Moving Toward Mirrorless — Electronic View Finder

I love the view through a DSLR viewfinder. There’s something about the ground-glass screen that makes me happy. Glass and mirrors reflect a glorious image to my eye and my brain gets excited.

The view through an electronic viewfinder is less thrilling. It reminds me of putting one eye up to a tiny, tiny television. That’s a poor quality television, too.

I’m testing the Olympus M1X and OM-D E-M1ii. Both have electronic viewfinders as well as viewing on the back LCD panel.

The Canon R mirrorless has the best electronic viewfinder I’ve seen. Thanks to the folks at Canon and Hunt’s Photo & Video I got to use that camera for a month. I had no complaints about Canon’s electronic viewfinder. But, I didn’t get a chance to test this camera on action so my experience is somewhat limited.

When I got a chance to test the Olympus cameras, I adjusted the diopter for my eye prescription. The view was good but not as good as the Canon or as good as the image on the back LCD panel.

In bright sun, the electronic viewfinder is the best option. Outside in bright sun the view on the LCD panel is okay but not optimal. I also have to wear my reading classes to see the LCD so that’s a bit awkward.

Looking through the electronic view finder, there’s a moment between shots when the screen goes black. I know this happens in a DSLR also but it’s never bothered me. The screen going black in the electronic viewfinder is a bit irritating.

Rapid shooting brings a new issue. The Olympus M1X fires 18 to 60 frames per second and the OM-D E-M1ii can do the same. That’s fast and a nice reason to own one of these cameras. Yet, the view through the viewfinder is herky-jerky. The wings of the bird are up, the wings are down, the wings are up, the wings are down. There’s no view of the wings going up and down like I get through a DSLR viewfinder.

I photographed some kids running down a hill with the E-M1ii. My finger was down on the shutter button and the camera was firing like crazy. The electronic viewfinder wasn’t keeping up so I had no idea where the kids were in the frame.

I lost track of these kids through the electronic viewfinder. A different setting would have fixed the problem.

To fix this, there’s a setting called Viewfinder Display Rate. Set this to “high” and the dark between frames is minimized.

The viewfinders on both cameras display a nice set of information. Several options on each camera body allow you to display different information through the electronic viewfinder including histogram. Nice tools to have as a photographer.

UPDATE TO THE ORIGINAL POST: I see that the Sony a9 advertises a “black-out free” electronic viewfinder. Pretty neat!

Moving Toward Mirrorless — Battery Life

Olympus OM-D E-Mii and battery

A lady in class mentioned that she was taking eight camera batteries on her next vacation. Eight batteries! That’s unheard of. I own two batteries for my Canon 5D Mark IV and one for my Canon 1DX. Why would this lady need eight for one camera?!

I’ve been testing the Olympus OM-D E-Mii and the OM-D E-M1X. Thanks to my testing I understood her statement wasn’t so crazy.

The battery life on these cameras is not great. A battery gets 2-3 hours of life. That’s turning the camera off and on, looking at photos on the back, taking a group of photos, putting the camera down, picking it back up, taking some more photos, setting it down, turning it off, turning it on, taking some photos, reviewing photos, etc. Two or three hours of this type of activity and the battery warning light is flashing.

For comparison, I can use a Canon 5D Mark IV battery all day without worrying. The Canon 1DX battery will last three or four days even with heavy shooting.

The E-Mii uses one battery. The more powerful E-M1X has a battery holder that uses two batteries. Luckily, both cameras use the same battery. That’s a great move, Olympus!

Each battery charges in a little over an hour. That’s not unusual for a camera battery. I charged three Olympus batteries in an evening with no problem but I was watching the charger and switching the batteries.

In real life, though, I’m dragging in at 10:00pm after a hard day of shooting and everything needs to be charged and ready to go by 5:00am. I’d find it hard to charge three batteries while sleeping.

Luckily, the batteries for these cameras are reasonably priced. A battery is $54 so it’s possible to buy some extras. The battery recharger is $59 so a photographer could have one or two more. There’s an after-market charger that claims to charge two batteries at a time. (I’ll let someone else test that item.)

Yes, there is a power grip for the OM-D E-Mii. That add weight and bulk — a reason many are using for switching to mirrorless.

Once again, thanks to Gary Farber at Hunt’s Photo & Video for making this test possible. Check out the entire Olympus line of cameras.