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3 Setting Up Your Sony Alpha SLT-A77 > Custom 1/2/3/4 Menu

Custom 1/2/3/4 Menu

The options on the four Custom menu screens allow you to specify how your Alpha operates. If you find the Eye-Start autofocus feature distracting, you can change it here. If you’d like to change the length of time that a newly captured image is displayed on the LCD, you can choose that behavior. There are 29 menu entries overall in the Custom menu. The first screen is shown in Figure 3.11.

image Eye-Start AF

image FINDER/LCD Setting

image Red Eye Reduction

image Release w/o Lens

image Auto+ Cont. Shooting

image Auto+ Image Extract

image Grid Line

image Auto Review

image DISP Button (Monitor)

image DISP Button (Finder)

image Peaking Level

image Peaking Color

image Live View Display

image Func. of AEL Button

image ISO Button

image AF/MF Button

image Preview Button

image Focus Hold Button

image Smart Telecon. Button

image Ctrl Dial Setup

image Dial Exp. Comp

image Exp. Comp. Set

image Bracket Order

image AF Drive Speed

image Lens Comp: Shading

image Lens Comp: Chro. Aber

image Lens Comp: Distortion

image Front Curtain Shutter

image Face Registration

Figure 3.11 The Sony Alpha’s Custom 1 menu.


Eye-Start AF

Options: On, Off

Default: Off

It’s great how the Sony Alpha is able to read your mind and start autofocusing the instant you move the viewfinder to your eye. The image on the LCD vanishes, the camera adjusts autofocus, and, if you’ve selected any exposure mode other than Manual, it sets shutter speed and/or aperture for you. You don’t even have to partially depress the shutter release. Of course, it’s not magic. There are two sensors just above the view-finder window that detect when your face (or anything else) approaches the finder. (See Figure 3.12.)

Figure 3.12 The Eye-Start sensors just above the view-finder window detect when your head (or another object) gets close to the viewfinder’s eyepiece.


On the one hand, Eye-Start AF can be convenient, especially when you’re shooting fast-moving subjects and want to take pictures quickly. Indeed, you discover that focus is frequently achieved more rapidly than when Eye-Start AF is switched off and the Alpha defaults to the boring old behavior of not initiating focus until you partially depress the shutter button. On the other hand, some people find this feature annoying. The camera may turn off the LCD and switch on autofocus when a stray hand or other object passes near the viewfinder. Also, if you’re wearing the camera around your neck, you may hear a continuous clicking as the camera rubs against your body, triggering the focusing mechanism. One other consideration is that this feature does use a significant amount of battery power. If you choose to, you can turn off Eye-Start AF using this menu setting.


Options: Auto, Manual

Default: Auto

This option is somewhat similar to the Eye-Start setting, above, though this setting controls only whether the camera turns off the LCD and switches the view to the view-finder when your eye comes near the viewfinder. With the default setting of Auto, the screen goes blank and the viewfinder activates when your eye approaches the Eye-Start sensors. With the Manual setting, you have to use the FINDER/LCD button, to the right of the viewfinder, to switch the view. You might want to use this setting if you are doing work involving critical focusing, and you need to examine the LCD closely without having it turn off whenever your face gets too close to the screen.

Red Eye Reduction

Options: On, Off

Default: On

Unfortunately, your camera is unable, on its own, to eliminate the red-eye effects that occur when an electronic flash (or, rarely, illumination from other sources) bounces off the retinas of your subject’s eyes and into the camera lens. Animals seem to suffer from yellow or green glowing pupils, instead; the effect is equally undesirable. The effect is worst under low-light conditions (exactly when you might be using a flash) as the pupils expand to allow more light to reach the retinas. The best you can hope for is to reduce or minimize the red-eye effect.

It’s fairly easy to remove red-eye effects in an image editor (some image importing programs will do it for you automatically as the pictures are transferred from your camera or memory card to your computer). But, it’s better not to have glowing red eyes in your photos in the first place.

When this feature is activated, the Alpha’s flip-up flash issues a few brief bursts prior to taking the photo, theoretically causing your subjects’ pupils to contract, reducing the effect (assuming the person is looking at the camera during the bursts). (See Figure 3.13.) This option works only with the built-in flash, and doesn’t produce any prebursts if you have an external flash attached. In most cases, the higher elevation of the external flash effectively prevents red eye anyway.

Figure 3.13 The Alpha’s flip-up flash can emit bursts that cause your subject’s pupils to contract (right), reducing the effects of red-eye.


