/ 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!

Mike Greenwood says:
12 May 2012

The Canon PowerShot A1200 is a waste of time, it uses silly AA batteries.

Jean says:
9 June 2012

I own a Canon Ixus 8oo and just like Maggie I have been extremely happy with it,but now with odd things not working as they should I fear it will pack up on me soon. Like everyone else I need a view finder, with sunshine on the screen taking photos is pure guess work. I find a view finder indispensable and will continue delaying buying a replacement until my Ixus packs up altogether.

Mary says:
16 June 2012

I am so tempted to buy the Olympus SZ-31MR pocket camera – it has great reviews but I just cannot bear to be restricted to screen view only. My current camera (kodak DX6490) must surely be one of the first digital’s made but it has an excellent viewfinder which I use all the time because I cannot get on with the screen view. I would stick with this camera if it were not so flipping slow! My budget is around £250 and all I want to do is take photographs and upload them onto my PC – Am I ever going to be lucky enough to buy a good camera for that price with a viewfinder? Who decided that we, the public, no longer needs or wants a viewfinder anyway – someone who doesn’t use a camera no doubt! or has X-ray vision, can see in bright sun-light and without specs! Please camera manufacturers, listen to your clients. I think I shall hold off buying a new camera until they do!

Steve George says:
9 May 2013

I have yet to find a digital camera that I both like and can afford. I have an old film Leica, but the price of a new digital Leica M9 is more than I paid for my car. I also have a Ricoh GR-1, an incredibly nice compact 35mm camera with a built in (not stuck on) viewfinder and an array of controls which makes it a doddle to use (one wheel controlling aperture – aperture priority automatic being the only option – one wheel controlling exposure adjustment, one switch switching the flash on and off, and two buttons -one to take a photo and the other to set the self timer). So when they brought out the GR Digital I thought “whoopee!”. But I was wrong. No viewfinder, and the only access to controls via a complicated menu system that you (or at least I) have to wear reading glasses in order to operate. Overcomplicated cheaply produced junk.

And by the way Mike Greenwood, the advantage of AA batteries is that you can buy them in a shop on holiday when you’ve discovered that foreign electricity and your rechargeable batteries don’t mix.