Canon 50D Auto Exposure Bracketing

EOS 50D Auto Exposure BracketingCanon has made serious improvements in the Auto Exposure Bracketing in the new EOS 50D although it still lacks the ability to take more than three bracketed exposures at a time. In the EOS 50D, Canon has combined Auto Exposure Bracketing with Exposure Compensation in a way that should make photographers working with HDR (high dynamic range) techniques very happy.

As you can see in this image, photographers can now use this feature to easily shoot a series of bracketed exposures covering the histogram from -4 EV to +4 EV in increments as fine as 1/3rd stop. For my own HDR work I generally use the following series of nine exposures to provide the maximum dynamic range. I can take four continuous bursts of three bracketed exposures (I generally delete the three duplicate exposures) in less than 10 seconds using the 50D.

EC Value  |  AEB Amount

+2 EV  |  +/- 2 EV = +4 EV, +2 EV, 0 EV
+1 EV  |  +/- 2 EV = +3 EV, +1 EV, -1 EV
-2 EV  |  +/- 2 EV = -4 EV, -2 EV, 0 EV
-1 EV  |   +/- 2 EV = -3 EV, -1 Ev, +1 EV

Results

-4 EV, -3 EV, -2 Ev, -1 EV, 0 EV, +1 EV, +2 EV, +3 EV, +4 EV

Do I really need nine exposures for HDR work? Probably not, but I’ve yet to find a landscape situation where nine exposures didn’t adequately cover the entire dynamic range,  so for me this technique works perfectly. Its one more reason why the EOS 50D is welcome upgrade from the previous xxD models.

23 thoughts on “Canon 50D Auto Exposure Bracketing

  1. Pingback: Nunc est bibendum! · links for 2009-11-30

  2. Jeff,
    Thanks for the quick reply and the example, looks very good! Does the final HDR image look more like the actual image or does it look a bit processed once you’re said and done (love the final product either way….)?

    • Rob,

      The final image really depends upon how you decide to process it. You can choose to merge the images and present something that looks realistic or pretty far out. Its up to you.

      Jeff

  3. Hi Jeff,
    Great article and tips on how to do this with the 50d. Do you have any sample pics for us to look at somewhere (sorry new to your site)? I’d love to see the original at 0 EV and then the final result (ie before/after) to demonstrate how well this works on the 50d.

    One more question, you mentioned “Photomatix Pro”, can you do the same in Photoshop CS4 (if so, is it hard, not an expert here), I also have access to lightroom if it’s easier to use….Any tips you can offer on this?

    What are the best situations to try this in, surise/sunset where the scene has a high dynamic range?

    You outlined the steps perfectly and I can’t wait to go home and try this out for myself!

    Thanks!!

    • Rob,

      I wrote a short article with some example images (before and after) about a year ago. Photoshop CS4 can also be used to merge HDR shots but you’ll have to Google to find out how. I always use Photomatix for my HDR processing.

      http://wp.me/pfgz1-qy

      Jeff

  4. Let me restate my question. In the photo you provided, how did you get -4 to +4. In my 50D currently it is only from -2 to +2. Also the little +/- (above the AEB) is not highlighted.

    Thanks

  5. Hello, I have a Canon 50 and I was wondering how did you get a series of bracketed exposures covering the histogram from -4 EV to +4 EV? Mine is only from -2 EV to +2 EV.

    Thanks

    • The article explains this pretty well I think. It’s the combination of exposure compensation and auto exposure bracketing that does the trick.

  6. I have a Canon 50D Question, I’ve been playing around with HDR and have a question regarding FOCUS.

    When I used my Digital Rebel I found once I focused my scene and shot 1 or 2 pictures the focus/IS would adjust and the 3rd exposure would be off a bit.

    Now I use a 50D with the kit 18-200 IS lens and my childlike workaround is to focus the scene and then switch the lens to manual focus as to avoid the shutter press from accidently refocusing.

    I’m sure there is an easier way and would love to hear your 50D setup/workflow.

    • Pat,

      Thanks for reading. Actually, setting the lens to manual focus is the only way to ensure that all three (or whatever number) sequential images are not just focused correctly, but focused on exactly the same spot. This is how everyone takes their HDR images today. Unlike “exposure lock” there is no “focus lock” so setting the lens to manual focus is the key to getting sharp HDR images.

      My basic setup is fairly standard.

