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How to Choose Your First DSLR Camera

Lesson 8 of 16

The Viewfinder on DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras

John Greengo

How to Choose Your First DSLR Camera

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

8. The Viewfinder on DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras

Lesson Info

The Viewfinder on DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras

Next up is the viewfinder, and this is probably one of the most overlooked if that's upon, I'm not sure overlooked items in a camera. Most people don't even really give it a lot of thought it's not what they think about it's, not what they compare, and there are two major different types of cameras out on the market between the sl ours and the mirror lists and the types of cameras. We have the optical viewfinder in our cameras that we described earlier, and we have the elektronik viewfinders, which very simply is a small tv screen inside your camera that you're looking at. And then, of course we'll have the lcd, which is on the back of the camera for viewing images once you've taken them, or sometimes as you're taking them. And so the view through the electronically finder is not a sharp in his detail as the optical one, because you're not using your own eyes, you're using the pixels of their screen to look at it. And so when we talk about the viewfinder, a lot of things to consider so...

let's first talk about the optical viewfinder, and so this is the glass prism in the slr cameras there's a lot of things that kind of edge it up to make it better or worse, the larger your camera, the larger the prison system in there to bounce light to your eyes and so when you hold up a full frame camera, the image that you're looking at it's very hard to classify from one camera to the next which one is bigger this one or that one? But when you take a look through a crop frame versus a full frame camera can you go one you pick up the other one? Number two oh yeah, this one's bigger and the bigger ones are going to be easier and more comfortable to see it's just like going to a movie theater that's got a bigger screen on it next up ah bright you find her this is controlled by two factors number one is the type of prism system that they use many of the entry level say canon rebel cameras the nikon thirty three and fifty five hundred they're using what's called a pen tamir we're not going to get into specifics of it but it's a lower end optical system that is not as bright. The other factor is the lands how bright is the lens when you stick on a one point four linz it will look brighter than one of those five point six zoom lenses and so having a bright lands just makes it a more enjoyable experience looking through the viewfinder something else that you can dig into in the specifications is the magnification of the viewfinder and generally what's going to happen is that the more you pay for your camera, the more magnification they have it's difficult. It makes the camera a little bit bigger, but you will get more magnification out of that finder. Now there is a difference between full frame and crop frame, so you can't really compare from one to the other, so you have to compare on ly within their groups. So for instance, with cannon, the t six I has a point eight to their seventy mark too is a one point of view finder so it's about eighteen percent mohr magnified, which means it's just going to be easier viewing in that particular camera. Finally, there's something called the eye point and the high point is how close your eye needs to be to the viewfinder easily see it? Anyone who wears glasses is going to know that this is something that's very important. Do they have to take their glasses off in order to see through the viewfinder? Or can they leave their glasses on? Hiring cameras typically have a greater I point so that you could hold it further away from your eye. They typically reduced this on cheaper cameras because they're trying to make everything a little bit smaller and less expensive. When you look in the viewfinder what do you see? Well obviously you're going to see the frame and some cameras are one hundred percent accurate summer ninety eight summer ninety five percent accurate has to do with how much money they put into that camera many cameras thie sl ours we're talking about slrs here optical viewfinders we'll show you the focusing points we're going to talk more about focusing points very shortly some of them were going to show you other detailed information where is the meter insist stop in some of the new cameras had these relatively smart overlay displays and you can turn these items on on and off so there's a level system that tells you if you're tilting the camera perhaps or they'll have a grid system that you can turn on so that you can compose against a grid pattern there's other information that might tell you the settings of your camera that turn on or off in the camera there might be warnings whether you turn something on or something should be going on that it's not going on uh tell you let you know if you're in focus or out of focus in the viewfinder and then there's going to be the led information down at the bottom which is kind of the full information status of what's going on what's my shutter speed what's my appetite how many pictures do I have left? Is this and evenly exposed picture and so, with the optical viewfinders on the sl lars what's, here is not something that you can change around a lot. You can turn some of this stuff on and off, but you can't move it from one spot to the other, for instance, so it has its limitations. Let's talk about the digital viewfinders that air used on mirror lis cameras, so the e v f and the lcd, which is on the back, are interchangeable, and I'm gonna show it to you on the lcd, but it would look the same as if you were putting your eye up into the viewfinder, and here we're usually talking about one to two million dots, and so this is just a computer screen that you're looking at, and we can put stuff almost anywhere we want. We can put as much stuff on here is we want, and so we can have all sorts of information anywhere we want. Now, one of the cool things that we can do is that we can magnify if we want to manually focus, and I'm gonna start this video here. So I'm going to magnify the center portion of this image of what I'm doing is I manually focusing the lands? Trying to see where the sharpest point of focus is and if I want to even zoom in even more closely, I could magnify in again a just focus and now that I know that it's in perfect focus there we go, I consume it back to its standard picture taking I can take a picture and I am one hundred percent guarantee that that subject is in focus and this is how I would do product photography because it's not moving around and so I want to make sure that it is exactly right and the limitations with a digital viewfinder they're pretty much is not one of the cool things that this is a food g x t one feature if you'll notice down at the bottom there's a focusing scale that lets us know where the camera is focused at and there's a little white mark that indicates are focusing point where the lens is focused at how far away from the camera and there's a little boo blue field around it that will expand in size as our depth of field expands so we can see how much depth of field we're going to be getting for any particular picture. Now you can see on the bottom of this camera as I change focus the depth the field is changing because that's one of the factors that changes and adjust depth the field is where we're focused at I'm focused out at infinity right now and I'm going to start turning the lands and I'm going to start focusing back on something closer up and I can just look on that scale and see where I want to focus at three feet four feet and so it's very clear easy to see information and this was never possible in an optical viewfinder and I really like an optical viewfinder but I like the features of a digital viewfinder another interesting way that the's digital viewfinders can give you for focusing too something called peaking so watch what happens when I start focusing this is that you will notice that areas that aaron focus shimmer in red light now I can change this color to yellow or blue or different colors and I could change the intensity of it but it shows me a very in a very graphic way where the camera is focused out which is a really cool tool and it's a feature that a lot of people who shoot video have been using for quite some time and so when you're looking at your cameras especially these muralist cameras take a close look at the view finder there's a lot of things going on that may or may not be easy to find about these cameras first off the resolution this is how many pixels you're looking at five years