Optical vs electronic viewfinders

Discussion in 'Australia Photography' started by David Morrison, Nov 26, 2004.

  1. I have just been looking at digital cameras for the first time.

    Many of the lower-end cameras seem to rely on the LCD on the back as a
    viewfinder. This is not good for me - my eyes no longer focus that
    close! Besides, it's a really unnatural posture to hold the camera at
    arm's length

    Apart from SLRs, there seem to be optical viewfinders as in film
    cameras, where you look through a hole in the camera body.

    There are also some cameras that have a small LCD inside the camera body
    which includes not only the picture, but also the shutter speed and
    aperture. The only ones I have seen with this feature are the Olympus
    C700 series.

    Are there any disadvantages with his sort of viewfinder? For example,
    how does it cope with low light conditions?

    Are there any brands other than Olympus that use this sort of viewfinder?

    Thanks

    David
     
    David Morrison, Nov 26, 2004
    #1
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  2. David Morrison

    k Guest

    | I have just been looking at digital cameras for the first time.
    |
    | Many of the lower-end cameras seem to rely on the LCD on the back as a
    | viewfinder. This is not good for me - my eyes no longer focus that
    | close! Besides, it's a really unnatural posture to hold the camera at
    | arm's length
    |
    | Are there any disadvantages with his sort of viewfinder? For example,
    | how does it cope with low light conditions?
    |
    | Are there any brands other than Olympus that use this sort of viewfinder?


    Sony upper end cameras do (f717, f828)

    low light is fine, the added bonus is seeing running histograms, battery
    life, shutter speeds etc etc all in the viewfinder - all of which can be
    turned off too

    downside is, well, it's not a view of the focussing screen like in an SLR
    :-/


    k
     
    k, Nov 26, 2004
    #2
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  3. David Morrison

    Justin Thyme Guest

    Most of the lower end have an optical viewfinder just like a compact film
    camera. Its mainly only the ultra compacts that only have the lcd viewer
    only.
    There are a few disadvantages. very low light makes them almost useless,
    they are a fairly low resolution so they are not real good for manual focus
    (some will show a blown up version of the image to help with focus, but
    still not real great), and they are quite heavy on power (not as bad as the
    back panel LCD). In my opinion the following are the strengths and
    disadvantages of the various viewfinders.
    2nd lens viewfinder (like compact film cameras) - no power consumption.
    usable in any lighting condition, doesn't show what the lens is seeing so
    sometimes there will be framing issues, cannot be used for manual focus or
    with things like polarising filters or extension lenses etc
    rear panel lcd screen - shows exactly what the lens is seeing so framing
    will be accurate, will show the effects of filters such as polarisers,
    usually high enough resolution for manual focus (especially if part of the
    image is enlarged to assist this), heavy on power, encourages you to use
    camera at arms length which is worst way to hold a camera, images wash out
    if the screen is in bright light such as sunlight, pretty useless in poor
    lighting conditions.
    Electronic Viewfinder - mostly as for rear panel lcd's, except they are a
    bit lighter on power, you don't have the problem of sunlight hitting the
    screen, and you hold the camera better, but their lower resolution makes
    them harder for manual focus
    SLR viewfinder - usable in all light conditions, shows exactly what the lens
    is seeing including the effects of any filters, there are no resolution
    issues limiting it's ability to be used for manual focus, uses no power,
    because of the mirror you don't have the option of live preview on the LCD
    screen (can be an issue if you have the camera in an awkward position),
    because the mirror needs to be flipped up when the picture is taken there
    may be some camera body shake, because the viewfinder blacks out momentarily
    when the shutter is pressed, you can't see if there is any sudden change
    during the moment of taking the picture or if your flash fired etc,
    unfortunately only found on the most expensive digitals.
    IMO the SLR viewfinder stands out from the rest as the best method of
    viewing before shooting.
    It is on almost every camera with more than 3 or 4 times zoom. eg Fuji
    S3500, 5500, 7000, Canon Pro 1, S1 IS, Sony 717, 828, Higher end Nikons,
    Kodak 6490, 7590, Minolta Z and A series etc etc.
     
    Justin Thyme, Nov 26, 2004
    #3
  4. They may not always be lower resolution. The Canon Powershot S1 IS
    claims to have the same number of pixels in the viewfinder as the LCD
    panel. But you are right, being smaller would make it harder to focus.

