In today’s world of digital photography, the importance of a high-quality electronic viewfinder (EVF) cannot be overstated. Unlike traditional optical viewfinders, EVFs provide photographers with a range of useful information like focus peaking, live histograms, magnification, and exposure previews.
While all mid-range to high-end mirrorless cameras come equipped with built-in EVFs, not all are created equal. There are three primary technologies used in EVFs: LCD, OLED, and LCOS, each with their own unique advantages and disadvantages.
Despite some potential disadvantages, mirrorless cameras have been gaining popularity among photographers due to their exceptional image quality and the convenience of EVFs. The EVF technology is so good that it is even making DSLRs seem outdated.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the types of viewfinders, their pros and cons, and highlight a few of the best mirrorless cameras with the most impressive EVFs on the market. Whether you’re a professional photographer or a beginner, this guide will help you choose the right camera for your needs, style, and budget.
So, let’s dive in and explore the fascinating world of EVFs!
- Mirrorless cameras with electronic viewfinders (EVFs) offer benefits like compact size, leaf shutter, image stabilization, and autofocus, making photography easier and more enjoyable.
- Sony a7r II has the highest viewfinder magnification of 0.78x and offers the choice between live view and auto-brightness.
- Fujifilm X-T1 is a professional camera body with a CMOS sensor, 100% coverage, and 2,360,000 pixels OLED viewfinder.
- Leica Q has a wonderful EVF with 100% coverage and high resolution, making it the best EVF for manual focusing, but has slight lag issues in dark conditions.
- Panasonic Lumix GX8 has a 0.77x magnification, clear and bright EVF, high refresh rate, and a tilting mechanism for angled shots in difficult light conditions.
- Olympus OM-D E-M1 handles various light conditions very well and allows adjusting the EVF brightness according to the scene’s light.
- Nikon Z FC has a 0.39-inch type OLED display with 2.36M dots of resolution, 1.02x magnification, and 100% coverage.
- Canon EOS M50 II has a bright and clear OLED display of 2.36M dots of resolution, with a handy touchscreen for AF placement.
- Fuji XT10 has a fantastic viewfinder with 2.36M dots of resolution, 0.62x magnification, and a weather-sealed body.
- Sony A6000 offers a built-in EVF and tilting LCD screen, accurate colors, critical focus peaking, and zebra stripes, with 100% coverage and 1.07x magnification.
Types of viewfinders
There are two types of electronic viewfinders:
Optical viewfinder ( OVF )
- Optical viewfinders use mirrors and prisms to represent the view of a scene. The image in the optical viewfinder relies on the actual light passing through a camera rather than a digital representation.
- The optical viewfinder offers better clarity, a better ability to resolve scenes with extreme differences in brightness and an instantaneous view of the action lacking the delay found in some EVF systems.
- Optical viewfinders suffer from no shutter lag. They show you exactly what the lens is seeing as it sees it. They are also “on” all the time. You can look through an optical viewfinder even if the camera is powered down.
- Optical viewfinders have zero energy consumption as they are electronics-free. Hence, they don’t drain batteries.
Electronic viewfinder ( EVF )
- Electronic viewfinders use a tiny electronic display much like the larger LCD screen on the back of all the cameras.
- There is no optical viewfinder in mirrorless cameras. The imaging sensor is exposed to light all the time. This gives you a digital preview of your image either on the rear LCD screen or an electronic viewfinder.
- With an electronic viewfinder, you get to see exactly what the camera sensor sees and your view of the scene is never blocked even when taking a photo.
- The electronic viewfinder comes in handy when calculating the proper aperture for landscape photography when it comes to focusing distance display. It’s not an important feature for all photographers though, only for landscape photographers.
- The EVF gives you a live display of how the photo will be rendered. Since you can see right in the EVF how the brights and darks are captured, you can plan your other camera settings accordingly.
- The image in the viewfinder is recorded on the imaging sensor, hence the camera can use that data to show a histogram of the brightness levels in the photo. This is very important to help properly expose the photo in a difficult lighting position.
- Some electronic viewfinders also highlight the areas in focus, also known as the “peaking” autofocus, simulate motion blur and boost brightness when shooting very dark scenes.
- After you take the photo, you can see the preview right in the viewfinder without needing to take your face away from the viewfinder and look at the LCD screen and then go back to the viewfinder for another shot.