Release w/o Lens

Options: Enable, Disable

Default: Disable

When this option is enabled, it’s possible to release the shutter when no lens is attached to the camera. This feature is needed when you have attached the camera body to some other piece of equipment, such as a telescope, for astrophotography or a similar activity. If you’re not doing something that clearly requires this option, you should leave it disabled to avoid causing problems for your camera’s delicate inner workings.

Auto+ Cont. Advance

Options: Auto, Off

Default: Auto

When the camera’s shooting mode is set to AUTO+, the camera recognizes various scene types and other shooting situations. With this menu option set to its default setting of Auto, the camera will automatically take multiple shots in that shooting mode when appropriate, such as when motion is detected. With this option turned off, the camera will not automatically take multiple shots in the AUTO+ mode. (You can still set continuous shooting through the drive mode option on the Function menu, but continuous shooting will not take place automatically.)

Auto+ Image Extract

Options: Auto, Off

Default: Auto

As noted above, in the AUTO+ shooting mode, the Alpha SLT automatically detects various Scene types and shooting environments, and may take multiple shots in certain situations. This menu option gives you two choices for how the images are stored when the AUTO+ setting triggers multiple shots. With the default setting of Auto, the camera selects what it deems to be the most appropriate image of all those that were shot and stores only that one image, as a sort of “best shot” mode. With the Off setting, the camera stores all of the multiple shots, leaving it up to you to select whichever one(s) you want to keep. (However, if the recognized Scene type is Hand-held Twilight, the camera saves just a single combined image, even if this menu item is set to Off.)

Grid Line

Options: Off, Rule of 3rds Grid, Square Grid, Diag. + Square Grid

Default: Off

This feature, the first item on the Custom 2 menu screen (see Figure 3.14), lets you choose from three possible configurations of composition aids on the camera’s screen. The Rule of 3rds Grid option puts two pairs of parallel lines on the screen, dividing the image into nine parts. If you place the most important part of your composition near the intersections of these lines, you will be observing the Rule of Thirds, which calls for locating the main features of the photograph away from the center of the image. The Square Grid uses five vertical lines and four horizontal lines, in each direction, yielding 24 blocks, which allows for more precise placement of the components of your shot. Finally, the Diag. + Square Grid option uses the same square grid with diagonal lines intersecting in the center of the image, giving you a few more options for alignment of the elements of your composition. (See Figure 3.15.)

Figure 3.14 The Sony Alpha’s Custom 2 menu.


Figure 3.15 Rule of 3rds Grid (left), Square Grid (middle), Diagonal plus Square Grid (right).


Auto Review

Options: Off, 2 seconds, 5 seconds, 10 seconds

Default: Off

The Sony Alpha can display an image on the LCD for your review after the photo is taken. (When you shoot a continuous or bracketed series of images, only the last picture exposed is shown.) During this display, you can delete a disappointing shot by pressing the Trash button, or cancel picture review by tapping the shutter release, or performing another function. (You’ll never be prevented from taking another picture because you were reviewing images on your LCD.) This option can be used to specify whether the review image appears on the LCD for 2, 5, or 10 seconds, or not at all. Even if you have

Auto Review turned on, if Eye-Start is activated and the camera is near your eye, the LCD remains off until you remove your eye from the viewfinder.

Depending on how you’re working, you might want a quick display (especially if you don’t plan to glance at each picture as it’s taken), or might prefer a more leisurely examination (when you’re carefully checking compositions). Other times, you might not want to have the review image displayed at all, such as when you’re taking photos in a darkened theater or concert venue, and the constant flashing of images might be distracting to others. Turning off picture review or keeping the duration short also saves power. You can always review the last picture you took at any time by pressing the Playback button.

DISP Button (Monitor)

Options: Graphic Display, Display All Info., No Disp. Info, Level, Histogram, For Viewfinder (Choose any one, or all)

Default: Display All Info/No Disp. Info/Level/Histogram

As mentioned in Chapter 2, you can select which of the information displays are shown on the back-panel LCD (monitor) and EVF (finder) separately. This entry specifies the screens that will be shown when you press the DISP button repeatedly. You must choose at least one, but can activate or deactivate as many of the others as you prefer. To mark an option for display, use the up/down buttons to highlight your choice. A thumbnail preview of the screen that will be displayed is shown as a thumbnail in the lower-right corner of the screen. Press the OK button to mark/unmark a given screen, then press the MENU button to confirm your choices and exit. For a recap of what the available screens look like and their contents, see Figures 2.11 through 2.16 in the previous chapter.

