My beloved Canon G151 is in a sorry state and I want to replace it with something of a similar size with an optical eye-level viewfinder.

In 2011 a question was asked about point and shoot's with optical viewfinders and the marked answer (How do I find a point-and-shoot camera with an optical viewfinder?) suggested using Neocamera to search for such cameras.

I just did that, and the only 2 cameras that turned up were the Canon Powershot A1400 and the G16 — both released in 2013.

Is there something I am missing, or is my next camera purchase going to have to be a 3 year old camera?


Some of the replies/comments have asked for justification2 as to why I want an OVF instead of an EVF (or even no VF). So here are some of my (rational/luddite - you pick) points of view.

  1. I am well aware of the offset geometry of the OVF on the G15 and have learnt to deal with it.

  2. I also own various SLR's and DSLR's and know about being presented with information in the VF display.

  3. I have never had a camera with an EVF before and have always considered the EVF view to be inferior to an OVF in terms of laggy-ness, color, and resolution.

  4. I believe that with an OVF the image I see is projected to my eye at the effective distance of the subject from me, but for an EVF I fear that the image is going to be a fixed distance close to my eye - and I am not going to be happy with that.

  5. I want to keep a physical, eye-level VF (of any sort) because I feel it assists me in composing photos by isolating my eye from things that the camera can't see.

  6. FWIW I do wear glasses and my prescription goes well past what any VF diopter adjustment on any camera I have owned can compensate for.

Now many of the above points can be marshaled into a discussion of "How does an OVF compare with an EVF". That is a separate question to the one I am asking here, and I don't want this question to morph in that direction. I may actually ask a separate OVF vs EVF question to better flesh out the details.

I had to choose an answer

Both mattdm's and inkista's replies were good and answered my question, but were slightly different in their approaches. As per many other people I wanted to choose both, but this being a stack exchange site there can only be one so I did what any rational person would do and tossed coin. Mattdm won the the coin toss but I was already leaning to this answer as he did some more searches and proved my supposition.

1. I love this camera for its size, weight, optical view finder, full manual controls and RAW shooting.

2. I shouldn't have to justify why I want something!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you perhaps try and explain why an optical viewfinder is so important to you? \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Jul 31, 2016 at 6:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PhilipKendall I just added some of my rationale for an OVF \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter M
    Jul 31, 2016 at 16:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ The optical viewfinder of a DSLR DOES project the image at some fixed distance. Also, certain focusing screens are worse than good EVFs (which grow in resolution). And: shutter lag combined with viewfinder lag is actually smaller on many mirrorless cameras than on DSLRs. Other than that, 2013 is not that old. You may even consider an option of buying two or more of used G15s instead of G16. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 31, 2016 at 21:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comment only: The suitably desperate can add extra optical correction to a viewfinder. If you have existing diopter adjustment then the combination can be fixed and then adjusted using the diopter adjustment. I'm presently 'playing' with LCD viewing using add on lenses to give me an EVF using the rear LCD on an OVF-EVF-less camera. You can buy such but they tend to not meet my desires. I'm using many different lenses to 'play' but fixed diopter spectatcle lenses may beet the need. Even cheap plastic ones may be 'good enough. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 31, 2016 at 21:58
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Point 5 on the EVF list is, imo, not really relevant--EVFs are physical eye-level viewfinders--that's how they differ from back-LCDs. And we're not asking you to justify, just to explain so we can get a better grasp of the problem you're trying to solve. Many of us have gone from decades of OVF use to EVFs, so we're not speaking theoretically about their usability. \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Jul 31, 2016 at 23:26

3 Answers 3


Are optical viewfinders on point and shoot cameras now dead? Probably, yeah.

I notice that in the 2011 answer to the other question you link, Itai suggests that they were then a "dying breed", and that seems to have become completely true.

I did a search on Digital Photography Review's database of all compact cameras with any type of optical finder, and — not counting the rangefinder-like Fujifilm X100 models — the latest showings are the two you found plus the Fujifilm X20, with nothing newer than July 2013. So, this confirms your results from Neocamera.

So, since it's been three years since any new model with optical viewfinders, I think it's pretty safe to say that they are dead. It's possible that there will be a resurgence, but I doubt it. That's because:

  1. The mass market is clearly happy with using the rear LCD for everything, and many people actually prefer it. ("Why would I look at a tiny screen when I have the option of a big one!?") I'm not saying you should prefer it (I certainly don't), but it seems the market has spoken.
  2. The "tunnel" style optical viewfinders in compact cameras have a lot of flaws — as the term "tunnel" kind of implies. They're tiny and dark. But more, they don't necessarily match the lens's framing, don't work well with superzoom, and don't show you if you've got some close obstruction (your hand or the lens cap!) ruining the picture. Many people for whom the immediacy of an optical viewfinder is important are drawn to the other advantages of a DSLR (or advanced mirrorless), and so don't produce market demand. Again, you don't have to agree — but it affects your options anyway.
  3. Electronic viewfinders have gotten really good. They are bright, accurate, and have 60 or 100 fps refresh rates. Factor #1 above means that many compacts don't have a separate eye-level EVF, but it's a big enough niche that you can find recent models from big names like Panasonic, Sony, and Fujifilm — and in fact the Canon G5 X, arguably a successor to your G15.

