The Story of Viewfinders

I have been a Sony user since A100 first came out.  Now my usual travel gear consists of a A900 body with a Zeiss 16-35mm, and a A77 with a 70-400mm.  I bought A77 ever since it came out last year.  Many trips and thousands of images later with both cameras in the field, often used at the same time, I would like to give some of my perspectives on pros and cons of electronic viewfinder vs optical viewfinder.

A900 sports one of the best OVF on the market.  It is large and it is bright.  What more can you ask?  In the meantime, A77 has the best EVF on the market.  Even the upcoming A99 uses the same EVF A77 has.  The resolution is so high that my eye can not tell it is an EVF under the right light condition

Disadvantage of an EVF:

1. Lose of light.  Is 0.3EV lose of light significant in real world?  Probably not.  Nevertheless, it is a lost light.  My A77 is noisier than A900.  But that can be attributed to sensor size.
2. Slight hesitation in a high speed burst.  The image I see on EVF is the last image I took, not the image I am about to take.  Again, A77’s burst rate is so high that it has never affected my shooting.
3. Difficulty in high contrast situation.  When shooting under the midday bright sun, highlights can be washed out and shadows can be blacked out when looking through EVF.  This can be annoying.  On the other hand, my picture will turn out just like that, with washed out highlights and blacked out shadows.  As a landscape photographer, I rarely shoot under the midday bright sun anyway.
4. Shortened battery life.  With A900, I can shoot all day without changing battery.  Not for A77, a spare is necessary.

Advantage of an EVF:

1. What you see is what you get, exposure wise.  Adjusting exposure compensation, I can see the image changes brightness.
2. Information overlay.  I can overlay all kinds of information on EVF.  For example, I can overlay histogram right at the corner of the EVF by press a button.  Making the right exposure has become an easy task.
3. Auto-focus while in a high speed burst.  Often, my first image is out of focus.  By the second image in the sequence, the focus has caught up with the bird in fly.
4. Taking pictures under the dim light.  When I shoot at night, I can see the image through EVF.  It is grainy, but it is an image that can aid my composition.  I can even compose, adjust exposure, and auto-focus with a 10 stop ND filter under normal light condition.

Given the pros and cons of EVF, I am at the point that I would not go out to buy a camera solely based on what kind of viewfinder it has.  The decision will be based on other capabilities such as image quality, speed, handling, etc.  This alone is an huge advancement for EVF system.  I would not mind trade in my A900 for a A99 if the later gives me 2 stops lower high iso noise level.  Is the future with EVF or OVF?  I am not sure.  It largely depends on the general acceptance of EVF.  But one thing I am certain is that OVF will not get much better, and EVF will definitely improve over time.

3 thoughts on “The Story of Viewfinders

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