Newb question: why do people love viewfinders so much?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by mgs, Dec 25, 2013.

  1. mgs

    mgs Mu-43 Rookie

    Nov 30, 2013
    Bay Area, CA
    Real Name:
    I understand if you have poor eyesight or are in direct sunlight they can help but for me, I just find squinting 1 eye and bringing the camera against my face and looking into the viewfinder experience to be more of a nuisance and hindrance vs just looking at the screen. Plus they add cost and weight and size to the camera. I bought a G5 but couldn't sell it fast enough after using it for a bit due to the size/weight factor and finding the EVF to be nothing but something that was adding size/weight to the camera.

    So help me understand, what are the other benefits of using a viewfinder? The other thing that I find a bit annoying is that manufacturers, perhaps rightly so, reserve all the best features for their cameras which have a VF and ones without a VF are typically marketed as the cheaper model stripped of features. I think the E-P5 is an exception but that camera is actually heavier than an E-M5 even without a VF!!
  2. phigmov

    phigmov Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 4, 2010
    A couple of possible reasons - essentially it just boils down to personal preference at the end of the day ->

    Some people feel that holding the camera away from the body results in a less stable shooting platform.

    Viewfinders can also offer a higher resolution/pixel density compared to the LCD on the back of the camera - useful for resolving detail and/or focussing adapted lenses.
    • Like Like x 3
  3. Neftun

    Neftun Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 15, 2012
    Real Name:
    Patrick Kristiansen
    Easy: the image in a good viewfinder is percieved as much larger than a screen, so it is easier to work with, and more precise. The camera becomes your eye:) personally I only use the screen when at the awkward positions I cannot reach with my face.

    OTOH, nothing is worse than a bad viewfinder.

    Patrick K
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  4. Droogie

    Droogie Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 23, 2013
    Washington State
    I cut my teeth so to speak on an all manual Pentax K1000. So for me it is second have a viewfinder. Plus the fact that I usually always use manual focus. Although when shooting products for Ebay or Etsy I tend to use the swivel LCD on my G3.
  5. photo_owl

    photo_owl Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 8, 2013
    neftun's covered the logic, habit is another issue but ultimately it boils down to what anyone perceives to be 'better'

    as to weight - that comes down to build.
  6. Geoff3DMN

    Geoff3DMN Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 29, 2012
    Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia
    Real Name:
    I find it easier and more natural feeling framing the subjects in a photograph with a view finder because it feels more immersive than a rear screen but it needs to be a good viewfinder, for DSLRs that means Porro Prism and for micro 4/3rds the minimum quality I can live with is somewhere around that of an EM-5 view finder. If the view finder is too small or lacks contrast then the immersive experience is lost.
  7. silver92b

    silver92b Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 7, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    To each his or her own, but I prefer to use the view finder in most cases. I do love the convenience of the tilting screen as well. It's best to have them both, but if I had to choose, I'd go with the VF....
  8. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Real Name:
    Hi Matthew!

    As noted by others, it can be just a matter of habit; or, as you note, bright ambient light. For me it's about stability, and you can try it yourself.

    Test by shooting a camera with an EVF (or OVF) in conditions where stability is called for - windy conditions, low light, long shutter time; then shoot under the same conditions using a camera with a view screen using the "stinky diaper hold".

    With the EVF your elbows should be tucked in, the camera gripped by your right hand and the lens cradled in your left hand. The camera should be held close to the face to create a contact point between your cheekbone and right hand.

    With the rear screen view hold it like you are accustomed to doing.

    Then "pixel peep" the resulting images and see which one (if either) shows less camera shake.

    For me there's no comparison - I consistently get better photographs using a viewfinder. (Although upon rare occasions I will flip the screen up on my E-M5 and use it like one would a Rolleiflex ( ).

    But there is no "right" way - except to use the one(s) that work for you.


    • Like Like x 1
  9. RoadTraveler

    RoadTraveler Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 23, 2012
    Telephoto lens shooting, steadier, is one reason. And I'm not anti-LCD.
  10. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010

    Stability IMHO is the #1, #2, and #3 reasons to use an EVF. More stability is better than less stability, regardless of the lens focal length. But of course the longer the lens the more critical camera support is.

    Also there are many outdoor situations where the light simply overwhelms the LCD and leaves you with no way to compose. I remember my wife shooting pictures at the pyramids in Giza, having no idea at all what she was getting. With my EVF, I knew exactly what I was getting.

    That said, I do find the LCD useful from time to time. An articulated or (at least) tilting screen is handy for low angle and high angle shots in situations where the ambient light is not too bright for the LCD. I also find myself using an articulated or tilting screen indoors when the camera is on a tripod as it is rarely at eye level for me. Probably 90% of my LCD use, though, is reviewing pictures after I've shot them. Even a dumb fixed LCD is handy for that, though for little else.

    Limit me to one or the other, though, and I'll take the EVF.
  11. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin .

    Oct 9, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    You really need to try both and work out where the EVF and rear screen have their advantages and disadvantage. I came from DSLRs where the choice was to use the viewfinder or the rather clunky live view so back then it was viewfinder at least 95% of the time. Quite possibly the most positive effect that came from me moving to mirrorless is no longer being wedded to using the viewfinder and instead opening up my options of where I can shoot from other than take every shot from my eye level. Since I started doing this I have not suffered from a greater proportion of blurry images and I suspect that the reason why anyone might is due to not developing proper techniques for shooting a camera away from their eye (which can be improved) or from physical limitations (and sadly there's not a whole lot you can do about that).

