a techie sort of question about p&s cameras and optical viewfinders

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by albert, Dec 12, 2008.

  1. albert

    albert Guest

    I currently shoot with a Panasonic Lumix fz50 -- and I am generally pleased
    with the camera [I was an SLR shutterbug in the days of film, I chose the
    Panasonic fz50, and previously had an fz20, because I no longer wanted to
    lug around all the lenses and such with a digital SLR]. I now find that I
    would like to have something that was even easier to shoot with -- something
    I could fasten to my belt, and have ready in a moment [I carry the Lumix in
    my backpack, and by the time I get the backpack off my back, fight with the
    zippers, and pull out the camera, the shot I saw is often gone]........

    What I would like is a 10X [or better] optical zoom, competent at 200 ISO
    [but really wish for 400 -800] -- *with an **optical** viewfinder* [and
    motion compensation, and shutter/aperture flexibility, etc., of course]. I
    see that there are digital cameras of the size I'd like with an optical
    viewfinder [e.g., the Canon PowerShot A590 IS] -- but currently, that
    size/feature set of camera does not offer more that 4-5X optical zoom. At
    the same time, I see cameras with roughly the same dimensions [e.g.,
    something on the order of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H10 or Canon PowerShot
    SX110 IS, size-wise] -- which offer the kind of zoom I'd like, but do not
    have an optical viewfinder.

    So, my question for the experts here -- how is it that optical viewfinders
    are not available ["yet" I presume] with compact/subcompact cameras that
    offer >5X optical zoom? Is it an engineering problem? Is it a consumer
    market, consumer profile, consumer demand factor? It seems to me, as a
    layperson, that it should not be all that difficult, or expensive, to graft
    on an optical zoom apparatus to any camera -- and it would seem that
    offering such would be a postive selling point. But obviously, since there
    is no such camera I can find, there is some factor or factor set I am not
    aware of. I'd much appreciate any insight into this question.

    albert, Dec 12, 2008
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  2. albert wrote:

    Such viewfinders would be too big and too expensive, or too in accurate.

    For a much more compact camera than your Panasonic FZ50, you could
    consider the TZ3/4/5 series. 28-280mm image-stabilised lens:



    You may appreciate the wider 28mm end of the zoom range.
    I had the Panasonic FZ5 and my wife the FZ20, but we have now moved on to
    Nikon DSLRs and a shared TZ3. The DSLR has a top-quality optical finder,
    of course, and isn't a lot bigger than the FZ50....

    David J Taylor, Dec 12, 2008
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  3. albert

    Mark Thomas Guest

    Yes, creating a bright and accurate zooming viewfinder linked to such
    lenses is a bit of an engineering challenge.. Also, in this market, the
    OVF has a few additional issues:
    - because it is not through the lens, it cannot be used to help with
    knowing how the sensor will render the image, eg focus, d-o-f effects
    and to some extent shadow/highlight definition
    - it cannot easily display overlaid shooting info

    It seems to me that the better solution to this problem is to create the
    proverbial *decent* EVF. The Panasonic G1 suggests it's not far away
    and hopefully this technology will trickle down into p&s cameras.
    Good advice, as long as you add that the Pana's are possibly not the
    best choice if you shoot in low light frequently. But then, not many
    similar cameras are..
    Mark Thomas, Dec 12, 2008
  4. albert

    dj_nme Guest

    Hi Albert,
    If what you're looking for is an accessory coupled-zoom viewfinder for
    your fz50, then you're essentially out of luck.
    The best you can hope for is an add-on VF that matches the widest end of
    the zoom range, ie: a 3.5cm VF that may have been intended for use with
    a rangefinder camera or something similar.
    The only alternative (apart from a DSLR camera) that is available with a
    coupled zoom optical VF is something like the Canon G10
    <http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canong10/> which has the whole thing
    (camera and optical VF) built into a single unit.
    The G10 also has the advantage that it's small enough that it should fit
    in a large pocket, rather than having to carry it in your pack as you do
    with your FZ50.
    I'm sure that there are other compact digicams with an optical
    viewfinder and using the "buying guide"
    <http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/compare.asp> on dpreview.com is a good
    start, but may not have some recent compacts (other than Canon) in their
    dj_nme, Dec 12, 2008
  5. albert

    Dave Cohen Guest

    Most of us (certainly myself) do prefer an optical viewfinder. However,
    when out in public, I notice a lot of casual shooters holding the camera
    at arm's length even when the camera has an optical finder. Maybe
    marketing feedback has persuaded camera makers they can dispense with
    the optical finder. Apart from cost it enables a larger lcd in a compact
    Dave Cohen
    Dave Cohen, Dec 12, 2008
  6. albert

    dj_nme Guest

    My guess is that the optical VF on most compacts (those which have one)
    tends to be quite small to look through and has quite a bit of parallax
    error, especially when shooting up-close.
    So it ends up being easier to look at the LCD, rather than squinting
    through a little tunnel which can't really be trusted for framing anyway.
    Also that it's cheaper to dispense with another set of lenses and a zoom
    coupling mechanism which are needed for a decent optical VF on a compact
    dj_nme, Dec 12, 2008
  7. albert

    albert Guest


    It appears that what I currently would like is just over the horizon, but
    not quite here yet.

    Thank you all for the explanations, observations and recommendations.

    albert, Dec 14, 2008
  8. albert

    Marty Fremen Guest

    A compromise you might try is an adaptor which turns the LCD into a sort of
    EVF - you can get gizmos which look like a loupe on a little bellows unit,
    they clip onto the LCD and fold flat when not in use. I don't know how good
    they are, but the prices I've seen weren't too bad.
    Marty Fremen, Dec 15, 2008
  9. albert

    albert Guest

    I will take a look, thanks.
    albert, Dec 15, 2008
  10. albert

    Dave Cohen Guest

    The optical finder tends to crop somewhat, so if shooting close I mainly
    film the frame and leave a little room at the top. Seems to work ok and
    I can always keep the shutter button depressed to check the playback
    (not doing so displays the image for 2 secs). Those lcd images are hard
    to see in sunlight (when reviewing you can shield somewhat). However,
    having said that I should add I always review and crop prior to printing.
    Dave Cohen
    Dave Cohen, Dec 15, 2008
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