/ Technology

Sony’s latest camera – are viewfinders making a comeback?

We’ve been campaigning hard to alert manufacturers to the demand for a compact camera with a viewfinder, and it seems Sony’s finally come up with an answer… provided you’ve got deep wallets.

Our campaign to bring back the digital camera viewfinder has found overwhelming support here on Which? Conversation – it seems plenty of you aren’t alone in struggling to use a LCD screen in bright sunlight, or without having to use glasses.

We’ve heard responses from many of the major manufacturers, ranging from vague acknowledgment of the issue, to the much more satisfying news that Canon would be releasing a new cheap pocket camera with a viewfinder.

However, the hunt for the perfect camera with a viewfinder just took an interesting turn with some exciting news from Sony.

New Sony NEX-7 boasts OLED viewfinder

Sony has just announced the new NEX-7 micro-system camera, which boasts a never-before seen OLED viewfinder, among lots of other impressive specs.

During the course of this campaign, I’ve often mentioned my hope that some enterprising manufacturer will come up with a viewfinder using OLED technology, and it Sony’s first out of the gate.

OLED (organic light emitting diode) technology allows for screens that are slimmer, sharper and brighter than traditional LCD screens, so it seems a natural partner for fitting an electronic viewfinder into a relatively slim camera body.

The great news about electronic viewfinders is that they can exactly depict the shot you’ll be getting through the lens, regardless of the zoom range. The same can’t be said of optical viewfinders (except on DSLRs), which suffer from parallax error – the viewfinder shows a different angle of view to what you’re getting through the lens – and small optical viewfinders are hopeless with larger zoom ranges.

…and the downside?

Sadly, this new technology won’t be coming cheap. The NEX-7 is a 24 megapixel system camera boasting a huge image sensor and an interchangeable lens approach. We’d expect this model to cost over £600 when it launches in November.

However, progress always has to start somewhere, and technology has a habit of debuting on the pricier models before filtering down into the more affordable end of the market.

The most exciting news here is that Sony has proven it can be done – you can indeed fit a high quality electronic viewfinder into a slim camera body. So come on, Sony, and come on Sony’s rivals – let’s see plenty more of this to come! And bring the price down while you’re at it…


“….bring back the digital camera viewfinder….” is exactly what we don’t want.
We want to “…bring back optical viewfinders on digital cameras…..”

Yours pedantically

J M Websell says:
2 September 2011

Agree with Alistair – hopefully the reintroduction of a viewfinder will eliminate those hordes of the photographically challenged who are unable to take a picture properly unless their bit of technology is held a minimum of two feet in front of them, thereby depriving others of the space to do whatever is reasonable in the particular location and circumstances.

Re: the anticipated release price of the NEX-7 – no doubt there will be those who simply “have to have one” as an ostentatious manifestation of their virility? apparent disposable income?. This kind of “male jewellery” (sexism unintended) was just the same in my younger days, when the object of desire was the Nikon F2 with Photomic Head. Good pictures are the result of appreciating what is being seen through the viewfinder – some people have it (David Bailey, Karsh, Snowdon, Donovan, et al who had such a good eye for a successful photograph, that they could have almost used a bottle bottom for a lens), most of us don’t.

John W

It is vital that we get the viewfinder back but this is too expensive for this type of camera I could find a more suitable SLR for that price it depends on what the person wants

George says:
5 September 2011

What’s wrong with the electronic viewfinders on the Panasonic G2 and the new G3 Camera? I’m sure the Sony with its OLED viewfinder is great – so it should be at £1200 and a 14 megapixel sensor (sounds like this camera is aimed at professional users). Bit rich for me, I just need a camera to follow fast moving subjects like aircraft and the Panasonics come in under £500!

Can we expect an equivalent move in this direction for camcorders? The loss of the viewfinder on the latest round of models is regrettable as most professional cameramen would concur. As an amateur I would love a well placed viewfinder like they used to have on the old analogue camcorders. Anyone agree?

I really do need an optical viewfinder because I am long-sighted and cannot keep on using reading glasses to look at screens. I need to look through an optical viewfinder – bearing in mind the parallax issues – and focus on the kingfisher I am photographing. Let’s hope a manufacturer resolves the issue soon.

Roger Waterfall says:
3 October 2011

How about a campaign for manual zooms on small cameras?

Mr B J Mann says:
19 October 2011

Camera manufacturers complain that they are losing market share to mobile phones with built in cameras. So what do they do? Remove the optical viewfinder and leave you with a mobile phone screen to use. But people don’t buy mobile phones because they don’t have optical viewfinders, they buy them because they can make phone calls with them.

If camera makers want to compete with mobile phones, they should replace the optical viewfinder with a key-pad and cellphone circuitry.

If they want to regain the market share they lost as camera manufacturers to phone manufacturers, keep it, and guarantee a future for themselves by providing something the phone companies are never going to build into their phones, they should bring back the optical viewfinder!

VERY well put!

Jim Coffin says:
31 December 2011

I have a Sony Handycam HDD, any chance an optical viewfinder is available?

I think they should all have a viewfinder as anybody tried taking a picture in full sun and look just at a screen. It is so much better to use a view finder but to find the perfect camera is some thing different.

Discussion of this camera causes CONFUSION. I think most people read, and are taking part in, this thread because they want OPTICAL viewfinders, not LED screens NOR EVFs either! I got rid of an otherwise splendid bridge camera (KM A2) and replaced it with a DSLR (KM 5D) mainly because I couldn’t stand the EVF.

dilps says:
28 July 2012

I agree entirely with John Callisto. The whole point of this thread was, I thought, the need for OPTICAL viewfinders for those who cannot focus easily on a nearby screen and yet can focus on a more distant object.