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Wednesday, 20 October 2021


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We are building a house with a big open plan space. Whilst there are rooms for bookshelves I do think it's time to thin the book collection down somewhat. I feel a Marie Kondo session coming on, as I really don't want to store books I haven't read in years. Same goes with a lot of other stuff that needs to go.

I do not care for viewfinders. Most of the time, well, often, the perspective gets screwed. Like when I (six foot, two inches) make portraits of children or small persons.

I like displays, provided the are articulated. Shooting with my Sony a-something and using the display makes me feel like a Hassy or Rollei photographer from the time of my youth.

BTW, I do not suffer from GAS, but when Sony makes an a-someting for b /w only, then I will rush down to one of my local shops.

I'm solidly preferring OVF over EVF. Having bought into the Fuji system I do use EVF's a lot, and the one on the XT-3 is pretty good. I like the hybrid on the XT100 and Xpro models (as an ex Leica user) but generally just for street and candid stuff.

I've started using my old OM cameras more, and I have to say the viewfinders on my OM1 & 2 knock all of these into the long grass by a country mile. They also do the same with OVF's in my now discarded Canon 5x series.

They connect you better with the real world, and just looking through the viewfinder makes you want to make a photo. By contrast EVFs are like shooting with CCTV

I also hate the fuss and bother of getting your EVF set up so it behaves how you want it. (exposure preview etc etc). I'm old enough to know by the camera settings what the outcome is going to be

I forgot what it was like to be wowed by a viewfinder, optical or electronic, until I peered into the waist-level finder of a Rollei 6003. I was so impressed that I ended up buying a freshly CLA'd body and lens.

First, that photo of Butters and light is simply wonderful. What a beautiful photograph!

To the question: I'm an EVF guy now. I love the finder in my Panasonic GX8. I agree about the GX9 and I'm sad that there doesn't seem to be a true upgrade coming for the GX8. When I saw the GX9 my reaction was to immediately buy a second GX8.

While it's true that subtleties of light are not well presented by an EVF (at least, not yet), those subtleties are visible by not looking through the viewfinder. And in the viewfinder I can have so much information available, including the histogram, that I only need to look away from the viewfinder to see those subtle things the light may be doing. I can adjust exposure and see the result in the viewfinder with the view getting darker or lighter and the histogram moving. True, precise exposure control.

So, it's mirrorless and EVF for me from now on. I'm afraid if Panasonic doesn't get busy and bring me a new camera soon I may find myself back in the Nikon fold where I was for half a century until I got tired of waiting for Nikon to get with it and produce a decent mirrorless camera. They seem to have done that now, and I still have all my old Nikkor lenses...

Maybe this is a function of my old age but, every now and then, my eyes feel tired and irritated when I look through an EVF. This never happens with an OVF. I'm not sure whether there are sound reasons for this or if I'm just looking for a reason not to like EVFs.

A personal favourite is the viewfinder on the M3. It inspires confidence.

I have and use both OVF and EVF. Different VFs for different purposes.

The OVF is a better choice for night-time astrophotography shots. I do not want to view and frame the scene with an EVF because it ruins my night vision for tens of minutes. The OVF does not. Night vision is everything when doing astrophotography.

Viewfinders train their users, you either adapt or... do without. A good one is a luxury, most are a compromise. If they facilitate the result you aspire to, they've achieved their purpose.

The viewing experience is my paramount priority for any camera purchase, which began in earnest in 1974, since spanning 11 brands (if I recall correctly), and many more models. It’s a deal breaker if not satisfying. Switching to digital in 2009, I got rid of all my cameras except the Leica M. I love its viewing (and focusing) experience. (I agree with your built-in diopter thoughts, but have been told it would be problematic given current M size requirements and technology.).

For years I was reluctant to add an EVF based camera to supplement the M for wider and longer focal lengths. Leica waited too, and finally introduced the then state-of-the-art EVF with the SL (it’s still near the top despite older spec). The SL2 EVF was even better, so I caved and bought into the system. I now love it as well, albeit for far different reasons than M viewing. If I wanted a digital medium format system (I don’t), I would buy a used S007 (for 5 grand), in large part due to its gorgeous viewing experience (and the lenses). Leica has its priorities right, at least as I see them (so to speak).

When I first used an EVF it was on a Sony F707 (remember those?). I like it because I could zoom in to review my photos, but disliked it for actually taking pictures. All of my cameras for the next 14 years (various iterations of Canon, 10D through 7D all had optical viewfinders, which I found worked best for my preferred photography, which was wildlife and birds). As EVF's got better, I dipped my toes in the water with various Sony cameras, NEX 7, A6500 and currently a Sony A7RIV. I find with the current crop of EVF's, that there is no way I would go back to an optical viewfinder as there are just too many pluses with the EVF's, from making adjustments without moving your eye from the viewfinder, histograms, built in levels, chimping your shots, etc. So it was a gradual transition, but I am now firmly in the EVF camp.

ooooo, 2 juicy topics.

Non-photographic first: I, too, hate open plan. Give me my nooks and crannies, especially in a house. And at work, open plan just reeks of surveillance by nasty managers. And I don't want to hear or see my coworkers phone calls or what they are working on, and I don't want to share my stuff with them.

