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Viewing System

Lesson 4 from: Fundamentals of Photography

John Greengo

Viewing System

Lesson 4 from: Fundamentals of Photography

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

4. Viewing System

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The topic of this lesson is the viewing systems in photography, including SLRs, point-and-shoot cameras, electronic viewfinders, SLTs, rangefinders, and hybrid viewfinders.


  1. What is the most popular viewing system for photographers and why?

    The most popular system for most photographers is the Single Lens Reflex (SLR) system because it allows them to see exactly what the lens sees and provides a clear, sharp, and accurate view of the subject.

  2. How does a SLR camera work?

    Light comes through the lens and reflects off a mirror onto a focusing screen, which is then viewed through the prism system of the camera.

  3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a point-and-shoot camera?

    Point-and-shoot cameras are small and easy to use, but they have limited manual options and smaller sensors, resulting in lower resolution and performance in low light conditions.

  4. What are the advantages of using an electronic viewfinder (EVF)?

    EVFs allow photographers to view through the lens, provide a preview of the final image, offer 100% coverage, and can be used in bright light conditions. They also have added technology such as focusing scale and peaking options.

  5. What is the difference between SLTs and SLRs?

    SLTs (Single Lens Translucent) cameras, used by Sony, have a fixed mirror that allows some light to pass through to the sensor while reflecting one third of the light to the autofocus sensor and EVF. They provide good autofocus but may have lower image quality compared to SLRs.

  6. What are rangefinder cameras and what are their advantages?

    Rangefinder cameras, like those by Leica, have a separate viewing window and a focusing patch that allows for accurate manual focusing. They offer constant viewing even when taking a photo and can be beneficial for street photography.

  7. What is a hybrid viewfinder and what are its advantages?

    A hybrid viewfinder, used by Fuji, combines an optical view with an electronic view, allowing photographers to choose between both options. It provides the best of both worlds but is a niche camera.

  8. How often should cameras be updated?

    Serious photographers often update their cameras every two to four years, while some professionals are comfortable using cameras that are six to eight years old. Digital cameras have evolved significantly in the past decade, so using newer models can provide advancements in technology and image quality.

Next Lesson: Lens System


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Photographic Characteristics


Camera Types


Viewing System


Lens System


Shutter System


Shutter Speed Basics


Shutter Speed Effects


Camera & Lens Stabilization


Quiz: Shutter Speeds


Camera Settings Overview


Drive Mode & Buffer


Camera Settings - Details


Sensor Size: Basics


Sensor Sizes: Compared


The Sensor - Pixels


Sensor Size - ISO


Focal Length


Angle of View


Practicing Angle of View


Quiz: Focal Length


Fisheye Lens


Tilt & Shift Lens


Subject Zone


Lens Speed




Depth of Field (DOF)


Quiz: Apertures


Lens Quality


Light Meter Basics




Quiz: Histogram


Dynamic Range


Exposure Modes


Sunny 16 Rule


Exposure Bracketing


Exposure Values


Quiz: Exposure


Focusing Basics


Auto Focus (AF)


Focus Points


Focus Tracking


Focusing Q&A


Manual Focus


Digital Focus Assistance


Shutter Speeds & Depth of Field (DOF)


