LCD viewfinder for Digital SLR?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by nikonika, Dec 28, 2005.

  1. Nikon is my favorite, and I have my eyes on D70s. However, my hope
    is that digital SLRs could come up with LCD viewfinder - is that a
    possibility in the near future? I am willing to wait. I am sure
    there is not crystal ball, but I would like to get an idea of what
    forum thinks about this as future tech? Thanks.
  2. Most folks who have used SLRs for years can't see much of any upside to an LCD viewfinder. What we cherish about a decent SLR view is seeing through the taking lens in real time and evaluating focus, depth of field, etc.

    The few LCD viewfinders I have seen had annoying latency issues (panning with the camera made me feel like I was drunk) and you sure couldn't evaluate critical focus with them.
  3. Todd's right. What's kept me from buying a prosumer digicam is the lack of a good optical viewfinder. Video or LCD finders lose a lot of resolution and make manual focusing nearly impossible. Just what is it about an LCD finder you like over an optical one?
  4. I am not a professional. Just a regular family guy, trying to shoot family pictures, and have some fun. These days almost everything has LCD, and it is popular because it is very convenient to use in regular day to day life. I do not disagree with the advantages of optical, but you always have that option when you want to get creative. Your point is well taken.
  5. SLR stands for "Single Lens Reflex", and it means that the light coming through the lens is reflected into a viewfinder, which you then look through to see what picture the camera will take. In order to build a live LCD display into an SLR, somebody would have to put a sensor into the camera and have the light from the lens reflect onto the LCD as well as into the viewfinder. That's a lot of reflections that would have to happen, a camera like that would probably be pretty big and bulky. It'd be hard to carry. Would you want to hold a big camera at arm's reach, looking at the LCD, trying to compose your shot? Then if you want to zoom the camera you'd have to reach around to the zoom ring on the lens to rotate it (assuming you're using a zoom lens, of course), so now your right hand has to hold the camera up and steady while your left hand reaches out to turn the zoom ring, all while you look through the LCD to make sure you get the framing just right. So there are practical reasons why this would be tough to do.

    And as other people have mentioned, most people who buy SLRs want to look through the viewfinder, since that's the main advantage of an SLR. The digital point and shoot models that you can buy nowadays are much better suited to looking at the LCD while trying to take the picture: they're light so it's easy to hold with just one hand, the zoom is electronic so you can operate it with the same hand that's holding the camera, and they're very small and convenient.
  6. I'm guessing you're not so much interested in an LCD viewfinder as you are using the LCD on the back of the camera to compose your photos? (LCD viewfinder means something different to me; like looking through a smallish optical window at a video presentation.)

    My digital P&S (Nikon Coolpix 2500) introduced me to the pros and cons of an LCD system (no optical viewfinder). Virtually unusable in full sun, but it was undeniably handy for some sorts of off-axis shooting, like down low in the rug with the kids.

    To try to answer your Q directly, Nikon seems to have two distinct 'marketing/development teams'. One brings out high-end fixed lens cameras like the Coolpix 8400, and the other works on the DSLRs. What you're asking for is more like something the first team would bring out. I can't see Nikon bringing out a 'true' DSLR with interchangable lenses that has that feature, but as you say, I'm not the target market. Who knows, maybe a camera with real-time preview on the back, an LCD viewfinder and interchangable Nikon SLR lenses might just sell a ton.
  7. Let me clarify. My question (and desire) was to have LCD in back of camera, just like point and shoot cameras to actually compose the picture, and not just review pictures. Its so convenient. Of course, you always have the eyepiece in case you want to use it. I am sure there are engineering reasons with the SLR effect. I do know that SLR camreas hit actual light thru mirrors, and eventually into the eyepiece. I might go ahead and get the D70s, as I dont think my LCD equipped SLR is coming out anytime soon. Thanks guys, great forum!
  8. D, I think you're right. I can't speak for any camera manufacturer, of course, but I'd say it's a pretty safe bet that no one will introduce an SLR with rear LCD view capability any time soon.
  9. An LCD screen on a DSLR is for chimping, not for composition :)
  10. I think that what your asking for may happen someday, probably within the next 2 years. There are 2 fairly simple ways that this could be done.

