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The Best EVF Digital Cameras for 2014

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Mason Resnick is the editor of the Adorama Learning Center and a lifetime photography enthusiast.

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The Best EVF Digital Cameras for 2014

More cameras are sprouting electronic viewfinders. Is this a long-overdue eye-level finder rebirth?

One of the most welcome trends in new camera design is the return of the eye-level viewfinder. But instead of those hardly-worth-it squintfinders of yore, these are digital, they’re showing up on more compact cameras, and they’re better than ever!


Remember squintfinders? Those were those little optical viewfinders that zoomed with the camera and gave you about a 60-70 percent view of what you were photographing. We complained about them, but then we complained even more when they started to disappear and were replaced with LCD monitors on the backs of digital cameras that forced you to hold the camera at arm’s length. This position encouraged camera shake, and the finders were (and in most cases, still are) barely usable in bright sunlight. Finally, the eye-level viewfinder is making a comeback in compact and not-so-compact cameras, and now it’s electronic!

We’re seeing more high-resolution EVFs on compact cameras, and image quality has improved. A 2 million dot resolution EVF looks almost as good as an optical image and the big advantage over optical squintfinders is that all EVFs we’ve seen show the entire image. They also let you view previews and provide lots of information so you don’t have to take your eye off the camera. Even better? You can hold the camera up to your eye to shoot, and that reduces camera shake.

If this is, indeed, a rebirth of the eye-level viewfinder, it’s about time!
The range of cameras with EVFs has expanded. Here are the key categories:

Superzooms

Where a couple of years ago an 18x zoom lens was considered a long stretch, now EVF cameras with built-in lenses have 30, 40 or even 50x optical zooms, and the lenses start out at wider wide-angle settings. Maximum focal lengths in the 800mm range (35mm equivalent) are not uncommon. There's even a camera now that can zoom beyond 1,000mm! To accommodate such a wide optical range, superzoom EVF cameras use small sensors, the kind you’d find in a pocket-sized compact digital camera. In daylight that’s fine, but in subdued light, image quality degrades fast because  of the physical limitations that come with squeezing so many pixels onto a space the size of your pinkie nail. Despite these limitations, noise suppression software can be applied in-camera which will let you produce 5x7 and even 8x10 prints that will be acceptable for most casual shooters. A caveat when shooting with a long-range zoom camera: Image stabilization will help in bright sunlight when zoomed to the longest focal length, but a tripod is much better and highly recommended.

Interchangeable Lens EVFs

The new sub-category is interchangeable-lens EVFs, which started when Panasonic introduced the G1, based on the Four Thirds sensor, in 2008, heralding a new era for photographers. In the last year, the category expanded greatly, with Sony and Fuji, and Olympus offering cameras with larger APS sensors. In both cases, the sensors in these cameras are commonly found on DSLRs, and the overall image quality is inevitably going to be much better than on smaller sensor cameras.  But more importantly, each brand has a selection of interchangeable lenses, and third-party manufacturers have created adaptors that let you mix and match, putting other brand lenses on these cameras. Although these cameras look like DSLRs, they are smaller and lighter because they do not have a space-eating mirror housing.

But wait—there’s more!

There’s another sub-category, mirrorless interchangeable lens compacts which lack built-in electronic viewfinders. Just to confuse matters a bit more, some of those cameras have EVFs available as accessories that are available at an additional cost. I’m not including those cameras here, but you can read more about them in “The Best System Compact Cameras Right Now.”

A note about DxOMark Lab Tests: The Adorama Learning Center’s partner test lab, DxOMark, has published lab test results of some interchangeable lens cameras, but not for fixed-lens EVFs. I’ve included basic result information and a brief interpretive statement for each camera where lab tests are supplied.

And now, on to the cameras. First, we’ll look at EVFs with built-in lenses, then interchangeable-lens EVFs. Adorama prices are accurate as of August 4, 2014.

