An Optical Viewfinder is just a piece of plastic or glass that allows your frame your picture. It usually sits on top of your camera and doesn’t require any battery to operate. More and more new digital cameras have removed their optical viewfinder. New compact digital cameras have a larger display (digital viewfinder) and no optical viewfinder. The sub-compact cameras have all renounced the optical viewfinder. This is disappointing.
Two important reasons why you would like an optical viewfinder in your camera
- An optical viewfinder is your only choice if you’re taking pictures outdoors on a bright and sunny day. Digital displays (the regular display) are useless if you’re taking pictures during a sunny day. Especially in sunny states (California, Texas, Arizona…) you must have an optical viewfinder, otherwise you will be very frustrated taking pictures outside using your camera’s display.
- An optical viewfinder is great when you need to save battery life. You camera’s display is the piece that uses most of your battery. If you’ve forgotten to charge your battery or bring new ones along, and you’re running low on battery life, having an optical viewfinder is what you need. If you have one, you can turn off your display and just use the viewfinder to take pictures. With the display turned off you can take many many pictures on what’s left of the battery. Obviously you shouldn’t try to look at the preview on your display…but you can look at that at home once you download your pictures.
An optical viewfinder is very handy when batteries are running low.
What is great about an optical viewfinder?
- More than doubles your battery life. If you turn your camera display off you can get a lot of shots even if you get close to running out of your batteries.
- Works during direct sunlight when your camera display is almost useless.
What is not that great about an optical viewfinder?
- One minor drawback is that the optical viewfinder is not 100% accurate. I mean that when you use it you will see about 80% of the final picture.
- Another drawback is that optical viewfinders on some cameras produce some distortion in an effort to make what you see close to reality.
Read more in-depth discussion about camera viewfinders.