EFSC: Why it's Amazing, and Why You Need to be Using it
Chances are have probably never heard of Electronic First Shutter Curtain or EFSC for short, but don't worry, most people that have it don't even know anything about it. Here's the important thing to understand about EFSC: it can make a major difference in image quality by completely eliminating image blur due to shutter vibration. After using EFSC for a couple of months now I have one word to describe it, amazing!
The reason you haven't heard about EFSC is that Canon and Sony promote it as a feature that reduces shutter noise and not about shutter vibration reduction. Popular sites like DPReview and imaging-resource only discuss the noise reduction aspect of the EFSC and don't even mention the elimination of shutter vibration and the resulting benefit in image quality.
EFSC Comparison Set-Up
To fine out exactly how much difference EFSC can make in improving image sharpness take a look at the results of a comparison test below.
I set up a coin with my a Canon 70D and MP-E 65mm lens at 3X with Live View and EFSC enabled equipped with a remote release. I shot the images at 1/15th sec, f/4, ISO 100 manual mode, lit by an LED ring-light with a diffuser.
The image below shows the entire frame as shot at 3X below that are 100% crops of the area indicated below in red. The first crop was shot as normal with live view and EFSC enabled, next with LV but with EFSC disabled. In the third crop the shutter and mirror operate as normal and in the last crop the camera is set up with mirror lock and self timer.
The image below is one of the frames shot at 3X with the 100% crop area indicated in red. Be sure to click on the image below to see a larger version in a new window.
EFSC Comparison Results
The first crop was shot as I would normal shoot with live view and EFSC enabled, below that is an image with LV on but with EFSC disabled. In the third crop the shutter and mirror operate with no LV and no EFSC, and in the last crop the camera is set up with mirror lock and 2 second self timer shutter delay.
Again be sure to click on the image below to see a larger version in a new window. As you can see in these 100% crops its clear that EFSC does an excellent job here eliminating any vibration and bringing out every last bit of sharpness the sensor can produce. With EFSC you now longer need mirror lock-up + self timer.
What You Can Do with EFSC and Why It's so Great
Keep in mind this comparison is only at 3X but higher magnifications would benefit even more. EFSC will not only give you an advantage in your macro work but you can see the same kind of benefit when shooting with a super telephoto on a tripod for example.
How does EFSC work?
When you press the shutter button to take a picture the electronic first curtain shutter uses a high-speed scanning system that mimics a mechanical first curtain shutter operation then synchronizes with a mechanical second curtain shutter to cover the sensor and end the exposure. Any vibration caused by the second curtain shutter happens after exposure has ended.
When you press the shutter button to take a picture with EFSC disabled or with a camera without EFSC a mechanical first curtain shutter uncovers the sensor and the second curtain follows along to form a slot to expose the sensor. The mechanical first curtain causes vibrations to occur throughout the exposure. This can lead to image blurring with high magnification macro or telephoto work.
How to Enable EFSC
Setting up EFSC on the 70D couldn't be easier. First turn on live view: Menu > Live View Shooting Settings > Live View Shooting > Enable. Silent Mode/EFSC is enabled by default on the 70D when LV is enabled, on Canon bodies you want this setting on Mode 1. To check the Silent Live View/ EFSC setting on your camera go to: Menu > Live View Shooting Settings > Silent LV Shooting > Mode 1.
You have to enable Live View to use EFSC / Silent Live View on Canon cameras. Menu > Live View Shooting Settings > Live View Shooting > Enable.
Use of a Canon flash will disable EFSC / Silent Live View.
If you use a non Canon flash, EFSC / Silent Live View will not be disabled but the flash will not fire since flash uses the first shutter curtain to sync.
On the Canon 70D (and some other Canon bodies) EFSC is enabled by default when you enable live view.
What Cameras Have EFSC?
Canon DSLRs: Canon 5DII, 5DIII, 7D, 6D, 40D, 50D, 70D, and entry level models (rebels in the US) have EFSC. The 60D has EFSC but it does not reduce vibration. None of the 1D series has EFSC except for the 1DX.
Sony A and E mount cameras. There is a big issue right now with the new Sony A7/A7R. It turns out that while the A7 has EFSC the A7R does not.
Panasonic MFT cameras with EFSC or silent mode are limited to a few bodies.
Nikon: Only a single Nikon camera, the Nikon 1, has EFSC (actually the Nikon 1 has a full electronic shutter). Its hard to believe that Nikon doesn't offer a single DSLR with EFSC!
For more information on EFSC, including comments from Chuck Westfall, see Charles Krebs site: http://www.krebsmicro.com/Canon_EFSC/
This is just a short excerpt from my upcoming Macro e-book coming out later this year. Send me an email with any EFSC questions or comments and I will be glad to help. If you've found any great things EFSC can do that aren't mentioned here, be sure to share 'em in the comment section below or send me an email. Thanks.
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