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Yes! Canon renews commitment to viewfinder cameras

Good news for anyone looking for an affordable compact camera with a viewfinder – Canon has revealed a new addition to its line, the PowerShot A1300. Is this evidence of a renewed enthusiasm for viewfinders?

A few years ago, Canon was the last game in town if you were after a small, cheap digital camera with a viewfinder.

Every other manufacturer had largely given up on producing such models. Before long, Canon followed suit, with 2009’s Canon Ixus 100 IS looking like the last of a dying breed.

Canon tests the waters

Then last year, Canon returned to its old ways by releasing the Canon PowerShot A1200, the first cheap compact model with a viewfinder in years. Camera enthusiasts who wanted a simple, affordable model that they could hold to their eye in bright conditions finally had an option.

We were excited as we’d been pushing for a return of viewfinders here on Which? Conversation. The bad news was that Canon at the time refused to commit to producing future cameras with viewfinders. The A1200 was effectively a way of testing the waters – initially, it was only available from Jessops before spreading to other retailers.

It seems that sales of the A1200, which has dropped in price to under £60, have been strong enough to persuade Canon that a market still exists for simple digital cameras with viewfinders.

Enthusiasm for viewfinder cameras

We’ve had hundreds of comments on Which? Convo telling us that there’s a real hunger for cameras with built-in viewfinders, and we’ve been passing these comments on to all the major manufacturers.

I’ve spoken to representatives from Canon numerous times on this issue myself, reminding them that plenty of potential customers have been tracking down old cameras online rather than buying the latest models which don’t have viewfinders.

With the release of the new Canon PowerShot A1300, it seems Canon has listened to its customers and renewed its commitment to producing cheap compacts with viewfinders.

The A1300 offers a 16Mp image sensor, 5x optical zoom (up from the A1200’s 4x zoom) and 720p HD video recording. It will launch in April priced at £109, and we’d expect this price to drop further as well.

We want more viewfinders

Make no mistake, from our independent lab testing of last year’s A1200 we didn’t think the camera was perfect, and the viewfinder itself was on the uncomfortably small side. But it’s still great to see a major manufacturer offering low-cost models with a feature that’s in demand but hard to find.

Most of the viewfinder cameras released in 2011 were ludicrously expensive, so a cheap option will always be a welcome prospect. Well done Canon, but why stop there? I’d now like to see other major manufacturers upping their game and offering cheap viewfinder cameras!


Thanks for this, Rich. I have lost my compact camera so at the moment I am using a ten year old 2MP Olympus digital camera – so old that it has a viewfinder. 🙂

I don’t make much use of a camera in bright, sunny conditions so the lack of a viewfinder on my missing camera has never proved a big problem. I would however like the choice, so I appreciate your efforts to push the manufacturers for action.

Jon says:
19 May 2012

Good idea thats what I will probably have to do, as Cameras out today really are rubbish!

Sophie Gilbert says:
9 February 2012

I’m too interested in photography (not that I’m great) to dream about buying a camera without a viewfinder.

David says:
10 February 2012

A few years ago screens were not that good and a viewfinder was really helpful. Nowadays the screens are so much better I don’t think a viewfinder is useful at all.

MAC says:
16 July 2012

Obviously you have very little experience with cameras.

I consider a viewfinder essential for just about all sorts of non static photography. Sure, an LCD is fine for something that is sitting still but as soon as it moves, the viewfinder is far superior.

And, in bright light; LCDs are next to useless. In dark settings, you usually can’t even make out the subject on low cost cameras. Why do you think all high end cameras (professional) carry a viewfinder? Because a pro knows they can’t live without it.

By the way, I worked as a pro for over 10 years before getting into computers. I know.

People don’t understand why their photos are out of focus. I see so many taking photos at arms length. In low light the out of focus is normally camera shake. At arms length it’s so difficult to keep the camera still.
Holding the camera against your eye holds the camera steadier, so better quality shots. Years ago with film cameras you only found out when you got your prints back from the developer that the shot you wanted is off centre. Now digital really comes into its own. Take the shoot through the view finder, check the screen, not happy, readjust the shot in the view finder as required, take another shot. Keep the one you like delete the rest. After a while you’ll get to know where to put your subject in the view finder and not suffer from camera shake.
The viewing screen should for viewing the taken image and the view finder for taking shots. Ah with one exception. Macro shots. I’d always use the viewing screen for macro shots.

I support this campaign, I much prefer the old style viewfinder, I have a Canon SX1IS which performed brilliantly on safari last year, and I pretty well never use the screen on the back.

A friend wants to buy a little camera with a decent viewfinder for an old lady who has shaky hands and who finds pressing the camera to her face helps her more shan a stabiliser – not much about.

RichardS says:
11 February 2012

Most outdoor photography is taken with the sun behind the camera rather than into the sun, most of the cameras I seen have reflection from the sun affecting the ability to compose the picture, view finders are therefore invaluable especially when the sun is low in the sky, I also agree that using a view finder give a far more stable stance for shake free photography.

My first camera, bought in Germany on National Service in 1954, a £20 Zeiss Ikon, had an accessory viewfinder as well as the standard squinty hole. It was a one inch cube which clicked into the hot shoe. One eye looked into it, the other eye saw the whole scene, with apparently a frame etched on it. It was great to see exactly what you were missing, as well as taking, and to have both eyes open. Please bring them back.

In bright sunlight, I found it impossible to see anything on the screen.
Perhaps it is the model of movie camera I use, but for many situations it is essential/preferable to have a view finder.
Please bring back viewfinders.
I was astounded to find that they were no longer available on the current low-cost models.
So, l’ve held back replacing it.