I'm agnostic on the OVF/EVF debate. They do such different things that I think it's really apples-oranges. But I'll say this: the smaller the format, the more I gravitate towards an EVF, and vice-versa. LOOOOOVE the big huge OVF on my 645Z. I think Pentax was real smart to do the improvements they did on the OVF for their new APSC camera. But I had an A7R for a while, and I got along with its EVF just fine, and in very low light (like pre-dawn) it was like having night vision. I don't like the EVF's on the Fuji medium format cameras though---they have some kind of flicker I'm sensitive to. I don't buy into the WYSIWYG business about EVF's---I didn't find that to be very true.

I do use my LCD screens a good deal on my 2 OVF cameras for certain critical things, though, and probably a good EVF would serve me the same way. But then, since I have LCD screens, why not also have the OVF? Seems like a winning combo to me.

I realize that time marches on, we all get older, yada-yada; and I, too, have adapted to the EVFs in my Panasonic cameras. However, when I get out the elderly (but still more than capable) Sony a850, that OVF is (perhaps literally) a ray of sunshine. I love it.

Not only do EVFs fail to report the light well, but also sometimes they don't report it at all. In a high-dynamic range situation, with exposure set so as not to blow the highlights, the photographer frequently cannot see the dark part of the image, even though it's clearly visible to the eye. This happens, naturally, because the EVF is showing a poor JPG version of the image. So, the viewfinder effectively prevents the photographer from composing properly.

To me, it's a deal-breaker. I won't use a tool that fights with me.

I have read but never understood viewfinder debates. To me the viewfinder has only ever been a framing device. I could not care less how true to life and how accurate the colours are in the viewfinder. The only colour that matters is what is recorded in the file. If the viewfinder is distorting real world colour or some other aspect, I can always look at the scene with my eyes.

Having said that, the ability to see an EVF in monochrome for me is hugely useful because I am terrible at visualizing a scene in B&W with the unaided eye.

I bought a Fuji X100V recently (had to wait many months for it). The viewfinder is interesting. I love the way things look through it, but in general I'm less impressed with all the digital help that Fuji overlays. I probably still need to work with it, as it's a new camera. For now, I'm mostly using the viewfinder in "natural" live view, which is a compromise. It provides much more accurate framing than optically (Fuji overlays a frame in the optical viewfinder that jumps adjusts to tilt, but can be way off for borders sometimes). I use the exposure meter and histogram to judge exposure. The view is sort of "natural" but you don't see the light the same way as optically.

I also do not like open plan designs for homes. Besides needing walls, I also need ROOMS with DOORS that CLOSE.

For viewing reality, a good OVF gets my vote. And seeing is the primary aspect of our art.

EVFs do have some useful features, such as B&W visualization, low light enhancement and focus magnification.

For consideration of subject and composition, I find a good OVF more effective and satisfying.

Looking at a great scene or seeing it on a TV screen - that is the difference.
Night and low light viewing with Electronic finders wipes out night vision. Using the rear screen spotlights you in the crowd as well.

"you see what you are getting" is what I am told, but growing up shooting Kodachrome 25 and large format chromes I learned quickly how to judge what I was getting.

That said, use what works for you.

I haven't yet tried an EVF, but I had a horrible time recently using a phone in bright sunlight. I had no idea what I was shooting - point and pray. Yeah, buy accessories... no.
My D800 has a bright, isolated OVF with diopter correction and a shutter to close it up to prevent light leakage. I compose completely in the viewfinder so what I see is all I get.
I'm sure the EVF is very close and has potential advantages, but call me when it's "better than". That's when I buy.

Heck, these days I'm grateful for any kind of to-the-eye viewfinder, but I miss good OVFs (of any kind, not just SLR). My film cameras have them, of course, but I don't shoot much film these days. On the other hand, I don't miss bad OVFs.

I feel that EVFs introduce unwanted layers of mediation between me and a world I want to see directly. But bad OVFs are just as frustrating.

Having said that, and while I agree that add-on essentials are undesirable, my favorite EVF is still an older accessory-shoe model from Olympus (VF-2?). High mag, high eyepoint, great optic, soft cup, good diopter range, tilts up 90 degrees. It had paltry resolution by today's standards, but that, combined with the sharp optics, consistently produced visible moiré on sharp lines and patterns, which on paper was a "con", but in practice turned out to be a most elegant means of focus confirmation.

But why do we have to choose? Fujifilm has proven that we can have both OVF and EVF in one. I'm surprised we haven't seen more of its ilk. Is it a licensing issue? If so Fuji could do photographers some good by loosening its grip a little.

Was it here where I first read that open plan homes are more vulnerable to fire? Anyway, it's a real problem: https://www.housebeautiful.com/lifestyle/a20954258/these-popular-home-trends-can-be-a-huge-fire-hazard/

I do a fair amount of macro photography, and In need a viewfinder without parallax. That leaves me with three choices: view camera, (D)SLR, or EVF. I'm reconciled to EVF, and in fact bought a Canon EOS R because I needed the EVF to enable working with the Venus Laowa 24mm probe lens. (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1430594-REG/venus_optics_laowa_24mm_f_14_probe.html). With a maximum aperture of f/14, the viewfinder image in an OVF would have been way too dim under many shooting circumstances.

