General discussion

Optical Viewfinder on Point-and-shoot digital cameras

Aug 13, 2009 4:54AM PDT

I'm looking for a new camera, and wonder how important it is these days to have an optical viewfinder, in addition to the screen. My current camera is about 6 years old, a Nikon Coolpix 4300. Over the time I've had it, when it's sunny or bright out, I've often been unable to use the screen to take the picture, it was impossible to see. So using the optical viewfinder worked out OK.

Now it seems that most point-and-shoot cameras don't have one. I was wondering if the LCD screens are that much better now, better contrast, whatever that they're easier to see when it's pretty bright out?

I'd appreciate any comments. It's tough to do check this out in the stores, the light isnt't the same.


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Optical Viewfinder
Aug 13, 2009 8:10AM PDT

You will find very few cameras that have optical viewfinders any more.
The camera makers delete the viewfinder to reduce cost and to put bigger LCD screens on the small cameras.

The Canon SD series of cameras have optical viewfinders on models with 2.5 inch LCDs.
The models with 3.0 LCDs don't have room left for a viewfinder.

Some Sony W series cameras have viewfinders, but all of the newer ones don't.

Panasonic has never had a camera with an optical viewfinder.
The big zoom Panasonic cameras usually have an electronic viewfinder.

Some LCD screens have improved glare protection, but most are not good enough.
I have a Fujifilm F30 that has a button on the back that brightens the screen for a few seconds.
This does let you see past the glare on the screen.

Unfortunately the specifications released by the camera makers rarely mentions how well their LCD screen works in bright sunlight.

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Lack of optical viewfinders
Jul 7, 2011 9:44AM PDT

It really irks me that optical viewfinders have been virtually eliminated for cost or space saving reasons. Optical eye level viewfinders allow a close immediacy with the subject (especially for moving action shots) that lcd screens just don't have. Like trying to aim a rifle by holding it at waist level rather than using its sights. This is compounded by the time delay before the shutter goes off on point and shoots. SLRs don't have this problem. I wish those with the same criticism would make themselves heard to camera mfr bean counters!

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Yes, they're much better

I'll use my old Canon G2 as an example. The G2 is very hard to see in sunlight and not good with contrast. The new camera's LCDs are night and day compared to the old LCDs.

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Optical viewfinder-a necessity for me
Aug 13, 2009 12:33PM PDT

After dealing with the problems of unreadable LCD screens in bright sunlight and dark night (indoor and outdoor) scenes, I will not buy another digital camera that does not have an optical viewfinder. I'm disappointed that I am unable to have an optical viewfinder AND a 3" LCD!

If I had to choose, I'd take a viewfinder over a screen any day. Remember, no matter how bright & beautiful those LCD's might be, if they die altogether, you have absolutely no reference point or means by which to frame your photos. An optical viewfinder will never leave you stranded.

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Never buy a digicam without an optical viewfinder.
Aug 14, 2009 7:55AM PDT

There is no LCD on the market which can stand up to bright sunlight. If you are looking for a point and shoot cam with a viewfinder look at the Canon SD1000, SD1100 and SD1200, they all have viewfinders. I personally would never buy a camera which does not have one, I owned one a long time ago and that was my biggest regret.

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I think that Kodak also...
Aug 14, 2009 11:16AM PDT

I think that Kodak has some digital "point and shoot" cameras that have a view finder. Mine is several years old and works fine. I almost never use the screen, of course I am older than dirt and used the optical view finder for also saves on batteries when you use the view finder.

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no viewfinder?
Aug 14, 2009 11:24AM PDT

No problem.I don't even remember what's it's for.

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Quality of optical vewfinders
Jul 7, 2011 9:53AM PDT

The eye level optical viewfinders on the remaining few point and shoots that retain them are of poor quality: the framing is not accurate (only cover about 80% of the subject) and the image is usually tiny.

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Depends on the camera and your preferences...
Aug 14, 2009 11:42AM PDT

I use one of the more recent Canon Digital Elphs as my carry-around camera. It came with a 3" LCD and no viewfinder. After having a less than stellar experience with my prior Canon's LCD in bright light, I was a bit leary of not having a viewfinder, but I have found that I have not missed it one iota. (I also have a DSLR, so it's not that I am not used to using viewfinders....)

I would not hesitate to get a point-and-shoot with no viewfinder after my experience with this last Canon. I think the LCD's have gotten enough better and enough larger that it is much less common to have a problem in higher light situations than it used to be. Just pick a camera that has a display that you find comfortable in brightness and size, and you should do ok.

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Aug 14, 2009 12:09PM PDT

Thank you all for your replies. I decided on the Canon SX200 IS. Went to my local camera store, and they let me take it outside to the parking lot (with the sale guy), it was sunny and bright. I could definitely use the LCD viewfinder -- not as good as inside the store, of course, but definitely OK. As was previously posted, those screens have gotten a lot better.

This one has a 3" screen.

Thanks again!

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Canon SX200 IS
Nov 29, 2009 8:58AM PST

Now I would be interested in knowing how you are enjoying this camera as this is the one I am presently looking at.

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Optical versus LCD display
Aug 15, 2009 1:41AM PDT

The digital cameras of today have displays that give you a real time framing of what you're going to get on a photo. Using a viewfinder can mislead you as to what will be in the frame or not and depending on the distance ones eye is from the actual viewfinder can be a determining factor. Becoming familiar with its use and what will actually be in a photo compared to what you framed in the viewfinder is and important part in the use of your model. There are times when sunlight will make the LCD display unusabel and knowing the proper framing would be important.

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Optical Viewfinder on Point-and-shoot digital cameras
Aug 17, 2009 2:25AM PDT

My new camera does not have an optical viewfinder, although my next one will (I am already shopping for a replacement that has a viewfinder). I live in Arizona, and the LCD screen is useless outside during the day (If I just point the camara in the right direction, and I hope to get what I want, then sometimes I get lucky...).

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Bifocal wearers NEED an optical viewfinder
Nov 17, 2009 3:34AM PST

I own a Nikon DSLR as well as a canon A540 point and shoot. I bought the canon specifically because it came with an optical viewfinder.
I wear bifocals and really can't see an LCD screen unless I look down into it - not easy to do that when trying to compose a shot.
Very few new affordable (<$250) point and shoot cameras have optical viewfinders; you can still find canon 1100's and 1200's with them but they will be gone soon.

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optical viewfinder
Mar 8, 2010 3:53AM PST

I'm not buying a new camera until they put the viewfinder back on. I live in Hawaii, there is no way to take a good photo out in our boat without it. I was in Costco, ready to buy a new one until I realized there was no viewfinder. Three other customers also walked away for the same reason.

Thanks for your post!

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optical viewfinder on Canon Power Shots
Mar 15, 2010 10:10AM PDT

At least two Canon Power Shot cameras have an optical viewfinder: SD 1200 IS ELPH and SD 780 IS ELPH, both of which are Consumer Reports recommended.

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May still be available
Nov 22, 2010 11:41PM PST

Factory-refurbished Canon AS-1100-IS is available. I got mine here.

I don't how they do this with a non-SLR setup but the optical viewfinder zooms in concert with the lens.

Uses 2 AA's which I prefer. I bought a couple of Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA's (two bucks a piece) to replace the alkalines that came with the camera and I should be good to go for 1,000 shots. It claims 150 shots from premium alkaline batteries.

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Oct 10, 2011 7:02AM PDT

I have a Delkin flip up shade for my Panasonic Lumix and it works great. Look into it if you want to improve the LCD use in bright sunlight.

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