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Advice re: Canon 20d Digital SLR
Old 08-17-2007, 06:14 PM   #1 (permalink)
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I have a Canon 20d. The thing has more controls than an airplane, and frankly the manual that came with the camera is not enough. For example, although it vaguely explains controls like sharpness and saturation v. less saturation, it doesn't give a clue about advantages or disadvantages or how to best choose settings. Explanations of color temperature settings/white balance and also far from enough.

REQUEST: Can you experts recommend an aftermarket book that is complete and clear and readable? I don't mind studying up on this stuff and really mastering the camera, but I'm frustrated at the vagueness and inadequacy of what came w/ the camera.
 
 
Re: Advice re: Canon 20d Digital SLR
Old 08-17-2007, 07:30 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glamourpics View Post
I have a Canon 20d. The thing has more controls than an airplane, and frankly the manual that came with the camera is not enough. For example, although it vaguely explains controls like sharpness and saturation v. less saturation, it doesn't give a clue about advantages or disadvantages or how to best choose settings. Explanations of color temperature settings/white balance and also far from enough.

REQUEST: Can you experts recommend an aftermarket book that is complete and clear and readable? I don't mind studying up on this stuff and really mastering the camera, but I'm frustrated at the vagueness and inadequacy of what came w/ the camera.
There are several theories on using a dSLR camera like the 20D. I have a 20D also and I found the manual adequate for its functions. They do not go into great detail about the issues your raise simply because they are so subjective. But since the camera is an dSLR and you can examine the resulting photos in great detail, I just took he approach, right after I got the camera, of taking photos of the same scene using a different setting for each photo and then compared the differences to see which settings "I liked best".

What I decided was that there are often different settings for different types of photography. So I then experimented with RAW. I found that I could always get the settings I wanted after the fact using the Raw converter.

Here are some basic thoughts on how to proceed:

1. White balance is straight forward. You must choose the white balance that is appropriate for the lighting of the scene you are shooting. When in doubt, use the Custom White Balance settings (CWB). I use a black/gray/white calibration target from Photovision to set my CWB, but you can use just a gray card or a white card. Put the card or target in the scene and shoot a photo of it more or less full frame. Now in the menu choose that photo as the CWB reference photo, and then on the top LCD of the camera select the CWB setting. This is very clear in the manual.

2. If shooting JPG, then set the sharpness at one stop above center and leave all the other settings for the other values in the middle.

3. Set the LCD brightness to one stop below the lowest setting. This will help you more accurately evaluate photos in the LCD. If you set it any brighter than that, then you are fooling your self.

4. Learn about the camera's histogram and how to read it. A good way to learn more about it is to shoot various scenes with proper exposure and then look at the resulting histograms. Shoot a gray card at full frame and you should, for example, see one spike in the middle and nothing else. If it is not in the middle, then you have the wrong exposure. Shoot a typical fair skinned person filling the whole frame with just their face. The resulting histogram should have sort of a hump in the center area and trail off on each side. If part of the graph goes off the edge on either side, then you are losing photographic information in the scene.

If you shoot RAW, you will be able have more flexibility in choosing the parameters after the fact. But you still need to gain a basic understanding of good exposure techniques and only "trial and error" will let you do that to reach what you feel looks right to you. Finally, even if you shoot RAW, it is wise to get good JPG settings so that you will have a good LCD preview as the preview image is a 1500 x 1000 JPG (that will be embedded in the RAW file) and uses the camera parameters.

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Re: Advice re: Canon 20d Digital SLR 

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Re: Advice re: Canon 20d Digital SLR
Old 08-17-2007, 07:38 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glamourpics View Post
I have a Canon 20d. The thing has more controls than an airplane, and frankly the manual that came with the camera is not enough. For example, although it vaguely explains controls like sharpness and saturation v. less saturation, it doesn't give a clue about advantages or disadvantages or how to best choose settings. Explanations of color temperature settings/white balance and also far from enough.