Sounds like it's time to claw back the Sony A900 from the kid.

My first digital camera, a Minolta DiMAGE Z1, had an interesting EVF: you could either display it on the back of the camera or through the viewfinder eyepiece, with the flip of a switch. And yes, it had the diopter adjustment built in, and yes, I still have the camera, 17 years later. Worked fine in daylight, was miserable in dim light/room light.

Still in favour of OVF, with a twist: to my surprise I seem to be able to use my iPhone camera perfectly well, and that’s an EVF, of course.

I’ve pretty much always used an OVF, thanks to having owned a succession of Canon (D)SLRs all of which had an OVF. I suppose the best I ever used was on a 5DIV, but the problem was that it was on a 5DIV - once I put suitable lenses on that camera, it wasn’t fun to use. I can’t contemplate a switch at this stage of life to a mirrorless system. Fuji systems are almost within reach, financially, but the Canon R range and its lenses are completely beyond me. And in any case, what actual difference will they make to my photography? I can take poor-quality landscape images perfectly well with what I’ve got, thank you!

The odd thing is, though, that I do seem to be able to take different images with the phone; images that I wouldn’t take with the DSLR. In fact I am seriously wondering if I should just stop thinking about cameras, sell all the ones I’ve got, and just use the phone. I think some of my better images of the last few years have been taken with the phone, which of course does indeed have - an EVF. Sort of.

I have not used an OVF camera for almost 10 years now and I can't say I really miss it anymore.

I can see that there are some advantages to them, esp. when taking pictures of things that are moving quickly. But I don't do that a lot.

The best thing about EVFs is how well they work in the dark, when you can't see well through an optical viewfinder. I did not think this would be as big a deal as I thought, but it really is.

Ah, viewfinders and straps, two key interfaces that indeed are important to me. Let's start with straps. My main camera for three decades was the Leica CL. Some did not like that both strap attachments were on the right side of the camera body, but if you hung your camera from your right side instead of from your neck, it was so easy to reach down and pull the camera up to take a picture, one-handing if you set focus to hyperfocal distance and at f/8 or f/11. If you hang a current digital camera from your right shoulder and pull it up in front of you to view through the LCD screen, that strap attached to the left-side lug runs right in front of the LCD screen. Dumb squared. I use the EVF on my Fuji X-T4 most of the time, but still, this has forced me to hang the camera from my neck, which is not my preference. There are cludges to attach a strap to the right lug and the tripod socket, but I've tried them, and they are awkward.

Now, viewfinders. This is my #1 concern when selecting a camera, followed closely by the quality of the lenses. Anyone who has ever used a Leicaflex SL or SL2 knows how woefully unimpressive most current DSLR optical viewfinders are. Leica went to unbelievable lengths to create that viewfinder view. Their standard was the bright VF view afforded by their M rangefinders, so they did their best to create a bright viewfinder that could be used to snap into focus very quickly. The VF screen of those Leicaflex models was a medium course microprism area in the centre of the screen, with the rest of the screen covered in microprisms that were so tiny that it looked like a standard matte screen. But when you used that area to focus, the image did indeed appear to snap into focus. Amazing. I only used my Leicaflexes for tele lenses, and there were a breeze to focus.

My current Fuji X-T4 is the first EVF that I've been completely happy with. The 3.69 MP resolution means I don't see any jaggies, and the ability to adjust the VF image (hue and brightness) so it matches the tonal curve I've set for shadows and highlights means I can fully trust that WYSIWYG is trustworthy. That, and a visible histogram make for confident picture taking.

I admit that I don't have much experience with DSLRs, but I hung on to shooting film until mirrorless cameras got to their current point of EVF quality and dynamic range control. At this point, I think DSLRs are only useful for specialized tasks, sports for instance. I am 100% in the mirrorless camp these days and can't see changing until hardware is installed in my head that uses my eyeballs for lenses and captures the signal on its way to my brain.

Yes, the electronic viewfinder is (mostly) a closed matter for me. Now that they’ve so dramatically matured I rarely think of them as “electronic” any more. I love ‘em and would never go back to dim, uninformative optical viewfinders again. Blech!

But there are two dangling ironic footnotes to my declaration. First, two of my most valuable cameras still use optical viewfinder systems! My Phase One XF camera still uses a Mamiya 645-style mirrored viewfinder. In fact, you can even use a waist-level (reverse-image) Rolleiflex-style collapsible viewfinder hood with it to save weight/size! Normally, however, it’s used with a prism vf that superimposes information at the bottom of the optical image. Also the current CMOS IQ backs do enable live-view displays although that can be cumbersome. Plus, of course, my Leica M camera still uses a rangefinder vf, although it’s become more common for me to use CMOS live-view with a focus peaking display either on the lcd or with the external Visoflex 020 EVF. My vision just doesn’t do well with ye olde patch-match manual focusing any more!

The second bit of irony is that as I write this I’m preparing to spend a month traveling using Ricoh’s GR III and GR IIIx as two of my main cameras. Neither features any viewfinder! I will, however, be using Voigtländer optical accessory viewfinders with each…talk about primitivism, eh?

