Monday, 8 June 2009

Live View: the great focusing aid

Bug on flower, Swaledale, June 2009
I've yet to identify the species

When I started photographing last week, I realised it was the first time I'd used the 40D on a tripod. that gave me the opportunity to use Live View for the first time. It's one of those features I'd rather dismissed and ended up using it almost constantly. Here's why:

At normal view, Live View is fairly mundane - just a full-screen view of the subject rather like using a digicam. However, for critical composition that is useful as it is 100% view, compared to the 95% view finder. Suddenly I don't have extraneous objects in the corners.

The most useful feature is the zoom for focus. Suddenly focus is even more precise. Better than using the view finder or auto focus. Used on a tripod with manual focus, I'm getting far more detail out of the sensor than ever before. When I'm working this way, I've found it best for me to use live view to focus, then a remote release with mirror lock-up for the exposure. Live View does have a histogram function (which takes several settings to activate) but I'm not convinced it is as accurate as my tuned settings for review. More testing required for that.

Crop from the centre of the frame. Final output sharpening not applied.
I couldn't get focus this accurate any other way.

As Paul Butzi has said, it's rather like using a large format camera. I just miss the movements (not having tilt-shift lenses).

There is one drawback, battery life reduces significantly. With normal hand-held use, I get about 950 shots to a full charge, with Live View that drops to around 150. Suddenly I need a couple of batteries per day. As a result I'm getting more selective about using Live View - check composition, check focus and then turn off.


  1. The flower looks like Herb Robert, a geranium. I don't know about the bug though.

  2. Colin, thanks for that. A little research last night suggets the "bug" is actually a fly but I'm no nearer knowing which. I'm hopeless at biological sciences.

  3. I am even worse in the biology department, but I know that you have me seriously re-thinking Live View. I will confess that I also have dismissed it.


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