Friday, June 1, 2012

Kirk Tuck (of Visual Science Lab) Talks Up The Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)

Kirk Tuck on EVFs
Image Source:

Kirk Tuck has written a piece on The Online Photographer, with some witty-but-practical thoughts about how electronic viewfinders (EVFs) compare and contrast to optical viewfinders (OVFs).

(Click Here) to read Kirk's post on The Online Photographer.

Kirk talks up the following features of EVFs:
  1. "Pre-chimping" (this term belongs to Kirk :) ). This means being able to see how the camera's settings and electronics will treat an image BEFORE you shoot it. Not possible with an OVF, it can be achieved with live view on an SLR, but not with the camera to your eye.
  2. Focus Peaking - I am not familiar with what Kirk describes, about the camera highlighting items that are in focus in your image. I'm thinking Lumix cameras don't do this? Please comment if you can shed any light on this subject.
  3. The ability to quickly check an exposure in the EVF after it's taken, without having to take the camera away from your eye.
I certainly appreciate number 3, even though it makes people think I'm crazy when I've got the camera to my eye reviewing an image, not necessarily pointing it at my subject any more. My wife has said - "Why are you taking pictures of the sidewalk?"

On the downside, Kirk talks about the delay of the EVF making it more difficult to "lead" a moving subject (or at least different from the OVF), having to turn "Gain Up" (something I think is the default setting in Panasonic cameras) to see your subject in a dark setting, such as when you're planning to use studio flash, and the fact that EVFs typically represent an image in higher contrast than the true image, making the quick-check less effective.

On that final point, Kirk suggests that raw shooters can set their jpeg settings to low contrast, so that the image in the EVF more closely approximates what will be in the raw file. Nice tip.

I agree with Kirk on many points here. I love the "gain up" behavior of the Lumix EVF, which allows me to see what's going on in a dark scene by increasing the gain in the EVF (bringing up the light levels). I would add that this also allows visualization of the depth of field, if you're using a lens that closes the aperture down before the shutter is released. This is the case with legacy lenses on adapters. This is a feature that makes EVFs a major advantage. Basically, even though the aperture is closed way down (reducing the light getting to the sensor), the EVF adjusts the gain to brighten the image going to your eye. So, you get enough light to see what's going on, and the lens is closed down, so you can see the true depth of field.

Contrast this to the old depth of field preview in an SLR (which makes the image in the OVF so dark you can't see anything), or the conventional rangefinder camera (which has no provision for depth of field preview).
That said, I still really love to look through an OVF. It just looks more "real." It makes me feel like I'm still there, present in the scene. The EVF doesn't do that.

I know that even though this is a Lumix blog, I've been referring to Fujifilm quite a lot. I bring it up here because I wonder just how well their hybrid viewfinder (which allows you to switch between EVF and OVF) gives the benefits and minimizes the disadvantages of both finders. I imagine the hybrid design is pretty well-covered by Fujifuilm with patent protection, but I'd sure like to see it appear on other cameras (especially Panasonic).

Thanks again, Kirk, for a thought-provoking piece!