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 Friday, March 17, 2017
New on the site is the Canon Extreme Lens Recommendations page.
 
Because ... sometimes your portfolio needs a boost and an extreme lens can make that happen.
 
Let me know what I got wrong? And, what extremes did I miss?
Posted to: Canon News
Post Date: 3/17/2017 8:14:18 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Just posted: Sigma 500mm f/4 DG OS HSM Sports Lens Review.
 
Find out how well this big, beautiful lens performs!
 
The Sigma 500mm f/4 DG OS HSM Sports Lens is in stock at: B&H | Amazon | Adorama
 
BTW, the tripod shown here is a Really Right Stuff TP-243 Ground-Level Tripod. It is a compact, rock solid support that does not flinch at even lenses bigger than this one.
 
The tripod head is a Wimberley Tripod Head II. It is ideal for lenses such as this one.
Post Date: 3/14/2017 8:05:27 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, March 13, 2017
Image quality, vignetting, flare and distortion test results along with specs, measurements and standard product images have been added to the Irix 15mm f/2.4 Blackstone Lens Review page.
 
A full review of this lens is coming soon. Note that the upper right corner shown in the image quality tool is sharper than the other three corners.
 
Amazon has the Irix 15mm f/2.4 Blackstone Lens in stock. This lens will be arriving at B&H and Adorama soon.
Post Date: 3/13/2017 7:59:31 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, March 9, 2017
If you are considering the purchase of the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens or the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens, you are likely a discerning photographer pursuing sports action or wildlife.
 
While there are other uses for these lenses, these are by far the most commonly photographed subjects with these focal lengths. While no one will consider these lenses inexpensive, no one will consider the image quality they deliver to be anything short of stellar and image quality is not a differentiator here. Those who know what they want, want these lenses. While having both of these big whites in the kit would be perfect, most of us cannot afford or justify the purchase of both. Thus, the question of "Which one?" arises.
 
The obvious (and only) difference in the names of these lenses is the focal length number. These lenses were announced at the same time, arrived on my doorstep on the same delivery, appear very similar and indeed share the same overall design concepts and construction materials. Those wanting as much reach as possible will of course want the 600mm option.
 
But, sometimes a selected focal length can be too long. A too-narrow angle of view may make it too hard to quickly find a subject in the viewfinder, hard to keep a subject in the frame (especially if it is in-motion) and, if framed too tightly, important parts of a scene may be cropped from the frame. Because APS-C-format cameras have smaller imaging sensors and therefore use a smaller portion of the image circle provided by these lenses, they "see" an angle of view equivalent to a 1.6x longer lens on a full frame body. Thus, on an APS-C body, these lenses frame a scene similar to a 800mm and 960mm lens on a full frame body and at these angles of view, "too long" comes more frequently.
 
Similarly, a focal length can be too short. Too short is usually the result of not being able to get close enough to a subject. Reasons for this situation include physical barriers (a fence, a body of water), subjects that are not more closely approachable (wildlife tends to be uncomfortable with us nearby) and safety (dangerous wildlife, unsafe proximity to race cars). Too short usually results in an image being cropped with a lower resolution image remaining.
 
Another focal length related tip to consider is that, the longer the focal length, the longer the time span a moving subject is likely to remain in near-ideal framing. Without a zoom range available to quickly fine tune framing, prime lens-captured images often require cropping in post processing. However, the longer focal length lens has a narrower angle of view, which requires you to be farther from the subject for optimal framing and at that longer distance, an approaching or departing subject changes size in the frame at a slower rate. That means more images can be captured within the period of time with optimal framing. For the same reason, a larger physical area can be ideally-covered by the longer focal length – such as a larger portion of a soccer or football field. While the difference between 500mm and 600mm is not dramatic in this regard, the 600mm lens has an advantage.
 
