New Zealand D-Photo


Digital imaging expert Hans Weichselba­um continues his examinatio­n of the difference­s between DSLRs and full-frame mirrorless cameras with a look at how their respective viewfinder­s perform


In the previous issue, the second part of our series comparing DSLRs with the new crop of full-frame mirrorless cameras, we looked at autofocus performanc­e and saw that the top DSLRs still had the edge on speed. This is the main reason that DSLRs are still on top of the list for the sport and wildlife photograph­er. However, as time marches on and technology improves, mirrorless cameras with their hybrid autofocus are catching up. When you read these lines, the Canon R5 will have hit the shelves sporting Dual Pixel autofocus, rattling off photos at 20fps in burst mode, not to mention 8K in the video department. These are eye-popping specs right now, but they will become commonplac­e in the next few generation­s of mirrorless cameras.

Another reason that keeps DSLR enthusiast­s from jumping on board the mirrorless train is the switch from optical to electronic viewfinder. Comparing the two, looking at their pros and cons, will be the subject of this article.


DSLRs, with their mirror and pentaprism, allow you to see the scene in front of you via the optical viewfinder (OVF) as though you were looking through a window (see the image below). This type of viewfinder presents an unfiltered and unaltered view of the scene. Advantages of OVFs include no time lag, no problems with colour shifts, and they work the same in bright light as they do in low light. Fastmoving objects don’t become jerky because of low screen refresh rates.

Most DSLRs show the focus points, framing guides, and a row of other indicators, such as the chosen aperture, shutter speed, metering mode, shots remaining, and more. Once you half-press the shutter button, the viewfinder will show you which area of your image will be in focus, and, from there, you can use a dial or knob to move the focus point.

OVFs do have some drawbacks. For one, you can’t see your scene while the mirror flips up — this is normally not very noticeable but can become a problem if you are shooting at low shutter speeds.

Another, more serious problem is that an OVF shows you how your eyes would see the scene, which is not the same as what your camera’s image sensor sees. Your image can turn out overexpose­d or underexpos­ed without you noticing it. This is why you might find yourself checking your photos on the LCD panel after every shot.

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