The smallest changes
I've been working on a post for a couple weeks now and it hasn't been going well. Every time I rewrite it, I feel it gets worse. So, I'll tell you about something completely different.
Like many, I really haven't modified my DSLR much. Most of the buttons and dials function exactly as they did out of the box. Hey those engineers get paid a lot of money to make the camera efficient, don't they?
The first thing I always do, and recommend everyone do, is change the default setting to prohibit the camera from activating the shutter when there is no memory card; an easy way to avoid the the embarrassment of shooting all day without any "film" in the camera. I wondered why that was even an option until I realized that there would be almost no way to try out the camera in the store if you couldn't shoot without a card.
I think the only other option I changed until recently was the display time for image review on the back of the camera. Everything else, I figured, I could get used to.
I finally decided, though, to separate the autofocus and metering buttons off of the shutter release button. On just about every camera in the marketplace today, you activate both the autofocus and the metering system by pressing the shutter button halfway. There are a couple problems with this setup, no matter how ingrained it is now.
By keeping them on the same button, you are restricted to focusing and metering on the same subject in the frame. Most of the time, this probably isn't an issue until you decide that you want to creatvielyselect a different point of focus while retaining metering on another subject. Now, you certainly could do this with manual metering, but in-camera metering has gotten so good in recent years that I shoot 99% of my images in Aperture Priority (Nikon's A, Canon's Av modes).
You are also forced to select your focusing mode with a second switch when asking the shutter button to do triple duty. On Nikons and Canons, there is a switch to select between 'Single and Continuous (AI-Servo) focusing modes. You have to actively change the mode whenever you need alternate abilities.
I shoot Nikon and can't vouch for Canon, though I would be surprised to find it different. On my D700 (and I know my old D70s could do the same), I was able to relocate the AF button off of the shutter-release and onto the back of the camera just by changeing an option in the camera's menu. That's right, only a few button pushes changed the way I shoot for more flexibility. Now I use the AF button on the top right of the back of the camera body to focus. This alleviates both problems I described. I can keep the camera on continuous focus permanently because it's only active when I press this button. If I want single focus, I let go of the button and AF turns off. So now I can press this button to focus on my determined focal point, release the button and recompose to get my metering. It's brilliant! And if I need continuous focusing, I hold the button down and it never deactivates the AF motor.
Such a small change has adjusted the way I shoot for the better. I'm now much quicker and more flexible in the way that I shoot and find it easier to keep up with my 5 and 2 year old boys. Try it, if you don't like it , you can just as easily change it back.