As anecdotal evidence, I tried the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 when it was released several years ago. It has a clever mechanism where you can switch between an EVF and an optical finder. I had initially thought I would use the optical finder 99% of the time and the EVF was a novelty — but by the end of the week, I was primarily using the EVF. It turned out to be much better in low light, and it's really cool to see the effects of white balance, tone curves, and other settings. And that was several years ago — the technology now blows that one out of the water.

So, I'd suggest one of two things.

First, as everyone is suggesting, give the EVF another chance. You can rent a G5 X for about $50 for five days — see what you think. Or try one of the Panasonic or Sony options; I don't really have an opinion and I'm sure they're all good, although you should note that the G5 X has a much larger 1" sensor. It's a tiny bit larger and heavier than your current camera, but not by much, and since you really love that one, I bet you'll be at home with it in no time.

Or, if you're not happy with that, try a DSLR. This will give you a much better optical viewfinder experience. I'd suggest one with a pentaprism finder instead of a pentamirror, for best quality, but even an pentamirror will be better than a tunnel finder.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the G15 because I have been traveling a lot more for work and didn't want to haul around my DSLR (and my fav. Nikon 80-200 AF-D lens). But it look like I will have to test out an EVF, which raises the separate question of where do you focus your eye? With an OVF you look through it. But I fear with an EVF you look at it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter M
    Jul 31, 2016 at 16:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterM True — you look at it. That's also true of the viewfinders in a DSLR, which form an image on a ground glass. This is why most cameras offer a diopter correction for the viewfinder. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jul 31, 2016 at 16:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ But what is the effective distance from the eye of an EVF? My gut feeling is that for an OVF it's way out there, and for an EVF its a lot closer. This is a whole question in itself. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter M
    Jul 31, 2016 at 16:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, sounds like a great new question. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Aug 1, 2016 at 5:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ That does sound like a good question. I'd hope and expect that the answer would be your eyes focus at infinity. \$\endgroup\$
    – PeterT
    Aug 1, 2016 at 6:35

What you're missing is that most compact cameras will use an electronic viewfinder, rather than an optical one, if they have a viewfinder at all. Apparently a lot of folks don't mind composing and shooting from an LCD screen on the back of the camera.

The Powershot G's viewfinder has several drawbacks. It can be blocked by an accessory tube. It only shows 85% of the scene. It has little to no shooting data displayed in it. It exhibits parallax.

An EVF, by comparison, using liveview can show you pretty much exactly what you're going to get, along with a live histogram, level, exposure simulation, focus peaking, manual focus assist, etc. etc. Sure, it's more of a power draw, and eye relief with glasses may be an issue, but it's quite a bit more functional for most folks.

The Powershot Gs have also mostly fallen out of favor as a "enthusiast compact" because of the small sensor size (1/1.7", roughly 5x crop). Cameras like the Sony RX-100 series, Panasonic's LX-100, and Canon's Powershot Gx X cameras, which have 1"-format (2.7x-2x crop) and larger sensors in them are now the more typical recommendations for that class of camera, and the ones with viewfinders sport EVFs.

The only popular current non-dSLR digital cameras that sport an optical/hybrid viewfinder are probably the Fuji X100 and X-Pro cameras, but that's more about simulating an old rangefinder experience, and they're much larger/bulkier/expensive than the old Powershot Gs.

An optical viewfinder was always a rare feature on compact digitals, and the Powershot Gs were the lone holdouts. Now that the Gs are gone in favor of the Gx Xs it's going to be hard to find one.

Personally, I'd say maybe it's time to go EVF and look at an LX-100 or G5X (which are pretty much the same size/weight, and also have M mode, RAW capability, and a flash hotshoe). Or give up the idea of a viewfinder altogether.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I know the disadvantage of the OVF in the G15 but I have learnt to compensate for them. But one of the EVF downsides you mention is wearing glasses - which I do. And I am not giving up on a physical viewfinder - I find they help me compose a picture by isolating me from the rest of the world. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter M
    Jul 31, 2016 at 16:09
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterM, maybe it's time to save up pennies for a Fuji X100-series camera, then. That's what I did. :) I would also suggest trying EVFs before dismissing them altogether, as they differ quite a bit from model-to-model. I also wear glasses, and can easily use the EVF on my Panasonic GX-7; I suspect the LX100's EVF is similar. \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Jul 31, 2016 at 19:48

Look at the Panasonic DMC-ZS50 and the older DMC-ZS40. These have both an eyelevel electronic viewfinder and the LCD screen on the back. The DMC-ZS40 has GPS which optionally records date, time, country, city, country, and nearby landmark. Example July 30, 2016 USA California Orange County Disneyland. The ZS40 is discontinued but still available now on sale at Costco. The ZS50 and some newer - have slight improvements but no GPS. I travel with the ZS40 - have two incase one goes poof.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ How are they optical viewfinders? At the moment, this seems to me you plugging the cameras you like rather than making any attempt to understand the poster's requirements. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Jul 31, 2016 at 6:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Philip Kendall -- My interpretation: A point-and-shoot is not an SLR so it’s the viewfinder that counts, it allows composing and framing in bright light. You can debate optical vs. electric however the future of camera design, I think, will be electronic the viewfinders. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 31, 2016 at 14:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Which would be a much better answer than mentioning specific models. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Jul 31, 2016 at 15:03

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