    With respect to EVFs as opposed to OVFs, I have found them to be pretty good so far and of course they benefit from overlay information and showing an image that is read directly from the sensor, but the Olympus VF-4 is the first one that I would really describe as being excellent.
  12. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    Camera makers make most of their money selling expensive cameras to middle aged guys (like me) with enough disposable income to buy expensive cameras with all the goodies and viewfinders; which we're used to and they have diopter adjustment so we don't need our reading glasses.

    Of course there are also people in the world, who get along fine, that don't have electricity, or indoor plumbing and have trouble understanding why they're so important to other people.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Real Name:
    That would be me....

    No, wait, that would be me...


    Yep, old, shaky, nervous, and untrained...

    That would be me.

    [g, d, & r verra verra quickly...]

    Merry Christmas Nic!

  14. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    Real Name:
    Why Use an Optical Viewfinder
    • Battery Life (shortened with use of LCD)
    • Bright sun washes out the LCD
    • Camera stability
    • Diopter allows adjustment for your vision
    • Easier to track fast moving objects
    • Easier to use long telephoto lenses
    • If you wear sun glasses (sun glasses may darken out an LCD screen)
    • Unobstructed view - no information overlays
    • Viewing dark scenes is possible to limits of the human eye

    Why use an LCD
    • Convenience
    • Easier to notice things around you so you don't trip over, or run into things
    • If you wear glasses (Some viewfinders are hard for eyeglass wearers to use)
    • Instant Playback
    • Size
    • Viewing from different angles with articulated screens
    • Like Like x 2
  15. RoadTraveler

    RoadTraveler Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 23, 2012

    Nice lists.

    I don't use all of them in both but many, it's nice to have options.
  16. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin .

    Oct 9, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    Don't worry, I'll get there soon enough myself.

    Merry Christmas to you too!!
  17. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I personally cannot stand holding my camera out at arm's length and using the rear screen all the time. I do use it some but 90% of the time I use a VF. I do prefer using the rear LCD if I am on a tripod or shooting video however. There are some advantages to using a VF besides the "glare in the sun" reason.

    First you get the entire image in your eye all at once. With an LCD you have to pan your eye around to see the whole thing but with a VF it fills your vision. It isn't an obvious thing and maybe it is just me but this is something I have noticed.

    Second it stabilizes the camera. Holding the camera up to your eye with both hands on the camera is very stable. Conversely holding the camera out is very unstable and worse if you only use one hand. Granted image stabilizers are great but it is best to have the camera as steady as possible to begin with.

    Third I think the image is more detailed and color accurate in a VF{even more so if it is an optical VF}. I have taken some shots with the LCD thinking I was in focus or had good composition only to find it was off later. This doesn't happen nearly as often when I use the VF.

    Then there is battery life. The rear LCDs use more power although an electronic VF it isn't much more efficient. The VF2 on my PENs seem to give me an extra hour or so as compared to just using the screen. This is based off of how fast the battery went dead before I got my VF2 to after I got it. With an optical VF{like on my Nikons} I can shoot on one battery all day!
  18. janneman

    janneman Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 6, 2012
    Real Name:
    Jan (John) Kusters
    The answer Clint gave shows it already, the LCD on the back and an eye level finder (EVF) both have there merits, depending on your shooting style and the circumstances. As for squinting; it might get less inconvenient with more practice, and there is a good reason not to squint but keep both eyes open, but that takes even more practice.

    In general I use the eye level viewfinder when I want to concentrate on what is in the frame, and I use the LCD on the back if I want to keep stay in touch with the surroundings as well. The first option is for slow shooting and total control, the second option is for fast shooting and reacting to what is happening.

    Concentrate: Almost all agree in very bright sunlight an EVF can be helpful to block out the light.
    What most people don't realise that this means you also block out other visual information; it helps concentrating on just what is going on in the frame. And this not only works in bright light, it always works...

    No squinting: My OMD has some (minimal) lag in its EVF, so I keep both eyes open.
    My right eye looks through the EVF, and works on composition, the other eye is kept on the main subject and keeps check on getting the right moment. Best example for me is taking a portrait of someone making a speech; I use the EVF to be able to keep the camera steady over longer time. I want to get just the right moment during the speech, the right gesture, facial expression etc. The EVF makes sure I have the person exactly in frame as intended, and by resting the camera against my face I can do this longer and with more ease. The 'other' eye helps me get exactly the right moment; eyes of the speaker open, hands at their peak moment etc.

    On the other hand, when shooting at a lively party, many things happen all over the place and getting the right pictures is often split second work. I see a situation developing, and then the LCD works perfect; the camera raises somewhere between me and what is happening, and I take one or more shots. No precision in framing, just speed and keeping an eye on whatever else is going on. Keeping the camera away from you face also helps me to stay part of what is going on; helps me stay in touch. Using an EVF under those circumstances would put a certain 'distance' between me and the others.

    It all reminds me of discussions back in the sixties and seventies about the accuracy of reflex viewfinders like SLR's had set against the Leica style see through viewfinders.
  19. darosk

    darosk Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Apr 17, 2013
    Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
    Real Name:
    The point about battery life is the only significant one for me. Normally I'd be getting 300-400 shots on a full charge on my E-M5 (roughly estimating). With the LCD either off or displaying the SCP, and just using the EVF, I was able to squeeze out roughly about 1.5x to 2x the number of shots than normal - maybe more, even. An OVF would push that even further, probably.
  20. lightmonkey

    lightmonkey Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 22, 2013
    VFs are more familiar, natural, and immersive. i am looking at the frame and exposure info without much external distraction.

    holding a camera at arms length is awkward and less stable. (i do shoulders legth with dual-hand pistol grip). some people also have a tendency to lean back to balance out the cam, esp if its heavier. this is less natural than posturing up straight.