Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 Review
Record mode information / settings changes
Live View off (viewfinder mode)
As previously mentioned the L1 does without a control panel LCD display, instead (in viewfinder mode) it uses the LCD monitor to provide a overview of camera configuration as well as a method for changing settings.
|Example of record mode information||Changing ISO sensitivity|
Live View on
With the Live View enabled settings changes occur in the same place on the screen but with a semi-transparent background.
|Example of record mode information||Changing ISO sensitivity|
|Changing White Balance||Changing exposure compensation|
One of the L1's special features is its through-the-lens Live View, this is implemented in the same way as 'B mode' Live View on the Olympus E-330; the mirror lifts, the main shutter opens and the sensor provides a live video feed which is relayed on the LCD monitor. This provides you with a 100% view of the frame was well as the ability to exactly preview things such as depth-of-field.
When using this mode the viewfinder is blacked out (because the mirror has swung away) and the manual even recommends removing the rubber eyepiece and replacing it with the supplied eyepiece cover to stop stray light from affecting exposure metering (why not implement a simple internal eyepiece shutter which closes in Live View mode?). Otherwise the Panasonic 'version' of TTL Live View does have a few advantages over the Olympus version.
Improvements over the Olympus 'B mode' Live View implementation
- White balance setting is applied to the live view
- Exposure compensation is applied to the live view
- Metering available (uses main sensor)
- Auto Focus available (although slow, see below) *
- Live histogram available
* Update: Olympus E-330 firmware version 1.2 now enables Auto Focus in 'B mode'
In Live View mode you can selected one of five view modes as shown below.
|Image with camera settings overlay||As previous but with live histogram|
|No settings overlay but 'thirds' grid lines||No settings overlay but 'sixths' grid lines|
|No settings overlay, no grid|
Live View: Auto Focus
As note above the L1 does provide for Auto Focus in Live View, it does this by closing the shutter and dropping the mirror so that the AF sensor (which is in the viewfinder assembly) can be used. During AF the Live View is frozen and returns when the camera has achieved a focus lock or has given up trying, this can take between 0.7 seconds (good light easy subject) and 5.0 seconds (to give up when it can't lock).
This example animation is in 'real time', it took approximately 1.5 seconds for the camera to drop the mirror, focus lock and raise it again before returning the live view with the steady green focus indicator (when 'AF...' is shown).
The sequence you're seeing here is: live view before focus, half-press shutter release, display freezes (AF...) is shown (mirror down, AF), focus complete (mirror up), live view returns.
Live View: Shutter release sequence
|Once focused you're likely to want to take a shot, the sequence is; mirror down, screen blacks out (around a second) while mirror is raised and shutter release occurs, mirror dropped and the record review image is displayed. In this example review zoom is enabled which shows a magnified portion of the center of the image shortly after the full review image is shown.|
Live View: Manual Focus magnification
The L1 has a magnified Live View feature in manual focus mode, this is activated by pressing the left or right arrows on the four way controller. One difference here is that the magnified view doesn't appear to have any white balance / color adjustments applied so it can have a different appearance to the full image view (as seen here). This feature is very useful for fine tuning manual focus.
|Manual focus mode||Press the left/right arrows and then place the magnification loupe|
|Press SET to magnify and you can clearly see the image is out of focus||Adjust the manual focus, press SET to return to full image view|
Live View: Low Light performance
As light levels drop the L1 adds more sensitivity (gain) to the live view image in order to maintain brightness, however this doesn't appear to go far enough and it doesn't have to be too dark before the live view image is dimming noticeably. I'm curious as to why they didn't provide the option to slow the live view frame rate in order to maintain live view brightness.
|Normal light||Lower light levels (although not dark)|
Live View: Depth of Field preview
One advantage of Live View is that you can get an exact representation of focus point and depth of field on the LCD screen. Just as for decreasing light levels the L1 increases live view sensitivity to maintain image brightness when previewing smaller apertures. However as you can see from the examples below this clearly doesn't go far enough, it's fine in good light up to around F6.3 but beyond that the image darkens considerably (so much so that you can't actually 'preview' the depth of field).
Live View issues
As you have seen Live View is certainly usable but is better suited to a more static shooting situation such as macro, landscape or portraiture. The delays in auto-focus and shutter release make it unsuitable for 'everyday' reportage type shooting. Here's a list of the issues related to using Live View on the L1.
- Viewfinder eyepiece cover recommendation (no automatic shutter?)
- Delays introduced to Auto Focus
- Additional shutter release lag (around 0.7 seconds)
- Dark live view in low light
- Dark live view when performing DOF preview at smaller apertures
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