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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Exposure Bracketing With Canon Cameras

This post is going to be a bit on the technical side and specific to Canon cameras, which I am sure will interest some readers but give others a big yawn. Nonetheless, here we go.

In a past post, I reviewed the Promote Control device which can be used for HDR exposure bracketing since Canon cameras are (seemingly purposefully) hindered by the limitation of only being able to do a three exposure auto-bracket. In addition, if one is bracketing by 1 EV then the most you can auto-bracket is up to +/- 3 EV. In order to bracket to +/- 4 EV you must bracket in 2 EV increments. All in all, it makes HDR bracketing inordinately and unnecessarily complex. In my review, I mentioned that the Promote Control simply did not fit very well into my workflow and for that reason I had returned my unit.

Another partial solution for Canon users has been to use 'Custom Settings', of which three are able to be pre-programmed into the camera. When using these, you could, for example, pre-program +/- 4EV bracketing into the camera and save the setting so that by simply turning a knob on top of the camera the +/- 4EV autobracket is set.

By setting one Custom setting like this and another at o,-1, -2 EV one could conceivably take an autobracket at +1, +2, +3 then switch the custom setting knob to do 0, -1, -2, then switch again to do -4, 0, +4 and then take one image at -3.....well, you get the point. If one wants a series of 1 EV bracketed images to +/- 4 it gets far too complicated.

It gets a bit easier if you want to go with 2EV units and shoot -2, 0 +2 and then 0, +4, -4 but even then you have to use at least one Custom Setting or go back into the menu. In experimenting with the Custom Settings, I have found that the white balance, ISO, aperture etc that the Custom Setting installs are the ones that were there when the Custom Setting was saved, as opposed to drawing these values from the otherwise current camera settings. For someone like me, who not infrequently screws up a setting by not being careful, this is a recipe for disaster. I am sure that I would inevitably end up with a useless autobracketed series with different apertures, ISO etc than my original bracket settings.

All in all, despite the fact that I really enjoy using my Canon gear, I feel that Canon has really left those of us that use many of their models with a mess when it comes to HDR imaging. And the mess, I would think, is easily fixable in firmware if Canon did not want to cripple their non-1 series dSLRs in this way. With Nikon making so many gains and competing with Canon so well, I really am surprised that they have not fixed this. Were I currently purchasing a digital system, I would have to seriously consider going with Nikon for this reason alone.