Friday, 6 February 2009


Everytime a new camera gets announced you will hear people complaining about the lack of built in OVF and if a camera has an EVF instead you will hear people still complaining that an EVF can't match the quality of an OVF.
While I think an LCD is superior to both and less conspicious for street photography I do want to share my views on the OVF vs. EVF debate.

First I think no compact camera should have an OVF or EVF integrated since it either makes the camera bigger and so defines the point of a compact camera (see Canon G10), means the OVF is dark, tiny and obstructed by the lens (Nikon P6000, any Canon Ixus) or both (Canon G10 is a perfect example). The OVF on compact cameras also does not show you any shooting information so is basically a hole through the camra and thus pointless. Now having an integrated EVF could be better but since there is no really compact camera with an EVF available it must mean it's not that easy to do, besides why have an EVF if you have a nice and big 3.0" LCD screen on a compact camera.

So it basically comes to this, any new compact camera should scrap the integrated OVF or EVF and instead offer both as external add-ons like on the Ricoh GRD or GX200 for example. This way you can have a high quality OVF although without shooting information or a good EVF if you need it and are prepared to live with a bigger camera. Only with external OVF/EVF add-ons can you get the quality needed to make this usefull and not just be a hole through the camera.

Having an add-on option is good but what should it be, an OVF or rather an EVF?
The OVF has the advantage that it does not consume any power, will not have any lag, can be very bright (like the GV-1 OVF in the picture) and is good for low light. The downsides is that it won't show any shooting information, will have paralax errors and you still have to use the LCD to change any settings.
The EVF on the other hand will show you exactly what the camera sees with the full shooting information from the LCD, you can have a live histogram, see the scene in b&w and it will reflect any changes you make to the shooting parameters like the white balance. You can tilt it 90° (like the VF-1), simulate the shutter speed and depth of field effect (like the Panasonic G1), zoom into a section of your picture to help with the manual focus and even shoot into the sun without having to wory about your eyes. The downside is that it consumes power, it can have a serious lag (like the Panasonic LC1 EVF) and can become very dark or slow and grainy in low light rendering it useless.

Overall, for me a EVF is way superior to an OVF due to the flexibility it offers. Being able to see a scene in b&w is great for street photography where you want to capture the right moment and emotions without being distracted by the color in a scene. Another thing I find very usefull is to see the full shooting information at all times and see the changes to te white balance and exposure reflected on screen. An OVF can be nice and bright and better in low light but considering that one only really needs an OVF to frame a shot it is a bit pointless since this can be done faster and easier by looking at the screen to frame and afterwards at the scene to take the picture.
What I would like to see in the upcoming cameras from Ricoh is a refined version of the VF-1, that is bigger, faster and has a higher resolution. The option to tilt it in more directions would also be nice to have. Although I would prefer if the EVF could sit like on the Panasonic LC1 on the side of the camera and not in the middle.

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