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What is an EVF? Electronic viewfinders explained

If you’ve been considering picking up a new mirrorless camera, you may have heard the term EVF, or electronic viewfinder. 

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about electronic viewfinders, including what they are, what they do and how they differ from optical viewfinders. 

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What is an EVF? 

An EVF (electronic viewfinder) is a type of viewfinder that uses a small screen to display what a camera sees. EVFs are typically found at the top of mirrorless cameras, allowing photographers to hold the camera up toward their eye to frame and capture an image. 

EVFs differ from the optical viewfinders traditionally found in DSLRs that use mirrors and prisms to reflect exactly what the camera sees up to the user’s eye, as well as the optical viewfinders on point-and-shoot cameras that give the photographer a good idea of the final image via a hole above the lens. 

Rather than showing a reflected or similar image, an electronic viewfinder projects a live preview of the image to an OLED or LCD screen. For this reason, EVFs have both advantages and drawbacks compared to traditional optical viewfinders. 

What is the advantage of EVF? 

One of the main advantages of using an EVF is that electronic viewfinders can show the effects of in-camera settings, such as exposure, white balance and filters, on the final image. This should give the photographer a more accurate idea of the image they’re capturing even if the perspective that optical viewfinders offer is technically more true to what the user would see in real life.

Electronic viewfinders can also compensate for low-light levels, meaning they’re able to offer a clearer view of the subject when shooting in dim and dingy environments. 

There are also a number of disadvantages to using an EVF, though these can vary depending on the price of the camera and the quality of the viewfinder. 

When they first came out EVFs had slower refresh rates, meaning there would be a lag between what the lens can see and what is projected on the tiny screen. This was an issue particularly when shooting fast-moving subjects, such as cars, sports and wildlife, in which timing is crucial to getting the shot. However, many high-end cameras are equipped with 120fps EVFs these days, making this less of a problem. 

One still prevalent issue with electronic viewfinders is that they’re a bigger drain on power than optical viewfinders. This means the battery life can be worse on mirrorless cameras compared to DSLRs, prompting photographers to carry around an extra battery or stop to charge more often.

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