Viewfinders

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by wescobts, Dec 9, 2009.

  1. wescobts

    wescobts TPF Noob!

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    I'm kicking around the idea of a new body, D300 or D700. Does anybody out there who has both or at least have shot both find one viewfinder any better than the other ? is the round hole any better than the square hole ? Thanks
     
  2. jim44

    jim44 TPF Noob!

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    I think the real question should be DX or FX sensor. More expensive but the 700 is the camera to buy. My .02 pesos.
     
  3. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    The D700 only has an approximately 95% viewfinder while the D300s has an approximately 100% view finder according to the specs at www.nikonusa.com.

    Gotta agree with jim44 that image sensor size and ISO performance would drive my decision rather more than differences in the viewfinder.
     
  4. wescobts

    wescobts TPF Noob!

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    I understand what you are saying, and it is a concern, along with price :mrgreen: I have an older D70, which I love, but it has a very small viewfinder, and eye fatigue starts after a few good hours of hard shooting, I'm hoping for some relief. Thanks
     
  5. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    94% coverage of a full-frame viewfinder is a HECK of a lot bigger than 100% coverage on a small, crop-body finder. Most APS-C bodies are like looking down into a tunnel; the view is small and far-away looking. The view though a full frame body is large and clear. The view through many APS-C bodies is, well, not so large. And often times, not so clear. The D300s does use a solid glass pentaprism; it's not in the same viewfinder class as the baby Nikons or the Canon Rebels. The D70's viewfinder is substantially worse than that of the D300. I still shoot my D70 occasionally.

    If you have owned any of the crop-body d-slrs that use a pentamirror system,and then go to a full frame camera body that uses an all-glass, top-quality viewfinder system, you'll immediately see the difference between FF and crop-body.

    There are not many exceptions either...the Nikon D1x and D2x series, especially the D2x series, had the best viewfinders ever made in crop-body cameras, but then, the price was not a limiting factor in those cameras' design. Just so you know, a professional Nikon body uses the "round hole" eyepiece system,and the consumer and mid-level bodies use the rectangular eyepieces. The round eyepiece bodies have multiple screw-in accessories, which work quite well, and mount precisely and with sealing due to the solid threaded connection; the rectangular bodies that use slide-in connectors are not quite as secure, and do not offer the same amount of sealing. Nikon has used the "round" eyepiece on its more-serious bodies for a few decades now.
     
  6. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    You would think so. But my first look through the D700 was one of really great disappointment. It's not much bigger at all than the viewfinder on the D200. It isn't anywhere near the apparent size of the viewfinders of cameras gone by, like the Nikon FE.

    I've seen magnifying eyepieces for sale though which I would imagine are exactly for the purpose of fixing those ****ty small viewfinders. There really is no reason why the viewfinders can't be larger.
     
  7. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I don't know why it would be such a disappointment. The D700 and the 5D have virtually the same viewfinder image,and while the magnification is lower, around .72x versus around .94x for the D300, the viewfinder image SIZE of the D700 and 5D is substantially larger than that of a D300 or D200.I mean, the mirror is substantially, substantially larger, and the viewfinder screen is 2.3x larger in the FF bodies than in the 1.5x bodies.

    I'm not quite sure how a viewfinder image that is 2.3x larger, physically, is so disappointing compared to the tunnel-vision finder of an APS-C body. The magnification is lower, but the size, well, the size is much,much bigger.

    As far as the eyepiece magnifiers go, I bought the Nikon DK-17M, which fits all the pro Nikon bodies....it brings higher magnification, but lessens eye relief noticeably. So, if you want a more-magnified viewfinder image, for $40 you can magnify the D700's image by a factor of 1.2x, which will give you a .864x magnification roughly.
     
  8. wescobts

    wescobts TPF Noob!

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    Derrel, Thank you very much :thumbup: This is the information I was looking for, once again- u da man :mrgreen:
     
  9. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    It was a disappointment compared to what I was used to in a film body. I have had a few film bodies and the viewfinders were incredibly large, the D200's viewfinder is tiny. However when picking up a D700 I thought finally we get back to the old days where I can actually see everything, but not so.

