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Can't find a camera with a viewfinder? Here's why

Consumer Reports News: May 21, 2010 02:11 PM

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At this year's PMA camera trade show, the marketing research firm InfoTrends reported that optical viewfinders have almost ceased to exist, particularly on subcompacts. That's surprising, since almost three-quarters of those we surveyed last year said they found optical viewfinders useful, and about 35 percent said they wanted one in their next camera purchase.

To find out what's taking place, we chatted with several camera manufacturers. Here's what we found out:

  • It's the result of two interrelated trends: Consumers want ever-smaller point-and-shoots, and they want them with larger LCD displays. And these two trends, they said, far outweigh the importance of including an optical viewfinder. 
  • To build such devices, there's no room on the camera body for an optical viewfinder. Indeed, LCDs that measured up to 31/2 inches dominate the entire back of some subcompacts, forcing such models to include touch screen displays.
  • With more subcompacts shipping with lenses that have greater optical zooms, as much as 10x or 12x, it's very difficult to construct a tiny but accurate optical viewfinder that covers the same range as the lens.

Camera makers also point out that LCDs have come a long way recently:

  • Dot-counts have increased for sharper images.
  • Anti-glare glass has been used to limit reflections that can interfere with viewing images.
  • Contrast, backlighting and viewing angle have also been improved to assist you in seeing images on a display in bright-light situations.

However, if you still want a point-and-shoot with an optical viewfinder, there are select models available, including Canon PowerShot G11, Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS Elph, Canon PowerShot SD780 IS Elph and Nikon Coolpix P6000.

—Terry Sullivan

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