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What is an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)?
A viewfinder is a part of the camera that you look through in order to frame your photo. Most DSLR cameras have what are known as optical viewfinders. When you look through an optical viewfinder you’re actually looking through the lens of the camera (the light is bouncing off a mirror and flipped through a prism). It’s really neat actually!
But with an electronic viewfinder (EVF), you’re actually just looking at a tiny screen (usually LCD or OLED). This may not seem like a significant difference, but having a camera with an EVF can make it a lot easier for you to learn photography. Here are 7 things you need to know about electronic viewfinders:
1. Exposure preview
With an electronic viewfinder you get a realtime preview of what your exposure will be – meaning the brightness of your photo will look like what you see through the EVF. The value of this can’t be understated. Having a realtime exposure preview will help you to dial in the exact exposure you want without constant chimping (like you might do with a DSLR with an optical viewfinder).
2. Depth of field preview
Just like with exposure you can get a preview of what your depth of field will be with an EVF. With most optical viewfinders you’re looking through the optical viewfinder with the lens aperture set wide open – which doesn’t give you an idea of what the actual depth of field will be in the image when you press the shutter release. DSLRs do have a “depth of field” preview button which will close down the aperture to whatever you have it set to – the problem is that if you’re shooting at smaller apertures the depth of field preview button will make things look unrealistically dark through the viewfinder (since the small aperture will greatly reduce the amount of light going through to the optical viewfinder. Also it’s just a pain to be pressing a button whenever you want to see a depth of field preview.
With EVFs you’ll have a better idea of what your depth of field will look like (at the correct exposure) and be able to make faster decisions about lenses and focal lengths in order to get the depth of field you desire.
3. Black and white preview
With an electronic viewfinder you can often turn on picture style settings and get a preview of what those settings will look like. So for example you could get a live preview of what everything looks like black and white (which can really help with composition as well as exposure selection. You can often still shoot in the raw format (giving you the option of color later).
4. The camera needs to be on
You can look through optical viewfinders with the camera turned off. With an EVF however, the camera needs to be turned on (since the camera’s sensor needs to be collecting light information, and then displaying it on the tiny screen). The delay of holding up the camera to take a photo, it being turned off or asleep and then staring into a black EVF waiting for an image to appear can be annoying!
5. EVFs deplete battery life
With an EVF the camera has to be constantly collecting sensor information and then displaying in on the small screen. This means that cameras with EVFs typically have significantly shorter battery life compared to cameras with optical viewfinders.
6. The EVF might not be bright enough
If you’re shooting in bright sunlight you may find that the EVF is not bright enough, and that you can’t see the image properly. This will vary depending on the camera’s eyecup around the EVF and whether or not you wear glasses.
7. Some EVFs are better than others
Not all EVFs are equal. The resolution of some EVFs are greater than others. There’s currently a range between 2.36MP to about 4MP. The higher the resolution the sharper the screen will look.
Resolution isn’t the only factor though. Just like TVs the displays in EVFs can be LCD or OLED. OLED displays tend to be brighter than LCDs and show better colour. Finally some cameras (like the Fuji X-Pro2, and Fuji X100F) offer hybrid viewfinders which allow you to switch between optical and electronic viewfinders.
When purchasing your next camera you should definitely consider looking at a model that has an electronic viewfinder. We currently use a Fuji X-T2, and Fuji X100F which both have EVFs, but you’ll find EVFs in a ton of different cameras (mostly mirrorless).