Another benefit provided by a longer focal length is greater-enlarged background details, meaning that a longer focal length can create a stronger background blur. The 600mm lens can create a stronger separation of a subject from its background than the 500mm lens can. Most of us love an extremely blurred background and the longer focal length makes it easier to produce (though both of these lenses rank very highly for this purpose).
 
A longer focal length means a longer camera-to-subject distance and with more atmosphere placed between a lens and its subject, there is an increased likelihood that heat waves will cause image distortion. The longer working distance required by the longer focal length also provides more opportunity for obstructions, such as tree branches to get between the lens and, for example, a wildlife subject. The longer subject distance also delivers a slightly more-compressed perspective, creating a slightly different look to the subject (not necessary a benefit to either lens specifically).
 
Although focal length is typically my first priority for choosing a lens, it is not always the most important. In this lens comparison, there is a substantial size, weight and price differential that can sometimes be more important than the differences already discussed.
 
The site's lens specifications comparison tool has a detailed comparison between these lenses, but here is a quick look:
 
ModelSize w/o HoodWeight
Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens5.75 x 15.08" (146 x 383mm)112.6 oz (3190g)
Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens6.61 x 17.64" (168 x 448mm)138.4 oz (3920g)
 
Let's talk about weight first because weight matters. Neither of these lenses are light, but if lighter weight is important, the 500 gains in favor. One question to ask yourself regarding the weight difference is: How far will the lens be carried? If not going far beyond the parking lot, the weight difference may not be a highly relevant factor. If regularly hiking for several miles, the 500 might be a better choice, even if more reach may sometimes be needed (perhaps carry a Canon EF 1.4x III Extender). Another factor to consider is how strong you are. A large-framed powerlifter may have no problem carrying and handholding the 600 all day long, but a small-framed thin person will not likely find that task doable.
 
How old are you? How old do you want to become? How do you want to feel when you get that old? Safe to say is that all of us are getting older and also safe to say is that most of us reach a maximum strength point somewhere far prior to reaching the age we hope to survive until. And, how we feel at the end goal date is partially conditional on how we treat our bodies during the younger years. Just because you can handhold a 600mm f/4 lens for long periods of time now does not mean that you should do this and the strain placed on our bodies now may be long-lasting. If you are not able to use a lens support most of the time, the 500mm option is going to be the better option for most.
 
Size also matters, but when lenses get this big, the size differences don't seem to matter so much. Smaller is better, but neither is close to what I would consider small. You will likely find the biggest size difference to be in the volume of comments generated on the sidelines and the case size required by the lens. That said, I frequently carry the 600 with me on airplanes (in the USA), typically using the MindShift Gear FirstLight 40L and always as carry-on. With the 500, a modestly smaller case can be used or slightly more can be included in the same case.
 
The size difference between these lenses is apparent in the product comparison image accompanying this post. See the same comparison with the lens hoods on here (and also compare these lenses to other models).
 
The 500mm focal length is 83% as long as 600mm and the similarity factor for a majority of the above-discussed differences is about the same. One exception is the price factor, with that one dropping to just below the 80% mark. While neither lens is inexpensive, the 500 costs considerably less than the 600 and that factor alone will be the basis for this decision for some. That quality lenses typically hold their value well means that overall cost of ownership is not as bad as it first appears.
 
Recommendations
 
Most often, I recommend the 600mm lens for full frame bodies and the 500mm lens for APS-C bodies, though there are some exceptions.
 
If photographing big field sports such as soccer, the 600mm lens is my choice for a full frame camera and I would rather have the 500mm lens on an APS-C body.
 
Those photographing small birds will likely find the 600 preferable in front of any camera.
 
Those needing to handhold the lens with any frequency probably should select the 500mm option.
 
Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Sample Picture
 
The Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens is one of the most important and most used lenses in my kit (primarily composed of full frame cameras). Many of my favorite images can be attributed to this lens, from irreplaceable memories of the kids playing soccer to captures of incredible wildlife in the mountains. The weight of this lens is a definite downside and I have more-than-once become worn out from carrying it, but ... the results are worth every bit of the effort.
 
