Canon EOS 40D “user modes”

On Saturday, I got to try out my most anticipated new feature of the EOS 40D – the three “user modes”. Yes, I know that for most people there are infinitely many other new features on the 40D to get excited about, and in fact everyone seems to have pretty much overlooked the addition of these three user-definable modes, but for me they were the killer feature of this camera.

A user mode is a completely user-definable setup for your camera: in the same way that most cameras come with pre-set modes for portrait, landscape, blah blah blah, user modes lets you define your own. And it lets you set virtually every single adjustable feature of the camera, from ISO, exposure and aperture to obscure custom functions, and save those under an easily accessible dial setting.

What’s even better is that on the 40D there is a menu setting which allows you to turn off flash firing (the 20D probably had this too, but I didn’t think to look). This means that, with my 580 EX flash mounted on the side of the camera, I could define my three settings thus:

  1. 1600 ISO, 1/80th at f/2.2, flash turned off – used for shooting candid shots throughout the nightclub.
  2. 250ISO, 1/20th at f/7.1, flash turned on – used for flash portraits with a bit of ambient fill-in light.
  3. 400ISO, 1/25th at f/7.1, flash turned off – used for soft & atmospheric photos of the spotlit performers on-stage.

The settings are easily changeable – for example, if the club is very dark, and setting number 1 still isn’t getting me decent photos, then I can just dial in a new ISO, exposure or aperture, go into the menu’s “camera user setting” mode (easily accessible because of the new user-definable menu) and “register setting”. Or if I just want to change the setting for a few shots, but retain the saved setting, I just dial in the new numbers as I would when shooting in manual mode – it will retain those settings until I switch to another mode or turn the camera off.

So I took the camera down to Stardust bar and (with a bit of assistance from Mozaz) shot lots of photos. Here are the results (they get better towards the end, as I was getting finding my groove with the camera settings).