When I use the auto ISO setting in manual mode I can not find a way to dial in the exposure compensation on my Canon 550D. Is this possible at all?

I encountered this in a situation where I wanted to fix my aperture and shutter speed for a time-lapse movie, but as the environmental lightning changed randomly (so bulb-ramping was not possible), I wanted to set my ISO to auto. However, this made the shots look too bright, hence I looked for a way to dial in an exposure compensation value.

  • What ISO did the camera pick when the exposure was too bright? If it was the camera's minimum ISO, then exposure compensation isn't going to help--the camera has no further room for adjustment, and you would have to pick a different aperture or shutter speed.
    – coneslayer
    Jun 8, 2013 at 19:25
  • My desired exposure had the following settings: 1.3s, f11, ISO400. When I left the ISO at auto it went to 800 which was to bright for my liking. Jun 8, 2013 at 19:41

2 Answers 2


Most Canon DSLRs do not allow Exposure Compensation in Manual Exposure Mode. This is the case with your T2i/550D.

There are several things you can try to accomplish what you want to do.

  • When Auto ISO is turned on it uses information from the camera's light meter to make the decision on what ISO to use. Depending on the scene, using different metering modes may give a darker exposure. (see p. 86 of the Instruction Manual)
  • If Auto Lighting Optimizer is enabled, turn it off. ALO will make the picture brighter.(see p. 83 and p. 103 of the Instruction Manual)
  • Try setting the maximum ISO to 400. This will likely affect frames with dimmer lighting more than frames with brighter lighting. (p.63)
  • Out of curiosity: which Canon model does have this function? Jun 8, 2013 at 20:27
  • 1
    Although I think I have seen this feature listed for a newer high end Canon body, I'm not sure that any do. I didn't have time to download and read the Manual for every model Canon has ever produced. If you do, please feel free to edit the word "most" out of the answer.
    – Michael C
    Jun 8, 2013 at 20:44
  • 1
    With the latest firmware version the EOS 1D X now has the ability to use Exposure Compensation when Auto ISO is selected in M mode.
    – Michael C
    Jun 7, 2014 at 19:00
  • 1
    Several other recently introduced models also allow the use of Exposure Compensation when Auto ISO is selected in M mode. The 1D X Mark II, 5D Mark IV, 7D Mark II, 5Ds, and 5Ds R all include the feature.
    – Michael C
    Oct 9, 2016 at 18:08
  • Add the 80D to the list.
    – Michael C
    Sep 5, 2017 at 23:43

With all Canon DSLRs I know about you can't set exposure compensation when using auto ISO in manual mode. You can usually set the overall metering bias in the custom functions which effectively gives you exposure compensation of +/- 1 stop.

  • Where can I do that? I cannot find that function...
    – uncovery
    Jun 8, 2014 at 0:10
  • @uncovery I think that capability is reserved only for 1-series bodies.
    – Michael C
    Sep 5, 2017 at 23:45

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