DISP Button (Finder)

Options: Graphic Display, Display All Info., No Disp. Info, Level, Histogram (Choose any one, or all)

Default: No Disp. Info/Level/Histogram

This item has the exact same function as the previous menu entry, and functions exactly the same way, except the adjustment applies to the electronic viewfinder display instead.

Peaking Level

Options: Off, Low, Mid, High

Default: Off

“Peaking” is a manual focus aid that helps you visually determine when an image is in focus by outlining the areas that are in sharp focus with a contrasting color. When the color outline (either red, yellow, or white) is maximized around the subject you want to emphasize, focus is sharpest. You can select low, medium, or high peaking effects, depending on how much aid you think you need. (High peaking tends to obscure details in your subject while viewing the image, but doesn’t affect the actual captured image, of course.)

Another manual focus aid is the Focus Magnifier, which can be summoned using the Smart Teleconverter button when you specify that option in Custom 3 menu, described later in this chapter.

Peaking Color

Options: Red, Yellow, White

Default: White

This entry allows you to specify which color is used to indicate peaking. White is the default value, but if that color doesn’t provide enough contrast with a similarly hued subject, you can switch to a more contrasting color, such as red or yellow. (See Figure 3.16.)

Figure 3.16 The peaking color can be set to red, yellow, or white.


Live View Display

Options: Setting Effect ON, Setting Effect OFF

Default: Setting Effect ON

This entry allows you to specify whether the effects of any settings you make (for, say, exposure compensation, white balance, Creative Effects, or Picture Effects) are reflected in the image displayed on the LCD and EVF, or whether the displays ignore these adjustments and show just the standard, unmodified live view. While this capability is useful, it poses some hidden dangers, which I’ll explain shortly.

When Setting Effect ON is chosen (the default), the LCD and EVF display will change to reflect your current settings, which can be especially helpful when you’re using any of the Picture Effects, because you can preview the exact rendition that the effect you’ve dialed in produces. You’ll also find the On option helpful when working with exposure compensation, as you can visually see how much lighter or darker your adjustment makes the image. If you’re trying to achieve correct color balance, it’s useful to be able to preview how a particular white balance setting affects your image.

Unfortunately, the default ON setting has caused more than a few minutes of head-scratching among new users who switch to Manual exposure mode and find themselves with a completely black (or utterly white) screen. The black screen, especially, may fool you into thinking your camera has malfunctioned.

It happened to me the first time I used my A77 in the studio. I attached the radio control that triggered my studio flash to the camera’s accessory/hot shoe (using an adapter), flipped into Manual exposure mode (because the A77 doesn’t provide auto flash exposure with studio flash units), set the shutter speed to 1/250th second (the maximum speed that can be synchronized with electronic flash), and the aperture of my macro lens to f/22 (so I could get maximum depth-of-field for the tabletop setup I was shooting). Both the LCD and EVF were completely black, and, having had the A77 for only a few hours, I had no idea what was going on.

With the feature activated, the modeling lights in my studio didn’t provide enough illumination to produce an image on the LCD at ISO 100, f/22, and 1/250th second— the A77 had no idea I was going to use flash. All was well when I switched to Setting Effect OFF, however, and the standard image at full brightness was displayed. I’ve had about a dozen e-mails since then from readers with the same problem, so I know I’m not alone in needing to remedy this vexing complication.

Func. of AEL Button

Options: Exposure Comp., Drive Mode, Flash Mode, AF Area, Face Detection, Smile Shutter, ISO, Metering Mode, Flash Comp., White Balance, DRO/Auto HDR, Creative Style, Picture Effect, Image Size, Quality, AEL Hold, AEL Toggle, AEL Hold (Spot Metering), AEL Toggle (Spot Metering), AF/MF Control Hold, AF/MF Control Toggle, Object Tracking, AF Lock, Aperture Preview, Shot Result Preview, Smart Telecon., Focus Magnifier, Memory

Default: AEL Hold

This option, the first in the Custom 3 menu (see Figure 3.17), affects the operation of the Zoom Out/AEL (autoexposure lock) button, located at the top of the camera’s back, at the right side next to the red Movie button. Sony’s gone overboard in providing optional functions for this button beyond the usual autoexposure lock options. If you decide you don’t want or need an AEL function, you can redefine this button to perform any of the other functions.

Figure 3.17 The Custom 3 menu.


