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Should I use the camera viewfinder or LCD? More importantly, in the age of iPhones and touchscreens, is the viewfinder now obsolete? Read on, and you may just discover a need for both.
Deciding between the viewfinder or LCD
Is the LCD better than the viewfinder or vice versa?
Should I use the camera viewfinder or LCD when capturing an image? Indeed, this debate will no doubt continue into the foreseeable future. At any rate, long before the liquid crystal display (LCD) came into the picture, the viewfinder was the only game in town. Thus, it certainly stands to reason why many seasoned photographers prefer the viewfinder over the LCD. However, in light of the miniature camera revolution, one might consider the viewfinder outdated or even obsolete; consequently, many contemporary photographers appear to favor the LCD. In any case, the LCD has changed the game and offers distinct advantages and new possibilities for photography. Regardless of your current preference, a bit of experimentation may help improve your game.
What difference does it make?
Above all, the composition is the most crucial element in any photograph. Indeed, everyone enjoys a stunning well-exposed tack sharp photo. Of course, the methods used to capture an image play an essential role in the quality of the image. For example, during hand-held photography, using the viewfinder draws the camera closer to the body offering a lower profile thus providing a better foundation as opposed to extending the camera forward to compose an image. Naturally, getting the shot is what counts! Deciding between using the LCD or viewfinder boils down to personal preference.
Should I use the LCD because I wear eyeglasses?
Although wearing eyeglasses can exacerbate the situation, it’s still possible to use the viewfinder. However, whether farsighted or nearsighted, fumbling around with eyeglasses can take the fun out of photography. Fortunately, many cameras offer viewfinders with a built-in diopter that permits one to compensate for optical shortcomings. In fact, some camera models offer additional diopters for those requiring further correction. Honestly, while wearing reading glasses, I do find it a bit cumbersome to bounce back and forth from the viewfinder to the LCD. I sometimes wear my glasses tethered around my neck. At any rate, I find using the viewfinder worth the extra effort.
What about composing images low to the ground?
No doubt, shooting at ground level can make framing an image extremely difficult. Composing a photograph with the viewfinder while lying on wet grass presents an unacceptable challenge for some people. Still, using the LCD does not guarantee the user will remain completely dry, even with a tilting LCD. Plus, not all cameras have an adjustable LCD. Nevertheless, the increasing popularity of the adjustable LCD suggests many people may favor the LCD over the viewfinder. Although I prefer the viewfinder in most situations, the LCD occasionally has its advantages. Regardless of one’s preference, an adjustable LCD has an undeniable ergonomic benefit when shooting at low levels. On the other hand, for the diehard viewfinder fan, it is possible to retrofit many camera models with an angled viewfinder.
How much of the image will I see in the viewfinder vs. the LCD?
While composing an image, a mindful photographer pays careful attention to every detail in the frame, especially distracting elements near the edges. Unfortunately, excluding high-end cameras, most DSLR viewfinders do not offer 100 percent coverage. For example, when using a DSLR with only 95 percent coverage, during post-processing one is likely to discover overlooked articles near the edge of the image. Whereas the articles would have been visible if composed on an LCD. In other words, unlike the LCD, what you see in the viewfinder isn’t necessarily what you get in post-processing. As for myself, this is an outright deal breaker. Although many camera models offer viewfinders with greater than 95 percent coverage, nothing beats 100 percent. On the other hand, is five percent more coverage worth the added expense? Honestly, the deciding factor comes down to personal preference and budget.
What about bright sunlight?
Viewing an image on an LCD in brightly illuminated situations may prove difficult indeed. When shooting under extremely bright conditions, one may find it impossible to actually see the image on the LCD. Although I certainly prefer the viewfinder in bright situations, purchasing an LCD hood or shade provides a simple solution. Though an LCD hood will help reduce glare, these devices are bulky and require removal to use of the viewfinder. Honestly, the LCD has its benefits, but in this case, why add an additional device if it’s not necessary.
Which is better for night photography?
