Canon 1D mk3 – error 99

August 13, 2007

There have been many reports on the forums on the softness of the images on the preview LCD of the Canon 1Dmk3.   Well, I couldn’t really tell with this on my LCD display …

Yup.  Within about 200 frames into that first shoot with this fresh-out-of-the-box camera, it died on me with chronic error 99 lock-ups.  The camera would lock up on every alternate time the shutter was tripped.

To Canon USA’s credit, they repaired the camera in a super-fast turn-around time of 24 hours.

Other than that, I absolutely love this camera. No, seriously.  It is a fantastic machine.
If only it would work like it should.

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I frequently receive emails with questions which seem to vary in content, but essentially come back to the same point. For example:
 - how do the automatic exposure modes work on a specific camera, especially when flash is used ?
 - do I agree that a certain camera model tends to under-expose in matrix metering / evaluative metering when used in Aperture Priority ?
 - can I explain certain inconsistencies when using an auto mode such as Program / Aperture Priority?

Although the questions seemingly vary,  my reply is usually the same – that I don’t know the specific answer. And the reason is that, for the most part, any “answer” here is ultimately not of any consequence to me because … I shoot (nearly) exclusively in manual exposure mode.

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fixing a loose hot shoe on a Canon camera

I had someone ask how easy it is to fix a loose hot shoe on a Canon 1D series camera. Somehow the 4 little screws that hold the hot shoe to the camera body can wriggle loose over time, causing the flashgun to wobble.  This can even lead to poor contact between the flashgun and the camera.

Fortunately, it’s a very easy fix.
All you need is a set of jeweler’s screwdrivers.
This image should explain it all …

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how to use the camera’s histogram display for exposure metering

Histograms display the relative levels of the darker to brighter tones. As the histogram stands, it isn’t of much direct use to us, since the tonality of the scene that was captured will dictate what the histogram shows us .. without a direct indication of whether exposure is correct.

Some will say that a histogram should have an even bell-shaped curve, but this is too simplistic.   A light toned subject against a white wall will show a much different histogram that a dark toned subject against a dark wall .. even though the exposure might be correct in both instances.

In both those cases, the actual histogram display might be interesting to look at, but of no real direct use to us. But, here’s how I use the histogram to determine correct exposure

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photographing fireworks, using flash

Photographing people with fireworks in the background, is just an application of the technique known as dragging the shutter.

I had the couple in an area where there wasn’t much ambient light, so that I could light them mostly with flash. The strobe was a Quantum T2 with an umbrella, used in manual.

My flash exposure was determined in that I wanted the couple correctly exposed .. but my actual settings were dictated by my choices made in how I wanted the fireworks to register.

For my fireworks exposure, which is considered the same as ambient light,
I had to juggle the three controls again :
shutter speed / aperture / ISO.

That particular photograph was 1 sec @ f6.7 @ 400 ISO

You don’t necessarily want a high ISO setting, since you do want your shutter speed to be slow. Slow enough to record the fireworks as streaks of light. There is a lot of leeway here, and a quick check of your camera’s preview will tell you whether you need to adjust your settings. Therefore your is range should be 100 to 400 ISO. Then your shutter speed is in the region of 1 second or slower. In other words, you need a tripod.

Recording multiple bursts of fireworks by blanking out the frame with a black card is a great idea. This photograph was a single exposure though.

By checking my camera to see how other firework bursts recorded, I found that f6.7 @ 400 ISO @ 1 sec gave me enough firework trails and the fireworks itself weren’t over-exposed in the shot.

So using f6.7 @ 400 ISO, I set my Quantum T2 to an appropriate power level, to give me that exposure. (Manual flash in this instance, since my subject was in a specific position in relation to my strobe.)

f4.5 @ 200 ISO @ 2 seconds .. would’ve given me exactly the same exposure, but the firework trails would’ve been longer. There is a lot of leeway here, and you shouldn’t be bound by specific settings. But my suggestion would be to start at 1 second (or slower) and 400 or 20O ISO, then then chimp to taste.

Rear-curtain sync would not have had any effect here, since the couple was static in the frame.

More articles on off-camera flash …


I had someone email me regarding this image, which is one of the images I posted of a recent wedding :

Hi Neil.
I’ve just had a look through this weeks wedding favorites and noticed your image of the bride stood in the window. Would you mind letting me know how you produced this shot as I just love it and was wondering if you have used HDR on it as it looks like it has a massive dynamic range.
Many thanks, Charles.

Hi there Charles,

The key here is correct exposure – and then trying to capture as much of the range of tones as I can, by controlling the contrast during the image capture.  Lots of words there .. but what it means is that I used (on-camera) flash to control the contrast. So I was able to get that image pretty much as you see it there, directly out of camera without having to resort to HDR (High Dynamic Range) in post-processing.

What did help here is that the tree outside, wasn’t lit by direct sun. Of the four windows looking outside in this room, I chose the one where the entire frame would be filled with the tree, and not have bald sky appear

My specific settings are also important to note: 1/250th @ f5.6 @ 400 ISO,
- and specifically, the 1/250th shutter speed.

