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Thread: To the eye or at arms length

  1. #1

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    To the eye or at arms length

    Going through my files I came across this test I did back in 2005 which may explain why I believe that holding the camera to the eye is not the only way. Frames are a bit soft becuase they are as out of camera which had its setting at the lowest ... soft contrast, soft sharpness, and low saturation that I used with that camera back then.
    To the eye or at arms length
    100% crops

  2. #2
    Letrow's Avatar
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    Re: To the eye or at arms length

    For me it really depends on the camera. For the D7000 I never use arm's length, because the viewfinder is perfect to use. For the smaller cameras (e.g. the Ricoh GX200) I have an electronic viefinder, but the quality is poor, compared to what you get if you use the backscreen.
    For the rest it shouldn't make too much difference quality wise I think, if the camera is stable.

  3. #3
    kdoc856's Avatar
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    Re: To the eye or at arms length

    My Sony A77 has a swivel LCD for the backscreen that has been a great help when I needed a worm's eye view or to get up high to get above an obstruction. It requires the same consideration of course in shutter speed and immobilization, but it never occurred to me there might be an inherent position-dependent impact on sharpness. I am interested on others' thoughts on this.

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    davidedric's Avatar
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    Re: To the eye or at arms length

    Yes, my swivel lcd screen is good when my body won't go where I want.

    But surely the brace yourself, elbows in, watch your breathing and squeeze the release is just so much easier up to the eye. Or maybe it's my hands that have got wobbly.

    I really can't imagine why there should / could be any inherent and systematic differences across manufacturers and models. Or.....i

  5. #5

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    Re: To the eye or at arms length

    Indeed, there are many places where the body won't go, and often a swivel or tiltable screen is the best solution. I use an EVIL camera, which autofocuses quite as rapidly whether looking through the peekhole or at the screen, and there are in fact images that I couldn't have taken with an SLR viewfinder. The typical instances is where I shoot a very small flower close to the ground, or some of my pictures of snakes. The peekhole is impossible to use in positions where there's no room for the head to get the eye in position for the ocular, so it's not a matter of just keeping the belly off the ground. I have tried such shots in the past with my chin or cheek pressed to the ground, but even that sometimes is not possible. The articulated screen is a wonderful tool for getting those low shots right. Also when the back of the camera is very close to a wall or other impediment for me to peek into the viewfinder, the articulated screen is often my best friend for getting the angle I want.

    Here are a few examples of images taken with the camera on the ground, and which could not have been taken with the camera to the eye:
    http://uploads.ifokus.se/uploads/11e...ed-abborre.jpg
    http://uploads.ifokus.se/uploads/3b2...100892-001.jpg
    http://uploads.ifokus.se/uploads/c2c...lister-008.jpg
    Note that the snakes are not captive snakes, but these are wildlife shots.
    Last edited by Inkanyezi; 9th November 2012 at 09:39 PM.

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    Eye level for me

    Eye level or LCD is probably a choice that has been already made by many photographers. Photographers who graduate to a DSLR from a P&S without an eye level viewfinder are probably more comfortable with the LCD. Many who have gravitated to DSLR photography from film DSLR cameras are likely more comfortable using the eye level finder.

    I only very occasionally use live view with my 7D and again, only occasionally use the LCD viewfinder of my dedicated video camera. When I use the LCD of my 7D, I will use a hoodman loupe. When I use the LCD viewer of my video camera, I use a hood, but not a loupe.

    For me, eye level viewing is more comfortable and accurate. In fact, I would never own a camera which forces me to use an LCD viewfinder.

    I use a right angle viewer when it is difficult for me to view through the eye level finder because of camera placement.

    My primary reasons for preferring the eye level finder are:

    1. Speed... Eye level viewing is in most cases (I don't know about electronic viewfinders) faster than shooting with an LCD...

    2. Size... My image appears far bigger in the viewfinder of my 7D than on my LCD. It is easier for me to see details...

    3. Following action... It is easier for me to follow action with an eye level viewfinder than with an LCD at a distance from my eye. Along the same lines, pivoting the camera using an eye level viewfinder allows me to shoot hand-held panos when I don't have a tripod with me...

