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Old Dec 16, 2009, 11:47 AM   #1
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Default Why is looking through a viewfinder a big deal?

I'm just wondering. As a novice, I have always found looking at the screen sufficient, since I will likely be cropping a bit here and there. Ever since cameras have had screens, I can't ever recall using a viewfinder.

I ask because 4/3 cameras like the GF1 seem so much more attractive than a full out DSLR.


Why does it matter to see what the camera lens sees?
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Old Dec 16, 2009, 12:54 PM   #2
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Hey PNut;

For me, a DSLR shooter, my hands are much more steady when looking through the view finder, than when holding the camera away from me so I can look at the screen.

Camera movement, camera shake, camera vibration are three easy ways to turn a great shot into trash because it makes shots blurry.

To show you how much I hate camera movement, my most favorite method of shooting is with a tripod, using a remote shutter release, turning image stabilization off, and using mirror lock and shooting at the fastest shutter speed possible if there is a possibility of my subject moving.

If I'm handholding my camera. I like to shoot in portrait orientation (as opposed to landscape orientation) because in portrait orientation, I can rest my wrist on the top of my head and my hands are more steady than if I hold the camera normally.

I've had it with throwing potentially great shots in the trash can because they are blurry due to movement. Hate it hate it hate it.

I think this rule is correct, the sharper your equipment is, the more it exposes any movement of the lens.

But, hey, I'm not the best person to listen to on this. Hopefully more experienced photographers will chime in for you.

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FP

Last edited by FaithfulPastor; Dec 16, 2009 at 1:06 PM.
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Old Dec 16, 2009, 12:58 PM   #3
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FP makes some valid points. Aside from those points however, ever try to use that LCD in bright sunlight? Yeah... it can be done. Kind of. Sort of. Maybe. Let's face it, in bright sunlight, it's worthless.
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Old Dec 16, 2009, 2:10 PM   #4
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  1. When you have the camera to your eye, it's being braced by not just your two hands but by your forehead as well (or cheek, or nose, or whatever.) So it's easier to keep the camera steady.
  2. When you're using a long lens, holding it close to you is easier than holding it out at an arm's length.
Those are two advantages to an eyepiece viewfinder (optical or electronic) that you don't get with 'Live View'.
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Old Dec 16, 2009, 2:20 PM   #5
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My two pet peeves with LCD screens have already been said - camera shake (and the heavier the lens the more camera shake there will be when you try to hold it at arm's length, try holding a 3 lb. weight out at arm's length, rock-steady, for 3 minutes) and not being able to clearly see the LCD in bright sunlight. In addition, I can see where the focus point is in the viewfinder, where I can't on an LCD, unless I enlarge the picture - that means scrolling into the picture before taking it. This isn't as important with a p&s where the small sensor/focal lengths mean that the depth of field is deep, but extremely important if you are shooting with a fast or macro lens and have barely an inch or two depth of field.

It's MUCH easier to square up a scene with a viewfinder - I find having the camera close to my body makes me start with a straighter view. And for some reason, I always had trouble trying to figure out which direction to tilt the camera to correct a lean, don't ask me why.

I have a dSLR that has live view, and I find it useful when I'm shooting indoors with a tripod.
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Old Dec 17, 2009, 9:52 AM   #6
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"Point & shoot" is exactly what you do with that type of camera, with a DSLR, you "compose & shoot" To each his own.
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Old Dec 17, 2009, 1:59 PM   #7
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I don't buy the "steadyness" argument. With appropriate technique it is possible to keep a camera very steady when composing using the LCD. Holding it at arm's length is not necessary. There are many possible techniques for keeping the camera steady, though for medium-telephoto use it might be easier to hand-hold an SLR. Of course for long telephotos you should be using a tripod anyway, at which point the LCD is often much easier to use.

Also if you brace your SLR against your forehead or cheek I would suggest that you're holding it wrong, and it sure sounds uncomfortable.

Let's not forget before we get all snippy about composing on a screen that it's precisely what large format photographers do, or users of TLR medium format cameras. The Single Lens Reflex is not the pinnacle of camera technology, it's just one way of doing it.

And the notion that you cannot properly compose a picture on an LCD screen is insulting and ludicrous and blatantly untrue.

One advantage that an SLR does have is that the viewfinder is optical - which means that the light travels to your eye from the subject at the speed of light. With an LCD screen there is a very slight lag; on the GF1 for example the screen refreshes at 60Hz. (i.e. 60 cycles per second) many other "lessor" LCDs refresh far more slowly. This can be a problem for action photography in particular.
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Old Dec 17, 2009, 2:24 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peripatetic View Post
I don't buy the "steadyness" argument. With appropriate technique it is possible to keep a camera very steady when composing using the LCD. Holding it at arm's length is not necessary. There are many possible techniques for keeping the camera steady, though for medium-telephoto use it might be easier to hand-hold an SLR. Of course for long telephotos you should be using a tripod anyway, at which point the LCD is often much easier to use.
Panning with a tripod is a pain, whether you're composing with the OVF or the LCD. And lugging a tripod everywhere you need to use a telephoto is a pain as well. 'Live View' isn't appropriate for many things, and it's less appropriate that an OFV for many others.
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Old Dec 21, 2009, 7:38 PM   #9
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The resolution of the viewfinder is much greater than the resolution of the LCD. I don't like looking at the pixels in the LCD when composing a shot.
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Old Dec 22, 2009, 7:09 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pnut View Post
I'm just wondering. As a novice, I have always found looking at the screen sufficient, since I will likely be cropping a bit here and there. Ever since cameras have had screens, I can't ever recall using a viewfinder. ...
Have you have ever used a camera with through the lens viewfinder? Chemical or digital camera? Spending a bit of time doing that would explain much better than any amount of words can do.
Quote:
Originally Posted by pnut View Post
...
Why does it matter to see what the camera lens sees?
Simply because that is what the film/sensor sees.

Someday electronic viewfinders are likely to improve to the point where there is no advantage to the current clumsy flopping mirror, but not yet. Getting closer every day though.
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