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Breaking the Viewfinder Myth - Viewfinder Coverage & Magnification Explained

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  • Breaking the Viewfinder Myth - Viewfinder Coverage & Magnification Explained

    For this post, let's look into the often overlooked and never really discussed viewfinder on your camera. Now naturally, you know what a viewfinder is for, to look through and frame your shot. As such, this is arguably one of the most important feature in your camera and it's worth having a look how to COMPARE viewfinders against one another. There are 2 main variables you should be looking.

    Variable 1: Viewfinder Coverage
    Viewfinder coverage means how many percent of what ACTUALLY will be taken can be seen through the viewfinder.

    For example, the Nikon D3S has a nice 100% coverage which basically means what you see inside your viewfinder is exactly what will be captured by the camera. The Nikon D5000, on the other hand, has only 95% coverage which means that when you look into the viewfinder, only 95% of what will be captured by the camera sensor can be seen. There is another 5% on the top, bottom, left and right side which is captured but cannot be seen in the viewfinder.

    This isn't a problem for most people but it does affect your framing a little bit and it's only annoying for the most picky of you. Most cameras are 95% and high end models are usually 100%.

    Variable 2: Viewfinder Magnification

    Viewfinder magnification on the other hand refers to how BIG the image you will see inside the viewfinder in comparison to your human vision using a 50mm lens*. For example, if a camera has a 0.7x magnification, look through the viewfinder with your RIGHT eye and open your LEFT eye. Your right eye will be seeing about 70% the size of what the left eye can see.

    (Note: 50mm lens is used as the benchmark for calculation because 50mm focal length is usually considered as a human's 'normal' vision.)

    One important thing to note is that the viewfinder magnification ratio in spec sheets are VERY MISLEADING. That is because it doesn't take into consideration the crop factor of the camera (APS-C vs Full Frame).

    For example, the Sony A850 is rated at 0.74 whereas the Sony A550 is rated at 0.8. By reading this, you might be thinking "Wow, Sony A550 more keng than A850?". However, if you take into consideration the crop factor to get the actual viewfinder magnification, it's a totally different story.

    In order to calculate a camera's actual viewfinder magnification, use this simple formula:

    Viewfinder magnification / Crop factor = Actual viewfinder magnification

    Using this calculation:

    A850: 0.74/1.0 = 0.74 (74%) --> MUCH bigger
    A550: 0.8/1.5 = 0.53 (53%) --> Puny in comparison

    With a higher viewfinder magnification, not only does it make it easier to see what you're composing, it also makes it easier to manual focus. A large viewfinder is a macro shooter's best friend. To save you some calculator trouble, here is a list of all current models for your reference.

    Current Model's Viewfinder Magnification (2009)
    Canon
    1D Mark IV: 0.76/1.3 = 0.58 (58%)
    1Ds Mark III = 0.76/1.0 = 0.76 (76%) --> Biggest viewfinder for DSLR!
    5D Mark II: 0.71x/1.0 = 0.71 (71%)
    7D: 1.0x/1.6 = 0.63 (63%)
    50D: 0.95/1.6 = 0.59 (59%)
    500D: 0.87/1.6 = 0.54 (54%)
    1000D: 0.81/1.6 = 0.50 (50%)

    Nikon
    D3S: 0.7/1.0 = 0.7 (70%)
    D3X: 0.7/1.0 = 0.7 (70%)
    D3: 0.7/1.0 = 0.7 (70%)
    D700: 0.72/1.0 = 0.72 (72%)
    D300S: 0.94/1.5 = 0.63 (63%)
    D90: 0.94/1.5 = 0.63 (63%)
    D5000: 0.78/1.5 = 0.52 (52%)
    D60: 0.8/1.5 = 0.53 (53%)
    D3000: 0.8/1.5 = 0.52 (53%)

    Sony
    A900: 0.74/1.0 = 0.74 (74%)
    A850: 0.74/1.0 = 0.74 (74%)
    A550: 0.8/1.5 = 0.53 (53%)
    A330: 0.74/1.5 = 0.49 (49%)
    A230: 0.83/1.5 = 0.55 (55%)

    Pentax
    K7: 0.92/1.5 = 0.61 (61%)
    K-x: 0.85/1.5 = 0.57 (57%)
    K-m: 0.85/1.5 = 0.57 (57%)
    My Pentax MX film camera: 0.97/1.0 = 0.97 (97%)

    I couldn't help that last one, sorry I guess film cameras are still better?

    For those of you who need visual reference to understand this better, do visit my website at www.revven.me (Sorry, lazy to link all pictures here, took me a few hours to complete so like that la). Hope this helps!
    Last edited by georgewongtzewen; 30-11-2009, 10:34 PM. Reason: Touch up article a little bit
    www.facebook.com/TheCentreForAsianPhotographers

  • #2
    Re: Breaking the Viewfinder Myth - Viewfinder Coverage & Magnification Explained

    good write-up george! thanxs for sharing
    Your 1st 10,000 shots are your worst - H.C. Besson; thank god for memory cards.

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    • #3
      Re: Breaking the Viewfinder Myth - Viewfinder Coverage & Magnification Explained

      Thanks for sharing George!

