How do you shoot mirrorless with strobes?

steveash

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Original poster
Aug 7, 2008
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Here's a problem for all the mirrorless fans. I do a lot of work under high powered strobes for product, fashion and car photography. Although I usually shoot with MF or DSLR, I bought a mirrorless camera last year to play around with. A lot of the time the lack of a viewfinder doesn't bother me but this one issue has got me stumped.

When shooting with a fairly small aperture in a darkish studio the electronic viewfinder is completely black. In a way this is what I would hope for as I aim to cut out any ambient light but it also means that it is impossible to focus without adjusting the aperture first. This seems like a major problem for strobe shooting or is there a simple work-around that I don't know about? It is surely a problem anyone shooting mirrorless with strobes is going to come up against.
 

dwig

macrumors 6502a
Jan 4, 2015
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Key West FL
...
When shooting with a fairly small aperture in a darkish studio the electronic viewfinder is completely black. In a way this is what I would hope for as I aim to cut out any ambient light but it also means that it is impossible to focus without adjusting the aperture first. This seems like a major problem for strobe shooting or is there a simple work-around that I don't know about? It is surely a problem anyone shooting mirrorless with strobes is going to come up against.
This is absolutely NOT a "mirrorless" issue in any direct way. You appear to be making several mistakes.

  1. When properly configured, mirrorless cameras with their electrically amplified EVFs will yield a brighter image under low light conditions than any type of reflex optical VF (SLR, TLR, DSLR, ...)
  2. You should NEVER attempt to focus with a lens stopped down. You should always focus with the lens wide open.

The only way a mirrorless camera will have a lens stopped down to yield a dark VF and the lens' aperture needing to be manually opened is when you are adapting legacy lenses. This is not actually a mirrorless issue as the same thing will happen on an SLR/DSLR when adapting similar lenses. The only difference is that mirrorless cameras are much better at being able to mount a vastly wider range of adapted legacy lenses in a usefully way.
 
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steveash

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Aug 7, 2008
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Isn't that what modeling lights are for?
They're on They are a bit feeble, LED modeling lights. I need ISO 6400 and F2.8 to see the scene properly but I'm shooting at ISO 100 and F16.

This is absolutely NOT a "mirrorless" issue in any direct way. You appear to be making several mistakes.

  1. When properly configured, mirrorless cameras with their electrically amplified EVFs will yield a brighter image under low light conditions than any type of reflex optical VF (SLR, TLR, DSLR, ...)
  2. You should NEVER attempt to focus with a lens stopped down. You should always focus with the lens wide open.

The only way a mirrorless camera will have a lens stopped down to yield a dark VF and the lens' aperture needing to be manually opened is when you are adapting legacy lenses. This is not actually a mirrorless issue as the same thing will happen on an SLR/DSLR when adapting similar lenses. The only difference is that mirrorless cameras are much better at being able to mount a vastly wider range of adapted legacy lenses in a usefully way.
It looks like I need to play with the settings. I can get an amplified view while focusing in AF mode (I didn't know it did that!) but in Manual Focus the screen is black. I need to work out how to get this amplified, stopped down view from a shortcut button. With a DSLR I can see the scene clearly enough to manually focus. I'm not blaming the tool here, I'm just learning to using it.
 

MacCruiskeen

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Nov 9, 2011
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They're on They are a bit feeble, LED modeling lights. I need ISO 6400 and F2.8 to see the scene properly but I'm shooting at ISO 100 and F16.
Then, I don't know, don't focus in the dark? Get better lights? Sometimes at night I focus with a flashlight.
 

acearchie

macrumors 68040
Jan 15, 2006
3,276
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Then, I don't know, don't focus in the dark? Get better lights? Sometimes at night I focus with a flashlight.
Exactly this. Bring another light source into the frame to aid focus.

Hopefully you are not using autofocus so whack it into aperture priority and open up to focus.

Most mirrorless cameras I have used can show the scene as the human eye sees it and then they stop down when the shutter is pushed. Is this not the case?
 

steveash

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Original poster
Aug 7, 2008
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It seems I was asking a bit much of my little EOS M. I found that the only way to turn off its Exposure Simulation and get the amplified view was to use Magic Lantern Firmware. This also adds focus peaking. I'd already been using this for video so had it on a card. For now I've gone back to the DSLR as I needed to get on with the job.

I'm taking a large number of product images, all much the same and for web use. The entire range of products of a stationery company; every size, every colour and from several angles. A mirrorless camera with no (few?) moving parts to wear out seems ideal for this kind of thing. Probably something like a GH4 is a more suitable workhorse for a job like this.
 

TheReef

macrumors 68000
Sep 30, 2007
1,888
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NSW, Australia.
Er...since when did this become a thing?
When manually focusing, with legacy glass, opening the lens right up is very useful because it helps out the focus peaking.

A shallower dof is lit up on screen/in the EVF and it is more obvious which plane is in focus, plus the more light the camera has to work with the more successful the peaking feature is (and what you see on the screen won't be so dark).


For cameras that are able to stop the lens aperture down themselves on shutter release (e.g. a modern dSLR taking stills, not adapting glass, nor in video mode), then yeah, this isn't a thing, doing this makes little sense.
 
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aerok

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Oct 29, 2011
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When manually focusing, with legacy glass, opening the lens right up is very useful because it helps out the focus peaking.

