Analysis Part 1: viewfinders (Updated)

Okay putting on my engineer’s hat to examine the whole “replacement camera for the Nikon P610” issue in detail. To start with I’ve broken the big problem down into four smaller problems: viewfinder clarity, lens focal length & quality, over-all handling, and price. What we’re up against, then, is the matters of my eyesight having difficulty with the P610’s EVF, most other cameras (particularly not any I already have) not matching the Nikon’s 60X zoom capacity and sharpness, difficulties in operating certain cameras with my (by today’s standards, apparently) large hands, and the eternal bug-a-bear of budget.

First step, then, is looking at the viewfinder issue. I have noticed and mentioned in an anecdotal way that not only is the old Nikon’s finder fading, so is my eyesight. Thus even the newer cameras I have with better EVFs (the Sony a600 and the Lumix ZS60) are a challenge to use. Now let’s get some non-subjective evidence:

Viewfinder luminance testing set up.

Two lights either side, white card in front, one light overhead. Lots of light. Each camera set to allow maximum light to the viewfinder (i.e. wide-angle lens at full aperture). I tried taking a few ‘all at once’ shots but the angles through the finders were so different that there was no point of view which rendered all of them equally. So I fell back on taking individual shots of the finders using the Lumix because it’s easiest to get close-ups with and wasn’t needed for the comparison (it’s no better than the Sony). Here are the results:

Nikon P610. Yes, all you can make out is the superimposed focus brackets, it’s that dim.
Sony a6000. Brighter than the Nikon by far, and yet …
Olympus E410; optical is brighter still.
Canon T100. Note it is about the same as the Olympus because both are optical (and have similar maximum apertures).
Canon G11. Unfair comparison because this camera’s finder is basically a window unto the world. The shadow on the left is due to the strap getting in the way without me noticing.

Oh yes when we get in close like that and blow up the images you can really see the dust on the glass! Which brings up another part of the problem: size of the finder. The Nikon’s finder is a circle 8mm in diameter. The Sony’s is a rectangle 14mm on the diagonal. The Olympus is a rectangle 16mm on the diagonal. The Canon T100 is a rectangle 13mm on the diagonal (it would be nicer if it were double that, or about full size instead of half). The Canon G11 is an 8mm diameter circle just like the Nikon’s, but far brighter. So the P610 has not only the dimmest viewfinder, but the smallest as well.

I don’t know if something like an Olympus OM-D has a bigger, brighter finder than the Sony a6000; it’s not one of the things manufacturers tell you about. They just try to sell you on insane amounts of megapixels and outrageous ISO number claims. But what good are those numbers if you literally can not see the scene you’re trying to take a picture of? Imagine the paradox of setting ISO to 25600 when the image in the finder is only barely visible on a bright sunny day!

Anyway, that’s the first part of the analysis and if there’s any ‘winner’ here amongst my existing cameras it’s a tie between the Canon T100 and the Olympus E410.


Update to add this: viewfinder of the Pentax Spotmatic 1000. It’s 15mm on the diagonal, and yes brighter than the two DSLRs.

2 thoughts on “Analysis Part 1: viewfinders (Updated)

  1. The viewfinder is a critical part of the camera experience. It’s one of the reasons I love the lowly Pentax ME: the viewfinder is large and bright, and it contributes strongly to the camera being a pleasure.


    1. Darn it, I should have checked my Pentax Spotmatic for comparison purposes! I just don’t get why they keep making finders so small and dim, especially on the EVFs. Do they really think people can use those LCD panels in broad daylight? Why is everyone obsessed with taking pictures in the dark? What part of “photo-graphy” don’t they get? *LOL*


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