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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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Don Walton says:
29 March 2011

It isn’t just cameras which need a viewfinder of this sort but also camcorders. It is very difficult to follow a moving target when using a digital screen even if you can see it. I have rejected many possible middle range upgrades for just this reason.

Charles Miller says:
20 April 2011

Absolutely. Much easier to follow action (or subjects that will not stay still such as children and animals) without blurring by using a viewfinder. Holding a camera at arm’s length does not do the job. Yes, the newer micro SLRs have add-on viewfinders, but for those who just want a compact camera there should be some choice.

Alec says:
25 April 2011

I agree that the lack of viewfinder on a camcorder is a major problem. Using the screen on my current camcorder uses up the battery very much quicker. I am looking for a replacement and while the new models have all sorts of gizmos I am having difficulty finding camcorders with the basic essential of a viewfinder.

I agree completely – it never crossed my mind that viewfinders would disappear from cameras. I was thinking of replacing my camcorder with a hard disc model but I won’t buy one without a viewfinder as I’d need to wear my reading glasses to see the screen – and then I wouldn’t be able to see what was going on so I’d probably be taking pictures of the wrong thing! My compact digital camera only has the LCD screen and I so, so, wish I’d bought the one with a viewfinder (they were still an option 4 years ago when I bought it). So many of my pictures have bits missing, extra bits on them or are blurred because of having to hold the wretched thing at arm’s length to have any idea whay might end up in the picture.

Alec Millar says:
13 September 2011

Absolutely agree that camcorders should be fitted with viewfinders as well as still digitals. Just back from Turkey and viewfinder essential for both. Our non viewfinder camera completely useless. Also why should re addition of viewfinders be more expensive as originally camcorders and digital cameras were sold with integral viewfinders.

I just purchased a Panasonic LX5 with the ‘live’ electronic viewfinder option. The viewfinder was almost half the cost of the camera!

Although the screen on the LX5 is superb and I agree with Panasonic that it does adjust itself to the lighting conditions, a screen-only camera fails dismally on two points.

1. In tropical sunlight rt even on the rare British bright summer’s day, the screen is virtually useless.

2. There’s no dioptric adjustment for those of us who need to keep pulling out reading specs to focus on the screen.

The ‘Live’ viewfinder for the Panasonic LX5 provides dioptric correction, can save power because it turns off the larger screen and can be flipped to different angles (though only downwards). It isn’t as good as a real through-the-lens viewfinder but it does meet many of the problems using a screen. But at a big cost!

Another thought. If Panasonic dumped the feeble integral flash, there’s room for a live electronic viewfinder.

I am sure that most users would rather have the integral live viewfinder and have to carry a separate flash for the hot-shoe. Most separate hot shoe flash guns are infinitely batter than integral flashes.

If Panasonic need a camera designer…

My Panasonic Lumix TZ7, despite having an excellent screen is absolutely useless in sunlight – and it does not have to be bright! I won’t be buying another camera without a viewfinder of some sort. The viewfinder doesn’t have to be perfect but it is essential in sunlight or to follow motion as has been mentioned. More power to your campaign!!!!

It was an older TZ3 that I replaced with the LX5: I agree completely that anything brighter than an overcast day makes the screen harder to see.

June says:
18 May 2011

Totally agree with all you say. Looking forward buying new camera with Viewfinder!

Donald Mackinnon says:
2 April 2011

I insist on an optical viewfinder. Currently have a Canon IXUS 95 bought because it had this feature.

Avril D says:
8 April 2011

We were lucky enough to buy, almost by accident, a Nikon Coolpix 5600 with viewfinder. It wasn’t until we also got a Kodak Easyshare C140 without viewfinder that we realised how valuable the viewfinder is. Now everyone wants to use the Nikon!
Delighted to hear that viewfinders are making a comeback.

john milner says:
11 April 2011

I fully support this campaign. I recently bought a panasonic lumix g2 because its a great camera and also because it has an excellent built in electronic viewfinder. I’ve been really impresssed with both the LCD touch screen capabilities and the quality of the electronic viewfinder. Additionally, the viewfinder is essential in bright light when using the camera for either photos or video (HD quality). Who says you cant have your cake and eat it. I’ve even sold my excellent sony camcorder because I no longer need it, as the g2 is equally good for video. Other manufacturers should take note.

Arch Decon says:
11 April 2011

I am very impressed wtith the electonic viewfinder accessory of my Panasonic Lumix LX5 digital camera. I was keen to have an electonic view finder so I can see the results of using filters in front of the lens, particularly a polariser. It is almost as good as having a mini SLR.
My eyesight is far from perfect but am amazed at the brightness and clarity of the view finder image. I can easily read the digital information, which can be switched off for clearer picture composition.
It is far better than the viewfinder image on a Fuji bridge camera I looked at a couple of years ago.
It is also much better for my eyes than the squinty little optical view finder on a Canon G10.
1). I think the LX5 veiw finder image would be even better if it were 15 – 20% bigger. There is no need for more pixels.
2). I would prefer a slightly longer focal length range: i.e 28 – 105 rather than 24 – 90 mm.
3). The Lens cap filter ring should be 52 mm so the same lens cap can be used for the filter adaptor tube, rather than 46 mm as now. I suppose not too many people use filters these days.
Otherwise I have found it a superb little camera and much better than I had expected in almost every way.

I mostly agree with your comments on the LX5: a slightly larger live viewfinder and a standard 52 mm ring would be a bonus. They should also produce an auto-opening lens cap (though you can get a handy third party version on eBay for around £11).