But I still stand by my vote for EVFs all the way! EVFs rule while OVFs drool!

My favorite viewfinders, by far, are the 1:1 magnification 50mm, 85mm and 135mm accessory bright line optical viewfinders I use with my Leica Barnack cameras. With both eyes open what I see, in effect, is the bright line rectangle projected on the actual scene I am viewing. I have to remind myself to close the other eye when using the 35mm accessory viewfinder which has less than 1:1 magnification, and I find the experience much less satisfying.

And I agree with you 100% about the plague of "open plan" architecture being foisted on home buyers.

That's a very interesting point about OVFs 'reporting the light' better, I really like that idea, and it wasn't something I had considered before. Until you made that final point, I would have said I was all-in on EVFs now, as they have become functionally superior in every way - they 'report the exposure and focus' much better for example. But it's interesting to think of a way in which an OVF might be artistically superior rather than functionally.

I am fortunate to have two functioning eyes. When using my camera, my left eye shows me the view that I am shooting while my right eye, at the EVF shows me what the image file will look like. The EVF gives me information about exposure compensation, depth of field, focus peaking, image magnification, etc., all of which are vital for the kind of photography I engage in. For me, the EVF has become an essential tool. I use Olympus OMD cameras, and always use the accessory extended VF cup which I find comfortable and excludes extraneous light very well.I don't wear glasses when photographing but use the diopter adjustment.

I begrudgingly use EVFs in my X-Pro2 bodies only when I absolutely have to. That's when I need to be sure of the relationship of near to far subjects or when I'm using an adapted or manual focus lens. My main problem with EVFs is that I can't really see anything through them when I'm outdoors in bright light. No matter how bright the finder is, the sun is brighter. I know I have cataracts and other vision problems but I can't believe others don't have difficulties using EVFs outdoors like I do.

As for OVFs, it's the reason the X-Pro is my main mirrorless camera, backed up by my old X100S that I dearly love. The OVF is why I started using Nikon DSLRs after an absence from the SLR for a few years. Despite all the blather on the internet about its supposed obsolescence, I love looking through the viewfinders of my Nikons. Prisms and mirrors forever!

Hi Mike, The comments to your phone post are closed, so in case you missed it, NY Times on the true cost of upgrading your smartphone: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/20/technology/personaltech/iphone-upgrades-cost.html

Regarding "open plan" houses, I could not agree more. They feel like I'm living in a Walmart.

As for OVF vs. EVF, I'm simply not sold on the whole EVF concept. First off, they suck batteries dry. When set to their lowest refresh setting, they are jumpy and don't track well at all when I'm panning the camera. When set at the higher refresh rate of 120 or higher mhz, they're smoother but can really suck up those batteries. With a DSLR I can get 1200 shots on a fresh battery, chimping and all. I'd be carrying double the batteries or more to get this capacity with the EVF.

Second, I don't want to see the image as it would be seen in jpeg on a computer screen. Yes, the new OLED viewfinders are brighter and have a greater color gamut, but it's still an *interpreted* image with a color gamut that can't match the actual image data. I want to see the scene as it presents itself to my eye, not as it is presented through a processing engine.

Yes, the EVF obviates the need for a dof button and it shows exposure more or less as it will look on the computer screen, but I've shot enough with my camera that I can mentally see that myself. The only situation in which I could see a use for this function is in hard light--especially backlit images that can be very hard to expose. Then, I can usually use the LCD screen.

Supposedly, with mirrorless cameras you get less weight. In practice, the difference is noticeable but not as great as I expected. When I want less weight, I'll move to a four thirds system and sacrifice the shallow depth of field. Or, stop using professional quality lenses (and save a few bucks in the process).

You could put an OVF on the hotshoe of your camera, that matches your favourite prime lens.

I agree that it's all about light. EVF v OVF for taking photos is the same issue as screen v print for viewing them. EVF/screens present backlit images whereas OVF/prints present front-lit images. There is no right or wrong, it's just a question of preference.

Either one is okay,so long as it lets me frame the picture, and gives me the critical parameters I need, (and has a good diopter adjustment.)

Well I’m with you here. Without a good EVF / OVF photography is justba collection of images for me. For that reason I love my XT 4 and why the x100F beats the Ricoh into a cocked hat.

Likewise a house without walls is just a house not a home
With an open plan house …. where do you put the books and paintings and photographs. Then I fear Sarah and I would fill it with heaps of STUFF … and then it’s just a mess with no books!

The book thing is a real concern … I keep taking the odd book here and there to recycling … but then find while I wasn’t looking I ‘ve just bought two .more … despite the fact I have not got enough time left on this good earth to read the books already sitting there !!! Memo to self …no more books

EVF all the way for me. I judge masses much better with it.

Exposure compensation was cranky and fussy until I got an EVF on my Fuji X-T1. To estimate d-o-f or to adjust for sunrise was educated guesswork in the film days. That Fuji has moved from the direct dial control of the X-T1 to the more difficult approach I have to use on the X-H1 is a knock on them. I'll defer to your ability to see the quality of light through the viewfinder - I'm challenged to see it with both eyes. But proper exposure? EVF guides to d-o-f? The weight of the prism and mirror mechanism? Goodbye OVF, I won't miss you.

