Recycled Computing

In Praise of Optical Viewfinders

- 2012.07.30

I am still enjoying my new OS X 10.7 Lion install (see The Lion Sleeps [on My MacBook] Tonight) even though 10.8 Mountain Lion is out, and the chances of installing 10.8 on my Late 2007 MacBook are very slim. My MacBook is 32-bit, and Mountain Lion only installs and boots on a 64-bit machine.

I have heard of installing Mountain Lion on a 64-bit Mac and then physically moving the drive to a 32-bit machine. You have to play around in Terminal to make it work, but I am in no hurry to get that extreme. Lion has met my needs by allowing me to use iCloud, and I really like how it interfaces with iCal across my three Mac devices.

So let's just change the subject.

Camera Viewfinders

I have been using my Olympus Pen (see My New Camera, an Olympus Pen E-P1) with it's normal lens, and it's just made me jones for some more lenses for it. There is a hitch, of course, when I do anything. I have historically used fixed focal length lenses because a quirky notion of mine that zoom lenses aren't as sharp as single focal length lenses. And I also like using an optical viewfinder.

What a minute! Viewfinders? In the modern day?

We have viewscreens now!

Let me make a logical explanation - and follow that with my usual stream of consciousness thing.

Leica IIIf
The classic Leica IIIf, introduced in 1950.

Logic - a viewfinder is separate optical system that seeks to mimic the optical pathway of the system that either hits the sensor or exposes the film. Back in day, when Leica first started making different lenses for the first 35mm cameras, the viewfinder that they used was not sophisticated enough to handle wide-angle lenses and modern telephoto lenses. Leica (like everybody else) made viewfinders to match the other lenses.

An optical viewfinder is bright and gives the photographer no information regarding the camera's operation - and this is good. Viewscreens can be hard to see in bright sunlight and in scenes with a low level of light. I know this isn't an issue if you own a DSLR, but with the Micro 4/3 cameras, this is an issue. I want viewfinders to match any new lenses that I buy in the future.

Olympus Pen E-P1
John Hatchett's Olympus Pen E-P1.

I like using the viewfinder that came with the "normal" lens on my Pen; it's just a frame that allows me to compose my photo without any distractions and in any environment. Okay, it's also retro. Just look at the picture of my Pen! It looks like a little Leica. I just enjoy the process of photography when I am not looking at all sorts blinking lights and extra info. I just want to focus (pun) on the subject matter.

There is an issue that prevents my complete and utter happiness. It used to be that there were all sorts of viewfinders available at all sorts of prices. Nowadays, a viewfinder will cost me almost as much as the lens. I hear there might be some Russian viewfinders out there.... LEM

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