Fixed Lens Superzoom “Bridge” Cameras with Electronic Viewfinders

Nikon Coolpix P530
Adorama price: $346.95


Overview: The Nikon Coolpix P530's amazingly long-ranging zoom lens stretches to an amazing 42x zoom ratio—24-1000mm. The lens is f/3-5.9, and the EVF is a modest 201k dot resolution—good enough for reference but not tack sharp. But the 3-inch LCD monitor, at 921k dot resolution, leads the pack. Macro close-up can bring you to within half an inch of the front of the lens, while the camera gives you many AF options for action or more stationary subjects. This camera offers 1080 HD video in 6 recording speeds, and other resolution at a variety of frame rates. It has has 19 scene modes and—a Nikon strength—7 in-camera editing actions. Sorry, no RAW image capture.


Key Features:

  • 16MP 2/3-inch CMOS sensor
  • 24-1000mm (35mm equivalent) f/3-5.9 powerlens
  • Built-in GPS
  • 3.2-inch 921k dot resolution LCD monitor
  • Eye-Level Electric Viewfinder with 201k dot resolution
  • Up to 7fps full-resolution burst rate
  • 56MB Internal Memory
  • Auto Scene Selector
  • Motion detection
  • Optical vibration reduction
  • Subject Tracking
  • Macro focus to 0.4 inches from surface of lens
  • ISO range 100-6400
  • 1080p HD movie recording with built-in stereo mic.
  • 17.5 oz.
  • Optional WU-1a Wi-Fi adapter available


Lab Test Results (Provided by DxOMark):
Not tested


Who would love it: Travelers, soccer moms, wildlife and birding enthusiasts who'd rather bag a great photo of their subject than kill it.

Canon SX50 Serves As A Fine Digital Camera For All Photographers

 

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

Adorama price: $399

With a category-leading 50x optical zoom lens that reaches all the way from 24-1200mm (35mm equivalent, and no, that's not a typo), the Canon PowerShot SX50 has a 12MP CMOS sensor and is capable of capturing both RAW and JPEG images, as well as HD video up to 1080p with stereo sound. The camera has a maximum ISO of 6400, and the 2.8-inch LCD monitor can flip out and has a 461k dot resolution. The camera also has an eye-level electronic viewfinder with a modest 202k dot resolution that is decent for compositional reference. It offers the usual boatload of photo effects, and has a burst mode of 2.2 shots per second, which is pretty good. In Macro AF mode, it will focus to the surface of the lens (in other words, 0 inches!), another impressive bit of optical wondermint.

Key features:

 

  • World's First 50x optical zoom lens; 24-1200mm (35mm equivalent)
  • Macro focus to surface of lens
  • 12MP CMOS sensor
  • 2.8-inch LCD Monitor with 461k dot resolution
  • Electronic Viewfinder with 202k dot resolution
  • Shutter speeds 15-1/2000 sec
  • Max. apertures f/3.4-6.5
  • ISO range 80-6400
  • RAW & JPEG
  • Up to 1080p Video
  • Built-in flash range 1.6-18ft wide angle
  • Hot shoe compatible with Canon Speedlite flashes
  • Smart Auto sets camera based on 58 predefined shooting situations
  • High Speed Burst Mode captures 10 frames at 13fps


Lab Test Results (Provided by DxOMark):

  • Maximum ISO for acceptable image quality (digital noise): 200
  • Maximum ISO for acceptable dynamic range: 200
  • Color depth: Good (20.3 bits on a scale of 1-25)
  • Overall image quality: Fair (47 on a scale of 1-100)
  • Dynamic range: 11.2 stops


A typical performance for a small-sensor camera, the SX50 performs best at its native ISO 100, but noise becomes apparent by ISO 400. Noise surpression might gain a stop or two.


Who would love it: Wildlife/birding photographers, travel shooters, soccer moms

 

 

Fujifilm FinePix S1

Adorama price: $399.46

Overview: With an impressive long-range optical 24-1000mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8-5.6 superzoom lens, the Fujifilm Finepix S1 is the first water-resistant camera in its class—a powerful self-contained camera for amateurs and enthusiasts. Fujifilm has improved shutter lag time, and the 256-zone metering, top shutter speed of 1/2000 sec., and hybrid phase detetion/contrast detection AF system all combine to make this a great camera for sports photography. Macro photographers can shoot as close as 0.4 inches in super macro mode, and the ISO range of 100-12800 allows for low-light shooting, although we recommend using the lens's widest setting in subdued light. Onboard image stabilization is a requirement as you zoom out to the farther reaches of its telephoto capabilities, and a tripod is highly recommended when shooting beyond 300mm. The EVF is a bright, high-resolution 920k dots, supplemented by the 3-inch flip-out LCD monitor.


