Tethered shooting using Canon EOS Utility

Canon EOS Utility (EOS-U) can be used to tether many models of Canon digital cameras with computers (running either macOS or Windows). For example, my Canon EOS 5D Mark II appears on the list of cameras supported by EOS-U.

Canon EOS-U is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get! The way that tethering looks and functions seems to depend upon a combination of your camera model and your computer operating system.

My new 13″ Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) features the “Big Sur” macOS. The drop-down menu for “Operating System” (shown below) doesn’t list either “Big Sur” or “Catalina” — the last two versions of macOS. So I selected “macOS Mohave v10.14” …

and downloaded/installed “EOS Utility 2.14.31b for Mac OS X.”

Canon EOS Utility 2

Here’s how to get started. Tether your camera to a computer using an appropriate cable for your camera and computer.

Trouble-shooting tip: Set the camera Drive Mode for “One Shot” before tethering your camera to a computer. EOS Utility 2 doesn’t work when the Drive Mode of my Canon EOS 5D Mark II is set for Timer (either 2 s or 10 s).

Launch Canon EOS Utility 2, or EOS-U 3 if you are using a newer camera than me. The “Main Window” (shown below) should appear on screen. Click on “Camera settings/Remote shooting.”

The “Capture Window” (camera control panel) should appear on screen, as shown below.

Click on the button labeled “Preferences…” that is located in the lower-left corner of the “Capture Window” (camera control panel). The following screenshot shows all of the categories of preferences.

Select Preferences → Basic Settings in order to set the “Main Window” to show on startup. I recommend ticking the checkbox to automatically display the “Quick Preview” window whenever a photo is taken.

Select Preferences → Remote Shooting in order to set where photo files are saved. My camera is set to shoot RAW files only; CR2 files are saved to both my camera and computer, as indicated by the icon in the camera control panel that looks like a computer + camera.

Select Preferences → Destination Folder to specify the location where photo files will be saved on your computer. My preferences are as follows.

Help requested: A little help from my readers, please. What is the purpose of the “Monitor Folder,” shown in the preceding “Preferences” panel? I speculate it might be a folder that is watched by “Digital Photo Professional 4,” free photo editing software available from CanonUSA.

Subfolders within the “Destination Folder” are created automatically as per my preferences.

Select Preferences → Linked Software in order to set an application that will be used to open photo files automatically. In my case, I registered “Preview,” an Apple graphics utility.

When you click on the “Register…” button the first time, what you see varies depending upon whether you are using EOS Utility 2…

or EOS Utility 3. In either case, all of the default options are Canon applications. If you would prefer to link to a non-Canon application, then select “None” and press the “Register…” button again in order to browse the applications available on your computer.

The “Capture Window” (camera control panel, shown below) can be used to change some but not all settings for my Canon EOS 5D Mark II. The initial settings shown by EOS-U should be the same as your camera before it was tethered to your computer.

The grayed-out “M” indicates my camera is set for Manual shooting mode. The shooting mode (M, Av, Tv, P, etc.) cannot be changed in software — you must make that setting by turning the dial on your camera. Also, adjusting the focal length of a zoom lens cannot be done remotely by the software.

The camera settings shown in black can be adjusted remotely. For example, I set the White Balance for “Flash,” as indicated by the lightning flash icon. Press the virtual shutter button when you’re ready to take a photo.

EOS-U 2 seems to have no idea what type of lens is mounted on the camera. In this case, I used my Canon “Nifty 50” lens (EF 50mm f/1.8 II) to take some test shots. The “Quick Preview” panel appears after you take a photo. (The panel is resizable.)

Each photo also opens automatically in “Preview” based upon my settings in Preferences → Linked Software. To some extent, it’s redundant to open photos in both EOS-U “Quick Preview” and Apple “Preview.” My goal is simply to demonstrate for Fujifilm that Canon has shown it is possible to make “Linked Software” work on a computer running the Big Sur macOS.

Click the “Live View shoot…” button, located near the bottom of the “Capture Window” (camera control panel), in order to display the “Remote Live View window” (shown below). There you can set the focus point, and zoom in/out. Other options might be available depending upon your camera model.

Canon EOS Utility 3

Mike Powell, my good friend and photowalking buddy, experimented with his Canon EOS Rebel SL2 tethered to Canon EOS Utility 3. Sincere thanks to Mike for patiently helping me begin to figure out things that are software-dependent and things that are camera-dependent.

Your mileage might vary, but it’s worth noting that the “Capture Window” (camera control panel) for Mike’s Canon EOS Rebel SL2 shows several options that aren’t available for my older Canon EOS 5D Mark II. This is the box of chocolates thing that I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post.

For example, the Drive Mode [Single Shot, Continuous, Timers (2, 10 s)] can be set in EOS-U 3 (on Mike’s camera) but can’t be set in EOS-U 2 (on my camera).

Look closely at the “Capture Window” (camera control panel, shown above). Notice the icon for a movie camera located to the right of the “Live View shoot…” button. That button is supposed to enable remote video shooting; neither Mike nor I have tested the process.

Here’s a screenshot of the “Remote Live View window” on Mike’s computer. Notice the EOS-U 3 window features more buttons than EOS-U 2. Also notice the histogram shown in the lower-right corner, a useful tool that isn’t featured in EOS-U 2 using either Mike’s Canon EOS 50D or my Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

What are the take-aways?

Canon EOS Utility can do so much more than tethered shooting using Adobe Lightroom Classic that EOS-U is the tool of choice for tethered shooting with my Canon camera. I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of what EOS-U can do, and I’m looking forward to further exploration and experimentation.

Who knows? The joy of tethered shooting with EOS-U — and the frustration of the limitations of the software when used with my older camera — might motivate me to buy a new Canon mirrorless digital camera. That is, assuming Canon introduces a pro-grade camera with an APS-C sensor at a sub-$4K price point. If I’m going to spend $4,000 or more for a camera — the current price range for higher end Canon mirrorless digital cameras — then I think my money would be better spent on one of the Fujifilm GFX medium format digital cameras.

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Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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One Response to “Tethered shooting using Canon EOS Utility”

  1. Mike Powell Says:

    Thanks for your extensive review, Walter, of the capabilities and limitations of this free software utility that Canon includes with all of its DSLR cameras as well as on line. I find it refreshing to learn that you can plug your DSLR that is 10+ years old into a computer that is running a brand new version of the Mac operating system and the software still works, albeit without all of the bells and whistles built into the newer versions of the software. I am not sure that I will use the Canon capabilities to control my camera remotely from my computer, but it is good to know that those capabilities exist. I would be more likely, I think, to use the Canon utility to transfer and review photos on the computer that I have taken with my camera in my hand during an indoor shooting session.

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