ago I would have told you I would not buy one of the current marylise cameras because they had so poor viewfinders it was just an unpleasant experience but now there are over a million dots there two million dots is quite nice I look forward today when they have ten times that many it'll be even better. So look at the resolution. How big is that image in there? Generally you want the biggest image that you can get another number that's very hard to kind of flesh out is the refresh rate and the way that you could test the refresh rate is turn the camera on this guy's, turn on there we go. Hold it up to your eye and as you pan back and forth is the camera lagging what you're doing? This one seems very riel it's just you know, as I point the camera here it's just a little bit behind. So the refresh rate on this it's about as we good as we get right now but there's still some room for improvement in my mind. And so how quickly can you follow action with it that's where that falls in now these electronic displays need to be on for you to use them, which means it's using battery power one of the downsides of the mirror lis cameras is that they go through batteries more quickly it's not a major issue, but we're talking about let me just generalize photography very simply here three hundred images for battery charge on a marylise camera versus a thousand on an slr and so if you were going to head up into the mountains for months and slr cameras going to be much more efficient on batteries and you're gonna have to figure out a solar charging system and so how often do you need to freshen up those batteries? Now we're gonna get to a sore point on my opinion there's a lot of cameras out on the market that have no view finder and a lot of people are attracted to these cameras because of their size. And as I said before, at the beginning of the section, people overlooked the viewfinder, the overlook, how important it is to be able to see exactly what you're shooting true story I was at yellowstone national park shooting a picture of old faithful and the couple next to me had a camera without a viewfinder and she was holding the camera up in front of her eyes and she said, I can't even see what im pointed at this seems like a design flaw and I'm your point in shooting way having a good do you find her out when it's bright and sunny or even just cloudy out is a really important feature to have and I I refuse personally I refused to buy one of these I will actually recommend some when we get to the recommendation section because they do fit a tipping a certain type of user that has certain needs and so they're not bad cameras but be very aware that they're going to be hard to work with in bright light conditions they're going to be nearly impossible to check that you are getting your pictures in sharp focus you're going to have to use the digital display and really look at things very very carefully and lastly it is less stable toe hold the camera out here in order to take a photograph then it is up here this is a much more stable position partly because you have an extra point of contact and so this is the position that you're going to get the stadia shots in which means you're going to be able to shoot in lower light simply because you're using better technique we're talking about viewing your images thie lcd screen on the back of the camera there's a few different types there's a tilt out screen which is kind of handy and nice let's see I got the tilt out screen like this is kind of nice because if you want to use it you can just flip it out like this and now I can hold the camera down very low this also kind of reverse tilts so I can hold it up above my head but if I shoot vertically it doesn't do me much good the nice thing is is that it's good immediately right away the other type of screen is the flip out screen and in this case it takes a little bit of work because you gotta flip it out and then turn it around to make it work good but now for shooting video for low angle or for high angle it's nice you can even flip this around for shooting selfie is like this I do that all the time right? But that's that's kind of nice and so look for those tilt out screens there kind of a bonus feature it's not absolutely necessary and so being able to reverse it and flip it around is a nice way of protecting that screen which is really good and these as well as the ones that are just on the back of the camera many of the cameras have started implementing touch capacity so that you can pinch to zoom and swipe is you go across images and you can select and you can really separate photographers into people who like touch and don't like touch I don't mind it as long as I can do everything with buttons I just don't like crowding up the screen and I'm just not used to it so I don't use it as much on cameras I must forget cameras that I have that have that option on it but be aware that something that you can get or not get so let's summarize the differences in the viewfinders thie optical versus the elektronik viewfinder the optical viewfinder is the overwhelming favorite for most professionals because it is sharper and you can really see if your pictures are in focus or not much more easily it is more comfortable because you're not having this little tv screen two inches from your your eye it's very it's just like looking at the world through your own eyes only you're using mirrors to do it it's much easier to work under really low light conditions so if you were going to do concert photography or ballet recital under really low light it's a little bit easier when you get down to those extreme low light levels but I'm sure that's going to change with technology definitely better for fast action one of the things that happens with an slr camera is that if I'm shooting pictures of something moving very quickly what happens is when I take a picture the mere moves up we take a picture the mere moves down and I get to see my subject and then it bounces back up again to take a picture and then down I get to see it so I get to see where my subject is three four five, ten frames a second and so I can I can keep pace with my subject with a marylise camera there's no mere to pop down and so the camera has a hard time recording the image and then showing you what the camera sees and then going to record the next image at the same time. So the cameras go into a blackout mode for longer periods of time, and I find it very hard to track action because I'm not getting as much feedback. We definitely have better battery life, as we mentioned before over on the e v f side, we have those digital focusing aids that we showed you the scale, focusing the peking the magnification, for instance, and so we just have a lot of cool focusing options, it's on ly getting better and it's getting better at a very rapid rate. The true image preview the best thing about the electronic viewfinder in my mind is that when you take a picture with an slr here's, the difference between using a slr and a marylise camera so you take a picture, he said it, and then you look at it, you said it, and you look at it because you're trying to figure out why this is what it looks like with my own eyes, but what does it look like in digital fashion? Now? I can see oh, I got the white balance, said incorrectly, I'm going to fix that now when you shoot with a mere elice camera, the image that you see it pretty much darn near the image that you're going to get. And so what I've done on my marylise cameras is I've turned off the option for revealing the images on the back screen of the camera because I already know what the picture is going to look like. I saw it beforehand, and so if I have my camera set to a funky white balance and we'll talk about white balance, I can just go oh, it's wrong. I'll change it right now before I shoot a single picture. And so in some ways it's a little bit faster to work with because you can see mistakes like that very early on and it's more customizable because there's, just so many more things that you could do with that digital blank space and these are going to be a little bit smaller in size than the optical viewfinders and another little benefit is that it's the same in the viewfinder as it is on the back of the lcd, and so sometimes people kind of get fused. Well, how come it looks different here and on the back of the camera with the optical viewfinders? Well, they're completely different viewing systems and for anybody who likes to shoot video. When you shoot video with an slr, the mir has to go into the up position. And you have to use the screen on the back of your camera. And this is a less stable position for holding your camera with a mirror. Elice camera. You can get that elektronik view right in the viewfinder. So if you're shooting a lot of video, I would highly recommend looking closely at the marylise cameras.

