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Our viewfinder campaign: Sony, Panasonic and Fujifilm respond

Fujifilm Finepix X100

You answered in your hundreds when we asked whether you missed viewfinders. We took this avalanche of support directly to the big camera manufacturers – today Sony, Pansonic and Fujifilm respond.

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.

We’ve already heard from Olympus and Canon, with the latter deciding to launch a new compact camera with a viewfinder. Can Sony, Fujifilm and Panasonic match that?

Sony’s preparing to test the market

Sony showed great interest in our campaign and guaranteed to share this information with its product development team in Tokyo. However, it did warn us that it was too late to influence its latest lines which are set to release this year.

It told us, ‘we are continually developing our LCD technology with greater levels of anti-reflective coatings to combat the sunlight issues in our TruBlack screens.’

Sony also stated that it does have an optical viewfinder accessory available for its NEX camera system. Then again, this isn’t a cheap option – the cameras alone are upwards of £340 even before you add on the extra viewfinder.

Sony finished by saying that it was ‘preparing a global feasibility study to gauge the need for [a viewfinder camera] for a much wider audience,’ so hopefully there’s more to be seen from the Japanese giant.

Panasonic may develop new viewfinder models

Panasonic also said that it had shared our campaign with an appreciative research team in Japan. However, the current crop of Lumix cameras offer no cheap options if you’re after a camera with a viewfinder.

We were advised that the FZ100, FZ45 and G-series cameras featured built-in electronic viewfinders, and an optional electronic viewfinder accessory could be used with the LX5 and certain G-series models. Still, not only are these expensive options, they are complicated cameras that may not suit point-and-shoot users.

More encouragingly we were told that Panasonic ‘are concentrating on continuously developing the quality and functionality of our electronic viewfinders and LCDs,’ so hopefully we’ll start seeing these in cheaper, more user-friendly models in the future.

Panasonic also claimed that its automatic brightness adjustment screens can increase LCD brightness by up to 40% in strong sunlight conditions. However, this is still little help to those who need glasses to use the screens or find them an unnatural way to compose a shot.

Fujifilm sees place for viewfinders

We were eager to hear back from Fujifilm, as its recently-unveiled X100 model floored the camera press with a unique hybrid viewfinder, which acts as an optical or electronic viewfinder.

Fujifilm told us that it ‘believes that both electronic and optical viewfinders have their place in digital photography’, and our hope is that it will stand firm to this ethos, even with cheaper point-and-shoot models.

Encouragingly, we were advised that ‘Fujifilm will continue to research and develop both electronic and hybrid viewfinders in future, evaluating each application by cost, design practicality and consumer preferences’.

However, we still want to remind camera manufacturers, like Fujifilm, that there’s demand for compact cameras with viewfinders, at least as an option amongst all the LCD-only models.

What do you think of these responses?

If you want to read more about what Sony, Fujifilm and Panasonic had to say about our viewfinder campaign, you can check out their full responses here. And remember to mull over Canon and Olympus’s statements before you vote on which response is best.

Have any of these manufacturers managed to give a satisfactory response? Do you think that improving LCD screen technology is good enough or should they concentrate on bringing viewfinders back to compact digital cameras?

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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Comments
Andrew Wilson says:
5 July 2011

I bought the Nikon Coolpix7000 because it and the Canon G12 were the only available new digital cameras with an optical viewfinder. Unfortunately the viewfinder is next to useless and adding no real benefit whatsover. There is significant paralex error and no indication of correct focus displayed.

I have reverted to using the screen. Overall the camera is not very good.

Hari Kodagoda says:
6 July 2011

LCD’s are prone to get dirty and grubby, and they are reflective. I have currently got a Sony DSC – HX5V which I carry with me most times. The camera is brilliant EXCEPT that on a bright sunny day I trust to God that my aim is OK as it is a guessing game as to what I am shooting – you can’t see your subject and surroundings.

WHAT IS THE POINT OF CARRYING A CAMERA WITH YOU IF YOU CAN’T TAKE A PICTURE AS YOU WANT TO WITH REGARD TO COMPOSITION BECAUSE OF REFLECTIONS ON THE SCREEN!

Sony are being a bit disingenuous. Their eye-wateringly expensive optional viewfinder for their NEX series can only be used for their wide angle lens; more of an arrogantly dismissive nod towards the viewfinder campaign, I’d say…

Irina says:
24 August 2011

I have had 3 models of the Olympus SP series over the years because a) they have a manual function b) a zoom and c) an (electronic?) viewfinder which sems to be as good as any SLR prism for composing shots . I have now irreparably damaged my SP560uz and now cannot find a direct replacement. I wouldn’t be without the viewfinder – I rarely use the LCD screen except for shots from the ground/very high up! I think the manufacturers are making a grave mistake phasing them out. Using a viewfinder reduces camera shake and you see exactly what you are getting! I need to be able to compose a shot accurately….

