OVF vs EVF! Let’s the bloody war begin 😉
The world is divided in two… always, that is why there is people making a lot of money selling t-shirts for opposite points of view!
The users of mirrorless camera are not different, photographers loving the optical viewfinder and photographers loving the electronic viewfinder and hating each other.
Since Fujifilm introduced the hybrid viewfinder with the X100 and the XPro we can have the best of both worlds and decide what to use for every picture.
It is surprising for me to see, on various blog posts and comments, Fuji users hoping to have a future release of those cameras without one or the other option when Fuji made the most intelligent move leaving the choice to us. But this is not the point of this article, here I want to concentrate on what I think is the philosophical difference between the OVF and EVF.
Personally, on my Fuji XPro1 I use both but mostly the OVF.
When we look at an EVF we look at the camera representation of the subject on a display, when we use the OVF we look at the framed reality. Basically people that like to preview and create the image in their mind before taking the picture prefer the OVF, people that like to see the world as is seen by the camera choose the EVF.
The mental process is very different. Seasoned photographers that learned to shoot with film are not very influenced in their mental workflow by the camera because they formed it before the existence of the displays, but younger photographers are forming their workflow based on what the camera offers.
The EVF shows the picture with the dynamic range, color balance and contrast of the camera, and gives to us a filtered scene. With the EVF we are looking at a display and the image is already done, we can take it but we do not make it because we are no more looking at the reality and having feeling and emotions created by the real moment.
The dynamic range of reality can be 100,000:1, the best displays can give 400:1 and a print is around 100:1. The art of photography is not only composition but also to interpret the reality so we can communicate the feeling of the very high light differences and the very subtle shades on a medium with a very limited dynamic range.
The same applies for the color gamut and contrast.
Looking at a display or EVF we limit ourselves to its specific characteristics.
Some time ago I was watching the sunset from a pier, I step few feet back from the railing and observed all the people, specially young, looking at the sunset in their smartphone, ready to click every few seconds. They forgot the reality around, what they were watching was a limited frame of reality interpreted by their phone.
There were two groups of teenagers, one males and the other females, spring, beach warm weather and small swimwear at the age when hormones are crazy and they were so concentrated to watch the sunset in the display and share the moment on the social media with their distant friends that they forgot to look around at each other, share the moment with the real people, smile, know each other and have the option to meet and perhaps fall in love!
I see the same limit in the images created by the display/EVF extremists, they forget the reality and what can make a picture great just because is out of the frame or out of the characteristics of the display. This is absolutely evident in prints because the image is not taken thinking at the final printed result but the click is created on the display. You see the images in small size on the social media and are very good, when printed become ugly and boring with a lot of defects and the limits of the display transferred to the print.
Personally I use the OVF to frame the image I had in my mind watching the reality and I use the EVF only sometime to check some parameters as the histogram or the precise composition in case of situations that can procure a parallax problem.
My preference come form the way I learned to photograph with film and my preferred cameras: Linhof Master Technika and Hasselblad SWC. Both of them had an external viewfinder I used to frame the subject and there was not a way to see the final image until the film was developed and printed.
My usual workflow was to walk in the scene, look around from many different point of view, than get the viewfinder from my pocket (yes was detachable from the camera) to refine my choice with the angle of view of the lenses I had in the bag and only then taking the camera off the bag and positioning it in the right place.
With the Fuji my workflow is the same, just more comfortable in size, weight and speed.
The average person spends 4 hours a day on internet watching at their computer or smartphone display. Photographers now spend a lot of time watching a display to elaborate pictures. We are modifying ourself to adapt to a display and a virtual reality. As photographer we are looking to produce images that will be good on the social media and will produce a lot of “like”.
The mental process used to create photographies is changing and images are no more created by the mind and sensibility of the photographer but by the camera. Blog articles and tutorials talking about the tools get more views and likes than articles and videos talking about the philosophical and aesthetic aspects.
Take a look at the B&H Youtube channel (I love their event space and the quality of the speakers and content!) a lesson of Sam Abell, one of the best photographer and speaker that made a very inspiring class, has around 22 thousands views in 11 months, the first look at different tools have more than 40 thousand views in 2 or 3 months. If we look at less known speakers (most of the time equally interesting) the difference is even wider.
My suggestion for the new “always digital” photographers is simple: sometime use the OVF, cover the display and take pictures in the old school way. You will improve, discover a real world and make your life better, and perhaps you will be able to see the woman/man close to you looking the sunset and exchange a real smile.