Olympus VF-4 ViewFinder Thoughts

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by gochugogi, Jul 13, 2013.

  1. gochugogi

    gochugogi Mu-43 Veteran

    I grew up with SLRs and don't feel comfortable or steady composing with a LCD at arm's length. So I bought the VF-4 EVF to use on my Olympus Pen E-P3. I updated camera firmware to 1.7, slid on the VF-4 and was propelled into eyeball Nirvana! :tongue:

    Mammoth EVF Bump

    This designed in Japan born in PRC viewfinder is plastic and finished in a grippy flat black finish. It appears well made but looks a little out of place against the brushed aluminum of my E-P3. It's so light the camera feels the same with or without it. Although featherlight, it adds considerable bulk, protruding 3 cm from the top deck. It's about 20% larger than the VF-2 due to the squarish housing (rather than round). I found the older VF-2 cosmetics and size more attractive.

    The VF-4 slides into the hotshot and automatically locks. Squeeze a wee button to release it. The lock feels secure although a heavy blow would probably knock it southbound. The popup flash of my E-P3 has plenty of clearance. To use the VF-4, press the button below the eyepiece to toggle between EVF and LCD. If you have an E-P5 with eye detection, you can let your eyeball do the toggling!

    I love the ability to tilt the eyepiece and cannot emphasize enough how useful tilt is for shooting in tight spaces, ground level or for stealth. Unlike the shoe mount, the tilt section cannot be locked and uses a friction clip to hold it in place. The clip holds the tilting section tighter than the VF-2, making it less prone to inadvertent movement. Rough treatment will certainly spring it from the clip.

    I don't wear glasses, but I can see the entire image with sun glasses on, so plenty of eye relief for eye glass wearers. The knurled diopter adjustment wheel is large and sits on the top right. A quick tweak and the image was sharp. The click stops are tight so inadvertent adjustment should be rare. It comes standard with a rubber eyecup, albeit not as deep or comfy as the accessary EP-9 Eyecup for the VF-2.


    My initial impression was the 2.36MP display was a knockout: remarkable clarity and the 1.48x magnification nips at the heels of a full frame DSLR viewfinder. Upon closer inspection I found image quality a mixed bag but a still a nice improvement over the prior model, the VF-2. Under diffused soft light, the VF-4 produces a smooth and vivid view a stone's throw from the viewfinder of a good DSLR. In bright sunlight, performance is similar to the older VF-2: sharp and contrasty but blocked up shadows and compressed dynamics. Basically, you can't see much shadow detail in sunlit landscapes. In dim light it yields a brighter view than reality but at the cost of moderate color noise and texture artifacts. The breakthrough is vastly improved panning performance: the smearing and jumpiness of the VF-2 is nearly gone, even in low light! I assume this remarkable improvement is due to a faster refresh rate and is a game changer for those interested in panning sports or zippy rug rats.

    The clarity of the VF-4 makes it wonderful for stealthy reviewing of images through the viewfinder, e.g., in a dark theatre where you don't want to cause a distraction. Unlike Live View display, playback renders full dynamic range and detail.

    After a few weeks of regular use the electronics seemed to "burn-in" and overall EVF image quality improved noticeably. It could be my imagination or a miracle (improving eyesight!) but definition and shadow detail feel a notch better than they were straight out of the box. I've noticed burn-in with speakers and headphones but had no idea EVFs improved with break-in. Whether or not burn-in helped is a moot point. The bottom line is the image quality of the VF-4 rocks!

    I struggled with that question and here I am with a VF-4. Although 2.36MP seems like a major upgrade from the 1.44MP of the VF-2, in practice it's a minor improvement in additional visual detail rendered. Dynamic range is same for both viewfinders, e.g., much narrower than the main LCD. The VF-2 renders slightly deeper blacks than the VF-4. However, if a larger viewfinder image, higher resolution, smoother panning and a shoe lock are important to you, the VF-4 is the only show in town.