To Learn More About These Lenses
 
Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Review
Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Review
 
Better Yet, Add One of These Lenses to Your Kit
 
Get the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens at: B&H | Adorama | Amazon
Get the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens at: B&H | Adorama | Amazon
 
Add One to Your Kit Temporarily
 
What are you doing this weekend? Spend some time getting to know and having fun with these big white lenses without the large price tag. Try renting! Lensrentals.com has the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens and Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens ready to ship to your doorstep.
Post Date: 3/9/2017 7:30:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Just posted: Zeiss 18mm f/2.8 Milvus Lens Review.
 
Just another great Milvus lens to tempt you with.
 
B&H has the Zeiss 18mm f/2.8 Milvus Lens in stock.
Post Date: 3/8/2017 7:33:35 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, March 7, 2017
In a recent post, we answered the question Should You Turn Off "IS" When Using Action-Stopping Shutter Speeds? One of the questions generated by that post asked if image stabilization should be turned off or left enabled when shooting from a tripod. So, we went back to our very-knowledgeable Canon representative with this question. Again, the information below should not be considered official Canon guidelines, but it comes from a person who has substantial knowledge about Canon lenses and their IS systems.
First off, let's be clear -- any discussion about Image Stabilization on a tripod refers ONLY to a truly rock-solid tripod, on a totally firm surface without vibrations from passing traffic and so on. In many real-world situations, we're using tripods and other supports in conditions that really aren't totally solid. A good test, before discussing the question any further: the next time you're mounted on a tripod, turn your camera's Live View on, and magnify the LCD monitor image to its greatest setting. It's sometimes amazing how much shake and movement there really is, even on a tripod.
 
The point is pretty clear. In any situation where you're not truly rock-steady, whether you're mounted on a tripod, or certainly a monopod, using Image Stabilization normally makes a great deal of sense.
 
However, since the launch of the first Canon Image Stabilized lens (the EF 75-300mm IS zoom lens, from 1995), Canon engineers have recommended switching IS off if and when you're mounted on a tripod. Again, this pre-supposes it's a truly rock-solid tripod.
 
Canon's optical Image Stabilization has definitely evolved since its launch in 1995, and there are now different versions for lightweight, less-expensive lenses (like the EF-S 18-55mm standard zoom for compact cameras) than the more advanced IS units we see in (for example) L-series super-telephoto lenses. Basically, current Canon EF and EF-S lenses can detect when there's a total absence of "shake" (in other words, solidly tripod mounted), and internally disable the Image Stabilization if it's left on. But in some lenses -- and it varies, depending on the IS design in the lens in question -- the moveable IS lens elements aren't locked and centered when the IS is disabled this way, and can sometimes be susceptible to slight movement during exposure. On such lenses, physically switching IS off with the switch on the lens allows the lens to lock and center these elements.
 
Again, there are variables -- too many to get into here, since it depends on which lens model, which version (in other words, how old is the lens in question), and so on. But the bottom line remains pretty simple. It's safer to just switch IS off if you know there will be a complete absence of camera and lens movement during exposure.
 
One other thing... Canon's optical Image Stabilization is designed as a tool to get sharper pictures at "normal" shutter speeds. While the slow-speed limits may vary slightly from one lens model to another, Image Stabilization is disabled if the system detects a shutter speed longer than roughly one full second. So for longer night-time exposures, expect to just turn IS off, because it won't have an effect in your final pictures.
 
Hope this helps clarify the questions about Canon's optical Image Stabilization when cameras are tripod mounted.
We hope that your knowledge of image stabilization is now one stop greater!
 
Shown in this post's image is a tripod that meets the rock-solid requirement. This is a Really Right Stuff Ground Level Tripod, now carried by B&H.
Post Date: 3/7/2017 8:35:55 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, March 6, 2017
Just posted: Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens Review.
 
For those able to afford this lens, it is the first Sony lens to buy.
 
