The Canon 5D "C" Mode Gotcha

Oct 12, 2005

The following is an e-mail I received from Michael Tapes yesterday. It concerns a quite real design flaw in the new Custom Mode of the new Canon 5D. Since I am leaving tomorrow on an extended shoot in Asia, I am simply reprinting Michael’s letter to me, as is, so that 5D owners are aware of the issue. Whether this is something that Canon chooses to address with a firmware update remains to be seen. – Michael Reichmann


The following has been brought to my attention by a friend, who like you and I, recently purchased the 5D. Also like you and me he is very pleased with the camera. I think thrilled would be more accurate. Because of the numbers of people that will be buying this camera, I thought that it would be important for your readers who now or shortly will own the 5D to be careful of the following"gotcha". Both my friend (Mike Arst) and myself think it is quite a serious flaw that will have people’s heads spinning until they realize what the cause is. I have called Chuck Westfall of Canon to discuss this with him but he is away on business, and I do not think that this can wait.
The "gotcha" (I am not sure whether it is a bug or a design flaw) involves the Custom feature, a very nice addition to the new Canon DSLRs. By design one can set all of the camera settings, including Custom Functions, and then store those settings into the Custom Mode (the "C" on the mode dial), by selecting Register Camera Settings from the LCD menu. It all works as advertised. But here comes the Gotcha.

Let’s say that my custom setting is for AV mode at f/10 with +2/3EV. I put the camera to C mode and the settings appear as stored. As I continue to shoot, I decide to change the aperture to f8 and change the EV to +1/3. Because the 5D has almost instant power-on, and high battery usage, unlike previous Canon cameras where I would set the power saver to 8 minutes or more, on the 5D I set it to 2 or 4 minutes, so in fact the camera power will time out from time to time when I am idle in relation to shooting. So, I am waiting for the next shot. I see it coming, the camera springs to life almost instantly, but rather than have my new f/8 and +1/3EV setting where I left off minutes ago, the camera apparently says, "OK we are now powering up in the Custom mode, so we will make sure that all the settings are as stored". GOTCHA!
I think a reasonable design is such that when manually powered down and repowering, the camera come up in the stored Custom settings, as the camera does not know whether you have stored the camera overnight, or just shut it off for a few minutes. But for auto-power down, the camera must not change my settings. I often don’t even know that the camera was in power-down, because when I touch the shutter button as I bring it up to my eye, it’s springs instantly back to life.So – PLEASE KEEP YOU HANDS OFF MY SETTINGS.
Obviously this is a one line code change (or at least very minor), so I hope in fact that this is a bug and not a design flaw, because if it stays this way, it is simply too dangerous to have the camera controls change during an auto-power down.
In the meantime be very aware of this glitch, as it affects the basic use of the camera in Custom Mode.
Michael Tapes division of PictureFlow LLC)