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D810 Live View Split Screen

An Opportunity Lost?

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Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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I imagine most of you will have heard that we have a D800 replacement arriving very soon. If you haven’t, the bottom line for landscape photographers is

  • Removed optical low pass filter (the old version still had one but supposedly it cancelled itself out - removing it completely may make things sharper)
  • Included new sensor technology with possibly better noise handling
  • Added a native 64 iso so you can get longer exposures for more blurry water or use wider apertures in daylight
  • Finally a fix for the awful live view screen so finally it might be a match for Canon, Fuji, etc
  • Electronic shutter in live view for quieter and, more importantly, less bouncy exposures

The thing that caught my interest was the “split screen live view mode”. I’ve talked about the possibility of this in previous posts where I proposed that it would be great to have two separate windows on your LCD that you can move around and zoom in and out of independently of one another. Well it looks like Nikon have managed to do this but I think they’re trying to solve the wrong problem (or at least putting unnecessary restrictions in place).

Why do I want a split screen live view?

Nikon’s answer is that you can lock the two windows to the same horizontal level and hence line up parts of the landscape that need to be level with each other. e.g. The horizon on a coastal shot or parts of buildings for architecture. Have a look at the screenshot below from a Nikon presentation.

This could be revolutionary for the use of tilt with T/S lenses

split-screen

Well if you’ve used tilt shift lenses you’ll know one of the live view procedures of moving backward and forward between horizon and foreground trying to get the tilt to line up properly. Imagine if you could put one live view on your foreground and one on the background and then just watch as you tilt and focus your way to a sharp picture! Here’s a mock up of what it might look like..

tilty

The selected window is highilghted in yellow. Of course you’d have to be able to swap it round from top and bottom to left and right (similar to the slide from Nikon).

All is Not Lost (possibly)

Now even if Nikon have locked the two splits to a horizontal line, it might not be the end of the world as long as they aren’t using the orientation sensor to choose which way to display things. If you can tell the camera which way you want the ‘line’ to be then you could just set the line up vertically instead of horizontally. In which case although you’ll be limited to two points directly over each other, this would be fine in most cases (and is what most people do at the moment, just shifting vertically from one point to another).

Also for Depth of Field

Now it’s not just useful for tilt shift lenses, if you want to check that your foreground and background are suitably sharp by stopping down you can place the points in the same way and see how aperture affects depth of field. I can almost envisage an “auto aperture chooser” function that looks at your two windows and chooses the optimum aperture based on two phase detect auto focus points (i.e. it can work out at what point to focus for both and hence work out where the middle is and stop down until they’re at maximum sharpness)

A call for an open API for camera interfaces

Now if Nikon were forward thinking like Apple, they would allow software developers to play with the interface for their cameras and then start up a ‘camera app store’. This sort of functionality would be developed pretty damned quickly even if only for a few geek photographers to ‘scratch their own itch’. I’d like to be able to download tilt shift tables, use my camera with photo ephemeris, focus blend applications, you name it and developers would build it (and probably much more!).

We’ll keep you posted on how this works once we get to play with one!!

FEATURED COMMENTS FROM:

Duncan Fawkes: It would be brilliant if the screen was touch sensitive to allow us to position two windows quickly. Strangely this is a feature found in Canon’s recent entry level cameras that you might expect in more expensive models. Seems like a gimmick at first, but I’m all about speed and ease of use and if I can tap the screen to set my AF/zoom point rather than scroll around with a diddy joystick I’m all for it! (extract)

AlexyD: ETTR applied all the time nowadays can do more harm than good. In my view the reasons why we typically do not see it anywhere in a cameras (only in third party hacks like Magic Lantern) are rather technical. Sensors nowadays come with quite diluted CFA filters and relatively weak primaries separations (to cater for better low light performance). This require more careful profiling and as a result more careful exposing. The profiles will effectively fix the colours in ranges where separation was weak but if exposure was offset (like in ETTR case) wrong colur ranges end up being fixed. This leads to subtle (initially) colour shifts that can be emphasized by postprocessing.

