Ok, I know I’m going to be in the minority on this. But keep an open mind. There is a different way and there are distinct advantages too.
I’m talking about EVFs (Electronic View Finders). I don’t use them, thank you very much. You know I take a lot of photos and all of my Olympus Pen and Sony NEX photos were taken without using an EVF. Yes, it’s possible and it works great.
Yes, I know. You say I’m crazy. You might even lose a little respect for me as a photographer. My friend, Kirk Tuck, professional photographer and uber blogger always lets me have it when we meet for lunch. He aways makes some snarky comment (In a totally nice way) about my use of the “Stinky Baby Diaper Hold” or even worse, the “Hipster Hold”. Kirk is referring to the method of holding your camera at arms length and using the rear LCD to frame your shot. Yes, guilty as charged. I do in fact do that.
But you know, I’m old enough now that I don’t really care how I look when I take my photos. I think it’s the results that count. I counter Kirk with, “Turn off that targeting computer and use the force”. This, of course, refers to the climatic battle scene in Star Wars (Episode 4: A New Hope, for you youngins) where Luke Skywalker is attempting to blow up the Death Star.
Ever look through those EVFs? Those tiny screens with all those numeric readouts and a level that looks like you are trying to fly a plane (or a X wing fighter)? Totally distracting and annoying (yes, I do know that those extra readouts can be turned off). I prefer to use a more free form method of composition. One where the force directs me to find an image and composition that feels right.
Consider this. When you use an EVF or optical view finder, you are usually shooting from the same height. Most people mash their camera to their face and shoot from a 4 to 6 foot level. Only the more enlightened or diligent shoot from greatly differing heights. And try using a viewfinder from ground level. That means that you either need to squat, sit or lie down on the ground. Very few people do this. As a result, people get boring results, images shot from the same height. By using the rear LCD, you get a more freeform movement, better able to compose from different angles and varying heights.
When shooting people, I have a better interaction with them when I casually hold the camera in front of me. I can see them and converse with them eye to eye, while I shoot. Use an EVF and the camera covers the face. They end up talking to a camera instead of a person.
During precise framing, either handheld or on tripod, I see my composition better on a bigger screen. Many of my architecture shots require exact centering. For me, the bigger the screen the easier it is. The EVF or even optical view finders are harder. Heck, even on my DSLRs, I prefer using live view mode when framing my shots on tripod.
All of my HDRs are shot on tripod and framed from the rear LCD. Again, no need for a EVF.
There are size and cost advantages too when not using an EVF. Of course, cameras without EVFs are much smaller. That’s why I use mirroress cameras. I like to get the highest quality possible in the smallest and lightest form factor. EVFs just add bulk. Cameras without EVFs are also a heck of a lot less expensive too. Mirrorless cameras with EVFs usually run closer to $1000. Subtract the EVF and you chop at least $200 to $300 off the price.
Yes, and to be fair, there are advantages to EVFs — you don’t have to tell me. Two come to mind, immediately. First, in bright conditions, like day time in the bright Texas sun, the rear LCD does become harder to see. EVFs certainly help in these cases. Also, in darker conditions, using an EVF and holding the camera to your face offers more stability. You can better shoot with slower shutter speeds.
So here is where my subject matter gives me the advantage for going EVF free. I usually don’t shoot in the daytime. I’m primarily an evening, night or indoor shooter. But even in bright light, the rear LCDs have gotten good enough that I can frame the shot. As for low-light, slow shutter speed shooting, that’s why I prefer to use the Olympus cameras that have in-body image stabilization. For extra stability, I pull the camera strap tight against my neck, as I pull the camera away from me. Using these two methods have allowed me to shoot at 1/10 of a second or slower.
Still think I’m crazy? Perhaps you might give it a try, Many people love shooting with their smartphones. These tiny, always available tools give people a freedom that the typical larger cameras don’t offer. Well, I basically shoot my mirrorless cameras like people shoot their smartphones. Freeform and fun. Except I get a really high quality image, one that I can use professionally when the need arises.