    I guess I am trying to decide whether the disadvantages of the
    electronic viewfinder (power consumption, low light issues, limited
    resolution) are enough to make an optical viewfinder preferable with its
    disadvantages (framing issues, no filters, no manual focus).

    Most of my photos are outdoors, so a polarising filter is pretty
    important.

    Manual focussing is what I do now (very old SLRs), but I am unsure
    whether the autofocus systems are good enough that I would not need to
    use manual focus.

    Some of my photos are in low light. What level of light becomes a
    problem? In the depths of a forest? Late in the afternoon? Moonlight?
    I have been using SLRs for 20 years and would certainly prefer a through
    the lens viewfinder. However, for the moment I have no experience with
    digital cameras and would like to try a middle-range one to work out
    what is important to me. (Could not stand a low-end camera's
    limitations!)

    Thanks for your comments Justin. Very helpful.

    Regards

    David
     
    David Morrison, Nov 27, 2004
    #4
  5. I think most serious digital photographers use the editing facilities to
    achieve some great effects. Another benefit of shots taken in low light
    condition is that they can be 'brought up' very well by editing light
    balance and many other items with an editor such as Photoshop.
     
    Rheilly Phoull, Nov 27, 2004
    #5
  6. David Morrison

    stef Guest

    I'm using a C725. The EVF is approx 0.1Mpix.
    Since I almost always shoot in Ap mode, the EVF is great... otherwise I'd
    have to use the main LCD screen - big time battery drain. Without flash I
    can easily get 60-70 shots with 2100mA NiMh batteries. It's not so good in
    low light, ie indoors no lights on... but no trouble outdoors at night
    around cities, etc.

    Bear in the mind with compact digitals you can't get the shallow depth of
    field like you do on your traditional SLR's.
     
    stef, Nov 27, 2004
    #6
  7. David Morrison

    Justin Thyme Guest

    The S1IS is one that gives an enlarged view when focussing, but it is still
    a pain
    People can and do use polarisers with rangefinder film cameras, so digital
    would be the same. Look through the filter until you see the best image,
    take note of the orientation of the filter (there will be a little index
    mark on it), and make sure that is in the same position when you put it on
    the camera.
    AF systems are very accurate. Certainly on consumer digitals it is generally
    more accurate than you would be with MF. However on anything less than a
    prosumer or dslr, the AF systems are SLOOOOW, and MF is even slower.
    forests are not normally a problem, afternoon not a problem at all. well lit
    indoors room no problem. Moonlight - hopeless. I like optical viewfinders
    where if i can see it with my eye, i can frame it with my camera.
    I was in a similar boat. I considered upgrading, and was lucky enough to get
    some extended play-time with some very nice cameras. Really though, the
    only cameras that I didn't find a step backwards from an SLR (and I've been
    using MF SLR's with match-the-needle type metering for years), were the
    DSLR's. I probably could have lived with a canon Pro 1 or olympus 8080, but
    still felt they were lacking. As a pentax user, at the time I was looking
    Pentax's only DSLR offering was out of my budget (but the istD is a
    beautiful camera, and the istDS looks very promising), so changing into a
    Nikon or Canon offering would have required a re-investment in lenses etc.
    In the end, I decided that to get a digital I'd be happy with was out of my
    budget, but a digital within my budget would disappoint. So I put in a
    small investment, bought a budget kodak p&s offering for those times when a
    p&s is handy, and spent a small amount on another couple of 2nd hand SLR
    bodies, a couple of 2nd hand lenses, and a bit of 2nd hand processing gear
    so I can do my own B&W and slide processing. All up I spent under $500. It
    will take about 200 rolls of film before I catch up price wise with what I
    would have spent on a DSLR, and I'm taking pictures that are of a quality on
    par with a $3k DSLR.
    I will agree that the 2MP, 3xOptical zoom kodak is a damned site more
    convenient, and takes much nicer pictures than the APS P&S my wife had
    previously.
     
    Justin Thyme, Nov 28, 2004
    #7
  8. Have the same problem so I bought a Fuji S5500 and it is a marvel to
    operate, though not that happy Jan with the outer limit of the zoom lens,
    when it gets to about 8X it is fine, but that little bit extra to 10X takes
    it out of focus.
    Maybe I still have to learn to drive it thoroughly
     
    George W. Frost, Nov 29, 2004
    #8
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