The Olympus has other issues with its zoom mechanism… but that’s another story…..

Sooo glad you are working on this issue. I am not old, nor do I need glasses, but I travel a lot, and even in England sometimes it is virtually impossible to see anything on the screen…until the ‘moment’ has passed. After many years (any maaaany problems) my Sony DSC W80 has died, but I am now going to wait until next year’s models…hopefully with viewfinders…come out to choose. I would like something perfect for travelling please, manufacturers: small, not too expensive (likely to get stolen, especially if it looks expensive), robust (waterproof to 2 metres?), viewfinder, and a ‘light flash’ option, I don’t want to look like a ghost, but sometimes it’s just too dark (in a tent!) not to use anything.

Good news! Sony’s latest compact camera isn’t only slim, it includes a viewfinder. It’s pricey, but as Rich Parris explains in his latest Conversation, it’s a game changer – this electronic OLED viewfinder could help manufacturers bring viewfinder tech to today’s slim compact cameras:

https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/digital-camera-viewfinder-sony-nex7-oled/

Let’s hope it happens soon, and is more affordable!

Alberto G. says:
1 September 2011

Well, I am glad something is moving ! Not only the compact cameras, but also some bridge cameras do not have any viewfinder (e.g., the recent Nikon L120). I add another point in favor of electronic or optical viewfinder: if you are long-sighted – and everyone beyond a certain age becomes long-sighted –
you have additional problems in seeing the LCD image, whereas the viewfinder can be easily adapted to one’s sight ability !
I would like to know what NIKON is saying…
From my point of view NO VIEWFINDER NO BUY, as others have stated already

Hedley Saunders says:
20 November 2011

I mourn the loss of viewfinders, even a poor quality viewfinder is better than none at all. I take pictures at sea and on the ski slopes, a screen is often useless in these circumstances. I would go so far as to say that I would prefer a camera with a viewfinder alone than one with a screen only.

Nancy says:
1 December 2011

I’m thrilled that you are airing this issue AND taking it to those who most need to understand: the R&D folks at the manufacturers.
You seem to refer, and they do also, to the difficulty of seeing the screen in bright sun, which is a major concern, however I believe there are two other equally important issues.

Holding a camera steady is Photo 101. Pulling in your arms steadies the camera as you peer through the viewfinder. If you wear reading glasses in order to see detail clearly, (yup, most folks who are over forty) you may not always have them handy. When you extend your arm to get the screen at a distance where it will be easy to view, your arm is likely to shake and blur the shot. This has ruined more than one promising shot for me.

Today’s viewing screens are the equivalent of a postage stamp version of the image. By contrast, looking through the camera, one sees the image full-size and more detail is available. I’ve always been an excellent photographer. Now I feel like I’m reduced to little more than “framing” the shot so everyone is in. I can’t notice details until I download to the computer and discover the stray hair, garments that are askew etc. It is very frustrating.

So, there’s a negative impact on getting a steady shot, and on being able to even compose and shoot a quality picture.
For those who would counsel me to just go get my glasses, I say this: The best photography is accomplished by seizing the moment. Having the camera handy is defeated by also having to have glasses at the ready.

If the manufacturers think there’s no audience for a return to small, affordable cameras with viewfinders, they ought to ask grandparents. Many have become resigned to being onlookers. I was the family historian for 25 years. Now I am so frustrated I just defer to the kids. If what matters is the cost and the market, I say there IS a market and I have been looking for several years.

Some of the comments are muddying the water – confusing the issue. An EVF is NOT the same as an optical viewfinder. I got rid of an otherwise splendid KonicaMinolta A2 bridge camera because I could NOT get on with its EVF – reckoned to be the best of its kind at the time. EVFs show all sorts of artifacts with moving subjects, respond badly to rapid changes of light levels, and have poor resolution because there’s never enough pixels to match the analog resolution of an optical viewfinder. And they eat up batteries. If you like to hold your camera to the eye a lot of the time, not just when you are certain to want to take a picture, an optical viewfinder is a must. Why do DSLRs have optical viewfinders? They cater for users that need them, but also, it’s intrinsic in the SLR design that they can easily be provided. It’s the whole purpose of the design.

There is an inherent technical problem with compacts. Any optical viewfinder in a NON-slr configuration is a compromise: a parallel optical circuit that does its best. More than 3x or 4x zoom provides a great technical design problem in producing an optical viewfinder. With the fashion for and demand for 15x or even 30x zooms in high end compacts and bridge cameras, an optical viewfinder is a technical impossibility, which is why manufacturers palm us off with EVFs.