    One is to use a fixed pellicle mirror and use the shutter/sensor package in a manner similar to a P&S digital. The problem with this approach would be that it would probably introduce shutter lag similar to a P&S digital. Since Canon had a lot of experience with pellicle mirror cameras, I would expect this is how they would do it.

    The second approach would be to give the camera 2 distinct operating modes. In SLR mode, it would behave just like the current DSLR's. In "Live Preview" mode, the camera would lock the mirror up and mimic the action of a P&S digital without any provision for an optical viewfinder. The downside to the "Live Preview" mode is that it would have the same shutter lag as a P&S digital. This is the approach that I would expect Nikon to take. Basically all it would require is some "re-programming" of their existing designs and would be rather inexpensive to implement. Since the D200 already has an "electronic" mirror lockup provision, it may be possible that this could be done with a "firmware" upgrade. However, after market studies, Nikon might decide to not offer this feature. Personally, I think that having one camera with 2 distinctly different shutter lag times would DRIVE ME NUTS. It's the one area where DSLR cameras beat any of the fixed lens digitals hands down, near instantaneous response to the shutter button being released.

    Then there is a THIRD approach that I think worthy of disussion. I confess that I am a bit of a fan (read Raving Fan, I keep wishing for a digital back for my C-330) of the Mamiya TLR cameras. Without any mirror flapping about I can shoot down to 1/15 second without any problems with mirror shake. The lack of any "blackout" also allows me to see that my flashes actually fired. On that theme, how about a digital TLR that featured a pellicle mirror and TWO image sensors. The "viewing" sensor could be of rather low resolution (1mp) and be placed behind the viewing lens. That viewing sensor could also be multi-tasked with the light metering duties, white balance, and perhaps AF or Focus Assist. This would allow the image sensor to be single tasked to just recording the image, eliminating any noticable shutter lag. The downside is that it's a bit more complex and buying lenses in paired sets could get a bit costly.

    PS, if I were making an underwater digital, it would be a Twin Lens design using two sensors. It would not have any optical viewfinder, underwater, glare on the LCD isn't an issue so there would not be much need for an optical viewfinder. By using a low resolution and smaller sensor for the viewing/metering/WB/Focus functions a small lens matched to the taking lens could be employed to provide a small package about the size of a Nikonos. For the imaging function a larger lens and sensor could be employed to permit a camera with near zero shutter lag. It would have to be a fixed lens camera but that's not all bad, especially if you want it water tight to 200 feet. BTW, the matched lenses would be zooms, eliminating a lot of the need for an interchangeable lens. Nikon, if your reading this, I bet that your already using almost all the parts needed to build this camera.
  11. there is an astrophotography version of the Canon 20D - the 20Da - with some specialized apparatus that allows live preview. And Canon has had pellicle-mirror SLRs where the mirror was fixed - a digital version of this could potentially have both an optical viewfinder and live preview. Both are/were substantially more expensive than the versions they're based on, with added drawbacks. But it's not technologically impossible, or even difficult.

    I'm sort of curious what consumers would think of an APS sized digicam back for F-mount lenses, for instance targeted at the Sony DSC-R1. Compared to the D70 viewfinder, a live preview with a preview zoom might get *better* critical focus :)
  12. D, I may be wrong, but I get the sense that you have not yet actually used a D70s or other digital SLR to take pictures. Once you do, you will probably find that looking thru a good optical viewfinder allows you to really see what you are about to capture. You will become much more aware of facial expressions, framing, and composition, especially in bright light situations.

    If you have the desire to take a lot of low-angle shots, you can always get a right-angle finder accessory which slips onto the viewfinder eyepiece so you can shoot with the camera on the ground or floor.

    Chris Chen makes some excellent points above about the differences in handling between most SLRs and most P&Ss. If you want to get sharp pictures from your D70s, you should try to hold it close to your face, arms touching your body, and brace the lens from underneath to minimize camera movement. Camera movement is much more likely if you were to hold the camera at arms length to view an LCD while shooting.

    Hope you get your new camera soon. I'm sure you will enjoy it!
  13. D,

    What you are looking for is not made by Nikon. Sony has a camera that fits what you are wanting. The Sony Cybershot DSC-R1, 10.0 Megapixel, 5x Optical/2x Digital Zoom, Digital Camera. This is the current production model and is available at B&H Photo. Actually, it is currently out of stock, but I imagine they will be restocked soon or Adorama may have one.

