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LCD viewfinder for Digital SLR?

D Patel , Dec 28, 2005; 05:14 p.m.

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.


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Todd Peach , Dec 28, 2005; 05:23 p.m.

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.

Dan Zimmerman , Dec 28, 2005; 05:38 p.m.

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?

D Patel , Dec 28, 2005; 05:47 p.m.

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.

Chris Chen , Dec 28, 2005; 06:10 p.m.

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.

Todd Peach , Dec 28, 2005; 06:11 p.m.

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.

D Patel , Dec 28, 2005; 06:38 p.m.

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!

Dan Zimmerman , Dec 28, 2005; 06:48 p.m.

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.

KL IX , Dec 28, 2005; 07:01 p.m.

An LCD screen on a DSLR is for chimping, not for composition :-)

Scott Warn , Dec 28, 2005; 07:46 p.m.

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.

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