Can I survive without a viewfinder?

Discussion in 'Sony' started by cthart, Sep 30, 2013.

  1. cthart

    cthart Rookie

    Sep 26, 2013
    Frösön, Sweden
    Colin 't Hart
    Hi all,


    * am a picture taker, not a photographer, but I use the viewfinder almost exclusively when taking pictures -- except when I'm using my iPhone, where I find it's tolerable, if not my preferred method of taking photos.

    * currently use a Nikon D5000 SLR and before that a Canon PowerShot A720 P&S. With both of these cameras I use the viewfinder almost all the time.

    * am wanting a smaller, possibly pocketable camera, and considering an m43 system and/or a Sony RX100 (II). That was before I realised that the Sony is viewfinderless (if you discount the expensive add-on).

    * am looking for experiences of like-minded photographers and picture takers who have made the step from using a viewfinder to using a live LCD display for composition. Any thoughts on that process are welcome!


  2. Chris2500dk

    Chris2500dk Top Veteran

    Dec 22, 2011
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    I have a Nikon D5100 but I very rarely use it after buying the RX100. Sure it's a bit better, but the RX100 is good enough and so much more convinient.

    The lack of viewfinder doesn't really bother me much, since the camera is so small and light I don't have a problem holding it in front of me, and the screen is fine for anything but the strongest of sunlight.

    To be honest the virtual horizon and focus peeking makes me enjoy using the RX100 more than I did the D5100.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. bartjeej

    bartjeej Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Nov 12, 2010
    I find a tilting or rotating screen infinitely more important than a viewfinder. The former encourages all kinds of creative compositions in a way a viewfinder never will. I started with a Samsung EX1 (rotating screen) and now added a Fuji X100. I hardly ever use the viewfinder, and really miss a tilting or rotating screen.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Biro

    Biro Super Moderator

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    I generally prefer having a viewfinder but it's also clear that rear LCD displays are getting better, particularly on cameras with the "White Magic" technology like the Sony RX100 and the Ricoh GR. But I was pleasantly surprised today to find out that the rear display on my new Fuji XF1 is quite useable in daylight. Mind you, this is for framing only. I wouldn't try manual focusing with it in daylight. I guess my position is this: As long as I have access to cameras with high-quality viewfinders when I need them, I'm okay with using the rear LCD when I am using a compact camera and I'm only capturing casual happy snaps of family and friends.

    Just be realistic about what you can accomplish using a rear LCD. The only truly pants-pocketable camera with a viewfinder that comes to mind right now is the new Panasonic LF1. It's about the size of an RX100 but has a smaller, 1/1.7" sensor and zooms from 28-200mm. The viewfinder is a low-resolution electronic piece that actually isn't all that bad. The Fujifilm X-20 is bigger (jacket pocketable), has a slightly larger 2/3" sensor and a bona fide optical viewfinder. It zooms from 28-112mm. Also jacket-pocketable is the Nikon P7800, which seems like a like nice piece. It's about the size of a Canon G15, has a 1/1.7" sensor, zooms from 28-200mm and has a pretty high-quality electronic viewfinder. After that, the cameras start getting even bigger, involve interchangable lenses or the viewfinder is an extra-cost option that takes up more room. Still, an Olympus E-PM2 with a pancake prime like the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 or Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 is jacket-pocketable. The smaller of two optional electronic viewfinders isn't that expensive, is pretty small and can be slipped on at your convenience.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2011
    Sunny Frimley
    Bill Palmer
    I can honestly say that I could not survive without a viewfinder. I cut my teeth on Contax and Nikon SLRs with pellucidly clear pentaprisms, and Leica Ms which only have a couple of bits of glass between you and the subject. I can more than happily use a GOOD EVF, but the rear screen is probably my least favourite modern form of viewing. I have a Ricoh GR and use it for "snaps"; any more serious use and I fit an optical VF.

    Hope this helps!
    • Like Like x 2
  6. entropic remnants

    entropic remnants Hall of Famer

    Mar 3, 2013
    John Griggs
    I want and feel the need for both but in some circumstances I don't need a viewfinder. Here's how it works for me:

    • Wide and very wide lenses I don't need the "stability" of holding the camera to my head so it doesn't matter -- live view is fine.
    • On a tripod I vastly prefer live view
    • For longer shutter speeds and telephoto work, even with a stabilizer, I prefer a viewfinder. I get more "keepers".
    • In very bright light where even the best live view is challenged, I prefer a viewfinder.
    What I really love is the combination optical/EVF/live view of the X100S or X-PRO1 Fujifilm cameras. I own and X100S.

