/ Technology

Our digital camera viewfinder campaign continues…

The viewfinder leaflet we sent to manufacturers

When we first asked whether you wanted viewfinders back on digital cameras, we didn’t expect such a resounding response. So we’ve built a ‘viewfinder campaign’ and taken your comments to the manufacturers.

When our camera expert Rich Parris wrote about his longing for the return of the good ‘old-fashioned’ viewfinder back in August, at best he presumed a trickling of support.

But instead of silent nods and quiet ambivalence, his Conversation received a flood of encouragement – we’ve had over 200 comments so far!

To this day Rich’s ‘bring back the viewfinder‘ Convo has provoked more public support than any other issue we’ve written about. And I don’t know of any other that has so many ‘thumbs up’ and not one ‘thumb down’.

Bring back the viewfinder

Manufactures have seemingly discarded the viewfinder in favour of outdoing each other with ever more compact digital cameras. It’s now so hard to track down a compact camera with a viewfinder, that you’re basically limited to buying a chunky and expensive SLR. And you quite decisively want them back:

‘I have never owned and will never buy any camera for personal use that does not have a viewfinder… period!’ asserts Sue Jenner. Peter Jones agrees, ‘I’ve been holding off buying a new compact camera for nearly two years because I can’t find a suitable one with a viewfinder’.

And Roger B rounds it off quite nicely, ‘The viewfinder is the first thing I try when buying a camera. No viewfinder, no sale.’

At the same time, Rich was surveying Which? members. Of the 1,667 asked 70% said they struggled to use an LCD camera screen in bright daylight, and of those who didn’t own a camera with a viewfinder, 60% said they’d find it much easier to take photos if they did.

Support our viewfinder campaign

So armed with these survey results and your hundreds of Which? Convo comments, we’ve taken this issue to the manufacturers. A gleaming pamphlet stuffed with some of your comments (pictured below) was created and sent to all the major camera manufactures – including Panasonic, Sony, Canon, Fuji, Olympus, Casio and Nikon.

Your comments on our viewfinder pamphletOne page of our viewfinder pamphlet with comments from BBSlowcoach, Tom Pyne and Liz C.

We’re currently awaiting a response from each of the camera makers (and prodding along the way) so fingers crossed the humble viewfinder will make a significant return.

We’ll bring you their responses in the near future, but if you support our viewfinder campaign, sound off below and help us badger manufacturers to bring them back.

Update 29 March 2011: Five of the big camera manufacturers have now responded to our campaign to bring back viewfinders to compact digital cameras! You can hear from Canon and Olympus in this Conversation, with Sony, Panasonic and Fujifilm having their say here. Are you happy with their responses?

Bechet says:
12 January 2011

I recently bought a Canon Ixus 100is in preference to the 130is because although, otherwise, its specification was inferior, it has a viewfinder. I have watched friends frantically trying to shield the lcd screen on their (otherwise excellent) Panasonics so that they can see what they’re trying to photograph and I don’t want to join the club. Unfortunately, it’s become very hard to find a compact with a viewfinder unless you’re prepared to pay for a G11. OK, viewfinders are not always completely accurate but sometimes they’re better than nothing.

Tiya says:
18 January 2011

I agree with the above whole heartedly – I also went for the Canon Ixus 100is just for the view finder , even though there are higher spec-ced cheaper cameras – in fact Canon makes some themselves.

Gordon.H.Chase says:
13 January 2011

I have had to specially fabricate a 9cm long rectangular plastic tube, held on to the camera by rubber bands, (courtesy of Pat) in a vain attempt to see anything on the LCD, …..in anything you could describe as daylight. As an outdoor tool cameras with only LCD viewfinders are a joke.
Will OLEDs be a satisfactory future solution ? I somehow doubt it.

Thanks for your comment Gordon – it’s interesting, the OLED screens we’ve tested to date are glorious to look at when you’re viewing your photos, but they have the same old problem in bright sunlight and are just as hard to make out as LCD screens!

My biggest hope for OLED? Use those super-slim OLED displays in electronic viewfinders that you can fit into smaller camera bodies!

Anon says:
13 January 2011

What good is a viewfinder if it doesn’t look through the lens? On a compact the live view on the screen is sensible.

Sadly the screen cannot be seen clearly in bright sunlight – If you only take photographs inside the house then it is fine – but most people use cameras more outside than inside..