The Panasonic GX8's viewfinder was fantastic. The GX9 was not even close. Being an old guy (69) I have settled down to 4 camera bodies that I plan to keep until either they fail or I do. A Leica M10, Nikon Df, Fujifilm X-Pro2 and and Olympus Pen F. I'm quite happy with the viewfinders of each, and use each in different ways. Bad viewfinders ruin the photographic experience for me. I like these.

EFV and OFV and light…all Greek to me.
If what you’re talking about applies to the photograph of Butters and the stream of light, this is what I see, and saw immediately.
Butters having his morning fun and the stream of light is your sweet Lulu joining in the fun.
I’m just a normal person but I do have this ability called soul recognition.
And upon seeing this photograph I deeply felt the soul recognition of Lulu.
I’m still feeling it. It brings me tremendous peace. So much so I’m printing the photograph and framing it.
I’d love to know if any of your readers had the same sense that I did.
Lens flare? Maybe. But if don’t think so.
Not everything is as it seems—.

Just for the record, do be aware that ALL of Nikon's prime F-series camera bodies, from the 1959 "F" on through to today's top-of-the-line "D" bodies (as well as their DX format D500 camera) use OVFs with 100% viewfinder coverage. And all models subsequent to the F3 also included integral dioptric compensation with a range extending from -2 to +1 diopter. (Accessory screw-on diopters are available to those who require dioptric correction beyond the cited -2 to +1 range.) These Nikon optical finders were consistently excellent—the best that you buy on a SLR or DSLR.

P.S.: The Integral dioptric correction range was extended from -3 to +1 diopters on the Nikon D3-D4-D5-D6 models.

Michael, you are so right about interior walls. We're doing a remodel, and some well-meaning folks have pointed out that other owners of the same model house as ours have removed the wall between the dining room and the kitchen. No! we value our separate dining room with art on the walls.

I've always seen a viewfinder more as a frame -- that is, the representation of light isn't too important to me. I look at the scene with my eyes, not the camera, then frame the part I want to shoot. (One reason I like zoom lenses -- you can change the frame if necessary, without moving your feet.) It's possible that my bias was partly developed as a journalist who took pictures of moving events, like a political rally where you might not have much freedom of movement.

Genuine question, not trying to diss OVF (in fact, other than a bridge camera I had as a teenager, I've never used an EVF). And possibly a naïve question too. But what's the use of the viewfinder reporting the light faithfully if "painted on" look that we see on the EVF is going to be what the sensor captures?

The worst viewfinder I've ever used has been the one on my iPhone smartphone. When I hold the thing up to shoot, the view of the scene on its LCD is barely 0.15 to 0.25x the size of the real life scene in front of me.

So, to compensate, I also have to look at the scene directly, but my forearms and the darn phone itself block key parts of my view.

Smartphones offer you the most unsatisfactory viewfinder experience of any camera.

After I got myself a brightline finder for my Leica M6, thirty years ago, I've often wondered why camera designers don't simply start with a massive, bright, viewfinder as the core of the camera, with the lens mount, mechanicals, and electronics being designed around that.

In another universe, perhaps. Alas.

My photography is pretty much on the fly. i don’t get a moment to breathe so the combination of EVF and setting the third dial on my lens to exposure compensation means perfect WYSIWYG.

I could never go back to an OVF as I can now thrive in challenging light.

"they don't report the light very well. It can be like the view is painted on, and the subtlety of the real light is crushed."

Yeah, but: In any light conditions less than ideal, they can report the sensor's actual response to the light, so you have an idea of the resulting image, and can compensate as needed. You get MORE visual feedback. (And, focus magnification is a huge benefit.)

You use the steering analogy. Non-power steering is great IF your car is very light weight, but modern hippo-cars would require immense effort to drive without power steering. So, power steering gives you MORE steering feedback.

Based on almost a decade of EVF use I can honestly say it's largely irrelevant.

The main time it matters is urban night photography where it's much easier to visualise using an OVF and as it's normally tripod work the big TV on the back, or even an iPad, comes into play.

Where EVF comes into it's own is flippy ones, for street work and awkward, Once you use an EVF that's not just stuck boringly parallel to the back of a camera you don't want to go back. keeping the EVF fixed is one of the missed opportunities of the digital era.

PS, while I'm on camera design, now there's no film chamber in there we should get cameras with (at least) a second tripod socket to allow portrait format mounting. It would also be a handy accessory anchor point for straps and the like.


Not sure I agree that viewing screens are the same as viewfinders...to me, a viewfinder is a thing with an eyepiece that you put your eye up to and peer through. The iPad therefore can't be a viewfinder, although it can be put into service as a viewing screen. Just a matter of definitions.... --Mike]

I have found electronic viewfinders to be no better at representing the final image than any other type…In every case what comes out of the printer is substantially different. The art of photography is in that translation.

The viewfinder is the big thing.
The Leica M finder is clear and neutral to the subject. It's been around for over 60 years. Same finder for digital or analog. Still the best in my view.
If the subject/composition/light isn't right there in the finder, it won't be on the picture.
One of the very rare finders where you can see around the frame, a nice thing when you are actually framing.