But please don’t take away the 24mm wide angle lens. To me, the 24mm wide angle is far more important than 105 mm tele.

How would you feel about sacrificing the silly little flash to make way for an integrated viewfinder?

peter ramsay says:
3 May 2011

I have a Panasonic DMC-TZ10 which I bougth to replace an ageing Canon IXUS 11s (with viewfinder) so I could take better photos on a recent trip to New Zealand. Photos taken in bright sunlight have turned out to be badly taken eg off centre as I was unable to see the image on the screen and could only guess at the position. On one trip i overheard several people making the same complaint. Some had Panasonic’s but other makes were the same. How on earth could major manufacturers miss such a basic problem. I have e-mailed Panasonic several weeks ago and as expected have not had the courtesy of a reply.

Nik says:
4 May 2011

I am so pleased you have addressed this issue with Camera manufacturers. Usually newer technology can be relied upon to improve on previous incarnations, but when LCD’s replaced optical viewfinders(OVF’s) it was for many a backward step. Those that wish to capture the moment or carefully frame a shot (yes, creativity with a humble compact) have been shortchanged by the LCD. Try tracking a fast moving subject with an LCD held at arm’s length or tight framing whilst shooting into low sun – it’s nigh impossible unless you like to shoot blind a la mobile phone style and spray the scene with umpteen shots in the faint hope one of ’em will be OK. OVF’s have laws of physics to contend with and I can’t help feeling EVF’s are the best hope for those missing an OVF. Good luck with your campaign.

Fishyfishyswim says:
9 May 2011

Having what would be considered as ageing eyesight, I find it absolutely impossible to use a camera without a viewfinder! My arms just aren’t long enough and by the time I’ve put my glasses on, the time has passed for the shot or I have a double glare problem.
We bought a Canon A720 IS and almost immediately saw the problem.
I ended up going back to SLR and bought a Canon EOS 350 D- which is a great camera but on the bulky/heavy side for ‘snaps’.
What I’d really like is a re-chargable, small, light camera, with a viewfinder….surely it’s not that hard!

That is the same with me: my arms are just too short these days!

As I said in an earlier post, I went for the Panasonic LX5 plus its optional live’ electronic viewfinder. It is still a remarkably small and lightweight combination and the viewfinder even has adjustable dioptric correction – great for those of us whose arms are now too short!

The drawback is the price: around £440 for both.

John Thurston says:
18 May 2011

A swivel screen and a viewfinder give the ideal result.
A camera without either cannot is hit and probabley miss.
Just buying another camera with both.

old ben knobi says:
23 May 2011

I still use 2 x Fuji FinePix compacts, chosen because the viewfinder is in the top left corner of the camera body. I use them particularly when sailing (and skiing) because (a) I have to keep one hand free to hold on to the boat (or ski stick) for safety, (b) I can press the camera against my nose and into the corner between nose and eye for steadyness and (c) I can then operate the camera with one hand.

George says:
26 May 2011

People like me with long sight problems have difficulties focusing the LCD not matter how big the screens they are, it is no fun putting the glasses on and off for taking pictures or movies. I have been looking to replace my old Canon S30 with a more modern compact camera with view finder, and find it very difficult. The nearest that I can find is the Canon G12 and it’s not really a compact!

Beebey says:
29 May 2011

On a recent trip to Australia, where there was very bright sunlight, I was unable to use my Panasonic camera due to the lack of a viewfinder.I could only point and guess at what I was shooting. The results were terrible and I have now given my camera away.
I have been trying to buy another one with a viewfinder and have been told they are no longer made.
A large London store told me about your campaign. I am delighted and wish you every success.When a good one is available I look forward to buying it.

Peter Resch says:
13 June 2011

It’s no contest. I used an older P&S FujiFilm camera a couple of years ago holding it out in sunlight trying to frame a shot, guessing where to point it. The camera didn’t have image stabilisation so the final result was useless (but well exposed).
I vowed then that I’d never own a camera without some sort of eye level viewfinder.
OK, as far as I know all current P&S cameras have some sort image stabilisation so that gets around most of the camera movement blur problem but it doesn’t solve the framing problem when trying to compose a picture at arms length in bright sunlight.

I fully support your campaign. The screen on my Panasonic Lumix TZ5 only gives a very hard to see image out of doors – even in overcast conditions, and the point made about posture is absolutely correct. Trying to take telephoto shots with arms outstretched is a fool’s errand. It makes you wonder if the manufacturers ever test the products in real-life conditions.

Cath McDonald says:
26 June 2011

I go to Australia every two years. I have an old Kodak C360 with a viewfinder which is invaluable. My Australian family have compacts without viewfinders but find them impossible to use outdoors and therefore use SLRs or borrow my camera. I would love to upgrade to a newer camera but until I can get one with a view finder I will stick to old faithful.

My husband is still using our old Olympus C-40 which has a viewfinder. I have a new Panasonic TZ20 and find it a far more exciting and useful camera than the Olympus – but am frustrated that as soon as the sun comes out it’s guess and shoot! The benefit for stability in holding the camera to your face is very important too. On a cold but sunlit beach in NW Scotland recently, I found myself holding and operating the camera with one hand while using the other and the hood of my parka to try to shade the screen while squinting at it close up!
The Olympus only has a tiny screen, but we find hardly need to use it, and that saves on the camera battery of course. As others have already said, I reckon I would use a viewfinder all the time, and if I had to choose between an inbuilt flash and an inbuilt viewfinder, would always choose the latter.