These days it seems that all point-and-shoot cameras do not have optical viewfinders. Do any exist in the lower end of the price range? With so many cameras on the market, how can I identify the ones with this feature?
There are still a few but they are a dying breed. The cheapest one would be the already mentioned Canon A1200 but there are also ultra-compact and larger models too.
There are a number of forces that conspire to the optical viewfinder's demise:
- More compactness: The viewfinder takes space, so removing it lets cameras be smaller.
- Larger LCDs: On small cameras, they now often cover the entire vertical height.
- Wider and longer zooms: This makes it more difficult to make an optical viewfinder.
I own two P&S models with optical viewfinders: Canon SD800IS and a newer Canon SD1200IS. My wife and daughters mainly use them, but everyone uses them from time to time.
Never once, have I, or my family, ever used the optical viewfinder on these. The 800IS was purchased because it had optical viewfinder, but I have never seen anyone look thru it. One problem is there is no indicators at all in the viewfinder. The only thing available is the focus confirmation light, which is located outside the viewfinder, but within your eye's periphery, so that you can see it when focus is achieved. It is nice to have in very bright light, when the LCD is not that visible, but in practice, the LCD is nearly always visible enough to compose.
A suggestion: go by your local bigbox store, and try out a few models that have and optical viewfinder before you purchase. I think you will find that squinting thru that tiny hole, with no focus or other info is not as useful as you may think.
Some options that come to mind are the Canon PowerShot A1200(very inexpensive at $100) or the Canon PowerShot SD780. Any of the older Canon G-series cameras will have one as well, and they are excellent cameras especially if you can find a used model for a few hundred dollars.