OVFs are still so much better for seeing the scene, even when compared with the excellent Sony A7r IV that I use. For me my Leica M's give a better, more intuitive, more realistic view - even though they also have many of their own drawbacks. One of the worst being no built in diopter control.

In the UK, where I lived, most houses seem to be sold with interior walls. For me, they are mostly in the wrong place. I reserve judgement, however, on whether leaving them out is better. Bookcases, on the other hand, don't really need interior walls, just use them as dividers themselves.

OM-1, OMG!

Have you ever used any variant of the X100? Or, I suppose, any of the X-Pro line (with a 23 or 35)? The OVFs are wonderful for "seeing the light" as you put it...from what you wrote, it seems like you might like them. For myself, I am using the EVF mode more over time, as seeing the exposure level of the picture as I'm framing it means fewer poorly exposed pictures. It's a bit of a crutch, but when constantly going back and forth between the phone and cameras I sometimes get out of the habit of _always_ noting the exposure indicator in OVF mode. Of course, the more I use EVF, the worse this gets, as I train my brain to think "if it looks good through the viewfinder, it's good."

The slight lag before the EVF activates when I press the shutter button niggles me slightly after decades of OVFs. ( Add on finder on Canon M6 Mk2 ). But I'm getting used to it.

I don't obsess about viewfinders but I'm not a 'real photographer'. If I'm drawing I spend quite a lot of time squinting with one eye closed in order to avoid getting bogged down in details, so I don't care if my camera viewfinder image is super big or bright or clear.

When I'm drawing or photographing I often don't bother wearing glasses & my eyesight isn't great.

That picture of Butters, with the sunlight pouring down, looks other-worldly!
Beam me up Scotty!
My take on view finders is there’s no match for a. EVF. I have the first OMD, at at the time folks were raving about the finder, and with good reason. Now, I’m sure they are infinitely better. I can’t say I’m very knowledgeable regarding the OVF. My son has a five year old Canon, and I’ve peered through it’s finder, and I was not impressed. I think the only optical finder I liked was on my old OM-1.
I have poor vision, even with glasses, and I find my 8 year old camera, the E-M5 still works fine for me.

I've been using EVFs for about 10 years and have no desire to go back to OVFs, for two main reasons:

  1. Built-in levels — if left to my own judgement the horizon is almost always tilted, sometimes to a comic degree.
  2. Focus peaking and digital zoom allow me to use old manual focus lens on my MFT camera. I've had a lot of fun with this over the last couple of years.

It's an optical viewfinder for me. I have a couple of older Pentax bodies and several lenses and I'm very happy to see that they intend to carry on producing DSLRs.

I use a Sony A6000 as a daily carry, but I only use the viewfinder when I really have to, as it doesn't look right to me; the brighter highlights are all the same shade of light grey. I know it's an older model, but I have no idea how the finder compares with the latest ones.

I can usually visualise what either Pentax will give me, but if not, I'll just flick the digital preview switch and know instantly.

I find using an EVF has its advantages like being able to see a square format; use during studio shoots, and in low light situations. But, I continue to use detachable OVFs for pre-visualization when shooting medium and large format cameras out in the landscape and wrote about it here.

It seems inevitable that camera designers will eventually figure out how to make a viewfinder that appears to be simply a rectangle drawn around the real world, with no digital artifacts. Oh... wait..


I forgot to mention one other advantage of an EVF. I occasionally shoot with a pinhole. On my GX8, I can see what I’m getting on the EVF. That lets me accurately compose my pinhole photos. Also, with the high ISOs now available I’m often able to hand hold my camera for pinhole photos. The high ISO noise isn’t really much of an issue given the quality of pinhole photos.

EVF on a Leica SL2 will cure anyone of their presumption that OVFs are in anyway superior. Great glass eyepiece optics and nearly 6 million dots of resolution. But didn't we write an article about EVFs for you some eight or ten years ago???

Oh, yes. Here it is: https://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2012/05/kirks-take-electronic-viewfinders.html

And nothing has changed in the past nine years except that EVFs on the best cameras have gotten better and better.

This is the rare camera design issue where I just don't care that much one way or the other. I realize that makes me a philistine. I really just like making pictures and I don't dislike any aspect of the process. I have view cameras, medium format cameras, rangefinders, SLRs, point and shoots, non-coupled VF cameras like the Minox, RF-only cameras like the Cosina RF's, DSLRs, EVFs, hybrid EFV's -- really a menagerie of types and styles. Bring it all on. I've got images I love from all types of systems. I know: boring.

[No, I'm actually kind of the same way. I can appreciate nice finders, but I've used all sorts of things, to clip-on shoe finders to the Albada finder on a Pentax 645, even a prism finder on an old folder a few times. And the wacky old Barnack Leicas. It's all interesting. --Mike]

Let's face it, "aerial" viewfinders on auto-focus cameras are unusable for manual focus. Super lightly ground screens adopted because of the slow f/stop amateur zooms, cannot be accurately focused manually and I find even a 70's era Nikkormat with a 28mm lens on it far easier to focus than any of the last era film auto-focus cameras. Can't speak for all digital, but my Nikon D300 couldn't be accurately manual focused at all. You don't think all those pros were sending their cameras in for Katz-Eye screens because they thought their screens were focusable, do you?