REQUEST: Can you experts recommend an aftermarket book that is complete and clear and readable? I don't mind studying up on this stuff and really mastering the camera, but I'm frustrated at the vagueness and inadequacy of what came w/ the camera.
Hi,

While I can't recommend a book, I can say that there are many of us here who use 20Ds.

Perhaps give us an idea of your workflow process and what you want to know. For example, do you shoot raw or jpg? Do you make extensive use of Photoshop? While I understand you want to understand all the various settings, perhaps start with a topic or two of most interest.

Regards,
Kevin
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Re: Advice re: Canon 20d Digital SLR
Old 08-17-2007, 07:46 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R_Fredrick_Smith View Post
Here are some basic thoughts on how to proceed:

1. White balance is straight forward. You must choose the white balance that is appropriate for the lighting of the scene you are shooting. When in doubt, use the Custom White Balance settings (CWB). I use a black/gray/white calibration target from Photovision to set my CWB, but you can use just a gray card or a white card. Put the card or target in the scene and shoot a photo of it more or less full frame. Now in the menu choose that photo as the CWB reference photo, and then on the top LCD of the camera select the CWB setting. This is very clear in the manual.
No it isn't. The manual is virtually impossible to understand for white balance.

On page 51 of the manual, it states the following:

1) Press the AF-WB button (understood)

2) Select the custom white balance.

Look at the LCD panel and turn the dial to select custom white balance symbol (understood)

3) Photograph a white object

* The plain white object should fill the partial metering circle (easy enough)
* Set the lens focus mode to MF and focus manually (easy enough)
* Set any white balance setting (Then why did I do step 2? If I am moving to any white balance setting, what did I accomplish with Step 2? Can I choose AWB?)
* Shoot the white object so that a standard exposure is obtained (easy enough)

4) Select Custom WB via the camera menu

* Turn the dial to select Custom WB, then press set (easy enough)
* The custom white balance screen will appear (easy enough)

5) Select the image

* Turn the dial to select the image captured in step 3, then press set (easy enough)
* The image's white balance data will be imported and the menu will reappear (easy enough)

My confusion is steps 2 & 3. As I understand the written instructions (not very well), it doesn't seem we do anything with the custom white balance symbol in step 2. We select it, and we change it again before snapping a picture.


I later learned that...

1. Take a picture of a white object.
2. Select Custom White Balance on the back panel and press Set.
3. Choose the picture from step 1 and press Set. This stores a white balance setting.
4. Select Custom White Balance from the top panel when you want to use this stored white balance.

Aren't these latter four steps much easier?

Best regards,
Kevin
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Re: Advice re: Canon 20d Digital SLR
Old 08-17-2007, 08:04 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stecyk View Post
No it isn't. The manual is virtually impossible to understand for white balance.

On page 51 of the manual, it states the following:

1) Press the AF-WB button (understood)

2) Select the custom white balance.

Look at the LCD panel and turn the dial to select custom white balance symbol (understood)

3) Photograph a white object

* The plain white object should fill the partial metering circle (easy enough)
* Set the lens focus mode to MF and focus manually (easy enough)
* Set any white balance setting (Then why did I do step 2? If I am moving to any white balance setting, what did I accomplish with Step 2? Can I choose AWB?)
* Shoot the white object so that a standard exposure is obtained (easy enough)

4) Select Custom WB via the camera menu

* Turn the dial to select Custom WB, then press set (easy enough)
* The custom white balance screen will appear (easy enough)

5) Select the image

* Turn the dial to select the image captured in step 3, then press set (easy enough)
* The image's white balance data will be imported and the menu will reappear (easy enough)

My confusion is steps 2 & 3. As I understand the written instructions (not very well), it doesn't seem we do anything with the custom white balance symbol in step 2. We select it, and we change it again before snapping a picture.


I later learned that...