- Electronic viewfinders do experience a slight lag. But on the best EVFs, it is negligible and won’t make any difference to your shooting. But if you purchase an old mirrorless camera, you might get stuck with an EVF that lags.
- Electronic viewfinders go black when the camera is powered down and they take a few moments ( one or two seconds ) to start up once the camera is switched on.
- One disadvantage that electronic viewfinders have is that they suck a lot of power and this decreases the battery life of the camera.
- Looking into the EVF can sometimes take a second for your eyes to adjust to, if it is bright outside, especially if the camera has just been switched on.
Mirrorless cameras with the best EVFs
Photographers of all levels benefit from using a more compact mirrorless camera with an electronic viewfinder, leaf shutter, in-built image stabilization and complete autofocus, all the features which can make photography easier and more fun.
Let’s have a look at the mirrorless cameras with the best EVFs.
Sony a7r II
This camera has the highest viewfinder magnification of 0.78x. Although it is not much different than the 0.77x magnification.
This camera also lets you choose between live view and auto-brightness depending on the light in your scene.
This camera has an OLED viewfinder with 100% coverage and 2,360,000 pixels. It is a professional camera body with a CMOS sensor, high magnification and many other features and is all weather-resistant.
It is fast, accurate and responsive with all the goodies. It has a high resolution, a fast frame rate that remains constant in all conditions and a very short display lag.
The Leica Q has the most wonderful EVF to use. It is clear, bright and responsive with 100% coverage. It is the best EVF for manual focusing, as the high resolution makes the peaking very visible. It also shows amazing results without any manual focusing assists at all.
However, there is a slight lag issue in dark conditions.
Panasonic Lumix GX8
The Panasonic Lumix GX8 boasts a magnification of 0.77x. The electronic viewfinder projects clear and bright images with 100% coverage. It has a high refresh rate and makes very little noise.
What makes this camera’s viewfinder unique is the tilting mechanism. You can tilt it up to 90 degrees for weird angled shots in difficult light conditions.
Olympus OM-D E-M1
This camera lacks the OLED panel of other models since it is two years old, but handles various light conditions very well. It has a very slight lag of 0.16 seconds and is very responsive.
This camera also allows you to adjust the brightness of the EVF according to the light in your scene to give you an optimal preview.
Nikon Z FC
The Nikon Z FC possesses an old-school charm. The EVF in this camera is a 0.39-inch type OLED display with 2.36M dots of resolution. It has a 1.02x magnification which results in a big display with 100% coverage.
Canon EOS M50 II
The EVF in the Canon EOS is bright and clear with an OLED display of 2.36M dots of resolution. The touchscreen is very handy to place your AF while you are looking through the viewfinder.
Fuji XT10 has a fantastic viewfinder. It has 2.36M dots of resolution with 0.62x magnification. With its extremely high-resolution electronic viewfinder, great image quality, weather-sealed body and engaging control system this camera is a wonderful addition to your photography kit.
The Sony A6000 features a built-in EVF and tilting LCD screen. It produces accurate colours and is very easy to make out even the tiniest of details. The camera EVF provides 100% coverage with a magnification of 1.07x.
You can tilt the LCD screen up to 90 degrees up and 45 degrees down, making it easy to take shots from awkward or difficult angles. It also provides peaking for critical focus and zebra stripes for over-exposed areas.
The introduction of electronic viewfinders revolutionized digital photography and provided photographers with a new tool to enhance their craft. While some were skeptical of the technology in the beginning, the benefits of using an EVF have become increasingly clear over time.
Despite a few potential drawbacks, the wealth of information that an EVF provides is hard to ignore. Although it may take some time to adapt to the new technology, the advantages that it offers make the learning curve well worth it.
If you’re considering switching from a DSLR to a mirrorless camera, the quality of the EVF should be a top consideration. While the switch may seem daunting, the versatility and convenience of the mirrorless system, along with the advantages of the EVF, make it an attractive option for many photographers.
In conclusion, the EVF is an essential feature that provides a wealth of information to photographers, and the technology is becoming increasingly popular among photographers of all levels. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a budding enthusiast, incorporating an EVF into your photography toolkit can significantly enhance your skills and expand your creative possibilities.
So, don’t hesitate to explore this exciting new technology and experience the benefits of electronic viewfinders for yourself.