    Yes it's larger, but it's still a disappointment to me. Manually focusing on the Nikon FE is still a lot easier than manually focusing on a D700 with a split prism focusing screen installed.

    Actually I wonder what the rationale in reducing the viewfinder magnification is, any ideas?
     
  10. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Well, I have the D200-based FujiFilm S5 Pro; it has a slifghtly above-average viewfinder for a DX body. The *best* DX viewfinder is the one on the Nikon D2x-it is notably brighter,sharper, and clearer than the finder in the D200,D300,Canon 20D,40D,and a handful of other bodies with cropped sensors.

    I did a quick bit of web research on viewfinders from the Nikon pro bodies. Your comment about how it is easier to MANUALLY FOCUS a Nikon FE than it is a D700 with a split screen installed is a relatively simple answer. First off, the FE has a 100 percent transmission mirror: ALL of the light in the FE went from the mirror directly upward to the viewfinder screen; in an AF camera, the mirror is partially silvered, and "some" of the light goes through the mirror to the AF module, located in the bottom of the mirror chamber, and the remainder of the light goes upward to the viewfinder screen. So,right there, we have a difference in the amount of light actually sent upward...
    NOTE: the FE screend were dimmer,and coarser than the FE-2 screens....I have owned both the FE and FE-2and FM and FM-2(n) for many,many years and am intimately familiar with them,as well as the F,F2,F3, N90s, and have many replacement screens for those cameras.

    Modern viewfinder screens are designed for AF systems; older cameras had finder screen with a higher degree of "scatter" of the aerial image com ing off of the mirror--AND to compund the matter, the old mirrors were 100 percent silvered, not 60/40 or 80.20 partially transmissive.

    As if that were not problem enough, "modern" split screens like the Katz Eye brand are often ground smoother and polished, to elevate brightness. Modern viewfinder screens, the STOCK ones coming from the factory, have narrow scatter angles which effectively INCREASES the zone of apparent sharpness seen even when using a fast lens like an f/1.4 85mm lens. One of the worst offenders is the new Canon 7D, which used an transmissively illuminated screen. Here's Canon's senior tech rep Chuck Westfall discussing the issue Tech Tips - The Digital Journalist

    As Mr. Westfall says in that issues, Canon developed the, "Ultra-Precision Matte focusing screen for cameras like the EOS-1D series, 5D series, 40D and 50D. That screen depicts DOF accurately for maximum apertures as large as f/1.8."

    The Canon replacement screens are designed for better MANUAL focus ascertainment, using the human eye and human hand. What is needed is a "coarser" screen with a higher level of scatter of the aerial image coming off the mirror. In the "old days" of 35mm photography, 50mm 1.4 lenses were commonly used, as were 85/2, 135/2, 180/2.8 and so on. Once the pokey f/3.5~5.6 kit lens was developed, it was necessary to BRIGHTEN the viewfinder screen's image, which causes a loss of contrast and a loss of coarseness by decreasing the scattering effect of the aerial image, which is accompanied by increased polishing of the screen. A brighter, smoother,clearer viewfinder screen images resaults from that optimiztion for slower, zoom lenses, which is the EXACT OPPOSITE of that which is needed to manually determine focus,especially with wide-aperture lenses like say an 85/1.4 or 300/2.8, where DOF is scant when shot wide-open or nearly so.
    Even today's d-slr screen makers, like KatzEye, explain the issue.
    OptiBrite Brightness Enhancement - Katz Eye Optics Here is what the KatzEye people begin with,
    ::Modern DSLR cameras are heavily reliant on their autofocus (AF) systems to achieve proper focus. They also suffer from small, dim viewfinders compared to film cameras of years past. To help compensate for this, most camera manufacturers provide focusing screens that are very bright. Unfortunately, these ‘ultra bright’ focusing screens have a very low contrast – they don’t show focus or depth of field well and they do not ‘snap’ into focus when the correct focus is achieved. They also lack any focusing aids, such as split prisms or microprism fields. This makes precise manual focus (MF) very difficult to achieve. And for those photographers doing narrow depth of field shooting or macro photography, for those with large collections of manual focus lenses, and for those times when AF just does not get the job done, precise MF is essential. That’s where Katz Eye™ comes in...

