Top positive review
675 people found this helpful
The EVF Will Change The Way You Use Your Camera (For The Better)
on October 30, 2011
My rating reflects the camera as a whole. I bought it, use it and love it, but I'm going to take a different approach here and review one aspect of this camera: the viewfinder.
Most of the professional reviews I've found for the Sony a77 (dpreview, etc) are entirely missing the point. The electronic viewfinder alone is reason enough to consider this camera a step up from a traditional DSLR, even if the DSLR you were comparing an a77 with had identical specs. I'd say the a77's viewfinder is a pleasure to use (and it is), but even that is missing the point.
This viewfinder will change the way you use your camera. It'll change it for the better because it gives you greater control over the camera than you've ever had before.
Because the viewfinder is an OLED video screen in the eyepiece instead of being a typical piece of glass, you're seeing something entirely different. Something more useful.
An optical viewfinder shows you what the lens is seeing. An electronic viewfinder shows you what the sensor is doing. Think about that for a moment. Let's say you own a Nikon D7000 and you boost exposure compensation. Do you see any change in the viewfinder? Of course not. You'll see that change in the photo you take. That's how SLRs have always worked, even back in the days before digital. Ah, but with the electronic viewfinder in a Sony a77, when you boost exposure compensation, you'll see the image in the viewfinder become brighter, just as the shot you take will be brighter.
An even simpler example: Look through the viewfinder of a DSLR and choose an exposure point. Pick a dark spot. Nothing changes in your viewfinder, right? Pick a bright spot. Do you see any change in the viewfinder? Of course not. But, in the a77 viewfinder, you see the exposure change because the viewfinder is showing you what the camera is doing rather than only showing you what the lens is seeing.
Here's how most of us probably used our DSLRs: You pick the camera up to your eye. You look through the viewfinder to frame your shot, etc. You take the shot and then pull the camera away from your eye so you can review the shot you just took, using the LCD screen on the back of your camera "Ah, shoot. Blown highlights." You lower exposure compensation, put the camera viewfinder to your eye, frame up the shot again and take it again. Then check it again on the LCD screen on the back of the camera.
In other words, it's a game of switching from viewfinder to LCD, LCD to viewfinder, etc etc etc. Back and forth.
With the electronic viewfinder in the Sony a77, you don't have to do that anymore. You can literally see the changes you're making in the viewfinder. And, better still, you can set up your viewfinder to review the shot you just took for 2 seconds (or 5, though I find 2 to be enough). So, you take the shot and immediately see the shot you just took without moving the camera.
This electronic viewfinder is an absolute pleasure to view, and it can do some amazing things.
Want a level laid over the shot you're about to take? Put it in your viewfinder.
There's an excellent tele/crop feature in the a77 that drops the 24 megapixel sensor down to 12 and doubles the length of your lens' reach. Thus, a 50mm lens becomes a 100mm lens, and you're seeing this change perfectly in the electronic viewfinder.
There's also an option to check your focus. Click a button and the viewfinder will show you a super-zoomed in view so you can check the precision of your focus. There is absolutely no way this sort of thing can be done with an optical viewfinder.
I've seen so many reviews talking about the weaknesses of electronic viewfinders in comparison to optical viewfinders, but they fail to mention the weaknesses of optical viewfinders. Now that I've made the switch to an EVF, I'd really hate to have to switch back. After using the viewfinder in this Sony a77 for a day or two, you'll realize just how limiting an old fashioned optical viewfinder really is.
Specs only tell you what a camera is capable of, but as we all know, photography isn't about the camera. It's about the photographer and the photo taken. The viewfinder in this camera will give you, as a photographer, more control over your camera than you've ever known. The buttons and dials give you control over the camera, but the EVF literally puts you inside the camera. It's an awesome experience. I suspect that, ten years from now, most DSLRs will have electronic viewfinders.
I certainly wouldn't want to go back to an optical viewfinder after using this thing. No way.
UPDATE: Two years later, and I love shooting with my a77 more than I did when I wrote this review. I also realize how much I didn't even mention, such as Focus Peaking, just to give one example. Again, that sort of thing simply isn't possible with an old fashioned optical viewfinder. Or how about the fact that this EVF is large and show 100% of the frame, whereas DSLR optical viewfinders only tend to show you most of the frame, though the edges aren't in view. Details matter, right? I want to see edge to edge of what will be in the shot. I realize that the change from an OVF to an EVF is probably intimidating for some, just as the switch from film to digital was intimidating years ago. It's change. Digital isn't perfect, of course. Some still prefer film. That's fine if it works for them. And an EVF isn't perfect. Some will still prefer an OVF. Again, that's fine if it works for them. But for me, this camera with its electronic viewfinder is simply astounding. It's two years later and I'm as excited about it now as I was when I bought it.