I think maybe the designers and manufacturers of compact cameras are going a little wonky in the hea

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Jock Elliott, May 3, 2014.

  1. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    May be it’s the solvents from those super-trick nano coatings they are putting on lenses, but something is definitely screwy.

    But I get ahead of myself. Before we get to the subject at hand, let me relate a conversation I had with a photographer at GE’s Research and Development Center in Schenectady, NY, some decades ago.

    I asked him why all of the photographers shot with Nikon cameras. At the time, I was a Pentax man, and I figured the difference was like Ford and Chevy, a matter of personal preference.
    His answer: “Because Nikon is the only camera that what I see in the viewfinder is exactly what is captured on the film.”

    It made sense: accurate framing is probably a good idea when you are a professional photographer.

    And that brings us back to the present: why are compact camera manufacturers (A) doing away with viewfinders or (B) offering them as an add-on at punitive prices?

    Back of the camera screens do offer accurate framing, a view of what the sensor is seeing, but they can be extremely hard to see in bright sunlight. (Not long ago, there was a review of rugged point-and-shoot cameras on dpreview and one of the cons for the top-rated camera was that the screen was hard to see in bright sunshine. This is as close to a fatal usability flaw as I can think of.) The problem of rear-screen visibility has led to an aftermarket of various devices to provide shading for the rear screen. I bought a Hoodman device for my D550 but stopped using it after a while because it was an annoyance to keep on the camera.

    And even if you successfully shade the rear screen, you still don’t get the advantages of a proper viewfinder: ie, it provides an additional point of steadiness by pressing the camera against your face. Steadiness is the thing to have when you are shooting at low shutter speeds or high focal lengths.

    So now we are offered cameras that don’t have a viewfinder, but you can buy one at additional cost, and the manufacturers are extremely proud of their viewfinders, judging from the prices. If you own a Ricoh GR, the tariff for an OVF will $200 or more; a Nikon A, about $400; Canon G1X MkII, $300 (EVF); Panasonic LX7 EVF, $150; Sigma DP1, $150; Sony X100 mk II, $450 (EVF).

    Now notice this: you can buy an entire Canon point-and-shoot digital camera with a built-in optical viewfinder (albeit not a super precise one), an imaging chip, a zoom lens, software and other goodies for less than $100 brand new. Are the camera manufacturers going to tell us with a straight face that it costs more to manufacture an optical or electronic viewfinder than it does to manufacture an entire camera? Even if you take into account economies of scale, it still doesn’t make sense.

    I tell you; I think the manufacturers have been sniffing the fumes from those nano-coating vats and have suffered some kind of vapor lock.

    Cheers, Jock
    • Like Like x 1
  2. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    I think they're not selling many cameras anymore so they need to sell accessories to make ends meet. Or maybe that's just what they want us to believe.
    • Like Like x 2
  3. Manufacturers are designing for the future generations that are getting old enough to buy their own decent cameras and that generation is the smart phone crowd. This means big clear swipe-able screens that are easily seen even in bright light (mostly!). It costs more to put VF's in compacts so their argument would probably be that the screen is well big enough to see what you are taking. We all know that in many cases it is difficult to see even the best screen in sunlight but saving a few dollars on each camera is a big issue for the makers. It's the same with manuals. We no longer get a decent manual, just a flimsy booklet. They say it's to 'save trees man!' but it's penny pinching. Soon we will not have CD's, manuals or USB leads. Everything will be via the internet! Ho hum!
    • Like Like x 3
  4. pictor

    pictor All-Pro

    Jul 14, 2010
    To be honest, I have never read through a printed manual of any digital camera I have bought, since I read it before buying the camera just to know, if it is the right camera, or just look up those thing which are not obvious, in which cases I have always prefered the PDF to the printed copy anyway. Thus, I don't care about printed manuals being in the box. But that's just me, of course, others might eventually miss the manual, but that's a rather small crowd. I don't know if that's the case for all manufacturers, but at least there are some who send printed manuals to those who want to own one for free.
    • Like Like x 4
  5. 1- I would agree on the cost of the add on viewfinders, many of them cost 1/3 of the price of the camera. When I bought my first NEX-3, I considered the viewfinder add on, but never did as it cost too much and would sacrifice my flash, (you could have one or the other).