EVF's are certainly a deal with with devil, but here's why I like them.

1. Because of this "system" you can actually have auto-focus that "reads" the faces in the shot. Where ever they are, no set focus points. A green box appears over all of them when this focus setting is used, and as a guy that rarely shoots more than one person in the photo, it focusses dead-on for what I'm looking for.

2. If you have a high-rez screen, the manually set focus certainly pops in and out far easier than the aerial image on a conventional mirror/screen camera.

3. Dark environment? No problem!

4. Shooting various aspect ratios? No problem! I love setting my M4/3rd's camera for square and walk around shooting like I'm using a Rollei.

[Well, yeah, but we've come a long way from trying to focus on super-bright screens like the old Acute-Matte (if I'm remembering the name right). There's focus-peaking, and many cameras can automatically enlarge the center point while you're turning the focus ring and then snap back to the full image when you stop, which for me makes it very easy to focus manually. And frankly, Sony's eye-focus is better at focusing than I am. It can even detect an eye through foliage and get right on it, which is more than I could do with any camera. --Mike]

I guess that like most people I don't love the look of an EVF, both a good SLR or a Leica M give a prettier view.

After starting with SLRs I fell in love with M Leicas and used them for years.

But my first EVF was a revelation. Suddenly I could punch in magnification and check focus and detail. It was like using a view camera and then checking focus and details with a loupe. Perfect for a lot of the work I do, since a #10 Cirkut camera is what I was working with most of the time.

The big failing of mirrorless cameras for me, is that they don't allow you to manually focus with the lens aperture wide open. Nikon could have done that with their ZTF adapter, but they chose to cheap out. And no focus-by-wire lens focuses manually as well as the manual lenses we got used to.

So to use those wonderful AIS Nikkors a DSLR is the ticket and for Leica, an M camera.

I thought focus peaking might be the answer but after years of trying I found it less accurate than either an SLR or range-finder.

So for slow work I use manual lenses and for quick work the AF ones. All on mirrorless cameras even though I like the finder on the DSLR.

Mike I think Accu-Matte is actually a Hasselblad trade name for a bright screen that used another type of Fresnel to improve the edge to edge brightness of the standard types of ground glass, I don't think it has anything to do with the screens that they were using in the auto-focus 35mm screens of yore. Accu-Matte screens easily popped in and out of focus, unlike my old film EOS screens did (or my Nikon D300). Those camera screens were just way more lightly ground to let as much light through for you to compose the image with f/5.6 slow zooms, assuming that you would be using autofocus or focus peaking to set the actual focus.

Someone with more tech on this than me, is going to have to chime in, but of course, "eye-track" viewfinders are going to be easier to use when set correctly for your eye. Same for EVF face recognition programs. I've always considered the ability to blow-up a center area on the screen to look at it to be far more monkeying around than just having a Katz eye screen or a screen for a Nikon F2. Who's got that time?

I like EVFs. The early ones sucked, low resolution and lots of lag, but with a good one, I prefer it to optical. My next camera may be chosen based on how good the EVF is. I have a Panasonic G9 and I love its EVF. I also have a Sony A7rII. I like almost everything about the Sony and don't really see the need to update it except for one thing--I have real difficulty manually focusing it and have some manual focus lenses I really like using on it.

That said, I've started playing with my old film cameras which I hadn't used since 2007. When I stopped using them, I could easily focus any of them with the standard diopters that came with the cameras. Today at 61 with progressive eyeglasses, I can't see to focus any of them unless I wear my computer glasses. Rangefinders seem ok unless they have faded too much or weren't very good to begin with. Waist level finders are ok with the magnifier. At this point, screw in diopters are very difficult if not impossible to find.

So, I've been researching manual focus film SLR's with build in diopter adjustments. There weren't very many of them. From what I've found, I think the Pentax LX was actually the first SLR with a build in diopter. It came out 3 years before the OM4. Leica starting with the R5 has it. Minolta made the XD-S which I think was only sold in Japan. Some of the late Contax cameras had adjustable diopters as well. If anyone knows about other manual focus film SLRs with adjustable diopters, I'd love to hear about them.

Surprisingly, I read that the Leica III had one on the rangefinder window in 1933!

Sorry to disagree with you Mike, but I moved from a "regular" house to a mostly open design new home, designed by my wife and myself, 10 years ago. I'd never go back. We have a nice wide well lit hallway which functions as a gallery for my photos. I love it, guests love it. In the old house we had a formal dining room which we almost never used, and a formal living room which was almost never used even though it contained my beautiful Martin-Logan CLS's. In the new home, we use all the space. People always congregated in the kitchen while I cook, and in the "family room" when we entertained. All the useless rooms were nevertheless heated and cooled regardless. Now, if I want to watch TV and my wife does not,I put on headphones and everyone is happy. The genius maneuver, thought up by our finish carpenter who was a pro photographer in a former life, was picture molding. I have no holes in my walls and I can very easily switch out photos any time I'd like quite quickly.

