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Monday, 02 June 2008

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In a sense, the Sony R1 is exactly what Eamon is predicting cameras will look like in 15 years, except that the R1 skipped that whole mirror/prism thing and went straight to the permanent live view.

I have been using mine for a couple of years now and although I haven't made much use of the articulated LCD viewer, it's been really handy to have when I did need it. The more useful feature is the live histogram BEFORE taking the picture. That's when you really need it, after all. In fact, it's kind of addictive. I recently bought myself an Oly E-1 for fun and I love the feel of the camera but when using it, I always have this feeling that something is missing. Then I remember that getting the exposure correct is normally done this way and that the R1 is the exception.

It's like A/C in a car. You can live without it but it's somehow more difficult than it used to be.

Robert,

Yep, the Sony R1 had it right. I LOVE having the live histogram in the finder. Every digital camera should have this, period. Even though the R1's histogram is small and probably not totally accurate...you get to know it, my exposures were always dead on.

I miss it very much when using my dslr's..

I wish Sony would have taken the R1 a bit further in terms of processing speed and some manual focus streamlinng...it's a great camera and IMO it was a mistake for Sony to dump this camera without pushing the concept a bit further.

Articulated viewfinder...I use it all the time on the R1 and miss it on every other camera I own...frankly, the lack of live histogram and articulated viewfinders on the other cameras I own pisses me off to no end.

I agree totally with Robert. I'm an old time film SLR shooter who transitioned to a Sony R1 when I went to digital (the lens alone was worth the price). I don't miss the mirror/prism at all.

`it's likely that forms of Live View, whether using LCDs or electronic viewfinders (or wireless iPods or whatever), will eventually be the dominant viewing mechanism at nearly all levels of photography.'

Or for the rest of us, there's always large-format with its gorgeous ground-glasses... and has been since the 1800s :)

Personally I do find it harder to get a decent shot using an LCD on the camera back at more than nose-length - aligning horizontal/verticals tends to be much further out of whack for me, compared to *either* a dSLR with conventional viewfinder or MF with a WLF. I expect it's down to stability as much as anything - you can't hold it as still at arms' length as when you can brace elbows. Such is life.

I'm a little flustered by all the reticence I've read about Live View in DSLRs. The lack of good live view is one of the main reasons I haven't purchased one (sticking with my Canon S2).

It's nice to see some opinion here that embraces Live View (and tilting screens!). It certainly seems to me that an SLR could forego the whole mirror/second sensor problem simply by eliminating the optical finder. I, for one, would applaud that as an option.

The only time I want to use a viewfinder is in bright sun. I find composing on an LCD much more pleasant, and puts my portrait subjects at much greater ease. And this after 13+ years of shooting with a film SLR.

That feature and size are the two reasons I prefer serious compacts to DSLRs. Go DP1! We need more cameras like this!

I have yet to see an electronic display that comes even close to a good pentaprism setup. (I use a D300). I had the original Minolta Dimage 7i which frankly was a fright.

While I would like an articulated screen for low level shots etc. using one for ordinary composition by holding it at arms length just screams 'Dork' to me.

I share the enthusiasm for an R-1 type camera (SLE?), but wouldn't it be that much better with interchangeable lenses? I would think development costs could be way less if a body were designed around an existing lens mount. I'd think too that Olympus, with 4/3's relatively short registration and with their long practice with live view, would be the likely innovator. (OK maybe the Leica M mount could be a more logical and more intriguing platform, but how likely is that to happen? Meanwhile, Olympus is almost there already.)

I initially dismissed the Sony R1 for two reasons: a) lack of funds; b) My K-Minolta Dimage A2 had everything I needed and wanted EXCEPT clean, high ISO performance from its 2/3" 8MP sensor.

Everything I read about the Sony R1 convinced me that if Sony would only drop their mediocre Electronic ViewFinder (EVF) and replace it with a high resolution EVF as good or better than the one used in the Dimage A2, I would likely abandon the bulkier, noisier, DSLRs that I use today.

In fact, I dug out the old KM Dimage A2 over the weekend and took it to one of Minnesota's better state parks (Jay Cooke, just south of Duluth). I enjoyed its: size, weight, control layouts (better than my Maxxum 5D or the Alpha 100), the live histogram and grid overlay on the EVF, how quiet it is to operate (no noisy mirror slapping), and that its 8MP 2/3" sensor gives me images almost as good as my 10MP DSLR as long as I don't require an ISO of any higher than 100.

I believe that Sony has everything technically it needs to produce a world-class "R2" with a 2.5 or 2.7" articulating LCD on the back of the camera, and a high resolution/fast refresh rate EVF. The super Zeiss optics, built-in image stabilization, all the resolution and low noise characteristics of a 12MP 1.5 crop CMOS sensor like the one used in the Sony A700 would give them a unique niche no longer handled by any of the other big manufacturers.

Even with a 24-120mm lens (longer would be nice but not necessary), I'd sign up immediately.

Sorry to pick on you, Paul, but :

"I have yet to see an electronic display that comes even close to a good pentaprism setup."

Yes, the view through a good pentaprism is much better than current EVFs; But I would counter with "who cares"? EVFs are pretty good (either on screen or in an eye piece) and likely to get much better, and you wind up with the same shot (provided the EVF isn't so bad it affects how you compose and expose). Plus, is an EVF really any worse than a bad/small pentamirror viewfinder? The EVF doesn't actually affect handling, and can do some really nice things like boosting the image in low light, and zooming for critical focusing.

