Canon Rebel T4i New Feature – HDR Backlight Control

HDR with backlight controlI’m not a camera scientist. Let’s get that out of the way. This is just a layman’s test of the HDR setting on the Canon Rebel T4i.

I have had my Canon Rebel T4i for a few weeks now, and I have been dragging my feet on trying out the two new mode positions: Handheld Night Scene and HDR Backlight Control.

I totally recommend using all your camera settings so you know what they do and which ones you like. It’s good to experiment with dial choices so you know which ones you like and don’t like.

Decided to go out in the yard and give the HDR mode a try. It’s kind of gloomy here, which makes for a very strong contrast between the white sky and trees. This is usually a tough situation for the camera.

The setup:

I put my camera on a tripod to avoid any problem with a handheld “shake” issue. Pretty simple. Set the camera to HDR Backlight Control.

The concept of HDR is to take several shots (in this case the camera will fire off three exposures) with different exposure settings. Then the photographer would normally combine those different exposures using photo editing software such as PhotoShop.

This is now done in-camera by the T4i.

The Shots:

First I took a shot using Aperture Priority with the aperture set at f/11 and a focal length of 24mm. I used a Sigma 18-250mm lens. Composition is set to include the white sky and white arbor with darker greens and browns of the trees and fence.

Next, I switched to the HDR mode. No changes were made in composition. Of course, the camera sets all controls. When I pressed the shutter button, the camera quickly made three exposures.

The Comparison:

The HDR photo actually looks a little more “flat” when compared to the aperture priority shot. That seemed apparent even viewing in the LCD preview. When I got the pictures on the computer, it was definitely true.

But take a look at this comparison – here is the HDR..

T4i - HDR image
This is the HDR image.
T4i - aperture priority
The same image using Aperture Priority at f/11.

Can you see the difference in color saturation? The non-HDR image looks much better. If you have looked at HDR photography, you know that this is reverse of what I was expecting.

Now, take a look at a close up of the high contrast areas:

HDR cropped
This is the HDR photo- cropped.
Aperture Priority
Same section of the Aperture Priority version.

I’m not too excited about this. But… to be honest, this is not a situation where I would normally use HDR in the first place.

The HDR photo not only has less contrast, it is blurry and shows much more chromatic aberration. I forgot to mention that the camera software automatically chose an aperture for the 3 HDR shots of f/3.5. My aperture priority shot was at f/11. Under normal circumstances, an f/11 shot will be better in terms of contrast and detail than an f/3.5 shot. But even so, the HDR picture is unacceptable for my quality expectations.

OK, so I learned something today (I think). I continue to be a fan of Aperture Priority in most of my shots. I highly recommend using it. You can control a lot about your pictures if you control the aperture.

For more about Aperture Priority click here.


  • zigzag

    You didn’t use it as it was intended – for a backlit scene such as a cave mouth from within the cave!!!!!!

  • Chiro

    You are not using the HDR mode for what its meant for so your examples don’t really mean much. Maybe learn what HDR does first then try again?

    HDR is to help with photos that have layered elements and tricky lighting. You shooting a bench during daylight is absolutely useless. Don’t mean to be mean but if you’re gonna review this camera for HDR capabilities maybe you should test it out in shots where it makes sense.

    What you did here is like driving a car with your feet and saying ‘yeah, the wheel control doesn’t really work too well.’