D3100 video mode: frustrating

Started Nov 26, 2010 | Discussions thread
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D3100 video mode: frustrating
Nov 26, 2010

I’ve upgraded from my venerable d40 to the d3100. It’s been a great upgrade to a truly great camera. What follows is an explanation of how video exposure is set and a rant about how frustrating this process is…

On the whole I’m ecstatic about the video capabilities of the d3100. I can use all of my lenses, get creamy DOF, shoot in lowish light & the 1080p looks gorgeous. Of course the rolling shutter is a drag. It makes me think twice before shooting anything handheld, especially with a longish lens. Focus is slow, hunts, & the motor’s noisy. All of these limits I knew about and will work around, and for me are worth the awesome possibilities and device consolidation putting a video-capable sensor in a dSLR gives.

But: the relationship between live view, still photo settings, and the smidgeon of control they give you over video exposure is a confusing can of worms.


It took a long time to suss this out:

• whatever aperture you’re at when you enter live view is what live view is stuck with for as long as you’re in it.

• the Ap/SS/ISO listed at the bottom of the screen are what the camera will use for still photos (and can be set/are calculated as such). These have NOTHING TO DO WITH what the live view is using. This is confusing.

• Because of this disconnect, your photos probably won’t look like the live view.

• Video will look EXACTLY like live view, using whatever settings live view is using.

• Live view, locked into an aperture that neither it nor you can change, continuously meters the scene and goes about choosing its own ISO/SS within its necessary SS constraints (it can’t do ½” exposures when shooting 24fps, obviously). There is no way to even see these values, much less set them directly.

• Live view will respect an EV comp. value, given to it in P/S/A, UP TO A CERTAIN POINT (where it has maxed or bottomed out the SS/ISO ranges it has to play with). You can keep flipping the EVs up or down and the camera will take that into account when shooting stills, but the live view will stop changing its settings. There is no feedback when this limit has been reached, other than that the scene on the LCD stops getting visibly dimmer or brighter.

• It will still respect the last EV comp value set in P/S/A when you switch over to “M” mode, even though there’s no way to set this value, or even see it, and it won’t affect your photos (though it will effect your video). This is dumb.

• With a non-chipped lens (in M mode obviously), aperture is no longer locked (as, freed from the draconian firmware, you can set it mechanically right on the lens). But you lose any ability to set an Ev comp value because you’re in M mode. So short of pointing the camera at something darker/brighter and locking on that, there’s no way to adjust the exposure brighter or darker, as the camera will auto-adjust around whatever aperture value you set on the lens. In essence, by using a non-chipped lens in M mode you gain the ability to adjust DoF but loose what limited control you had over the overall exposure.

• You can do pretty well with a chipped lens by starting in A mode, guessing at a reasonable aperture, entering live view, pointing the camera at whatever you’re most worried about exposing properly in the scene, fine tuning with an EV adjustment and THEN hitting the AE-L button.

• You can’t EV adjust around a locked exposure. This makes sense from a conceptual point of view I guess (it’s locked) but makes gracefully changing a locked exposure impossible. If I want to expose a scene a little bit brighter or darker than my current setting I have to “start all over,” clicking off the lock, waiting for the live view to settle down on its auto exposure, figuring out an appropriate EV adjustment and then re-locking. This is a pain when you’re not recording and obviously super-distracting in the recorded footage if you are.

• There’s no focus confirmation for manually focused lenses in live view, nothing like the little green dot in the viewfinder. So, because the LCD dosen’t even approach 1080 resolution, manual focus pulling is all guessing and wishing…


All of this to say, there is a truly awkward combination of control, automation, lack of information (it is only possible to know the video aperture [not the shutter speed or iso], and only if you make a mental note of it when you enter Lv mode!) and overloaded settings (EV comp trying to do double duty for both photo and video exposure leading to all kinds of confusion). This is entirely due to the firmware trying to keep things simple in poorly thought-through ways. If you’re just flicking the Lv switch and pressing the red button, sure it’s simple, but anything beyond that is ridiculously confusing to understand and then awkward to control even when you do understand it.

I’m kind of curious about how the d7000 deals with these issues, given that it’s supposed to allow manual control.

Let me emphasize again that I love having video in this camera. A poorly implemented video mode that, frustrating to deal with as it is, still gives great results is infinitely better than no video at all.

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