Let's face it, while today's DSLR cameras have tons of features and menu items for customization, that can be overwhelming to the new shooter, or to one who makes only a couple of dive trips a year. Worse yet, some settings could give the false impression that your equipment is faulty, when a simple setting change solves the problem. Here are our best tips for getting started.
AF ILLUMINATOR OFF
You don't need to light up the inside of your housing with the built-in focus light of the camera.
I prefer single AF rather than continuous because it's easier to lock focus on a single point.
REASSIGN AF TO AF-ON ONLY
Reassign autofocus controls from a half-press of the shutter release to the AF-ON button. This disables the shutter button's ability to autofocus, allowing it to act solely as a shutter release. With AF-ON enabled, your lens will stay in manual focus mode (focus-locked) until the AF-ON button is pressed, which will activate your autofocus.
SINGLE-POINT FOCUS (CENTER)
The center focus point is the strongest focus point in the camera. When the action is getting hot, you don't have time to move focus points around. Focus on the nearest point of your subject, then lock focus and recompose your shot.
LCD BRIGHTNESS TWO CLICKS DOWN
Underwater is a dark environment. Having a screen too bright can make you think your image is exposed correctly only for it to be too dark when you see it on your computer screen.
PRIORITY RELEASE, NOT FOCUS
Setting to priority release will allow the shutter to release whether or not the camera thinks it's in focus. This can be handy when you have enough depth of field for a sharp image and don't want to risk missing the shot because the camera refuses to fire.
You want to meter the whole scene, not center or center weighted.
SHOW HISTOGRAMS AND HIGHLIGHT WARNING
This is critical to tell if your exposure is correct when you review the image in playback.
RAW is an uncompressed file format, and will yield much better results and more color tones than shooting in JPEG.
COLOR SPACE ADOBE RGB
This is a wider color gamut (color range) than sRGB, and is better for printing.
LIMIT SWITCH ON MACRO LENS
Make sure your macro lens is not set to "limit." If it is, you won't be able to focus any closer than about 18 inches.
AUTO WHITE BALANCE
When shooting with strobes, AWB will be accurate 99 percent of the time. If you shoot RAW, you can non-destructively change white balance in postproduction.
AUTO ISO OFF
Auto ISO automatically adjusts your ISO based on the camera's meter. If you make any adjustments to shutter speed or aperture for exposure, Auto ISO will defeat your efforts.
PICTURE STYLE NORMAL OR STANDARD
Don't be tempted to pick something like "vivid." Of course we want vivid pictures, but those adjustments are better handled in post.
Set as long as possible so you don't need to wake up the camera. The meter barely uses any battery power, so you won't be taking a hit there.
This will avoid having images with the same name that could possibly get overwritten on your computer.
REAR CURTAIN SYNC/RED EYE
Do not use these flash settings if you are using a TTL converter. It will make your strobes act wacky. Use only fill-in flash with a TTL converter.