Please note that the image quality results currently shown (processed in Lightroom) will soon be replaced with Capture One-processed results. Lightroom forces Sony lens aberration correction (minimally correcting lateral CA) for lenses it has a profile for and lens corrections built into the processing hides lens flaws.
 
B&H has the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens in stock.
Posted to: Sony News
Post Date: 3/6/2017 7:44:49 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Image quality, vignetting and distortion test results from the Canon EOS 5Ds R have been added to the Sigma 500mm f/4 DG OS HSM Sports Lens page.
 
Definitely follow (minimally) that first link. I think you will like what you see.
 
We do not yet have the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II Lens tested on the 5Ds R but will have the Sigma results from the 1Ds III soon to make this direct comparison possible. However, the Canon 500mm f/4L IS II and the Canon 600mm f/4L IS II perform similarly and the Sigma 500mm f4 Sports vs. Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II Lens comparison is available now.
 
B&H has the Sigma 500mm f/4 DG OS HSM Sports Lens in stock (Nikon F mount is on backorder).
Post Date: 3/1/2017 7:32:44 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, February 27, 2017
Just posted: Canon EOS M5 Review.
 
Easily the best "M" so far!
 
B&H has the Canon EOS M5 in stock.
Posted to: Canon News
Post Date: 2/27/2017 7:33:23 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, February 24, 2017
Just Posted: RigWheels RigMount X4 Magnetic Camera Platform Review.
 
Several years ago, I [Sean] attached my DSLR to a single high-power suction cup mount and photographed myself driving my 2004 Ford Mustang GT. It was winter, and I neglected to take into consideration how the cold weather would affect the suction cup's holding strength. Once I parked the car to remove the mount, the suction cup fell over in my hand. It had apparently lost suction at the precise moment my car had stopped moving.
 
I never attempted the single suction cup method of attching my DSLR to an automobile again.
 
For years I have been searching for a better alternative for mounting a DSLR to a moving vehicle, and I the RigWheels RigMount X4 Magnetic Camera Platform is the best solution I've found. With four magents capable of holding 50 lbs (22.7 kg) apiece anchoring the RigMount X4 in place, my mind is at ease while creating images like the example shown above.
 
B&H has the RigWheels RigMount X4 Magnetic Camera Platform in stock with free expedited shipping.
Post Date: 2/24/2017 9:20:21 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, February 16, 2017
Image quality results from the Canon EOS 5Ds R, Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III and Canon EOS 7D Mark II have been added to the Zeiss 18mm f/2.8 Milvus Lens Review.
 
While the beauty of this lens is immediately recognizable, the image quality it delivers is looking very nice as well. Here are some comparisons:
 
Zeiss 18mm f/2.8 Milvus vs. Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Classic (15mm Milvus has the same optical formula)
Zeiss 18mm f/2.8 Milvus vs. Zeiss 18mm f/3.5 Classic
Zeiss 18mm f/2.8 Milvus vs. Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Milvus
Zeiss 18mm f/2.8 Milvus vs. Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens
 
B&H has the Zeiss 18mm f/2.8 Milvus Lens in stock.
Post Date: 2/16/2017 8:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, February 14, 2017
The Canon EOS Rebel T7i / 800D and Canon EOS 77D review pages are practically complete, awaiting final verifications that will come with the cameras in hand.
 
There is a ton of information available on these pages, but I imagine one of your first questions is: Where does the EOS 77D fit into the Canon lineup? Remember the Rebel T6s / 760D and how it has a superset of the Rebel T6i / 750D features? That is precisely what the EOS 77D is relative to the Rebel T7i / 800D. Even though the 77D has broken out of the Rebel camp (for better differentiation perhaps?), the two cameras are practically the same aside from a few significant differences.
 
