Digital camera viewfinders usually consist of two types: The LCD display and the optical viewfinder. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages, so finding cameras with both viewfinders would be useful. Some panel displays do not display the images in "real time" providing a ghosting effect on the viewfinder.
Sony Cybershot DSC-S30
Polaroid PDC-640

Cameras with only optical viewfinders usually have a LCD panel which is used for information purposes only, not for displaying images such as shown with the JamCam above.

LCD Viewfinder Response Times

Some of the viewfinders are not as clear as others. Some look as clear as if you were using a camcorder LCD display. Others are slow in reacting to the movement of the cameras.

The LCD viewfinder on the left is an example of the Sony Mavica series displays. The viewfinder on the right is from a Hewlett-Packard C-200CL camera. Click on each image to see the difference in the viewfinder display as the cameras are panned back and forth.
Playback of Captured Images on LCD Screens
When viewing the captured images, some cameras display the image after it has been decompressed, others scan the display as much as two to three times as the image is being decompressed. This can be a bit distracting when you are viewing a series of pictures on your camera screen.
The movie on the left shows the Olympus camera as it replays stored images. Note that the images progressively scan into the viewfinder, which takes time for the image to be complete. The movie on the right shows the Kodak camera as it replays stored images. Although the camera displays the picture almost immediately, the initial picture is fuzzy until the camera completes a second image pass. Other cameras such as the Sony shows the completed image with little wait time.
Pros and Cons of Viewfinder Types
The table below summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of the two types of viewfinders.
  • Easy to use.
  • Can use easily in both very bright exterior light and dim lighting conditions.
  • Cannot view stored images through the viewfinder.
  • What you see is not necessarily what you get.
  • Can review captured images directly on the camera.
  • Operator have more flexibility in positioning camera, LCD can be viewed at various angles and distances.
  • Some LCD displays can be repositioned away from the camera body, pointing in various directions.
  • Hard to see the image while capturing images in bright sunlight.
  • Requires power to operate, drains battery quicker than optical viewfinder.

©2000-2002 Dr. John Park for Science Junction, NC State University.
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Last updated 07/25/02

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