I occasionally hear the notion that bright light from an LCD impairs night vision. Of course, staring at any bright light source will affect one’s night vision. Be that as it may, I would not rule out using the LCD for night photography. In fact, I often use the LCD at night for image playback, and I’m yet to stumble over my gear from loss of night vision. In any case, both the viewfinder and LCD are beneficial for night photography. Incidentally, while shooting a moonbow at Cumberland Falls State Park near Corbin Kentucky, I found the LCD indispensable in reviewing the color span captured in the moonbow. Due to sparse lighting, the human eye has a difficult time discerning the colors of a moonbow, and thus it appears white to the naked eye. Nevertheless, during image playback on the LCD, the colors in the moonbow are evident. See the moonbow here.
What camera data is available in the viewfinder vs. the LCD?
Depending on the camera model, the information available in both the viewfinder and LCD will vary. Regardless of the camera data, with today’s technology, most people have no trouble pointing and shooting a camera with satisfactory results. However, being acquainted with the exposure triangle can open new possibilities with the potential for boundless creativity. Hence, the ability to observe shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and exposure is paramount. One advantage of the LCD is the ability to view a live histogram in live view. Truly, a live histogram is pretty impressive, but not available on all cameras. In any case, I prefer to use the histogram during image playback.
What’s the difference in battery life when using the LCD?
Now, this is extremely important for those that need to squeeze every ounce of life from a battery. I often hike and camp in primitive areas where electrical power is a luxury. That being the case, the difference in battery life is monumental! An LCD requires far more energy compared to an optical viewfinder. In fact, the LCD requires 100 percent more energy. However, poor battery life is easily mitigated in most cases. For example, carry extra batteries and take advantage of charging opportunities while traveling near power sources or while dining in a restaurant. Also, consider investing in a battery grip.
Does live view offer better focusing?
Depending on the type of photography, both the viewfinder and LCD have distinct advantages. For example, live view employs contrast detection to analyze image contrast pixel by pixel thereby significantly improving focusing accuracy. Utilizing the LCD, one can zoom in and precisely focus on a specific detail. Consequently, a landscape photographer may favor using the LCD to enhance the focus of still subjects. However, the focusing speed is at a snail’s pace compared to using a viewfinder which employs phase detection for focusing. For this reason, a sports photographer would likely opt for the benefits of the viewfinder. In fact, because of its quick and reliable focusing, phase detection yields better results for fast-moving subjects. Indeed, a sharp image is the benchmark of any serious photographer. With this in mind, understanding the fundamentals of phase detection and contrast detection is instrumental.
Should I cover the viewfinder when using the LCD?
Indeed, whether using the LCD or viewfinder to compose an image, covering the viewfinder eyepiece on a DSLR is an excellent idea. In fact, in backlit situations, it’s possible for light to enter through the viewfinder and appear on the image as a solar flare. Moreover, light entering through the viewfinder can fool the camera’s light meter resulting in an underexposed image. Despite manufacturing attempts to protect against light leakage, even the most expensive cameras can leak light back to the sensor. In fact, with the mirror in the up position, light may still pass through and find its way to your image, especially during a long exposure. Consequently, and for a good reason, many manufacturers deploy the use of built-in eyepiece shutters or external eyepiece covers. Why leave your masterpiece to chance?
What is an EVF?
A DSLR utilizes a mirror to reflect an image through the lens and onto the sensor. Obviously, a “mirrorless” camera does not use a mirror to reflect an image to the viewfinder. Instead, a mirrorless camera projects an electronic or “digital” image to the viewfinder. I think an electronic viewfinder (EVF) is much like an LCD only smaller. As a matter of fact, an EVF is analogous to having a tiny TV screen extremely close to your eye. Alternatively, an optical viewfinder (OVF) allows the user to look straight through the lens via the mirror. Nevertheless, both the OVF and EVF provide the user with a practical view; however, the two views are entirely different.
How does the EVF compare to the OVF?