    Despite my nitpicks, the reality is the VF-4 is a big step up in image quality over prior EVFs from Olympus. Yes, the VF-4 has an electronic video undertone, never letting you forget it's an EVF. However the shortfalls are diminishing with each redesign and the current takeaways are likely inconsequential to most users. I mainly use my E-P3 for stationary subjects in decent light, so I can live with the few remaining EVF idiosyncrasies (I have a DSLRs for the other stuff). It's likely to be the best accessory EVF of 2013 and certainly better than any EVF used in prior camera designs. The VF-4 enhanced performance, enjoyment and ease of use with my E-P3, and that's what counts.
    • Like Like x 4
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  2. jyc860923

    jyc860923 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 28, 2012
    Shenyang, China
    very informative thanks a lot
  3. Gurin

    Gurin Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 5, 2012
  4. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound

    Are you getting full resolution from the VF-4 on your E-P3? I know that the VF-4's resolution is not at maximum with some of the older bodies that cannot support it, even after a firmware update.

  5. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Found the old thread that answers this question: https://www.mu-43.com/f42/rate-ovf-options-my-e-pl2-46329/ .

    Sorry for any confusion,

  6. gochugogi

    gochugogi Mu-43 Veteran

    Yes, apparently the VF-4 renders full rez on the E-P3 albeit I find the extra detail somewhat academic and not a real screamer. I was expecting a more obvious improvement over the VF-2. But then I plan to buy an E-P5 when the prices come down and I'll be set with an EVF. Right now the E-P3 kit is going for $300 whereas I paid $900 19 months ago. I figure the E-P5 will float down to a similar level in 18 months too.
  7. jnewell

    jnewell Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 23, 2011
    Boston, MA
    I'd be interested in comments from anyone who's used the VF-4 and the Sony OLED viewfinder for the RX1.
  8. Aldredge

    Aldredge Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 12, 2012
    Toronto, ON
    Very interesting read, thank you.

    I'm currently using an E-PL2 with VF-2, which I've had for a little more than a year. I was contemplating upgrading to the OM-D, but the release of this new VF-4 has just made my decision a lot harder. It's hard to "settle" for second best, but your review seems to reinforce my faith in the VF-2.
  9. gochugogi

    gochugogi Mu-43 Veteran

    Yes, the VF-4 is slightly better overall but a bit underwhelming after reading all the marketing hyperbole. Barely worth the bother of casting a perfectly good VF-2 aside. I also miss the really comfy EP-9 accessory eyecup for the VF-2...
  10. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    My two biggest complaints with the VF2 is #1 accidentally adjusting the diopter and #2 the tilt having no lock. You answered my questions about the diopter but what about the tilt. How easy does it tilt? Does the lock work on the tilt as well as locking the VF onto the camera?
  11. gochugogi

    gochugogi Mu-43 Veteran

    My Retrospective 5 bag is roomy for this camera so no problem with the VF-4 snagging and tilting. If you use a snug bag, it may tilt if you're not careful while stowing it. I haven't removed it from my E-P3 for two weeks and have yet to suffer an inadvertent tilting.

    The VF-4 eyepiece tilt is held in place by a simple friction clip similar to the VF-2 but maybe twice as stiff. There is no barrier lock or release button for the tilt feature. Less prone to accidental titling than the VF-2 but if you're the type to rub it hard on your body or bag, it will break loose and tilt.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  12. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    I'm confused. There's an unlock button on the side of the VF-4. Are you saying that it doesn't actually control anything?
  13. gochugogi

    gochugogi Mu-43 Veteran

    Sorry, I should have quoted the prior posting in the thread so you could see the context: we were discussing the friction clip that secures the 90 degree tilt feature of the eyepiece assembly. It's basically the same as the VF-2 but stiffer. The button on the side is merely to release the shoe lock, a feature the VF-2 lacks. I covered the shoe lock in the review at the beginning.

