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Custom Menu 1/2/3 Options

The three screens of the Custom menu allow you to specify how your Alpha DSLR-A850 operates. If you’d like the front control dial to adjust the aperture rather than shutter speed by default in Manual mode, you can choose that behavior. Or, if you’d like to change the order of your bracketed exposures, that choice is available here. There are 17 menu entries overall in the Custom menu’s screens, giving you a wide variety of options for setting things up just the way you prefer.

  • AF/MF button

  • AF/MF control

  • AF drive speed

  • AF area display

  • Focus Hold Button

  • Auto review

  • Preview Function

  • AEL button

  • Control dial setup

  • Dial exposure compensation

  • Control dial lock

  • Button operations

  • Release w/o Card

  • Recording information display

  • Exposure compensation set

  • Bracket order

  • Custom reset

AF/MF Button

Options: AF/MF control, AF lock

Default: AF/MF control

This first option on Custom menu 1 (see Figure 3.7) gives you the ability to change the function of the AF/MF button, which is located just to the left of the rear control dial. By default, the function is set to AF/MF control, which means that when you press the button, the camera switches from Autofocus to Manual focus or vice-versa, depending on which of these settings is currently active. In other words, if you have used the camera’s focus mode switch to select Manual focus, but now would like to use the Autofocus mechanism just once to lock focus for a particular shot, you can just press this conveniently located button, and the camera will lock focus for you, if possible. Conversely, if you have set the camera to Autofocus but need to focus manually for one shot, press this button and turn the focusing ring on the lens.

Figure 3.7. The Sony Alpha’s Custom menu 1.

If you set the function of the AF/MF button to AF lock, then it has a different role. In that case, pressing the button will lock focus, no matter what focus mode is set. This setting can be useful if you have used the Recording menu 3 to turn off the AF w/ shutter setting, so the camera does not autofocus when you press the shutter button halfway. You can use the AF/MF button to carry out autofocus lock in that case.

AF/MF Control

Options: Hold, Toggle

Default: Hold

This option works in conjunction with the AF/MF button function, discussed above, when that button is set to AF/MF control. If you set this option to Hold, then you have to hold down the AF/MF button to change from Autofocus to Manual focus, or vice-versa. If you switch the setting to Toggle, then you just press and release the button to change the focus mode, and press and release again to change back. (Note: This option is still available on the menu if you have set the AF/MF button to AF lock, but it has no practical effect in that case.)

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 closeups, 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 closeups with a macro lens, you’re better off just leaving this option set to Fast.

AF Area Display

Options: 0.6 sec, 0.3 sec, Off

Default: 0.3 sec

You have to hand it to Sony for letting you really fine-tune your picture taking experience. The only purpose of this option is to let you specify how long the focus zone indicator in the viewfinder stays illuminated in red when the camera is autofocusing using the Local setting. The default is a very brief 0.3 second, but you can change this to 0.6 second if you want to have a more definite indication of which location the camera used for autofocusing. You can turn the illumination off altogether if you want.

Focus Hold Button

Options: Focus hold, Optical preview, Intelligent 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, Focus hold, pressing the button on the lens holds the focus at its current setting. The other two settings select either Optical preview or Intelligent preview, which also can be controlled by the camera’s Preview button. The Preview functions are discussed below.

Auto Review

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

Default: 2 seconds

The Sony Alpha DSLR-A850 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.) While this image is displayed, you can delete a disappointing shot by pressing the Delete key, or cancel picture review by tapping the shutter release or by 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.

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 you 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.

Preview Function

Options: Intelligent (preview), Optical preview

Default: Intelligent preview

This function controls what happens when you press the Preview button, which is located on the right side of the front of the camera, below the lens, but which is intended to be pressed by a finger of your left hand, snaking around underneath the lens to reach the button. The two choices are Intelligent preview (the word “preview” doesn’t fit on the menu, so the choice presented to you is just the word “Intelligent”) and Optical preview. With Optical preview, the Preview button acts essentially as the depth-of-field preview button of traditional film SLRs. In other words, when you press the button, the camera stops the aperture down to the actual metered (or manually selected) aperture, so you can see in the viewfinder what depth-of-field will be achieved at the actual shooting aperture. If you didn’t have that button available, you would be looking through the viewfinder with the widest open aperture of your lens, and you would not be able to tell what the actual depth-of-field would be. So, if you want the Alpha DSLR-A850 to act like a traditional SLR, set this menu option to Optical preview and re-live the days of film cameras and depth-of-field preview.

If you select the Intelligent preview setting, you still get the benefits of Optical preview, but, in addition, you have a powerful feature available that lets you tweak your settings before you take a picture. I discuss its use in Chapter 4.

