Digital camera screens are getting larger and brighter – but what good is that if you still can’t use them in strong sunlight? Surely there’s still a place for the old-fashioned viewfinder?
There was a time when taking a photo was, by necessity, a matter of holding the camera up to your eye. A time when old film cameras didn’t have the glowing LCD screens we now see being waved overhead at every possible public event.
Instead, we peered into the small optical viewfinder on the back of the camera. Old-fashioned? Yes – but genuinely useful.
Even if waving a camera at arm’s length is the standard technique these days, it’s an unnatural position, and it can lead to blurry shots – especially if you’re zooming at the time.
It’s so much easier to grip a camera steadily when it’s held to your eye, and composing shots is a great deal easier using a small optical viewfinder.
Shooting blindly in bright sunshine
More than this, there’s a real problem that affects all LCD screens on digital cameras – take them outside in bright sunlight and they’re pretty much unusable.
If you’ve got a digital camera or camera phone you’ll know what I mean – you’re outdoors, taking photos in the sunshine, but because of reflections off the screen you can’t see a thing. The best you can hope for is to take a few shots in the general direction of your subject and hope that one works out.
And I’ve got the stats to back up my grievances. In our recent survey of 1,667 people, 70% told us they found it hard to use a camera screen in bright light conditions. Of those whose cameras didn’t have a viewfinder, 60% agreed that a viewfinder would make it easier for them to take pictures.
Death of the viewfinder
But in their rush to outdo each other with smaller and more stylish cameras, the big manufacturers have steadily abandoned the humble viewfinder. It’s got to the point where they’re now virtually impossible to find on new compact models.
These days, if you want a camera with a viewfinder your only options are chunky superzoom bridge cameras with electronic viewfinders, expensive advanced models like the Canon G10 or G11, or going all-out and buying an expensive digital SLR.
I’m not saying that everyone wants a viewfinder – plenty of people are content enough to rely on the camera’s screen. But for those of us who miss being able to hold a camera to our eye, surely we deserve the option of a few models that offer a viewfinder as well as an LCD screen?
Then we can wait for the sunshine to come back out and start smugly snapping.
Update 12 January 2011: We’re now taking your comments to bring back the digital camera viewfinder straight to the manufacturers, so find out more about our campaign here.
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?