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Our viewfinder campaign: Canon & Olympus respond

Digital camera with viewfinder circled

Our campaign to bring back viewfinders to digital cameras prompted a huge reaction. Your comments didn’t fall on deaf ears – we’ve challenged manufacturers Canon and Olympus to respond to your concerns.

Here at Which? we’ve been campaigning to bring viewfinders back to compact digital cameras over the last few months.

This was based on both an overwhelming enthusiasm from our members and, of course, support here on Which? Conversation.

Armed with the results of our survey and your best comments, we took this issue straight to the big camera manufacturers and encouraged them to respond to their customers’ complaints.

Today we’re bringing you Olympus and Canon’s comments and leaving you to judge on what they’ve said. Plus, you can check out statements from Sony, Fujifilm and Panasonic right here.

Olympus wants to take the scenic route

Olympus acknowledged that ‘LCD’s are not perfect but we are reaching a point where the better ones really do work even in bright light’ – something a lot of your comments appear to disagree with.

While warning that a traditional optical viewfinder could add ‘as much as 25%’ to the cost of a compact camera, Olympus also insisted that ‘the majority of happy-snappers are not that concerned’ about being without one.

On a more positive note, Olympus recognised the growing importance of electronic viewfinders, saying that ‘the big breakthrough will be in the cost of electronic finders coming down and the quality up so that they can become more widely available.’

Olympus pointed towards the availability of their VF2 external electronic viewfinder. But the downside to this is that it costs £200, and only works with a select few high-end cameras.

Insisting that they were doing their best to respond to the issue, Olympus concluded that ‘sometimes progress takes the scenic route but we will get there’.

Canon responds with new viewfinder launch

Canon was one of the manufacturers we were most interested to hear back from, given that we received numerous comments saying how people were deliberately seeking older Canon cameras with viewfinders, rather than plumping for the latest viewfinder-less models.

We are thrilled to see that Canon has taken on board these views by deciding to unveil its first new affordable compact model in nearly two years to feature an optical viewfinder.

The Canon PowerShot A1200 will be available to buy exclusively from Jessops on the high street from late March. As well as a viewfinder, it features a 4x zoom lens with a 28mm wide angle, 12 Megapixel resolution and the ability to record high-definition video.

Canon told us directly that this camera has been developed ‘to address the voice of the market requesting optical viewfinders’, and it’s great to see that a major manufacturer is listening to its customers in this fashion.

It seems the limited availability of the Canon A1200 is something of a market test, as Canon were lukewarm about the future of the small optical viewfinder beyond this model, saying ‘we cannot guarantee that viewfinders will always appear in new models – we are constantly assessing the market needs to determine the feature mix of future models.’

What do you think of these responses?

If you want to read more about what Canon and Olympus had to say about our viewfinder campaign, you can check out their full responses here. And make sure to have a look at these statements from Fujifilm, Sony and Panasonic before voting on whose is best.

So does the Canon A1200 have what it takes to get you reaching for your wallet? Would you like to see it kick-start a greater return of viewfinder-equipped models? And does Olympus need to speed up its own developments now that Canon has laid down a low-priced offering?

Our viewfinder campaign: which camera manufacturers' response was best?

Canon's (57%, 264 Votes)

Fujifilm's (20%, 93 Votes)

Panasonic's (11%, 52 Votes)

Sony's (7%, 33 Votes)

Olympus's (4%, 20 Votes)

Total Voters: 462

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This is good news. I bought a small camera without a viewfinder because I did not want to wait until commonsense prevailed and viewfinders reappeared. I am not planning to rush out and buy a replacement with a viewfinder, but I do hope that consumer pressure will mean that viewfinders will become commonplace again.


Thanks wavechange – I agree, great news that there’s finally at least one option on the market for an affordable compact with a viewfinder, so hopefully this will mark a turn of the tide.

Just to say, we picked up two A1200 models just yesterday, so we’ll be packing them off to our test lab – viewfinder or not, they still have to go through our extensive tests before we can recommend them!

Tony Philpott says:
29 March 2011

It is not correct to say the new Canon PowerShot A1200 is only available at Jessops. I have bought one through Amazon MarketPlace for £106.99 and excellent it is too.


Fantastic news, Tony – glad to hear it’s available online at Amazon Marketplace too, and at a bargain price! Thanks for pointing this out


I use Fuji cameras
having poor reading eyesight without glasses, the concept of putting them on and off just to use a camera is a pain in the rear end.

Fuji do an electronic viewfinder with an adjustable dioptre, which allows me to avoid use glasses altogether.