Viewing an image through an EVF is much like living in the Matrix. The world seen through an EVF is an electronic reproduction of reality. “You’ve been living in a dream world, Neo.” Despite my poor attempt at a little Matrix humor, there is much truth in that statement. Indeed, I would rather view the real world through an OVF as opposed to a replica through an EVF. Nevertheless, the EVF does have a few advantages. For example, like the LCD, the EVF offers 100 percent coverage, so what you see in the viewfinder is what you get in the image. Also, the EVF is illuminated and thus beneficial in low-light situations.
So, is the EVF better than the OVF?
Despite having a few benefits, none outweigh the advantages of the OVF in my humble opinion. Honestly, zero lag time and image clarity alone provide sufficient reason to opt for the OVF. At any rate, it’s important to note that no two photographers are alike, and every situation is unique. As a landscape photographer, I truly appreciate the magnificence of nature and embrace any occasion to connect with it. Therefore, unlike the EVF, the OVF allows me to view a composition in its true color and natural brilliance. Still, the choice resides with each photographer to decide what works for their particular circumstance. In the end, it’s all about having a grand experience and possibly heading home with a magnificent image!
Although I do my best to remain objective when writing, I’m sure it’s apparent that I prefer the viewfinder over the LCD. Despite that being the case, you may have noticed that I practice both in my photography. Honestly, I suspect many people do the same. Indeed, I very much enjoy the connection to nature that photography affords. Although an LCD has its benefits, I prefer viewing my subject through the sharp clarity produced by an optical viewfinder. In short, if forced to decide between one or the other, I choose the OVF. At any rate, these are mere opinions and should be taken with a healthy portion of common sense and personal experience. As I always like to say, it’s genuinely a matter of personal preference.
Better posture resulting in sharper images in hand-held photography.
Extended battery life as opposed to the LCD.
Provides a natural light box reducing distractions.
Are you a photographer seeking an exceptional backpack? Whether it’s travel, landscape, wedding, or event photography, the Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack offers a variety of options coupled with top-notch quality. Field tested and thoroughly reviewed, learn firsthand details and decide if the Pro Trekker meets your demands.
Initial impression of the Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack.
Although I certainly recommend reading the entire article, I will say upfront that the Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack delivers a serious combination of versatility and quality. As a landscape photographer, I frequently hike to arduous locations while carrying a fair amount of gear. Consequently, my circumstances require a backpack with large carrying capacity and extreme durability. Before selecting the Pro Trekker, I painstakingly evaluated several packs; however, after an exhausting comparison, the Pro Trekker prevailed! Indeed, like all backpacks, the Pro Trekker has its pros and cons. Although it’s impossible to satisfy the needs of every photographer with one bag, if you’re in the market for a quality backpack with adequate versatility, look no further than Lowepro’s Pro Trekker.
An image of the Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack
What are the specifications?
Internal Dimensions 11.1″ W x 7.5″ D x 17.3″ H (28.2 x 19 x 44 cm)
Exterior Dimensions 19.4″ W x 14.1″ D x 22.6″ H (49.3 x 35.9 x 57.3 cm)
Exterior Dimensions (without the protective lid) 19.4″ W x 14.1″ D x 19″ H (49.3 x 35.9 x 48.3 cm)
Weight 9.0 lb (4.1 kg)
Material 630D Oxford Nylon/1000D Cordura
8 zipped compartments, excluding the tripod pouch
Anticipated carrying capacity.
1-2 Pro DSLRs with 1 attached 400mm lens
4-6 extra lenses (depending on size of course)
1 small to large size tripod
Chargers, cords, and various other personal items
Constructed of durable material and built to last
Adjustable torso to facilitate max comfort
Duraflex D-rings for attaching accessories
Padded and adjustable dividers for customization and equipment security
Sealed hydration pocket capable of supporting a 70 oz reservoir
Removable lid doubles as a waist (fanny) pack
Tucked away tripod holder
Mesh side accessory pockets (great for extra water, food, or almost anything)
All Weather (AW) rain cover (deployed from a velcro sealed pouch)
What type of photographer is best suited for the Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack?