Quiz: Depth of Field


DOF Preview & Focusing Screens


Lens Sharpness


Camera Movement


Advanced Techniques


Quiz: Hyperfocal Distance


Auto Focus Calibration


Focus Stacking


Quiz: Focus Problems


Camera Accessories


Lens Accessories


Lens Adaptors & Cleaning




Flash & Lighting






Being a Photographer


Natural Light: Direct Sunlight


Natural Light: Indirect Sunlight


Natural Light: Mixed


Twilight: Sunrise & Sunset Light


Cloud & Color Pop: Sunrise & Sunset Light


Silhouette & Starburst: Sunrise & Sunset Light


Golden Hour: Sunrise & Sunset Light


Quiz: Lighting


Light Management


Flash Fundamentals




Built-In & Add-On Flash


Off-Camera Flash


Off-Camera Flash For Portraits


Advanced Flash Techniques


Editing Assessments & Goals


Editing Set-Up


Importing Images


Organizing Your Images


Culling Images


Categories of Development


Adjusting Exposure


Remove Distractions


Cropping Your Images


Composition Basics


Point of View


Angle of View


Subject Placement


Framing Your Shot


Foreground & Background & Scale


Rule of Odds


Bad Composition


Multi-Shot Techniques


Pixel Shift, Time Lapse, Selective Cloning & Noise Reduction


Human Vision vs The Camera


Visual Perception


Quiz: Visual Balance


Visual Drama


Elements of Design


Texture & Negative Space


Black & White & Color


The Photographic Process


Working the Shot


What Makes a Great Photograph?


Lesson Info

Viewing System

Alright, let's look at the viewing systems. Over the last 40, 50, maybe 60.. Gee, getting on to 70 years now. The most popular system for most photographers has been the Single Lens Reflex system and that's for a couple of reasons. The one I wanna talk about is the really good viewing ability of these cameras. So in these cameras, which have interchangeable lenses, light comes through the lens and it comes to the mirror. Now single lens is pretty obvious, there's one lens. Reflex means there's a mirror in this device and so there are other devices like a reflex telescope which uses a mirror system in it. And so, we're gonna bounce the light upward onto a focusing screen, so an image is projected onto that and we're gonna be able to see that through the prism system of the camera. And this is how cameras worked back in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, well not quite the 40s. They came around up in early 1950s, but it's the way our DSLRs work these days and the beauty is is that you get to see ex...