I love Fuji bridge cameras, as a former pro – I hated carrying around a bag of lenses and bodies, now I just use one camera – after all – its the photographer, not the camera, who makes a good photo!

James Harrison says:
30 March 2011

I really don’t see the point of a viewfinder if there is a screen on it. It’s a distinct advantage not to press a camera or ‘phone to one’s face to take a picture, especially if one can’t get the camera AND one’s face together at the same time. (Out of a window, over the edge of a precipice, under water, over people’s heads etc.)
What I WOULD like to see is a button to ‘freeze’ the exposure at an acceptable point rather than messing about with settings screens and menu’s. A touch-screen version of an SLR (slide to instantly alter exposure/focus/magnification) would cover this fairly comprehensively. (I thought of this!!)

Tony Philpott says:
31 March 2011

The point of a viewfinder for me is when the sun is behind me I often cannot see the picture on the screen and then use the viewfinder. It maybe because I am only buying at the cheaper end of the market, perhaps more expensive cameras do not suffer this problem!


There’s also the very distinct problem of battery life. Think of the amount of battery you can save by just using a viewfinder!

Bob says:
6 August 2011

I was faced with photographing a Friesan horse going through dressage routines….walking sideways, cantering and other difficult dressage routines. My camera, a Sony, has all sorts of features…even a projection function. What it doesn’t have is an OPTICAL viewfinder. When I attempted to zoom in on the horse doing his routine (so that one could see the fancy footwork (or is it hoof work?) I found that I could not see a thing on the built in LCD screen. The result was a movie with the horse jumping around because I could not center things. A pox on the LCD “non viewfinder” and all its kin!

The manufacturers are just trying to cheapen their cameras so as to sell them cheaply. Let ME chose what I want to pay for the features I want. Whatever happened to the customer is always right?

Colin says:
4 May 2012

Bright sun light ????????????????????????????????????

Derek W says:
1 April 2011

If manufacturers claim there isn’t a demand, then either they are not listening, or we, the market, need to make more noise over our requirements. Top marks to Which for spearheading the campaign!


I can manage with sunlight – really most modern LCDs are ok. But when will the mfrs realise that I DO NOT WANT TO BE FORCED TO PUT ON MY READING GLASSES EVERY TIME I WANT TO TAKE A PICTURE. This is mentioned here and there, but is swamped by complaints about sunlight. The mfrs go on about improving anti-reflective LCDs etc, but no amount of such development will fix my eyesight!
And since when did camera companies, always a source of advice on how to take good pics, think that outstretched arms (and the older and more long-sighted you get, the more you need to outstretch them) was a recommended way of getting a stable platform for taking a shake-free pic? Universal recommendations to brace the camera for a steady shot, are totally undermined by every single camera on the market that has no viewfinder.


Hi G – you’re absolutely right to emphasise the issue of using LCD screens for those who require glasses – I think this has been mentioned by various commentators throughout the campaign, but it’s definitely been eclipsed by the discussion about use of the screen in sunlight.

Also, the composition issue is pivotal, in my opinion. I really struggle to compose a shot with a camera held at arm’s length – holding the camera steadily and framing the shot accurately are both a real challenge. There are times when composing a shot like this may be necessary (above your head in a crowd), but for the satisfaction of setting up and pulling off a great shot, it’s never really worked for me.

David Ireland says:
1 April 2011

I love using the viewfinder in my DSLR. I love it because I can see what the sensor sees. The X100 works because it has a fixed focal length, so the viewfinder is at least a close approximation to to what the sensor sees.

Viewfinders in in compact cameras with long zoom lenses are pointless. People only think they want them because they haven’t tried it, and don’t realise it will be useless in the majority of their shots.

Olympus have made the best response, because they realise that in the long run, EVFs will be the most cost effective way to give people a useful view of what will be in their picture in bright conditions. The majority of respondents won’t agree, because they haven’t tried the other options, and you’ve suggested to them that there’s a feature missing.

Which reviewers should know better, since they have to opportunity to try optical, fixed focal length view finders on cameras such as Canons G11. The which review of the G11 says ‘The perennial issue of sunlight reflecting off the screen is still there, though the G11 offers an optical viewfinder to help you compose shots with’, so overwhelmed is the reviewer with the provision of an optical view finder.

Come on Which? This is nonsense. Everyone wants an extra feature. No one wants to pay for it.
I have an Olympus XZ-1. Its OLED screen really is bright. I haven’t bothered to buy the EVF , and having have used it in bright light, I can certainly say that if I do buy it, it won’t be because I can’t see the screen in daylight. Before that, I used by Fuji EXR200 in Australia and Turkey and Greece without daylight troubling me.


