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Should we all be looking beyond the viewfinder?

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Posted 17-08-12 at 03:29 PM by Ian
Updated 07-10-12 at 11:01 AM by Ian

Bigger camera screens with touch facilities can help improve your photography

Touching your camera's screen might be more effective than pressing its shutter button

Camera designers have struggled for decades to provide photographers with the best facilities for framing, focusing and capturing images. We've had eye-control focusing viewfinders, artificial intelligence focus tracking, all sorts and shapes of focus point grids, interchangeable focusing screens, and so on.

The viewfinder was invented originally to provide the photographer with a a view of what the camera was seeing. Before that the only way of accurately framing a shot was to remove the film and replace it with a ground glass plate so you could see the projected image, upside down.

Today, however, the viewfinder is in steep decline. Far more cameras that have no eyepiece viewfinder are made now than those that do have a viewfinder. In fact even the physical shutter button is under threat thanks to the so-called touch-shutter; whereby you press the camera's touch-sensitive screen where in the displayed scene you wish focus to be found and the shutter released all in one action.

It's no longer unrealistic to simply look at the screen on your camera, smartphone or tablet and to select your focus target and moment to capture the image by prodding the screen. It may seem a little ridiculous at first, but it can be a more convenient and effective alternative to peering through a viewfinder and pressing a conventional shutter release in certain situations. Some cameras are now available that let you combine the use of a viewfinder and a touch screen, so you look through the finder and use your finger on the screen to manipulate the focus point at the same time.

'Serious' cameras will probably always have an eye-level viewfinder because holding a camera up to your face is a natural and effective action. People with long sight who don't have their reading glasses on will always find a viewfinder better to use than squinting at a relatively small screen - I'm in that camp, myself! But there is no doubt that photography will involve a lot more pointing and shooting in the now and in the future. And to think that not that long ago we were fiercely debating whether or not 'serious' cameras needed live view capability, or indeed if serious photographers would use their camera screens in that way.
Total Comments 2


  1. Old Comment
    Graham_of_Rainham's Avatar
    I'm often facinated by the way people use things in different ways and the versatility of the latest camera controls really lends itself to this.

    To a degree the design addresses diversity in various peoples ability to operate the device and as we have seen in many smart phones, voice control may soon feature as technologies merge.

    Personally I've really only ever use the viewfinder for composition of the image and even then I most often shoot with both eyes open. With EVFs I have all the "info" turned off for the actual shooting and with static shots, especially portraits, I'll most likely be looking over the camera talking to the person, and using a remote trigger.

    Also being long sighted, the flip-up screen has been an absolute delight for me, ever since the Olympus C8080 incorporated it, I can use my reading glasses to view the image at a lower level and look over the top to view the subject. This is also a distinct advantage, in that at 6'3" I rarely look at people at eye-to-eye level and having the camera at their level produces a better perspective, in the same way as you should with small children and animals...

    I also tether my cameras to either the laptop or a small LCD TV for some of my work and have often thought that a pair of "VuZiX" type glasses may work as a viewfinder. The ultimate would be for the live-view to be wireless linked to a pair of "Head-Up-Display" glasses, as we see in the spy films... While it would be great for candid shots, I dare say that it would be viewed with suspicion by many.

    Considering the number of "Off Camera" viewfinders were seen in use at the Olympics (not just the big Video Cams) there is clearly many new ways being explored and developed to observe the subject to the point where we make the exposure. However with all the smile, blink, pre-exposure, etc., how much of what we end up with is truly our own doing ?
    Posted 17-08-12 at 04:17 PM by Graham_of_Rainham Graham_of_Rainham is offline
  2. Old Comment
    I think the writing is on the wall for optical viewfinders and DSLRs, but they may continue in far smaller quantities in true professional cameras. The next few years will be particularly interesting, I think.
    Posted 17-08-12 at 04:55 PM by John Perriment John Perriment is offline

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