As for non reflex viewfinders – the only time they are inaccurate is when they are used at very close ranges say less than a metre. But even then it is easy enough to compensate for that difference..

Have to add until the invention of the SLR all viewfinders were NOT through the lens – but did make it easy to compose. But the non viewfinder camera is useless in bright sunlight..

electronic viewfinders are through the lens you get what you see.

Simon Williams says:
13 January 2011

This is such a good campaign. Having used and reviewed numerous compact digital compacts, I wholeheartedly agree that using an LCD in anything approaching sunshine is near-impossible. My wife continues to use an old Fujifilm FinePix 4800Z, specifically because it has a viewfinder, when there are several newer, higher spec cameras around the house. I mentioned this in a recent blog at http://tinyurl.com/4ee8l2y. All power to you!

Susan Taylor says:
13 January 2011

In spite of different writer’s surname – I am the aforementioned spouse mentioned above (!) and I’m 100% behind this campaign. 360 degrees behind it too – if that’s allowable.

I’d rather have something that accurately displayed the subject that I am taking a picture of and, sorry to say, the little plastic window, often above and, occasionally, to the side, is not accurate enough. You also can’t guarantee that complete strangers using your camera to take snaps of you won’t place their grubby fingers over the lens whilst peering through the view finder.

Having said that, it sounds like something people want and if it also means saving battery power when you’re running low then why not include one?

Or make the screen brighter (and make batteries more efficient or with greater capacity).

Sadly those LED screens do not display anything in sunlight so are inaccurate – whereas a viewfinder allows a good view in all light conditions. The difference in parallax error is slight.

In all honesty I far prefer to use a self-timer and tripod to allow inclusion of myself in photographs. Keeps everybody from touching the lens too.

I really don’t mind people only using the ineffective screen – but I want a viewfinder. 🙂

Hi fat sam – I’m with you on the accuracy issue, I really am, and parallex error can be a frustrating thing if you’re trying to frame a precise image in one go. Electronic viewfinders are the ideal solution to that issue, as they show exactly what you’d be seeing on the screen anyway

However as (the other!) Richard says, in bright conditions it’s better to have a roughly accurate idea of what you’re shooting via an optical viewfinder rather than no clue at all thanks to a glaring LCD screen!

I have often been frustrated at a total inability to see anything on the LED screen of previous cameras if there was too much light falling on them. I now have a camera which has a fully rotatable screen allowing great flexibility in camera/eye position and I can touch a button and the screen view is transferred to a SLR type viewfinder. It is through the lens but it is via the LCD screen. Excellent solution but the camera is larger and more expensive than many competitors. Canon PowerShot SX10 IS in this case. It can be done but perhaps at a price, size and weight !

electronic viewfinders are through the lens – you get what you see.

Graham East says:
13 January 2011

My early digital cameras all had viewfinders which I took for granted. Without a viewfinder the point and shoot with minimal fuss was lost in outdoor bright conditions. I imagined you could vaguely point the camera in the right direction and get someithing with the freedom of choosing from a range of shots – how wrong. You are right on the button here, pointing out that manufacturers have lost the plot on this one. If a camera was designed for only indoor use, then sacrificing the viewfinder is fine, but we want to easily use our cameras any where.

strum says:
13 January 2011

Another factor here is age. Many people over 45 struggle to focus on anything closer than 3′ – so the screen is useless without glasses (and it’s a pain to find glasses, when you’ve spotted something you want to snap).

But such people have no problem using a viewfinder without glasses (and are then able to glance over the camera, at the subject).

Deborah says:
14 January 2011

I am struggling to find an inexpensive compact digital camera with a viewfinder.

It’s so much easier to compose a photo when you can just concentrate on the image through the viewfinder. I can spot whether, for example, someone has got their hair blowing across their face, or there’s some unwanted item in the foreground, e.g. an unwanted bag. I just don’t seem to spot these details so quickly with the LED display.

Of course I could waste time retaking the picture, or going to Photoshop and editing it, but there would be no need if I just had a simple viewfinder.

Andrew Green says:
14 January 2011

I used to use a Canon G5 which a compact and sported a viewfinder. Unfortunately it was quite inaccurate and the lens obscured at least 1/3 of the view. Even so I preferred using it to having to hold the camera at arms length and view through what was effectively a postage stamp sized image. Hopeless. I now have a Nikon 5000D SLR which has a proper viewfinder which I always use. My son-in-law used it for a day or two in France and took every photo through the back of the camera, never using the viewfinder once. What a waste.

