Why I Rarely Use The Viewfinder Since Switching To Mirrorless

I shoot and compose mostly by the LCD screen these days. This is the direct result of the mirrorless revolution.

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I realize I shoot more like a video guy - less any external monitor. I almost exclusively shoot via the LCD screen. In fact, I've disabled the EVF feature on my Sony A7iii in order to save battery, making my LCD shooting style king of the roost. There are several crucially beneficial reasons for this, which I'll bullet point for you before I go into specifics.


* It's faster than shooting by EVF/OVF (i.e. great for street photography)

* Creates a lower profile for photographer (i.e. great for street photography)

* Larger screen by which to compose

* Allows you to shoot one-handed

* Allows for greater situational awareness

* Allows for more natural interactions with your subjects

I'm sure there have been more than a couple professional photographers who have watched me shoot and have silently muttered to themselves. The fact is, I'm doing the same thing when I notice that they've just purchased the latest dead-end DSLR offering by Canon or Nikon.


Jesting aside, this isn't a piece I've written to convince anyone to shoot the way I do. I couldn't care less. But I often wonder why other photographers who are shooting mirrorless don't make use of one of the greatest under-appreciated tools on their cameras: the all-humble LCD screen. Time for the details.


It's faster than shooting by EVF /OVF


This isn't my opinion. It's a fact. There are more actions/movements required to raise the camera to one's eye versus simply raising the camera up to eye level. Consider the extra motion required shooting "old style." Do you know what that motion is?


For argument's sake, let's assume that raising the camera to the eye piece is all one motion. And I think for the veteran shooter, it is. What's the second motion? Allow me to ask you to demonstrate.


Pretend you have a camera in both hands at waist-level. The obvious motion when you raise your camera to your eyes is one of elevation change. But - the extra motion you may not have noticed is your shoulders scrunching up when your place your eye next to the imaginary eye piece. Repeat the exercise a few times and to get the full gist of the effect.


Try the same exercise with your imaginary camera using the LCD screen. There's no shoulder scrunching involved because you're not required to bring the camera to your eye.


If we're talking speed for speed's sake, and this does matter in street photography, the LCD shooter will always be faster than the old style shooter, with all other factors being equal.


Creates a lower profile for photographer


Much like people on their phones, the photographer without the camera raised to his or her eye has a lower profile automatically. There's something about several decades worth of photographers with cameras pressed to their eyes which have left a cultural impact. At the very least, when I see a photographer without the camera pressed to his or her eye, I either think there's video work at play or no work being done. To top it off, decades worth of movies where every photographer has the camera raised up to the eye. These scenes are engrained in peoples' memories. I think this holds true for a majority of us still in 2020.


Now, using the LCD screen isn't a guarantee that you're going to have a lower profile all the time but the impact is mostly positive in my experience. As a foreigner in India, I stand out, especially with my camera. But when I carry my camera at chest level (a common practice) I find it much easier to shoot street photography. The very posture seems to not attract as much attention.


Larger screen by which to compose


Another fact which is often overlooked: the LCD is a larger tool by which to compose your shots. I know the EVF isn't the highest resolution on my Sony A7iii compared to later models or even some of the new Canon mirrorless offerings. But I've always been able to compose just fine with it. That being said, I seldom use it anymore. Besides being a larger viewing monitor, the fact that I'm able to use the flip-out screen in order to shoot low, high, or at odd angles which would normally be very difficult or impossible to shoot using the EVF, is a huge benefit to me.


Allows you to shoot one-handed


I don't shoot one-handed as a standard practice, but there are times when being able to have one hand free is another huge advantage. I'll sometimes find myself shooting one-handed when I'm photographing a model in someplace where I have to temporarily hold his or her bags, most commonly at the beach, when putting things down in the water isn't going to happen and leaving everything unattended further away from the water isn't a possibility either due to the real dangers of theft.


Just the other day I had two bags curled up in my free arm and a jacket slung around the same shoulder as I shot the model (and very easily, I'll add) one-handed. Another example from a recent shoot was when I was in Kolkata shooting in a railway colony. A train was whizzing by me and I was shooting passengers standing in the passenger compartments. Every few seconds I had to glance behind me to make sure another train wasn't coming from the opposite direction to avoid getting killed! So I held the camera in place one-handed and continued to snap a frame or two while I checked over my shoulder. This allowed me to hold my framing on my subjects as I performed a completely different action.


Additionally, sometimes I'll have my model framed up and I'll look up from my screen and give instructions with my free hand. This allows me to communicate effectively and get better shots.


Allows for greater situational awareness


I shoot a lot in crowded places. There are times when I'm completely surrounded by people and others when I'm mostly alone in unfamiliar locales - and want to be completely aware of my immediate environment. I feel that there are times when it wouldn't be in my best interest to have a camera continuously pressed to my eye because I would lose the advantages offered by being able to view the world at 360 degrees if necessary while still shooting (i.e. while framing/shooting one-handed). Or at least I have a 180 view by default when I'm holding my camera out in front of me and framing my subjects. This is another huge perk for the street photographer or for travellers in unfamiliar places who need to be alert at all times.


Allows for more natural interactions with your subjects


I touched on this perk in the one-handed section. But typically I'll be using both hands while framing my model or subject and being able to make eye contact is a huge bonus. To put models at ease when we first begin shooting together, I'll joke around or make light conversation once I've framed them up. I may even be shooting in silent mode or I'll mention that I'm just taking test shots. Whichever the case, the fact that I can have a conversation face-to-face without a piece of gear glued to my eye is perhaps the best advantage of the LCD screen as a tool. The focus becomes on the work at hand without the needless motion of raising the camera to my eye constantly.


It's funny that the very thought of using the EVF sounds absolutely silly to me these days. I consider it a disadvantage for the kind of photography that I do. I know how this must appear to more traditionally-minded and trained photographers out there but again, I couldn't care less about appearances. I get my shots. And that's all that matters.

© 2019-2020 By Craig Boehman

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