In addition, on some sensors with high dynamic range, nonlinearities start to appear arount saturation point (hence additional colours shifts if that is all to be shifted back to midtones). It all depends of course on amount of posprocessing or it can be acceptable compromise on some subjects like landscapes. With portraiture however it is most likely not – so in my view that’s the reason why we never see this from Nikon or Canon officially.

I agree that public API and camera apps would be superb to extend the functionality but looking at Nikon history for example – it seems that they are quite opposite and want to control more rather then open things up.

Lizzie Shepherd: Some interesting thoughts here Tim. Focus by touch screen would undoubtedly be a great feature – judging by how well it works on the little Olympus cams – split screen, or otherwise… I’d also love to see touch screen functionality allowing one to choose from a sensible range of crop/format options – I know of no camera that offers all the options I’d like. I don’t really see why it has to be limited at all in fact.

D Reisenberger: Good post and question, Tim. The functionality I would like to see (would like to have seen?) on an extended-D800 camera would be a wider range of in-built, or custom programmable, image ratios. 5:4 was a step in the right direction, but why not add square (1:1) and a panoramic format or two, such as 1:2, 1:3, and 9:16-without-movie-mode?

 



  • Interesting stuff Tim. It was the Live View improvements that most interested me too. When I’ve used a D800 in the past I’ve always felt its LV function was a poor relation to my Canon 5D3’s.

    The dual window feature is definitely of interest, I often use LV to check my DoF as you suggest. This involves scrolling around from the front to the back of the frame (normally zooming out and back in to make this quicker. My method is in this post: http://www.duncanfawkes.com/depth-of-field-preview/). I’ve always felt this was a bit slow and clumsy, and the extra viewpoint would make this much quicker.

    It would be brilliant if the screen was touch sensitive to allow us to position two windows quickly. Strangely this is a feature found in Canon’s recent entry level cameras that you might expect in more expensive models. Seems like a gimmick at first, but I’m all about speed and ease of use and if I can tap the screen to set my AF/zoom point rather than scroll around with a diddy joystick I’m all for it!

    Another feature I’d dearly love is Auto-ETTR (expose to the right). In LV you get a histogram and I’m usually just dialling my exposure compensation up or down to move this as far right as possible. A single button that dialled in sufficient EC to put the histogram just short of the right hand side would also save this otherwise pointless dial turning. I expect purists to hate such a function, but it would save me time on practically every shot.

    Interesting to note that the (unofficial) Magic Lantern firmware for some Canon cameras incorporates A-ETTR (http://wiki.magiclantern.fm/ettr). This also touches on your final point about open APIs – wouldn’t it be great? Samsung did this with the Android-powered Galaxy Camera (and there may be others).

    Sadly I don’t think there’s much appetite for this amongst larger camera manufacturers. It could be quite a technical challenge to open up all the functionality in a coherent API.

    However the cynic in me thinks this is more related to their glacial rate of progress and the inclusion of small incremental features from one camera model to the next. If the camera was open to enthusiasts (or indeed professionals) to develop for I’m sure so many great features would put a lot of pressure on the manufacturers to deliver more with each release. Magic Lantern demonstrates the appetite to do so, even with locked down hardware.

    A more enlightened approach where they see themselves delivering ever better hardware for people to develop on would be a very welcome change. They may just conclude that an open API would just cannibalise future camera sales though.

    • AlexeyD

      ETTR applied all the time nowadays can do more harm than good. In my view the reasons why we typically do not see it anywhere in a cameras (only in third party hacks like Magic Lantern) are rather technical. Sensors nowadays come with quite diluted CFA filters and relatively weak primaries separations (to cater for better low light performance). This require more careful profiling and as a result more careful exposing. The profiles will effectively fix the colours in ranges where separation was weak but if exposure was offset (like in ETTR case) wrong colur ranges end up being fixed. This leads to subtle (initially) colour shifts that can be emphasized by postprocessing. In addition, on some sensors with high dynamic range, nonlinearities start to appear arount saturation point (hence additional colours shifts if that is all to be shifted back to midtones). It all depends of course on amount of posprocessing or it can be acceptable compromise on some subjects like landscapes. With portraiture however it is most likely not – so in my view that’s the reason why we never see this from Nikon or Canon officially.