The distinction between an optical finder and an EVF is like chalk and cheese: don’t be fooled because with both you put your eye to a little window. If you want an optical finder, you have to settle for a low zoom range OR an expensive add-on that deals poorly with parallax in close-up work, or get an SLR.

So, it’s DSLRs for me – I have and use both Canon and KonicaMinolta systems. I’d like a small take-anywhere camera and I’m tempted by the new Canon compact and am quite happy to settle for a low zoom range to get an optical viewfinder, but I’m waiting for a slightly upmarket version with the addition of manual setting options.

Mike Greenwood says:
12 May 2012

I am still on the look out for a camera with a viewfinder, the Canon PowerShot A1200 is not an option, it uses silly AA batteries. The AA batteries run out very quickly what a stupid idea.

How hard can it be to make a real decent camera? Camera makers have had many many years to get it right. Make a camera with a viewfinder with a proper dedicated battery. While they are at it, give the camera A, S, P and Manual modes. Oh and at a sensible price! Not £1000 not £799 not £399. But something sensible, like about £90 or maybe £120 at most. They are too overpriced at the moment!

tizzy says:
17 June 2012

just come back from namibia and everyone we met cursed the ‘point and pray’ digital cameras without viewfinders. fed up trying to take a photograph when all i can see is a reflection of my nose. do the people who design these cameras ever use them in bright sunlight?

I am extremely disappointed with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8. I didn’t realize how much I would miss the viewfinder until I couldn’t take a picture because all I could see through the viewing screen was my own reflection. When I asked Panasonic about this they said to hold the camera over my head. I can’t tell you how many photos I’ve missed because of that. I mean who can get an accurate photo when you can’t see the object. When I approached them a second time they said they would do nothing about the problem. So my advice is – don’t buy Panasonic because customer support and satisfaction is the last of its priorities. I’ve NEVER had the same problem with Canon.

Sceptical Bastard says:
5 October 2012

Manufacturers have lost the plot. I’m having difficulty finding a cheap camera to carry in my pocket.
I wouldn’t buy any camera that doesn’t have a eye level viewfinder so my choice is limited.

I have an old Minolta DImage 7 that has an electronic viewfinder. Curiously, when the shutter is released the image disappears for 1/2 a second or so like in an SLR (only longer). With an EVF there’s no need to do this.
I don’t know why the designers did this but it wasn’t a good idea.

I wrote to Canon and did not get a reply about making their next compact camera with i.e 18x zoom and a larger Optical Viewfinder.I already have a A1200 model, which is very good value for the money. The A1300 is a measerly 1x more magnification. You would think after the A1200 model there would have been a noticeably larger Optical Viewfinder and Zoom

I am sure that everyone would be prepared to pay proportionly more for this improvement.

The manufactures have nothing to fear for their untouchable SLR’s

Rod

It would be nice, but there are SEVERE technical problems with making a long wide ranging optical viewfinder. 3x or 4x zooms can be fitted with optical viewfinders – dealing with parallax and macro is a bit of a botch – ok for short zooms but unsatisfactory with long zooms. Manufacturers don’t like to point this out as it looks like a cop-out, but there’s no shame in it: the problems are pretty fundamental. The only solution is either an EVF (which many people hate) or – you’ve guessed it – an SLR! Why no manufacturer has come up with an SLR with a fixed zoom, now that modern zooms – with their moulded aspheric elements – make a good stab at being an all purpose lens, I do not know. They would have many design options with a non-removable lens, not needing a mount interface, and the sensor being free of dust problems, to name just two. Also, with a non-removable lens, the in-camera firmware could be programmed to deal with pin-cushion, barrel, and vignetting lens distortions, again giving more freedom and opportunities, and fewer constaints, on the lens design.

Hedley Saunders says:
5 January 2013

I was terribly disappointed with the response from Olympus, I have been a faithful Olympus owner for decades and have nearly always carried one in my pocket. I tried their “unbreakable” compact but unfortunately the USB port seal leaked and the camera drowned. Before that happened I had had trouble taking pictures in bright light because of the lack of a viewfinder.
I still use my oldest 4mP Olympus in an underwater housing and would love to buy an updated version but not without a viewfinder. For use ashore I have resorted to a second hand Canon Ixus 900.
Delighted to hear that Canon may be going to produce a new compact with a viewfinder, the price is almost immaterial to me, I need a small pocket camera that I can use in the snow and at sea.
I will certainly try the new Canon camera but really want another waterproof Olympus WITH A VIEWFINDER, cost not important.

Claudine says:
29 December 2013

2 years after you started your campaign, and still waiting for compact cameras with viewfinders, especially the waterproof ones! You buy a camera to go to the beach and – well, you have no idea what you’re shooting because of the sun shining on the screen.
Please keep fighting…