good write-up george! thanxs for sharing
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)
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%)
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%)
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%)
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 at 10:34 PM. Reason: Touch up article a little bit
good write-up george! thanxs for sharing
Your 1st 10,000 shots are your worst - H.C. Besson; thank god for memory cards.
Thanks for sharing George!
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...
Very good info bro..
thanks for sharing!
never considered this before!
now uve shown me the other side of the moon!
Good write up George.
I'll transfer this to Articles & Reviews.
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
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.
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.
thanks for highlighting the topic.... with that table, its indeed interesting to see how some high-end cameras stack up.... some interesting numbers...
after the all, you just want to say your film camera is best
Thanks for the info. I never thought of this before and you article has brighten my view.
mach: I guess I left out the Olympus system huh? will revise my article when I have the time
monster: yup, it's surprising isn't it?
sean eng: Aiyah, just a joke la....
harun: no problem, that's the whole point of the article mah
ish ish ish
what all the guys here are wondering is what about that swiss box ... you know ... that one where one has to look down to see your navel and what you're shooting ... j/king mate
good article for the read!
just the lens with manual controls, the sensor and its barest needed circuit boards to swap ISO and store raw
a kind of digital barnack
all that weight and so many choices is nuts for most of the time
granted it has its uses for all kinds of people and thats just the problem that most of us don't need all those artist filters and this and that trick
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