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Camera Buyer's Guide

Lesson 9 of 16

The Viewfinder

John Greengo

Camera Buyer's Guide

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

9. The Viewfinder

Lesson Info

The Viewfinder

One of the least looked at areas is the most important thing about a good camera, and that is the viewfinder. And so when it comes to comparing your phone or some other little device with an interchangeable lens camera, the viewfinder is crucially important. Having a good view of what you are focusing on is very important in photography. So have two different types of cameras now. We have mirrorless cameras and we have DSLRs, and they have different types of viewfinders that have different benefits and drawbacks. The electronic viewfinder is a small TV monitor, if you will, that you are looking at that shows you a preview of what the final image is going to look like. The optical viewfinder in the DSLR is very comfortable and easy to use for the eyes because you're looking just through prisms and mirrors and you don't have the strain of looking at a screen in any way. So they both have things that are good about them. Most all cameras are going to have an LCD on the back of the camera ...

that can also be used for viewing. Looking at it sidescreen, you remember that DSLR has this different optical pass so you can see what's going on through the viewfinder. It's very comfortable, as I say, because you're not looking at a screen near, by your eyes. The mirrorless cameras, they're not that uncomfortable. They work pretty darn well, and the beauty is is that you get to see the final version of your product even before you've taken a photo of it. So there are advantages both ways, but direction is going more towards mirrorless on future cameras. As far as the optical viewfinder, some things to think about when you are getting into a DSLR. Four things to think about. First off, larger size sensors will tend to have larger size viewfinders. A large viewfinder is going to make it easier to see your subject because it's bigger in there to see. There are different types of finders. There are pentaprisms and pentamirrors. The pentamirrors are a lower-end product that are typically put in cameras less than $1000, and they're good, but they're not as bright and as easy to see. But it also matters what lens you have on the camera. The brighter your lens, the brighter in the viewfinder it'll be, and the easier it'll be to see your subject in focus. There is also a magnification factor, and typically, the higher-end cameras have a greater magnification factor, and your subject will appear larger to your eyes, which makes it easier to see. For those of you with glasses, something to check out is the eyepoint. How much eyepoint do you have, which is the distance your eye needs to be from the viewfinder in order to see the entire screen. And so if you want to be able to work with your viewfinder with glasses or sunglasses, you want something with a large eyepoint, and this is something that is typically better on cameras that are more money. As you look through the optical viewfinder, you'll see a clear frame of where your subject is. You'll probably see auto focus points as they are selected. Some cameras have spot metering as an option that you'll see in there. Some cameras will have a level that tell you if you're tilting the camera one direction or another. Sometimes they'll have grids that can be turned on or off. There will sometimes be additional viewfinder information that will pop up if necessary when you're making a change, or when something's important. There will also be, below that, your LED information about your critical shooting information, like shutter speeds, apertures, and ISOs. Going over to our electronic viewfinder of our mirrorless camera, one of the beauties here is that both the EVF and the LCD can show you, essentially, exactly the same scene, which is a little bit different than on the SLR, because one's optical, one's electronic. And so whatever you see in the LCD is something that you can see in the EVF. One of the big advantages for anyone is shooting video. You can shoot video by holding the camera up to your eye, which is a more stable location. There's also a number of tricks that you can do with an EVF or an LCD. One of them is a magnification option, where you magnify into your subject to see if your subject is in focus. If you're the type of person that likes to occasionally manually focus, this is the best way to manually focus, because you get to get in there really close to see if your subject is sharp. Another popular technique is called "peaking", and this is being added on to more and more cameras. And this is a very simple and easy way to tell what is in focus. Areas in focus have a shimmering halo of a particular color that you can choose, and you can see exactly where you are focusing the lens by where that highlight area is. And so that's another advantage of the more modern cameras, especially the ones with the electronic viewfinder. Now, not all electronic viewfinders are equal. So I'm gonna show you an unfair comparison here on screen of one of the top-of-the-line mirrorless cameras and one of the more entry-level cameras that both have electronic viewfinders. What do you get for the different money? So you spend more money, you're gonna get more resolution. You're gonna get a larger size screen. And I know the numbers don't seem real big here, but when you look at it with your eye, these numbers are magnified in their importance you might say. It's greater magnified, so it's gonna be a bigger image that you can see. The refresh rate is, your moving the camera around is gonna be more smooth. Typically, you're gonna get good coverage on all the systems out there. The eyepoint will be different, so that allows you a little bit more room for wearing glasses. And most cameras will have a diopter, but not all do. And so there is a difference in low-end to high-end products in this category that are sometimes a little bit varied in the specifications of a particular product. One of the types of products that I have to put a strong warning against are cameras without any viewfinder other than an LCD on the back of the camera. For a lot of good reasons, these are just hard to work with and they are definitely a compromised camera, and if you do get these, just be aware of this going in. Not being able to hold the camera up to the eye is a big deal. They can still capture very good images, they're very small and lightweight and good for a variety of things, but it is a major handicap in my opinion. The LCD screens on the back are often in the tilty fashion or the flippy fashion, and both are very handy if you're gonna be doing vlogging and you want to see yourself on camera, you need one of the flip screens that can turn around and face the front. For generally working from the camera in the back, if you're just doing that, the tilt screen is really nice and there's some nice options out there, so take a look so that you can be creative about where you are putting the camera and how you can view it. And so, as I said, the flip screens are really good for selfies and for vlogging, so once again, take a look at what the options are, because some cameras do not have any movable screens at all. And touch capabilities is becoming a pretty standard feature on most cameras. Not all cameras have it right now, but it is becoming more and more common. So, if you're still a little bit confused between what's better, the EVF or the optical viewfinder, well, EVF goes with the mirrorless, and I like it because of the true image preview. It shows you that final image even before you've taken the photograph, and I find it very quick to work with because I'm not having to look at my photos after I've taken them. I know that I've got the exposure, the white balance, and various other settings correct on it. The optical viewfinder is a little bit sharper. If you do like manually focusing, it's a good system. It's very comfortable for viewing for long periods of time, and you do get better battery life. If you were a bird photographer, and you were gonna be waiting in a blind for a bird to land, and you're waiting with your camera turned on, and you're looking for it through it for a long period, hours at at time, the optical viewfinder would be better in that situation. But it's clear that everything is going in the direction of the electronic viewfinder. And the small hurdles that it has left in the optical viewfinder I'm thinking are probably gonna be tackled in the next few years.

