I Have Realized I Have Feelings On OVF vs EVF


S. Oregon Coast (the Northernmost-Cal of them All)
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Andrew Lossing
I've used a lot of LCD screens and viewfinders of various kinds over the years. In fact you could say that the only thing my choices in cameras owned proves on this point is that I haven't made up my mind at all. However, I realized the other day that I can sort of put my feelings into words. Interested if anyone else feels the same way here.

The camera is a transition tool between the scene and the resulting photograph. Its compositional aid (OVF/EVF, LCD) gives a certain connection. Optical viewfinders don't represent the image, they represent the scene. So in a way, an optical viewfinder usually provides connection with the scene. Bigger, brighter viewfinders do a better job, while small viewfinders with small magnification levels can have the opposite effect, until you get down to some of the tiny compact 35mm camera finders, which are an active disconnection from the scene. In effect, you're peering through a small, distorted box and while they work for a framing tool, the effect on your consciousness is of being disconnected, to an extent.

Of course, the optical viewfinder has a sort of battle of information to include to help out the photographer. SLRs are the most exact, rangefinders often let you see what's just outside the frame, hotshoe finders tell you nothing about the camera's rendering but still offer a sort of connectedness to the scene. You still feel the interaction with the world around you, less like you're interacting with the resulting image or the electronic box that's making the image. A hotshoe finder works pretty well on my Bessa-T with B&W film that has a ton of latitude, and I am usually zone focusing.

An electronic viewfinder, by comparison, takes you further out of the scene but offers connectedness with the image. A good, large, detailed and accurate EVF gives you a pretty good representation of the resulting image. You're no longer looking at reality, but at your result. EVFs are great for tricky lighting, or any work where you're more concerned with the result than your own interactivity with the scene. Now, bad EVFs don't show as accurate a representation of the final image, due to poor color rendition, graininess or low resolution, distortion or other issues. These are like being at a double remove: you're removed from both the scene (peering at a screen, not the world), plus seeing an inaccurate representation of the image.

Now, interestingly, I find LCD screens are kind of a useful compromise. Because you're not peering into a narrow view which obscures the rest of the world, you still have some connectedness to the scene. Your attention is focused on the camera, so it's not true connectedness, but it's closer than with an EVF because of your peripheral knowledge of what's going on. Plus, the LCD gives a very accurate representation of the image, providing decent connectedness to it, minus whatever visibility issues the LCD may have in bright light. Of course, there are also ergonomics, for example, a heavier camera or lens makes the act of holding a camera to look at the LCD quite cumbersome. But for a small camera, I find I do actually feel more comfortable with my connection to both the image and the scene.

What do y'all think? Logically, a low-quality EVF ranks worst, and I feel my experience agrees with that.
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Graham Moore

Vancouver BC
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I used an SLR for about 30 years, then used a variety of digital P&S cameras on a very occasional basis. I hated the shutter lag and the difficulty of using an LCD screen in bright sunlight.
I decided in 2014 that I needed an ILC camera but didn't want to haul large, heavy lenses around. I was shown an Olympus E-M10 and immediately saw that an EVF made perfect sense - WYSIWYG really appealed to my logic and the rest is history.


Milwaukee, WI USA
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I just realized that there is more information in ANY viewfinder than I realized. Maybe you are getting really good at WRITING about gear (and photography philosophy) or I'm paying more attention (because the world is coming to an end).

I think whatever viewfinder is available is the MOST IMPORTANT part of the camera (or camera system). I should pay more attention to the differences in viewfinders.


Hall of Famer
When using native lenses, I still feel more connected with an OVF and therefore it's more useful to me in creating images than an EVF. What you're seeing is real, there's no computer generated image. But that's just me. However, that's easy for me to say, I don't have a mirrorless ILC system at the moment. If I did, and wanted to use my legacy lenses, it'd be EVF all the way, no more playing the hero trying to get the focus right.
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Interesting topic!

I resisted EVFs for a long, long time (which meant that, at the time, I preferred DSLRs - or thought I had to ...). However, the E-M10 changed that - not only was it perfectly usable, it also gave me *more* information about the scene, the camera's settings and the final image than I'd eve had befoe. Howeve, at the time, I also owned a D5500 - and for quick and casual shooting, I still used to pick that camera because it was ready faster and I could actually put it up to my eye *before* switching it on. A better street and documentary camera. In general, I still see this advantage, but with modern EVFs, the image has become so clear, immediate, smooth and precise that the "disconnect" Andrew was talking about has just about disappeared. That's only true for *good* EVFs, though - and there are plenty of others still around (I'm looking at you, GX9 ...). I find myself less and less willing to put up with marginally spec'd EVFs - one of the reasons I'm underwhelmed with the newly announced Sony A7C ...

However, later I got into rangefinders and discovered that in spite of their shortcomings, those are my favourite finders: minimal information, but superbly bright and clear, which does lead to a better understanding of the scene, allowing for more informed decisions when it comes to framing, and it does away with having to "scan" the scene using micro movements. No EVF can supply that kind of natural "looking at the scene" instead of "setting up the shot" ...

Paradoxically, it's exactly the *lack* of precision that's feels so liberating and positive - it's not the OVF on its own. On the contrary: Small and less well corrected OVFs offer the worst experience: The small clip-on GR finder - can't remember the exact model number - is really, really bad; I wish I could tolerate it, but I just can't. And the small, dim penta-mirror finder in the D5500 may have been adequate, but it was one of the reasons I finally sold this otherwise very pleasing and competent camera: In bright light, reading the information display was next to impossible. The D750's OVF is still gorgeous and - together with its versatile mount and AF capabilities - one of the reasons for keeping that camera. Anyhow, nothing else comes close to the Leica M finders in terms of feel and satisfaction.

Finally, screens just don't do it for me - the "disconnect" is doubled, and additionally, my eyes don't get any younger: Nowadays, I often have to *remove* my glasses (I'm short-sighted) to be able to see the screen clearly, but more importantly, I think that for me, the camera is an extension of my eye, and it feels very counter-intuitive to actually use an extension at arm's length instead of directly in front of my eye. Fiddling with touchscreens alienates things further for me. For me, the natural process is eye-camera-image, not eye-camera-screen-finger-image. I don't say screens can't be extremely helpful and convenient - they can, and I've even learned to appreciate the GR III's interface up to a point, but I'll take even a bad EVF over a screen, for instance, I still use the original clip-on EVF with the GF1 even though its resolution is very, very low and the LCD is actually surprisingly good.

So, as is to be expected, while I find Andrew's observations very plausible and interesting, my own are somewhat different. I think it's not OVFs and EVFs that are most devisive, it's screens and viewfinders. And I'll say here that if there were only EVFs of the quality of the Z 6's, I'd probably be completely fine with having them on a Leica M as well. Technology in this respect progresses in a very satisfying way.

Still, the less things go between me and the scene, the better for my personal experience.



Hall of Famer
Wonderful discussion.

My life with rangefinders and now DSLRs has lead me to clump the optical TTL viewfinder to same category as EVFs. They represent the image more than the world. That's great for accurate compositions.

Rangefinders and their outside-the-frame vision provides a very natural way to see what you'll include in your frame even before you pan your camera or take steps back. With TTL cameras I would take "false" steps trying to see what happens and there's this dance composing the image. With RF you won't need to have that dance so much. Sadly the downside is that your edges and corners are more imprecise and often even blocked by your lens!


There's another kind of VF that's not O or E. Even more connected to the world I reckon? :)




Newcastle, Australia
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Weirdly, I still prefer an OVF. I have no idea why. I just naturally gravitate to them. I almost invariably use the OVF on my X100 because the EVF really isn't that good, perhaps it improved in later versions. I have decent EVFs on my Panasonics, but even so, tend to use the LCD screen instead, unless the sun is way too bright... but if I know that will be the case when I go out, I tend to take one of the Pentaxes instead. I'm glad I have many choices :)


Top Veteran
I strongly resisted EVF for years before picking up a Fuji X-E1 and immediately going all in for mirrorless (one of my work colleagues still jokes about that). I find that the WYSIWYG nature of a good EVF is a great tool for making pictures with a digital camera and I doubt that I will ever look at DSLR again.

However, I have recently acquired a Nikon FM2n and am enjoying the old school shooting process of film.


Hall of Famer
What I like about EVFs in particular is how I can fluently continue composing if I take the camera off my eye -- the rear screen activates and I'm instantly able to try higher/lower angles and so on.

I like a no-clutter EVF but camera makers usually offer EVF views that are too minimalistic or overly cluttered.

The EVF does offer a WYSIWYG view but I don't rely on them for tonality or color accuracy or anything. It's mainly just for the exposure preview.

The most welcome feature are the highlight/shadow warnings.

Sadly not many cameras make them right. I prefer blinkies (Leica Q) to solid color (Olympus) or zebras (Panasonic, Sony). Leica Q and I imagine Leica SL/SL2 do them the best. Second-best is the Panasonic implementation of live histograms (because you can make those histograms quite small and unobtrusive).
I prefer optical viewfinders.

1) See outside the frame for faster composition
2) does not use the battery
3) does not cause the sensor to heat up, losing performance. Sensor noise is related to operating temperature.
4) Less shutter Lag when taking the actual picture. With EVF- shutter needs to be open to operate, close to begin image taking cycle, then fire.

The time lag on the Leica to take the picture is low, SLR needs to flip the mirror up, EVF- more actions for the shutter to take before the image is acquired. Once sensors with full electronic shutters with equal performance to mechanical shutters come around, the time-lag is not as much of an issue. Sensor Noise related to operating temperature does continue to be an issue, damned laws of Physics. Nothing a Thermal Electric Cooler could not help. Then battery life is an issue. The law is known as Conservation of Inconvenience. I have all the performance data for the sensors in my M8, M9, and M Moncohrom. Maybe that's why I stick with them. For the Df- same sensor is used in their microscope camera, so a bit more data available than most cameras.
I tend to use the OVF—Fuji X-Pro 2–for the majority of my photography. It just works for me. I like being able to see what is outside the frame. That said, I have been exploring the EVF, because hybrid viewfinder was of interest when I got into Fuji.


Hall of Famer
I found myself reading Sean Reid's thoughts about Fujifilm X-T1. He constantly bashes the camera's EVF's low dynamic range, and makes convincing arguments why that is a big deal.

I don't really have thought about it when using EVFs or rear screens. In that way I don't apparently expect them to offer pure WYSIWYG view. At the same time I can probably enjoy myself and appreciate my OVF cameras even more now.


Zen Snapshooter
SW Virginia
Real Name
To be honest, I'm not going to buy any more DSLRs (or Leicas :wink:), which means I'm using an EVF. The X100V does have an OVF but ti just looks weird to me now. I guess I have crossed the VF Rubicon.

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