9 Non-Auto Modes on the Canon 80D

Got a Canon 80D?  Ever wonder what the Canon 80D Mode dial settings do?  Read on!

The Canon 80D is a powerful camera, packed with lots of “Pro” features, and can be used to create amazing images!  In this post, we’ll cover the different Mode Dial options on your Canon 80D. 

Digital cameras create images by collecting light on a sensor.  There are three basic parts of a camera that we use to control how we capture that light:

  • ISO – How sensitive the sensor is to light
  • Aperture – How wide the lens iris opens to let in light (it varies from lens to lens)
  • Shutter Speed – The amount of time the shutter stays open, during which time the sensor is exposed to light

When we have the right balance of all three, we achieve a good “exposure”.  A photograph with too much light is over exposed–and a dimly lit shot is under exposed.  As you can see, the major components of a camera revolve around light–and controlling how much of it gets to the sensor.

The Mode Dial

So what does ISO, shutter speed, and aperture have to do with modes?  Everything.

Canon segments the 80D’s mode dial into two “zones”–

  • The Basic Zone
  • The Creative Zone

The Basic Zone

A+ Mode — This is the “Scene Intelligent Auto”, more commonly referred to as plain ‘ol “Auto”.  In this mode, the camera senses the available light, and automatically sets the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.  How does the camera “know” which setting to use?  Well, Canon engineers programmed the computer chips inside the camera to use certain settings based on what they thought would produce a “good” image.  Is “Auto” wrong?  Maybe, maybe not.  Auto mode typically results in bright, vibrant photos that are exposed “OK”, but may not have that special look you want.

Flash Off Mode — This is identical to A+ Mode–except the flash is disabled, meaning it won’t automatically pop up when shooting in low-light conditions.

CA Mode — This one stands for “Creative Auto” mode.  It’s basically the same as A+ Mode, but it allows you to modify some things such as background blur.

SCN Mode — “Special Scene Mode”.  This one contains a list of possible scenes to choose from: Portrait, Landscape, Food, etc.  Select the scene that matches your subject, and the camera does the rest.

Creative Filters Mode — This one is represented by two overlapping circles on the mode dial.  In this mode, you can pick from 10 pre-programmed filters including “Grainy”, “B/W” (black and white), “Soft Focus”, “Fish Eye”, and four HDR filters.

The Creative Zone

P Mode — This is “Program AE (Auto Exposure) Mode”. This mode is identical to Auto, but with a twist.  Like A+ Mode, the camera automatically picks all the settings, but this time, you can twist dials and turn knobs to adjust settings.

Av Mode — This mode is really useful.  The “A” in Av Mode stands for Aperture Priority–and the “v” stands for “Value”.  In Av Mode, the camera chooses the ISO and shutter speed–leaving you in total control of the lens’s aperture.  You get to open or close the iris to control how much light passes through the lens to the sensor.  Aperture is represented by f/values.  Wide apertures have a low f/value: f/1.2 or f/1.4.  “Kit lenses” (sold in the box with the camera) typically have “variable” apertures–the aperture changes as you zoom in and out.  For example–the 18-135mm kit lens has a ‘range’ of aperture values:  f/3.5 – f/5.6.  At 18mm, the aperture is f/3.5.  As you zoom in from 18mm to 135mm, the aperture closes down to f/5.6.  Professional photographers use lenses with “fixed” apertures which remain constant throughout the zoom range.  Those lenses cost quite a bit more than kit lenses, but produce amazing images.

Image Credit: PhotographyHero.com

The wider the aperture, (lower f/value number) the more background “blur” appears in your image–while your subject remains nice and sharp.  That blur effect is called “bokeh”, and is something people really like.

Smaller apertures like f/11, f/22, etc., allow your entire image to be “in focus”, with significantly reduced bokeh.  This is useful for landscape photography.  Remember–the higher the f/value, the more “closed” the aperture is–meaning you’re letting in less and less light.  In some cases, the camera may compensate by keeping the shutter open longer to allow more light to pass through the tiny aperture to the sensor.  Shooting below a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second might result in blurry shots due to camera shake–so be sure to use a tripod to keep your camera steady.  Experiment with Av Mode and see what you can do!  There’s no “wrong” answer.  The fun part is seeing what you can achieve when you experiment with these settings.

Tv Mode — This one is “Shutter Priority” (Time Value) mode.  The camera controls the ISO and the Aperture–but you control of how long the shutter stays open.  In low-light conditions, you’ll want the shutter to remain open for longer periods of time to let in more light.  In brightly lit situations, you’ll want a fast shutter speed.  

If you want to “freeze” the action during sports or when kids are running around, use a very fast shutter speed.  Alternatively, try shooting a moving subject like a waterfall with a slow shutter speed to achieve that smooth silky water look.

Bonus tip:  When shooting with your shutter open for longer periods of time (low-light conditions, or waterfalls, etc.), make sure you use a tripod to avoid blurry shots due to camera shake.

M Mode — This one is simply “Manual” mode, and you can probably guess what it does.  In M Mode you get to pick all the settings.  You pick the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.  Since we’ve already covered shutter speed and aperture, let’s focus on ISO.  What is it?  When we adjust the ISO value, we control how sensitive the sensor is to light.

In brightly lit conditions, we want the ISO to be a low value, which is 100 on the 80D.  In dim conditions we can dial it up a few notches.  Experiment with your camera.  If you’re indoors, and there’s only a few lamps on, you might want to see what 1200 or 1600 or even 3600 ISO does for your image.  The Canon 80D can ratchet the ISO up to a whopping 16,000 (expandable to 25,600).  When you dial up high levels of ISO, you’ll notice a new phenomenon:  Digital “noise”.  The higher your ISO the more “grainy” your photo will look.  Photographers refer to that graininess as “noise”.  Digital “noise” isn’t always a bad thing–sometimes you might want a gritty “feel” to your photo.  To reduce “noise”, and achieve crisp, sharp shots, use less ISO.

B “Bulb” Mode — This is the mode used for night photography.  Ever wonder how photographers get those cool shots of car tail lights streaking by?  Or how they do “light painting”?  They use Bulb Mode.  You adjust the ISO and aperture–then press and hold the shutter button.  The shutter stays open as long as you’re holding the button.  You might want to use a remote in this mode to avoid camera shake–and make sure your camera is securely mounted to a tripod for extra stability.

Thanks for reading my post. But if you want to really learn your camera’s settings, just get out and shoot! You’ll create something awesome!

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