List of differences between the 77D and the Rebel T7i / 800D
 
  • The 77D has a top LCD Data Panel whereas the T7i has none
  • The 77D's top mode dial and power switch are on left vs. right
  • The 77D has a Rear Control Dial vs. only Cross Keys
  • The 77D has a Multi-function Lock Switch vs. not available on the T7i
  • The 77D has an Auto Display-Off Sensor by the viewfinder vs. none
  • The 77D has an AF On button vs. none on the T7i
A big additional advantage, from my perspective, is that all localities get to call the 77D by the same name whereas the Rebel T7i may also be confusingly referred to as the 800D or Kiss X9i depending on where you live.

If the additional features were free, there would of course be no need for the T7i and the 77D indeed has a higher price tag.
 
Summary of What is New with the Rebel T7i and 77D
 
Following is a list of differences between the Canon EOS Rebel T7i /800D and the Rebel T6i / 750D. The EOS 77D upgrade list is nearly identical.
 

  • 45 cross-type AF points vs. 19 cross-type AF points
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF
  • 6 fps vs. 5 fps, 27 frames RAW vs. 8, unlimited frames JPEG vs. 940 images
  • DIGIC 7 vs. DIGIC 6
  • Working range EV -3 to 18 vs. EV -0.5 to 18
  • ISO 100-25600 (H1: 51200) vs. ISO 100-12800 (H1: 25600)
  • 77D/T7i's LCD is going to be easier to grasp when retracted
  • Bluetooth
  • Wi-Fi button
  • Built-in flash GN of 13.1 vs. 12
  • Battery life of approx. 820 vs. 770
  • 77D gains an AF-On button

While this list is not terribly long, there are some very significant upgrades in it. The new AF system, Dual Pixel AF, a faster frame rate and the higher buffer spec are among the line items catching my attention.
 
More Comparisons
 
Create your own comparisons. Detailed comparisons between a large number of cameras can be made using the site's Camera Specifications Comparison Tool.
 
They Shrunk the Kit Lens
 
Canon has released a new, smaller kit lens to accompany the two DSLR cameras announced today. The Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens page has more information on this smaller lens option.

Posted to: Canon News
Post Date: 2/14/2017 10:04:32 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan
Image quality, vignetting, flare and distortion test results along with specs and measurements have been added to the Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Review.
 
This is a very nice little lens, ideally suited for the EOS M-series. I especially like having the 15mm focal length on the wide end of the range relative to the 18mm offered by the Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens. Here is the EF-M 15-45mm vs. EF-M 18-55mm IS STM Lens image qualiy comparison.
 
B&H has the Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens in stock.
Posted to: Canon News
Post Date: 2/14/2017 8:44:01 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, February 10, 2017
The balance of standardized test results, (vignetting, flare and distortion) along with specs, measurements and many product images (including the standard comparison images) have been added to the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens Review page.
 
The lenses shown in this 24-70mm lens comparison image are, from left to right:
 
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens
Tokina 24-70mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro FX Lens
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G AF-S Lens
Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E AF-S VR Lens
 
B&H has the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens in stock. This lens is also included in the Sony Trade-in Savings Event. Trade in a camera or lens (even something of very low value) and get an additional $330.00 off of this lens in addition to the trade-in value.
Posted to: Sony News
Post Date: 2/10/2017 7:32:14 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Is an electronic viewfinder (EVF) better than an optical viewfinder (OVF)? Or even an acceptable alternative? Though some DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras have EVFs, a major consideration when selecting between an MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera) and a conventional DSLR is that the MILC will not have an optical viewfinder (OVF). As more MILCs become available and as this camera type gains in popularity, these questions are becoming more important ones for this site's audience to answer.
 
With no mirror or optical viewfinder, MILCs utilize data coming off of the imaging sensor to display the TTL (Through the Lens) view on an LCD. That LCD panel can be on the back of the camera or in a viewfinder where it is typically referred to as an EVF (Electronic Viewfinder). This is not a new technology, but one that has been utilized by many non-MILC digital cameras, practically since digital cameras existed.
 
