What Is a Viewfinder on a Camera? Everything You Need to Know

what is a viewfinder on a camera

The viewfinder is always forgotten and taken advantage of on your DSLR camera. The reason being, many may not know what a viewfinder on a camera is.

So, what is a viewfinder on a camera?


The camera viewfinder is that rectangle you see on the top of your camera. Models of DSLR cameras change, new improvements, new specifications. However, one component that remains is the camera viewfinder.


Think of your camera viewfinder as your eyes to the world as you snap your photos. Your creativity comes from this little viewfinder. How you see your images through your viewfinder is what you will remember as you photograph your subject. Your viewfinder is your memory.


The pro to your camera’s viewfinder is the fact that it stabilizes your camera better. It’s your assistant when getting your camera shot set up. To do so, brace your camera against your face and have your arms tucked in. This move will help you set up the right shot through your viewfinder. The setup will also result in sharper images.


optical viewfinder camera

Pentaprisms vs. pentamirrors


When it comes to learning what is a viewfinder on a camera, there are two main types of viewfinders: pentaprisms and pentamirrors. With a pentaprism, it uses a prism, which redirects the light from the lens going back to the camera viewfinder (like a prism). Many pentaprisms come from professional-level DLSR cameras. Many find pentaprisms as higher quality than the pentamirrors. Pentamirrors redirects the light through a series of mirrors. Though pentaprisms are often preferred because they have a brighter image when you look in the viewfinder camera, with pentamirrors, you will find them on cameras that are entry-level DSLRs. They are made of plastic as they are cheap and mass-produced.


What is a viewfinder on a camera? Optical vs electronic


Camera viewfinders are often either optical or electronic. DSLR cameras have a through the lens (TTL) viewfinder. TTL allows the photographer to look through the lens. The photographer will then see what the lens projects onto the sensor.


With compact cameras, you will notice that the viewfinder is parallel to the camera lens. You see if often different from what projects onto the sensor by the lens. The difference between optical and electronic viewfinders? Optical does not use power at all. Digital (electronic) viewfinders are typically the liquid crystal display (LCD) screen found on the back of the DLSR camera.


what is a viewfinder on a camera

electronic camera viewfinder
electronic camera viewfinder

LCD screens are often for checking or reviewing photos and film footage. LCDs also display camera menus, functions, and other features on the camera. You will see some digital compact cameras with LCDs that flip or pop-out for different viewing angles. You will quickly find that it is tough when shooting outdoors. You can’t see the image on the LCD if it is too bright. That is where an optical viewfinder comes in handy.


optical camera viewfinder
Optical camera viewfinder

Optical viewfinders feature a diopter. The optical viewfinder is helpful for photographers wearing vision correction like eyeglasses. The diopter is the same thing as your eyeglasses. The feature corrects your vision, bringing the picture into focus. The diopter helps dial in focus, get you a sharp image of whether or not you have glasses on. Sometimes diopters are in the eyepiece. Sometimes that snap on or slide on. Their standard correction range is -3 to +1.


Need to adjust your diopter? Focus the camera on the subject or object, then look through the camera viewfinder. You are going to adjust. Don’t stop adjusting until you see it sharply. Alternatively, you can look through the viewfinder and monitor when your digital readings are in focus.


What is a viewfinder on a camera’s magnification?


There is a magnification number that is associated with the viewfinder camera. The spec sheet will tell you what this number is. For instance, when the sheet says the viewfinder has a 1X magnification, you will know while looking through your 50mm lens, the image is the same as if you were right next to your camera using your eyes.


Your image size depends on the focal length of your lens. Focal lengths differ, making wide-angle lens objects in the foreground look large. Mid-ground objects would then be small and further away. Telephoto lenses are going to bring objects close to you and rather large. Make sure you know what the focal length of your lens is before going out to shoot.