NikonCoolpixAW100_LCDIf you’re looking for a waterproof camera with a viewfinder you might as well resort to looking for a needle in a haystack. Unfortunately, none of the current point and shoot waterproof cameras have a viewfinder. All of them have been made with LCD displays.  Some photography experts say this is because consumers requested the change while others state it is the choice of the manufacturer.

In May 2010, Terry Sullivan of Consumer Reports.org noted that optical viewfinders were non-existent in digital cameras particularly the subcompacts models.  About three quarters of the consumers surveyed in 2009, found a viewfinder useful and about 35 percent of them stated they wanted one in their next camera.

Manufacturers reported the reason for the lack of the device in cameras was due to trends where they felt that consumers wanted smaller point and shoots with larger LCD screens, which in their opinion outweighed the importance of including an optical viewfinder. Additionally, there was no room on the camera to add the device with the inclusion of a three inch or larger LCD display. Because optical zoom ratings are over 10x, it has made it difficult to create a small and accurate viewfinder that can operate at the same range as the lens.

In the past, some consumers complained that using the LCD display made it harder to frame their subject especially when attempting action shots.  At night or in bright sunlight it was almost impossible to see the subject or even take an accurate picture. For casual swimmers or scuba divers, it’s also a bit easier to frame the photo with the LCD screen as opposed to squinting through the viewfinder and the diving mask.

Further, LCD use affects battery life and when using it to compose and focus your subject it may sometime require users to hold the camera away from their body. This creates camera shake that may result in the shot being distorted or in the case of underwater usage, it causes the user to destabilize in the water which makes it difficult to keep their subject in view.

Another issue which appears to be specific to users with vision challenges is not being able to see the LCD display without their glasses. For example, someone that wears readers can use a viewfinder, but have to wear glasses in order to use the LCD for framing a subject and then taking the picture.

Nikon Coolpix P1700Most consumers favor having a viewfinder on their camera because it makes them feel connected to the subject, it works best in bright light situations, increases battery life and makes it easier to steady the camera and frame subjects. The typical optical viewfinder shows about 85 percent of the actual scene, so the final image will have a much larger crop than what you see. Some users have found that viewfinders don’t always provide a lot of clarity; they don’t display camera settings or show the effects of lens extensions and filters. A viewfinder doesn’t provide setting information just a means of being able to predict the outcome of your photograph.

There are some positives for the LCD display and that is users can do more with it than the viewfinder. For example, it’s easier to hold a point and shoot in awkward positions and angles. This would be impossible to do with a viewfinder because you can’t contort your body for unusual point of views in order to get that great picture.

The LCD display on the other hand, usually shows 99 to 100% of the scene, displays the effects of any extensions or filters, and provides feedback on the camera settings. Some LCD screens use anti-reflective coatings to improve bright-light performance, but even this solution may not work when you’re shooting outdoors.

Some consumers believe manufactures have discarded the viewfinder in favor of competing against each other with bigger and better compact digital cameras. Because it’s so difficult to find a waterproof camera with a viewfinder, consumers are limited to purchasing a SLR or DSLR. These cameras have a viewfinder, but are not waterproof which means you would have to purchase either a waterproof bag or casing for it. In the case of waterproof cameras, manufacturers may believe that in order to reduce any possible leakage points, the solution was to eliminate the viewfinder.

Camera makers have responded to some of the issues involving LCD displays by modifying the dot counts which increased image quality, added anti-glare glass which limits reflections therefore decreasing interference when viewing and framing subjects. With improved contrast, backlighting and viewing angles this solved the issue of users not being able to view images in bright light situations.

Nikon Coolpix P1700Because both types have drawbacks, the ideal solution is to have both an optical and LCD viewfinder. Tiny cameras usually don’t have room for optical viewfinders and so rely solely on LCD screens. If you’re drawn to pocket-sized cameras, you need to consider if you can deal with just having an LCD viewfinder.

Currently, there is a movement in growing for manufacturers to commit to re-installing viewfinders in their compact point and shoot cameras. Although, they have not done so in the “specialty” cameras so to speak, consumers have noticed viewfinders are beginning to show up in some of the newer digital compact cameras.

There are a number of camera models available that have a viewfinder, but they are strictly point-and-shoot, not waterproof. Canon took the lead in including a viewfinder in their compacts, but most of the models released in 2011, were notably very expensive. Now, the pressure is on for other manufacturers to get in the game with the challenge of coming out with an affordable model. Some of these that have a viewfinder include the Canon PowerShot A1300,Sony CyberShot DSC-HX200V or the Nikon CoolPix P7100.

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