1. Take a picture of a white object.
2. Select Custom White Balance on the back panel and press Set.
3. Choose the picture from step 1 and press Set. This stores a white balance setting.
4. Select Custom White Balance from the top panel when you want to use this stored white balance.

Aren't these latter four steps much easier?

Best regards,
Kevin
One can always improve on any set of instructions. I have no problem with the Canon manual. The instructions are precise and exact and they work just fine. Step 3 could be worded better, but essentially they are saying you could use any White Balance setting on the top LCD when shooting the reference photo, but if you choose it (CWB) to start with, then you'll not have to then choose it again later. And you notice in their instructions, they do not choose it again later.

Your instructions are perfectly okay, but just like the Canon instructions, have confusing elements. Which proves how difficult it is to write instructions. For example you say "Take a picture of a white object". Someone might think they could use a 3 dimensional object rather than a white surface. Of course Canon says this also which is a confusing element. That is to say, if you use a white ball as your reference, you will likely not get as exact a CWB as you would with a actual white card. And even then, a gray card will work better, because it is not as likely to have a hot spot. We could write several pages discussing this, but that would likely be more confusing in a manual than helpful. So Canon uses the pedantic approach which is "technically" accurate.

But actually the sort of pedantic instructions in the Canon Manual are good because they force you to work slowly through the initial phases of learning the step by step approach and then you can work out your own refinements.

I tried to explain all this to a model I was shooting and this was her reaction!

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Re: Advice re: Canon 20d Digital SLR 


Cheers,
Roger
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Re: Advice re: Canon 20d Digital SLR
Old 08-17-2007, 08:19 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R_Fredrick_Smith View Post
One can always improve on any set of instructions. I have no problem with the Canon manual. The instructions are precise and exact and they work just fine. Step 3 could be worded better, but essentially they are saying you could use any White Balance setting on the top LCD when shooting the reference photo, but if you choose it (CWB) to start with, then you'll not have to then choose it again later. And you notice in their instructions, they do not choose it again later.

Your instructions are perfectly okay, but just like the Canon instructions, have confusing elements. Which proves how difficult it is to write instructions. For example you say "Take a picture of a white object". Someone might think they could use a 3 dimensional object rather than a white surface. Of course Canon says this also which is a confusing element. That is to say, if you use a white ball as your reference, you will likely not get as exact a CWB as you would with a actual white card. And even then, a gray card will work better, because it is not as likely to have a hot spot. We could write several pages discussing this, but that would likely be more confusing in a manual than helpful. So Canon uses the pedantic approach which is "technically" accurate.

But actually the sort of pedantic instructions in the Canon Manual are good because they force you to work slowly through the initial phases of learning the step by step approach and then you can work out your own refinements.

I tried to explain all this to a model I was shooting and this was her reaction!
Hi Roger,

I am not going to get into a "yes it is, no it ain't" argument. Simply put, I needed help understanding Canon's instructions, and I am reasonably adept person with computers. Technical language doesn't throw me easily. When another person gave me instructions 1 through 4, I immediately understood what I needed to do with the camera.

So I can understand and sympathize with those who don't understand the instructions--because I didn't either.

Let's see if glamourpics prefers the steps 1-4 that another person gave me or prefers Canon's instructions.

I must note to others that you have been extremely helpful to me when I asked questions about white balance. You are gracious and generous with your knowledge. I always find your advice helpful. And for that I am grateful.

Best regards,
Kevin
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Re: Advice re: Canon 20d Digital SLR
Old 08-17-2007, 09:07 PM   #7 (permalink)
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The thing has more controls than an airplane.
I agree, they make these cameras more complicated than they need to.