Key Features

  • 16MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor
  • 24-1000mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8-5.6 zoom lens
  • 920k resolution electronic viewfinder
  • 3-inch, 920 dot flip-out LCD monitor
  • RAW + JPEG still formats
  • H.264 MOV movie format in up to 1080p
  • Focus to 0.3 inches in Super Macro, 2 inches in regular macro
  • ISO range 100-12800
  • 256-zone TTL meter
  • Auto and PSAM exposure control
  • Film simulation modes
  • Center, Multi, Area and Tracking AF
  • Built-in flash
  • Electronic level
  • Panorama
  • Hot Shoe

Lab Test Results (Provided by DxOMark):

Not tested


Who would love it: Sports, outdoors and wildlife enthusiasts.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70
Adorama price: $397.99

Overview: Meet the longest-range built-in zoom lens camera in the world, the Panasonic FZ70. Featuring a 60x optical zoom lens with a 20-1200mm (35mm equivalent) range and a very reasonable widest aperture of f/2.8-5.9, the FZ70 is a very attractive choice for photographers who want it all. The 20mm equivalent is the widest angle lens we’ve seen on a point-and-shoot camera. Anti-shake is effective according to our field tests with this camera, and the 16MP ½.3-inch CMOS sensor surprised us with the image quality. Panasonic claims it is designed in a way to cut image noise by 15 percent and improves quality at higher ISOs. The camera has a pop-up flash will also accept the Panasonic DMW-FL220, wireless DMW-FL360L, and DMW-FL500 external flash models. And yes, at 1200 you can shoot the moon and get good results!

Key Features:
•    20-1200mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8-5.9 lens
•    1/2.3-inch, 16MP sensor
•    Built-in flash
•    1080p HD video capture at up to 60i
•    Filter effects
•    3-inch, 460k LCD monitor
•    202k dot resolution EVF
•    Optical image stabilization
•    AF and manual focus, macro to within 1 inch
•    Shutter speeds 8-1/2000 sec

Lab Test Results (Provided by DxOMark):

  • Maximum ISO for acceptable image quality (digital noise): 200
  • Maximum ISO for acceptable dynamic range: 200
  • Color depth: Fair (19.4 bits on a scale of 1-25)
  • Overall image quality: Fair (41 on a scale of 1-100)
  • Dynamic range: 10.8 stops


A typical performance for a small-sensor camera, the FZ70 performs best at its native ISO 100, but noise becomes apparent by ISO 400. Noise surpression might gain a stop or two.


Who would love it: Travelers, realtors, wildlife and birding enthusiasts, even astrophotographers. It zooms out that far.


Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras with Electronic Viewfinders

 


Fujifilm X-E2
Adorama price: $849 (body only)

Overview: Fujifilm has quickly built out an impressive lineup of interchangeable-lens compact cameras and the Fujifilm X-E2 is the first of the second-generation. It offers a great balance of features and price, with the same highly-regarded 16MP APS sensor that appears in the flagship X-Pro 1. For this version, Fujifilm has souped up the processor for faster autofocus, startup and continuous shooting performance. Also new are focus peaking, face detection and split-screen manual focus.

Key Features

•    16.3 MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS Sensor provides high resolution & high sensitivity matching full-size sensor quality
•    Magnesium body with traditional (classical) design in compact size
•    HD 1080p Video w/Stereo Sound
•    100-25,600 ISO Capabilitites
•    JPEG + RAW (Process In-Camera)
•    Intutive Operation with Manual ring and Aperture Dial & Shutter-speed Dials.
•    Aspherical OLED-EVF 2360K EVF equipped with approx. 2360K dots OLED panel provides high contrast ratio and natural look.
•    2 new XF lenses provide a wider array of matched lenses
•    Built-in flash
•    Fast AF 0.1 sec with OIS, F2.8 zoom lens
•    External microphone connection
•    Built in diopter
•    Exposure Control - TTL 256 Zones
•    High Speed Contrast Autofocus

Lab Test Results (Provided by DxOMark):
Not tested.

