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How often do you use the viewfinder on your point-and-shoot?

by Marc Bennett CNET staff/forum admin / November 28, 2006 6:43 AM PST

How often do you use the viewfinder on your point-and-shoot camera?

80 to 90 percent of the time
60 to 70 percent of the time
About half the time
30 to 40 percent of the time
Never (why not?)
My camera doesn't have a viewfinder
What's a viewfinder?

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Optical viewfinder, always!
by minilad / November 28, 2006 12:36 PM PST

Call me a throwback to the BDC era -- before the digital camera (does anyone remember it?) -- but I simply can't get used to the LCD viewfinder. I find it unreliable, especially in the bright outdoors, and just plain annoying, besides draining batteries. To me, taking a photo means drawing the eye to the camera and composing. I've owned several digital cameras over the past years and all of them have had optical viewfinders. My next one, possibly a Canon S3IS, will have it too.

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Canon S2-S3
by kurtpochert / November 28, 2006 9:59 PM PST

I have a Canon S2, and absolutely love it! It has a "live" viewfinder, which is a miniature LCD like the articulating one on the body. Lots of information about setup, and bright sun is not a problem. Not a pocket model but a great camera. I have a 3.1 megapixel Fuji shirt pocket model as a standby. Indeed, I have appreciated the "Thru the lens" viewfinder idea from my single lens reflex experience, and continue to like it better for best composure of the picture. The 12X optical zoom tops it off, and the viewfinder is absolutely necessary at long zoom, in my opinion.

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Existentially, a viewfinder is necessary!!
by prov2001 / November 28, 2006 11:34 PM PST
In reply to: Canon S2-S3

I, too, love my Canon S2...all that zoom, with Image Stabilization, is what I've always wanted. I always use the viewfinder, except for the most odd shot; for ex. in a crowd when I need to hold the camera high over my head.

The viewfinder, for me, connects the photographer to the subject; it "zones out" everything else and creates an intimacy. It reduces the environment to "the two of us".

The viewfinder, for me, is absolutely necessary for the contemplative aspect of the photo-taking experience.

(The S2 IS not a shirt-pocket camera, so I'm looking for one of those, with a view-finder, for those "arrgghh!! I wish I had my camera with me" moments.)

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by gah2 / November 29, 2006 5:14 AM PST


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Love Optical
by snaredrum / November 28, 2006 10:23 PM PST

I stick with the optical viewfinder almost all of the time. It's always better in sunny situations, while vastly increasing my battery life. Besides, I'll see the picture later anyway on my PC.

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Optical Viewfinders are necessary
by kstebleton / November 29, 2006 5:07 AM PST
In reply to: Love Optical

I love the LCD screen on my point-n-shoot camera, but the optical viewfinder is my ONLY option in strong sunlight. For me, that's enough said.

I do like the overlaid info available on my LCD, and I love being able to review a snap, but that optical VF is essential!

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Viewfinder required :)
by readnwrit / November 29, 2006 8:16 PM PST

I too want to say "ditto" to the post above. My recent search and purchase for a new digital camera included 3 requirements: a viewfinder; optical zoon over 3x; and pocketability. My experience with cameras without viewfinders showed me that in bright light it was nearly impossible to see what you were capturing.

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Optical viewfinder, always!
by hstyles / November 28, 2006 11:44 PM PST

I could not have said it better myself. In fact, all I can say in response to your posting is "Ditto."

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by tajackso / November 29, 2006 2:56 AM PST

I find the LCD very difficult to use when the sunlight is quite bright. Don't have a VF, but at times have wished for one.....

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by wrighttom / November 30, 2006 2:57 AM PST

I definitely wouldn't be without an optical viewfinder period. Oh yes I do from time to time rough-line my compose when in appropriate places but I would guess 80-90% of my composing has been done using the OVF. Knowing my OVF (Canon S30) has limitations I know which way to go in composing with some zoom.

The LCD is very good but given light conditions in bright situations I find it so much easier to have camera at-my-eye and I can see what I am about to snap. That also assists me in stabalizing the camera somewhat.

