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Using Cameras with Electronic Viewfinders for Close-Up Photography

Electronic viewfnders and close-up photography

I recently bought a mirrorless camera (the Fujifilm X-Pro 1) and since then I’ve been getting to know the camera, using it in a variety of situations to familiarize myself with the way it works. Today I’d like to offer a few observations, based on my experience so far, on using cameras with electronic viewfinders for close-up photography.

1. The light weight of the camera and lens is very nice.

This is a camera I can carry around all day without it feeling like a burden. It’s nearly half the weight of my EOS 5D Mark II.

2. Manual focusing is very easy in the electronic viewfinder.

The camera has a feature called focus peaking. When enabled, anything in focus is surrounded by a high contrast outline. It’s easy to see which part of the subject is in focus, essential for close-up photography where depth-of-field is very narrow.

Electronic viewfnders and close-up photography

3. The X-Pro 1 gives you the option of displaying a live histogram in the electronic viewfinder.

This overlays the photo and blocks your view somewhat, but you can turn it on and off without removing your eye from the viewfinder using the Disp button on the back of the camera.

The histogram is very useful for checking exposure, especially if you like to expose to the right. It is easy to make adjustments using the exposure compensation dial, without removing your eye from the viewfinder. Then you can turn the histogram off so you can see the subject properly.

A general observation about electronic viewfinders: A big difference between electronic viewfinders and the optical viewfinders you get on digital SLR cameras is that the camera can display a lot more information in the electronic viewfinder. Some of it’s useful (like the histogram) but most of it isn’t, and blocks your view. You can remove it at the touch of a button, but in general the optical viewfinder of the SLR provides a much cleaner view with less distractions.

Electronic viewfnders and close-up photography

4. The electronic viewfinder helps you judge the effect of aperture on depth-of-field.

The viewfinder of my EOS 5D Mark II shows the scene as it looks at f/2.8, no matter which aperture is set. That’s true even if you’re using a prime lens set to an aperture wider than f/2.8. You can use the depth-of-field preview button to get an idea of what the scene looks like at the selected aperture, but the screen goes darker when you do so.

The electronic viewfinder of the X-Pro 1 works the same way – until you press the shutter button half-way. Then it shows you the scene exactly how it looks at the current aperture setting, without going any darker.

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5. The electronic viewfinder is very helpful when using legacy lenses.

All of the photos on this page were taken with a Helios 58mm f/2 lens. This is an old, Russian made lens with an M42 screw mount that attaches to the X-Pro 1 with an adapter. It has no electronics, and the camera can’t communicate with it. That’s not a problem, but it does mean you have to adjust the aperture manually. On my 5D Mark II, the viewfinder goes darker as you stop down.

With the X-Pro 1, it’s different. In bright light the electronic viewfinder doesn’t go darker (plus it shows you how the scene looks at that aperture setting). In dim light, it goes darker, but shows a bright image when you press the shutter button half-way. This makes it much easier to use legacy lenses like the Helios.

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6. You can playback images in the electronic viewfinder.

This gives a much clearer view in bright light than the screen on the back of the camera.

Conclusion

So far I’m very impressed with the performance of the X-Pro 1 for close-up photography. The advantages listed above are not limited to this camera, and will apply to virtually any camera that has an electronic viewfinder (I appreciate that electronic viewfinders vary in quality, especially when it comes to older models).

If you have a digital SLR with Live View, you can gain the same advantages by using that mode for close-up photography. The only caveats are that you need to mount the camera on a tripod and it will be difficult to see the screen in bright light (a purpose designed loupe may help).

I’d like to finish by saying that I’ve never felt limited by the design of my 5D Mark II for close-up photography. Cameras are just tools, and the bottom line is that while cameras with electronic viewfinders do have the advantages listed in this article, ultimately the success of the photo is down to the photographer’s understanding of composition, light and the subject.

Note: All the photos in this article were taken by adding a 500D close-up lens to a Helios 58mm f/2 lens. You can learn more about the 500D close-up lens in my article Getting Up Close With Close-Up Lenses, and more about Helios lenses in our article Creating Swirly Bokeh with the Helios 44-2 Lens.

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Your turn

Do you use a camera with an electronic viewfinder for close-up photography? What do you think of it? Please let us know about your experience in the comments.


Mastering Photography

Composition and line

My latest ebook, Mastering Photography: A Beginner’s Guide to Using Digital Cameras introduces you to digital photography and helps you make the most out of your digital cameras. It covers concepts such as lighting and composition as well as the camera settings you need to master to take photos like the ones in this article.

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Andrew S. Gibson
Andrew S. Gibson

is a writer, photographer, traveler and workshop leader. He’s an experienced teacher who enjoys helping people learn about photography and Lightroom. Join his free Introducing Lightroom course or download his free Composition PhotoTips Cards!