At what shutter speeds is mirror lock-up worthwhile?


I know what mirror lock-up is and what it’s good for, but I’m curious about the range of shutter speeds where it provides a real benefit.

A little background

I use a nice, sturdy tripod for shooting still life photos, and sometimes portraits. More often than not for still life shooting, I use live view either because the camera is at an odd height or angle, or because I’m shooting in very low light that makes it difficult or impossible to compose and focus through the viewfinder.

There are previous questions that ask about whether the mirror flips back down and then up again during live view shooting. In my camera the answer is yes (detail further down). This means that if I want to use both live view and mirror lock-up, I need to compose in live view, then disable live view, then shoot with mirror lock-up plus timer or remote, then re-enable live view to play around more and recompose. This is pretty disruptive, to say the least, so I’d like to understand when it’s worth the trouble.

The Blanston Hypothesis

It seems that if the shutter speed is fast enough, then any vibration of the camera would be insignificant because the image is captured too fast for the camera to move too much during the exposure. And it seems that if the shutter speed is slow enough, the short amount of time that the camera vibrates wouldn’t matter because it would be buried below the noise of the capture (assuming very low light, no flash, etc.). So I figure there must be a range of shutter speeds where mirror lock-up makes a difference in image quality. It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s related to focal length, sort of like the 1/(focal length x crop factor) guideline for non-IS handheld shooting.


So, as the title states, at what shutter speeds is mirror lock-up worthwhile? Is my reasoning correct (or at least sane)?

The detail I promised you earlier

This answer indicates that live view does accomplish mirror lock-up using a Canon 70D, but my experience with my 80D indicates otherwise.

When I use mirror lock-up in normal (non-live view) mode, I can clearly hear that the first curtain noise at the beginning of the exposure is a very minor “tick” sound, which makes sense. I do this with a suitably long shutter speed (say 1 second or more), so that I can clearly separate the sounds at the beginning of the exposure from the sounds at the end, when the mirror flips back down.

However, when I use live view, I can very clearly hear the mirror moving at the beginning of the exposure. Also, when I’m in live view mode, the mirror lock-up option is grayed out in the menu, which indicates that it’s not available in that mode.