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That’s No Way to Treat a Perfectly Good Viewfinder!



Living in a tourist town like San Francisco, I have frequent opportunities to observe how people use their cameras. Inevitably, these lead to “Why, oh why?” moments in which advanced technology collides with general cluelessness.

I’ll save gripes like inappropriate flash use and bazooka lenses for landscape shots for another day, because lately I’ve been noticing another type of foolishness: People with advanced cameras completely ignoring one of the hallmark advantages of an advanced camera, the ability to compose with a viewfinder.

I’m talking sunny day, outdoors and people still striking the arms-out Frankenstein position to compose with the LCD screen. C’mon — it’s bad enough that viewfinders essentially disappeared from the compact camera market due to consumer indifference. Now we’re going to let them wither away from neglect on the prosumer-and-up side?




OK, so some of the advantages of using the viewfinder, such as the inherent improvement in stability, might not be immediately apparent to a casual shooter. But I’m seeing tourist after tourist relying completely on their SLR’s viewscreen under conditions where that obviously makes it harder to see what they’re doing.

Obama doing it right with a Canon 5D Mark II
Obama doing it right with a Canon 5D Mark II

I truly don’t get it. Has the average consumer so completely habituated to smartphone photography that having the camera wobble a few feet from the face is part of their mental definition of photography? Is it just too much trouble to take off those designer sunglasses? Are these actually Rule of Thirds snobs who can’t abide the slightest cropping of their field of view? Or am I yet another kind of oddball with my average 10:1 ratio for viewfinder composing vs. LCD screen?

Image credits: Scenes From The MOMA: sometaithurts by LarimdaME, bonnie’s blurry by peteSwede, Live View by Dennis Vu Photography for Unleashed Media, Live-view Stare by Manny Valdes, Obama using a 5D Mark II by Pete Souza