Camera viewfinders

To: "" <>
Subject: Camera viewfinders
From: Graeme Chapman <>
Date: Sun, 17 Jul 2016 01:47:44 +0000
Hello all,

Just my two bobs worth on this issue after about sixty years of experience with 
these issues and 35 mm cameras.

Good reflex viewfinders are expensive to make and are no longer made but as a 
rule of thumb, the better (dearer) the camera the better will be the viewfinder.

The last viewfinder that I am aware of that had a proper spiral focusing 
eyepiece that showed you the full frame was the Leitz Visoflex II reflex 
attachment for Leica M cameras. That was probably about 50 years ago and the 
diopter adjustment ( which allows for how long or short-sighted you are) would 
have been in the order of minus two to plus two. This is sufficient for most 
westerners. If you need more than this you need to attach an accessory dioptre 
adjusting lens to the outside, or wear glasses.

Oriental eyes are different, they tend to be short sighted and this is 
reflected in the cameras they make - the modern viewfinders have less 
adjustment and tend towards the negative. In addition, in my experience the 
quality of the optics in modern viewfinders is very basic, often the viewing 
lens is a simple plano-convex element which is cheap to make.

A good quality viewfinder should have the following characteristics.

1. What you see is what you get i.e. it should show you 100% of the field (your 
picture). Cheap viewfinders usually only show about 90% and crop the rest off.

2. Should show you a large picture (easier to see)  up towards 1x. The 
professional cameras like the Canon 1D series or the Nikon D5 have the best 
viewfinders. That's one of the reasons they cost more.

3. They should have a wide dioptre adjustment. This is best achieved by a 
spiral focusing lens, very rare these days if they even exist. The systems I am 
aware of (small sliding or rotating knobs) belong in  the toy class and have a 
relatively small adjustment, sometimes only up to +1. Unfortunately this is the 
case now even with professional cameras.

4. Better viewfinders have a long eyepoint. This is the point where your eye 
can focus and still see the full frame of view. Long eyepoints are more 
expensive to achieve, but allow the viewer to wear glasses.        Usually when 
wearing glasses you won't see the full frame of view.

If you have to wear glasses and are not sure whether your subject is exactly in 
focus, my advice is use autofocus and trust it. For many years I stuck with 
manual focus but when I finally decided to go with autofocus it was a 
revelation. Mind you if you are super critical, autofocus does have an order of 
accuracy. Often if you take several exposures one after the other, one will be 
in sharper focus than the others.

I have just invested in a Nikon D500, a camera that has been DESIGNED for 
wildlife photography - the autofocus is absolutely amazing. So far I have found 
only one negative. Whilst the viewfinder is large and accurate it still has a 
"toy" focusing system  ( -2 to +1 )  and a short eyepoint. I notice from 
looking up the Canon 1DS  camera the dioptre adjustment built in is from -3 to 
+1 , not enough for many westerners, however by and large Canon viewfinders 
have a longer eyepoint than Nikon.

For an excellent article on this subject have a look at

Best wishes

Graeme Chapman
<BR> Birding-Aus mailing list
<BR> To change settings or unsubscribe visit:

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU