Live View Shooting Mode is almost exactly what it says: you're seeing what the camera's lens is seeing, but you're seeing it on the camera's LCD. Live View enables you to view and compose the shot without looking through the finder, and it's ideal for situations in which you want to, or need to, hold the camera at an unusual angle or away from your body.

Traditional D-SLR phase-detection AF sensors are blocked whenever a camera raises its reflex mirror to expose the imaging sensor, which is what happens in Live View's Handheld Mode. Since the imaging sensor constantly streams data for the LCD display during Live View operation, the mirror must be continuously held up while Live View mode is being used. Consequently, there's a brief interruption to the Live View display as the camera drops the mirror, focuses and then quickly flips the mirror back up to shoot a picture, after which Live View resumes. This is fine for relatively static scenes, but the delay in focusing, not to mention the interruption to your view of the scene, can make it difficult to get a good shot if your subject is in motion or requires precise timing.

Select Nikon D-SLR cameras such as the D3 series’ Live View consists of Tripod Live View mode and Handheld Live View mode. These are designed for use when shooting with the camera on a tripod and handheld respectively.

Live View Tripod Mode uses contrast-detect autofocus driven from the imaging sensor. Instead of flipping the mirror up and then back down momentarily to AF, the camera keeps the mirror raised continuously in the Tripod Live View mode and reads data off the CMOS image sensor and evaluates how abruptly light to dark (or dark to light) transitions happen on the image plane, thus allowing focus without interrupting the Live View display. Tripod Mode is ideal when photographing still life images in a studio environment or for photographing landscapes and has the added benefit of allowing the exact positioning of the AF point anywhere within the frame.

Certain Nikon D-SLR cameras such as the D4 have a redesigned Live View system. Live View mode is accessed by the LV button on the rear of the camera. This camera’s Live View offers Photography Live View for taking still photographs only and Movie Live View. If the shutter button is pressed while Movie Live View is recording, the video recording will end and a still image will be captured. The shutter release options for the Photography Live View mode are: Quiet Live View and Silent Live View. And new to the Movie Live View mode, Simultaneous Live View allows you to see the Live View on the camera’s LCD and on an external HDMI monitor simultaneously. Both the Photography Live View and Movie Live View modes on the D4 use contrast-detect autofocus.


Quiet and Silent Live View modes

When shooting in situations that are sensitive to the sounds of a camera shutter, the D4’s Live View offers two solutions to keep camera noise to a minimum.

The quiet shutter release keeps the mirror in the up position and you will hear minimal noise when pressing the shutter button to take a photograph. This is similar to when using the Quiet mode when you’re not in Live View. You can shoot up to full resolution images in Quiet mode or Quiet Live View mode.

When using the Silent shutter release function in Live View, the mirror remains up and the shutter remains open; which can be quite useful during events such as shooting inside of a courtroom or sporting events such as golf. The Silent mode allows you to shoot at either 12 or 24 frames per second in 4:3 aspect ratio for 2.5 megapixel files.


Simultaneous Live View

Simultaneous Live View is ideal for the photographer or videographer shooting with a client or art director on-site. Instead of being cramped with others looking over the photographer’s shoulder to see the camera’s LCD, use an additional external monitor display, connected to select Nikon D-SLR cameras via the HDMI port. The Live View signal will be viewable on both the camera’s LCD and the external monitor.

Another instance why this set-up might be desired is when shooting video with a camera on a tripod or video rig. This way the camera operator can view the camera’s LCD screen and control camera movements while a focus puller can use the external LCD monitor to verify focus independently of what the camera operator is doing.

If you so choose, you can turn the camera’s LCD off, so that in Live View, only the feed to the external monitor is viewable. To do this, select “OFF” in the Live View On-Screen Display menu item.

Also, many advanced filmmakers will opt to use an external recording device connected to the HDMI output in order to capture uncompressed full HD movie files for a much faster filmmaking workflow.

Many of the external recorders have a built in monitor so you will be able to record the uncompressed video and utilize the external monitor at the same time. Some monitors have an HDMI pass-thru, which will allow you to run the external recorder off of the monitor’s pass-thru with no loss of signal.