Who would love it: Travel and portrait photographers seeking a compact camera with variety of mode settings and the ability to shoot in low-light situations, as well as HD video.

The Fujifilm X-E1 is available in Silver and Black.

An EVF Digital Camera on the Cutting Edge: the Olympus OMD-EM5

Olympus OMD-EM5

Adorama price with 12-50mm kit lens: $1,299

Overview: The arrival of the Olympus OMD-EM5 this year was greeted with a chorus of OMG's as the camera revived the design and spirit of Olympus's most popular film camera line, the OM series, which had a successful 29-year run. It's a fun camera. In addition to delivering outstanding image quality from its 16MP Four Thirds sensor (including impressive low-light performance), this camera takes all Micro Four Thirds lenses and has enough Art filters to make the Instagram crowd jealous. It has a super-hi-res electronic viewfinder and a flip-out 3-inch LCD monitor, menu and mode options that will be familiar to DSLR users, and our field tests showed it to be quick and responsive.

Key features

  • 16MP CMOS sensor
  • 35 AF targets
  • Electronic Viewfinder with 1.44 million dot resolution
  • Claimed world's fastest autofocus
  • ISO range 200-25,600
  • Shutter speeds 60-1/4000 sec
  • 9.2fps high-speed shooting
  • 5-axis image stabilization
  • Dust-proof, splash-proof
  • 3-inch tilting 610k dot resolution OLED monitor
  • 11 art filters with variations
  • Dust reduction system
  • Shutter mechanism tested to 100,000 cycles
  • Multiple exposures possible
  • Digital leveler
  • 1080p HD video

Lab Test Results (Provided by DxOMark):

  • Maximum ISO for acceptable image quality (digital noise): 800
  • Maximum ISO for acceptable dynamic range: 1600
  • Color depth: Very Good (22.8 bits on a scale of 1-25)
  • Overall image quality: Good (70 on a scale of 1-100)
  • Dynamic range: 12.3 stops


Above-average image quality for a Four Thirds Sensor. Measured ISO is consistently about 1 stop lower than the indicated one.

Read the Adorama Learning Center review of the Olympus OMD-EM5



Who would love it: Serious hobbyists, travelers, street photographers.

Panasonic GX-7
Adorama price: $847.99 with kit lens


Overview: Panasonic listened. Until now their high-end mirrorless compacts were little sports coups, performance wise, but were missing an important feature: An EVF. Users who wanted eye-level viewing were forced to buy an additional external finder, adding to the cost. With the GX7, they’ve resolved that via a tiltable super-high-resolution EVF that is built-in and very welcome. The 16MP four-thirds sensor is already well-regarded, and the lens lineup continues to grow.  There’s in-camera stabilization and the camera has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC. Street shooters, start your engines.


Key Features
•    16MP Four Thirds sensor
•    90 degree tiltable 2,746k dot resolution EVF
•    In-camera stabilization
•    Focus peaking and magnification windows
•    22 filter effects
•    Top shutter speed 1/8000 sec
•    ISO range 100-25,600
•    Magnesium-alloy body
•    Contrast AF system

Lab Test Results (Provided by DxOMark):

  • Maximum ISO for acceptable image quality (digital noise): 800
  • Maximum ISO for acceptable dynamic range: 800
  • Color depth: Very good (22.6 bits on a scale of 1-25)
  • Overall image quality: Good (70 on a scale of 1-100)
  • Dynamic range: 12.2 stops


Better than average image quality for a Four Thirds sensor camera with especially good color depth for scenery and portrait work.


Who would love it: Street photographers, photojournalists and anyone (like travelers) who wants a small, unobtrusive camera that is fast and precise.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 
Adorama price: $1,697.99 body only

Overview: The Panasonic Lumix GH4 is as much a highly-talented cinema camera as a still one. It's the first Four Thirds still camera to capture 4K-resolution video. Built on a newly designed 16MP sensor that's optimized for 4K video capture of footage at up to 4096x2160 pixels, the camera has a 2.36 Million Dot OLED EVF, focus peaking, and an attachable XLR adapter. Although the big news about the GH4 is that the camera puts 4K recording capability in the hands of prosumer-level users, it also offers many more options for plain old 1080p HD video shooting, including multiple recording format choices, and slow-motion capture in full HD. You will be able to switch from 4K to 1080p and shoot at varying frame rates and file formats. The big upgrade here is specifically in video; no changes are expected in still image quality. The GH4 can be combined with one of Pansonic's Lumix G Lenses or via an adaptor with movie industry PL mount Cine lenses.