"Magic Lantern Guides" / Canon EOS 20D.....They make a book for several, if not all, the newer cameras,....easier explainations and suggestions. $19.95 Got mine at Barnes and Noble.
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Re: Advice re: Canon 20d Digital SLR
Old 08-17-2007, 09:44 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Another way to approach all this is to go over the fundamentals of what all of the settings are really about. Here is a good site which lots of tutorials on various aspects of digital photography:

http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials.htm

Cheers,
rfs
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Re: Advice re: Canon 20d Digital SLR
Old 08-18-2007, 12:32 AM   #9 (permalink)
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With deference and respect to Mr. Smith and the other learned members participating in this Thread I have to take exception to one comment in this Thread concerning Histograms.

From my somewhat limited knowledge a proper Histogram is an indicated of a properly exposed image and there is really no need to photograph a Gray Card or a White Card or any other card for that matter in order to get a good Histogram and therefore a good image.

I try whenever possible to photograph on Manual and I was doing this last weekend during a shoot with a very popular model when I dropped my light meter and went into a state of utter panic. I didn't want to end the shoot because it might have been a month or more before we could re-schedule and I didn't want to "guess" at my exposures because the light was changing rapidly and I didn't want to photograph on "Program" mode so I had the idea to bracket a couple of exposures using my light meter as a center point and the Histogram function of my camera as confirmation.

Once I had adjusted my meter to give me a good Histogram I was once again set to go and this was confirmed when I uploaded my images into my computer and view them in Photoshop. The Histograms were spot on.

Please note that this was my experience and may not be representative of your results and then of course there is the possibility that it was just plain dumb luck on my part but it worked and save my shoot. Nuff said!
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Re: Advice re: Canon 20d Digital SLR
Old 08-18-2007, 01:37 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PhotoDave1 View Post
With deference and respect to Mr. Smith and the other learned members participating in this Thread I have to take exception to one comment in this Thread concerning Histograms.

From my somewhat limited knowledge a proper Histogram is an indicated of a properly exposed image and there is really no need to photograph a Gray Card or a White Card or any other card for that matter in order to get a good Histogram and therefore a good image.

I try whenever possible to photograph on Manual and I was doing this last weekend during a shoot with a very popular model when I dropped my light meter and went into a state of utter panic. I didn't want to end the shoot because it might have been a month or more before we could re-schedule and I didn't want to "guess" at my exposures because the light was changing rapidly and I didn't want to photograph on "Program" mode so I had the idea to bracket a couple of exposures using my light meter as a center point and the Histogram function of my camera as confirmation.

Once I had adjusted my meter to give me a good Histogram I was once again set to go and this was confirmed when I uploaded my images into my computer and view them in Photoshop. The Histograms were spot on.

Please note that this was my experience and may not be representative of your results and then of course there is the possibility that it was just plain dumb luck on my part but it worked and save my shoot. Nuff said!
The purpose of photographing a gray card, or a black/gray/white card, is simple. It allows one to see a histogram that is exactly predictable. In other words we know exactly what it should look like if the exposure is correct. This is not always the case with other non-uniform objects. For example, a well exposed image of a 18% gray card will always have one spike right in the middle. I usually shoot in manual mode also and I generally use either a gray card or the B/G/W target. It normally takes just one shot and one look at the histogram to get me to the correct exposure. But you can also do something similar with faces of people. The problem with your method (as you explained it) is with the phrase "good histogram". That phrase doesn't really mean much by itself. It should be a "good histogram" of some particular thing or object. I mentioned a "good histogram" of a gray card. We know what that should look like an it will look the same to all of us. With experience one can look at a histogram and know if the exposure is good. But that means we have to examine many hundreds of histograms of all sorts of scenes before we have the experience to tell just from looking. On the other hand anyone can tell if the histogram of a gray card shot has a good exposure.

One experiment that is very helpful with histograms is to take a photo and move it into photoshop and then grab the oval selection tool and make a selection of a small oval area of the photo. Look at the histogram of the selection. Then move the selection around the photo looking at how the histogram changes with each move. Compare each histogram of a small area to the histogram of the whole photo.

In summary you can judge exposure from the histogram and with experience can do it with any photograph. But you can gain greater precision with less experience just by using a gray card.

Cheers,
rfs
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