actly what the lens sees. You get to see if it's in focus or out of focus, you get to see whether you had the filter on there, what angle of view, whether you left the lens cap on. It's a really, really simple no-brainer system that uses all the strengths and advantages of your own human eyes and that's why it's still an extremely popular system now. When it's time to take a photo, the mirror does need to get up and out of the way, which can cause a few problems that we'll talk about later on in the class. The exposure is captured and then the mirror returns. So one of the downsides to this is that you are temporarily blinded while you are shooting. So a lot of people think photographers react really quickly, that may be true but I think they anticipate. They see moments coming, big and small, whether it's an eclipse that's coming in a year and they wanna shoot it in the right place at the right time or it's a baseball player swinging the bat and wanting to get the ball on the bat. They're anticipating those moments so that they know when to fire the shutter. And it's a really good system and this is what a lot of the pros are using these days. Looking at it from another angle of view, light comes into the mirror, bounces up to the focusing screen, an image is formed there and then you get to see that through the prism system on the top of the camera. So this is primarily with Nikon and Canon cameras, Pentax also fits in to this category, and there's a lot of older cameras that fit in here as well. And so, I like SLRs because viewing your subject through the viewfinder is just like looking with your own eyes. It's just incredibly sharp, it's the right color. Everything just looks really, really good. It's a highly developed auto-focus system as well in these. But when you look through the viewfinder, that's just how it looks to your eyes. That's not how the digital image looks and there's some very cool advantages with the mirrorless cameras that are available today, and we'll talk about that next. And so, there's this digital assistance that you can get on these new mirrorless cameras that we don't have here. They're adding little bits and pieces but they can't quite do the same thing. There is a little bit of problem, when that mirror comes up, it comes up very quickly so it doesn't stay up very long and it causes a little vibration in the camera. So there's a mirror lock-up option I'll talk later about in other sections of this class. The Point & Shoot camera, everybody wave goodbye. It's saying goodbye. This is the type of camera that is slowly disappearing, obviously because phones and mobile devices are getting better and better sensors in them. So fewer and fewer people are getting the Point & Shoots, but they're still out there and there's some very nice ones on the market and available today. They also have a single lens, but no mirror in there. No reflex system. Light comes straight back to the image sensor and from there, it's fed to the LCD on the back of the camera and I love the LCD on the back of the camera. That is because I get to use both eyes, and I am just a better judge at composition when I am able to hold that camera out and go "I think I got that horizon a little tilted there. Let me retake that shot". It's not real good for sharpness and it's not perfect for exposure but it does get you a good view of what that final image is gonna look like. The problem that I have with it, it is near impossible to use out in bright sunshine and frankly, it's pretty hard to use outside at all. In any sort of bright light conditions, you're just not gonna see it very well and if you're gonna check focus, you gotta zoom in. You can't just look at a little thumbnail screen on the back of your camera, two, three, four inch screen even. You're just not gonna see sharpness and so you've gotta hope that everything went right unless you do a lot of checking on it so that's why they've not really been used as a serious tool for most photographers. Love the small size, really easy to use. So it's a nice little travel camera, go to dinner type camera when you don't wanna carry all the big stuff with you but we are very limited, especially on the manual options. They may have manual options but they're not necessarily so good. My first digital camera was a Point & Shoot and I thought it was kinda cool cause I had full manual control, yeah! And then I went in to change the apertures and I had the choice of 4.7 and 6.3 and that was it. And anybody who knows about apertures knows I should have a lot more options in there. Yes it had manual options, just not that many and they typically have smaller sensors which means lower resolution, not as good in low light but we'll talk more about that. Alright, the next category is the Electronic View Finder and this is where a lot of our mirrorless cameras are these days. So these work kinda like the SLRs. We have a single interchangeable lens, kinda like the Point & Shoots that we just talked about. Light goes into the sensor, you get to see that on the LCD but in addition to the LCD, it sends information up to an electronic view finder. Now anyone who dealt with video cameras from the 1990s will remember low res, black and white view finders that got ya pointed in the right direction but didn't give you real good feedback of what you were recording. Well, technology has improved quite a bit and the view finders now in these types of cameras are simply phenomenal. They're really, really good. Are they better than SLRs? Kinda depends on who you talk to and what you're basing that on but they are good enough for professionals in a variety of situations so there's some really good stuff out here with these electronic view finders. Now, the way that it transmits the information to you is a little bit different from camera to camera. Usually, they're using a red, green, blue display and they'll just turn on the pixel that's appropriate for the color that your image is at that time, and then they'll take that group of three and they'll obviously make it as small as they can and they'll pack as many of those as they can in that little tiny one inch view finder that you're looking at and hopefully the more they put in there, the sharper you get. Now a few of the top cameras out on the market right now, when they reached a million dots is when I started paying attention to them because it's like a million dots, you finally have something that starts to look like almost reality but it's still a digital image. And so, 2.4 million dots is kind of a good baseline standard that you would wanna have in an electronic view finder, and a few of the cameras are pushing beyond it now and just make things even better but 2. is kind of a minimum for me in that. There's also the magnification. How big a screen is it? You know, when I go to see a movie, screen size matters to me. I wanna go a theater that has a big screen cause we've all gone to the little movie theater and you know, it's fine but for a big Hollywood production, you want that big screen and this makes viewing and photographing your subjects easy and more comfortable, is having a large view finder. Now the Sony and Fuji on the left are using a cropped frame sensor, and we're gonna talk more about this and so they have 0.7 and 0.77 magnification. So you can see they're a little bit less than the full frame cameras over on the right hand side. So we'll talk more