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13 Advantages of Live View over Optical Viewfinder

dslr live view
Photo  by: Danny Choo

In the earlier days of digital photography, live view was how point and shoot and the so called prosumer cameras compose and shoot. But the professional DSLR all had the traditional optical viewfinder which either featured a penta mirror or penta prism which enabled the photographer to see what the lens sees. Thus people in general associated live view shooting with amateur photography and shooting via viewfinder with professional photography; as a result when live view first featured in DSLR cameras it was considered more as a gimmick rather than as a very useful feature.

Live View Shooting is Easy to Master

Live view shooting is easy to matter, in case of most cameras; all you have to do is flick a switch to activate live view shooting. The mirror in front of the sensor flips up blocking the light from reaching the viewfinder so viewfinder goes black and the image is displayed instead on the LCD at the back of the camera.

Once people started using live view its usefulness became apparent especially in certain types of photography in this article we will discuss certain situations in which live view actually outperforms the traditional optical viewfinder.

1. The Advantage of a Large High Resolution TFT LCD.

Most DSLR cameras have large high resolution TFT LCD screens on the back which in earlier models were used only to review the shots taken in camera. The ability to use this screen to compose and shoot offers a significant advantage over optical viewfinders.

2. 100% Coverage For Precise Framing

Most DSLR cameras except the high end models do not have a viewfinder that offers 100% coverage. They usually have a small crop factor and as a result it is not possible to precisely compose your shot. Often you’ll end up with unintended elements peeping into your carefully composed images which need to be cropped in post production leading to loss of image data/resolution. But live view shooting offers 100% coverage, you are seeing what the sensor is recording, nothing more – nothing less this makes it possible to precisely compose your shots.

3. Live Histogram for Perfect Exposures

When shooting via viewfinder you need to first take a picture and review it in the LCD to check the histogram for exposure. But in live view mode you can call up the histogram which updates in real-time as you make changes to exposure settings, enabling you to compare the picture as well as the live histogram to check for exposure before pressing the shutter.

4. Zoom in For Precise Focusing

Live view focusing is the best method for manually focusing. You have the capability to zoom the display up to 5x or 10x magnification for precise focusing. The area that is magnified could be changed by adjusting the controls there by enabling you to focus on any part of the scene irrespective of the fact whether it is covered by any focus point or not.

5. Easily Set White Balance for any Lighting Conditions

Live view is perhaps the easiest method of setting white balance for your shots. All you need to do is look at the live LCD display press white balance button and scroll through different settings until you see the scene the way you want to capture it.

6. Accurate Depth of Field

Depth of field preview was in theory a very useful feature but never practically very useful until live view came into being. When looking through the viewfinder if you press the depth of field preview button the image in the viewfinder turns dark making it very difficult to access depth of field accurately. But this is not at all a problem when using live view as the camera automatically adjusts display brightness when you press the DOF preview button so that you can see the image clearly. Added to it the zoom function which allows you to magnify the display 5x or 10x on any part of the scene to check any area of the image for sharpness and live view immediately becomes an indispensible feature.

7. Grids for Better Composition

In live view mode you have the option to super impose several types of grids over your display which could be very helpful in determining subject placement and also for making sure horizon lines and other vertical lines are straight and not slanting.

8. Get Adventurous with Shooting Angles

With live view as long as you can see your LCD you can compose your images, even though the camera is held high above your head or out of a car window or way down below on the ground. Without live view you will have to shoot blind and hope for the best. You could further increase the utility by mounting the camera on a tripod or monopod and raising it well above your head to shoot over crowds of people or large fence or simply to get a higher perspective. You will need a remote release to trigger your shutter when shooting this way.

9. Long Exposures Made Easy

Landscape photographers especially are great fans of long exposure shots, they achieve this by using strong neutral density filters often a 9 stop or 10 stop filter. If you are shooting through the viewfinder you will need to first compose your frame and set focus before mounting the neutral density filter. Once the filter is mount on the lens you cannot see as the viewfinder gets very dark, if you need to adjust focus or recompose your image you need to first remove the neutral density filter and repeat the process needless to say it’s very frustrating. But in live view the camera will in most cases be able to show you a usable picture even with the filter on allowing you to recompose, manually focus, set depth of field etc. 

10. Using Tilt / Shift  Lenses

Live view makes it much easier to work with tilt shift lenses as one can make changes watching the LCD display; also tilt shift lenses are manual focus only so live view along with zoom function makes it very easy to achieve precise focusing.

11. Live View for Ultimate Sharpness

Live view is the best shooting method to eliminate any mechanical vibrations arising from the camera such as the one caused by the mirror flipping up and down before an exposure. In live view mode the mirror is already raised so vibration (mirror slap) is eliminated also selecting electronic first curtain option allows taking shots without movement from the shutter curtain. The benefits of all this will add up to get the ultimate sharpness when you are shooting on a tripod along with a remote shutter release button.

12. Night Photography Made Easy

It is in night photography that live view really shines, dim light conditions makes composing and focusing very difficult when using the viewfinder and many times the AF could not lock on. But in live view the camera brightens the scene so as to help us compose and focus easier and make life easier.

13. Camera Sound

In certain cases like when shooting inside of a temple or church in the midst of a ceremony the noise arising from the physical movement of the shutter could be a major issue. This could be controlled by employing live view and silent mode.
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