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Photography Question 
Alberto J. Quintero

LCD for Viewing with SLR?

I just bought my first digital SLR camera, the Canon EOS 20D. My question is: Why can't I use the viewfinder to shoot pictures? Wouldn't it be nice just to have the choice? Are all the SLR cameras the same? Is using the viewfinder not a professional thing? Or you don't get good pictures? I appreciate any comments ... thank you.

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2/24/2006 11:01:27 AM

Bob Fately   ALberto, the reason you can't watch the live scene on the LCD like you can on a point-and-shoot camera has to do with how they are designed. The CCD chip in a point-and-shoot camera sits behind the lens, and thus can be turned on to send the signal to the LCD view screen. In fact, the chips used in P&S cameras were originally made for digital movie cameras - that's why there is a slight pause between the time you press the shutter button and the time the camera snaps the shot.
An SLR design is fundamentally different. When light enters the lens, it is reflected off a mirror and through a reflecting prism to get to the eyepiece you look through. What you are seeing is the exact stream of light that is coming through the lens (thus the name single lens reflex - the light coming through the lens is reflected up to your eye). In other words, the CCD chip doesn't "see" any light until you press the shutter button, at which time the mirror flips up and out of the way and the shutter opens, exposing the chip.
Since the chips used in DSLRs are specifically designed for still shooting, there is no perceptable delay between pressing the shutter and getting the shot.
So it's not that using the LCD is "not a professional thing" - it's a technically impossible thing. On the other hand, LCDs have crude resolution compared to mirrors, so the level of detail you can spot in the SLR viewfinder is far greater than any LCD could show you. To check depth of field, for example, is a waste of time on an LCD - you can't tell anyway.

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2/24/2006 11:13:11 AM

Christopher Budny
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/3/2005
  Just wanted to say, Bob, how much information I consistently get out of your answers. Thanks for posting!

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2/24/2006 3:02:51 PM

Bob Fately   Thank you, Christopher - I'm all blushing here...
I'm just happy I can help spread some knowledge...

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2/24/2006 3:13:52 PM

Alberto J. Quintero   Jezz BOB, thakns a lot, now I understand, I know is a dummy question but I'm just a beginner ant thank you for taking your time to answer. I really appreciate it.

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2/26/2006 11:14:12 AM

anonymous A.    Well, there is ONE option: the new Olympu E-330, has continuous live color previews via the LCD, enabling SLR shooters to use it as a viewfinder, just like a compact. It's a tilt-and-swivel 2.5-inch LCD with 92% coverage for autofocus shooting and a separate preview mode provides 100% coverage for manual focusing.

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2/28/2006 5:51:17 AM

anonymous A.    I just re-read that...I don't think I was too clear. I meant to point out that Olympus have solved the problem. This is a real SLR, but because it doesn't use a prism setup to get the image into the viewfinder, they have been able to put a CMOS sensor in the viewfinder light path (looks like they used a semi-reflecting mirror to do it). So far it's the only company to have managed this, and I don't expect that Canon, Nikon or any of the manufacturers whose cameras use a pentaprism viewfinder will be in a hurry to follow.
But if you want to use an LCD viewfinder on your Canon, Alberto, there is a gadget called a Zigview which lets you do that. It fits onto the viewfinder and you can use it for those macros and low down/high up viewpoints where holding the camera to your eye is really awkward.

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2/28/2006 4:09:48 PM

Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/13/2004
  Just listing an advantage of using the normal, prism viewfinder as opposed to using the lcd screen on the back. It's usually easier to hold the camera still in lower lighting conditions if you are looking through the viewfinder on the camera. Even with the digital point and shoot cameras. I wouldn't suggest buying an SLR that would have real time LCD viewing just for that purpose. You get a lot better results looking through the normal, optical viewfinder (plus better stability by having the camera pushed against your head).

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2/28/2006 10:29:29 PM

Janet H. Flint   I wondered the same thing,and so did my son the first time he picked up my dslr, it is a neat feature of the point and shot. It does help get a better aligned image, and for me I could hold it steadier by holding it out(believe it or not) So in my brain I got thinking that it had to do with paralax error(if that's the right word). You have a better chances of chopping peoples heads off with a point and shot then you do with a slr or at least thats what I understand.So there for I thought you just didn't need that feature.But I like everyone else answer

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3/1/2006 12:04:21 AM

Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/13/2004
  In an SLR there is no paralax. There's only one lens. You're looking through the lens that you mount on the front. Go to to see how an SLR camera works. Your view of what your going to take a picture of is much better on an SLR. It's like you're looking through a telescope at something instead of letting something else look at the subject, and then trying to discern quality of focus and depth of field through a small lcd screen.