about these cropped frame sensors and viewfinders as we get through this. The Sony A6500, which is one of the more popular cameras out there has a 1x magnification which means the viewfinder is essentially the same size as the sensor in the camera, and then with the Sony and Leica, they use a full frame sensor but it's got a lower magnification but it's a bigger sensor so it ends up being bigger in total. So you're gonna have some really nice views with these higher end Sonys and Leicas in that case. When you look at the technical specs of your camera, one of the things that you might notice is the coverage of your viewfinder. It's likely to range somewhere between 95 on the low side, and 100% on the high side and most of the time, professionals prefer to have 100%. Now sometimes what they do is they put 95% on lower end cameras, for two reasons. Number one, it's cheaper. And number two, it's kind of a safety protocol. When you photograph uncle Fred and you cut off the top of his head, it's actually there on the final image and so it gives you a little slop room. But professionals like to be very picky about the edges actually being the edge of the frame and so it's preferable to have 100% coverage if you're paying attention to what you're doing. There are different types of display types. There's LEDs, there's OLEDs which tend to be the newer, more modern, better version. We're not gonna get into the specifics of it. It's not critical to know. There's a difference. You'll see that listed on the cameras. Now there's another type called field sequential displays and these are not quite as good. What they do is they're kind of stacked, which sounds good and it just shows you the one that you want at the time and the problem is is that if you pan back and forth, you kinda get this blurry teardrop shape where you see where you were a moment ago and as your eyes move around it, it's not so good with moving subjects. So they use that on typically lower end viewfinder types. Another important factor is how fast of refresh rate these viewfinders have because if you do a lot of action photography, you're shooting a subject that's at position number one, you get to see the image when it's at position number two and you're trying to follow something and you're one second behind everything that's going on. And that makes action in sports photography really difficult if you don't have a fast readout that's showing you a quick update of what you're showing. This is where the SLR was fantastic cause it's using the speed of light cause you're just using your own eyes, light coming through the sensor on it. So the mirrorless cameras have been a little bit slow in this regard and they've gotten quite a bit better. There's eye sensors in these cameras that'll automatically turn the camera on as soon as you hold it up to your eye. Some of these eye sensors are a little bit more sensitive than others and they don't necessarily have a nice little dial control to make it more sensitive and not. A lot of them will have a manual switch that you can just manually turn that switch on and off depending on whether you want it, which can be nice. One of those features that most people never compare on a camera and it's not the most important thing, but especially for those of you wearing eyeglasses. How far away from the viewfinder can your eye be while still seeing the entire frame? And typically, higher end cameras have a larger distance or eye-point, eye relief between where your eye needs to be. Very helpful for everyone else who might want to wear sunglasses while they're shooting. Pretty much all good cameras will have a diopter, an adjustment for the viewfinder. You wanna get this set right, otherwise you pick the camera up and think you're going blind cause your eyes feel like they're falling out of focus so make sure that you have one of these and you have it adjusted for your eyesight. The electronic view finders have added a lot of technology and some interesting things that we haven't had before. I've always wanted this in a camera and we now have this at least on the Fuji cameras, a focusing scale that shows me where I'm focused at and how much depth of field I'm getting. And it's amazing having this cause you can just dial it in, you see how much depth of field, you change the aperture and you see how much more depth of field you're gonna get. So you get that live previewed in the viewfinder. Something we can't do with SLRs. One of the things that we'll do in live view on SLRs or right in the viewfinder is a magnification where we can zoom in on a subject and see if it's sharp. And then we'll back out to see the whole image, but this is the way that we guarantee absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt that our subject is in focus. It's something all cameras can do and it's a matter of how easy and how quick is it to work with. Many cameras now have a peaking option, which will highlight areas, in a shimmering of color, where it's in focus and so a lot of video shooters have been using this for quite some time but we're now seeing it on still cameras, something you can turn on and off with the EVFs. Another one that's kind of unique to Fuji here is a dual image display. Their viewfinder is so big that you can see the entire image off to the left and a magnified area over to the right just for focusing. And if you don't like that option on the new firmware for the camera, you can switch it around so that you get a bigger area for focusing and a little one for composition. So there's a lot of interesting options and this is the future of photography. This is where it's going, we're gonna see more and more of this on more cameras. When it comes to EVFs, it is lower resolution than we see with our own eyes but it's good enough I think for 99% of the people doing 99% of the things out there. Refresh lag still on some cameras. Power consumption is a bit of an issue. These mirrorless cameras that have the EVFS do use more battery power. I just buy an extra battery. That usually solves the problem but overall, it's a little bit more battery consumption. Now the good things, there's a lot of them here. You get to view through the lens, there's no parallax problems cause you're looking through the actual device. It can be a smaller camera and this is one of my favorite things. When you're looking at the world, you're seeing your digital version of it. You get to see whether the exposure is right, you get to see whether the white balance is set in there. You're looking at a final image in there and that speeds up the whole process in my mind. There can be a low light boost. Under low light conditions, you'll actually see things brighter than you could with your own eyes. Most all of these are 100% coverage. You can review in bright light. Oh, let me tell you folks. Some of you have hit 40, I'm guessing. I don't mean to be judgemental at all but you know, for those of you mostly over 40, you gotta have these things. So what did I shoot? Was that clear? Let me see. Okay, there we go. Like this. This is where you need to have a tripod and look at it back here but with a mirrorless camera, you just hold it up to your eye and you have the diopter that can adjust it and so when I'm out in bright sunny conditions, I can see if I shot sharp photos with that EVF. We now have some silent shutter. Camera's dead silent. No sound at all. If you wanna shoot video. By the way, this class is not about shooting video but we will talk about it once in a while. You can shoot video right through the viewfinder and hold your camera properly. It's a power saving over using the LCD on the back of the camera but not necessarily compared to an SLR. SLR is still more efficient and there's a lot of information that you can overlay on your subject. So there's a lot of really good things about these EVFs. It's where the future of photography is going. 