An Emotional Argument for Viewfinders
I’m not going to start screaming or crying. Well, maybe a little bit of crying. It is sad after all.
The intimacy is gone.
Mobile phone cameras are wonderful. Always with you. Always connected. So easy to share those images and video with the world. Point and shoot cams… eh, they have lost their shine for me. My mobile phone camera takes images just as good as my pocket camera in most cases and shoots way better video. Add in the ease of sharing mentioned above and you can see why I let my two-year old play with what was a $450 piece of gear two years ago. By the way, he’s board with it, too.
The problem with the mobile phone cameras, the point and shoot, and even some of the high end micro 4/3′s, and cams like those in the Sony NEX line, is the lack of an actual, usable, push it up to your face viewfinder.
Long before digital cams were knee high to a squirrel, there were cameras, great cameras that you held at waist level. I didn’t like shooting that way then, and I’m not a fan of it now.
Compositional decisions may come faster, easier. You’ve got a bird’s eye view. But it comes at a heavy cost. Whether you’re holding your camera at your waist or at arm’s length, you’re pushing your image more than a couple feet away. With that physical distance comes is an emotional disconnect with your subject, with the scene.
When I draw my eye up to a quality viewfinder I’m immediately sucked into the scene, locked out of the world at large. That’s just how I like it—how I need it. I need to be able to see the twitches in my subject’s face that happen micro-seconds before an expression comes that I want to capture—the expression that communicates the intimacy of the moment. If I’m not getting intimate with my subject, how is the viewer of the image or film going to feel any intimacy?
I don’t see any point in using a camera (other than a mobile phone with a camera) without a viewfinder. I don’t care how large the sensor is or how high the megapixels. I have to block out 99% of the world in order to see the 1% clearly.
If your goal is to take a great thumbnail image, use a screen on the back of any camera. But if you want to take dynamic images that connect with your viewer in an emotional way, get a camera with a large, bright viewfinder, and get intimate.