Viewfinder Size (Film SLR Vs DSLR)

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by beala, Jul 15, 2009.

  1. beala

    beala TPF Noob!

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    So, I've been shooting for about a month on an old 35mm film SLR (Fujica ST605n) and been having a lot of fun with it. Recently, though, I managed to borrow a friend's Rebel XS. After playing with it for a few days, I noticed my shots weren't coming out that great, and that's when I finally realized that the Rebel has a tiny viewfinder when compared to my film camera. The tiny viewfinder makes it harder to manually focus the camera, and when it finally is in focus, it's much harder to see the DoF, when compared with my film cam. I also think composing the shot is marginally harder in a smaller viewfinder.

    Sooo my question is, what DSLRs have larger viewfinders? I'm looking to buy an entry level DSLR in the next few months, and I can't seem to find this info on the manufacturer's website.

    On a related note, whose idea was it to move the lense's aperture ring off the lense itself and to that hard to turn wheel next to the shutter button?!
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    The Digital SLR cameras that have larger viewfinders are 'full frame' DSLR cameras.
    Most DSLR cameras have a sensor that is somewhat smaller than a frame of 35mm film but some of them do have a sensor that is the same size as 35mm film....we often call them 'full frame'.
    Examples of current models are; Canon 1Ds III, Canon 5D II, Nikon D700, Nikon D3. You probably won't find a new one for less than $2500 though.

    This isn't new. Canon, for example, went to electronic aperture control when they switched to auto focus lenses in the late 80s.
    Most people will say that when you get used to it, it's much easier with the controls at your finger tips than on the lens.
     
  3. beala

    beala TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the quick response! So, if I'm understanding you right, the size of the viewfinder is linked to the size of the sensor/film? So a 35mm SLR will always have a larger viewfinder than a crop sensor?

    If not, do you have any suggestions on entry level DSLRs with slightly larger viewfinders?
     
  4. bhop

    bhop No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I don't think there are any entry level dslr's with a viewfinder comparable to most film slrs. They're all going to be tiny.
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Essential yes...although I'm sure there are other factors. Some are probably made smaller to save space & weight on the camera. I'm not sure if the use of a 'penta-mirror' rather than a 'penta-prism' makes a difference...but cheaper cameras tend to have mirrors (I think).

    I'm not sure which entry level cameras have bigger viewfinders, or if any of them are even bigger than others.

    You could get an accessory viewfinder magnifier (something like THIS) but most of us just get used to it.

    Manual focusing and checking the DOF certainly is harder with these cameras, but you also have the advantage of instant review on the LCD screen. So you can take a shot, then check it right away.

    I like the feeling of using a split prism viewfinder for focusing, but I don't have a problem using the AF on my DSLR cameras. It's fast and accurate so I don't miss manual focusing very often.
     
  6. tsaraleksi

    tsaraleksi TPF Noob!

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    If viewfinder size is a major concern you might think about looking at used versions of nicer models.

    This chart is a nicely laid out comparison.
     
  7. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    True today since all current DSLRs, regardless of format, are built on a chassis evolved from 35mm film SLRs, most even sharing a lens mount. This places mechanical restrictions on the design making the larger appearing viewfinder image very difficult to achieve. So difficult that none achieve it today other than those using sensors, and thus focusing screens, the same size as 35mm film SLRs.

    When, or if, manufacturers totally abandon the "full frame" SLR heritage, it would be possible to achieve a larger appearing VF image.

    BTW, as good at the Fujica ST605n seemed, it is a far cry from an exemplary example of 35mm SLR viewfinders. Cameras like the old Nikon F3hp put the ST605n to shame, by comparison
     
  8. Josh66

    Josh66 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I think the only thing holding them back from doing that are the lenses.

    It would be cool if sensors started gradually getting bigger - something between 35mm & Medium Format. It would require all new lenses though...

    Unless..., it used medium format lenses... Then it would be like a 'crop' medium format sensor.
     
  9. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    A side note: Entry level DSLR's, like the XS, don't use a pentaprism for the viewfinder, they use a much less expensive pentamirror.
     
  10. beala

    beala TPF Noob!

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    Very true. And I could also just take a couple shots with different apertures and wait until I get home to check.

    In any case, it sounds like I'll just have to get used to the smaller viewfinder until I can save up for a higher end camera.

    And thanks for the chart, tsaraleksi. I'll have to give that a close look.
     
  11. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    This has a lot to do with brightness, contrast, and some other characteristics, but isn't the reason for a difference in magnification and appearant VF image size.
     
  12. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    Such cameras already exist and have for a number of years. The Hasselblad H series comprise one manufacturer's "crop sensor" medium format models. Others exist from other manufacturers.
     

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