What are the disadvantages of electronic viewfinders? such as the ones used in Sony SLT cameras?

What is the reason that major camera manufacturers are still using the classic viewfinders while using EVFs could have many benefits such as reduced size and weight of the camera and better usability in different conditions.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Observation only: I've owned 5 x DSLRs (4 x Sony/Minolta, 1 x Nikon D700) and have a Sony A77. For me the advantages of the EVF and permanent "electronic image" with phase focusing, no mirror madness, WYSIWYG, focus peaking good frame rate and much more are so great that I can't imagine going back to an OVF. The disadvantages are real, but the gains are stunning. The term "live view" is meaningless - it's just "view" permanently - viewable either on EVF or back LCD as suits. Response time for any action is bearable - eye and brain can do well enough. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 2, 2013 at 13:04
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Terrible EVF performance in extremely low light (Moonlight on down) is my biggest complaint. Dynamic range I can live with. The half a stop sensitivity loss to pellicle mirror is sad but acceptable. || I'm wondering how to afford an A99 and also wondering what their 36 Mp sensor FF is going to look like and cost. || TRY a Sony with EVF and see if it suits. If it does you'll love it. || My D700 is a better camera and takes better hi ISO photos - BUT the A77's always View system makes it an integrated photo making system and as such is superior in most cases to "just a camera". <Flame_suit = 1> \$\endgroup\$ Feb 2, 2013 at 13:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Russell, please see the comments below, what do you think about the battery life? \$\endgroup\$
    – Omne
    Feb 2, 2013 at 15:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have not tested effect of EVF on battery life. I can see no reason why it has to be major despite what others said. BUT the exposures per battery under std conditions are available for all good DSLRs - check and see how they compare. The BIG life affector on the A77 is GPS - when it is on the sleep current is high and it is unwise to "wealk around all day" with the camera in standby. Other than that I have not noted that the A77 is terrible. The SOny battery used by A700/A77/A99 and some others (NP-FM500H) is 1400-2000 mAh @ 7.2V and substantially larger than some - Sony or others. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3, 2013 at 2:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have 5 batteries - 2 original and 5 aftermarket. Aftermarket batteries have lower mAh usually (and claim higher) and may not give as many cycles BUT are much better value/$. I have had no problems with then. They are not a vast cost compared to body, lenses etc. On a very long day I charge on the fly either from car 12V charger or mains.Seldom necessary but nice to be safe. DPReview A77 test says 470 shots with EVF, 530 live veiw (ie LCD) CIPA standard. I probably get more than that when VERY busy. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3, 2013 at 2:56

1 Answer 1


There are both advantages and disadvantages to EVFs. The very best ones with high-resolution and high-refresh rates are actually quite suitable for most uses when well-implemented.

The main disadvantages are:

  • Lag: There is a short lag between action happening in front of the camera and what you see.
  • Dynamic-Range: EVFs are small LCD screens and have limited dynamic-range.

Lag is a problem for action and photography where following action is critical. The limited dynamic-range means that it is possible for areas to be blocked up (either fully white or full black) without details even though there are details which will be captured.

EVFs have advantages too:

  • WYSYWYG: With Exposure-Priority displays, like the ones on Sony SLT and NEX cameras, you see something much closer to the results on your display before shooting. With a OVF, you see with you eye and therefore there is no way to know how the image will be exposed. The same is true of White-Balance.
  • Sensitivity: EVF are electronic and can have the signals amplified to produce a bright image even in dark conditions. This makes them usable for framing with ND filters. For example, with my ND400, there is still an image shown while I cannot compose with a OVF with that filter on.
  • HUD: An EVF can show detailed information overlaid on the image, including a Live-Histogram and detailed camera status. One can also navigate menus and change almost any setting with the camera at eye-level.

Some things are on the fence:

  • Focus: With 1.5 - 2.4 MP EVF it is now quite easy to judge focus. The same cannot be said about most EVFs which have a mere 200K-350K pixels. Additionally, a lot of cameras can magnify the EVF to assist MF and some can highlight high-contrast edges (focus-peaking). The remaining problem though for MF is lag. Just like the EVF lags action, it lags behind the focus-ring too and on some cameras I find it rather hard to get focus exactly right without back-and-forth movement.
  • Coverage: The vast majority of EVFs show 100% coverage. For OVFs, it is sadly the minority.

Keep in mind that implementations vary widely and plenty of EVF are not Exposure-Priority and some do not properly boost the image brightness in low-light. There are also EVFs which do not show a correct Live-Histogram.

There are also some annoyances such as the need for a camera to be on to see something. With an OVF, it is possible to frame and focus (except for lenses with fly-by-wire focus rings) with the camera off. Finally EVFs require a lot of power, often as much as having the rear LCD on, despite being smaller. This makes the battery-life similar to using Live-View and roughly half of what it is with an OVF. The actual drain depends on the specific camera of course.

  • \$\begingroup\$ How noticeable is lag in the best of current models? Is it still a concern? \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Feb 1, 2013 at 23:25
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This is nicely balanced answer. I agree that the disadvantages that you list are probably the biggest reasons more of the industry hasn't shifted to EVFs. Though I think that EVFs are closing the gap with OVFs. The jump in quality between the EVF in the A33 and the A77 was huge. @dpollitt I don't notice any lag with my A77, but I don't shoot sports. I would say that lag is not a concern for most scenarios. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 1, 2013 at 23:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ As stated, the lag is only a concern for action photography. Some are better than others. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 has the fastest update rate and even kept up at 9 FPS shooting. The Fuji X-E1 which is also state of the art but higher resolution did has a more noticeable lag. Again, we are talking in the 10ths of a second, so not problematic for mostly still subjects. \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Feb 1, 2013 at 23:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Something else, additional to what Itai has mentioned, to consider is that electronic viewfinders drain battery! And quite a lot of it to. Cheers, \$\endgroup\$
    – NULLZ
    Feb 1, 2013 at 23:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Itai. except the short battery life, I think other disadvantages are minimal and could be ignored by normal consumers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Omne
    Feb 2, 2013 at 15:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.