    4. Lack of distractions... When I view through the eye level viewfinder, the image is isolated except for the lit shooting parameters (which I can see better than trying to read the information on the LCD with the characters very small). However, most importantly I see nothing but the image, no hand, other camera parts or surrounding area...

    5. Reflection from sun... This is especially bad when shooting on bright days with the sun behind you.

  7. #7
    davidedric's Avatar
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    Re: Eye level for me

    Lack of distractions... When I view through the eye level viewfinder, the image is isolated except for the lit shooting parameters (which I can see better than trying to read the information on the LCD with the characters very small). However, most importantly I see nothing but the image, no hand, other camera parts or surrounding area...
    That's the clincher for me!

  8. #8

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    Re: Eye level for me

    Maybe I should add, that I wouldn't want to be forced to use the screen for lack of a viewfinder. I use the eye level peekhole finder whenever it is the better way to do it, it's only that there are so many situations where it is not feasible. As an example, even though the flower would easily be shot with an angle finder, it would require a more uncomfortable position, and the snake shots would still be impossible, as the key is to move as little as possible. Leaning forward, or any sudden movement, would frighten the snake. When I hold the camera down on the ground, I can do so without any movement that could scare the snake and still compose and focus the image with precision. I don't have a lot of information on the screen, only the image and the focusing frame, which I can move around freely. Lately I acquired an Olympus OM.D E-M5, and with that camera it is even possible to instantly focus and shoot from the tiltable touch screen. That is unbeatable for the kind of work I do. I can sit apparently motionless close to where the snakes hunt for fish, aim the camera and focus it at the right spot without threatening them. As long as I don't do any large movement, they are calm and comfortable.

    I didn't know before getting the OM-D that I would love the touch screen, but it is indeed one of the best things that has happened to photography in my opinion. And yes, I have worked with SLR cameras for about fifty years, and I have used the angle finder as well as medium format cameras where focusing and composition may be done directly looking down at the ground glass. The tilting screen, or the swiveling, in many ways resemble how medium SLR or TLR cameras can be handled, but with the added features of precision automatic or manual focusing and firing the camera from the screen. I don't find any difficulty in concentrating on the image when working with the camera at waist level or lower.

    So it is also not only a matter of "arm's length", as I often support the camera on a bean bag pressed against any convenient object or directly on the ground, which mostly is a lot steadier than my forehead.

  9. #9
    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Eye level for me

    I would agree that there are many ways to shoot, all of which have advantages and disadvantages.

    From a pure ergonomics / human factors standpoint, holding a camera at arm’s length is not a great way to work. Any minor movement along the lever; your arm is rotating at the shoulder socket and any minor movement there is amplified by the length of your arm, so camera motion or shake will be amplified. At high enough shutter speeds and with image stabilization, these effects can be somewhat mitigated. The same thing goes when you shoot with a wide-angle lens. This motion will also impact your composition, not just the exposure.

    Sure we can get a few shots this way, but holding a camera out at arm’s length is quite fatiguing. Just try this with your DSLR; hold your camera in the straight out position for two or three minutes and try shooting. It’s not bad with a small point and shoot, but try it with a larger DSLR. Muscle fatigue will set in and composing and shooting will become even more difficult. Fatigue is cumulative and if you keep it up or do it repeatedly, you will find that shooting this way gets more and more difficult and you will have to rest to continue shooting that way. It’s not as bad when you hold your camera at shoulder height or below, but if you do this above shoulder height, it becomes even harder on your arms, just based on the way that the human shoulder joint is put together.

    The other problem with using the camera screen to shoot with is that it is a battery sucking monster. Your battery life will go way down if you do a lot of shots this way, and it will drain surprisingly quickly.

    Bottom line, there are a lot of biomechanical reasons why the traditional photographers way of holding a camera works, but as others have pointed out, there are situations where it will not work, and one has to understand the downsides of shooting that way.

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