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07-23-2020, 11:10 PM - 7 Likes   #1
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Why you don’t really want a hybrid viewfinder

You might be thinking at this point, “Who is JPT to tell me what I want?” but what I want to do here is just think through the implications of a hybrid viewfinder and why I think it is very unlikely to be in any camera soon, including the imminent APS-C flagship.

To define a “hybrid viewfinder”, what I mean is a viewfinder with all the functionality of a traditional SLR OVF, but which can switch over to a full EVF mode at the user’s command. I think that is what most people understand by the term. If we are talking about more sophisticated information (peaking, histogram, etc.) overlaid on a traditional OVF, I don’t include that. I mean the OVF is blacked out and totally replaced by an EVF, and you switch between one and the other.

I explained in another thread a while ago that Ricoh said in an interview with a Japanese magazine a couple of years ago that a hybrid EVF is possible but is difficult because it would rob light from the OVF. I think this is a pretty critical problem, but for the sake of argument let’s assume that they succeed in making one whose OVF is as good as existing SLRs and whose EVF is just as good as competing mirrorless cameras. I still don’t think it would be desirable for users.

If you go out of the way to choose a Pentax DSLR over the mirrorless competition, it is reasonable to assume that you have a preference for shooting through the OVF. With a hybrid viewfinder, you would have a camera with a split personality. You could shoot using the OVF, but if you wanted to use some of the EVF-enabled features, such as content-aware focus or magnified live view, you would have to switch to your less preferred display mode. Some examples:

- Shooting birds - You want the immediate, natural view of the OVF, but the AF is not able to detect animal eyes, so you are in a dilemma of which mode to use.
- Portraits - You have a preference for the OVF, but to use eye-AF you need to compromise and switch to EVF
- Focusing old lenses - You want to use manual focus lenses in a traditional way, but the only way you can achieve sharp images is using the EVF, which is not the way the lenses were intended to be used

You can already see this in reviews of recent Canon (90D, 1D X mIII) and Nikon (D780) DSLRs, whose main improvements are to transfer live view technology straight over from their mirrorless cameras. Reviewers are already commenting that to get the most of the new features, you need to switch to live view. This approach will inevitably lead people to mirrorless models as they conclude the OVF has little use. Conveniently, both companies will now happily supply you with a mirrorless system. While a hybrid EVF would seem to make live view more convenient, it would still be effectively two cameras in one. You would always have this jarring moment where you pressed a button and your viewfinder changed characteristics (showing more brightly what the sensor has seen rather than what it sees), your AF points moved and the behavior of the system completely changed. I don't think that would be a pleasant experience, which is why I use the term split personality.

But Pentax’s strategy is now clear. They believe in the superiority of the OVF. So it makes more sense to bring some of this convenience into the OVF and not force users to compromise to get new features. DSLRs have extra sensors that can help them understand the scene. More advanced developments of the AF and metering sensor could give the camera all the necessary information to achieve eye-AF, animal AF, focusing aids. A more advanced overlay could display much more information in the OVF - maybe peaking or some other manual focus indicator, a histogram, little green boxes around eyes and so on - but without leaving your preferred viewing mode. Even without these, the fact that the new camera has a bigger, brighter OVF and a much-improved AF sensor is going to make it easier to use.

So I’ve lost all interest in the idea of a hybrid viewfinder. It would gain Pentax some short-term bragging rights for being the first (and last), but the novelty would soon wear off as users woke up to the reality. I’m fully expecting the new APS-C camera to have a “normal” OVF, but hopefully one that can achieve some features previously thought to be limited to mirrorless cameras.

Sorry for the long post. I hope it made sense. I guess videographers would disagree, but I’d argue the DSLR architecture is just not made for video, so it will always be a bit of an afterthought.

07-23-2020, 11:25 PM   #2
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I tend to agree - and I suspect that there is a contingent of people who want a hybrid viewfinder more as a unique (DSLR) technological feature that they can point to in Pentax than as an actual functionally useful thing.

