What's New: Flexible-priority Shooting Mode on the Canon EOS R camera

September 05, 2018

It’s been a long time since a completely new exposure mode graced a Canon EOS camera, but the Canon EOS R camera introduces exactly that to photographers.  It’s the Flexible-priority AE or Fv mode, and we’ll explain it in this article.

Users who have wanted fully automatic exposure, with the camera selecting shutter speed and lens aperture, have had the option of Program AE mode for a long time.  It continues to be an effective setting in those situations where a photographer would rather be free from the need to make initial camera settings, or doesn’t really care about the effect of a particular lens aperture or shutter speed.

It’s not the prettiest image, but there are times when even the most creative, experienced photographer will admit that he or she just wants to be ready for quick opportunities, and doesn’t really care about a particular shutter speed or lens aperture. For years, fully automatic Program autoexposure — the “P” mode on Canon EOS cameras — has provided exactly this. Now, there’s a new Flexible-priority AE or Fv mode that allows photographers to jump from this to immediate control of any shooting settings they desire.

But one reason some pros and advanced amateurs have resisted using P-mode is the effort needed to quickly revert to some form of actual control by the photographer.  Picture opportunities don’t always give you time to pull your eye from the viewfinder, and change a Mode Dial from “P” to another setting.  Even if it does, you’d need to go to another part of the camera to quickly change ISO from a full auto setting to one where you dial-in your own ISO choice.

For example, you may be photographing a subject like a bird or animal in a stationary position, and as you’re shooting, it may suddenly start moving.  A faster shutter speed might well be the right answer here, but if you’re in P-mode, even the Program Shift feature (which gives you temporarily shifted values) might not be what you need.

There are times when an opportunity appears, and you may need to quickly change a primary camera setting. Dialing-in a fast shutter speed (1/500th of a second, here) meant a sharp image of a flock of birds that suddenly appeared. The Fv mode on the Canon EOS R camera is a completely new option for Canon users, , and its ability to jump quickly from full auto to semi-auto or even full Manual can be a great new tool for creative photographers.

Canon engineers saw an opportunity here.  Without losing any of the long-familiar exposure mode choices — the EOS R has P, Tv, Av, M, Bulb, and Scene Intelligent Auto (“green zone”) modes — they’ve added a new choice, and we’ll explain it in this article.

Fv mode starts off similarly to the P-mode.  It’s fully autoexposure, with the camera taking into account the lens and focal length you’re using, and from there, automatically selecting an ISO, shutter speed, and lens opening.  You see them displayed on the EOS R’s electronic viewfinder, its LCD monitor, if you’re composing your pictures with that, or on the new, top-mounted dot-matrix LCD panel.

In Fv mode, you’ll also notice that there’s a bold underline beneath the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO you see in the camera’s viewfinder or on the rear LCD monitor.  This is important — it indicates that each setting is being controlled automatically, by the camera.

A downfall of traditional Program autoexposure is that if you suddenly want to firmly control any one of these, you really can’t, without stopping what you’re doing and switching to a different shooting mode.  Again, this is tough to do quickly, with the camera at your eye.

But the Flexible-priority AE mode is different.  You can turn the Quick Control Dial at the rear of the EOS R camera with your thumb, and each click moves a small orange icon adjacent to one of the primary settings in the viewfinder.  Now, turn the Main Dial (the one near the shutter button) with your index finger — you’ll instantly be manually adjusting that particular setting.  And, you’ll see the bold underline has disappeared, confirming that you’re now manually adjusting the setting in question.

Turn the rear dial to another setting, and you have instant access to controlling that.  ISO, shutter speed, lens aperture, and Exposure Compensation are all available.

In effect, you can quickly transition from a fully-auto Program AE to Shutter- or Aperture-priority, by taking either setting off of auto control.  Take both shutter speed and aperture off of auto control, and you’ve got Manual exposure control.  And, it’s your choice whether you have Auto ISO or total manual ISO, no matter how you’re controlling exposure.  All this happens with the  EOS R still set for Fv exposure control.

And, it’s easy to return just the active setting (with the small orange icon adjacent to it) back to auto operation, too.  With everything on the EOS R’s factory-default settings, press the top (12 o’clock position) rear Cross Key button, and the camera immediately switches that setting back to full auto operation — and you’ll see the underline appears underneath it again, in the viewfinder and on the LCD monitor.  Have multiple settings you’ve taken off of Auto, in the Fv mode?  Press the right (3 o’clock position) Cross Key, and all settings revert to fully automatic operation.

If you’ve customized the four Cross Keys for other functions, the following controls can similarly be customized, to provide an immediate return to AUTO or ALL AUTO:

  • Movie button (with red icon, on top of the camera)
  • Multi-function button
  • LCD illumination button
  • Mode button
  • AF ON button
  • AE Lock button (with asterisk icon)
  • AF Point button
  • SET button
  • Lens AF Stop buttons (on specific Canon super-telephoto lenses)

The idea of having a base that’s functionally like Program autoexposure may not be what every pro or serious enthusiast will always want to be working in.  But there’s little question that the option to have it, and be able to nearly immediately switch from it into what’s effectively Shutter- or Aperture-priority operation, or even Manual control, is a cool addition.  And again, the Canon EOS R camera delivers this, without removing any of the shooting modes that experienced photographers have been using for years.  We suggest anyone interested in the Canon EOS R camera to at least briefly try the Fv mode, experiment with quickly locking-in your choice of manual setting(s), and then using the appropriate Cross Key button to get everything back to full auto operation.  You may find it to be a great way to use this camera!

The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.

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