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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Give ’Em Some Space

Spring Is For The Birds • Live View Benefits  • The Right Light

Labels: How-ToColumnTech Tips
Live View Benefits

Q I just bought a new DSLR that includes the Live View feature, and I'd like to know why it's such a big deal. How is this different from the image on the back of the point-and-shoot digital camera I've had for years?
K. Brian
Honolulu, Hawaii

A Live View (LV) on DSLRs is essentially the same feature you've been using on your digital compact camera with one important difference. While most compact cameras offer a preview of your composition, newer DSLRs provide a high-resolution simulation of the composition, focus and exposure of the image on your sensor. Why did it take so long for DSLR manufacturers to incorporate LV into their camera systems? It's basically incompatible with the DSLR's mirror/single-lens-reflex mechanism, but the resolution of this incompatibility is one of the advantages of modern LV systems. The mirror is locked up when the DSLR is in LV mode, so LV is showing you a precise simulation of the image on the sensor, allowing you to view in real time the fine adjustments you make to exposure and focus before taking the picture.

Once you realize what it can do, you'll put LV to work often. It's not a coincidence that LV showed up on our DSLRs at the same time they became capable of capturing HD video. While shooting motion, it's critical to be able to view the capture on a monitor, either the one on the back of the camera or another larger monitor that can be attached. The rear LCD screen can be difficult to see on a bright day, but a loupe solves that problem (see the Hoodman website at www.hoodmanusa.com for the loupe, cinema strap and "crane" I use).

I also use the loupe for daytime still photography, but even an old-fashioned black cloth thrown over the camera and your head can help you to see what's happening on your imaging sensor and achieve critical focus. Most cameras allow a magnification of up to 10X in LV so you can pinpoint the focus when working on landscape captures and more difficult macro subjects. And LV is one tool I use in combination with the meter and the histogram to attain the best possible exposure. It's especially useful when accomplishing long exposures. Because the mirror is locked up, internal camera shutter/mirror movement is minimized and you can see the exposure on the back of your camera.

I frequently put LV to use in the studio when accomplishing high-magnification photomicrography of subjects such as insects, crystals and snowflakes. The camera is mounted on a copy stand above the subject, which is placed on a movable stage. The camera is connected by USB cable to a laptop computer so that I can see, through LV, what the sensor is seeing. The computer becomes a live monitor from which I can control the camera's exposure and focus. And while most photographers aren't going to those lengths, I'm sure we'll find other new uses for LV as a problem-solver and facilitator of creative approaches to our photography.


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