19 Nov

Mirror Lock Up – How useful in handholding shots?

Previously in the film days, only the best Nikon SLR has mirror lock up (MLU) feature. That’s in the Nikon single digit F series. Even the F100 which is considered as the little brother of F5 doesn’t has MLU feature.

So, how useful is MLU?

With the advancement and convenient of digital photography, I can now take shots and experiment shots easily. Nikon now has MLU in their single digit D series and also in the Nikon D200 (D80, D70, D100…etc. all doesn’t have MLU). So, now the question is…how useful is MLU?

Many people have the mis-conception that MLU is only used when you have your camera on tripod. Quite true during the film days where one have to turn a lock manually to lock up the mirror manually, and this required quite big movement and will definitely change/move your subject composition. However, now with better technology and design, Nikon MLU shots can’t be done any easier!

On my Nikon D200, change the drive mode to MLU (there are S, Cs, Ch, Timer…etc. and MLU is on the farthest right on the dial – not seen in the picture below, but is just next to the timer symbol).

When you have set your drive mode to MLU, then the rest is easy. Half press your shutter button to focus, then full press your shutter button to Lock Up the Mirror. Full press again to then take the actual exposure, the mirror will go down after taking the exposure.

So, how does mirror lock up helps in taking photos?

When taking a shot in SLR (Single lens reflex) camera, the reflex mirror will go up, the shutter blade will then open to expose the film/sensor to the light. After that, it shutter blades close and mirror return down.

During the process, especially when the mirror goes up, it bounces onto the upper position of your camera chamber, hence creating a minor shake or vibration in your camera. Before the vibration settles down, when the shutter blades open and took a shot, this can be visible in your final photos. This is especially obvious at shutter speed 1/80s to 1/15s.

Why critical shutter speed between 1/80s and 1/8s?

When at higher shutter speed, the exposing time is very short hence normally the shake/vibration can’t be recorded. When at very low shutter speed, the light enters the camera is very dim normally, hence before the film/CCD could record down the light, the vibration has already settled down. Eg. at 5 seconds shot, the first second of time, the light has not been properly recorded on the film/CCD. From 2~5 second time, the vibration due to mirror bounce has already settled down, hence no effect of shake on final images.

Myth?

Now you have read enough…those can be theory and how does it proves in real life? Or is it just a myth to attract more people to buy camera with MLU but end up an useless feature?

As I have explained above. On Nikon D200, you do not have to mount your camera onto a tripod when using MLU. Since the photo taking process is just press once, press twice, it can be done handhold! So, how does the final photos come out?

Results

Enough talking, here’s some example shots I took last night. Take note that for the photos without MLU, I have tried my best hand holding technique and hold my breadth before taking the shots.

1st test shot:

  • Camera: Nikon D200
  • Lens: Tamron SP 17-50mm F2.8
  • Handhold
  • Shutter speed = 1/80s
  • Manual exposure
  • Exif intact, check yourself

Full frame view

100% crop without MLU

100% crop with MLU

2nd test shot:

  • Camera: Nikon D200
  • Lens: Tamron SP 17-50mm F2.8
  • Handhold
  • Shutter speed = 1/40s
  • Manual exposure
  • Exif intact, check yourself

Full frame view

100% crop without MLU

100% crop with MLU

Verdict:

As you can see in the comparison photos above, MLU does indeed give much sharper photos than without MLU! It is definitely not just a show off feature in Nikon professional DSLR, but in fact a very very useful feature that will help deliver sharper photos to photographers!

I am now even happier with my D200! 😀

Leave a Reply