I normally run with my LCD on; if I'm in a situation where battery power is questionable that is when I power down the LCD. My problem right now is my camera is 4-5 years old and my two (2) propriatary (for uninitiated special packaged batteries versus a AA or AAA battery) batteries are coming to the point I don't get a great charge out of them. With the cost of each in vicinity of $80 that money will be better used toward a Canon A710 I'm eyeing with relatively modest price of the required Ni_mh AA batteries.

As for LCD size, it matters naught to me as long as I can have a screen in the 2"+ range I'm happy. That size at least gives me a 'preview' of my picture and enough information to make the 'do I take it over' decision!!

I've played with cameras that have the 'built-in' red-eye repair in the camera. I'm not at all impressed with the results as working with such a small LCD doesn't allow me to make the 'repairs' as well as I can using my Paint Shop Pro graphics program. As far as I'm concerned, that feature could be eliminated from the camera and a good solid 'red-eye' removal in the graphics program that comes with the camera purchase.

I can see manufacturers saving a few dollars by eliminating the OVF especially in their 'low' end cameras; the majority of 'snappers' never use this feature relying solely on the LCD screen. I just hope they do not eliminate the OVF totally as it does serve a very practical function for those of us who are beyond the 'point-n-shoot level!!

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I always use the viewfinder
by paul dexler / November 28, 2006 12:42 PM PST

I grew up with film cameras that had no choice but a viewfinder. Now, it amuses me to see people holding their cameras at arms length, jiggling so they need expensive image stabilization mechanisims to steady the camera, and trying to see the image on a washed-out screen. When I use the viewfinder, putting the camera up to my eye enables me to steady it against my cheek and forehead. The image remains crisp no matter what the outside lighting conditions, and my batteries don't have the added drain of keeping the screen lit all the time. I find it awkward and downright annoying to take a picture with a camera that has no viewfinder.
By the way, I started with a Baby Brownie Special at age 6, graduated to a Leica and a Nikon by the time I was a teenager, then went on to (film) SLRs. My first digital was an Olympus point-and-shoot, and today I use a Canon dSLR.
The screen is perfect for reviewing the pictures I've shot, and I set it to show me the picture for about 8 seconds after the shot. Then it turns off, preserving battery life.
If you want to be a photographer, use the viewfinder. If you just want snapshots, the screen is OK, but just barely.

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"Real" Photographers use Viewfinders! ;-)
by deejayq / November 29, 2006 12:20 PM PST

I have to agree with you, Mr. Dexler. As you have, I grew up expecting that I must use the viewfinder as the only mechanism available to me for properly aiming all the (film) cameras I used. I recently, finally, purchased my first digital camera, a Nikon D80 dSLR. With a D80, the LCD screen simply does not work "live" to help you compose your shot. And that doesn't bother me one iota.
Full disclosure: I have used some digital point-and-shoots, all borrowed from my employer or a friend, from a Sony Mavica up through a Nikon PowerShot of recent vintage. And truth be told, I did use the live LCD screens on the backs of them to compose my shots. But shooting at arm's length was hard to get used to for a viewfinder-centric person like me. I didn't hate it, it was just hard to get used to. Once I did get better with it, I found I could do a few things that would be awkward with a viewfinder-only camera, like holding the point & shoot at odd angles or unusual POVs where you'd have trouble contorting your body in order to look through a viewfinder. So the live LCD screens are not without their benefits. But all the drawbacks of the LCDs mentioned in other messages here outweigh those few opportunities to hold the camera at a weird angle or shoot from a direction you wouldn't ordinarily have access to. As I always say, "Your mileage may vary."
So now I have a "real" photographer's camera, a SLR... digital, yes, but SLR none the less. I am back in my comfort zone and it's fine with me. Viewfinders Rule! I love my new Nikon D80!

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Seems a silly question...
by lanthier / November 28, 2006 12:46 PM PST

On my point and shoot (Canon SD550), I mostly use the LCD. The exception is when the sun is bright, and I am shooting outdoors, I often need to use the viewfinder. I strongly believe that there is still a place for a viewfinder. Try composing an outdoor shot on the LCD in bright light without a viewfinder - I can almost guarantee you a lousy shot. No camera should be without a viewfinder if you shoot outdoors in sunny climate. My main camera is a dSLR so I am used to using the viewfinder and would never buy a P&S camera without one - unless they can figure out a way to not wash out LCDs in bright sunlight.


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The Choice Between the Optical Viewfinder and the LCD Screen
by Archie Rabbit / November 28, 2006 1:14 PM PST

Deriving from personal experience, optical view finders conserve battery life. The more often picture takers use the LCD screen, the faster the drain of the batteries will be. This is specially true for rechargeable batteries, which discharge faster than alkaline cell batteries. Is there such a thing as an external power pack for non-professional little digital cameras?

Archie Rabbit

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external battery packs for digital p&s's
by sean710 / November 29, 2006 12:26 PM PST

I don't know of many, but I do know of this:

If you're looking for a home-made solution, you can always get a giant 12-volt lead-acid battery (ie. car battery, or sealed hobby battery), paired with standard 12-volt inverter, and you can power your camera for a very, very, very long time.


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Neither Optical or LCD View Finder
by jdventer / November 28, 2006 1:37 PM PST

Ever since I started using digital cameras I've used the LCD Screen rather than the viewfinder. Like a view camera I find it easier to visualize the end product with the LCD Screen.

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Didn't you just contradict your lead in?
by NM_Bill / November 28, 2006 2:15 PM PST


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Action and Sunshine overwhelm LCDs
by gprellwitz / November 28, 2006 1:45 PM PST

First, the survey is pretty useless, since it doesn't specify which TYPE of viewfinder: optical or LCD. I think it's fair to say that almost everyone uses one or the other on most of their shots.

Many of the shots I take are outdoors in bright light, frequently of planes doing low passes. I find that, aside from the dificulties of taking such fast-action shots with digital in general, the LCDs don't keep up with the action quickly enough to let me track the plane and snap the picture with the subject still visible. And to top it off, I normally can't even make out anything on the LCD viewfinder in strong sunlight, which tends to be when I'm doing this. And let's not even start talking about the added battery drain caused by the LCD panel. Some cameras use a tiny LCD that you look at through the optical-like viewfinder. That helps the sunlight and battery problems, but doesn't do too much for the fast action issue.

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Almost always
by srg727 / November 28, 2006 1:50 PM PST

The biggest problem with LCD's as viewfinders, is that they can't be seen in bright light. I always use the optical view finder to frame my shots. I prefer digital SLR's to point-and shoot's anyway, and you must look through a viewfinder there. I have several point-and-shoot digital cameras, and I truly dislike having to use the LCD displays. They are useful, though, as a preview screen, but only useful if you can see them.

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Almost Always
by skydiver51 / November 29, 2006 5:15 AM PST
In reply to: Almost always

There is hardly a time that I don't use my optical viewfinder. I feel I have more control over my aim that way. I don't know why....I just do. Also, I am far sighted and I always have to grab my reading glasses when I use the LCD display. I do use the LCD display when I'm using the timer or when I take pictures at a wierd angle and need to twist the LCD display on my Canon S2 for convenience.

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My camera does not have one
by Ed-duh-win / November 28, 2006 2:17 PM PST

My camera, a Konica Minolta Dimage E50 does not have an optical viewfinder. It instead has a big 2.5" LCD screen which is quite useful in many occasions.

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Use of the optical viewfinder in a camera
by lennyjg / November 29, 2006 12:15 AM PST

I am an old time photographer. I am used to using a viewfinder. I, at most times automaticaly bring the camera up to my eye to take a photo.
It's funny that when I decided to buy a digital camera I wanted to have one that had all the features that was available. When I had it I could not understand how to use it. So very new to me.
I have been in the photography field for over 50 years, starting as a dark room tech going on to be a photo jounalist for a major newspaper. Throughout my career I always used Nikon equipment. Later in my life I went on to selling photo equipment and then to the repair of the same. I had an enjoyable life due to the "camera" and now they have changed the whole concept.
I guess it is for the better, but I will aleays use the viewfinder.

