Aug 13, 2011
Sunny Frimley
Bill Palmer
Now, please bear with me on this. I don't expect it to resonate with everyone, but I would be interested in your views, pro- and contra.

Much has been written over the years about the loss of the OVF (or indeed any VF) from compact cameras. This is taken to its logical conclusion in the smartphone - I cannot think of any with an OVF... I understand the arguments from the manufacturers point of view - reduced complexity, reduced cost, taking up space, etc. - but I think there is another factor in the equation that has been largely overlooked. We laughed about "zombies" holding their cameras out at arms length to take a picture - but take a look around. At any big event there are now more zombies than anything else - George Romero was right. There are practical arguments against using the rear screen - it is a less stable pose, for a start, and it is also prone to washout in bright light and destroying your night vision in low light - but that doesn't seem to stop it becoming the de facto standard by which images are visualised and taken.

We talk about "holding someone at arms length" as a means of expressing standoffishness or a lack of desire to get involved. If we are holding our cameras at arms length are we also by extension putting a barrier between us and them? I regularly use an old Leica II; the viewfinder and rangefinder on it are physically separate (they were incidentally added in 1934 - it originally saw the light of day in 1929...) In order to take a photo I have to mash it to my face and shift my eye from 'finder to 'finder. When I do so, it is a part of me and I am an intimate part of the picture taking process. Ditto with a Leica M - only one eyepiece there, of course, but I the machine is close to my face and effectively ceases to exist - the scene is there in front of me, rather than the scene plus my arms, my camera and on the back of the camera with a smaller version of the scene... On a cold day, my camera is cold against my skin. On a hot day my sweat gets in the eyepiece; I interact with my tool.

I admit that I feel a strong emotional attachment to my II. I have had it now for about 5 years. When it arrived with me it was in a sorry state and I had it CLA'd so that it would be good for another 80 years or so. I took a picture of it then, and looked at it recently and realised that it has almost twice as much brassing as when I first got it; I have done that, through using it. Effectively I have marked it as mine. Conversely, I have worked my way through a number of Panasonic LX and Leica D-Lux generations over the years. Each has been a competent camera, but I have never felt that I was doing anything other than using a commoditised, mass produced tool - a thing to do a job, much like a mobile phone or a cheap pen. I wonder to what extent the churn that we see as new cameras come out is because there is no longer a bond between the photographer and the tool due to the tool being - in both senses of the word - now held at arms length.

I freely admit to being an ENFP, right-brained, high EQ sort of person but I suspect that I am not alone in this.



Jan 2, 2011

I have quite an emotional attachment to my E-P2, mass market commodity tool that it is. I would rather pick it up than any of my other cameras, and the only thing that stops me using it all the time these days (as I used to before the interlopers Sigma and Bessa arrived) is that I can't put film in it. I don't think in my case it's because I often use the EVF and so get close to the camera though. I use the the EVF only with manual lenses now, and I've become so longsighted I can't see the LCD to use it unless I have surgery to extend my already gibbon-like arms.

I also wonder whether the issue about "involvment" (and it's something that gets discussed a decent amount) also depends on what you take photographs of ... or, coming to think about it, more about individuals' socialness or otherwise ...


Hall of Famer
Aug 15, 2010
For me, intimacy with people and my subject is more of a goal than intimacy with my camera, though I'm admittedly not very good at it, and often let my camera get in the way.

I have found using a viewfinder and holding it at arms length gives me a different kind of contact with the subject. The VF makes it more formal, the LCD less so, but in some ways, and depending on the circumstances, using the VF helps me get the subjects attention in a way that can be more positive, if I need their attention.


Hall of Famer
Nov 12, 2010
[INFP/INTP speaking here]
I don't hold my viewfinderless camera at arm's length, that's just a silly way to hold it. I hold it about a hand's width away from my face, maybe 2 hands. Much more stable.

