How To Set Exposure Compensation on Canon Rebel and 5D

January 15th, 2012

I have shot mostly with my Canon 400D/Rebel XTi since I bought it new in early 2007. A couple of years ago I picked up a used Canon 5D classic after the Canon 5Dmk2 came out, and have used it casually, but never mastered it’s buttons for changing camera settings as well as on my Rebel. For example, I just realized recently that I could not find the button to change Exposure Compensation! I dug through the menus, custom functions, and scrutinized every button on the camera to no avail. I even asked a Canon 5DmkII user how he changes it… but he uses a newer LCD settings view or the menu — not from the top LCD view and buttons.

Rebel vs 5D Exposure Compensation

Rebel vs 5D Exposure Compensation

So after all else failed, I consulted the instruction manual and found on page 92 what I needed to do: Adjust the power switch to change exposure compensation. Seriously!?!?! How intuitive is that to flip the power switch in order to change exposure compensation? I am curious as to what the historical legacy is behind this design decision… I presume this is to prevent someone from accidentally turning the quick control dial/wheel while shooting and not noticing their EV changed.

Canon 5D Manual - Exposure Compensation

Canon 5D Manual - Exposure Compensation

The power switch needs to change from “ON” to “/-” mode which then enables the quick control dial/wheel to change settings… apparently only the Exposure Compensation setting that I can determine. All of the other settings require just a touch of a top button then scrolling the back quick control dial/wheel or top main dial/wheel. Apparently this Exposure Compensation setting is the same on all Canon cameras other than the entry-level Rebel/xxxD series, and it takes three steps:

  1. Turn camera ON to special power on mode “/-“ (not “ON”)
  2. Half-press the shutter button to engage focus and an exposure reading
  3. Turn the back control dial/wheel to adjust Exposure Compensation

On the Canon xxxD/Rebel series, I think it is much more ergonomic and intuitive to simply*:

  1. Press “Av” button with thumb and turn front main dial/wheel

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