Thursday, 13 October 2011

Training Course Notes: What is Peaking?

When most people first switch on peaking they leave the settings on the default colour - white. The trouble is, white peaking is the hardest to see. They might notice some difference between it being switched on or off but not much. And so most people switch it off and don't use it. This is a shame because peaking is very useful.

These notes are based on the Canon XF300 and XF305 - but the same information also applies to peaking on the Canon XF100 and XF105. In fact, all professional cameras have peaking - so this should help any Sony, Panasonic or JVC owners too.

I want to show you what it is, how to set it up, and maybe convince you to leave it on all the time.

What is peaking?

Peaking is a signal added to your LCD screen and viewfinder screen that helps you check the camera is in focus.


It can be difficult to see the difference between the default Peaking on (above) and Peaking off (below). What you might notice is that the edges of the star chart look as if they have a white outline to them when it is switched on.


Peaking Menu Settings

To make it useful you need to set it up correctly. So, first off we are going to change the colour. That way you'll be able to see what I'm talking about.

  • Press the MENU button
  • Scroll to LCD/VF SETUP menu and select
  • Scroll to PEAKING and select ON
  • Then scroll to the next menu item down SELECT  and set to PEAKING 1
  • Then scroll to the next menu item down PEAKING 1
  • Change the COLOR to RED
  • Press the MENU button to leave the menu
Below you can see the peaking in White, Blue, Yellow and finally Red. I always recommend RED. I think is the easiest colour to see. But, if you prefer a different colour - no problem.


PEAKING IN RED - perfect - my favourite


PEAKING IN BLUE - an improvement

OK, now you can see it, what is it and how will it help?

How does Peaking help you check the picture is in focus?

Peaking loves edges - clean sharp edges - edges that are in focus. So, in the image below the peaking is on the blue Lego camera van but not on the white van in the background. So, I can be very confident that the blue van is in focus while the white van is definitely out of focus.

Red coloured peaking on the blue van confirms it is in focus
But, If I want to pull focus from one van to the other - I turn the focus ring until the white van is in focus. As I do that, the peaking moves to the white van confirming that it is now in focus.

Now the peaking is on the white van confirming that it is now in focus 

No peaking on either toy means they are both out of focus.
You can change the colour, gain and frequency of Peaking

If you go back into the menu you'll see that there are three ways to change the peaking. We've sorted out the colour. But let's see what Gain and Frequency do...

Peaking Gain

The manual isn't very helpful in explaining what gain and frequency do. From what I can see going on, GAIN is a kind of peaking volume control, it can be changed from off to 15. A gain set to 4 (below) shows thin red peaking on the star chart.  If you turn it up to 15 the peaking gets thicker and more noticeable.

 I tend to leave my Peaking Gain set to 8 - which is the default.

Gain set to 4

Gain set to 8

Gain set to 12

Gain set to 15

Setting the frequency

Peaking Frequency

Frequency can be changed on a scale of 1 - 4

When the fequency is set to 1 it only shows up on the fine detail in the centre of the star and some of the writing around the edge of the star (below).  If you turn it up to 4 the peaking appears on all edges that are in focus.

 I tend to leave my Peaking Frequency set to 2 - which is the default.

Frequency set to 1

Frequency set to 4

When should you use peaking?

I have peaking switched on all the time. 

If you want to feel confident that your shots are in focus then I'd recommend you switch on your peaking.

no peaking - no focus

Do be aware...

Peaking likes edges. So, it won't always appear on faces - which tend to be soft edged and round. But, it will appear on collars, buttons, earrings - so you may have to use peaking on those items to confirm the face is in focus.

Peaking prefers vertical edges more than horizontal. If you look at all the star charts above there is always more peaking on the vertical edges and less on the horizontal.

Red isn't good for everything. If the subject you are shooting is red/orange in colour - then it might be a good idea to change the peaking to blue.

 My recommendations


Hopefully you found these training notes helpful. But, if you need more help with your camera I offer one-to-one and group camera training.

Christina Fox