"While I would like an articulated screen for low level shots etc. using one for ordinary composition by holding it at arms length just screams 'Dork' to me."

Really? For most of my friends, that's the norm, and the dorks are the ones who carry the big camera with Nikon or Canon in yellow or white on the strap and who have to put them up to their eye. I have no idea how old you are, and I'm not all that young (31), but I wonder if it's a generational thing? My friends and I never owned cameras until digital came along, and they think I'm a bit of a dork for carrying anything larger than a pocket cam. I'd imagine that continues even more in younger people.

Don't much care about live view. Have to say though that I love the dogs.
www.tasmaniaphotoart.blogspot.com

Live view is a good secondary or complementary system. There are a couple of drawbacks to it compared to optical finders that it will always have, however:

* LCD panel live view means holding the camera away from you. You get less stable shots than if you can brace the camera on your face.

* Live view means having a light source to see the screen. That means that both the camera and you - your face especially - lights up at night. And if it's really night, that will be instantly obvious to anyone (or any animal) nearby.

Both the above can be mitigated by having live view in the viewfinder of course. But:

* The viewfinder live view still needs a light source for the image to be visible. Lighting up your eye, ruining your night vision.

And of course:

* Live view can show you only the dynamic range of your sensor, compressed into the dynamic range of the display. You see only what the camera sees. Just like a benefit of rangefinder cameras is that you see outside the edges of the image to help you decide on composition, so does an optical finder allow you to see outside the limits of the camera dynamic range, allowing you to decide on exposure. And no, this discrepancy will not be solved by technology; there's some pretty good reasons it can't (we can't really do it either; we fudge it by changing our gain depending on the spot we focus on).

An interesting polarisation of views about how we use our cameras (pun intended). My personal experience with LCD viewing (back panel and internal) has been very negative - gimme optics anytime.
Mike, would all this change the opinions you expressed in your wonderful viewfinder tutorial?
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/understanding-series/viewfinders.shtml

Cheers, Robin

When rangefinders and SLRs were invented they were seen as brilliant because photographers weren't taking photos from their belly buttons anymore (as in box brownies etc) but from eye level, close to the face in a simmilar connected way to how we actually see the world infront of us. this is not possible with live view, you have to hold the camera away from your eye for it to work. This advance in camera technology is now being turned back on itself.

Liveview should always remain an option in SLR cameras.

While I like to have the flexibility of using an articulated LCD viewer when the need arises (framing above the head or when I don't feel like crouching down), I normally hold the R1 up to my face and use it like an SLR. Ninety percent of the time, this is perfectly fine for composition. Occasionally I miss some distracting object that ruins the shot because it was in a dark corner of the frame that did not show up well in the eye-level display. I suspect that I would have seen some of those using an SLR with good viewfinder.

The articulated LCD and eye-level finder in the R1 are not very good for tracking birds or race cars because the refresh rate is too slow. Videocams manage to accomplish this just fine so maybe it's something that could be solved, if someone wanted to solve it.

I also have a small digicam with no optical viewfinder that requires me to hold the thing out at arm's length. I detest this. One, it means I really need to have my reading glasses with me all the time, but I don't, so I have a high number of pics with crooked horizons, bad composition with little details sneaking into the frame that I didn't see on the LCD, even when I remember the glasses. Actually, it's a lot like shooting with film because I don't really know what I have until I look at the pics later on the computer screen. It's handy because it's small but so was my Oly Stylis Epic and it had a viewfinder. Also, the LCD viewing screen on the little p&s is not articulated so it's almost like having the worst of both worlds.

But like I said in the earlier post, seeing the histogram before taking the picture is the best feature of the R1.

I have Live View on my Canon 1D3 and find it pretty useless. Why? Because for reasons unknown Canon did not articulate the LCD screen (and is not as if size and weight is an issue on a 1D).

While (in my opinion anyway) live view is no substitute for the viewfinder, Eammon demonstrates exactly why live view has a place - it extends the capabilities of the camera. I often have a need to hold the camera over my head for a shot - an articulated liveview is just the ticket for such situations. Why Canon bothered to add this feature and not provide the means to fully exploit it is beyond me.

Cheers

Colin

Most of my experience is with pentaprisms and ground glass. But I really came to like the EVF and flip up screen on my Fuji s9100 "bridge" camera.

Seeing the effect of the adjustments you make, in real time, was actually really useful, and kind of magical for an old dog like me.

I put one of those pop-out shades by Delikin on my A570 is and F20, so I coud use the LCD's like viewfinders.

While I do like my DSLR, I would love to have a s9100-like camera with at least a dslr-like sensor, and high quality EVF and flip up LCD.

I still regret not getting the Sony R1.

My 40D has live view (but, alas, no articulating display). I frankly didn't even care about the feature when I bought the camera but I've come to find it useful. It's handy when using manual focus lenses and for getting awkward angles (within the constraints of the fixed LCD). I can see the appeal. Personally I enjoy using an eye-level finder and don't expect that I'd be happy with an EVF-only SLR-type camera.

That articulating LCD screen on the E3 is VERY NICE! Just turn the thing around so you've got an old fashioned *plain black camera back* and get on with the task of taking pictures!

Cheers,
Chris

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