    I edited it to quote the question in the prior posting.
  14. elandel

    elandel Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 16, 2010
    Milan, Italy
    Interesting because I have the VF-2 and was considering the upgrade.
  15. suprgnat

    suprgnat New to Mu-43

    May 30, 2010
    My biggest complaint with the VF-2 was no way to lock it to the body. Lost mine last September in London at London Bridge. Made it about 10 meters across before the sound of it hitting the ground registered with me, but it was too late. My VF-2 was GONE.

    Just ordered a VF-4 after confirming it locked to the body. All the improvements over the VF-2 are just bonuses. :biggrin:
    • Agree Agree x 1
  16. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    The lock is a nice security addition. Overall, though, I agree with gochugogi in feeling that the additional expense to upgrade from a VF-2 to a VF-4 is not worth the hype - unless having the lock feature alone is worth it to someone. The VF-4 is certainly a bit nicer than the VF-2, but functionally, I don't see significant added benefit for someone who already has a VF-2.

    In the end, for me, I really like having a readily available EVF and use them a lot, in addition to the LCD screen. And every time I mount the VF-4 on my EP5 or the VF-2 on my EPL5, I am reminded of how clunky and cumbersome this "accessory add-on" approach to having an EVF is.

    I'm one who isn't particularly tolerant of needing to fuss with accessory EVFs. It's a bother to me to need to carry along the extra doo-dad, for those times when I will want it, and it's cumbersome to have an odd, bulky extension protruding up from the body when it's mounted. The VF2 and VF-4 definitely perform their jobs as EVF's quite nicely, but unfortunately, in use, they add a bit too much "fiddlyness" for my liking - vs. a built-in EVF.

    For this reason, I see myself narrowing down to using my EM5 (and soon the GX7) mostly and, over time, may never again use bodies with an add-on accessory EVF. Once we have more rangefinder-styed bodies with built-in EVFs in this m4/3 system, I'm sure that's all I'll own... and I suspect the majority (though not all) of m4/3 users will gravitate toward the RF-style bodies with built-in EVF.
  17. suprgnat

    suprgnat New to Mu-43

    May 30, 2010
    Without the EVF my E-P2 has been little more than a cell phone camera to me (hyperbole), so having lost my VF-2 10 months ago I've been waiting for a replacement, with a lock! The extra 30 bucks (retail) for a proper lock is worth every penny to me versus $249 every x number of months. Plus, it's upgrade-able to an E-P5!
  18. Aldredge

    Aldredge Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 12, 2012
    Toronto, ON
    It's amazing how a little thing, like the locking mechanism, can make such a huge difference to the overall usability of the camera. I initially was interested in the increased resolution and other technical specs, but the more I think about, the more I just want the locking mechanism :tongue:

    This is something that I think a majority of us have been waiting for. For some reason, I just cannot perform the same way with just the LCD, and find myself relying on the EVF more and more. And I just love the rangefinder body style.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  19. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    suprgnat.... yes, my friend, I totally agree with you.

    If one needs an EVF for a Pen camera, the VF-4 with lock is well worth the extra $30 over the VF-2.

    However, for those who already have a VF-2, I don't see a significant benefit (aside from having a lock, of course) to buying a VF-4 as an addition. Certainly, one could sell their VF-2 and apply those funds toward a VF-4, if having the lock was an important feature. Losing one's VF-2 would be an unfortunate occurrence indeed! :frown:
  20. auryn

    auryn Mu-43 Regular

    May 5, 2013
    Got myself a new VF4. Didn't realise how much easier this makes composing an image and gives much better stabilization when pressed against my eye. No more guessing when shooting in the sun.

    A few things though:
    - The tilting does not have enough friction. It's very secure when locked but once removed from the locking clip it tilts way too easily.
    - Impossible to use with sunglasses. Something with the tinting or polarizing gives a cross like shadow in the middle of the frame. I know you shouldn't be using them anyway but I like wearing them.
    - Looks much bigger than I expected on the EPL5.
    - The camera seems to get warm. Never felt warm before. I have a feeling this will have a negative effect on battery life. Will find out soon I guess.
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