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Old April 22nd, 2010, 08:34 PM   #1
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Viewfinders becoming extinct?

I was in my local BB today and went over to where the camcorders are. Took a look at the top of the line offering from Sony (cx500?) and others, and noticed that all the cams I could see had no viewfinders. Why?

1. Is the diminishing size of the cams make it impossible to include a viewfinder?
2. Is there no more demand for them?
3. Are they unnecessary?
4. Is it not cost effective any more?

What's the deal? Are viewfinders in the top tier consumer HD camcorders becoming extinct? Will the only way one can get a good HD camcorder with a viewfinder be a prosumer model and above?

I am so bummed.

Mike
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Old April 22nd, 2010, 09:13 PM   #2
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Mike,

I will offer a few possible explanations, but I can't really know what the designers and marketeers are actually thinking.

1. HD camcorders need to show the photographer more detail than is possible in a tiny viewfinder and therefore consider a larger (2.5 to 3.5 inch) LCD to be a better way to allow for the focus and other adjustments to be visualized.

2. An optical viewfinder can only be provided when some fraction of the gathered light from the camera lens is split. In order to make a viewfinder work optically, a beam splitter / prism / dichroic must be used, and this sacrifices the ultimate low light performance of the camcorder.

3. Adding either an optical or electronic viewfinder invariably adds cost, bulk, and complexity. Prosumers in many cases and amateur consumers in almost all cases would prefer to save cost, bulk, and complexity.

4. An LCD can provide a truly superior alternative to a viewfinder *****IF***** light control is handled properly. A hood, shade, or other method (such as a transreflective LCD) can provide an excellent framing and focusing display even in bright sunlight.

I think the 4 possibilities you stated are also true.

Larry
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Old April 22nd, 2010, 09:36 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Mike Burgess View Post
I am so bummed.

Mike
You, me, and everyone else except presumably the manufacturers and hoodie makers.
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 01:22 AM   #4
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The VF and LCD are working off an electronic not "optical" signal, so scratch #2...

Cost IS a factor, but ALL the top of the consumer line cams this year, Sony XR/CX550V, Canon HF-S21, and Panasonics 7xx series have at least a small VF... under those models, not too many VF's... the cameras are still pretty compact, and the VF's aren't exactly great, but if you can't see the LCD...

I'd RATHER have the VF option, but the big 3.5" LCD's on the Sony and Canon models are quite nice. People are getting used to shooting with cell phone screens and other "tiny screen" devices, so the consumer probably doesn't care.

As for what BB stocks, I think the economy has sucked most of the wind out of their "stock" - last time I went into the local store, there was more empty space than "displays", except for the big TV's. Not like it used to be where you could find complete lines to look at/touch/test... seems to be now you get last years leftovers... and I know our closest store is a "mini" footprint BB, it's almost a waste of space, and NEVER has much on the shelves, let alone any "top of the line" toys.
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 02:06 AM   #5
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The new Sony CX550 indeed has a VF.
I usually use the Hi Def LCD, but the VF is adequate for composing a shot and is a real lifesaver on occasion.
It's definitely a valuable feature to me.
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 08:19 AM   #6
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Good to know that the CX550 at least still has a viewfinder. I use the one I have on my SR11 all the time, using the LCD only on rare occasions when using the viewfinder isn't an advantage (fast moving action scenes). Too many times the LCD is not practical, like in bright light; ie sunlight, and if you don't have a hood, etc. you are out of luck. Also, the LCD sucks energy, and when you are out in the boonies far from any way to recharge your batteries, it becomes a concern (regardless of how many batteries you may have with you).

In another year or so, I will probably have the itch to get a new camcorder to replace my SR11, and I hope the powers that be will still be offering viewfinders on their top drawer consumer HD camcorders. They are useful.

Mike
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 02:51 PM   #7
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I'm the reverse of what you describe - I love the LCD and have no desire to have a viewfinder. In fact, it was only a week or so ago that I needed one for the first and only time in about 4 years of HD filming. I had to shoot through a fence which I have often done by just popping the lens into the hole past the fence edges (the fences that have diamond-shaped holes). The problem this one time was that I needed a very specific shot from a very specific place, and the fence was not at right angles to the body of the camcorder. It angled sharply towards me going back to my left. So with the LCD open, I couldn't slide the very front of the camcorder through a diamond without hitting the fence. So I took the shot through the fence with some of the fence itself showing where I might not have had to do that with a viewfinder.

But that has been the only time I wished I had a viewfinder on a cam I was using.
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 03:24 PM   #8
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Sonys LCD's are actually pretty good even in somewhat bright conditions, but there are still times when having a VF there is handy - I sometimes wish for an option to turn both on at the same time like some of the bigger cams have - it would kill the battery faster, but there are times...

It is a bit of a tradeoff, I tend to grab a CX camera (no VF up until the 550) before I grabbed the SR or XR, just because it's smaller, lighter and all that. I am looking forward to the CX550 with the big LCD and VF myself, hoping it will be the "perfect" combination, as those are the main things I miss when I have a CX...
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Old April 25th, 2010, 09:06 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Tom Gull View Post
I'm the reverse of what you describe - I love the LCD and have no desire to have a viewfinder. In fact, it was only a week or so ago that I needed one for the first and only time in about 4 years of HD filming. I had to shoot through a fence which I have often done by just popping the lens into the hole past the fence edges (the fences that have diamond-shaped holes). The problem this one time was that I needed a very specific shot from a very specific place, and the fence was not at right angles to the body of the camcorder. It angled sharply towards me going back to my left. So with the LCD open, I couldn't slide the very front of the camcorder through a diamond without hitting the fence. So I took the shot through the fence with some of the fence itself showing where I might not have had to do that with a viewfinder.

But that has been the only time I wished I had a viewfinder on a cam I was using.

My cam has a VF but I 've never use it even in bright sun light. The VF in consumer cam are so tiny I don't see it very useful. Well, at least to me any way. When I see a guys/girls stick that tiny camcorder into his/her eye ball while filming. I always have a laughs. Just my .02.
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Old April 25th, 2010, 01:46 PM   #10
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The new big 3.5" LCD will probably make the VF a distant second choice for most shooting, but there are definitely times where I'd rather have it there - even if it's "funny".

Sometimes it's easier to track using the VF, and it adds another point of contact to make the video more stable to name two other reasons one might find the VF to be useful, along with being able to see better in very bright conditions. Of course the new active stabilization and touch screen features may counteract the advantages...

The added cost of the tiny VF's that are included is probably rather small compared to the perceived value to someone considering spending $1K on a camera - ALL the "top of the line" cams got the VF option this year.
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Old April 25th, 2010, 07:57 PM   #11
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I'm a viewfinder freak through and through. I shoot surfing so if a if a camera doesn't have a VF it's almost useless to me.

But for the majority of people the LCD screen is all they will ever use anyway. So I can fully understand why the companies are getting rid of them in favour of smaller, lighter, cheaper to produce cams.

The thing that annoys me about this is not so much the lack of VF but the cams total relience on the LCD - some will power off when you close the LCD, and most buttons are moved to the touch screen which means digging through menus.
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Old April 26th, 2010, 01:56 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst View Post
Sometimes it's easier to track using the VF, and it adds another point of contact to make the video more stable...
That is a very good point that is often forgotten- having that extra stabilizing point, particularly during a moving camera shot, can make a big difference.
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