Honestly, it’s difficult to determine the type of photographer that is best suited for this backpack. In fact, some photographers merely choose a backpack to store and protect gear while others favor mobility. Truly, placing gear on a shelve is certainly more economical and makes perfect sense for studio work. Regardless, I feel the Pro Trekker appears best suited for photographers that require mobility and security while carrying a considerable amount of gear. Whatever the reason, e.g., hiking, weddings, or storage, the Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack can accommodate almost any photographer.
How much gear will it carry?
No doubt, the Pro Trekker supports a great deal of weight. However, the critical question is not how much it can carry, but rather how much you can carry. As for myself, I can comfortably carry a full frame DSLR with an attached battery grip, two to three lenses, and a variety of accessories, including a seven-pound tripod. In addition to the interior contents of the bag, the Duraflex D-rings provides an option for tethering external items, especially bulky items such as a tent or hammock. Indeed, hauling this fully loaded backpack to the summit of Cloud Splitter required all the energy I could muster. Nevertheless, having planned an early arrival, I had everything needed to enjoy the day and later capture the sunset. On the trail, the Pro Trekker offers excellent protection while affording additional space to accommodate a variety of accessories and other essentials for extended excursions.
Lowepro Trekker 450 backpack with camera gear
An evening view from the summit of Cloud Splitter in Frenchburg Kentucky. Reaching approximately 1100 feet in height, the summit rewards its visitors with a stunning view of the Daniel Boone National Forest.
How versatile is the Pro Trekker?
Like many camera backpacks, the Pro Trekker utilizes a hook and loop material, commonly referred to as velcro, to secure the compartment separators. Lowepro’s MaxFit System consists of adjustable padded dividers that are easily maneuvered to accommodate a wide variety of camera or video gear. Primarily used to secure and protect a camera body and lens, the main camera section consists of two removable and adjustable padded dividers. Combined with the use of velcro and two flexible joints, the padded dividers afford easy customization while rendering extra security with three points of contact to the frame of the backpack. Furthermore, the Pro Trekker has eight reenforced miniature dividers which allow further customization of compartments to accommodate a plethora of accessories.
Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack main compartment
What about ease of use and access to gear?
Unquestionably, designing a camera backpack to satisfy the needs of every photographer poses a monumental challenge! Although I feel the Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack comes close to perfection, it could certainly benefit from a few improvements. For example, the Pro Trekker’s main compartment uses a heavy-duty zipper with five securing straps. Seemingly, the design provides additional security to prevent the contents from dropping out in the event the zipper fails. Although I enjoy the added protection afforded by the straps, they can make accessing gear a bit cumbersome. In fact, with the Pro Trekker lying on its back, gravity takes over, and the straps tend to hang over the edge; thus, the zipper frequently snags during opening and closing. Furthermore, with the backpack lying on its back, access to the two rear storage compartments in the protective lid is a bit awkward.
Snagging zipper on the Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack
Protective lid rear compartment on the Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack
Protective lid compartments on the Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack
What about the quality of material and construction?
Indeed, the Pro Trekker’s superb quality material and superior construction yield great confidence while navigating a rocky trail. Consequently, the Pro Trekker is not the lightest backpack to shoulder. However, after hauling the Pro Trekker through miles of rugged and narrow trails, I can certainly attest to the backpack’s quality construction and durability. In fact, I have dragged my fully loaded Pro Trekker, with an attached tripod, between tight openings in cavern walls. Built to go the distance, I think this backpack will stand the test of time and remain a top contender in the backpack market for the foreseeable future.
What about comfort when wearing for extended periods?
The Pro Trekker begins with the disadvantage of an empty weight of nine pounds. Nevertheless, most photographers interested in the Pro Trekker probably expect to carry a fair amount of weight. In fact, I often hike to locations packing a full-frame DSLR, two lenses, camp supplies, a tripod, and several other items. However, as advertised by Lowepro, the ActivLift System Harness performs well in supporting and evenly distributing the weight across my shoulders and waist, not on my back. Additionally, the ActivLift System provides room for adjustment and can accommodate almost any photographer’s body style. As a matter of fact, at the height of six-foot-five, I have no issues with fit or comfort.
Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack Activlift System
What do you like best?