    But I've grown to love EVF's for what they can do for you.
    • Like Like x 2
  7. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I don't think anyone has ever died due to lack of a viewfinder, so I think the literal answer is yeah, you can survive. Whether you feel life is worth living without one or not is another question and one nobody can answer for you. I personally like the option, but don't use it much. I like it on really long lenses. For street shooting in the mid-wide angles I prefer not to use one. At ultra wide, I sometimes enjoy having one but often prefer to have a tilting screen to be able to hold the camera in odd positions (down low, usually). On my OMD I generally use one at the longer focal lengths I use with that camera, on my RX1 I use one a lot and don't use one a lot. On my Nikon "A", I pretty much never use one. And on my XE1, which I only shoot at wide and very wide focal lengths, I do sometimes, and don't sometimes... So far, I've survived all of these shooting experiences, but one of them might bite me in the ass one of these days and I'm not sure how they'll fill out the death certificate...

    • Like Like x 3
  8. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    I used to swear by them, now I have come to see the value of using the LCD many it can appear less intrusive. I have a Fuji X100 which I used to use mostly the EVF, sometimes the optical and often the LCD (LCD is great to have in dark interiors). I now I also have a very pocketable Fuji XF1 with a lovely LCD and don't miss having anything else for my times alone with "her".

    We are all creatures of habit, yet most of us are quite adaptable.:drinks:

    P.S. Ray, I hope you always have a card in your pocket
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    "Man found dead in street - lack of viewfinder suspected..." :biggrin:
    • Like Like x 5
  10. demiro

    demiro Serious Compacts For Life

    Dec 15, 2011
    Colin, I think the Fuji X20 is definitely worth a look. Nice optical VF. Great camera. Not really pocketable, but if size is OK it may be a great choice for you.

    Beyond that, like others, I have moved from "must have a VF" to "at least have to have a tilting LCD" to having the RX100 as my favorite "daily use" camera. It has neither VF nor tilty screen. Hard for me to judge what you will adapt to though. Perhaps it's best that you do what most of here do: Buy almost every imaginable camera and figure out what works best for you. j/k. Not really...
    • Like Like x 5
  11. demiro

    demiro Serious Compacts For Life

    Dec 15, 2011
    Some folks feel that the lack of a VF is the death knell for photography, but not for you Ray...
    • Like Like x 1
  12. snkenai

    snkenai All-Pro

    Oct 5, 2010
    kenai, AK
    Stephen Noel
    I grew into photography with VF, The transition to LCDs and EVFs, was overloaded with dissatisfaction. I have now come to the place of exclusive use of LCD (since it is all I have :smile:). I now, do not miss VF, except in very bright light. I use old MF lenses, and focusing is near impossible in bright light with the E-p3. I do a bit of tripod work, and LCD on mirror less cameras is great for that.
    • Like Like x 2
  13. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    As demiro/AKA Dean wrote so wonderfully:
  14. entropic remnants

    entropic remnants Hall of Famer

    Mar 3, 2013
    John Griggs
    Ha ha! Well, when you say you're kidding are you meaning you're kidding they should do that; or do you mean you're kidding that many of us actually do just that? I think the are different answers, lol.
  15. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    I went a solid six years of basically viewfinder-only usage on Canon DSLRs with only the occasional use of live view when the later models started to offer (limited) versions of it. With mirrorless cams and fixed lens cameras I probably average about 98% without viewfinder and 2% with despite my two most used mirrorless cameras both having good quality built-in viewfinders. A top notch live view interface combined with large sensors and good quality, compact lenses, and the ability to easily change my viewpoint to a more favourable position means that I feel I came out a long way in front compared to being forced to introduce camera to face everytime I wanted to press the shutter.

    Of course not all LCD/OLED screens are created equal, and if they include a tilting or fully articulated motion it just makes them all that much more flexible.
    • Like Like x 2
  16. jnewell

    jnewell Regular

    Jun 25, 2011
    There are definitely advantages to an eye level viewfinder - for example, greater camera stability compared to holding the camera in your hands in free space. I used EVFs with my (former) LX-3, LX-5 and LX-7. None of those was really a shirt pocket camera in the first place so the gawky EVFs didn't affect how I carried them. When I bought an RX100 I was amazed by how easily it slipped into a shirt pocket. I subsequently swapped the RX100 for a Mk2, thinking in part that I might use an EVF, but the shirt pocketability factor persuaded me that I really didn't need it or want it. Another comment: the "bright sun" setting makes the screen on the RX100 very usable in bright light. Final comment: I really like the tilt screen on the Mk2 and think that the cost of that "upgrade" was fully worth the cost.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Hall of Famer

    Nov 8, 2012
    New Mexico
    It's an entirely personal choice. I've thought about, but ended up avoiding, cameras that did not have a viewfinder option, because I find it important to me. About the only time I use the LCD on the E-M5 is when I'm trying to be sly about getting the shot. In those instances, a tilting LCD is necessary to me, as I tend to shoot from the hip, but it's not a kind of shooting I do a lot.

    So, as Ray said, you won't die from lack of a viewfinder, but if you are like me, you won't be happy without one either. I can second the X20 (or even the X10) as excellent choices for a small, good quality camera with a clear viewfinder (85%). I just bought a used DP2S on ebay, but probably would not have had it not come with the accessory VF.
    • Like Like x 1