Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

SX280HS - do auto settings give best results w/o adjusting settings. Low light important


My wife and I are going on a Sarari in a couple of weeks and rather than buying an expensive camera with multiple lenses decided on the SX280HS for its simplicity/ease of use.  We recognize that the picture results will not be as good as with a more complex camera.  just got it and want to know if the auto settings will give best results or is it necessary to adjust specific aspects to obtain good pictures.  We will be faced with many dusk and dawn situations and that is one of our main concens. We also will be taking pictures in full daylight and in situations where we will need the flash.  Not sure I am asking the right questions because I am not knowledgeable in this area but perhaps someone can provide assistance.  Thank you very much.



Don't rely on auto to get it right, especially in challenging light. Slow shutter speeds require a very steady camera, so if possible use a tripod or steady the camera against a solid object. Many years ago I gave my daughter the first DSLR I had bought & wrote this instruction set for her. The list was camera specific on a few things but in general most of the information applies to any camera that allows the user to make basic settings. 


These are in order of importance, once you have one so that you can usually do it without thinking or having the manual close by, then start on the next one.

DON’T USE “Auto” mode, it makes poor choices in camera settings, USE THE “P” mode (program) until you have learned the next few things.

You need to learn how to run through the menu system, but not that often, but it isn’t that difficult.

First setting to learn is “exposure compensation” which you use to change how over or under exposed you want a picture to look after taking it at the base setting you started with. Once you take a photo look at the LCD, (or better yet the Histogram on the LCD) which you can set to always display after each shot. If it’s overexposed (washed out, too bright etc) then you need to reduce the exposure & shoot another shot. If it’s too dark, then you need to set the exposure for a brighter image. The needle moves to the left for less exposure, & to the right for a brighter exposure.

Next “Flash Exposure Compensation” which is the same as above but needed when using the flash. Generally that camera ALWAYS needs some extra help with a setting to the right of about 1 or higher.

Auto Focus point selection. I generally prefer to use just the centre point, focus, and then reframe rather than all of the points possible, but it’s good to learn how to change it & decide what you like.

ONE SHOT / AI SERVO.  You can change how the AF works, in ONE SHOT it assumes that you are shooting a stationary target, and once the AF locks onto the target it doesn’t change if the target moves. You see the little red light which indicated focus lock & where.
AI SERVO is for things which keep moving, and the AF tracks the movement, but you will not see the red dot light up. YOU CAN USE THIS ALL THE TIME, but it isn’t as useful for reframing as the focus point may not work as well as the ONE SHOT mode.

YOU can learn this but don’t worry about it for now, just get an idea of what I am talking about.
Tv mode = Time Value, or SHUTTER SPEED, important for fast moving things, a fast shutter speed freezes what otherwise would have motion blur. Needs good light to work properly, the brighter the better.
Av mode = Apetrure value, which is a lens setting that is hard to explain in simple terms but has the following effect. Apertures are measured in “stops” and the reference to lenses is that a “fast” lens will have a lower F stop number. F2.8 is faster than F 4.0 etc.
This becomes important for 2 reasons, low light, or to control Depth Of Field (DOF) which is an important thing in certain uses. The DOF at F 2.8 is about half of what it would be at F 4.0, therefore things that are a bit closer & a bit farther than where you lock the focus on will be out of focus, and as they get closer or further from the focal point they become just a blur. This is VERY useful where you only want the main object in the photo to be what draws your attention, leaving most everything else out of focus. This type of FAST refers to the fact that you can use a fast shutter speed, the lens is letting lots of light
Flash photos usually force a camera to use a wide open aperture, so indoor shots have a shallow DOF, but you might not notice it at print size, but blown up on a computer screen it shows.

The original camera language will always refer to “stops” which is a ratio thing, and when a camera has a P mode it uses a pre wrote internal program to pick both the Tv & Av.
Stops work like this Every lens has a F value which relates to how much light can pass through it at the widest F stop (faster lenses cost big bucks, hard to build, require top quality lens glass & are larger in diameter). If you close a lens by 1 stop you must select a slower shutter speed to make up for there being exactly ½ the light. An example (numbers only to help understand it)
If a lens was at F2.8 and according to the cameras light meter you need a shutter speed of 1/500 second then a change to F 4.0 requires 1/250 second.

