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Canon: OVF Makes DSLR Superior To Mirrorless

By Anthony Thurston on March 5th 2014

If you had any doubt about Canon’s feelings towards mirrorless cameras, then a recent interview with Canon over on DPreview is something that you will want to check out. In the article, the Canon representative is quoted as saying that DSLR cameras are superior to mirrorless cameras due to their Optical Viewfinder (OVF), which he says is better than the Electronic Viewfinders (EVF) seen in today’s mirrorless cameras.


DSLRs can capture the moment better than mirrorless, because you’re viewing directly, not through an LCD.

It is hard to argue that point, EVFs have come a long way in the recent cameras – the EVF in the new Fujifilm X-T1 is really neat – but they still struggle in extreme situations where OVFs do not struggle.

I think it is pretty clear that Canon has no intention of truly competing in the mirrorless market. In the same interview above, the Canon rep specifically states that they will continue to develop and produce mirrorless offerings and that he hopes that they will not get beat by their strong competition in the market. (Too bad their EOS M and EOS M2 already give them two losses to the competition).

Are DSLRs Superior to Mirrorless Cameras Thanks To Their Optical Viewfinders?

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I honestly don’t blame them all that much, even though I would like to see them take mirrorless more seriously. But if you really think about it, it is not in Canon’s best interests to push the mirrorless market. Not only does it directly compete with their “Superior” DSLR line, but it also brings legitimacy to the systems that Fujifilm, Sony, and the other mirrorless manufacturers are producing.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Does an OVF make a DSLR superior to a Mirrorless camera? How about Canon taking the Mirrorless market seriously. Share your opinion in a comment below to join the discussion.

[via DPReview]

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    I have both I prefer OVF , i like some benefits of EVF’s but a switch to go from OVF to EVF would be perfect.

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  2. john Russell

    I don’t follow this EVF OVF thing.
    If I use an EVF I see the exposure and histogram. It takes me 10 minutes to make my changes.
    If I use an OVF I take the picture and then spend 10 minutes using my camera monitor to make changes.
    Of course these are static subjects.
    I don not see how an EVF will be better than an OVF with sports or wildlife with fast moving subjects. You do not have time to check the exposure and histogram or focus peek. You use the cameras exposure meter and your own experience. In between shots you can then make changes. I do not see how an EVF can improve on the OVF.
    As to an EVF showing 100% vs an OVF showing 95-98%, big harry deal. So what if a photo has to be cropped, most likely you will crop anyways to improve the photo. I really doubt that the human brain can distinguish 2% difference at the moment of taking the picture. If the one photo out of a hundred is noticed then you end up cropping anyways.
    How does an EVF function when you are using a seven pound 400mm 2.8 lens work?
    If you can hold it up like an OVF then there should be no difference. If you hold it out in front of you like a point and shoot. Then forget it unless you are willing to do very heavy deltoid(shoulder) exercises.

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  3. William Bert

    I have been using various Canon bodies and glass for over a decade. Last year I bought Fuji x100 and E-X1. I love having live histogram in my Fuji cameras EVF. There is far less chimping and more focusing on the shot. Many times were I have taken over 100 shots with my Fuji cameras and not have not check the back of the camera. No Canon your OVF are not superior as hardly anything has changed with them, it the same information being displayed for over a decade!

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  4. Gerry

    Kodak & Polaroid laughed at digital imaging for mainstream consumers and are now bankrupt.

    Bill Gates still thinks that the iPad “still isn’t quite there yet and that iPad users really want Office and a Surface… yet they wrote down nearly $1B in losses for Surface last year.

    Steve Ballmer laughed at the iPhone when it was introduced (Google “Ballmer laughs at iPhone) and now the iPhone product line alone generates more revenue *and* profit than all of Microsoft’s businesses, combined.

    Canon says “our OVFs are superior…”

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  5. Mike

    Sony and others had nothing to loose in cutting the path in new camera bodies. But Nikon and Canon dominate. Images taken with a top Nikon D800 compared with the Sony A7r are nearly the same. If a person has a bunch of Nikon lenses, they will probably stick with Nikon.
    I look forward to the good old days when there were all kinds of formats. 35mm, 2.25, 4×5, etc. etc. but perhaps it will be less about the sensor and more about what a particular body or system can do.
    I prefer optical. Once I realized Sony was no longer in that game for FF, I moved to Nikon (a brand I had used for many years in 35mm too). But I could have easily gone to Canon or any other brand too. I may still yet. If Sony wises up and enters both optical (DSLR) and digital bodies (this is probably what they all should do), I may yet go back.
    Variant: one model, say the Sony/Canon/Nikon D123 but two options. One a DSLR and one digital. The D123R and the D123E. Something like that. But the R for reflex would inevitably be very hybrid for sure.

