Beginner’s Tip: The Viewfinder

A beginner’s tip: the viewfinder, and why to use it.

DSLR camera, and some point and shoots, have a viewfinder. And it is a good idea to use that, and not the display ion the back. Here’s why.

  • Any viewfinder can be seen even when it is very bright outside.
  • No battery power is used while you look through a traditional SLR’s (i.e., glass) viewfinder.
  • You see the scene you are shooting in all its detail and richness, not an already interpreted digital version of the scene.
  • Your eye, and the lens, still has higher resolution than the digital displays in “mirrorless” cameras (but not for much longer).
  • The viewfinder helps steady the camera (push the camera up to your face, yes, all the way, hence the rubber bumper)
  • And importantly – perhaps most important of all: the focus points on your DLSR are dedicated phase detection chips. When you flip up the mirror and use the rear screen, these are disabled, and the focus is derived from the picture itself: a slow, less accurate process.

So, for now at least, avoid the temptation to use the rear LCD unless it is necessary. Final benefit: you will look like a pro. Amateurs use the read display; pros use the viewfinder expect when necessary (i,e. when shooting over people’s heads, or when shooting some macro photos).


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2 thoughts on “Beginner’s Tip: The Viewfinder

  1. All valid points, Michael, as we’ve come to expect from you…. but as you say, things are changing.
    Sony’s top end DSLRs are now fitting a 2.4 million pixel electronic viewfinder; that mostly takes care of the resolution issue. (I’m no fan of Sony gear, but that EVF is the best of its kind that I’ve seen.)
    And some of this year’s sensor chips have the phase detect AF system on the same wafer as the image sensor…. which, I hope, means that we will finally have a good still camera that can autofocus worth a damn while shooting video.

    On a related note, any thoughts on viewfinder magnifiers (not big loupes, just those little 1.2x or 1.4x things that replace the rubber eyecup)?

    • Indeed, and other than the “uses battery power” and “dust sticks forever” objections, it is likely the rest will indeed be a thing of the past soon enough. The DSLR is still with us, but not forever.

      Yeah, you know, I quite like those magnifiers, but I still prefer to use a camera that has a big enough viewfinder in the first place; which is why I use the full frame camera almost all the time.

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