    2- Much of the later NEX/ALPHA models incudes a built-in veiwfinder, such as my NEX-6.
    • Like Like x 2
  6. lcsolla

    lcsolla Regular

    Sep 5, 2011
    Lisbon, Portugal
    Luis Castro e Solla
    In Portugal, where it is sunny most of the time (almost everyday from May to October), rear screens - even the best ones - are difficult or very difficult to see during the day. Picking a big, colourful, option in the menu of a smartphone is not the same as framing a picture (from personal experience). And this is not to mention the high and growing percentage of the population which has less than 100% vision (yes, I am part of this group).
    As to manuals, I do not mind having a pdf - and I always download them in pdf format even when I have a proper one. But manufacturers might also provide us with a format which we could take with us in our smartphones. It would cost them next to nothing, and be infinitely useful in the field. Reading PDFs in a smartphone is just a pain.
    • Like Like x 3
  7. ReD

    ReD Hall of Famer

    Mar 27, 2013
    Preaching to the converted
    Actually I am just old school

    I returned That Canon you mentioned being disappointed with the jpeg output - on paper it ticked all the boxes but chalk v cheese compared to the F660

    all others with built in VF's are high price - I'm waiting on price reductions & have missed the boat on refurbed X10's - if they are offered again I'll bite the bullet as it seems to fit all my needs long zoom is not essential for me
    • Like Like x 2
  8. ReD

    ReD Hall of Famer

    Mar 27, 2013
    Little point in having an A5 manual with 8 point script - at least with pdf you can print out at sizes that are readable
    • Like Like x 1
  9. pdh

    pdh Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    viewfinders? screens? who needs 'em ... the cameras i use mostly at the moment are P'n'G (point and guess) ...
    • Like Like x 6
  10. Warren T.

    Warren T. Regular

    Apr 8, 2011
    San Francisco
    Lumix got it right with their LF1, that's why I bought one :).
    • Like Like x 2
  11. Archiver

    Archiver Top Veteran

    Jul 11, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    I look forward to the day when I can download a new camera via the internet!
    • Like Like x 2
  12. trisberg

    trisberg Veteran

    Jul 5, 2011
    New Hampshire
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Taking interchangeable lens cameras from being the hybrid digital/analogue descendants of the film era and making them into true digital cameras and then refining them to where they are now has been the most significant technical advance that I have witnessed since I bought my first camera about 15 years ago.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. rbelyell

    rbelyell All-Pro

    May 14, 2013
    NY Mtns
    i agree with you jock, a camera without a vf aint a camera. and the cost of some of the add ons are absurd, see leicas new $400 model.

    however, i will say--and i know im in the minority on this--i like the add on articulating vfs better than integrated ones (except the hybrid x100). first, its stealthy. putting it in waistlevel mode and looking down on the ground makes the photographer even more innocuous. ive taken photos in crowded environments unobserved like this i never could have if i needed to point the cam at the subject. second, in bright light i find it much easier to see when looking down via waist level vs into the light at eye level. as an aside, and not to boost sony as im not a fan of theirs, but the add on vf to the rx1 is the best evf ive ever used. an honest pleasure that i look forward to.
    • Like Like x 1
  15. NickLarsson

    NickLarsson Veteran

    Jun 24, 2013
    Paris, France
    Actually I'm happy the GR doesn't have an integrated viewfinder :
    - it makes the camera cheaper (see X100s)
    - and it makes it smaller (see X100s)
    • Like Like x 2
  16. demiro

    demiro Serious Compacts For Life

    Dec 15, 2011
    I think we need to be a bit more accepting of the fact that one size does not fit all, and understand that camera manufacturers are doing their best to maximize sales and profits (as they should) despite a customer base with a variety of wants and needs. It's just not realistic to think that every camera will meet your personal requirements.
    • Like Like x 4
  17. I've seen the viewfinder/screen debate many times and find myself on both sides.

    My first and second NEX both had no viewfinder, and I got along just fine. I can't imagine a camera without one and being limited to just a viewfinder.
    • Like Like x 1
  18. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    I think there is an inexpensive solution. Years ago, many inexpensive film cameras and collapsible film cameras had pop-up wireframe viewfinders that would work perfectly well in all kinds of weather. They didn't provide 100% accurate framing, but I think they would be better than fighting reflections on a rear screen in bright sunlight.

    Cheers, Jock
  19. pictor

    pictor All-Pro

    Jul 14, 2010
    I don't mind optional EVFs, because I like the idea of modular cameras. That's absolutely no problem for me. However, I really dislike incompatibilities even within the product range of a single manufacturer. Although I can accept that manufacturers want to earn money with the gear I am buying (and they really need to do that!) I dislike the obscenely high prices of some very important optional parts of some manufacturers.
    • Like Like x 3
  20. Crsnydertx

    Crsnydertx Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 21, 2011
    Houston, TX
    Yes. It replaced the more capable LX7 as my beach camera. Gotta see where I'm aiming....no can do with the LCD, any LCD.
    • Like Like x 1