      I agree that public API and camera apps would be superb to extend the functionality but looking at Nikon history for example – it seems that they are quite opposite and want to control more rather then open things up.

  • The idea of extensibility isn’t far fetched. I forget the exact model but last year Samsung brought out an Android-powered body. Or you might see something using wifi along the lines of Camranger.

    Nikon though – the last bastion of “not invented here”?

  • Some interesting thoughts here Tim. Focus by touch screen would undoubtedly be a great feature – judging by how well it works on the little Olympus cams – split screen, or otherwise… I’d also love to see touch screen functionality allowing one to choose from a sensible range of crop/format options – I know of no camera that offers all the options I’d like. I don’t really see why it has to be limited at all in fact.

    The thing that most interested me about the 810 (I won’t be buying one, mind) is that at last we have a manufacturer offering us lower ISOs. Ok not a huge shift downwards but I hope a very welcome step in the right direction…

  • Tucniak

    Very interesting thoughts indeed Tim.
    Another feature which would be interesting is the capability of flipping the live view like a view camera does. Or rather not flip it to put it the right way around.

  • David OBrien

    Perhaps it’s just me but what struck me about this is how digital cameras are now becoming more like film cameras (or folks like features that the view camera can offer (but without the film)) and with the time taken to refine an image using this technology, one might as well…this is all a good advertisement to go out and buy a large format view camera! Fuji X-mount owners do seem to enjoy their velvia/astia/provia presets!

    BTW – did I say I wouldn’t comment until all articles had been released….how silly of me!

  • Good post and question, Tim. The functionality I would like to see (would like to have seen?) on an extended-D800 camera would be a wider range of in-built, or custom programmable, image ratios. 5:4 was a step in the right direction, but why not add square (1:1) and a panoramic format or two, such as 1:2, 1:3, and 9:16-without-movie-mode?

    The D800 was the first DSLR camera to seriously challenge medium-format film quality, and I have been surprised that Nikon haven’t capitalised on this more – pushed the advantage home, if you like – by introducing some of the formats, such as square, beloved of medium-format togs.

    Equally, panoramic supported a market in some dedicated cameras (XPAN, Fuji GX617 etc), and there isn’t as yet a direct replacement for this shooting digitally. (Of course panoramas can be stiched from separate frames, but this bypasses any notion that the photographer might want to compose / conceive the whole image ‘in camera’.)

    Dylan

  • Carlo Didier

    Regarding the touch screen idea: such a feature might be interesting for certain situations, but it should be limited to that. I friend of mine had lots of problems (unwanted triggers, changed parameters) due to the touch screen of his Olympus DSLR. He finally switched all the touch screen features off. Touch screens have their advantages, but sometimes they can get really annoying if the camera reacts to touches when you don’t wan’t or even suspect it to.

  • Jon

    So – anyone had the chance to try out the live view split screen yet?

    • Stephan zobeley

      Yeah, got the camera. For dof preview the split is only useable in portrait orientation, since the line that divides the two parts, then gives you a foreground and background check.
      Bummer, would be so nice to get a firmwar upgrade to fix that and we would be able to choose, if the line runs horizontal or vertical.
      Let us pray…

      • That’s a damn shame – I suppose you could rotate the lens once you’ve focused but it’s a faff

    • Tim Parish

      Yes, I’ve got an 810 as well. I find the split screen exceptionally useful, particularly with a PC/E lens using the tilt function for extended depth of field. You can actually see both points of focus (near & far) at the same time so watch the impact of tilt and focus operations on each focus point in sync – brilliant. I’ve also used it successfully with the camera horizontal – the vertical split means that your points your using to focus need to be offset but it works fine! The only issue I have is that it often needs the LCD brightness turned up to max with the inevitable extra drain on the poor old battery – but that’s easily fixed!

  • Andrew Gilbert

    Has anyone had chance to verify whether the new live view is up to scratch in the real world? I’m mostly just interested in the quality of the image on the screen when zoomed and whether it works any better in low light. For me these are the biggest issues I have with my D800. Trying to decide whether to upgrade the Nikon or buy that 10×8… (seriously)

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