WHY DOES IT MATTER???? The rule of photography is to always keep shutter speed higher than lens length when hand holding to eliminate blur caused by our motion of pressing the shutter, jitters etc. The 20D is known as a “CROP” body, and that means that lens length in it’s case is 1.6 times longer than the numbers (mm) so the 18-200 lens acts like a 28-320 mm lens, so the slowest shutter speed should exceed 1/320 sec when zoomed to the max.

CAMERA CONTROLS   The ON / OFF switch can be left on all the time, it has a setting to put it into sleep mode that you can change using the menu, but it should be OK the way I have it set. A simple touch of the shutter button wakes it up instantly & it’s ready to shoot immediately.
IF at some time you can’t change a setting such as Exposure Compensation etc MAKE SURE the On / Off switch is fully on, It can still take photos with it a bit less than in the fully on position, but won’t allow changes. I HAVE RUN INTO THIS MORE THAN ONCE, AND WAS TOTALLY BAFFLED for a while, even the second & third time due to how seldom it happens. .  


A also wrote this several years ago for the members of my travel forum.


"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."

Thank you very much - I will use your input prior to our trip to see if I can make it all work at the best level.

The BIG benefit to using a digital vs film are being able to see the image right away so you can quickly re take it if it needs a setting change PLUS the useless image can be deleted at no cost. With film we kept notes & tried several different setting to try to get a good image but until the film was processed you had no idea if you'd got it. Practice around the house or when out & about & in very little time you'll get a real handle on your camera & the basic controls. 


"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."

03/30/2023: New firmware updates are available.

EOS R3 - Version 1.4.0

EOS R5 - Version 1.8.1

EOS 1DX Mark III- Version 1.7.1

Speedlite EL-1 - Version 1.0.2

03/30/2023: Product Advisory for EF50 F1.2 L USM

03/30/2023: Product Advisory for EOS R10

03/28/2023: New firmware version is available for EOS-R5 C
03/14/2023: New firmware version 1.8.1 is available for EOS R6
02/24/2023: We've updated Share Your Photos

2/07/2023: New product announcements!

EOS R8 EOS R50RF-S55-210mm F5-7.1 IS STMRF24-50mm F4.5-6.3 IS STMRF15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM
01/18/2023: New firmware version 1.1.1 is available for EOS R6 Mark II
01/09/2023: Help ensure your autofocus is properly aligned with a Canon Precision Alignment
01/03/2023: Welcome to CES 2023!
12/08/2022: New firmware version is available for EOS C70
12/07/2022: New firmware version 1.7.0 is available for EOS R5
11/16/2022: We're thrilled to be ranked among the Best Employers for Veterans in 2022 by Forbes.
08/31/2022: New firmware version 1.1.1 is available for RF 70-200mm L IS USM
08/09/2022: New firmware version 1.2.0 is available for CR-N 300
08/09/2022: New firmware version 1.2.0 is available for CR-N 500
07/14/2022: New firmware version 1.0.1 is available for CR-X300
06/10/2022: Service Notice:UPDATE: Canon Inkjet Printer continuous reboot loop or powering down
06/07/2022: New firmware version 1.3.2 is available for PowerShot G7 X Mark III
05/31/2022: Did someone SAY Badges?
05/26/2022: New firmware version is available for EOS-C500 Mark II
05/26/2022: New firmware version is available for EOS-C300 Mark III
05/10/2022: Keep your Canon gear in optimal condition with a Canon Maintenance Service
05/05/2022: We are excited to announce that we have refreshed the ranking scale within the community!
03/23/2022: New firmware version is available for EOS-C70
02/09/2022: Share Your Photos is back!
01/13/2022: Community Update. We will be retiring the legacy profile avatars on 01/20/2022. Click this link to read more.