My eye lashes always seem to get in the way of using an EVF / OVF... even when film and OVF was all there was, it annoyed me. I never had a "proper" film camera (where you set everything yourself) though; I only had a cheap fixed-focus point and shoot, and a relatively automated compact camera with a few scene modes. So maybe that's why I don't really have that experience of becoming one with the camera.

regarding what I think is your main question (the relationship between lack of viewfinders / lack of intimacy and the rate of cameras being brought out): ofcourse there's the issue of technology developing much more quickly, and the sensor nowadays being part of the camera rather than an exchangeable roll of film, which gives a certain rationale for buying new cameras regularly, provided the consumer is aiming to have the best image quality that's available at a given moment, or to have the most gadgets available.

I think many people do have an emotional connection to their gadgets, for instance Apple are masters at creating that connection; but at the same time people want to have the latest and greatest, so it's probably more a connection to the general feeling of, and idea behind, the gadget than to the item itself. The social status of having the "right" gadget might play a role as well.


Dec 15, 2011
Bangalore, India
I agree with you Bill about what you said about the viewfinder. But holding the camera away from your face does have one advantage. It allows you to take a step back. Frank Lloyd Wright said that a good building should hold up on three counts visually. In silhouette, in elevation and in detail on close inspection. By holding the camera at arms length (even though it's awkward and unstable), I tend to look at the picture on the LCD as a graphical composition covering maybe the first tenet of what Wright was talking about. The silhouette. Sometimes that's all that's needs and one trusts the camera to do the rest. I get too involved while looking through the viewfinder constantly and it just feels good to hold the camera at arms length sometimes. Having said that, I would love Vfs on all my cameras, allowing me to shoot either ways.


Top Veteran
Jun 27, 2012
When I was much younger, I fantasized being able to have a screen to view the final result and taking a picture looking at the screen directly. It also allows me to take picture from weird angles.

One also develops a connexion with the scene but this is limited to short focal lenghts.

With Practice we learn to get stable in critical low light by leaning the elbows into the stomach, take 5 rapid bursts and one is bound to be Free of handshake. Does not work well with longer focal lenghts...


Aug 13, 2011
Sunny Frimley
Bill Palmer
...regarding what I think is your main question (the relationship between lack of viewfinders / lack of intimacy and the rate of cameras being brought out)...
Actually, I am not sure that is my main question - or point. Lack of viewfinders = lack of intimacy, yes, but it does not in my mind affect the rate at which cameras appear, more the willingness of people to "upgrade" (or "rightgrade") at the drop of a hat. Apple sells an experience rather than a product - you are part of the cool club if you have something with an apple on it - but they churn actual product at a rate of knots. I suppose my point is more that by holding something at arms length it never gets a chance to become a part of you, so you have no compunction about replacing it at the first opportunity.

I think...


Jul 13, 2010
Sunny Frimley
Both my cameras have a screen and vf. Somehow, when I'm looking through the viewfinder I feel as though I'm "spying" on people. When I hold it away from me and use the LCD then I feel less conspicuous and more open about what I'm doing perhaps because in my mind I haven't left the scene and people really have no idea what I'm focusing on anyway. When I read this it doesn't really make much sense, it's just a feeling that I get. Of course there are times when I couldn't do without the evf because the LCD is not useable in the sunlight. That aside, I'm really fussy and I don't like greasy paw/nose prints on my cameras!


Top Veteran
Jun 27, 2012
... but they churn actual product at a rate of knots ...
Indeed, slightly out of subject, but interestingly, the iPhone is the camera I have for the most time, I'm kidding of course but nevertheless true! I know it may shock people that I treat my phone as a camera but do get some cool things coming out of it from time to time, the picture of the wing in the gritty contest was taken with my phone.


I understand the idea of intimate with the camera. In my case I find my NEX and MF lenses provides me with a very intimate experience. I need to be connected to the camera in a very direct way to get an image. I don't think the VF needs to be the thing that makes it an intimate experience but the way you interact with the camera. It can be but I think it can also be anything else that connects you to your camera in a very tangible way.