Class Description

It’s nearly impossible for any beginner to sort through all of the functions, features, and price points of DSLR and mirrorless cameras and make an informed choice. In How to Choose Your First DSLR Camera, John Greengo will simplify the buying process and help you find the camera that fits your needs and your budget.

The key to finding a great DSLR camera for beginners is knowing the market and which questions to ask. In this class, you’ll learn about all the different types and brands of cameras and which one is right for you. 

You'll learn:

  • Which features are beneficial to your style of photography
  • The importance of having the right lens
  • The differences between Digital SLRs and mirrorless
  • How a camera’s sensor size impacts image quality

John will look closely at all the latest DSLRs from Nikon and Canon, and the mirrorless cameras from Sony, Fuji, Panasonic, Olympus, and others.

The current crop of photographic equipment is more diverse than ever before and finding the right DSLR camera for a beginner can be a challenge. There is a huge range of variables between cameras, even when they come from the same manufacturer. How to Choose Your First DSLR Camera will help you know what to look for and which questions to ask when it’s time to buy your first camera.



I have to thank John Greengo and the CreativeLive staff for another wonderful class. Mr. Greengo is a very good instructor (he has a nice Bob Ross ambiance), very knowledgeable and very technical with the camera and the terminologies. I am very grateful that he has material to download so I can continue to review and learn. I own a DSLR but I never truly understood the baseline technology. I am in the process of purchasing a new camera system and lens for some photography but mostly for filmmaking. With the knowledge I gain by watching this course, I can better choose and identify the features of the future cameras in my upcoming new passion. Thank you CreativeLive and Thank you Mr. Greengo. I am looking forward to attending future classes.


This was a great class. I already had an idea of the direction I wanted to go as I start my new business, but this class really helped me focus on the most important upgrades I need to make to my current system. I was particularly impressed with the visual graphics used to explain the technical functions of cameras and how those functions affect image quality and camera use. I would highly recommend this class to anyone who wants to up their camera system and I am looking forward to taking the classes that are specific to the camera systems I am using. I would love to see a class on image processing and getting the most out of editing software. Great Job! Glad I signed up for CreativeLive.

Bev Anne

Excellent course. I was happy to find out that I made a good choice when purchasing my entry level DSLR camera -- it does everything I need at the moment. I was also interested to find out that mirrorless is the wave of the future -- I really like the idea of the light weight because I am developing some arthritis in my wrists and when I am ready to move up in the future I will have great options. Meanwhile I also learned that there is an inexpensive lens that I can get that will upgrade my system enough for the immediate future. Thank you John Greengo for this informative class it was well worth the purchase price.