A more general problem also ith new tech from small companies is that it is either not copied and therefore forgotten about (like the AA simulator) or copied and everybody associated it with the bigger company that first copied it - but that's a separate issue I just wanted to mention
07-23-2020, 11:58 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by JPT Quote
You might be thinking at this point, “Who is JPT to tell me what I want?” but what I want to do here is just think through the implications of a hybrid viewfinder and why I think it is very unlikely to be in any camera soon, including the imminent APS-C flagship.

To define a “hybrid viewfinder”, what I mean is a viewfinder with all the functionality of a traditional SLR OVF, but which can switch over to a full EVF mode at the user’s command. I think that is what most people understand by the term. If we are talking about more sophisticated information (peaking, histogram, etc.) overlaid on a traditional OVF, I don’t include that. I mean the OVF is blacked out and totally replaced by an EVF, and you switch between one and the other.

I explained in another thread a while ago that Ricoh said in an interview with a Japanese magazine a couple of years ago that a hybrid EVF is possible but is difficult because it would rob light from the OVF. I think this is a pretty critical problem, but for the sake of argument let’s assume that they succeed in making one whose OVF is as good as existing SLRs and whose EVF is just as good as competing mirrorless cameras. I still don’t think it would be desirable for users.

If you go out of the way to choose a Pentax DSLR over the mirrorless competition, it is reasonable to assume that you have a preference for shooting through the OVF. With a hybrid viewfinder, you would have a camera with a split personality. You could shoot using the OVF, but if you wanted to use some of the EVF-enabled features, such as content-aware focus or magnified live view, you would have to switch to your less preferred display mode. Some examples:

- Shooting birds - You want the immediate, natural view of the OVF, but the AF is not able to detect animal eyes, so you are in a dilemma of which mode to use.
- Portraits - You have a preference for the OVF, but to use eye-AF you need to compromise and switch to EVF
- Focusing old lenses - You want to use manual focus lenses in a traditional way, but the only way you can achieve sharp images is using the EVF, which is not the way the lenses were intended to be used

You can already see this in reviews of recent Canon (90D, 1D X mIII) and Nikon (D780) DSLRs, whose main improvements are to transfer live view technology straight over from their mirrorless cameras. Reviewers are already commenting that to get the most of the new features, you need to switch to live view. This approach will inevitably lead people to mirrorless models as they conclude the OVF has little use. Conveniently, both companies will now happily supply you with a mirrorless system. While a hybrid EVF would seem to make live view more convenient, it would still be effectively two cameras in one. You would always have this jarring moment where you pressed a button and your viewfinder changed characteristics (showing more brightly what the sensor has seen rather than what it sees), your AF points moved and the behavior of the system completely changed. I don't think that would be a pleasant experience, which is why I use the term split personality.

But Pentax’s strategy is now clear. They believe in the superiority of the OVF. So it makes more sense to bring some of this convenience into the OVF and not force users to compromise to get new features. DSLRs have extra sensors that can help them understand the scene. More advanced developments of the AF and metering sensor could give the camera all the necessary information to achieve eye-AF, animal AF, focusing aids. A more advanced overlay could display much more information in the OVF - maybe peaking or some other manual focus indicator, a histogram, little green boxes around eyes and so on - but without leaving your preferred viewing mode. Even without these, the fact that the new camera has a bigger, brighter OVF and a much-improved AF sensor is going to make it easier to use.

So I’ve lost all interest in the idea of a hybrid viewfinder. It would gain Pentax some short-term bragging rights for being the first (and last), but the novelty would soon wear off as users woke up to the reality. I’m fully expecting the new APS-C camera to have a “normal” OVF, but hopefully one that can achieve some features previously thought to be limited to mirrorless cameras.

Sorry for the long post. I hope it made sense. I guess videographers would disagree, but I’d argue the DSLR architecture is just not made for video, so it will always be a bit of an afterthought.
In my opinion, it does not make any sense to have viewfinders like Fuji X-PRO series has. My imagination of a hybrid viewfinder could be something like the viewfinder of K-1 --> OVF + there could be an advanced DISPLAY showing many additional information (AF points, highlights (which can be detected through the metering sensor), squares in the case of face detection mode etc.)
07-24-2020, 12:00 AM - 3 Likes   #4
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Interesting aspects. I tend to agree, too. What I'd maybe like to have is a rudimentary histogram in the OVF to see if EV compensation is recommended.