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Breaking the Viewfinder Myth - Viewfinder Coverage & Magnification Explained

        Originally posted by damak View Post
        good write-up george! thanxs for sharing
        No problem and thanks. At least next time people buy, they will know what viewfinder magnification (especially) means. Don't want people kena tipu (you know la, I also seller, trying to practice good sales ethics )

        On a separate note, it is surprising to see the new 1D Mark IV having such a small finder. I compared with my 1D Mark II and it is rather small (never noticed until I actually calculated).

        D700 is surprisingly Nikon's largest viewfinder. As I know, to obtain a higher viewfinder magnification does costs a lot of money in production side so it's funny to see the D700 getting the largest viewfinder in the Nikon system compared to the top end models. Then again, just 2% difference la...
        www.facebook.com/TheCentreForAsianPhotographers

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        • #5
          Re: Breaking the Viewfinder Myth - Viewfinder Coverage & Magnification Explained

          Very good info bro..

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Breaking the Viewfinder Myth - Viewfinder Coverage & Magnification Explained

            thanks for sharing!
            never considered this before!
            now uve shown me the other side of the moon!
            http://wsvs.co/journal

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            • #7
              Re: Breaking the Viewfinder Myth - Viewfinder Coverage & Magnification Explained

              Good write up George.

              I'll transfer this to Articles & Reviews.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Breaking the Viewfinder Myth - Viewfinder Coverage & Magnification Explained

                sometime i wonder, how accurate a RF camera viewfinder can be, for build-in as well external, i havent really come to the stage i can do comparison btw the frameline and the photo output, only with digital can try it out better...

                nonetheless, great write up as usual ! *a man who use to be editor in mag
                I'm full time gear head, yes i am... :D

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                • #9
                  Re: Breaking the Viewfinder Myth - Viewfinder Coverage & Magnification Explained

                  If you think about it..

                  The reason APS-C dSLR viewfinders are so small and dark compared with film SLRs is the size of the focusing screen. The focusing screen has to be the exact same size as the film/sensor, since there is no difference in optics between the two other than that 45 degree mirror.

                  It is interesting to see how much bigger dSLRs are compared with film SLRs, despite the smaller sensor size. A lot of this volume is necessary to store the electronics, I suppose.

                  Iskandar

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                  • #10
                    Re: Breaking the Viewfinder Myth - Viewfinder Coverage & Magnification Explained

                    Originally posted by noordin View Post
                    Good write up George.

                    I'll transfer this to Articles & Reviews.
                    That's nice. I hope to provide more write ups in future Hope they all merit a spot in Articles & Reviews
                    www.facebook.com/TheCentreForAsianPhotographers

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                    • #11
                      Re: Breaking the Viewfinder Myth - Viewfinder Coverage & Magnification Explained

                      Originally posted by david.tan View Post
                      nonetheless, great write up as usual ! *a man who use to be editor in mag
                      Thanks mate. Well used to be only la. Now I'm just a simple person
                      www.facebook.com/TheCentreForAsianPhotographers

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                      • #12
                        Re: Breaking the Viewfinder Myth - Viewfinder Coverage & Magnification Explained

                        Originally posted by Iskandar Taib View Post
                        It is interesting to see how much bigger dSLRs are compared with film SLRs, despite the smaller sensor size. A lot of this volume is necessary to store the electronics, I suppose.
                        Actually, this is quite true. Especially since most DSLRs now are build on a digital basis so electronics are abundant. The challenge is now to miniaturize the camera as much as possible without compromising DSLR quality...
                        www.facebook.com/TheCentreForAsianPhotographers

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                        • #13
                          Re: Breaking the Viewfinder Myth - Viewfinder Coverage & Magnification Explained

                          Originally posted by Iskandar Taib View Post
                          The reason APS-C dSLR viewfinders are so small and dark compared with film SLRs is the size of the focusing screen. The focusing screen has to be the exact same size as the film/sensor, since there is no difference in optics between the two other than that 45 degree mirror.
                          hey iskandar,

                          to add to what george wrote...

                          if you think about it... the main reason is auto-focus. A good portion of the light has to be transmitted to the AF sensors via the half-silvered mirror. Hence even the AF film SLRs have extremely small viewfinders.

                          and with half the light gone, they also can't employ ground glass in the viewfinders anymore, cause it'll just be BLACK when f5.6 consumer zooms are used. The fresnel glass in my pentax shows up as black circle, and cannot to help manual focus if slow lenses are used in dim light.

                          So, even the best AF SLRs nowadays have these clear glass viewfinders that don't accuratelt represent depth of field with very fast lenses. f1.4 - f2.0 looks the same on one of my camera's viewfinder due to that effect.

                          p.s.> the olympus e-3 has a magnification of 1.15x and 100% view. Manual focussing with telephotos or macros is a joy with it.
                          www.flickr.com/machzero

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                          • #14
                            Re: Breaking the Viewfinder Myth - Viewfinder Coverage & Magnification Explained

                            thanks for highlighting the topic.... with that table, its indeed interesting to see how some high-end cameras stack up.... some interesting numbers...

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Breaking the Viewfinder Myth - Viewfinder Coverage & Magnification Explained

                              after the all, you just want to say your film camera is best


                              O.o

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