Relevant to this site's audience is the replacement of the traditional DSLR OVF with an EVF. Safe to say is that all high-grade cameras produced today have an LCD that can be used for mirror-up, live view of an image that is about to be captured. Therefore, the benefits of an EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) relate to being able to see an LCD with the camera placed at one's eye. Making the difference less black and white is that LCD viewfinders/shades/loupes, such as those by Hoodman, are available for use on the rear LCD, effectively giving all digital cameras an "EVF".
 
To get started with the comparisons, let's look at:
 
The Advantages of All Live View LCD Displays Over Optical Viewfinders
 
A big advantage of an electronic viewfinder is the WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) image preview. Able to be included in the LCD image preview is the actual exposure brightness, optionally including a histogram and over/underexposure warnings. Also able to be included in the preview are the net results of other camera settings being applied, including white balance, contrast and saturation. This preview is usually able to show a 100% view of the composition vs. a slightly cropped view shown by many OVFs.
 
When shooting in a very dark environment, it becomes very difficult to compose an image using an optical viewfinder. By using an amplified signal from the sensor, an LCD viewfinder can present a much brighter image that greatly facilitates composition. A "dark environment" can include the use of a strong neutral density filter under even bright daylight conditions.
 
Under the extreme opposite lighting conditions, the LCD can offer protection to your eyes. At the extreme end of the brightness category, the sun poses a serious risk to eyesight. Eye damage can easily occur if looking at the sun through an OVF, especially with a telephoto focal length in use. An LCD's maximum brightness is not dangerous to the eye, even with the sun in the center of the frame. There is little risk to your eyes when viewing the sun in an LCD, but note that your camera may not fare as well.
 
An LCD does not need a viewfinder shutter or cover to prevent unwanted light from affecting the metering or exposure.
 
A mirror assembly is required for OVFs, but not for LCDs. Removing the mirror assembly has some advantages, including the cost of the assembly being eliminated (though EVFs also have a cost that must be factored back in). The mirror assembly has moving parts and moving parts may eventually require replacement (though the life of a DSLR mirror assembly is usually a very significant number of actuations).
 
The lack of mirror movement creates some additional benefits. First, a mirror rapidly flipping up and down makes noise and a camera operating without a mirror is considerably quieter. Mirror movement causing vibration during the exposure becomes a non-concern. Also, the mirror lockup function becomes obsolete. Without the rapid mirror movement, airflow in the mirror box is reduced, which may in turn reduce instances of dust adhering on the sensor. Take the lens off of an electronic first curtain shutter MILC (a common design) and the imaging sensor is right there, easily accessible for cleaning.
 
The lack of a mirror forces another primary differentiator between non-OVF vs. OVF cameras and that is, without a mirror, the imaging sensor must be used for all pre-shot calculations, including auto focus and auto exposure. While there are some disadvantages to the mirrorless design in these regards (primarily related to AF speed), those weaknesses are diminishing as technology moves forward. One advantage is that the LCD provides a much larger AF area coverage with (at least potentially) more AF points. Another is that, with focusing taking place precisely on the imaging sensor, AFMA (Auto Focus Microadjustment) is no longer needed and lens focus calibration becomes a non-issue.
 
With the LCD previewing the image about to be captured, precise focusing can be monitored, including focus peaking indication. Also, an enlarged view of a portion of the frame can be selected to verify focusing or to aid in precise manual focusing. With the tremendously detailed information the sensor makes available, technologies including face and smile detection can be implemented.
 
While intelligent optical viewfinders have shown great advances in recent years, complete with transparent LCD overlays, they don't come close to the capabilities of LCDs in terms of the information that can be shown. A high-resolution LCD panel with a huge palette of colors available provides designers great flexibility in creating a camera's graphical user interface and also in the customization capability of that interface.
 
Though a bigger advantage for true EVF cameras, LCD displays can provide an immediate display of a captured image precisely where the photographer is looking at time the image is captured (such as directly through the viewfinder). However, I must note that this review interrupts the capture of a subsequent image and that I now turn off the image review feature on the EVF cameras I'm using. Still, the press of a button brings the image review display up without the need to move the camera or look elsewhere.
 
