/ Technology

Digital camera viewfinders – pricey models aren’t good enough!

We’ve been fighting on your behalf to bring back viewfinders to digital compact cameras. But after waves of high-cost cameras with viewfinders this year, we’re still left frustrated by the distinct lack of cheap options.

Our viewfinder campaign has had a surge of support from aggravated consumers finding the only options available for cameras are expensive DSLRs and bulky bridge cameras.

Armed with your comments, we challenged the major camera manufacturers to address this clear demand. A number of compacts with viewfinders have since been released, but as you’ll see below, virtually all of them price out everyday users looking for a cheap point-and-shoot.

Electronic viewfinder accessories

Panasonic, Olympus and Sony have all released hot-shoe electronic viewfinders which can be attached to the top of certain cameras. While we’ve been impressed by the quality of these, they’re an added cost of £150 and upwards. Plus, they’re only compatible with cameras which cost over £350. They also make the shape of the camera alittle awkward.

Our verdict: neat technology, but a costly solution with questionable aesthetics

Fujifilm X100 – hybrid viewfinder

Fujifilm’s hybrid viewfinder is an exceptional innovation, offering a sharp-quality glass optical viewfinder which converts into an electronic viewfinder at the flick of a switch. There’s no doubt it has the looks, but the retro-styled Fujifilm X100 has an eye-watering price of £850.

Our verdict: an exciting innovation, but out of reach of most budgets

Fujifilm X10 – high quality glass viewfinder

This is more like it Fujifilm! A top-notch glass viewfinder with a built-in zoom mechanism to follow the zoom of the lens precisely. We tried out the Fujifilm X10 ourselves and the clear, bright viewfinder was a joy to use. However, at £450-£500 this camera is again aimed at enthusiasts rather than everyday snappers.

Our verdict: one of the best optical viewfinders we’ve seen on a non-DSLR, but still not cheap

Nikon V1 camera system

Nikon created a flutter by finally steering away from DSLRs and entering the compact system camera market, and the Nikon V1 offers an electronic viewfinder in a small body. The design is impressively portable, but with a price of £830 with a kit lens, this is far from a cheap option.

Our verdict: an interesting move from Nikon, but the price-tag leaves a sour taste

Sony NEX-7 with OLED viewfinder

There’s no question the Sony NEX-7 is a stunner – the OLED (organic light emitting diode) electronic viewfinder is staggeringly bright and sharp, and Sony have slipped it into an amazingly slim camera body. But the price? £1000 just for the camera body with no lens. Wow.

Our verdict: wonderful viewfinder technology, but ruinously expensive

Canon PowerShot A1200 – the holy grail?

Finally, this April saw the release of a new cheap compact from Canon with a small optical viewfinder. At just £80, the Canon Powershot A1200 feels like the answer to all of our prayers. However, the viewfinder is exceptionally small, and Canon refuses to commit to releasing future compact models with viewfinders.

Our verdict: the price is right, but the viewfinder itself is disappointingly small

So where do we go from here?

A year down the line from when our viewfinder campaign began, the camera market certainly looks different. However, the fundamental need for an affordable, compact camera with a viewfinder to suit all users has scarcely been addressed at all.

It’s true that technology which debuts on more expensive models will find a way of trickling down to more affordable versions over time, but sometimes this process needs a shot in the arm.

That’s why we intend to return to all of the major camera manufacturers to let them know there’s still an appetite for affordable cameras with viewfinders – so make sure you tell them what you think of their latest largely expensive offerings!

Comments
Guest
Peter says:
21 October 2011

Although I own a Nikon DSLR my preferred day-to-day camera is a compact. I am now on my 3rd Fuji FinePix 6800Zoom which has a viewfinder. The camera is only 3.3mps, about 8 years old but is very versatile and has its own charging base. My wife is long-sighted and finds holding a camera at arms length unsatisfactory so, being unable to find a suitable viewfinder camera to replace my original 6800Z, I looked on ebay and was able to purchase an identical replacement for only £25. When that failed, I bought another for a similar price. I will look at the Canon PowerShot A1200 but I am prepared to be disappointed.

Guest

The Panasonic electronic viewfinder (LX5 and GF-series only) is still well worth the money. It’s key features are:

It works in bright sunlight
It saves power (extended battery life)
It is tiltable for low level shots
It has adjustable dioptric correction

The latter point makes it a winner for me. I highly recommend this for anyone who needs reading specs to compose their photos.

Guest

Thanks for the comments, terfar, that’s a really useful insight into working with the Panasonic viewfinder

Just to explain for anyone unsure, “dioptric correction” or “diopter adjustment” allows you to adjust the “focus” of the viewfinder to suit your own eyesight – it’s a feature you’ll find on most high-quality viewfinders, optical or electronic, but typically not on the basic ones on small cameras

Guest
Brian says:
21 October 2011

I have the same problem in finding a good camcorder with a veiwfinder, it seems only available at the top end on the price range.ie £900 / £1000 +

Guest

I wanted to move up from my compact so recently purchased a DSLR with a viewfinder. What a difference it makes! No more guessing when taking a photo in bright light. Viewfinders were once commonplace so I don’t know why they are so expensive on compacts.

As Brian above, I’m now wanting a camcorder with a viewfinder. The cheapest quality one I’ve found is the Canon HF M41 at around £600. I’m waiting for the new Which report before buying.

Why is it so difficult to have viewfinders as standard at a reasonable price?

Guest

Thanks jonas, and Brian – amazingly, that Canon HF M41 is one of the “cheapest” camcorders currently available to offer an electronic viewfinder. At £600+, that’s a really poor indication of the state of the camcorders market! When we’ve spoked to Canon, Samsung and Sony on the viewfinders issue, we’ve challenged them about the lack of camcorder options, and will continue to do so!

Guest

Tell the manufacturers I will not spend any money on a camera until there is a reasonably priced compact camera with a suitable viewfinder for use in bright sunlight.

Guest

Personally, I’d be happy to drop the integrated flash to make room and suffer a smaller/cheaper rear screen in exchange for a decent viewfinder. The viewfinder is far more important than either for composing good pictures whether your just a snapper or a keen photographer.