It Starts with a Screen

We are abandoning rangefinders and optical viewfinders in DSLRs in favour of EVFs - mirrorless is the future. But this means we now start with an electronic screen - the very beginning of a photograph is now looking at the world on a sub-1” LCD or OLED before pressing the shutter. This feels different to viewing through the window of an optical finder, not necessarily worse, just different. It is difficult to describe, but it just feels a bit disconnected, less real and I do miss a “real” viewfinder, particularly that of my old Leica M3, despite the improved information and other electronic enhancements that are available.

Whether we use the viewfinder or the rear screen to compose, we are now staring at a screen, an image, not the real thing.

For street and travel photography, I prefer the EVF to the rear screen most of the time, although the screen seems to be the more modern way of taking pictures, certainly in phone photography. In fact, looking at a comparatively large screen rather than through a tiny viewfinder is an older way of working - think of view cameras and traditional medium format cameras from Rolleiflex or Hasselblad, where you are looking at a large ground glass screen that was likely missed when the first “tiny viewfinder” Leica rangefinders and SLRs appeared.

The forthcoming Zeiss ZX1 (which I am quite excited about) takes this still further - this camera potentially cuts out the computer completely by having Adobe Lightroom CC “on-board” and so potentially takes images from viewfinder EVF screen to the final viewing screen, Instagram, Flickr, etc., in a way no other “proper camera” has done before. In truth, whilst this is a convenient way of getting the images into the post-processing environment, I suspect further work on images will continue on a computer or at least an iPad before final output. Although of course final output, more often than not means another screen rather than a print anyway.

I guess it’s all innovation and in fact I think it is admirable when I see smaller camera manufacturers like Zeiss innovating, disrupting the industry and overtaking the relatively slow and conservative progress of the bigger manufacturers. I don’t think Zeiss will be alone for long with a camera built around a post processing, cloud connected computing platform.

Of course we can always print more - it doesn’t have to end with a screen!

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