      1) Camera on tripod, lens with AF on, IS off.
      2) Set the AF point to ONE point, not “auto”.
      3) Focus on the subject and set the lens’ AF to off (manual focus)
      4) Take the bracketed exposures.
      5) Review the histograms to make sure the entire dynamic range is covered.
      6) Process in Photomatix Pro.

      Jeff

  7. Thanks for this info! I wish Canon would update the firmware to allow more than 3 bracketed shots without pressing anything but the shutter release. A choice of up to 9 would be perfect. Anyone want to start a lobbying campaign? I’m all about writing letters and emails, if I thought it would go anywhere.

    Just read an article in shutterbug about HDR without a tripod and for this type of thing to work, a burst of at least 5 is needed.

    Does the 5D Mark III allow more than 3?

    I just got the 50d and haven’t figured out how to set the “function” button to the EC/AEB settings. How is this done?

    • Ash,

      Thanks for reading and for your comments. The 5D Mark II’s auto-exposure bracketing works exactly the same as the 50D. Only the EOS 1D series allows more than three bracketed exposures. To assign the FUNC button you use C.Fn IV-7 (see page 184 in the manual).

      Jeff

  8. Jeff,
    I should have read your initial comment more thoroughly.
    As an aside, Photomatix Pro seems to be able to handle a large number of different exposures of the same image – I have had as many as 19, with a Canon 50D attached to a 35-50mm Angenieux lens, taken manually.

  9. Jeff
    “The EOS 50D only allows +/- 2EV exposure compensation”
    I think you are mistaken. I have my 50D in front of me. On the P setting with the exposure/AEB section open I can spread the range for bracketing either side of the chosen midpoint in increments of 1/3rd. When you are on that particular screen if you press the button in the centre of the circular control on the back of the camera, it will take you to another screen which allows you to set the midpoint anywhere between +2 and -2, with the full range of bracketing extending to +4 and -4 respectively as you move the midpoint from +2 to -2. It just means you need to take a series of three shot exposures, but you should be able to achieve multiple shots from +4 to -4 in 1/3rd increments if you wished to.

    • John,

      Thanks for reading. I’m fairly certain my post completely agrees with your comment. You can use EC and AEB to bracket a series of exposures as I stated “As you can see in this image, photographers can now use this feature to easily shoot a series of bracketed exposures covering the histogram from -4 EV to +4 EV in increments as fine as 1/3rd stop.” I’ll have to take your word about shooting in “Program” mode. I normally shoot in aperture priority or full manual.

      Jeff

  10. I think you could get the same 9 exposures with one less set of bursts…

    EC Value | AEB Amount

    +3 EV | +/- 1 EV = +4 EV, +3 EV, 2 EV
    +0 EV | +/- 1 EV = +1 EV, +0 EV, -1 EV
    -3 EV | +/- 1 EV = -2 EV, -3 EV, -4 EV

    9 pics, only three bursts = less time ;-)

    • Mike,

      Thanks for reading. The EOS 50D only allows +/- 2 EV exposure compensation which is why the 12 bracketed exposures are needed.

      Jeff

  11. New display on the 50D to make it easier to comprehend the settings, but not a new feature. The combination of EC and AEB has been possible on all EOS cameras (film and digital) that have both. For example, on earlier EOS cameras combining -2 EC with +/-2 AEB would have taken shots at -4, -2, and 0 EV, but with the LCD limited to just the -2..-1..0..1..2 range it would only display a mark only at -2 and 0.

    • Jon,

      Thanks for reading and for your comments. Although both EC and AEB were present on the previous xxD models there was no single display that showed the result of combining these until the 50D. I’ve used my 40D for HDR work using the separate EC and AEB controls and IMHO the 50D is much, MUCH easier to work with.

      Jeff

  12. The new 50D has a new “function” button that can be set to display the EC/AEB settings as shown above. Once the EC/AEB settings are showing I take the first set of three bracketed exposures with the camera set on continuous burst (high) with EC set at +2 EV. The three bracketed exposures take less than 1 second.

    I then change the exposure compensation to +1 EV using the Quick Control Dial, hit the set button and take the next set of 3 bracketed exposures. Again, this takes less than 1 second. I continue this process two more times at -1 EV and -2 EV and end up with 12 exposures taken in less than 10 seconds.

    Its not as automated as using a Nikon D3 or D300 but it works fine for me.

    Jeff

  13. Thanks for the information. Can you explain more how can you take four continuous bursts of three bracketed exposures.

    Do you manually change AEB setting in between bursts (every 3 shots) or there is a way around this. If you do, how can you avoid misalignment because of any slight position change when changing AEB settings. Thanks

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