A small number of cameras now have a form of
electronic level display built in, with the Nikon range this is in the full frame
cameras including the D3 and D3X, (d700?). These displays show if the horizon is
level, so one side in relation to the other, they do not show the relationship of
front to back.
Where we want to level these front to back and
with all other cameras we need to use a spirit level. We can use one or more
built into a tripod or one that is an accessory on the camera, or both. I
prefer to use levels on the tripod to get it level and an accessory level to
check the level of the camera. When hand holding its often helpful to have
an accessory level. Similarly when using liveview and holding the camera
away from you a level allows you to produce far better results. We are going
here to look at two accessory levels.
|2 Bubble Spirit
The most useful general purpose level is the 2
bubble level that fits onto the cameras (flash) accessory shoe. It will go on in
two ways, the unusual way displays two spirit levels one side to side and the
other front to back. This is ideal when looking at taking multiple images that will
be stitched together into a panorama or where photographing buildings.
The second way to use this level is to mount it
from one end. In this mode you can see a single bubble that allows levelling in
all directions at once at the top and the other spirit level can show either side
to side or front to back level depending in which way round it is.
When the camera is turned on its side, from the
end mounting you can get 2 levels or a bubble and side to side level, by
mounting it using the other mount you can also get a bubble and forward/backward
The most accurate levels are when you are using
the two spirit level as opposed to end bubbles.
You will find it is very sensitive and easy to
see and use when on a tripod, when hand holding its far more difficult and when
looking through the viewfinder you can't see it at all.
Price around £7.95 (03/2009)
You can click
on smaller images to see larger versions.
Seculine Action Level
The action level is electronic and levels from
side to side. The level is shown by a line of bright LED's, outer ones red, next
in yellow and central one green. Its level when the green light only is lit.
|It works both when the
camera is in view and portrait orientations.
It will only fit one way so cannot be used to level from front to back.
The LED's are angled so as to be viewable from
below as well as from behind, this means that you can use it easily handheld, including when the camera is held high above your head. When looking
through the viewfinder the colours of the LED's, are still visible in your
peripheral vision so when using the viewfinder you can still level up.
The action level is shaped so that when its on
the accessory shoe the pop up flash can still be used. However the pop up flash
may knock it slightly and you may then find it has a tendency to fall off. It
has a short tie line with it, which could be threaded onto the camera strap and used to
carry it, or you could try and use this to tie it to something when in use so
that it does not fall off and get lost, this is however too short to be used on
its own and you will need to work out a way to extend it. As the unit times out
when not used and is small, if you do drop it, it will be extremely difficult to
On the rear is a small on/off switch, and on
the top there are 2 very small buttons, used for changing the brightness,
sensitivity or readjusting the level if its compensation and your accessory
shoe is not completely level. It runs on two small batteries (CR1220) and comes
with two in and 4 spares provided.
I find the action level of particular value
when using Liveview and holding the camera some way from me, for example out
over the battlements of a castle to give a view alongside it, as if in the air,
or out of the window of a steam train. In both these cases I can get a view with
the camera that I cannot get myself, but keeping that camera level in these
situations is difficult.
Price around £29 (03/2009)
The image above shows that it works both
when the camera is in the view and portrait orientation, with the Green light showing that
it is level. The light shows down as well as to the rear so can be seen when
using the viewfinder.
I use both of these levels, the double bubble
when using the camera on a tripod and the electronic action level for when I
want to use it handheld, and in particular when using Liveview.
|Above - the pack,
electronic level and batteries
Above right electronic level in place, green lights shows it is level
Right, it is shaped so that the pop up
flash can still be used
can click on smaller images
to see larger versions
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