Sometimes, I need a specific camera setup immediately. Otherwise, a fleeting moment is gone forever, leaving regret for not having that particular setup already configured.
That specific setup always involves a camera mode. When the camera mode is controlled electronically vs. directly selected on a dial, the camera has freedom in how a mode is selected. Yes, electronics could override a traditional dial-selected mode, but a mode dial set to one mode and the camera operating in a different mode is awkward.
When using a Canon R-series camera without a dedicated mode dial (the R6 and RP have a dedicated mode dial), the obvious way to select a camera mode is to press the mode button and turn the dial surrounding it. That works fine, requiring little additional effort over the conventional mode dial.
Canon has long provided C (Custom) modes that are extremely useful for storing a specific camera setup for quick access. However, turning the mode dial or pressing a button and turning the dial is not fast enough when photographing a fleeting opportunity.
The answer to this dilemma? Use a Canon R-series or 1-series camera with an electronically selected mode dial (the EOS R3, EOS R5, EOS R, and EOS-1D X Mark III, and EOS-1D X Mark II as I write this), configure a C mode to the immediately needed settings, and program the camera's M-Fn button to access a C mode instantly.
The R-series and 1-series cameras are highly customizable. Canon lists the customizable buttons and the functions available for them near the end of the owner's manual (owner's manual links are provided at the top of each camera review page). The R3's list starts on page 939, the R5's list begins on page 816, the R's list starts on page 556, the 1D X III's list begins on page 855, and the 1D X II's list starts on page 444. Paging down, you will find the C option is available for, at this time, only the M-Fn button.
When programmed to C, the M-Fn button toggles between the enabled C modes, up to all three (C1, C2, and C3), and the previously selected mode (including other camera settings) with each press. C modes can be disabled in the "Restrict shooting modes" menu option (not available in the R). Enabling only one C mode causes the M-Fn button to toggle between the single C mode and the previous camera settings, providing instant access to a specific camera setup, with instant reversion back to the previous settings via another M-Fn press.
When photographing wildlife with the R3, I wanted to take advantage of the incredible 30 fps capture rate (20 fps for the R5, 8 fps for the R). However, I knew the overwhelming selection challenge that shooting 30 fps for five days would create.
Here is the solution:
Adjust the camera to the settings desired for fast action. For the whitetail deer adventure, this meant using the electronic shutter with H+ 30 fps continuous shooting. Servo AF with eye control enabled provided quick focus acquisition, and subject tracking held the focus on the eye, including with a fast moving subject. The R3 in M mode with a wide-open aperture, fast shutter speed (at least 1/2500), and Auto ISO usually resulted in sharp details and proper exposures. The next step was to program these settings into custom mode 1 (with C2 and C3 disabled) via the menu option in the Tools menu. The M-Fn button programmed to C then provided fast, single button press access to the settings configured for the C mode.
The next step was to set the camera for the normal shooting requirements. For this shoot, manual mode with the 15 fps continuous shooting rate was selected. In the field, I roll the top dial to select the shutter speed needed for the subject at hand. Typically, immediate insurance shots are captured with a fast speed. If the subject permits, the shutter speed is increasingly lengthened as more images are captured. The goal is to have lower ISO, lower noise options from the scenario.
When moving, wildlife often moves suddenly. For example, a bird launches to take off, and a whitetail deer abruptly gives chase to a doe or competing buck. I'm sure you can add to that list of scenarios. When the sudden movement happens, a quick press of the M-Fn button immediately provides the settings programmed for fast action.
When the action slows down again, press the M-Fn button to return to the previous shooting settings.
Why is only the M-Fn button able to be programmed to C? Good question — that answer was unknown when I asked. Indeed, more buttons should be programmable to C, and I and would not be surprised to see that happen in the future. The R3's M-Fn 2 button is a prime candidate.
By default, the M-Fn button is programmed to Dial Func, a useful feature itself. To retain easy access to this function, consider programming the nearby Lamp button to Dial Func.
If your camera does not offer electronic mode selection, go pick out your next camera: The Canon EOS R-series