Most users like the AEL function and will choose between the default setting AEL Hold and its variation, AEL Toggle. With the AEL Hold setting, when you press the AEL button your exposure is locked only as long as you hold down the button. If you set this option to AEL Toggle, then you can just press the button and release it, and the exposure will stay locked until you press and release it again. Use this setting if you want to lock in exposure and then reframe extensively or even point the camera at another subject that you want to photograph using the same exposure settings. You can also select from two additional variations: AEL Hold (Spot Metering) and AEL Toggle (Spot Metering) which, as you might guess, perform the same functions but switch the camera into Spot metering mode (if you have another metering mode activated). In all these cases, when exposure is locked, the asterisk symbol appears at lower right in the LCD and EVF.

The other settings transform the AEL button into another function button of your choice from the list shown above. Most of them are self-explanatory, except for Aperture Preview (which is actually a depth-of-field preview that stops the lens down to the f/stop that will be used to take the picture), and Shot. Result Preview (which shows you how your shutter speed and f/stop settings will affect your image).

ISO Button

Options: Exposure Comp., Drive Mode, Flash Mode, AF Area, Face Detection, Smile Shutter, ISO, Metering Mode, Flash Comp., White Balance, DRO/Auto HDR, Creative Style, Picture Effect, Image Size, Quality, AEL Hold, AEL Toggle, AEL Hold (Spot Metering), AEL Toggle (Spot Metering), AF/MF Control Hold, AF/MF Control Toggle, Object Tracking, AF Lock, Aperture Preview, Shot Result Preview, Smart Telecon., Focus Magnifier, Memory

Default: ISO

This option allows you to retain the ISO button’s function for adjusting ISO, or redefine the button to one of the other functions listed above.

AF/MF Button

Options: Exposure Comp., Drive Mode, Flash Mode, AF Area, Face Detection, Smile Shutter, ISO, Metering Mode, Flash Comp., White Balance, DRO/Auto HDR, Creative Style, Picture Effect, Image Size, Quality, AEL Hold, AEL Toggle, AEL Hold (Spot Metering), AEL Toggle (Spot Metering), AF/MF Control Hold, AF/MF Control Toggle, Object Tracking, AF Lock, Aperture Preview, Shot Result Preview, Smart Telecon., Focus Magnifier, Memory

Default: AF/MF Control Hold

This option allows you to retain the AF/MF button’s default function, or redefine the button to one of the other functions listed above.

Preview Button

Options: Shot. Result Preview, Aperture Preview

Default: Shot. Result Preview

Either of these will cause the lens to close down to the f/stop that will be used to take the picture at the current exposure, so you can check depth-of-field. The Shot Result Preview will also take into account the shutter speed value.

Focus Hold Button

Options: Focus Hold, D.O.F. Preview

Default: Focus Hold

This function is of use only when you are using a lens equipped with a focus hold button. This setting specifies the effect of pressing that button. With the default option, Focus Hold, pressing the button on the lens holds the focus at its current setting. The other setting, D.O.F. Preview, lets you use that button to activate a depth-of-field preview, which causes the lens to stop down to the actual shooting aperture so you can more accurately judge the depth-of-field that will be obtained at that aperture.

Smart Telecon. Button

Options: Focus Magnifier, Smart Telecon.

Default: Smart Telecon

Use this setting to redefine the function of the Zoom In/Smart Telecon. button in shooting mode. The default is to activate the smart teleconverter, described in Chapter 2. You can also define this button to perform the functions of the Focus Hold button, as described above.

Ctrl Dial Setup

Options: Front dial shutter speed/Rear dial aperture, Rear dial shutter speed/Front dial aperture

Default: Front dial shutter speed/Rear dial aperture

The purpose of this menu item, the first in the Custom 4 menu screen (see Figure 3.18), is to set which control dial controls shutter speed and which controls aperture when you are shooting in M (Manual exposure) or P (Program) mode, using the Program Shift function. By default, you set the shutter speed with the front dial and aperture with the rear dial; the other setting reverses those functions. This setting has no effect when you are shooting with Shutter priority or Aperture priority mode, because you have only one setting to make in each of those cases (either shutter speed or aperture), and that setting can be made using either dial. In Auto shooting mode, you can’t change either shutter speed or aperture with the front or rear dials, so this setting has no effect in that case, either.

Figure 3.18 Custom 4 menu.


