The rise of the electronic viewfinder has been an interesting one. It’s not so long ago that you would find camera reviewers and photographers talking scornfully about the electronic viewfinder. It was felt that a normal viewfinder or optical viewfinder offered so many advantages that the electronic viewfinder would be a short lived thing.
Now it’s important to recognize that both viewfinders have advantages and disadvantages. However, the idea that the electronic viewfinder would be a short live thing has really proven to be inaccurate. Even early electronic viewfinders, while they were somewhat synthetic in the way that they portrayed the image, still gave the photographer many more clues about how the final image would appear then does an optical viewfinder.
The electronic viewfinder really made its appearance initially on video cameras and they were very small screens that displayed what the camera was recording. That it has been pioneered into digital photography with still cameras which also have video capability has really helped to push photography along in a very good way.
Cameras can be smaller because they no longer need a mirror working with the Pentaprism to allow you to see what the lens sees. Obviously you want to see what the camera sees. But there are advantages with an electronic viewfinder that significantly benefit the photographer. The electronic viewfinder simulates what you will be recording to the camera’s memory card. If you are over exposing or under exposing you will immediately see that in the viewfinder. Sometimes there are benefits in under exposing the shot such as when shooting a sunset so as to deepen the colours and again this can be achieved in camera. The more photography as a subject can be made simple then the better it is for all of us.
Having an electronic viewfinder is a really good thing for wedding photographers and event photographers. Sometimes you don’t always realize in the speed of the moment that you have made a mistake with some of your settings. You may be over exposing the image significantly to a degree that you cannot save the shot because you missed the setting on your camera. With the electronic viewfinder you will see immediately that the image is wrong and it immediately warns you to make the change. There are many photographers who have experienced this when taking wedding photographs and have had to work extremely hard to try to save the photographs that have been overexposed especially. Sometimes photographers of fallen back on providing some images in black and white for the simple reason that is the only way they can be used after doing everything they can to try to save the image.
The electronic viewfinder can be set up to provide you with lots of information that is really helpful. In fact once you’ve worked with the electronic viewfinder for any length of time you will find it somewhat difficult to go back to the optical viewfinder. As a photographer who shoots with both types of viewfinder I have to say that I do have a preference for the electronic type. However at night there can be situations where the optical viewfinder provides better clues to the final image. So it’s not necessarily a foregone conclusion that you should go optical or digital. But it’s clearly the case that this is the direction that photography is going in so don’t expect to see optical viewfinders making much of a resurgence unless there is some significant development that changes people’s thinking.
At elite levels some of the finest cameras currently available rely on optical viewfinders. This is especially the case in the professional field. In fact if you watched the news recently you will have noticed that the two dominant sports photography camera manufacturers, being Nikon and Canon, have both released top-of-the-line sports cameras with optical viewfinders. So it’s not as cut and dried that as some might suggest. The optical world has not been left behind at this stage.
Electronic viewfinders do of course use a lot more power because you have to power the viewfinder in addition to the other functions of the camera. Thankfully manufacturers that have pioneered the electronic viewfinder such as Sony have found a way to get better batteries into their cameras so that you can take full advantage of the electronic viewfinder without having to continually change batteries. It wasn’t so many years ago that professional photographers would carry a pocket full of batteries with some cameras just so that they could shoot a wedding.
People have voted very much with their spending power as far as cameras are concerned and they want smaller cameras. Many people are quite content to use the camera on their mobile phone because they do not want to carry around a heavy camera such as that which many companies offer. So for companies to develop electronic viewfinder equipped cameras with lots of additional functions such as exceptional still photography and exceptional video photography in a package that is relatively compact along with batteries that last all day is obviously the way to go.