10 years from now, pretty much everything will be using an EVF. There'll be a few SLRs probably but this is gonna be pretty much everything. The SLT is kind of a unique one. We're not gonna spend much time on it. Sony acquired the remains of Minolta, if you remember the Minolta name. So they've been still making cameras using an SLR system but what they do is they put in a fixed mirror that does not move. It lets some of the light, two thirds of the light through to the sensor. It bounces one third up to the auto-focus sensor and EVF so it's kind of a mixture of a mirrorless and an SLR to some degree. There's only a few cameras out on the market and they do tend to do pretty good in focusing for the price that they are but it appears that Sony is putting much more emphasis on their mirrorless system than this. They're still kind of propping this up, supporting their users over the years but I don't think this is where the future of photography is going. It's kind of a holding pattern for all those people who had Minolta and the SLR stuff from Sony. So it does have a very good focusing system, as I said in there because it's always getting information about it but when it steals one third of the light for focusing, it's always gonna be at a disadvantage when it comes to image quality and other issues coming through the camera. This is an unusual camera. There is really..Leica's the only major manufacturer left who is using a rangefinder design. So there's a completely separate viewing window than the image taking window and it actually uses two windows so that you can focus properly. When you can get measurements from two different directions, two different locations, that's often called a rangefinder. Compare those two, line them up properly. It is the best way for manual focusing. It has a really, really good manual focus system. The actual lens that collects the light, obviously right there in the middle is a different place. So you're looking through this slightly different gap of where the lens is and so there's a slight offset on this. The way these cameras work is that they're gonna show you your frame lines and you can actually see outside the frame lines, which can be a real advantage for street photography and some other types of photography. And in the middle, you'll have a focusing patch and when you see your subject offset, you simply turn the lens in the direction that it's offset to focus and all you need to do is really find a vertical line of some sort and you're gonna be able to focus really quickly and easily. And those of you that have Leicas and friends that may have them, they're gonna speak very passionately about them. It's partly because they're a very unique system but it's also because they paid a lot of money and when you spend that much money, you tend to be very dedicated to that sort of object. You can ask me about my Lamborghini later, I'm very passionate about it. I don't have a Lamborghini, trust me. Alright, so these have very accurate manual focusing, constant viewing even when you're taking a photo. You get to see what's going on which is a very nice attribute to have. It is a very limited system. It's not gonna work good with telephoto lenses and macro lenses and so it's a small, unique collection system. It's not what I would recommend for somebody first getting into photography. It's kind of the convertible roadster that you take out on the weekend. I think it's the perfect version of that but some people like driving that all the time. This is just one camera here, it's kind of an unusual one. Just to let you know that different things can be done. This is a combination of a mirrorless camera and a rangefinder camera. So Fuji has this hybrid optical/electric one which allows light through so you can view with your normal eyes what's going on constantly all the time, but it also has in there a mirror and LCD system so that you can see a full electronic view if you would prefer or even an overlay of real life and an electronic LCD on the cover of it. So it's a highly specialized camera in that regard and that hybrid viewfinder is just the right thing for a few photographers out there. It's kind of a niche camera but it does a good job combining best of both worlds in some ways. This is just on one camera, there was the XPro1, XPro so technically there's two cameras. We would like to see some more cause it fits some people's needs quite a bit on here and so using this, I typically just use it in the EVF mode because I like seeing what my final image looks like. Yes, there are other systems and all those little Point & Shoots back many years ago, they had these little optical viewfinders, just a little window to point your camera in the right direction. It had nothing to do with focusing, you saw no real information in there. And then all those old-fashioned view cameras. Light comes in through the lens, gets projected onto the ground glass in the back and that's what you have to view and it's hard to see out in bright sunlight which is why Ansel Adams and all the large format users would pull the big black cloth over their head so that they could see what was going on on the back of the camera. Every once in a while, I'll see somebody with a twin lens camera and it has two lenses. One's for viewing, one's for taking photos. They're slightly offset and so different combinations. And this is what photography has been doing for 100 years. It's just been adjusting and coming up with different solutions to solve different problems. Right now, SLRs are still the king. Mirrorless cameras are risen technology wise right up there beside them and then there's a few other systems out here as well. So this might be a good time to check in with Kenna, our studio audience, our at-home audience. See if we have any follow-up questions on the viewing system. John, I did have a quick question asking "Is there a shelf life limit on digital cameras?" Shelf life. No, you can have a camera sitting on a shelf for a very long period of time. (laughter) Typically though, you will find most serious pros updating cameras..well some people are just into new gear. Don't look at me, I'm not into new gear at all. Most serious pros are updating their cameras two, three, four years. There's a lot of pros who know exactly what they need and are perfectly comfortable using six, seven, eight year old cameras. Digital cameras have changed tremendously in 10 years. If you're working with a 10 year old digital camera, that's a good camera for learning on but there's a jump that you'll be able to make by getting into something a little bit newer.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Fundamentals of Photography Class Outline
Learning Projects Workbook
Camera Keynote PDF
Sensor Keynote PDF
Lens Keynote PDF
Exposure Keynote PDF
Focus Keynote PDF
Gadgets Keynote PDF
Lighting Keynote PDF
Editing Keynote PDF
Composition Keynote PDF
Photographic Vision Keynote PDF

