Is aperture and shutter priority obsolete?

Started Sep 24, 2017 | Photos thread
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John Gerlach
John Gerlach Regular Member • Posts: 282
Is aperture and shutter priority obsolete?

I just returned from leading about my 40th Kenya photo safari, and used an entirely different shooting mode that is much better than all other methods I have used previously. I have always urged clients not to use aperture priority to avoid the pitfall of letting the shutter speed drop too slow to produce sharp images. That happened a lot in previous trips when the animal must be photographed in seconds, or forget it. Shutter priority was my favorite method for several years, but I would have used ISO Auto if my older Canon cameras has let me compensate the exposure with this setup, but none did. I had devised a more complicated way to use aperture priority this year, and limit the shutter speed to no slower than 1/500 second, but that quickly fell away when I had to use slower shutter speeds due to really dim light. So I went to ISO Auto and manual aperture and shutter speed. By manually setting the aperture and shutter speed, I could lock those in to my desired values, and let the ISO adjust to produce the standard exposure. With the two cameras I had - Canon 1DX Mark II and 5D Mark IV - I could compensate the exposure by pressing the Q button and then adjusting the exposure with the EC control that appears on the LCD. But this was a bit too slow too. Fortunately, I soon discovered I could assign EC to the SET button using the Custom functions menu. That really worked well. Just press and hold the SET button in while rotating the main control dial on top of the camera to set the EC. Since aperture and shutter speed are manual, the EC adjusts the ISO Auto selection to accomplish lighter or darker images. Both the Set button and the main control dial are easy to reach, so it was fast to do it.

I used this system for most of the safari and it always worked fabulously well. Plus, I got most of my clients to use manual aperture and shutter speed, and ISO Auto for the first time in most cases and they loved it. Essentially, when this combination, you have both shutter priority and aperture priority built in to one shooting mode. Most Canon cameras cannot do EC with the combo, but the three being use on my trip certainly could. That includes the 1DX Mark II, 5D Mark IV, and 7D Mark II. Plus, I just checked a friend's Canon 80D camera today in northern Michigan and found that the EC scale would not work when using the Q button to get to it, but if the EC was assigned to the SET button, it did work. Don't know why that is the case, but good to know. I could not make it work with the 70D, however.

With the power Canon is now providing in their cameras for being able to use EC with manual aperture and shutter speed, but AUTO ISO, I now wonder if I will ever bother using Shutter priority or aperture priority again? By the way, to be clear, this exposure mode is an autoexposure mode as the ISO is auto to produce a standard exposure, unless compensated for. So it still has the problem of many situations where the brightness of the background or subject sizes throws the exposure off, so then I would just use manual exposure with no auto ISO. I have heard some find no use for Auto ISO, but I think they should reconsider. To me, at times ISO Auto is just as important as having a lens on my camera. Food for thought......

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John Gerlach (articles are posted here) (personal flickr page)


I was shooting out in the dawn sunshine when we drove through a tiny forested area.  Suddenly a leopard appeared walking on the opposite bank of the Talek river.  I had about 5 seconds to focus the leopard and shoot before it was in the dense cover again and not seen after that.  Thanks to ISO Auto, I  captured the image.  If using aperture priority, the shutter speed would have been too slow.  If shutter priority, the image would be dark due to the lens not being able to open up enough.   With Auto ISO - no problem.

Lion watching potential prey

Woolly-necked Stork  Feeding on insects attracted to the remains of the buffalo

Black-winged Plover

Brown Parrot

Helmeted Guineafowl

Sunrise near the Mara Intrepids Lodge where we stay

Banded Mongoose


John Gerlach (articles are posted here) (personal flickr page)

 John Gerlach's gear list:John Gerlach's gear list
Canon EOS 5D Mark III Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM Canon EF 16-35mm F2.8L USM Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM +2 more
Comment & critique:
Please provide me constructive critique and criticism.
Canon EOS 70D Canon EOS 7D Mark II Canon EOS 80D
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