Class Description

Our Camera Buyer's guide will be your guide to figuring out the best digital camera for your needs.

Gear expert John Greengo dives into the major brands and lenses that are currently on the market.

John breaks down some of the more confusing aspects of mirrorless and DSLR's from focusing systems to sensor size; you'll get a better understanding of what the gear does so you can make an informed decision.

At the end of the class, John gives his recommendations for different types of photographers from the aspiring student to the filmmaker and everyone in between. If you're looking to purchase a camera or gift one to a budding photographer in your life- this free course will be your guide in making the best purchase.

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Denise Watson

Another outstanding class by John Greengo, my favorite Creative Live instructor. John's delivery is entertaining and his info clear and very easy to understand. If you need more explanation, well, don't worry - he's got a slide or PDF for that! I'm a working photographer and I learn something new with each of John's classes. Don't hesitate to buy any of his classes - you won't regret it.

David Reichel

Yes - there is such a thing as a free lunch - this class is it! I enjoy landscape, seascape, architecture, portrait and travel photography. I've been a Canon user for decades (film and then digital full frame with the 5D Mark II then 5D Mark IV). Recently I got a Fujifilm mirrorless medium format GFX 50R and discovered some Fujifilm features (e.g., film simulation, menu system) that resonate with me. I now have over-kill on full frame format and because I like the Fujifilm so much, I've been thinking about moving from my Canon 5D Mark IV to a Fujifilm X-T3 as my walk-around camera. This class helped me better understand the trade-offs and alleviated my concerns about a crop format sensor in the X-T3. On top of that, this is a great refresher course on camera fundamentals.

Sherry Throughmyeyes Prater

There a thousands of reviews/guides/ floating around the internet, but this one is by far the best by far. I usually watch a portion and then move on because I simply lose interest, but I watched every single lesson. John gives a very unbiased explanation of cameras, functions for every type of shooter. Not only would I recommend it, but I am going to recommend. I am a member of multiple photography groups on FB and one of the most asked questions is camera buying advice. This is excellent!