Using Live View to Preview Aperture Effects

by on Apr 5, 2012 in Tips' n Tricks | 6 Comments

In the winter issue of Outdoor Photography Canada magazine, I wrote about all the benefits of using live view for outdoor and nature photography. I thought I would follow up that article with a little video demonstrating how I use live view to preview aperture effects.

On all Canon dSLR’s with live view, the depth of field preview button will engage in live view to show you on the camera LCD the exact amount of depth of field (DOF) you’ll get given the aperture you’ve chosen – just like we see in the video – very useful feature! For Nikon users some cameras (mostly their high end pro bodies) will engage the DOF preview in live view but many entry and mid-level cameras don’t (we have not tested the newest D800 and D4 Nikon cameras). You’ll have to test your Nikon to see what it does or doesn’t do.

Not to start a Canon – Nikon flaming war, but I have to say that live view in Canon cameras is much more functional than in Nikon cameras. For example, live view on Canon cameras is bright (even in dim light) but, on Nikon cameras, the live view is often dark and grainy in low light. Canon cameras can display a preview histogram in live view — the Nikon cameras we have tested don’t. And finally, on Canon cameras, the DOF preview button stops down the aperture in live view to show you aperture effects whereas only some Nikon cameras have this feature.

But don’t worry Nikon, your cameras have more accurate metering, and for the last few years have had much better autofocus and lower noise than Canon cameras. We’ll see if that changes with the release of Canon’s latest batch of cameras (5D Mark II, 1Dx). Anyway I digress – there is no perfect camera that does it all (yet) but I sure do like live view on Canon cameras. And for someone like me that uses tilt-shift lenses, having a functional live view to critically check manual focus, to magnify the scene on the LCD in live view to double check tilt effects, and finally, to preview aperture effects is critical to my workflow.

About the Author

I am a Canadian landscape and outdoor photographer who loves long hikes in the woods, yummy food, hairy dogs, good company and a good guitar jam.


  1. Ray Chong
    April 5, 2012

    Oh no, you did not just lay down the kindling for a Canikon fire! 😉
    But point taken – Live View is a great tool when used appropriately. I use it a lot when shooting in full manual (e.g., with a grafted-on lens that provides no automation).

  2. Stephen Desroches
    April 5, 2012

    Great video. I had to upgrade my second camera a couple months ago because it did not have live view and I have become so dependant on it. I can also see a crooked horizon line much easier with it as well.

  3. Cecil
    April 10, 2012

    Finally, on the D800 you can now easily cycle through an overlay of Level, Histogram, Grid and shooting info while in Live View.

    • Darwin Wiggett
      April 10, 2012

      Hi Cecil, that is great to know! Do you know if the Depth-of-filed preview button engages in live view?

    • Cecil
      April 12, 2012

      No, the preview button doesn’t engage as Nikon has gone down the route of instant feedback as you change the aperture 🙁
      I’m quite tempted to starts petition of some sort to get Nikon to issue a firmware update that would at least allow us to chose whether to have the instant feedback or always see at max aperture and use preview to stop down. Now one has to set the camera to the widest aperture to get the brightest view for focusing and then stop down, not a huge deal but not ideal.
      The only benefit I can see is that as the lens is already stopped down there’s one less thing that move and can generate shake – yes, you can now take pictures in live view without having the mirror going up and down unnecessarily 🙂
      This combined with adjustable shutter delay mode between 1-3 sec has made my remote trigger something only used for long exposures (I.e. Longer than 30s), really quite good 🙂


  4. Jay Gould
    April 12, 2012

    Good video, Mate. I practically live in LV; now I have to find a small battery that never runs dry.


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