Dial Exp. Comp

Options: Off, Front dial, Rear dial

Default: Off

Exposure is selected automatically when not using Manual exposure mode. Ordinarily, when this entry is set to Off, you can add/subtract exposure by pressing the EV button on top of the camera and pressing the multi-selector left (to decrease exposure) or right (to increase exposure). If you’d rather adjust exposure compensation using the front or rear dial, you can specify your preference here.

Exp. Comp. Set

Options: Ambient & Flash, Ambient Only

Default: Ambient Only

With the default setting, exposure compensation values you set are applied only to the ambient (available light) exposure. Choose Ambient & Flash, and the same EV compensation will be applied to both ambient and flash exposures. You’d want to choose that option when both available light and flash exposures result in images that are too dark or too light, consistently, during a particular shooting session.

Bracket Order

Options: 0 ? ?+, – ? 0 ?+

Default: 0 ? ?+

This option sets the order of your shots when using exposure bracketing. With the default setting, the first shot is at the metered setting, the second is with negative exposure compensation (darker), and the third is with positive exposure compensation (lighter). With the other setting, the first exposure is darker, the second as metered, and the third lighter. If you have selected five exposures, with the first option the order is neutral—negative—positive—more negative—more positive; with the second option, the order is negative to positive, with each exposure increasing over the previous one. This menu option does not apply to D-Range Optimizer bracketing.

AF Drive Speed

Options: Fast, Slow

Default: Fast

This setting supposedly controls whether your autofocusing is fast or slow. According to the Sony instruction manual, the Slow setting is preferable when shooting close-ups, because it gives the system a better chance to confirm sharp focus. In practice, it’s not clear that there’s any real difference between these two settings. So, unless you believe you’re having difficulty in focusing when shooting close-ups with a macro lens, you’re better off just leaving this option set to Fast.

Lens Comp: Shading/Chro. Aber/Distortion

Options: Auto, Off

Default: Auto (Shading, Chro. Aber); Off for Distortion

These are the first three entries in the Custom 5 menu (see Figure 3.19). All of them compensate for lens defects when working with A-mount lenses (they serve no function when using other lenses with adapters).

image Shading. This is an anti-vignetting correction feature, which can fully or partially compensate for darkened corners produced by some types of lenses. Because the default setting is Auto, you may never know that this feature is at work—until you turn it off. Figure 3.20 shows an example of an image with and without shading correction.

image Chro. Aber. Chromatic Aberration correction reduces color distortion at the corners of the image. Its default setting is Auto. Figure 3.21 shows an example of an image with and without chromatic aberration correction.

image Distortion. This lens compensation feature fixes inward or outward bowing of lines at the edges of images, caused by wide-angle and telephoto lenses (respectively). I’ll show you more about this type of distortion in Chapter 8.

Figure 3.19 The Custom 5 menu.


Figure 3.20 No shading (vignetting) correction (top); shading corrected (bottom).


Figure 3.21 Chromatic aberration displayed as green fringe (top); chromatic aberration corrected (bottom).


Front Curtain Shutter

Options: On, Off

Default: On

As a translucent mirror camera, your SLT-A77’s sensor is normally exposed to incoming light until just before the moment of exposure, when the shutter closes, the image that had been on the sensor is electronically “dumped” to make way for your actual exposure, and then the shutter opens again to take the picture. That takes time and introduces a certain amount of shutter lag time. This option reduces that lag by electronically “closing” the shutter (and dumping the existing image), so the mechanical shutter can close and open immediately. Use this setting when taking action shots and other types of images where even a small amount of shutter lag is objectionable. By default, it’s on, so you won’t have to think about it unless you want to use rear curtain shutter mode (set using Flash Options). However, using the electronic front curtain can increase the amount of blurring caused by a ghost image. I’ll explain the differences between and applications for front and rear shutter modes and the ghosting phenomenon in Chapter 9.

Face Registration

Options: New Registration, Order Exchanging, Delete, Delete All

Default: None

This menu entry is used to log into your camera’s face detection memory the visages of those you photograph often. New Registration allows you to log up to eight different faces. Line up your victim (subject) against a brightly lit background, to allow easier detection of the face. Use the directional buttons to align the green frame that appears with the face, and press the shutter button. A confirmation message appears, and you press the center OK button to confirm.

The Order Exchanging Option allows you to review and change the priority in which the faces appear, from 1 to 8. The A77 will use your priority setting to determine which face to focus on if several registered faces are detected in a scene.

You can also select a specific face and delete it from memory (say, you broke up with your significant other!) or delete all faces from the registry (your SO got custody of the camera).

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