AEL Button

Options: AEL hold, AEL toggle, Spot AEL hold, Spot AEL toggle

Default: AEL hold

This option, the first one on the Custom menu 2 (see Figure 3.8), affects the operation of the AEL (auto exposure lock) button, located at the top of the camera’s back, just to the right of the viewfinder. With the default setting, AEL hold, 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. The other two options are the same as the first two, except that the camera is switched into Spot metering mode while the AEL button is active (either held or toggled, depending on your choice).

Figure 3.8. The Sony Alpha’s Custom menu 2.

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 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.

Dial Exp. Comp

Options: Off, Front dial, Rear dial

Default: Off

With this option, you can use the front or rear control dial to control exposure compensation, as an alternative to using the exposure compensation button on top of the camera or the Quick Navi menu, which requires that you push the Fn button on the back of the camera. If you set either of the control dials using this option, you can then dial in your desired amount of exposure compensation by just turning the dial, without having to press any button first. This can be a desirable option if you expect to be using exposure compensation often during a particular shooting session; you can cut down on button presses. This option does not work when you are shooting in Manual mode, because you need both dials to adjust shutter speed and aperture. You can use exposure compensation in Manual mode, as is discussed in Chapter 4, but you have to make that setting using the exposure compensation button or the Quick Navi screen.

Ctrl Dial Lock

Options: On, Off

Default: On

When this feature is turned on, it deactivates the front and rear control dials so turning them has no effect on your settings unless the exposure values are displayed in the viewfinder. The idea is to avoid having a setting changed accidentally by bumping or turning a dial. It’s hard to think of a situation in which this feature would be particularly useful, especially since other buttons and switches are not deactivated, only the control dials, which have limited functions anyway. I recommend leaving this feature turned off.

Button Ops.

Options: Exclusive disp, Quick Navi

Default: Exclusive disp

With the default setting of Exclusive display, pressing the camera’s direct setting buttons (exposure compensation, drive, white balance, ISO, or C) produces a screen that is exclusive to that setting. For example, pressing the ISO button brings up a screen for adjusting white balance, with no other options available on that screen. The other setting for this menu option, Quick Navi, changes this behavior so that, when you press, say, the ISO button, the screen that pops up is the Quick Navi screen, with the ISO option highlighted and ready to set by pressing in on the multi-selector’s center button and then making your setting. The advantage with the Quick Navi option is that after you make the setting for the button you pressed (say, ISO), you are already on the Quick Navi screen, and can go on to make settings of other shooting parameters. You may want to try this feature both ways, and see which one feels more comfortable and makes you more efficient in changing your settings.

Release w/o Card

Options: Enable, Disable

Default: Enable

By default, this feature is enabled, allowing you to press and release the shutter even though no memory card is installed in the camera. If you disable it and then try to press the shutter with no card installed, you will get an error message on the LCD display saying the shutter is locked. I can’t think of too many situations in which you would want or need to release the shutter with no card installed, so you’re better off disabling this feature as a general practice. If it’s enabled, you’ll notice that no card is installed if you pay attention to the messages on the recording info display and the image display, but there’s a chance you’ll miss the messages and keep clicking happily away, thinking your images are being stored. If there’s no card in the camera, you’ll be out of luck, so don’t leave this option enabled unless you have a good reason to do so.

Rec. Info. Disp.

Options: Auto rotate, Horizontal

Default: Auto rotate

When you hold the camera vertically so the handgrip is pointed straight up (or straight down), by default the recording information display on the LCD automatically rotates to a vertical configuration so that you can still read the information right-side-up on the rotated screen. If you change this setting to Horizontal, the display does not rotate. This, of course, is strictly a matter of personal preference. Some photographers don’t like to have to look for information in a somewhat unfamiliar configuration; personally, I prefer to be able to read the display without tilting my head sideways, so I leave this setting on Auto rotate.

Exp. Comp. Set

Options: Ambient & flash, Ambient only

Default: Ambient & flash

This first setting on the Custom menu 3 (see Figure 3.9) is useful only when you are using a flash unit that is attached to the camera and communicates with it electronically. With the default setting of Ambient & flash, the camera will adjust, as it sees fit, not only your exposure settings—shutter speed, aperture, and ISO (ISO only when shooting in Auto mode), but also the amount of flash. With the setting of Ambient only, the camera will adjust only your exposure settings, and will leave the intensity of the flash unchanged. Unless you have a particular reason to use the Ambient & flash setting, it is ordinarily better to leave this setting on Ambient only, so you can exert more control over the settings through your own judgment, rather than leaving both of these settings to the camera.

Figure 3.9. The Sony Alpha’s Custom menu 3.

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 is 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.

Custom Reset

Options: Reset, Cancel

Default: Cancel

This menu option gives you an easy way to reset all of the items on the Custom menu to their default settings.

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