Points in Focus Photography

Camera User Settings: Canon DSLR Setup Guide

This article is about one function I’m starting to really appreciate on the Canon EOS 40D, and that’s the Camera User Settings. It’s a handy way to store the camera’s configuration settings into an easy to access C position on the mode dial. It’s also available on the Powershot S5IS as well as several other Canon cameras, as well as a more complicated and flexible version on the EOS 1 series bodies. However, for this article, I’ll only be discussing the EOS 40D specifically, though the techniques apply similarly to any of the cameras listed in the table below.

Current SLRs that support custom user settings include:

Supported SLRs
Model # of Presets
EOS 5D 1
EOS 5D Mark 2 3
EOS 7D 3
EOS 40D 3
EOS 50D 3
EOS 60D 1

The Camera User Settings save every setting on the camera, and I mean every setting. This includes:

  • custom functions
  • release mode
  • metering mode
  • auto focus mode
  • shutter speed or aperture
  • ISO
  • exposure compensation

It will then set the camera to those settings when the mode dial is changed to the appropriate custom mode. You can now preform a quick reset by simply flicking the mode dial to another setting and back to the custom setting you want to shoot in.

Using Camera User Settings In Practice

The truth is I didn’t think it was going to be very useful when I got the camera, sure I saw some application but it’s been only recently that I realized the usefulness of this feature. The best way to explain it is by example.

When I’m normally shooting, I use one shot autofocus and a single frame release mode. But when I shoot birds I tend to favor the AI Servo autofocus (continuous) and high-speed continuous release (as well as some other changes that I’ll discuss in upcoming Cool Camera Tricks).

Normally when I’d go to shoot wildlife I’d need to manually set all my camera settings to what I use for birds and then remember to switch them back when I was done. Normally that would mean when I was walking out to shoot, I’d also be changing the autofocus mode, release mode, make sure the camera was in Aperture Priority, make sure my film speed was at ISO400. Then again at the end of the day, reset the camera to so that it was ready to go at my defaults when I was done.

Now all I do is flick the mode dial to C1, and away I’m set, when I’m done, flicking the mode dial back to Av and my camera is right back where I left it before I got started.

There are some caveats though. For starters the shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, etc. are reset if the camera goes to sleep.

That means if your C1 setting, for example, was set to Av with an aperture of f/8 and you change it do f/5.6 while shooting, if the camera goes to sleep when it wakes up it will be set back to f/8.

This of course can also work to your advantage, because the camera user mode saves every setting it also will reset your exposure bias and flash exposure bias when the camera wakes up. Which can be helpful in preventing you from under or over exposing a second scene some time later forgetting the exposure bias was set.

Setting Up Camera User Settings

To setup Camera User Settings on the 40D:

  1. Set the camera to any of the creative zone modes (P, Tv, Av, M, A-Dep).
  2. Set all the custom functions, aperature or shutter settings, film speed, biases, you want to be saved
  3. Press Menu and select to the 3rd camera tools menu (the Wrech with 3 dots)
  4. Choose the “Camera User Settings” menu item
  5. Select the Register menu item
  6. Choose the Mode Dial : C# position you want to register you settings to (C1, C2, or C3) and press set
  7. When prompted to save the settings for that position, choose OK and you’re done.

Updating Saved Camera User Settings

To update a saved Camera user setting:

  1. Set the Mode Dial to the C# position you want to update
  2. Change the settings you want to change
  3. Repeat the process of saving the settings outlined above

The update needs to be performed in the C mode or the camera will reset all the settings to whatever your defaults are in whatever other mode you were working in.

Streamlining Operating in C modes

The biggest problem with Canon’s implementation of the custom modes, is the camera sleeping and waking up which causes it to reset back to the saved custom settings. In some instances this isn’t a problem, and actually has saved me from shooting something with misapplied exposure correction. But what happens when you change the ISO because the lighting conditions have changed. In that case you’re in trouble, if the camera goes to sleep when you wake it back up, you’re back in the wrong ISO. If you don’t let the camera go to sleep, you run your battery down more rapidly.

The only real solution I’ve found is a combination increasing the sleep delay, to something like 2-8 minutes, not the 1 minute setting like I usually keep it at. The second aid was mapping a “My Menu” entry to the “Camera user setting” menu, This way if a change is temporary, such as a cloud obscuring the sun, I can change for example the film speed, and as long as I’m still shooting inside the 8 minute window, my settings say just as I left them. If I foresee needing to say that way for any length of time, updating the settings is just 3 clicks away. One thing you gotta do is remember what settings you changed so you can set them back. The only thing that could possibly make this any smoother would be the ability to save and restore the camera user settings though the EOS utility when the camera is connected to a computer.



Way to tease me with the reference to S5IS! ;-) I have only used my custom mode to manually set both f-stop and exposure. I haven’t figured out (but also haven’t looked hard) how to have it save a mode but still auto meter etc.


Thanks! that’s so much better than the manual! one trick is to set it to C3 instead of C1 then you can just spin the dial to the end without looking at the dial, then you are ready if something happens fast.

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