Hall of Famer
Dec 6, 2011
My camera, if you look at the icon, is a lot like your II only I just have one rangefinder window. At any rate I enjoy the finder because it frames what I am looking at darkening out all the rest. Mind you all I have to do is open my other eye and I can see past the camera. Also, you can frame on an LCD using its boundaries. So maybe there is a nostalgic feel to shooting like that which we become attached to. Otherwise I suppose either method of focus is just as accurate. Particularly now with touch lcd screens that allow you to choose where your main focal point will be.

Now as to holding a digital camera at arms length, usually my arms are bent and the camera about a foot from my face unless I am reaching toward something I can't otherwise get closer to. Point moot there I know. The owner's manual of my Minolta Rangefinder says to hold the camera against your face for stability. This was of course a Japanese to English translation manual [Engrish] and written a bit awkwardly but their words along with their illustrations show you how to be a human tripod and they tell you after 1/25 to use a tripod or a firm surface. I am less prone to get blur with the rangefinder having used it less than a dozen times even than my G12 because of just the way it is held. *I'm less prone to use the vf on the G12 in spite of my bad vision I guess because I can somewhat tell where the focal point is whereas with the G12's hole vf, I can't.

Is it less personal holding the camera away from your face? Maybe the bond between man and camera is less intimate if it's not touching you. I have heard that seeing your subject and letting them see you, provided you are shooting people of course, is more intimate and allows both of you to relax more than if you are hidden behind large gear. This was the argument of rangefinder over dslr. Does the same hold true when it's rangefinder vs. an lcd backed compact you can hold entirely away from your face? Is it better? Instead of your face minus an eye and part of your cheek being revealed, all of your face is. Eh.. it might be a little better for interacting with infants who don't understand your partially missing face and might not smile with your cooing but otherwise, not sure.

I think what it comes down to Bill is what you are most comfortable with and what gives you the feeling of intimacy as that will carry on to those you shoot. For objects, scenery etc.. it doesn't even matter. As to ever developing tech, I agree with you, the bonds between man and his cameras will lessen in a disposable world. Right now though I see a lot of people on SC who are very fond of their cameras even though the sea of cameras is ever widening around them. Those that aren't so attached seem to buy and sell more, looking. The connection is still desired, it's just not always there. If you have an affinity for your camera then stick with it.

Ray Sachs

Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
I understand the feeling of connection with your gear that may be present with some bits of gear and not with others. But I don't think holding it up to your eye and using a viewfinder and feeling the heat or the cold of the metal has anything to do with it. I think if the camera just feels RIGHT to you and you connect easily with it and it works well for you you can develop that feel. I think that getting that feeling from using a viewfinder just means you prefer shooting with a viewfinder to NOT shooting with a viewfinder. Most of the time I prefer not to, so I feel at least as connected to cameras that I don't tend to use the viewfinder with. I love my X-Pro and love the OVF and that's part of my connection to THAT camera. But I've felt as connected and "intimate" with my GRD3 as with any camera I've ever used and there's nothing like a viewfinder on that - and I sometimes hold it not just at arm's length, but over my head and at my hip, or down near the ground. When I got the OMD, it fell so naturally to my way of shooting that I felt a total sense of connection to it within the first day I was shooting, and doubt I use the EVF more than about 10-20% of the time with that camera.

So, no, with all respect, I think this is just a rationalized way of trying to give a personal preference a more universal meaning and more depth than it probably deserves. If the camera feels right to you and work right for you and you use it enough to really feel that bond that comes from using equipment that's really well suited to your way of doing things, that sort of "intimacy" results. And if you keep it for two years or five years or twenty years it feels even more intimate just from familiarity. But I don't buy that mashing your face into the back of the camera to use the viewfinder has anything to do with it, except for you and others who can only enjoy using a camera with a viewfinder. Hence, the viewfinder becomes part of YOUR intimacy with your gear, but I think its a symptom rather than the disease itself...

A great tennis player can feel far more intimate with some rackets than others, but they're all held at arms length, no? So I think the connection with the gear has far less to do with physical proximity than how functional you feel with it.


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