My EOS 7D settings

My main cameras today are the EOS 7D and 5DmkII, and on recent workshops several participants have been keen to see how I have them configured. The cameras have many great features, but to easily access the ones that suit me requires a few changes.
In this post I’ll describe the settings I use on my EOS 7D, and I’ll follow up with the 5DmkII details later. Rather than detailing every single setting in the camera, I’m going to just describe the things I’ve changed from the default. This is with firmware version 1.2.3.

In writing this post I first cleared all the Custom Functions, as well as invoking “Clear all camera settings”. Then I went through the menus only setting those things I need.

First off, I set some controls via the buttons on the top of the camera. I usually shoot in either M or Av modes (which I only mention here because some of these controls are not available in the “Creative” modes).
AF: AI Servo. I rarely use any other mode, even for static subjects (I’ll talk about this further below).
Drive: Continous. Even when I’m shooting single frames, I do this by not pressing the shutter for too long. If action happens and I want to shoot multiple frames, I like the flexibility of just holding the shutter down slightly longer. This does require a little bit of practice, and sometimes I switch between Continuous (5 fps) and Continuous High (8 fps).
ISO: I take it off Auto. On this camera I like to be in control of the ISO.
Next I go into the menus and start tweaking. Starting with the left-most (red) menu:

Quality: No JPEG, just RAW. I always shoot in RAW because of the higher quality and added processing controls available to me, and RAW+JPEG would just waste space with extra JPEG files. And reduce the continuous-shooting buffer from 13 to 8 frames.
Beep: I don’t need the camera to beep and alert my subjects (be they human or animal) that they’re being focussed on. The viewfinder provides feedback on the AF function anyway.
Release shutter without card: Off. Once you’ve accidentally shot a session without a card in the camera, you never want to do it again!

Flash Control: This menu provides control over the internal flash as well as an attached “EX II” flash.
I very rarely use the pop-up flash, so I set the “Wireless func.” (see the diagram) so that the internal flash is only used to send commands to slave EX flashes without contributing to the illumination of the scene. When I have slave flashes set up I can then use either the EOS 5DmkII with ST-E2 or the EOS 7D to trigger them. I don’t use this very often, but when I do it’s good to have it already set.

Live View: I use this a lot when shooting landscapes on a tripod!
AF mode: Live mode enables contrast-detect AF, and lets me zoom in on an area and focus on that without being constrained by the nearest appropriate normal AF point.
Grid display: Grid 2. The extra lines on the screen can help with keeping shots “square”/level.

Highlight alert: Enable. This enables the “blinkies” to tell you which areas are overexposed. It’s very useful in conjunction with the histogram.
AF point disp.: I alternate between having this enabled/disabled. It can be useful to review which AF point was used on a shot of a flying bird, but if I’m showing people pictures on the LCD, “What’s that dot on my face?” is a common question…
Histogram: RGB. Once you’re used to separate red/green/blue histograms you don’t want to go back. For example it can save you from blowing out the detail in a red rose against a green bush.

Auto rotate: On+computer. That is, it records the rotation of each shot, but doesn’t display it as rotated on the camera. If the camera displays the images as rotated, then when shooting in portrait mode it displays the image as a smaller rotated version: to review it you end up having to tilt your head over!

LCD brightness: manual. The light sensor for Auto is in a position where it will vary the brightness depending on where your thumb is on the camera, which I find distracting.
VF grid display: Turns on a grid in the optical viewfinder, which helps with keeping horizons straight.

Copyright information. I set some basic information here even though it’s going to get overwritten when I import the images into Lightroom: it’s a safety measure in case an image gets missed.
I set my name as the Owner, and the Copyright information gets set to “Copyright David Burren david@davidburren.com“. Whenan image goes through Lightroom I’ll set the email in the Creator Email field, and the Copyright field will become something like “© David Burren“. But I can’t do that in the camera: this longer string set in the camera is a just a fall-back.
Custom Functions:

C.Fn I: Exposure
C.Fn I-2: ISO speed setting increments: 1 (1-stop). On this camera the “in-between” ISO values seem to be achieved by taking the photo at a higher ISO and then digitally darkening the image (e.g. ISO 500 and 640 images are each created internally from ISO 800 captures). This reduces the dynamic range slightly and increases the noise slightly. The effect is very slight but I have noticed it, and I don’t mind working with whole-stop ISO levels.
C.Fn I-5: Bracketing sequence: 1 (-, 0, +). I find this makes reviewing and processing the bracketed shots much simpler, as each triplet is easily identified visually. With the default (0, -, +) I found I was often making the mistake of assuming that the bright image was part of the next bracket!
C.Fn II: Image
C.Fn II-1 Long exposure noise reduction: 1 (Auto).
C.Fn III: Autofocus/Drive

C.Fn III-3 AI Servo AF tracking method: 1 (Continuous AF track priority). To keep my subject in focus I’m happy for the system to move away from the selected AF point.
C.Fn III-6 Select AF area selec. mode: see the picture to the right.
C.Fn III-9 Display all AF points: 1 (Enable). I like to see what points are available to me!
C.Fn III-11 AF-assist beam firing: 3 (IR beam only). I usually find bright AF functions (especially the strobing of the 7D’s flash) very annoying.
C.Fn IV: Operation/Others

C.Fn IV-1: Custom Controls
I set the shutter to NOT start AF, just metering. When I need AF I press the AF-ON button with my thumb. This also means that if I want AI Servo to stop tracking a static subject, I just lift my thumb.
M.Fn: This is the tiny button just to the left of the shutter button. I don’t use FEL much, so instead set this to invoke the virtual horizon tool.
Joystick (“multi-controller”): I set this to select AF points. If I want the centre AF point I press the joystick in the middle, otherwise I use it to move the active AF point.
And there you have it. The viewfinder shows me all the available AF points as small squares, and by selecting different points I can decide which it’s going to lock on with. When I’m holding the AF-ON button down the AF points that are actually being used are highlighted with larger squares, and as they track a moving subject around the frame I can see which are being used.

All alone in the ice (A2_052751)
EOS 7D, 70-200mm/4 IS @ 70mm, ISO 200
I have a few functions set up on the green My Menu screen (including AEB, Format, and Mirror Lockup) and have the menu on my 5DmkII set up the same. More on the 5DmkII configuration in a later post.
In the meantime, hopefully another EOS 7D user will find this breakdown useful in configuring their camera to suit their own shooting style!

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