While some manufacturers (including Canon and Nikon) contend that image stabilization technology works best in the lens vs. in-camera (and there is validity to this claim), inarguable is that the effects of in-camera image stabilization will not be seen in an optical viewfinder, leaving the view shaky.
 
Again, camera-back LCDs and EVFs (which also use an LCD) share the benefits just described.
 
Differences Between Primary LCDs and Viewfinders (Both EVFs and OVFs)
 
As mentioned, when it gets dark, LCD live view displays and EVFs are much easier to compose with than OVFs. However, in bright daylight, even the best rear LCDs become very difficult to see and I find it especially challenging to compose using the rear LCD under direct sunlight. In contrast, viewfinders make it easy to critically view the composition under even the brightest conditions, giving them a huge advantage over a rear LCD under bright daylight conditions.
 
I wear eyeglasses a good percentage of the time (and that percentage is increasing). If you do not need corrective optics now, you will – it is only a matter of time. I have reading/computer glasses and another set with a distance prescription for seeing longer distances. When out and about with a camera, I seldom have both sets of glasses with me and I often wear none. This means that the image on the camera's rear LCD, within arm's length, appears slightly fuzzy to me. Yes, bifocals and trifocals are options that would help with this issue, but ... I have not appreciated the limited views that these provide. Dioptric adjustments provided by viewfinders resolve this issue, permitting a clear view of what I'm about to photograph and review of what I already photographed.
 
Another key viewfinder advantage is that it provides additional stability for holding the camera steady. While it can also lead to AEB, the camera pressed against an eyebrow adds a significant third point of stability in addition to two hands. Also, this position allows both elbows to be tucked into the ribs, increasing stability even more.
 
A camera's primary LCD tends to collect fingerprints and other smudges at a rapid pace and these can interfere with visibility of the display, especially in bright light. A viewfinder, to the contrary, tends to stay clean. However, a viewfinder, with its inset glass, is harder to clean than a primary LCD that, especially if properly coated, easily wipes clean with a microfiber cloth.
 
Advantages of Electronic Viewfinders over Main LCDs
 
As mentioned, an accessory viewfinder/shade/loupe can turn a camera's rear LCD into the equivalent of an EVF. A downside is that LCD loupes are not nearly as well integrated into the camera design as EVFs are – built-in EVFs are considerably more compact and less intrusive. External loupes also get in the way of touch screen functionality.
 
Advantages of Eliminating the OVF
 
A primary attraction of MILCs is their smaller size and lighter weight. Eliminating the mirror box and OVF immediately reduce the footprint of a camera, permitting these design advantages.
 
Advantages of Optical Viewfinders
 
With resolution not limited by dots of pixels (that can appear to flicker as they change colors when framing is adjusted) and refresh rates not limited by an electronic display, huge advantages of an OVF include resolution and responsiveness. In addition to seemingly unlimited resolution and refresh rates happening at the speed of light, OVF dynamic range is limited only by our eyesight. An LCD has a limited dynamic range and may show blocked shadows and blown highlights. Though the dynamic range of the image captured via an OVF system will similarly be limited by the imaging sensor, seeing the full brightness range is different.
 
The EVF properties just discussed can leave the photographer feeling somewhat disconnected from the moment, akin to watching a movie of an event vs. seeing it in-person as an OVF provides the sense of.
 
While an LCD can make low light composition easier, a photographer's eye must constantly adjust between the bright display and dark ambient light levels. Generally speaking, the brightness seen through an OVF is similar to what is seen without the camera in use.
 
While removing the mirror assembly brings some advantages, the mirror provides a level of protection to the imaging sensor. Take the lens off of an OVF camera and it is the mirror that becomes exposed instead of the imaging sensor.
 