Above all, the capacity, versatility, and comfort on the trail make the Pro Trekker a prime prospect for any serious photographer, especially landscape and event photographers. Indeed, I consider the seam-sealed hydration pocket one of the most useful features on the backpack. Although one may just as easily carry a bottle of water, my 70 oz Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir stays much cooler in the seam-sealed pocket and is easily accessible without requiring the removal of the backpack. In addition to comfort, the sizeable rubber-coated handle provides a convenient and easy way to hand-carry the bag; very useful when loading and unloading from a vehicle. Lastly, despite the Pro Trekker’s massive empty weight of nine pounds, the protection afforded by the additional padding is well worth the added weight and offers excellent peace of mind when trekking with expensive gear.
Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack Hydration Pocket
Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack Carrying Handle
What do you like least?
First and foremost, the quick disconnect straps remain my biggest complaint with the Pro Trekker. In reality, the securing straps offer added peace of mind that certainly outweighs a bit of snagging; still, interference from the straps make operating the main compartment’s zipper a bit tricky. Second, as a landscape photographer, I fail to see the benefit of having a laptop compartment, wasted space in my opinion. However, I’m sure many others, such as wedding and event photographers, find the laptop compartment very useful indeed. Finally, with the backpack positioned on its back, access to the storage compartment in the protective lid is somewhat inconvenient. I prefer the zipper in the front of the compartment for easier access.
Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack Laptop Compartment
Does it meet airline standards as carry-on luggage?
Nowadays, with almost all airlines charging for checked baggage, everyone wants to hand-carry everything from kitchen sinks to diesel engines. While I do support the free baggage revolution, it does guarantee a full plane with jammed overhead storage and barely any leg room. On the other hand, one may opt out of the baggage Tetris nightmare by merely checking gear. As for myself, the thought of checking equipment is inconceivable. Unfortunately, according to the carry-on size chart at Travel Made Simple, the Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack exceeds the carry-on standard for all airlines. In fact, the Pro Trekker exceeds carry-on limits even after removing the protective lid. Consequently, with great size comes great inconvenience, at 19 inches in width, I don’t think you’ll be carrying this backpack aboard. Nevertheless, some airlines offer gate-checking, if you’re that daring.
Is it worth the price?
Like many purchasing decisions, sometimes justifying the price tag can cause significant anxiety. Despite finding the occasional “good deal,” when it comes to gear, usually, price and quality are directly proportional. Skimping on a bag could cost more in the long-run. Clearly, no one wants to pay for a replacement bag or broken gear, especially during one’s travels. As for myself, quality and durability are the most critical factors when selecting a backpack. Therefore, in my humble opinion, the Pro Trekker is absolutely worth the price. Having said that, I recommend B&H Photo due to their excellent pricing and superior customer service. Although the Pro Trekker tends to hold its value quite well, locating a used bag on eBay may save a few dollars.
Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack
Extreme padding provides excellent protection.
Large capacity, an excellent option for hiking with camera gear and provisions.
May reduce theft by not overtly advertising camera names on the backpack, e.g., Nikon or Canon logo.
Superior construction and quality material.
Heavily padded hook and loop “velcro” dividers allow for easy access and customization.
External pockets and Duraflex D-rings are convenient for securing additional items.
Capable of carrying 70 oz of water plus additional bottles in the external mesh pockets.
Accommodates large tripods with a sturdy, yet tucked away, tripod holder.
Accessing the main compartment requires unclipping five buckles followed by unzipping.
The main compartment’s zipper occasionally snags on the securing straps.
Inconvenient access to the protective lid compartment.
Not surprisingly, the more exposure one has with a product, the easier it seems to identify flaws. However, after owning this backpack over one year, I remain delighted with its performance. Quality construction coupled with versatility and durability encapsulates the Pro Trekker. Whether landscape, wedding, or event photography, this backpack will likely impress even the most finicky photographer. Truthfully, If I were in the market for a similar pack today, I would no doubt select the Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack, yet again.
MY FINAL RANKING OF THE LOWEPRO PRO TREKKER 450 AW CAMERA BACKPACK:
9.5 OF 10
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