Bring back the view finder !

Graham Austin says:
14 January 2011

I like a viewfinder for several reasons:
1) they can be used in bright sun without problem
2) the camera is held against the face which I find more stable than holding it in front of me
3) the camera becomes an extension of the eye and I feel it helps with accurate framing, especially when panning.
I use a Sony a700 dSLR, as my main camera, but also a Canon a1100, only because it has a viewfinder.
But – I sympathise with the camera manufacturers. Before I bought a digital (because they were just not good enough back then) I was bemused, nay amazed, to see that most of the other guests at a wedding were composing their snaps on the screen even though all digi cameras back then had a viewfinder. My mum couldn’t get her eye central in a viewfinder to save her life and was always cutting off heads or feet. So maybe the market for viewfinders is quite small ans serious photographers are prepared to pay to get what they need. I imagine that a viewfinder which zooms in conjunction with the lens must be quite expensive especially when zooms go to large magnifications.
I have yet to find a decent electronic viewfinder by the way but no doubt it will come. The new Sony *** looks quite exciting in this respect offering quicker focusing than other live view systems.

scholesy says:
17 January 2011

I have a GE X5 and have to say i’m very pleased with the overall performance and the LCD!

Claire says:
18 January 2011

I also have a Fujifillm Finepix camera, which is falling apart, but I can’t upgrade it because I want a viewfinder and value for money. A lot of people mention bright sunlight, but I find the viewfinder is also necessary in the dark when my LCD screen shows me nothing, but if I look through the viewfinder I can see perfectly well enough to take a picture. I will keep looking…

I am in the market for a good compact digital camera with a viewfinder, but I can’t find one so the manufacturer’s will not be getting my money. I am using an old Olympus Camedia with an excellent viewfinder capable of zooming in. It is a bit bulkier than the modern cameras but at least I can use it in daylight. So manufacturers please note; a customer is waiting.

Peter Lawley says:
18 January 2011

I am all in favour of bringing back some form of viewfinder on digital camera’s. We have a small Casio compact digital, which has a large display screen on the back – but which is utterly useless in bright daylight for composing shots, so you just have to point and hope for the best.
Otherwise the camera is great with very good pictures, but let down by this lack of viewfinder image.

a viewfinder is ESSENTIAL.

electronic viewfinders are through the lens – what you see is what you get.

its not a big deal to incorporate one either.

these big zoom compacts – i have the samsung wb600 – are great.

with a viewfinder they will be all most people need.

Ken Rock says:
18 January 2011

I have two cameras that I never use because the screens are broken and I do not want to point in the general direction of my subject. If they had viewfinders they would still be useable. But then, maybe that is another reason for manufacturers going over to display screens – they sell more cameras!

John says:
18 January 2011

Fortunately my Panasonic has a viewfinder and a screen. I bought a compact camera for my wife in America and that didn’t have a viewfinder and gave her lots of problems. I found a compact Canon Ixus with a viewfinder and screen just before Christmas and gave her an extra present!

Unquestionably in certain light a screen cannot be viewed and I believe a viewfinder is essential. I will never buy a camera again without a viewfinder!

Iain Nicolson says:
18 January 2011

Its not only about the difficulty in seeing an LCD screen in bright conditions – holding a camera at arms length, even with 2 hands, can at best provide a very unsteady support, resulting in camera shake of varying magnitude. Holding the camera against your face to look through the viewfinder in my opinion actually provides a more steady support for the camera, resulting in sharper photos.

I’m a keen amateur photographer, but I use compact cameras rather than SLRs because I don’t want to carry anything too heavy. Nowadays when I want a new camera I go into the shop and ask for one with a viewfinder – it saves a lot of time. I agree with everything that has been said about shooting in bright sunlight and in dark conditions. Also using a viewfinder means the camera is held closer which gives better support, so less chance of camera-shake.

But there’s more to it than just having a viewfinder. A few years ago I made the mistake of buying a camera with a digital viewfinder, which was absolutely useless (the viewfinder, not the camera) – the resolution was so poor it showed no detail whatsoever. Also with my current camera, turning the screen off automatically changes the camera’s settings for autofocus etc, there is no viewfinder information (even my very first film SLR, nearly 30 years ago, showed information about settings and exposure in the viewfinder) and if I leave the screen off for a few minutes without taking a shot the camera switches itself off – very irritating!