Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

EVF or OVF?

22nd December 2019

In photography, some developments are passing fads while others bring longer lasting changes. In their own way, special effects filters and high dynamic range techniques cause their share of excitement before that passed and their usage became more sensible. In fact, the same might be said for most forms of image processing because tastefulness eventually gets things in order. Equally, there are others that mark bigger shifts.

The biggest example of the latter is the move away from film photography to digital image capture. There still are film photographers but they largely depend on older cameras since very few are made any more. My own transition came later than others but I hardly use film any more and a lack of replacement parts for cameras that are more than fifteen years old only helps to keep things that way. Another truth is that digital photography makes me look at my images more critically and that helps for some continued improvement.

Also, mobile phone cameras have become so capable that the compact camera market has shrunk dramatically. In fact, I gave away my Canon PowerShot G11 earlier this year because there was little justification in hanging onto it. After all, it dated back to 2010 and a phone would do now what it once did though the G11 did more for me than I might have expected. Until 2017, my only photos of Swedish locations were made with that camera. If I ever was emotional at its departure and I doubt that I was, that is not felt now.

If you read photography magazines, you get the sense that mirrorless cameras have captured a lot of the limelight and that especially is the case with the introduction of full frame models. Some writers even are writing off the chances of SLR’s remaining in production though available model ranges remain extensive in spite of the new interlopers. Whatever about the departure of film, the possible loss of SLR’s with their bright optical viewfinders (OVF’s) does make me a little emotional since they were the cameras that so many like me aspired to owning during my younger years and the type has served me well over the decades.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

Even so, I too have used mirrorless cameras and an Olympus PEN E-PL5 came into my possession in 2013. However, I found that using the screen on the back of a camera was not to my liking and the quality of mobile phone cameras is such that I no longer need any added portability. However, it needs to be remembered that using a Tamron 14 to 150 mm zoom lens with the body cannot have helped either. Wishing to sample a counterpart with an electronic view finder, I replaced it with an Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III earlier this year and have been getting on fine with that.

The body certainly is a compact one but the handling is very like an SLR and I have turned off the automatic switching between viewfinder and screen since I found it distracting; manually switching between the two is my preference. As it happens, using the EVF took a little acclimatisation but being able to add a spirit level overlay proved to as useful as it was instructive. The resulting images may be strong in the green and blue ends of the visible spectrum but that suits a user that is partial to both colours anyway. It also helps that the 16.1 megapixel sensor creates compact images that are quick to upload to a backup service. There have been no issues working with my Tamron lens and keeping that was a deciding factor in my remaining with Olympus in spite of a shutter failure with the older camera. That was fixed efficiently and at a reasonable cost too.

As good as the new Olympus has been, it has not displaced my existing Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Pentax K5 II SLR’s. The frame size is much smaller anyway and January saw me acquire a new Sigma 24 to 105 mm zoom lens for the former after an older lens developed an irreparable fault. The new lens is working as expected and the sharpness of any resulting images is impressive. However, the full frame combination is weighty even if I do use it handheld so that means that the Pentax remains my choice for overseas trips. There also is an added brightness in the viewfinders of both cameras that I appreciate so the OM-D complements the others rather than replacing them.

While I can get on with EVF’s if SLR’s ever get totally superseded, I am planning to stick mainly with SLR’s for now. Interestingly, Canon has launched a new enthusiast model so there must be some continuing interest in them. Also, it seems that Canon foresees a hybrid approach where live viewing using the screen on the back of the camera may add faster autofocus or other kinds of functionality while the OVF allows more traditional working. That of itself makes me wonder if we might see cameras that can switch between EVF and OVF modes within the same viewfinder. The thought may be as far fetched as it is intriguing yet there may be other possibilities that have not been foreseen. One thing is clear though: we are in an age of accelerating change.

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