Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Electronic Viewfinder for the Panasonic GX1

The Electronic Viewfinder for the GX1.
The Panasonic GX1 mirrorless camera that I purchased, specifically for my trekking trip to Ladakh (Kashmir), has one major problem. Its battery can shoot around 200 pictures before it requires to be re-charged. Since the trip will last more than 9 days without any access to electricity, my shooting options will be very limited.

To overcome this problem, I purchased 3 additional replacement batteries. Even though the replacement batteries give better results than the stock battery, real-world testing made me realize that even with the extra batteries, I would not be able to shoot for 9 days straight.

The second problem with the GX1 camera, is that all framing and composition has to be done using the rear LCD screen. While the LCD screen is fine for indoor shooting, it becomes an exercise in frustration when you try to shoot in bright outdoor conditions (exactly what I will face during the trek). The screen is literally unreadable, and shooting becomes a game of hit or miss.

To overcome these 2 problems (especially the second one), Panasonic supplies the optional electronic viewfinder (EVF), the DMW-LVF2. This viewfinder slips into the flash hot-shoe, and can replicate everything you see on the LCD. This helps framing in bright-light conditions, and also conserves battery power, as the EVF requires less power than the LCD.

The EVF is a high-grade 1.4 million dot view-finder, but it is not cheap. Amazon sells it for $230, making it a rather expensive proposition when you buy both the camera plus the viewfinder. For me, I felt I had no choice but to buy it, rather than get frustrated during the trek. I found it a bit cheaper (around $200) on eBay.

I have been using the EVF for the past 2 weeks, and I find it really handy - even indoors. Coming from a dSLR background (which have optical viewfinders), I am much more comfortable focusing with my eye on the view-finder. The EVF has a diopter adjustment cleverly placed under the hood, so it cannot be accidentaly changed (see picture below).

The EVC can be extended to allow shooting from 
Another interesting thing about the EVF is that you can extend the eye-piece vertically, so that you can shoot  while looking down into the camera. This should be quiet useful for street photography, as the subjects will not realize you are pointing the camera at them.

A few things I did not like about the EVF.

1. To switch between the LCD and the EVF, you have to manually press a button. Newer EVFs (such as the one found on Sony NEX-7), have an automatic sensor that detects if your eye is on the sensor and switches automatically. For $230, I feel this feature should have been there.

2. When you are composing using the EVF, you lose the ability to focus using the touch-screen - as the LCD is essentially disabled.

Other than these 2 minor quibbles, this is an essential add-on for the GX1, and adds to the whole experience of taking pictures (whether indoors or outdoors).


PaintWithPixels said...

I just got mine yesterday and after playing with it in bright sun light, I didn't feel like it is giving me significant improvement over the LCD. I may have set something wrong. Do you adjust the brightness and contrast when shooting under bright sun light? Can you share your settings?

I don't mind switching the LCD and LVF with the button but I am really upset when I cannot use the LCD screen to select a focus point.

Do you think we need to protect the LVF "front element" when keeping it in our bag attached to the camera?

Cajie said...

You raise an excellent point regarding the inability to use touch focus when you are using the EVF. I miss that too.

As for the contrast and brightness, I am not sure if you are doing something wrong. For me, it is the difference between night and day. On a bright day, the LCD is totally washed out, but I can see clearly through the EVF. Did you adjust the sharpness with the rotating dial under the EVF?