A shallower dof is lit up on screen/in the EVF and it is more obvious which plane is in focus, plus the more light the camera has to work with the more successful the peaking feature is (and what you see on the screen won't be so dark).
Ah now it makes more sense!
 

The Bad Guy

macrumors 65816
Oct 2, 2007
1,135
3,501
Australia
When manually focusing, with legacy glass, opening the lens right up is very useful because it helps out the focus peaking.

A shallower dof is lit up on screen/in the EVF and it is more obvious which plane is in focus, plus the more light the camera has to work with the more successful the peaking feature is (and what you see on the screen won't be so dark).


For cameras that are able to stop the lens aperture down themselves on shutter release (e.g. a modern dSLR taking stills, not adapting glass, nor in video mode), then yeah, this isn't a thing, doing this makes little sense.
Aaaaah...I see. I'm not a hipster so this doesn't apply to me. :cool:
 
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paolo-

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Aug 24, 2008
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You should NEVER attempt to focus with a lens stopped down. You should always focus with the lens wide open.
You might want to read on focus shift https://photographylife.com/what-is-focus-shift . It's fairly common for the focus distance to move slightly when stopping down.

It's too bad you can't turn off exposure simulation on the EOS M. A way around you problem might be to switch your camera to an auto-exposure mode like aperture priority to frame the scene and pop it back to manual for the capture.
 

steveash

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Aug 7, 2008
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UK
It's too bad you can't turn off exposure simulation on the EOS M. A way around you problem might be to switch your camera to an auto-exposure mode like aperture priority to frame the scene and pop it back to manual for the capture.
It is possible to do that if you are using a tripod and static subject as I am but on this project I would be doing it thousands of times over just to check focus and composition. Adding 20 seconds to each shot would soon add up.
 

dwig

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Jan 4, 2015
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Key West FL
You might want to read on focus shift https://photographylife.com/what-is-focus-shift . It's fairly common for the focus distance to move slightly when stopping down. ...
It is only "common" in low quality optics and in some very old (>75 years) optics. Still, even with those lenses, you should avoid focusing at shooting aperture, but instead focus at 2-3 stops wider than the aperture at which you will be shooting. I had to do this will one of my old view camera lenses, but with it stopping down 1 stop from max was enough to resolve the problem.

BTW, all DSLR and interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras to their autofocusing at the lens' max aperture, stopping down only during the brief instant of the exposure.
 

MacRy

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Apr 2, 2004
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Is there not an option to turn off the live preview? My Fujis have that option so that you can shoot with strobes without encountering this issue.
 

michelepri

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May 27, 2007
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Rome, Paris, Berlin
Here's a problem for all the mirrorless fans. I do a lot of work under high powered strobes for product, fashion and car photography. Although I usually shoot with MF or DSLR, I bought a mirrorless camera last year to play around with. A lot of the time the lack of a viewfinder doesn't bother me but this one issue has got me stumped.

When shooting with a fairly small aperture in a darkish studio the electronic viewfinder is completely black. In a way this is what I would hope for as I aim to cut out any ambient light but it also means that it is impossible to focus without adjusting the aperture first. This seems like a major problem for strobe shooting or is there a simple work-around that I don't know about? It is surely a problem anyone shooting mirrorless with strobes is going to come up against.

I have a mirrorless DSLR, the Sony A6300, and I use manual settings in studio with strobes. Obviously the image would be dark when the strobes are on stand by but the simple solution to the problem is to go to the menu, go to leve view setting display, and turn it off. This will amplify the signal to give you a clear view through the viewfinder. I suppose there is a similar setting on your camera.
 

kenoh

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Jul 18, 2008
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Glasgow, UK
I use a small flashlight to add light for focusing when it is dark - fine for short to medium distances. I do have to say I hate the grainy EVF when the lights go dark...
 

sarge

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Jul 20, 2003
581
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Brooklyn
I use a small flashlight to add light for focusing when it is dark - fine for short to medium distances. I do have to say I hate the grainy EVF when the lights go dark...
Yeah...had to employ a high powered LED flashlight to find focus when working on a series of landscapes at night (no strobes though, just used ambient light) although I guess I could just as well have used the distance markings on the lens - god knows the rangefinder mech probably wasn't calibrated accurately.
 
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kenoh

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Jul 18, 2008
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Yeah...had to employ a high powered LED flashlight to find focus when working on a series of landscapes at night (no strobes though, just used ambient light) although I guess I could just as well have used the distance markings on the lens - god knows the rangefinder mech probably wasn't calibrated accurately.
If it is an adapted lens then the markings are off. I have been through countless adapters on my a7 series cameras and none of them focus using the markings the way they do natively on the Leicas... Hopefully this spares you some expletives and some wasted time... :) however if it works then tell me what adapter you use!!! :)
 

phrehdd

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Oct 25, 2008
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You want a mirrorless that avoids a video view finder, then try a Fuji X Pro. It has a real range finder with parallax correction and also video view (a hybrid view finder). I'm surprised you lumped all mirrorless cameras together given the type of work you do. There are some differences in "shooting" between various lenses on DSLRs , the cameras themselves and the types of flash being used (as someone pointed out - modeling lights).

Might I suggest you consider a photo oriented site where you would get answers perhaps from some professionals. A simpler more direct question here might have been - does anyone recommend a particular make and model of mirrorless that works well in a low light studio...and they might have come back with some specific models for you.
 
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