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I'm talking about the tiny and sometimes quite useful symbols/indicators for this:

http://a.img-dpreview.com/reviews/PentaxK10D/Images/Features/viewfinderview.gif

is there a general name for the light symbols?

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1  
N-icons? or maybe I.C.O.N. = Indicators Canon Obtains Nefariously? –  cmason Jan 15 '12 at 18:43
    
Are you talking about the light/autofocus indicators, or the indicators on the bottom? The stuff on the bottom I call the "HUD" - heads up display. –  whatsisname Jan 16 '12 at 17:16
4  
I call them der fotofinder blinkenlichten. –  Igby Largeman Jan 16 '12 at 17:44

4 Answers 4

Canon simply call it "Viewfinder Information". Manual - see p19, nomenclature.

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There isn't a general term, just a variety of descriptions along the lines of "viewfinder status indicators", "viewfinder display information", and "shooting information display".

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Canon has "Viewfinder display information" in the manuals. –  dpollitt Jan 15 '12 at 18:03
    
Nikon refers to shooting information display (which may be a subset of the full range of stuff in the viewfinder) –  MikeW Jan 16 '12 at 8:57

Well, you could go the car slang route (no pun intended) and call them "idiot lights"... ;)

Other than that, I've heard them called "status indicators", "viewfinder indicators", and "viewfinder display lights."

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3  
An idiot light would be a big red rectangle: CHECK PHOTO. :) –  mattdm Jan 16 '12 at 17:37

In a general sense, that information would be part of what is classically called a "Heads-Up Display", or HUD. Thats a nice generic term that could be applied to any camera regardless of manufacturer, and technically speaking it is not limited to the statistics shown in a camera viewfinder either. I think originally it was used in modern fighter jets so pilots could "keep their head up" while in a dogfight, and not have to look down at instrumentation. It would apply to a viewfinder in that you don't have to remove your eye from the viewfinder and look down at the back LCD or alternate LCD to see your camera settings or state. That said, every major manufacturer probably has their own name for that information (as indicated by @mattdm's answer).

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1  
Yeah, and none of them call it that, even though it makes sense. :) –  mattdm Jan 26 '12 at 12:04
    
Usually HUD refers to the display that is overlaid, not the status underneath. So, EVF cameras are said to have HUD but not DSLRs until they come up with a hybrid like the Fuji X-Pro1 and X100. –  Itai Jan 26 '12 at 13:52
    
@Itai: A HUD does not need to be overlaid or translucent. That was the original design for fighter jet pilots, however the concept of a HUD is pretty broad and very expansively used these days in many industries. Newer DSLR's like the 7D and 1D X use transmissive LCD's in their viewfinders that provide additional information beyond just the statistics, so they would definitely be HUD's according to your definition. –  jrista Jan 26 '12 at 17:22

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