07-24-2020, 02:00 AM - 1 Like   #5
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Given the ballyhoo they've been making about a big bright OVF on the Knew, it's pretty clear it's not on its way anytime soon. In any case, I doubt most of us would like a model that can switch between OVF and EVF; it's not what I had in mind when I heard "hybrid" used in this context.
07-24-2020, 02:07 AM - 3 Likes   #6
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For some time I've been a strong supporter of the hybrid viewfinder idea... but all I'd really like with my DSLR viewfinder is the ability to consistently achieve accurate focus with fast, manual focus lenses, through the OVF, without having to fit an after-market, third-party focusing screen. As @yucafrita suggested, some kind of rudimentary histogram would be nice, too...

Last edited by BigMackCam; 07-24-2020 at 03:18 AM.
07-24-2020, 03:03 AM - 1 Like   #7
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Funny enough it is film cameras that actually needed an electronic viewfinder as it could take weeks until you saw the result in a finished image. With a digital camera you can review the image instantly anyway; it doesn't take long with instant feedback until you know how the image will turn out anyway exposure-wise due to experience reducing the need for a preview.
Could be nice with a histogram and/or indicator of whether the scene have too large dynamic range for the sensor in the finder though.
07-24-2020, 03:20 AM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by JPT Quote
Sorry for the long post. I hope it made sense. I guess videographers would disagree, but I’d argue the DSLR architecture is just not made for video, so it will always be a bit of an afterthought.

No reason to apologize for a well-reasoned post. I used to think that a hybrid viewfinder might be an attractive selling point for future Pentax cameras, but the more I've tried to imagine the implications for actual photography, the less enthusiastic I've grown of it. And I find its likely absence in the upcoming K-new doesn't bother me the slightest bit. Instead, I'm genuinely curious about the luxurious view of the world that the redone OVF may afford. My first real camera was a Minolta X-700 back in 1983, and I remember that even then, ergonomics and OVF brightness/clarity/ease of focussing, played a major part in my choice. And as you have hinted, there is still quite a bit of development potential for adding more sophistication even to the traditional OVF (overlays, info, focussing).

Bottom line, I find your reasoning highly convincing.

07-24-2020, 03:25 AM - 3 Likes   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by JPT Quote
To define a “hybrid viewfinder”, what I mean is a viewfinder with all the functionality of a traditional SLR OVF, but which can switch over to a full EVF mode at the user’s command.
You are correct that the type of hybrid viewfinder you describe would not be great.

But there is another way (in theory).

You replace the 86,000 pixel metering chip on the prism with a proper high res cheap phone sensor (shouldnt be larger).
And then (that seems to be the tricky part) you put an LCD overlay / transparent LCD display in the viewfinder image path (permanently).
This way you still have the beauty of the optical viewfinder, but you can display more detailed infos, such as blown highlights blinkies.
The small sensor would be able to track the subject across the frame if you have the computing power and algorithm.
07-24-2020, 04:32 AM   #10
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Ipse dixit or Pentax dixit, ergo never one camera (reflex) with two finder....

''PENTAX believes in the future of SLR photography''

When you take a picture with a single lens reflex (SLR) camera, the light passes through the lens, and in turn the optical viewfinder.

You view the image directly with your eyes, and feel it with your heart.

This is the unique experience you get when using an SLR.

Not only do you enjoy the images captured, but also the entire process of taking a picture, from deciding on what to capture and where,

to observing the scene, composing the image, then finally releasing the shutter.

PENTAX was the first camera manufacturer in Japan to build an SLR, a progression that allowed our users to experience the joy of photography and the fun in creating images.

PENTAX is committed to the future of SLR photography through the continued development of camera technology, making it more fun and exciting than ever before for all PENTAX users.