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

Love love all John Greengo classes! Wish to have had him decades ago with this info, but no internet then!! John is the greatest photography teacher I have seen out there, and I watch a lot of Creative Live classes and folks on YouTube too. John is so detailed and there are a ton of ah ha moments for me and I know lots of others. I think I own 4 John Greengo classes so far and want to add this one and Travel Photography!! I just drop everything to watch John on Creative Live. I wish sometime soon he would teach a Lightroom class and his knowledge on photography post editing.!!! That would probably take a LOT OF TIME but I know John would explain it soooooo good, like he does all his Photography classes!! Thank you Creative Live for having such a wonderful instructor with John Greengo!! Make more classes John, for just love them and soak it up! There is soooo much to learn and sometimes just so overwhelming. Is there anyway you might do a Motivation class!!?? Like do this button for this day, and try this technique for a week, or post this subject for this week, etc. Motivation and inspiration, and playing around with what you teach, needed so much and would be so fun.!! Just saying??? Awaiting gadgets class now, while waiting for lunch break to be over. All the filters and gadgets, oh my. Thank you thank you for all you teach John, You are truly a wonderful wonderful instructor and I would highly recommend folks listening and buying your classes.


I don't think that adjectives like beautiful, fantastic or excellent can describe the course and classes with John Greengo well enough. I've just bought my first camera and I am a total amateur but I fell in love with photography while watching the classes with John. It is fun, clear, understandable, entertaining, informative and and and. He is not only a fabulous photographer but a great teacher as well. Easy to follow, clear explanations and fantastic visuals. The only disadvantage I can list here that he is sooooo good that keeps me from going out to shoot as I am just glued to the screen. :-) Don't miss it and well worth the money invested! Thank you John!


Dear John, thanks for this outstanding classes. You are not only a great photographer and instructor, but your classes are pleasant, they are not boring, with a good sense of humor, they go straight to the point and have a good time listening to you. Please, keep teaching what you like most, and I will continue to look for your classes. And thanks for using a plain English, that it's important for people who has another language as native language. Thanks again, Juan

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