    This one has a viewfinder and a 2" LCD that can be used to review, or the compose your shots like you are wanting to do. My dad has an earlier variant of this camera, the 717 or 707, I don't remember which. He got it off Ebay. Anyway, it does take a very nice pictures. Works like an SLR but handles like a Point and Shoot. It is not an SLR however, the Carl Ziess lens is built onto the unit. I feel that this is the camera you are looking for. Granted Nikon has some Sony Chips in the bodies, but Nikon doesn't build the same style of cameras that Sony does.

    I prefer the DSLR because I like being able to look through the lens to compose my shots. I have tried using cameras with the LCD viewfinder and didn't get the same results. Mostly because I was trying to use the camera in bright sunshine and outdoors. LCD views don't work well like that. The Sony will do something the Nikon can't do, take pictures in total darkness automatically. They have IR emitters and sensors around the end of the lens that make this possible. Look at the specs on the Sony and see if this is what you are wanting. Hope this helps.
  14. D,
    I understand and I share your desire for a live LCD. To each its taste but I have never been in love with SLR viewfinder (and my first SLR was a Pentax with a brilliant viewfinder, way above the tiny thing in a D70s). After using digital P&S, I have come to love the life LCD. It is much less intrusive, it allows you to maintain eye contact with the subject and you can get into really weird angles.
    I understand why some people love the through-the-lens optical viewfinder. And there are some shots for which it is absolutely the best solution but, in so many situations, I find it an annoyance that I too wish I could find a responsive camera with a large CCD and live LCD (note that I carefully did not write "DSLR").
    Yet there is no perfect solution. For reasons that are beyond me, it seems nobody makes a great body with a live LCD. So until Nikon comes to its sense on this matter, there are a few other alternatives:
    • a right-angle view finder (for the D70s that's Nikon DR-6) which is one of the workarounds I use. Although it is nowhere nearly as flexible as a live LCD, it allows you to get into all kind of weird angles
    • a tripod and a remote control, which is the second workaround I use for some portraiture, it allows you to maintain eye contact with the subject and talk to him/her while you're shooting
    • Fujifilm has a DSLR that can feed live video on the LCD for a short period of time (30 seconds or so). I think it's the S3 Pro but be warned that it is a slooooow camera. It has excellent reputation in terms of image quality but the body is not top-notch but it has an F mount so you can use your Nikkor lenses with it
    • Fujifilm has a bridge camera (with live LCD and electronic viewfinder) that features a special CCD that is supposed to be very close in terms of noise level to the large CCDs of DSLRs
    • Sony has just released a bridge camera (with live LCD and electronic viewfinder) with a large CCD so the quality should be comparable to a D70s
  15. someone, somewhere makes a product with a low-res camera and big LCD screen that clips on to the optical viewfinder of a DSLR. I've seen it mentioned but don't have enough details to give you google search keywords. Anyone?
  16. It's called Zigview and, indeed, it's another option.
  17. Great responses guys. As I said, I am not a professional, so I do not understand the technical terms when you go really deep into the mechanics. I am looking at convenient and easy outcomes. I confess, my knowledge of mechanics of DSLR has increased significantly just by putting this post. Its a big investment for me (or anybody), and I have read up a lot, including this forum. I have been following those 'bridge' cameras (like Sony's DSC H1) for past one year. Maybe that is really my solution to P&S and some cool zoom. In fact, Samsung now has one with 15x optical zoom, but no IS! DSC-R1 is a great camera, but only 5x optical, no hot shoe for flash. Yes, I want to use slave flashes (SB 600 or SB800), I want to use a f1.4 or f1.8 lens for portraits, etc. I dont plan to invest a lot, but just the basics - and all this, just to get good family, and vacation pictures. Yes, asking for live LCD is too much today, but trust me, this is a consumer driven market, and maybe 2 years from now, it will be a standard. Just look at the camcorder market. Even sony's HD camcorder HDR-FX1, considered top of the line has a live LCD. I am going to go ahead and get 70s. Considering whats out there today, I have narrowed it down to that one for my budget. Sorry for being ignorant about all this. Thanks, and good luck.

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