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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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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!

  • gnondpomme

    Totally agree with this one, I have had my X-E1 for 6 months now and I love the EVF for my close -up to macro stuff !

  • ted

    And your Canon LiveView with Magic Lantern ? Still the weight though…

  • Doesn’t the EVF lag a lot in darkness though? I’ve tried a mirrorless camera at school when a SONY rep came over and I found EVF incredibly laggy when someone wearing black would go in front of it in a dimly lit area.

  • Choo Chiaw Ting

    Now i am thinking of D810, any expert review that body yet?

  • Richard Taylor

    Personally I find P&S cameras, especially those with flip out screens to be a lot easier to use for very close up shots than those with viewfinders. They normally have a live histogram as well. The only thing is that you cannot get real shallow DOF, howver I don’t find that a problem at all. THe exple below was shot hand held with a standard Canon G11 in “macro” mode.

  • me

    I think the article title needs changing to be “Review of Fujifilm X-Pro 1 for close-ups”

  • pincherio

    Why limit yourself to the EVF when the rear LCD would provide a larger view? All the same info available in the EVF should also be available in the LCD.

  • theresa951

    my neighbour just got a stunning cream Cadillac ELR Coupe from only workin part time on a home pc. view….>> -> ONLINE WORK FROM HOME!!! <-

  • NiagaraTim

    if youre talking about sony’s A7, A7R, and the just released A7S, they are not DSLR’s as they have no mirrors.. DSLR’s are the digital version of the old film cameras called SLR’s and to top it off, since they are the first mirrorless full frame cameras, I just heard Canon and Nikon are gearing up to make new mirrorless models soon as well.. won’t be long before those ‘old’ clunkers like the Nikon D4S and Canons 1DX and many more to follow that have mirrors will slowly be disappearing off the racks 😉

  • NiagaraTim

    Sony rep’s at school? lol what are they doing at your school? recruiting for jobs? trying to grab kids to get them to buy sony cameras as their first purchase?

  • No, it’s an adults’ photo school and we had one of them coming over to show off their mirrorless cams… just like Nikon is coming over this week to also show off their cams…

  • NiagaraTim

    ahh ok thought you were talking about high school lol so hoping nikon coming show off their new mirrorless as i hear they making mirrorless like sony A7

  • Do I look so young on my icon pic that I seem to be in high school, though? :/

  • NiagaraTim

    yea u look young there lol all kidding aside over here we never heard of reps coming to any schools

  • Guest

    ‘me’ is right its a mis-leading title as it doesn’t apply to all cameras with electronic viewfinders..

  • It’s to do with camera handling. To view the rear LCD you have to hold the camera away from your face, making it harder to hold the camera steady.

  • Possibly, I haven’t tried taking a photo of someone in black clothing in a dimly lit area with my camera, although I have used it in low light and haven’t had a problem with lag. Other cameras may perform differently though.

  • denise870

    my step dad recently got a fantastic white Mercedes-Benz E-Class E63 AMG only from working part-time off a pc. you can find out more….>> -> NICEST WORK!!!! <-

  • pincherio

    The topic was using EVFs for macro and close up photography. I assumed the use of a tripod was involved. My bad.

  • Not your fault at all. I don’t use a tripod for close-up photography so I tend to forget that other people do. I prefer to hand hold as it gives me the freedom to move around and try different angles etc. But if you’re using a tripod then you’re right, the LCD screen does just as well and is much easier to view.

  • tommy5677

    I’m using the Olympus Stylus I & love it. It’s my go to with so many creative modes. I don’t use anything else unless I’m shooting for money with a DSLR because people expect it. it’s light weight, compact, solid. It’s perfect for working with my photo greeting cards. The only drawback and it’s not huge, is that f8 is the smallest I can get. Conversely, you can shoot at 2.8 at all focal lengths.

  • KC

    This isn’t limited to just Fuji mirrorless cameras. In terms of macro work, you did leave out one other benefit: no vibration from mirror slap.

    This could ramp up the EVF versus OVF debate. There’s pluses and minuses on both sides. I switched to mirrorless years ago and haven’t found a reason to switch back.

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