While not directly related to the viewfinder type, MILCs are very commonly given EVFs with reduced camera size and weight being two of the common design targets. Especially with the smaller MILCs, using large lenses and full-sized flashes can lead to a tail-wagging-the-dog scenario where the provided grip is inadequate or only marginally adequate to maintain control of the overall setup. OVF cameras are often larger, making larger lenses and flashes easier to control.
 
While on the size topic, If considering an MILC for size and weight reduction purposes, make sure that the MILC lenses you need do not make up for some of the camera footprint and weight difference. While most of these cameras indeed have a smaller footprint than their DSLR equivalents, the size of the lenses needs to be considered and these are not necessarily smaller. The smaller camera does not change optical properties and the image circle size required by the same-size sensor remains the same.
 
Though these cameras often utilize a short back-focus lens design and some lenses are indeed smaller, some of the smaller lenses also have narrower maximum apertures. MILCs may need an adapter to use the manufacturer's standard lenses (the Canon EOS M series for example). While an adaptor can tremendously extend the number of lenses a camera is compatible with, it is an extra part to buy, carry and use. And, it makes the camera (or each lens) effectively larger and heavier in use, with the EF to EOS-M adaptor adding a modest 1" (26mm) and 3.77 oz. (107g) respectively.
 
With the imaging sensor required to be powered up for an EVF to function and because an EVF's full-color LCD requires its own share of power, EVFs require more battery capacity for an equivalent number of photos to be captured. However, battery size, and with it, capacity is a typical sacrifice made by MILCs. As a result, cameras with EVFs often have considerably lower battery life ratings. A faster battery exhaustion rate greatly increases the chance that the battery will become fully drained just when the perfect image presents itself (one of Bryan's Laws of Photography).
 
Roughly figure an EVF system to require at least twice as many batteries as an OVF system. If you often carry a spare battery with your OVF camera, you should probably carry 3 or 4 with an EVF camera. Additional batteries add to the system cost, carrying extra batteries adds to the system weight and maintaining the charge of additional batteries requires maintenance and logistics – and probably at least a second charger as you can potentially drain batteries faster than you can charge them.
 
Do you ever look through your viewfinder with the camera powered off? Perhaps when setting up a tripod and composing a scene? Complete blackness is what you will see if doing so with an EVF camera.
 
If shooting action, I still want an OVF. While EVFs have made great strides in recent years, they have not yet equaled OVF systems in some important regards, especially in their ability to capturing a precise moment of action. As mentioned, EVF response rates are not light-speed and every microsecond counts when a precise moment in time needs to be captured. Advances in on-sensor AF capabilities have brought recently-produced EVF camera performance much closer to the traditional phase detection systems found in OVF cameras. But, traditional phase-detection AF systems still modestly outperform current on-sensor performance in the critical-for-action speed component.
 
Most OVF systems have a significantly shorter blackout time during the image capture and if following action, this is a critical factor. The difference at this time (Canon EOS M5 and Sony a7R II era) is significant enough that I find EVF cameras practically unusable for tracking/framing a moving subject even with image review turned off. I can keep a straight-on-approaching/leaving subject in the frame for a period of time with an EVF, but if they move to the side, my framing quickly falls apart.
 
Summary
 
So, back to the questions: Is an electronic viewfinder (EVF) better than an optical viewfinder (OVF) and is an EVF an acceptable alternative to an OVF?
 
The answer to both of those questions is yes or no. It depends. Both designs have advantages and disadvantages and how appropriate either type is for you depends on your personal needs.
 
As mentioned, using a shade/loupe/viewfinder on the rear LCD can provide the EVF features to most cameras and cameras with an OVF can then have the best of both features. Better still is the talk of a hybrid viewfinder being introduced. Such would feature the option of an OVF or an EVF selectable as desired. Transparent LCD overlays have been available in better DSLR models for years now, so the idea does not seem far-fetched.
 
What did I miss? Have any other thoughts in this regard? Please share these in the comments.
Post Date: 2/7/2017 8:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
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