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Optical Viewfinder is a relic
by nishmeister / November 28, 2006 2:29 PM PST

I have Olympus C-5050, Nikon Coolpix 8400, Canon Rebel XT (SLR), and use Nikon D70 (SLR) at work (which all takes good pics). The viewfinder on the Olympus is like looking though a wide angle lens with wide bars that show approximate borders. The Nikon Coolpix has a video viewfinder like a camcorder. The D70 and Rebel XT is what i consider truly functional viewfinder. Overall i never had a problem with battery life? I mean you do carry extra set don't you? I find that holding a tiny point and shoot camera up by my face is very awkward and get better shots if its held about a foot away... as well as better composition outweighing the battery life for using the lcd screen. Its just easier for the eyes. For important shots.. of course.. there's just no match with using a digital SLR through the viewfinder.

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Why use optical viewfinder on point and shoot?
by alaw168 / November 28, 2006 2:29 PM PST

One of the biggest advantages of digital photography, to me at least, is the ability to instantly review the picture you take. And you cannot achieve that by using the optical viewfinder. So I've been using LCD viewfinders exclusively since switching over from film to digital.

Also, how exactly do you compose your picture using OFV on a P&S? Wouldn't an OFV on a P&S only show an approximation of the picture you're taking? After all, unlike an SLR, the OFV on a P&S uses a different lens that the one used to take the actual picture.

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If I had a REAL viewfinder, I might use it.
by TreknologyNet / November 28, 2006 2:34 PM PST

On my camera the "viewfinder" is another miniature LCD anyway, so lighting governs the decision on Tiny screen or Larger screen. It doesn't make that much difference which I use, because if the subject is moving, then the shutter lag means I have to guess the result, and if I'm using a flash, then I have to guess because neither screen can display enough image to even guarantee the right direction...

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Love the LCD!
by kkraz / November 28, 2006 2:35 PM PST

Before my first trip to China and India (this summer), I bought my first digital camera with an LCD (Sony DSC-H2 with 12x zoom and stabilization). While shopping, I insisted that I needed a view finder and couldn't see the value of the LCD. On the go, though, the LCD turned out to be the big winner. Because of the stabilization feature, I didn't need to support the camera against my forehead. And, with the LCD, I could place the camera against a window or in other awkward positions and still get a great shot. And, when trying to shoot street scenes, using the LCD away from my face meant I still had peripheral vision to see what was coming into the shot.

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i use my viewfinder
by tazadsldevil / November 28, 2006 2:36 PM PST

On the digital camera's i have i use the viewfinder and after taking the picture i look at the lcd to see if the picture is taking as i saw it in the viewfinder.

camera's with viewfinder
canon eos 300 D
nikon coolpix 7600

camera without
mustek 3000 dv

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Always, exept....
by tsnyderks / November 28, 2006 3:34 PM PST
In reply to: i use my viewfinder

From time to time I do not use the viewfinder.That is while composing selfportrait. I turn the LCD backwards and use the remote control to shoot. That happens once a year.

A steady shot, without tripod, means: holding arms to the chest and the camera to the eye and head. That's what I learned in school.

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SLR only
by IronManCurtis / November 28, 2006 4:45 PM PST
In reply to: i use my viewfinder

Yes LCD's wash out, but non-SLR viewfinders are next to worthless. You can't accurately see if it's framed correctly, in focus, etc. I refuse to waste my time with them. Digital or film, I'll take SLR. Next choice is LCD or other electronic eyepiece thatlets me see through the lens.


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The ambiguous question makes the results meaningless.
by borden / November 28, 2006 2:44 PM PST

Both the ?optical? and the LCD screen are, in fact, viewfinders ? and it?s hard to take pictures using NO viewfinder at all !

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