Let's put our hearts in peace, we'll never have a reflex and digital vision at the same time. But anything is possible with the advancement of technology.

Last edited by maw; 07-24-2020 at 09:49 AM.
07-24-2020, 05:31 AM - 2 Likes   #11
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First, I wholeheartedly agree with what you said about the superiority of OVF over EVF for many image composition tasks. And you are right that switching between OVF and EVF would be jarring although there are occasional times when using live view through an eyepiece would be worth the dissonance of switching.

But you missed the biggest potential use case for a hybrid. My "killer app" scenario for a hybrid VF happens AFTER I take the picture. I'd love to see the shot I just took through the eyepiece. No more chimping! I'd also use that mode between pictures to change setups, navigate menus, etc. all without taking the camera from my eye.

Thus I most want an optical view finder and an electronic review checker that use the same eyepiece -- hence a hybrid VF.
07-24-2020, 06:07 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by beholder3 Quote
You are correct that the type of hybrid viewfinder you describe would not be great.

But there is another way (in theory).

You replace the 86,000 pixel metering chip on the prism with a proper high res cheap phone sensor (shouldnt be larger).
And then (that seems to be the tricky part) you put an LCD overlay / transparent LCD display in the viewfinder image path (permanently).
This way you still have the beauty of the optical viewfinder, but you can display more detailed infos, such as blown highlights blinkies.
The small sensor would be able to track the subject across the frame if you have the computing power and algorithm.
This is also how I imagine a hybrid system. The OVF is backed up by data from a sensor. Which will allow additional features now expected in a modern camera. IMHO, if Pentax wants to stick with OVF they will not have much choice but to go this way. Because, even today , it will be difficult to convince many people to spend a fair amount of money on a camera without what is now considered basic features, like a decent eye-focus or at least some face detect right through the finder.
07-24-2020, 06:21 AM   #13
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OVF is not always perfect, in some cases EVF is better. If I needed an EVF camera, I would buy a Sony, so I prefer that Sony and other companies invest money in EVF cameras, and Pentax in OVF cameras.
As it has been previously said, an ideal hybrid viewfinder would be very hard to develop, could lead to an expensive camera and may be unprofitable for Pentax.
07-24-2020, 06:39 AM - 1 Like   #14
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Disclaimer: Anyone who has read a few of my comments should know I’m a bit of a crank and a traditionalist. I mean only to express myself; I don’t wixh to denigrate anyone else’s experience or wants.

After much thought I’ve decided I don’t want any more overlay features in the viewfinder if the cost of those is taking light away from the OVF (additional light taken through the half-silvered mirror or by an overlay device). What that essentially means is I need to have enough experience with a particular camera (or basic architecture of a brand of camera) to learn what the output is most likely to be when I view a scene with my own eyes before I adjust the camera and lens settings. I can always chimp the LCD to decide whether i need to adjust the settings and retake the shot (highlights blinkies, focus peaking and histogram are the most obvious displays) and use LV if they are necessary. Since I already do exactly that most comfortably I have decided I would gain no meaningful benefit from the ability to press a button and have the same information displayed in the OVF.


I just don’t feel a need to shortcut the time and clicks necessary to learn how a particular camera actually works. At the time of the K-1ll upgrade I concluded I had only recently become comfortable with my ability to operate the K-1 predictably, and I didn't want to spend money to step backward in experience to gain a bit of noise reduction in RAW files and a few esoteric features I wouldn’t use..

AFA K-new, once the full feature set is revealed I’ll decide whether to upgrade KP, wait for the next FF (with presumably similar or same technology) and replace K-1, abandon APSc altogether and replace K-1 later, or just do nothing and carry on.

Last edited by monochrome; 07-24-2020 at 09:55 AM.
07-24-2020, 06:51 AM - 1 Like   #15
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On one of my K1s that I have a canon S screen in.... used mostly for manual focus stuff.... I have all the veiwfinder overlay stuff turned off.... focus beeping stuff off.... it is just so nice.... sorta relaxing to shoot.... tranquil even..... sort of a zen camera now.
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