In using the maximum flash sync on my camera, I was able to
1.)   better control the available light outside, since below the max flash sync speed, shutter speed has no effect on the flash exposure.
2.)   and indirectly, get better range on my strobe (which translates to getting more power out of my strobe for a specific scenario

Point 2 needs some careful consideration.  If the outside area is well exposed at 1/250th @ f5.6 @ 100 ISO, then it means that it would’ve been well exposed at other shutter speed / aperture combination’s, such as 1/60th @ f11.  BUT, that small strobe on my camera has a better chance of pushing out enough light for f5.6 than it would for f11 … especially since I was bouncing my flash there.

OK, so the 1/25oth shutter speed is dictated to me by the high-contrast situation.  I have the best chance of my strobe pushing out enough light, at my max sync speed. The reason for this is the most efficient setting for my strobe, would be max flash sync speed, since this is the widest aperture I can use with flash and thereby getting maximum output from my strobe.

(That last paragraph might need some mulling over to let the implications of it sink in. :) )

I then bounced flash into the room, upwards and to the left of me, to throw enough light on the bride’s dress.  The dress is partly lit by available light from outside, and partly lit by my strobe pumping out a lot of light. In this case I had my flash exposure compensation dialed up high, to force the strobe to throw as much light as it could.  I could also have used manual flash output, but sometimes it is easier just to ride my flash exposure compensation to the max.  Either option would’ve worked here.

Here are two images:
left:  The image on the left is from the raw file, directly converted to a JPG through Canon’s DPP software. This is what the JPG would’ve looked like directly out of the camera.  As you can see, there is a some highlights on the dress that are slightly blown out.
right:  The image on the right is as I edited it slightly in Adobe Camera Raw (using Bridge CS3).  I corrected the white balance a bit, and pushed the Fill-Light fader a touch in ACR.


The image on the right is the one I then edited further in Photoshop to add a soft glow and a vignette – producing the final image I posted at the top.

So, no HDR techniques where used (or needed). This was partially just luck in having a scene where the dynamic range wasn’t excessive, but this is also partially due to me using (on-camera) flash to bring the scene’s dynamic range within what would still look great directly out of camera.



repairing the Canon 580EX hotshoe foot

Since the 580EX has a plastic foot, it is very easy to snap it off in the camera’s hotshoe.
The repair is simple, and the cost of the part from Canon’s Service Center.
The part nr is: CY2-1227-000

This is typical of the damage sustained …

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when a filter on your lens actually gets to protect your lens

.. and this, ladies and gentlemen, is why using a UV filter on your lens is a good idea.

The strange thing is, I have NO idea when this happened during a shoot at a reception venue where I was doing room shots and detail shots. Most of the times I was using two cameras, with the other one slung over my shoulder. At some point I lifted the camera to my eye and noticed rainbow colored diffraction patterns across the image. My immediate reaction was .. huh? My lens is THAT dirty? And then I checked and saw the actual damage.

Whatever caused that impact would’ve destroyed the front element of my lens, so the filter saved me a lot of money there by protecting my lens. (Even then, the filter cost around $110 .. ouch!)
btw, this was with the lens hood in place.

The downside to using a UV filter as a permanent fixture on a lens, is that you risk flare and ghosting whenever the light is coming from the front. A lens hood doesn’t cover all that much when you’re using a wide zoom. A poor grade filter will also lower the contrast of your images.

There is no definitive answer to the endless discussions about the pros and cons of using a UV filter (or similar) in front of a lens – it’s a good idea sometimes, and sometimes it isn’t a good idea. Personally, I use high quality UV filters on all my lenses, but I often have to remove the filter when I am shooting into a light source or suspect I am getting flare. But that’s the beauty of a filter – you can always take it off momentarily if you need to.

An updated article on choosing whether to uses a UV filter on your lens or not.


composition in photography – tilted compositions / Dutch angle

I am not a huge fan of tilted images, and I see it as an unfortunate visual ‘tic’ when I notice entire wedding galleries by other photographers where pretty much all the images are tilted at a very specific angle. That just means that little thought went into composition, and that composition and holding the camera has become a reflex action .. which just happens to include a 30′ tilt to the camera.

I tend to keep horizontal and vertical lines exactly that way … horizontal or vertical. But sometimes a tilted image just has more impact than one that is completely level. And it has been a “feel” thing for me.  I never bothered to analyze why or when these images seemed to work better, since I have an aversion to over-intellectualized analysis of photography … and in this case composition. I feel that composition should be an instinctive reaction to the scene and subject.

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“There are no rules for good photographs,
there are only good photographs.”
- Ansel Adams

Problems with composition …
Most or all beginners tend to ‘shoot’ pictures – the camera is aimed at the subject and then the shutter is fired. The result is one of most common errors in photographic composition – the feet of the person being photographed are cut off and lots of empty sky or dead branches or irrelevant whatever in the top half of the picture.

Also, focusing screens of manual focus SLRs have the split-image prism or micro-prisms in the center. Most auto-focus cameras also focus on whatever subject is placed in the middle, although the current generation of top-end auto-focus cameras have multi-zone focusing.

Inevitably most camera users photograph their subjects that way – looking at the main subject, dead center of the frame – with disappointing results.

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