Hi David – I think you (and Olympus!) are quite right to back EVFs as the best solution, especially when larger camera zooms render compact viewfinders inaccurate or just hopelessly small.

It’s interesting you should mention the OLED screen on the XZ-1. I think OLED (organic light emitting diode) technology has real potential for electronic viewfinders. OLED screens are remarkably thin compared to LEDs, but highly detailed and sharp, and very bright indeed. Their only downside to date (across all tech, no just cameras) is their high production costs has limited them to small screen sizes only (other than a larger $20k OLED 3D-TV screen prototype I saw about a year ago!)

All of this would work in OLED’s favour if it was to be used for electronic viewfinders. The brightness and high resolution would be ideal, and the thinness of the screen itself could help to fit an electronic viewfinder into a smaller camera body.

jtwoodfield says:
2 April 2011

I thought all the replies were good. A credit to Which? for raising the issue and a credit to the manufacturers for taking the time the respond in a meaningful way.

The manufacturers having done so it is perhaps a bit unfair to rate them in the crude way that you have invited. Is a response to X positive because X has said something the nearest to what the respondee wants to hear or because X has given the best explanation as to their problems inherent in the current position?

For example, I voted for Olympus. Not because I have one of their cameras (I have a Canon G10 which has a remarkably poor optical viewfinder) or because they said what I wanted to hear (they did not) but because they went t great lengths to set out how hard it was for a camera manufacturer to find a balance point in a fractured camera market and a fractured market between cameras and mobile phones. For example I have a Nokia N8 with a brilliant camera function. Am I going to buy a compact to also carry about? The answer is self evidently No. Would I buy a replacement for the G10 which had a much better optical viewfinder? Given the money, very possibly.


Thanks for the comment jtwoodfield and the compliment – we’re glad to be getting somewhere.

I agree with you, the poll isn’t the best way to respond to these responses, but not everyone takes the time to make a comment like you. So it’s a quick way for those people to have their say. It’s also a nice way to keep the pressure on the manufacturers.

Though I agree with you, Olympus’s honesty in explaining the problem is very commendable and I’m happy you felt obliged to vote for them. It’s even better that you commented to explain why you did so.


Hi jtwoodfield, and thanks for the positive comments about the campaign. I agree that the poll is a bit of a crude way of judging the manufacturer responses, but hopefully it can be a handy indicator of how people feel about each statement.

I agree that Olympus are spot-on right to advise about the issue of added cost when a viewfinder is included in a camera – though saying that, I’m impressed by how affordable the Canon A1200 seems to be.

One thing I heartily agree with is Olympus’s prediction of the importance of electronic viewfinders – I think once the technology is in place to squeeze them into smaller camera bodies, then the market is due for a really interesting shake up!

Mr B J Mann says:
20 October 2011

“they went t great lengths to set out how hard it was for a camera manufacturer to find a balance point in a fractured camera market and a fractured market between cameras and mobile phones. For example I have a Nokia N8 with a brilliant camera function. Am I going to buy a compact to also carry about? The answer is self evidently No. Would I buy a replacement for the G10 which had a much better optical viewfinder? Given the money, very possibly.”

So much for “how hard it was for a camera manufacturer to find a balance point in a fractured camera market and a fractured market between cameras and mobile phones”!
Or to put it another way:

“For example I have a Nokia N8 with a brilliant camera function. Am I going to buy a compact to also carry about that adds nothing to the phone’s camera functions, but lacks the phone’s phone functions? The answer is self evidently No. Would I buy a replacement for the compact camera which had a much better optical viewfinder? Given the money, very possibly.”

Barbara Kolodziej says:
4 April 2011

I was pleased to see that there may be a choice again re viewfinder V screen. I have varifocal specs with reactolite lenses so even in bright light it is impossible to see the screen. I have an oldish Nikon coolpix 7600 but the screen is very small so viewfinder is essential but I wont be parting with it until I can find another compact with viewfinder.


I was one of the first to raise this issue with you several years ago and I’m delighted that the manufacturers are finally listening to common sense!


Thanks Peter – it was the collective voices of our Which? members like you that first tipped us off about what a strongly-felt issue this was. I’m really glad we’ve been able to open a meaningful dialogue with the manufacturers about this, and we’re going to keep on emphasising the enthusiasm this campaign has met with.