On the subject of viewfinders, I'd NEVER go back to an OVF. The EVF's of today with their ability to magnify for critical focus, and frame accurately as well as see in dim light (think ND filters) are a miracle. I just did some head shots for a volunteer organization and the eye focus on my Sony was just superb, I got "count the eyelashes focus." I was able to get rid of the focus thingy I used to adjust my lenses on my D800E so they'd neither back or front focus. It was a nightmare with a zoom lens. I agree that the color seen in the finder is of secondary importance. Files, actually PRINTS are what really count anyway.

[Regarding your first comment, no, you're quite welcome to disagree. I know people feel differently and everyone should have their own feelings. It's all good; I disagree with good friends all the time. --Mike]

The way the VF depicts light is an awesome concept that I had not verbalized in the past. EVF's are internally illuminated, so that the appearance of the light is an output rather than an input. I think that as much as anything captures what I prefer about OVF's.

But that's not the only thing. I find that even the improved EVF's of today smear detail and lag the action, such that they require additional technological goodies (like focus peaking) to make them usable.

I have live view on my best DSLRs and I do use the feature from time to time, especially with camera positions that defy connecting my eye to the finder, or when using really slow manual-focus lenses that are difficult to focus optically.

But I think I'd take a good EVF over a bad OVF. The bad optical finders are too small, too narrow, and provide too little eye relief. That's something medium-format SLRs (those with prisms at least) did well--even the old dark ones that only show 85% of the frame. They still open my eye into a room, rather than presenting a mere projection or TV show of what's in that room.

My 1963 FED-2 has diopter adjust, hard to believe no other cameras of the era had them. The adjust on the FED-2 is a necessity since the viewfinder is nearly unusable for framing with glasses.

Holding a camera to your face to compose your picture was a necessity in days of yore. Now, after more than a decade of using phones and other cameras without a VF, it is mostly just something I do if the sun makes the back panel unusable. This probably even more true of younger photographers.

I have never used a really good EVF, so I can't comment on that. But I do see the new Canon R3 includes something called OVF simulation.

Since the advent of digital, I have always used the "baseball fence" analogy to eyelevel viewfinders. On the one hand, you're walking down the sidewalk outside the ballpark, and you put your eye to the knothole and see THE GAME. On the other hand, you put your eye up to that knothole and someone is holding up a small TV for you to see a semblance of the game.(Broadcast from....where?)

I currently own and EOS M2 with the 22mm lens and a nice little Voigtlander OVF in the hotshoe. I also have an M5 with the portable TV on the other side of the knothole. Guess which I prefer.


Concerning correction lenses for viewfinders, I've just spotted an advert in a 1975 magazine for a camera with built in dioptre adjustment. It's a Russian Zorki 4K; a rangefinder camera.

“Some people have nice living rooms that no one is allowed in so as to keep them nice, and dining rooms that are used once or twice a week at most.”

Once or twice a week? Our dining room was used (in the before times) two or three times a year. Our living room was used less frequently than that. Not because we considered them too precious, but because we were more comfortable in the less formal breakfast area and family room. So the new house we’re building will have neither.

We are having to do some severe editing of our art to accommodate fewer walls, however.

My suspicion is that camera manufacturers are pushing EVF cameras to sell more new lenses (and cameras and accessories). I recently purchased a Canon 5D Mk IV because I like OVFs and wanted to replace my 6D before I couldn't find a 5DIV. After searching a while on the web, I just found an EF 24-70 2.8 II lens. Canon seems to be concentrating on the new R series cameras and lenses.

Maybe in a few years, they'll go back to OVF cameras and update some of their EF lenses.

I've had a Lumix GX8 since April and you're right, the EVF is very nice!

Roger Bradbury, HA, I've GOT that camera, and you can bet the first time I picked it up, I said: "...why wasn't this adjustment on all the cameras that early?"

It is the evf that allowed me to fall in love with digital. Seeing the monochrome conversion to compose with is a god send.

I love the one in my Panasonic S1r. After using it I struggle to return to my other cameras. So I don’t use the Panasonic very often at all.

Why not sacrifice the rear lcd for the viewfinder? Why not put large Evf’s on small cameras.

I'm a big fan of optical viewfinders. Of course they are not perfect for everything (think of extreme focal lengths), but Fuji's hybrid viewfinder on their X-Pro series cameras solved that problem.
They really got the system right on the X-Pro1 and X-Pro2, where the OVF had a switchable magnification. On the X-Pro3 they dropped that feature (I assume to save a few cents per camera), making the OVF unusable for the 18mm lenses (my most-used focal length on APS-C) and only barely usable for the 23mm lenses.

I can’t say I despise EVFs - I’ve only had two “real” cameras that had them, both of the Fuji. That said, I really don’t like them. Growing up with the original OM-1 and then having other OM models spoiled me.

And I agree with you 100%, Mike - it’s about the light. Of course you can compose and frame with less bright viewfinders and make good photos. But photography is as much about emotion, passion, feeling as it is formal elements.

Now you have me considering upgrading the focusing screen in my Rolleiflex to a Beattie or Maxwell, etc.

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