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I just wanted to take a photo in a dark environment with my EOS M5 (which does not have an optical view finder) and a wireless (no TTL) flash attached.

Since I plan to let the flash make everything much brighter I choose a short exposure (say 1/100s).

My problem now is very simple: I can't see anything in the live-view (EVF or display) but black. This sounds very natural to me because the picture I see there is a prediction of what I would later see on the final photo - without the flash (which is just black).

But this makes it impossible to manually set the focus or place the camera.

As a workaround I could set a much longer exposure (say 5sec) which lets the live-view display a much brighter image, setup everything and go back to 1/100sec which is very time consuming especially when you have to do this a couple of times (about 30 steps in each direction).

Or I could use an external light which is so bright that I can setup everything and turn it off before I take a photo. But in this scenario you need to have such a light and there is another device you have in the way.

So my question is: How do I typically deal with this situation? Can't I let the EVF on a typical digital camera ignore the settings and just make the displayed image as bright as needed (like if I have the camera configured to 5sec exposure)?

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Unlike many entry level cameras (which have no way of disabling exposure simulation) the EOS M5 is more of an advanced camera and Canon has provided an option to disable exposure simulation. (see page 69 of your M5 manual)

With exposure simulation disabled, viewfinder image will always remain bright no matter what exposure settings are used.

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  • this is the answer I was hoping to get :) – frans Apr 18 '17 at 5:36
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This is an inherent issue with any camera which lacks an optical viewfinder.

Some cameras have two modes to an EVF, one is Exposure-Priority which shows the final predicted exposure and the other is Display-Priority which shows a bright image regardless. On some cameras there is a menu option to choose between the two. Canon calls it Exp-Sim or something like that, so check the Settings menu.

Most cameras do not have any user-selectable option though. If they are Display-Priority, than you are out-of-luck for most types of photography except for the scenario you describe. If they are Exposure-Priority, they often switch to Display-Priority when the built-in flash is enabled, since yours has a built-in flash, if you do not have the option, you can try to pop the flash up while framing and focusing.

Keep in mind that there is a limit to what an EVF can show in low-light since it needs to keep itself refreshed. In some cases you will see black regardless, even if the EVF meant to show an image.

  • BTW, the setting is confusingly called "Settings Effect" on Sonys.... – rackandboneman Feb 11 at 17:02
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My question is that if you need to maintain that dark environment before taking the photo, for example not scaring some animals.

If that is not the case, you could use some assistant light. Some flashes have a focus assist light.

If your flash has not, you could carry a little led lamp.

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