Carl Arrowsmith says:
14 April 2011

I’ve always had cameras with an optical view finder but never used it, I don’t really see the point in them and personally if it makes the cameras cheaper to take them out off a select range of products. However I do know people that like them, so perhaps a moderate range of models would be good thing.

Epson made a digital camera (the 850z) some years ago, it took natural light to backlight the LCD, in bright sunlight the LCD was very clear and saved power. A flip switched then switch the backlight on in poor light conditions. That’s one feature I’d love to see on modern cameras.

Maurice Waite says:
25 April 2011

I have always had digital cameras with optical viewfinders (a Nikon 775, three Canon Powershots — A530, A700 and A710IS — and two Konica MInolta Dimages — Xt and Xg) for these reasons:

The screen gets washed out in bright light.
I don’t have to put my glasses on to see a sharp image.
The image has no delay, unlike the screen (and, I imagine, an electronic viewfinder), which helps with timing an action shot.

You obviously don’t have those advantages if you can’t hold the camera to your eye, for an over-the-head or out-of-a-window shot, and the only real disadvantage is that the viewfinders only show about 85% of the image that will be captured, but that is rarely critical and you can get used to it.


Thanks Maurice, sounds like you’ve been through a fair few cameras in your time, and one feature has been consistent throughout – the viewfinder!


I have a Canon Powershot A570IS with waterproof case which I use for underwater photography as it is very difficult to see the LCD screen under water. When my camera was stolen last March, I spent some time searching for a second hand one, rather than buy a new camera without a view finder. It is noticeable how many divers / snorkellers use cameras with view finders.

My only criticism is that the view finder is not accurate, – you need to work out where to place the image in the view finder (towards the bottom right hand corner in my case) to get the photo you want, which is irritating.

Thank you very much, Which?, for raising this and getting the manufactureres to take notice.

Robin says:
13 May 2011

I look forward to upgrading my Canon camera (with viewfinder) with a more recent model, including HD Video and stereo sound, but won’t be buying until there’s a good one out there which incudes a viewfinder. Period.

Andrew Griffin says:
21 May 2011

It is perhaps even more important for a camcorder to have a viewfinder, and even rarer. It is absolutely essential to hold a comcorder as still as possible and this is not possible without a viewfinder. It becomes even more vital as age reduces the ability to focus at short range.


Hi Andrew – I agree, shooting video without a viewfinder can be such a pain – keeping steady footage or tracking a moving subject becomes so much harder, unless of course you’re using a tripod. Hopefully manufacturers will develop cheaper electronic viewfinder technology, then more camcorder users can finally get the best out of their video

DaveG says:
10 June 2011

I have bought my wife a Canon A1200 from Jessops for £79,she was unable to see the screen on her previous Canon compact in bright sunlight,and is very pleased with her new compact,especially the fact it is a compact,nice and small for handbags.The picture quality is excellent and the fisheye mode is very amusing especially to children.A friend was so impressed he bought his wife one,but had to wait for delivery as only 10 were in stock at Canon due to popularity.Definitely cheaper at Jessops compared to Amazon nearly £30 cheaper

Kevin Murphy says:
14 June 2011

I have not replaced my Superb, but old, Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom (10x Opt, 4 Mp), simply because I so value the EVF.
I bought it to replace a 1mp Digital, VHS-C Video and Canon SLR and big lens – in one.
I actually repaired the camera to retain EVF function, though I do resent the bulk. (still smaller thatn most bridges).
I don’t like to tell them their Job, but I don’t want them telling us porkies, either.
The EVF inside the C770 is a cm square, 2 mm thick piece, with a diopter lens about 1 cm from it. This connects to the gubbins with a paper thin ‘circuit board’.
It would easily, simply and (now 5 years later) very cheaply fit in a compact. If they say it needs to match to mp of the main screen it is a deceit: With mine I can tell if it’s focussed, if all I want is in shot, I reduce shake having it against my head – AND I DON’T NEED MY GLASSES!
Anyone can see that there are millions of poor photos being taken by people with cameras outstretched, not focussed, not captureing the hoped for spread.
The Market will bring all manufacturers on board.
Also, I have been asking shop folk for at least 3 years for this and they aren’t aware of the concerns expressed on this campaign.
Be good consumers and ask for what you want.


Thanks for your comments Kevin, and I’m with you – if an EVF that small could be fitted into a bridge camera over five years old, surely we’re not long off squeezing one into a compact in this day and age!

My money is on OLED technology being used for electronic viewfinders – ultra-slim, incredibly sharp, and just the ticket! Come on manufacturers!