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3 Camera Features for Handling Highlight and Mid-tone Details

Retaining and recovering details from highlights can be tricky. By the time you are at your computer post-processing your images, it will be way too late to save highlights that are completely blown! Here, we share two useful features that will help to protect highlight details, as well as one feature that adjusts mid-tones, which, in certain scenes, can help details to pop. (Reported by: Takashi Karaki, Kazuo Nakahara, Digital Camera Magazine)


1. Highlight alert

Find this in: PLAY menu

An electronic viewfinder (EVF) is very useful for helping you gauge exposure, and the high-definition ones like those on the more advanced EOS R system cameras provide an astoundingly bright and clear view of the scene. Even so, in some situations, it might still be hard to see subtle differences in tones and avoid unnecessary blown highlights. To help with this, enable Highlight Alert, also known as “blinkies” or “zebras”.

When you play back your images, any areas with blown highlights will blink in black. It’s a good tool to keep constantly enabled, so that you can make the necessary adjustments and reshoot on the spot!

Know this: If your camera doesn’t have the Highlight Alert function, don’t fret. In playback mode, press the INFO button to toggle to the screen that displays the histogram. You should be able to see the highlight alerts there, although the image displayed will be smaller!


2. Highlight tone priority

Find this in: SHOOT menu

Another useful feature to protect your highlights is ‘Highlight tone priority’, which is especially convenient for backlit scenes and other scenes with strong contrasts. When set to ‘Enable’ or ‘Enhanced’, it limits the tones in highlights, reducing the chance that they will be blown.

When it comes to blown highlights, prevention is better than cure. ‘Highlight tone priority’ protects highlight details in high-contrast scenes such as this.

Know this: When ‘Highlight tone priority’ is turned on, the minimum ISO speed is 200 and there might be slightly more noise in dark areas. But it still is helpful—just be aware when you shoot.

See how a bird photographer used Highlight Tone Priority to retain white feather details in:
Birds in Flight: Camera Settings to Increase Your Successful Shots


3. Clarity

Find this in: SHOOT menu

You probably are familiar with the Clarity adjustment slider in post-processing software. This function makes details appear clearer and sharper by increasing edge contrasts, particularly those in the mid-tones. It is especially useful for scenes such as astrophotography or detailed nightscapes.

This function is now an in-camera feature on recent advanced EOS cameras such as the EOS-1D X Mark III, EOS R5, and EOS R6, allowing you to preview, compare, and adjust effects on the spot without having to import files into image editing software. You may even find that it produces results that look more seamless than your usual software!

There are eight effect levels to choose from. Moving the slider to the left makes images look softer; moving the slider to the right makes edges appear harder and clearer.

Clarity slider effects


Clarity: -2

Clarity: 0

Clarity: +2

In this night industrial scene, setting Clarity to +2 enhanced the metallic texture, whereas reducing the effect level made the texture more subtle.

More examples of Clarity adjustment effects in:
Why the EOS R5 is My Ideal Camera for Landscape Photography


Your camera is your photography tool, and being familiar with what it can do could make you a more effective photographer! Discover more features you might have missed with these articles:
7 Often Neglected Camera Settings that Ensure a Smoother Shoot
5 Basic EOS R5/ EOS R6 Settings to Customise From the Start

Alternatively, revise your basic know-how in:
In Focus: Camera Basics


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Digital Camera Magazine

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Kazuo Nakahara

Kazuo Nakahara

Born in Hokkaido in 1982, Nakahara turned to photography after working at a chemical manufacturing company. He majored in photography at the Vantan Design Institute and is a lecturer for photography workshops and seminars, in addition to working in commercial photography. He is also a representative of the photography information website studio9.

Takashi Karaki

Takashi Karaki

After some experience as a sports instructor followed by 10 years in magazine production and editing, Karaki moved to Yonago City in Tottori Prefecture, where he became known for his landscapes of the San’in region of Japan. His works have been published in Amazing Village, a booklet of beautiful Japanese villages produced through a CANON × Discover Japan collaboration in 2017, and his shot of the sea of clouds at Akechi Pass in Tottori Prefecture was among 12 images selected by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) to represent Japan.

Instagram: @karakky0918