    The Solution

    Katz Eye™ focusing screens are designed and optimized for manual focus applications. The matte surface of the Katz Eye screen is designed for maximum focus contrast and ‘snap’, and it also provides a much more realistic representation of the depth of field of the shot (when DOF preview or a manual aperture lens is used). With fast (f1.2-2.8) lenses, this high contrast matte provides the maximum feedback to the photographer to help achieve correct focus. And with large amount of light supplied by fast lenses, the viewfinder appearance is also excellent." They go on with more explanation.

    From my experience, back in the day, Olympus went with a smooth,bright viewfinder image: Nikon had a dimmer, coarser finder image. guess what--Nikon was always easier to focus than Olympus. Brighter is NOT better in manually focusing--COARSER,and rougher is actually better.ANyway, if you have an aftermarket screen, like the Canon ones for their higher-end cameras, manual focusing ascertainment is much easier; the KatzEye people recognize that brightening is NOT beneficial. As they conclude,

    "OptiBrite or Not? The general rule of thumb in choosing the correct screen is to assess what lenses will be in common use. If the photographer mainly uses fast prime lenses, the untreated screen is the best choice. But if the photographer uses a mix of lenses that includes compact zooms and/or telephotos, the OptiBrite treated screen is recommended for best viewfinder appearance."
    ********
    So...this entire issue goes way,way back. Older film cameras had untreated screens; the "treated" screens were popularized mid-1980's by Beattie. As lens speeds slowed from a typical f/3.5~4.5 to a pathetic f/3.5~5.6, and as AF came on the scene, increasingly narrow scatter (down from 20 degrees to 15 then 10 then less) meant a brighter, CLEARER focusing screen image, and one that did not show actual lens depth of field, but instead made depth of field impossible to ascertain. In the 1990's manufacturers began to artificially illuminate the screen; pull the battery on many low-end d-slr bodies and look thru the finder--the image might be 2-3 stops darker without power. Nikon used this on the D70,and other bodies. Pull the battery and the pro-level Nikon bodies show the same finder brightness with or without power. If the battery being absent lowers screen brightness, the screen is being ARTIFICIALLY illuminated, which hampers manual focusing.

    The Canon 7D's intensely brightened screen is alleged to be as slow as f/4.8 in terms of DOF representation by careful manual focus testers; Chuck Westfall admits to f/4, on an entirely new style of screen they implemented in the 7D,and which precludes the use of their precision matte screens.

    I use a lot of manual focusing lenses; if you want to use MF lenses, you need to go with the coarsest focusing screen possible, the non-treated,non-brightened type. Manual focusing lenses also work better than AF lenses as well. An old camera, the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex had THE smoothest screen I ever saw--the ENTIRE screen,except for an 8mm microprism/split image in the center, showed absolutely INFINITE depth of field; everything appeared to be in-focus with the Contaflex screen. Same with the old Kodfak Duoflex screen--INFINITE depth of field is what one sees when the screen is made highly polished and bright. Sometimes, dimmer and coarser is actually better than brighter and smoother...I had a small argiument with a young shooter about this issue WRT to the 7D and aftermarket screens, so I have a boatload of URL's plus my own experience over 27 years with SLR finder systems.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2009
  11. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Hmm need to chase up what kind of screen was in that D700 I used. I definitely use a Katz-eye untreated screen in my D200, and I love it. It's bright enough as it is, it's just still a shame that the viewfinder is so small.

    I didn't think the screens are necessarily darker due to the transmissive mirror, simply because the FE had such a dark focusing screen to begin with. My complaint really was purely about the size of the viewfinder and nothing more. You can simply see far more clearly the split prism since it's larger.

    Though thinking about it I can come up with a downside. I literally need to take my attention from the scene to read the shutter speed / aperture value in the FE. As the viewfinder is so large the heads up display is very far from the middle, and I guess it could also lead to more framing errors.

    Really it's just a personal disappointment, but the history of the screens is interesting, didn't know a lot of that, thanks for the detailed reply.
     

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