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  6. Jesse Kleitman

    Hmph. I have a 5D II and the supposedly wondiferous OVF viewfinder doesn’t show the entire field of view captured by the camera. It doesn’t matter if the concept is oh so superior on paper when it’s implementation is poor.

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  7. Lawrence

    Isn’t the hybrid viewfinder that Canon are rumoured to be developing the answer, and may appear in the 7DmkII? Best of both worlds…

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  8. J cortes

    I think Canon is being foolish by not exploring more the EVF option . Maybe they’re merely being coy , however I really love my Sony a99 and it’s EVF . Sure at first I had reservations , but for my needs it suits me just fine . I love having the ability to see the actual exposure and being able to have a histogram available to me while I take the photo .

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  9. Isaac Medina

    I think the Fujifilm X-Pro1 hybrid OVF is a great way to get the best of both worlds. I do prefer an OVF, and when (as some people stated) need a BW view, gridlines and more, I flick the switch and use the EVF. I do have a few great ideas for Fujifilm.

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  10. Austin Swenson

    This sounds like a classic case of “who moved my cheese?”. When it comes to Nikon and Canon, who haven’t made serious competitor cameras to the other mirrorless models out there, they think “Meh, we’re still making a TON of money with our great DSLR’s, why should we have to try new things when what we’ve got works right now?”

    I think they should approach this looking at it as an opportunity to continue to solidify their hold at the top by making both DSLR and mirrorless models, instead of letting Sony, Panasonic, and Olympus spank them in the mirrorless market like they are. I’m playing devil’s advocate here because I shoot Sony and I think it would bring down industry prices of camera models coming out if they had Canikon to deal with. Better, less expensive gear for all!!! =)

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  11. Tymon

    I think Canon’s main problem is that they don’t believe that mirrorless cameras can be cool. They are still like: “Who needs it anyway? OVF is superior and everything is better as it is.” Personally i prefer OVF but still I would like to have third camera that is smaller, lighter and gives me decent quality. EOS M is quite cheap now but still looking at Fujjis or even at Sony’s lower range cameras. I’m still not sure what to choose and i postpone the inevitable, thinking that my third camera is just around the corner. Maybe.

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  12. Danilo Caovila

    I think hybrid VF is the answer! It will come to fill the gap between them.

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  13. Camille

    I just got Canon’s mirrorless a few days ago. I ordered it after reading the SLR Lounge review and finding a good price for it on line. It’s primarily for my daughter, who needs something to take on a trip to Europe this summer. I had considered using it as a backup camera, but so far I’m not liking the lack of a viewfinder of any kind. It’s been awkward. I took it out yesterday to take some photos at my kid’s tennis match. It didn’t take long for me to put it away in favor of my 7D. I probably need more time with it, but I was expecting a shorter learning curve since I already use a Canon DSLR and point and shoot. I haven’t taken a look at the images yet. I really want to like Canon’s mirrorless camera, but it doesn’t seem like they want to like it.

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  14. Jonathan

    “Are DSLRs Superior to Mirrorless Cameras Thanks To Their Optical Viewfinders?”
    – Yes
    – No
    -> It depends on the shooting conditions and the photographer’s own preferences.

    I think it’s inevitable that EVFs will catch up and surpass OVFs; just give it a decade or three.

    On the other hand, some people still use “obsolete” technology like film cameras such as the Fuji Instax. Like it or not, OVFs will never go away either; the options will simply become more limited as EVFs become more popular.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      I think this is mostly correct, not sure about it taking EVFs decades to catch up to OVFs though. They are actually pretty darn close now on the new higher end bodies.

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  15. Eric

    I shoot mirrorless because I primarily do video with photo as a hobby, but I certainly preferred the OVF on my Canon T3i vs my EVF on my Panasonic G6. I used to own the Panasonic GH1 and it’s incredibly how much better the G6 is than the GH1. As you can probably imagine, the biggest benefit I can think of is the low-light ability. The lag while trying to use the EVF in low light situations is very frustrating. Or if you’re trying to frame up a time lapse shot at night…well, good luck! You see what the sensor sees and the sensor sees darkness, while your eye sees more than that.

    However, for video, EVF is what I would be using all the time anyway and in those situations, specifically weddings, it’s more important that I know what image my camera is recording.

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  16. Martins Vanags

    This is b…t.
    Take for example Sonys A7 EVF, it is bright, you can add gridlines, customize it, add level indicator (2 axis) .
    OVF is dark compared to EVF, they are mostly optimized for f2 and darker lenses, EVF displays actual brightness of the scene.
    Manual focus: no prism can compete with Sonys focus peaking system.
    Live histogram. no comments.
    Instant BW view of the scene, not on LCD but in real VF.

    Canon must do something, buy couple A7R or Fuji T1 for the beginning and get aware of modern cameras and what technology can do these days.

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