Road Train !!!!!!!!!!

by Russell McMahon

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I already know what White Balance is (at least enough to get by!) I already know what Custom White Balance is.

All of the pre-configured White Balance options on the Canon DSLRs have meaningful icons - pictures of the sun, clouds, tungsten and fluoro lights, etc.

But the Custom White Balance icon is a mystery to me. It is a round-corners black rectangle upon two white triangles. (There's a picture here from this site.). Update, here is the pic:

alt text

My idle thought after some late-night experimentation with white-balance is: What are these shapes supposed to represent?

[Update: Originally I thought this was just Canon, but answers below indicate other brands use it too, including Pentax and Olympus. I checked quickly before originally posting, and Nikon have a different name for it (Preset), and no icon in the manual I checked.]

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The sliders in stereo amplifiers that you use to (manually) set the balance between the left and right audio channels? –  Jukka Suomela Dec 9 '10 at 15:00
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It's probably worth noting that the triangles are sometimes drawn as outlines and sometimes filled in... –  Matt Grum Dec 9 '10 at 15:42
    
@Jukka - I think this should be an answer, rather than a comment. –  ysap Apr 4 '11 at 3:35

8 Answers 8

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Since the other white balance symbols are so literal, I'd say that the Custom one could be related to the activities involved in setting the custom white balance.

  • You need to point a camera somewhere and register what is supposedly your reference point. Therefore the rectangle in the middle of the icon, supposedly representing the act of acquiring a color reference.

  • You can afterwards calibrate your color balance using two axes (Blue/Amber and Magenta/Green), therefore the two triangles in the bottom.

My 2c :o)

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I have accepted this as the answer, because it strikes me as the most plausible. However, I don't know if it is correct. Thanks André. –  Oddthinking Dec 12 '10 at 22:21

To me the center rectangle represents the white balance itself, and the small triangles are "cursors: (or sliders) that you would move to say: "here is exactly where I want my custom balance to be, in between these 2 values". Cursors similar to what you have in a caliper.

alt text

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Interesting idea, Sebastien. Thank you. I can see the triangles in the caliper cursors, but they are oriented differently in the icon. If a graphic designer wanted to represent calipers, I am not sure they would end up with that icon. –  Oddthinking Dec 12 '10 at 22:20

To me, it looks like a person sitting for a portrait shot, with two lights in front of him/her - as viewed from the top.

(As a software developer I often have to design simple icons. It's one of the hardest jobs I have. I mean, how does one convey the word "Re-synthesize" or "Writeback Cache" in a 32x32 pixel icon? No idea.)

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As a fellow developer, I wholeheartedly agree! +1 –  AJ Finch Dec 10 '10 at 11:40

When I look at it, I see a person - head is the rounded rectangle, shoulders are the 2 triangles. I think it's the photographer, so the implication is that the photographer is setting whatever s/he wants ??

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Thanks AJ. I did wonder if it was supposed to be a poor rendering of a face, but the other answers suggest not, because it is square on some brands. –  Oddthinking Dec 12 '10 at 22:12

It's not just Canon. Pentax's looks similar, although the rectangle doesn't have rounded corners and is more like a screen (or photo print with borders). And I've seen it in other brands too, although I can't find an example offhand. So, while I can't say what it means, I can at least confirm that it's widespread, and that the center object probably isn't meant to indicate a person.

alt text

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Olympus uses the Canon icon, too: expoimaging.com/MediaFiles/instructions/EN_37.pdf –  whuber Dec 9 '10 at 22:18
    
Very useful to know. Thank you. I have updated the question appropriately. –  Oddthinking Dec 12 '10 at 22:16

It's probably meant to represent some piece of equipment that no longer exists:

I wonder how long it will be before people don't know what this icon represents!

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Just like how people already don't know why it's "floppy". :) –  Guffa Dec 9 '10 at 23:02
    
good point (sadly) :-( –  AJ Finch Dec 10 '10 at 11:40
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Thanks Matt. I did wonder if the icon represented the controls on some old piece of equipment (enlarger for colour negatives?) That was one reason for posting it here: I think there are enough people with an interest in historical photography equipment to recognise it. –  Oddthinking Dec 12 '10 at 22:15

It's white balance, so the white rectangle represent "white" while the two triangles represent a fulcrum, the "white" being "balanced" between them, like a see-saw.

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The triangles represent the orange and blue shifts of the 3000k and 9000k light, and the rectangle represents the neutral white in between.

orange,blue shift

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That seems like an interesting theory, but can you give a little more to back it up? –  mattdm Mar 30 at 19:30
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Also:this image is clearly clipped from something else. What is the original source? –  mattdm Mar 30 at 22:15

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