picture

You need a safe space? Can you draw a picture of where the internet hurt you? Maybe try some interpretive dance ?

I’d suspect Pentax. Knowing their market position, everything points at them.

Nikon does the same thing. It holds base ISO while adjusting shutter speed until the min is reached. It then raises ISO until it’s max. Then it proceeds to reduce shutter speed again to maintain proper exposure. Auto exposure is priority over these subsetting. However the camera does it there will be complaints that it is not what I wanted. Doesn’t the camera know what auto exposure is? This photo is underexposed. A workaround might be to use shutter priority. The camera cannot open the lens more than it is capable of.

John Barbiaux's picture

Seriously? Come on man. Use the Google machine. Smh

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I agree with you. The camera needs to do what you told it to. It's like, "what part of minimum didn't you understand". My Sony A7RII and A7III does exactly what I tell them....as it should be. Minimum means minimum.

Iain Stanley's picture

Haha I can’t believe people are getting mad at me for getting mad at a camera that gives me a menu option then disobeys my settings :) I always thought minimum meant minimum too, but apparently not......

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Lol, I know right. I think maybe many of these folks ONLY shoot at static locations/conditions that's why can't fathom why someone would want a min ss while on ap.

Iain Stanley's picture

"push the green button on your remote control if you want to watch sport" Push green button, American Idol appears. What the ...? Nope, that's perfectly OK it seems :)

Rayann Elzein's picture

You just don't understand the settings, and complain about them later. And no, I'm not getting mad at you. I'm just super disappointed that you're wasting bandwidth with such silly articles ;)

Iain Stanley's picture

You’re exactly right. Hence the title of this article.

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