In 2012 we've seen the introduction of Android on Samsung's Galaxy camera, the first Digital Rangefinder with video, and the Lytro Light Field Camera.
But here at ePHOTOzine we were looking for something that was really ground-breaking to award as Camera Innovation of the Year 2012 and that features is LiveBulb / LiveTime introduced on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 compact system camera.
This feature lets you record long exposures but gives a preview as the image "develops". We say develops because it can be likened to the photography equivalent of waiting for an image to form in the darkroom developing dish.
It's a feature for long exposures caused by low light or when you're using a dark ND filter such as the Lee Filters Big Stopper. The camera starts recording and gives a screen preview at intervals as the exposure builds. You can adjust the time between previews through the camera's menu. So, for example, when shooting at ISO200 you can view 24 steps with intervals of between 0.5 sec and 60 seconds. As the ISO increases the number of steps you can view decreases. You set an interval rate that will show gradual build up of exposure so you can stop when the correct exposure is reached.
LiveBulb requires the shutter to be held down either by hand or by locking remote release while LiveTime locks the shutter open automatically and is unlocked by pressing the shutter button a second time.
This was a 112 sec exposure at f/6.3. I was able to see that the photo gradually appear and mask the sky area first so that area didn't over expose. I then moved the mask down to cover the bank of the river allowing the really dark water and swirls appear. The vertical streaks are caused by the Big Stopper position in the holder. I didn't notice when I took the photo.
With this innovative mode the photographer doesn't have to worry about calculating the exposure or doing tests. He / she just sets the mode going and keeps an eye on the LCD screen watching the exposure build until they are happy with the level of exposure and then deactivates it. An example of how this works can be seen in our YouTube video.
It's perfect for HDR brackets too as you can record individually for highlights and shadows to get the maximum amount of detail.
And here's the big thing that takes that darkroom analogy a stage further. LiveTime is much more than just a developing dish emulator. You can use the mode in a couple of other ways that gives it the true darkroom experience. Anyone old enough to remember using dodge and burn tools can do the same here and preview the result as it builds. For example, waving a dark card or material in front of the lens to mask brighter areas of the scene works like the dodging tool of yesteryear. While using a torch or flashgun to paint in shadow areas becomes the modern equivalent of the burning tool. And you can see the changes as the progress.
This scene was in darkness but a long exposure of 111 sec at f/7.1 gave enough light to the sky and reflection in the water. I then used a Lenser torch to paint the bridge, grass and trees with some more light.
For those who don't want reminding of those old smelly chemical days, you can use the feature creatively in other ways Those who have struggled to shoot fireworks can point the camera at the sky and press the shutter. And watch as the firework bursts build up on screen. No more guestimations of time or restrictions on the longest shutter speed. Use card to mask the lens between bursts and you can end up with multiple bursts. And likewise things like painting with light to create highlights around objects or writing your name in the dark using a sparkler all become much easier.
LiveTime is the must have feature!