Display simulation settings change how your EOS R series mirrorless camera presents the image in the EVF or LCD. Change settings to be able to see your subject in different light levels.

Display simulation – formerly exposure simulation

Display simulation options for EOS R6 Mark II

EOS R6 Mark II display simulation options


Display simulation is the term used on the latest EOS R series cameras, and was introduced with the EOS R3. Previous EOS R-series cameras like the EOS R5 and also EOS DSLR cameras with live view used the terminology exposure simulation. The term display simulation encompasses depth of field simulation and exposure simulation, and this posts covers both elements.

EOS R6 exposure simulation settings

EOS R6 exposure simulation settings


Exposure simulation

The combination of shutter speed, aperture and ISO determines the exposure of your subject under the light conditions when the shutter is open. If you are using automatic exposure modes P, Tv, Av modes with or without auto ISO, or manual M with auto ISO, display simulation shows a representation of how the scene will be captured. This is easily seen if you add some positive exposure compensation the display gets brighter.

Photographers who use full manual exposure, setting shutter speed, aperture and ISO to specific values, might find that exposure simulation is a helpful capability in daylight. However it is not a replacement for using the histogram to check exposure.

The default setting is exposure simulation enabled, and there are some situations where you may need to override the default, or at least be aware of the few idiosyncrasies.

two models photographed in daylight and a studio using different exposure simulation settings

Shooting with flash/strobes in a studio

When your subject is lit with flash you will see the ambient light image, as flash is a light that’s not visible until the shutter is open. In a photo studio where you might be shooting at 1/125th f/8 and ISO 100 the result of simulation is a black display in most indoor situations. This makes it hard to see where the subject is in the frame, and also for the camera to focus. The solution is to disable exposure simulation, by either selecting disable or only simulate when the depth of field button is pressed.

Shooting with Canon Speedlites

If you use a Canon Speedlite on the camera or triggered with the optical or radio wireless systems something clever happens. With exposure simulation enabled, the EVF/LCD simulates the available light exposure until you half press the shutter and meter the scene. At this point the camera recognises the flash is charged and intelligently switches off exposure simulation so you can see where the subject is and focus on it. I make a choice that when working in low light I disable exposure simulation, but for daylight where I’m balancing flash and ambient light I’ll keep exposure simulation on so I can preview the ambient exposure.

Shooting in low light

A church photographed at night with cool toned sky and reflection on the water in the foreground

In very low light situations, shooting at night outside, or indoors using very limited ambient light your scene might be too dark to see well. For such situations disable exposure simulation forces the camera to boost the brightness of the LVD/EVF making it possible to see. In exceptionally low light when it’s too dark for the camera to focus, disabling simulation and activating manual focus peaking can help you to manually focus in the dark. The displayed image may appear noisier than the final image.

One of the key factors is shutter speed, it is impossible to simulate long exposures when the camera display is refreshed at 60fps or more.

Using very dark ND filters for long exposures

Landscape photographers who love their 6-stop, 10-stop and more stops neutral density filters will need to disable exposure simulation. Stop and think a moment; a 5 minute exposure in daylight at any aperture and any ISO is going to be overexposed, so simulation is not helpful. The camera will recognises when exposure settings are impossible to simulate and if so will deactivate exposure simulation automatically. Indeed check the LCD screen where the exposure simulation icon is greyed out when bulb mode is selected.

Brightly lit environments

If you are shooting macro pictures and using a lot of bright constant lights to illuminate your subject it might not be possible to simulate the exposure, and if so the camera will temporarily deactivate exposure simulation. For most general outdoor photography this is unlikely to happen.

Depth of field simulation

More recent camera have added depth of field simulation. This then resulted in the change of terminology to display simulation to reflect that it is no longer just exposure. Depth of field simulation closes the lens aperture just like depth of field preview, stop your lens down then look at the front of your camera and the aperture will be closed. However it needs a good amount of light and to work, and the icon flashes if the simulation cannot be achieved. Mostly this setting is best for macro, landscapes or cityscapes in good light.

Checking the display simulation setting on your camera

Display simulation icons; Exposure, none and exposure + depth of field


The camera display shows the current setting for simulation using one of there different icons. The icon will be shown in grey if the selected setting is not possible to achieve.


About the author

Full-time photo tutor and photographer. I love to share my knowledge and skills to make photos, videos and teach others. I write books and articles for photo magazines and I always have at least one Speedlite flash in my camera bag