I just can’t take decent photos without a viewfinder, as I can’t focus on the LCD screen. Really frustrating.

Rod Jones says:
26 February 2012

Every digital compact camera needs an optical viewfinder. At the moment manufactures haven’t made an SLR that is small enough to fit into your pocket! I have a compact camera with one of the best LCD screnes, but still it is hard to see the image in bright sunlight.

Jon says:
25 March 2012

Why don’t the camera manufacturers build a decent compact camera? Something like a rangefinder style, it must have manual and aperture and priority settings. All this at a reasonable price, and not a silly over inflated price. The cameras out at the moment are very poor indeed, with the exception of the fuji x100 this is a nice little camera, but very poor video. Also the price is crazy, it should be about £200 in price, there is no need to be asking £700 for it.

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4 April 2012

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DALE says:
16 April 2012

Something else I have tracked down to by an old model is the Canon A95, fit in the pocket, AA batteries, VARI-ANGLE LCD viewfinder AND optical viewfinder. If only Canon would add the vari-angle lcd and manual controls to the A1300 I would pay a heavy price to get my hands on that !!!

Jon says:
17 April 2012

I am still in search of a decent compact, one at a sensible price. It must have a good lens, and it MUST have a decent viewfinder, not a tiny silly thing. Also a proper dedicated battery, not silly AA type batteries!

Peter says:
23 April 2012

Almost every time I want to take an outdoor picture in the sun it’s a true guessing game if I capture anything that I want. I will never ever buy a camera without a viewfinder again. I long for the good old days…
Unfortunately I want the smallest camera possible that will fit in my pocket and I want at least a 10x zoom. Sadly no such camera exists with a viewfinder – yet.
I once had a Sony video camera where the viewfinder looked at a tiny b/w monitor. That was a great idea since you could see exactly what you were recording. The b/w image didn’t bother me at all – much better than looking at an LCD screen and wondering what you are seeing.
I honestly don’t understand anyone who says they don’t need a view finder. It just isn’t possible to see the image in bright sun on the beach, in the mountains, in the snow, or on the water – even with the best backlit LCDs available today. I miss so many good pictures just because I can’t “see” them!

Jon says:
19 May 2012

When are the Camera makers going to make a proper decent camera? One with a Viewfinder that you can see all the information in. It is a silly idea making a camera without a viewfinder! OH and please make a proper battery for the camera NOT silly AA batteries as they just don’t last. NO silly prices either. Make something like the Fujifilm X10 but with a better viewfinder and at a sensible price, not £379 but something about £100 !

Helen says:
2 June 2012

I’m trying to find a replacement compact camera for my excellent old Fuji that has broken down for a second time with the same fault so it seem foolish to have it repaired again. But I may have to as I can’t find anything suitable. I’m old enough to need reading glasses and using the screen is totally inconvenient as it involves fiddling around with glasses while a view finder just lets me get on with taking the photos. I contacted Fuji to ask them what camera would suit me and they haven’t bothered to reply.
I totally support a campaign to bring back view finders. Its discrimination against people with imperfect vision to not have them.

Neil Friday says:
5 June 2012

I have one of those cameras that’s much in demand.
It’s an old Hitachi HDC-531E complete with an excellent viewfinder, superb 5 mpx that seem to be better than 8Mpx, excellent colourimetry and no adverse edgeing. It also has macro, but only down to 100mm. Also Li-ion battery.

Pictures can be blown up on computer and show no adverse problems.

(A) The mini usb connector is becoming intermittent, thus affecting (twice replaced) battery charging.
(b) Nowadays it is effectively blind in dark scenes and only “replaying” an image shows up anything at all.
(c) The time taken to complete a picture is terrible. I want an immediate push and click system – nothing about this confirming images on the screen.
(d) It does not have a ROM saving changes capability. To extend battery life I would wish to “switch-off” the screen and have these changes saved all the time.
Delighted to read about the Canon A1200 and the new one now.
It is essential to have an optical viewfinder as the hassle of wearing glasses on dim colour screens is a sad joke.

MAC says:
16 July 2012

Now, what I would support is a very high res LCD in the viewfinder that’s source is the primary sensor. That would be ideal as it is digital, it would display exactly what your getting, and could display all the additional information (selectable of course) that you want. It could even display the low light high ISO images that you really can’t see very well in a viewfinder. I don’t care if the LCD’s pixel resolution is too low to prevent some pixelation in this viewfinder; it would still be an awesome feature. And, since your are seeing thru the sensor, what you see is exactly what you’ll get. If the LCD in the viewfinder is good enough you will see your composition exactly as it will appear on your computers monitor. Advantage – Photographer.

Why haven’t the manufacturers figured this out?

MAC says:
17 July 2012

I’d even put a fake lens on the outside of the viewfinder…. Nah, maybe something like a logo:
WSIWYG VF or something like that…
on the fake lens…

MAC says:
17 July 2012

Ah, figured it out. Put a larger say 3/4 to 1 inch LCD inside the camera. Using optics and prisms fold the light up to the viewfinder. Advantage – bigger LCD, higher resolution, heck make it an LED LCD…

Anita says:
19 July 2012

I love my old(ish) Kodak. It’s a bit heavy and bulky but as I couldn’t find any decent compact camera with a viewfinder I am still using it. In any, especially sunny, conditions I can’t see anything on lcd screen so I always prefer using the viewfinder. Can’t understand why manufacturers stopped including viewfinders into cameras. Screens are to check on photos taken but to take photos you need a viewfinder!