The advent of interchangeable lens compact cameras has placed a question mark on the existence of conventional optical viewfinders.
The various types of viewfinders in existence today can be classified into 4 broad categories:
1. Optical Viewfinders:Optical viewfinders show the images through the camera’s lens. In most D-SLRs, the image shown is just under 100%. Compact cameras having optical viewfinders show the image from a position that is slightly away from the lens. Therefore, in the case of compact cameras, there may be some parallax error.
2. Electronic Viewfinders:These are of recent origin and present the image on a LCD screen. Electronic viewfinders have improved radically in recent years and now offer 100-percent scene coverage, fast refresh rates, better control over noise in dark conditions and increased resolution.
3. External Viewfinders:These are typical viewfinders which are attached to the camera’s top plate via the hot shoe. An example is the optional viewfinder available for the Panasonic Lumix GF-2. External viewfinders may be optical or electronic and may feature additional information, plus have controls like diopter dials.
4. Hybrid Viewfinders:The only camera to feature a hybrid viewfinder is the Fujifilm X100. By combining both electronic and optical viewfinders, Fujifilm offers an option to the user to get the best of both worlds. It is possible to use either system or to have a combination of both. We have all been used to optical viewfinders all these years. Their presence in the digital SLR field even today cannot be challenged. However, optical viewfinders found in the compact cameras are very often poky and small and therefore not at all practical.
All the R & D of leading camera manufacturers is now directed towards electronic viewfinders which have come a long way. Older viewfinders used to struggle in strong light. However, modern viewfinders feature special coating to avoid reflection, can pack in more information than the optical viewfinder, boast of enhanced resolution and are more versatile ( for example, can be part of a swiveling LCD monitor).
We, at SP, expect electronic viewfinders to keep on improving. Optical viewfinders will eventually be limited to high end D-SLRs.
H. S. Billimoria