viewfinder definition
« Back to Glossary Index

What is a Viewfinder?

Viewfinder is an essential tool in the world of video production. It serves as a window through which videographers and filmmakers frame their shots. This handy device allows them to compose and capture scenes with precision, ensuring that what they see through the viewfinder aligns with their creative vision.

In this article, we’ll explore the definition and various applications of viewfinders, as well as address common challenges associated with using them.

Viewfinder Definition

A viewfinder is a small optical or electronic device found on cameras and camcorders that provides a visual representation of what the camera’s lens is capturing. It assists filmmakers and videographers in composing shots and ensures accurate framing.

What is Viewfinder for?

Viewfinders serve multiple purposes in the realm of video production. Here are some of their primary functions:

  1. Framing Shots: The main purpose of a viewfinder is to help filmmakers frame their shots. By looking through the viewfinder, they can see exactly what the camera sees, allowing for precise composition and framing of the subject.
  2. Manual Focus: Viewfinders aid in achieving accurate manual focus. Filmmakers can assess the sharpness of the image and make adjustments as needed to ensure their subject is in focus.
  3. Stabilization: When shooting handheld, viewfinders can assist in stabilizing the camera. By pressing the camera against the eye and using the viewfinder, filmmakers can create a stable point of contact, reducing camera shake and producing smoother footage.
  4. Exposure Control: Some advanced viewfinders provide exposure information, such as aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. Filmmakers can use this data to make informed decisions about exposure.
  5. Composition: Viewfinders often include grids or framing guides that help filmmakers adhere to the principles of composition, such as the rule of thirds or the golden ratio.
  6. Outdoor Use: Viewfinders are particularly useful in bright outdoor environments where it may be challenging to see the camera’s LCD screen. They provide a shaded and focused view of the scene.
  7. Privacy: In certain situations, such as documentary filmmaking or capturing candid moments, using a viewfinder can be less intrusive than using the LCD screen, allowing the subject to remain more natural.

picture of a man shooting

What are Some Common Challenges in Using Viewfinders?

Viewfinders are essential tools in video production, but they present several challenges for videographers. Prolonged use of a viewfinder can lead to eye strain, especially if the viewfinder doesn’t have adjustable diopters.

Those who wear glasses might find certain viewfinders uncomfortable. Furthermore, viewfinders generally offer a smaller field of view than LCD screens, which can make tracking fast-moving subjects or filming broad landscapes difficult.

Getting an exact manual focus can also be challenging through a viewfinder, especially with wide apertures, as some may not deliver a sharp enough image for meticulous focus. There are various viewfinders, like optical and electronic ones, each with its pros and cons.

Filmmakers must discern which type is most suitable for their needs. Another issue is that viewfinders might not always show a wholly accurate portrayal of exposure and color. Proper calibration is essential to make sure the end footage aligns with the desired appearance.

Additionally, not every camera has an in-built viewfinder, and not all external ones are compatible with every camera model. It’s imperative for filmmakers to verify that their chosen viewfinder fits their camera.

Lastly, superior electronic viewfinders can come with a hefty price tag, increasing the overall expenditure on video production equipment, which could be a concern for those on a limited budget.


When should I use a viewfinder?

A viewfinder is particularly useful when you need precise framing and composition in your video shots. It’s especially handy in bright outdoor conditions, for manual focusing, and when you want to maintain a discreet presence during candid filming.

Can you clean the inside of a viewfinder?

Cleaning the inside of a viewfinder can be challenging and may require professional assistance. Dust or debris inside the viewfinder can obstruct your view and affect image clarity. If you notice any issues, consult your camera’s manual or seek help from a camera technician.

How do I choose the right viewfinder for my camera?

Choosing the right viewfinder depends on your camera model and your specific needs. Consider factors like compatibility, type (optical or electronic), budget, and features (such as diopter adjustment or exposure data) when making your selection.

« Back to Glossary Index