LCD viewer review

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LCD VF; perfect viewfinder for a viewfinderless camera?

Earlier, they used a rangefinder camera (read: Leica M) only with a limited range of focal lengths. Due to parallax, you see something else through the viewfinder than on the picture when using a wide angle lens. A built-in viewfinder is not optimal in this case. If you still want to use a wide angle lens on a rangefinder camera, you buy an extra optical viewfinder for that, which you put on top of the camera.

Owners of SLR cameras do not need that additional viewfinder. But with the advent of viewfinderless micro-system cameras and the introduction of Liveview on SLRs, there is a renewed need for external electronic and optical viewfinders on the market. Is it something for you?

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An LCD viewfinder, as shown above, is a magnier clicked around the LCD screen of a camera. This external viewfinder is mounted on a metal magnetic strip that you first have to paste on your viewfinder. But there are also systems with a different method of attachment. Using an LCD viewfinder, you can, thanks to the built-in magnifier, focus the camera more accurately. Using a plug-in viewfinder also improves the stability while focusing, because the camera is held closer to your body when focusing.

The LCD viewfinder is often used to take a picture (or view) with the LCD in bright sunlight. The LCD viewfinder is also ideal for users of an SLR camera who make videos: because the mirror is flipped up during filming, you are dependent on the LCD screen to focus, like the users of a mirrorless camera.

Characteristics of an external viewfinder 

  • Suitable for the most 3" LCD screens
  • Increase factor of 2x - 4x (dependent on brand)
  • No dioptre correction
  • Stout and durable: no moving parts
  • Splash and dust repellent

Using an LCD magnifier/viewfinder, the size of the camera substantially increases. In terms of weight, it is not that bad. The combination of camera, lens and viewfinder is still much lighter than an SLR with lens.

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Three types of plug-in viewfinders are available:

  • An optical viewfinder with a fixed focal length usually placed in the hot shoe on top of the camera. This type of viewfinder can basically be used on a variety of cameras used, provided the focal length of the lens on the camera matches that of the optical viewfinder.
  • A magnifier that you place over the LCD of your camera like a viewfinder. In fact, this is also an optical viewfinder.
  • An electronic viewfinder (EVF), which is placed in a special contact on top of your camera. This type of viewfinder is only available for a limited number of cameras. Examples include the Olympus VF-2 or the Panasonic EVF 1 for micro-43 cameras. Unlike the micro-43 lenses, these electronic viewfinders can only be combined with its own brand of camera.

Is it something for you?

Using an additional viewfinder is useful when you need to work concentrated or when you are troubled by striking sunlight on your LCD screen. Because you can tilt an electronic viewfinder, it is sometimes possible to use an EVF as angle viewfinder. The larger magnification you get with the help of a magnifier that you put on the screen works very nice. Below is the relative magnification of a 3 viewfinders. The optical LCD viewfinder (left) produces a larger image than an SLR or (in this case) a camera with built-in electronic viewfinder (center). The electronic plug-in viewfinder of Panasonic (right) gives such a small picture, that you can no longer focus accurately manually. Whether an external viewfinder is for you, will partly depend on how much it is worth to you and how often you want to use it. Prices of external viewfinders start just below the hundred Euros, electronic viewfinders from about two hundred Euros.

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Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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