We’ve all faced situations when we had to shoot hand-held in quite poor lighting conditions using slow shutter speeds, in order to capture a photograph. This challenge is further complicated when using a non-EVF camera since we loose our third anchor point, not being able to bring our camera up against our eyebrow. During a recent photography field-work trip to Nova Scotia I was faced with some very challenging lighting and took the opportunity to use quite slow shutter speeds (and high ISO) with one of my non-EVF Nikon 1 J5 cameras. The objective of this article is to discuss a few of the techniques that can be used when shooting hand-held at slow shutter speeds.
I can still remember buying my first camera, a Nikkormat, back in 1974. Since then every camera I ever owned had a viewfinder of some sort built into it. The prospect of ever owning a camera that didn’t have a viewfinder was so foreign to me that I simply dismissed buying the Nikon 1 J5 out-of-hand. Well, the combination of the delay in an updated V-Series body and the lure of improved image quality of the J5’s 20.8MP BSI sensor finally got to me and I bought one a little over a month ago. Within a week of buying the first one, I bought a second J5. What I discovered was that overcoming my ‘no viewfinder’ concerns was a lot easier than I thought it would be.
One of the biggest complaints we hear about from photographers today is lack of innovation by DSLR manufacturers. Given how far mirrorless cameras have gotten in the last few years with the electronic viewfinder (EVF) technology, it is a given that DSLRs are looking archaic in comparison, particularly when it comes to intelligent information overlays, manual focusing, focus peaking, EVF image playback and other important advancements that make mirrorless cameras not just joyful to use, but also very helpful in reducing focus issues. When using classic lenses such as the Noct 58mm f/1.2 on a DSLR, I personally find it quite frustrating that I have to switch to live view to try to nail focus with the camera at my arm’s length. Not only does that result in potential instability and undesired camera shake, but it takes me away from the optical viewfinder (OVF) and slows down the whole process. But what if there was a solution to the problem? What if DSLR manufacturers came up with a way to integrate an EVF into DSLRs and make both OVF and EVF possible? Sort of a “transitional DSLR” with both OVF and EVF capabilities. How cool would it be, if you could switch from an OVF to an EVF with just a single button? I have been thinking about this concept for a while and I think there is a way to implement this, if camera manufacturers are willing to be flexible and put some R&D resources towards such a project. It would certainly reduce the potential of mirrorless cameras taking a huge market share away from DSLR sales, which have only been declining in the past few years.
A fortunate event took place a couple of weeks ago – my wife Lola lost the eyecup from her Nikon Df camera (see our in-depth review of the Nikon Df). She wasn’t sure how, but it most likely just got unscrewed while she was busy photographing a wedding. Why fortunate? Because I started to look for a replacement, something I have never done before. Indeed, those eyecups usually stay attached securely on cameras and practically never come off, so this was the first. During my search, I came across the Nikon DK-17M magnifying eyepiece – something I have seen before, but never cared to use. As I was ordering the replacement eyecup for the Df (and I was getting the superior “Anti-Fog” version), I decided to also get the DK-17M and give it a try. Since I enjoy using the Nikon Df with older Nikkor prime lenses, I thought it would be a good idea to try it with those manual focus lenses. When the package arrived, I mounted it on the Nikon Df that already had Lola’s favorite Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens attached and I was immediately blown away! The 1.2x magnification made the viewfinder appear much larger and I could see everything so much clearer, that I wondered why I had never even tried one of these before. After a couple of days of using the DK-17M, I ordered a few more for each of our cameras and now I cannot imagine using my DSLRs without these handy little magnifiers!