Quick infomercial on VIEWFINDERS and size, etc. (D700)

Started Jun 30, 2008 | Discussions thread
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matthew saville
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Quick infomercial on VIEWFINDERS and size, etc. (D700)
Jun 30, 2008

Alright there seems to be a TON of controversy surrounding the D700 and it's alleged 95% viewfinder coverage.

Now, whether or not the spec is true I will not say, but I do think it's necessary to put together a little something on viewfinders so we can help improve the level of knowledge around here.

Basically, you have more than one factor playing into the actual viewfinder's physical size:

COVERAGE: This is the accuracy around the edges of the viewfinder's frame. If a viewfinder has 100% coverage, that means what you see through your viewfinder is exactly what you will see captured in the image, even the exact details around the edges of the frame. If a viewfinder has 95% coverage, or anything less than 100%, that means that the image you capture will have a little bit MORE around the edges compared to what you saw in the viewfinder. Most of us realized this when we would carefully frame a tree branch / light pole etc. to be juuuuust outside the viewfinder, only to have it show up a few pixels into the image upon actual capture.

The reason for going with a sub-100% viewfinder coverage is not really to save viewfinder size, but more to save on MFG costs. I'll let another photographer comment further on this if they are knowledgable, but the bottom line is that any time you can slack off in your tolerances, you save money.

Viewfinder coverage alone does NOT dictate viewfinder "size".

MAGNIFICATION: This is the actual size of the viewfinder with relation to the physical size of the sensor. If you had, for example, a 100% magnification (1.0x) viewfinder, that means the image you see inside the viewfinder would be the same size as the sensor within the camera. (aside from the "wiggle room" afforded by using a 95% "coverage" viewfinder, of course...)

Magnification PLUS viewfinder coverage is what truly dictates the viewfinder's actual appearance of size. There is also something called eyepoint and relief, but that is not as important to the current ruckus surrounding the D700's (alleged) viewfinder specs. That has more to do with whether or not you wear glasses. Someone who knows, please feel free to explain these terms if you think it would help!

Also, the quality of the prism used can affect the brightness, but again that is something I don't think is under much debate right now. Both Nikon and Canon tend to use high-quality prisms in their high-end bodies... And FX prisms in general are going to SEEM brighter than DX prisms, simply because there IS more light coming in, period.

So, let's compare some cameras...

Basically, like I said it is a combination of the magnification and the coverage that dictates what you see through the viewfinder. In the past, beginner and amateur cameras have had pretty decent coverage, somewhere around 95%, but have skimped on the magnification in order to fit a pop-up flash on top without making it too enormous. (Myth: pro bodies omit a pop-up flash to accommodate such a big viewfinder- in reality, it is MOSTLY a status symbol and a marketing move...)

But, again, you can have 100% coverage but still have a very small viewfinder if the magnification isn't up to snuff, OR, you can have 95% coverage but still have a pretty large viewfinder, if the magnification is stellar. Lastly, it's entirely possible that an FX body (for example the D700) can have a pop-up flash but STILL have a stellar viewfinder...

For example, since the Canon 5D only has 71% (0.71x) magnification and 96% coverage, the D300's viewfinder with 94% magnification and 100% coverage comes quite close to actually matching it. In fact the 1.2x DK-17M eyepiece magnifier puts the D300 viewfinder PAST the 5D...

The same will go with the D700, when compared to the D3 and the D300.

First of all, let's be honest: You all were so adamant that a D700 type camera could NEVER be made because it would kill D3 and D300 sales. And yet, here it is. (well, we'll see if it really IS soon enough...) So, just get ready to accept the fact that, in order to differentiate the flagship bodies from the semi-pro and advanced amateur bodies, the D700 won't have 100% VF coverage. That's HARDLY a big price to pay for the D3's sensor quality plus the D300's speed and compactness in a $3000 package!

Secondly, has ANYONE heard specs on the D700's magnification? I think many are failing to realize this: The D700 could still have a HUGE viewdinder compared to the D300 if the D700's magnification is decent. I highly doubt Nikon would go any lower than 0.8x, and hopefully they will shoot for 0.9x. If they achieved 0.9x magnification and 95% coverage, nobody should complain.

I hope this little explanation of viewfinders has helped people understand a little more. I also hope that people will not freak out if the D700's 95% coverage spec proves to be true.

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Cameras capable of making great photographs have become commonplace these days, but photographers have not. While technical innovations have made photography ever easier in recent decades, the art of producing images that other people will care about has become even more formidable. Galen Rowell

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