As a recap, the SLR camera system shows you exactly what will be hitting the film or digital sensor. Also, I seriously doubt that you can hold a camera more steady while it's out in front of you as opposed to when you have it against your eye and brow. Flashes don't matter because they freeze the photo anyway, but try going in doors, turning off the flash, and hand holding out infront of your body with both hands, and then try with both hands with the camera, looking through the smaller viewfinder (which doesn't really do anything on the small digital point and shoots except for let you anchor the camera like this).

unelss of course, most of this last post is talking about the point and shoot viewfinders.

The thing with the dslr is that it operates like a film slr, not a digital point and shoot. It's mostly a 35mm camera with a digital chip attached.

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3/1/2006 12:48:42 AM

Chet    I found this really cool Web SLR
interactive virtual camera. Check it out, it will show you exactly how the SLR works inside.

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3/1/2006 7:09:46 AM

Janet H. Flint   Andrew... I know there is no paralax error in slr's I have 3 of them.I know how they work. What I said was, at first I thought this was why dslr's don't have a veiwer because you don't need it. I also noticed that in dig. point and shots you were less likely to get paralax error using the screen WYSIWYG. And believe it or not, with my point and shot I am able to hold it steadier because I can lock my arms for a steadier shot and brace my feet better then I can holding it close to me. I tend to sway that way. When my arms are out straight I tend to stand like a statue and don't sway, Works for me and my son. I guess it is just the way we are. I can feel myself move when holding it close to my face and I don't feel that movement with out stretch arms it's a dicipline mind thing I suppose. I works, but then again maybe not everyone can do it. We do it indoors to with no flash. I found that you can also compose your shot better. everytime I hold it close to my face the resulting photo looks like a snap shot to much junk around. So maybe you don't agree but my shots are a lot better this way and don't look like a snap shot at all. They look more like I used an slr. I also notice that it act like a zoom without actually zooming, the camera is closer and not you.And you can avoid going in to digital zoom which is crappy.

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3/1/2006 9:44:28 AM

anonymous A.    Referring to every camera that isn't SLR as "P&S" gives the wrong impression of the style of photography and the capacity of the camera; and a lot of SLRs are P&S affairs!
I know we are getting a bit off the original question, but I wanted to support Janet. I have a few SLRs, film and digital, plus a couple of digital compacts, One is point-and-shoot, the other an advanced non-SLR. There are many times when using the LCD makes you steadier: apart from being able to get into a more stable posture as Janet described, you can place the camera on a solid surface or against a wall, tree, on the ground etc without having to press your face against it (not always desirable or even possible); you can use the strap stretched tight at arms length...lots of things. In every case, you can still compose the image accurately, because the LCD gives the same through-the-lens viewpoint as an SLR. You could describe digital as single lens non-reflex cameras (the "reflex" in SLR refers to the light being bent by reflecting off mirrors and through prisms to get to your eye). Good LCDs even let you judge depth of field, and the on-screen shooting information is not only easier to read, it can also be turned on and off at the press of a button. Even astronomy and microscopic work is done almost exclusively with non-optical viewfinders now!

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3/1/2006 12:45:24 PM

Janet H. Flint   David R...Thanks for your comments. I thought for a minute maybe I was imagining things. But it is a useful little feature. And I missed it at first when I bought my dSLR and my son was looking for it too upon his inspection of my new camera.But I must confess it was my son who got me into that habit. He borrowed my Canon A20 not to long after I got it when his daughter was born and I never saw it for a while and he taught me the trick.He was getting better pic's out of it then I was. Because it also was slower to react he told me to use the focus lock to get the shot at the right moment.( aren't son's that borrow stuff wonderful). I have to agree with you about the P&S thing too. I use the discription in my not so camera smart circle( not that I'm the brightess flash in the world) so thry know what camera I used or am talking about. One other way is to say my little camera or my big camera.Then they know.It may seem like we get off track but I have noticed that you learn just the same or more.

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3/1/2006 10:19:01 PM

  I'm learning more about my dslr every day. Thanks folks.

Have fun and keep shooting,

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3/2/2006 12:25:43 AM

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