Is there an open-aperture framing mode in Sony SLT cameras?

Started Nov 24, 2012 | Questions thread
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Hubertus Bigend
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Is there an open-aperture framing mode in Sony SLT cameras?
Nov 24, 2012

Something I've just started asking myself recently, after having used a NEX-3 and NEX-C3 for some time now.

For SLRs, they invented the automatic diaphragm in the late 1950s, and after that the viewfinder image always stayed bright and allowed precise focusing, regardless of the F-stop the lens was set to. The aperture became physically stopped down only for the short moment of the actual exposure. Which is how SLRs and DSLRs kept being designed ever since.

With the advent of mirrorless system cameras and electronic-viewfinder SLTs, the circumstances have changed, and manufacturers seem to choose different approaches for what to do with the aperture while the photographer is framing his shot.

With the NEX-3/C3 (which, of course, has no viewfinder, so I'm talking about the monitor display), the aperture of all lenses is physically stopped down to what they're set to, at least in "A" and "M" modes, while I'm framing the shot.

Olympus, wherever their Live View implementation is used, be it one of their mirrorless cameras or one of the E-System DSLRs in Live View mode, keeps fast lenses slightly stopped down to something between f/2.8 and f/4, if I remember correctly, for framing. Lenses which are not faster than that in the first place stay wide-open. Only if and as long as the actual light of the scene is extremely bright, the lens then gets stopped down even further. There's a stop-down button to preview the actual field of view, when I like to do so. (Which, on a side note, actually opens the aperture, if it is a fast lens set to something like f/1.4 or f/2...)

Ok, but why even talk about it? Stopped down, you always see the actual field-of-view without the need of a stop-down button, and electronic displays or viewfinders always stay bright regardless of the chosen F-stop, too. But, well, there's still the second merit of the open-aperture framing mode: precise focus control. Especially in outdoor macro photography without a tripod, where I don't use AF much but try to find sharpness by changing distance instead, I find it next to impossible to precisely focus a shot with the lens stopped down to what F-stop I might actually be using. Manually opening the aperture to focus, then manually closing it to shoot, is no option either, because body and/or object movement will then have put the object out of focus before I get to shoot.

How do the SLTs behave there? Do they have the option of some kind of open-aperture framing mode, or do they behave like the NEX cameras in that regard?

I'm talking about "automatic" system lenses with full electronic aperture control; with adapted manual lenses the always-stopped-down mode is, of course, the only one I get, regardless of the camera I'm using...

Cheers,
HB

ANSWER:
Sony Alpha NEX-3 Sony Alpha NEX-C3
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