Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

Decent viewfinders were once part and parcel of the camcorder experience, mainly black and white as they gave you the best contrast ratio to allow decent focusing.

Today life is a bitch when it comes to viewfinders and the lack of thought that manufacturers give to their use, position and resolution.

The classic example of a useless viewfinder lies with the Sony PMW-F3, a classic large sensor camera with the sole intention of capturing TV drama in full HD yet the supplied viewfinder is appalling.

If you can’t be bothered to produce a VF fit for purpose then make sure the DP can buy a Hi Res alternative that fits on the camera and has all the correct connections, alternative VFs like the Zacuto are good but still need powered up and you need a small bag of Canon batteries to make sure you get a days use out of them.

Tim Bates from Germany “I come from an ENG background and have been spoilt for high quality broadcast viewfinders. For me the viewfinder is one of “the” most important components of the camera. The viewfinder is my window to the world. I find a quality viewfinder an immersive experience that can’t be achieved with an LCD and a t-shirt over my head. 
Very few seem to talk about this design fault- and even fewer complain.
Why is it that almost any video camera under $20,000 has a crap viewfinder? We know that quality viewfinders are available. Sony’s NEX 7 has one. Fuji make great viewfinders. My GH2’s viewfinder is usable.
When I read the specs for the C100 I could not believe that Canon are planning on using a 0.24 inch viewfinder in an $8,000 camera. My Canon Legria HFG10 has an 0.24″ viewfinder and I think it’s unusable. I realise that the C300 0.52 inch viewfinder is usable – but not great. At least they could put the C300’s viewfinder on the C100.
I also realise that most would simply say – okay lets just get a Zacuto EVF. That was the answer I got from the team that supposedly “helped” design the Sony FS100. Sorry but I find that answer really dumb. It’s like a car manufacturer building a car with an unusable steering wheel. Or placing the steering wheel in the back seat, then to say that most people are happy to spend another $1,000 on a proper steering wheel even if spoils the ergonomics and compactness of the original design.” 
It’s shocking how little attention is now made these days to the second most important feature on a camcorder, the viewfinder, and camera after camera falls off the production line, crippled by a poor viewfinder.
The new Sony NEX-EA50 is to date the only large sensor camcorder to have a decent viewfinder and one in the correct position and best of all it’s semi-pro !
DPs are forced to buy into the relatively expensive external viewfinder like the Cineroid, Zacuto EVF or the Alphatron when camera manufacturers are getting far too lazy and sloppy with camcorder designs these days.


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

7 thoughts on “Viewfinders “The curse of the new camcorders”

  1. This is my biggest frustration too with all the new camera’s that come out. I’m glad someone spoke out. What the hell are Panasonic, Canon and Sony thinking? Who wants to go thorugh all the trouble with buying a (bad!) third party vf, then having to find a way to attach the damn thing and rebalance the camera to be usable as a shouldermount? Ergonomics people!! Does no-one realise that for a cameraman a camera has to ‘feel’ right because he is using it every single day?

  2. Agree 100%!

    Camera after “features” semi- or completely useless EVFs, LCDs, weak codecs, audio connections/specs, and more. The list is never ending.

    That’s why I swore-off owning any relatively expensive camera after I sold my Sony DSR-450WSL SD broadcast cam years ago. Now i only own relatively inexpensive cams such as the GH2 & I’ve got a new BMCC on order. For jobs they can’t handle, I rent.

    My ideal video camera would be a ~5″ cube containing a >1080p S35 sensor, EF-M or m43 lens mount, a few outputs (HD-SDI, HDMI & headphones), and inputs (dual XLR audio in, genlock, LANC, maybe TC in), built-in WiFi or blutooth for a iPhone/iPad remote, and a few buttons.

    Everything else would be external & generic: HD recorder (Ninja, Hyperdeck Shuttle, etc.), EVF/LCD, batts., mics, etc. Rig it up & go. And re-use most of the accessories when a new “cube” camera model comes out a couple of years later.

    That would be sweet. Cheers!

  3. WHy is anyone surprised and frustrated? This is exactly what happens when you have a maniacal focus on IQ. When that’s all that matters and all that pixel peepers obsess over, lousy ergonomics from DSLR designers and dumb product managers is what you get. Case in point is the PMW-100/200 battery design that you can’t use a d-tap port to power an EVF and the PMW-200 flip out screen that gets locked closed by your wireless or light.

  4. You should look at the so-called “pro” Panasonic HMC41 some day. Not just an ugly duckling, it officially has the world’s worst viewfinder!

  5. I know that I’m rather out of place here, being that you guys are talking about pro equipment, but I have a similar gripe that might be just as bad. I got a Sony HDR CX440, a rather budget casual user HD video camera, and it doesn’t even have a viewfinder! I ordered it as part of a rewards credit-card program, and didn’t notice the lack of VF. I guess you can’t take anything for granted anymore. Try taking sports shots with any glare around and have to sight the subject in the LCD screen. A total waste really. What are these guys thinking?! Is it that difficult or costly to put something on a camera that is probably age-old technology? Sheesh!

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