Key Features

  • 16MP Live MOS Four Thirds sensor
  • 4K 24p cinematic video (4096x2160), plus 4K 3840x2160 30p/24p
  • Wi-Fi, NFC
  • AF Acquisition claimed at 0.07 sec
  • 49-area AF in still or video
  • 12FPS Burst rate
  • 2.359 million dot EVF
  • 1.03 million dot LCD
  • Top ISO 25,600
  • Top shutter speed 1/8000 sec
  • High-speed 49-area autofocusing in photo or video
  • Durable magnesium alloy body


Lab Test Results (Provided by DxOMark):

  • Maximum ISO for acceptable image quality (digital noise): 800
  • Maximum ISO for acceptable dynamic range: 1600
  • Color depth: Excellent (23.2 bits on a scale of 1-25)
  • Overall image quality: Good (74 on a scale of 1-100)
  • Dynamic range: 12.8 stops


Boasting the best image quality test results of any Micro Four Thirds camera thanks to its redesigned 16MP sensor, the Panasonic GH4 delivers excellent color depth and dynamic range but, as typical with smaller-sensor cameras, is limited when it comes to low-light high-ISO performance. Actual ISO consistently measured nearly a stop less than the one indicated by the manufacturer.

Who would love it: Serious cinematographers on a limited budget, amateur photographers and movie makers with higher aspirations and 4K monitors.

 

Sony Alpha A6000

Adorama price: $648 (body only)

Overview: The Sony A6000 has so much going for it—from its DSLR-quality 24.3MP APS-C sensor, top quality EVF, and 11fps burst rate to its best-in-class overall image quality score and ability to deliver virtually noise-free images at ISO 1600. It replaces the NEX-7, which we declared in our review to bet the best APS MILC at the time. It is a pro-level camera that offers many layers of features, from those a casual user would enjoy to capabilities that could satisfy the most demanding photojournalists and wedding photographers. With virtually no lag time and a growing selection of interchangeable, high-quality lenses, this camera is an investment in serious photography.

Key Features

 

  • 24.3MP APS-C Sensor with new BIONZ X processor
  • 10fps top burst rate
  • HD movies with manual control
  • Flip-up 3-inch LCD monitor, 921k dot resolution
  • 1,440k dot OLED EVF
  • E-mount lenses
  • Sweep Panorama mode
  • P/A/S/M modes for still and video
  • 25-point AF
  • Three manual control dials with assignable modes
  • Object tracking AF
  • Focus peaking
  • 6-image layering combines multiple image for sharper images
  • Intelligent AF
  • Dynamic Range optimizer
  • Multiple picture effects
  • 1080p at 60p/60i/24p
  • WiFi with NFC
  • 10.3 oz (body only)

Lab Test Results (Provided by DxOMark):

  • Maximum ISO for acceptable image quality (digital noise): 1350
  • Maximum ISO for acceptable dynamic range: 1600
  • Color depth: Outstanding (24.1 bits on a scale of 1-25)
  • Overall image quality: Excellent (82 on a scale of 1-100)
  • Dynamic range: 13.1 stops

This is one of the best non-DSLR APS cameras on the market when it comes to image quality. It is especially good at higher ISO settings and captures a wide dynamic range, which is great for weddings and other scenes where contrast can be high.


Who would love it: Street photographers, wedding photographers, photojouranlists, serious photo hobbyists looking for a quick, accurate, compact camera that delivers best-quality images.

Sony A7 
Adorama price: $1,498 in kit with 28-70mm kit lens

Overview: Sony rocked the photo world last year when it announced the A7, the world's first full-frame mirrorless interchangeable-lens compact digital camera/ It is still the smallest, lightest full-frame camera in the world. Compatible with Sony's new and growing lineup of FF-mount lenses, the camera has a remarkably fast hybrid autofocus system, the ability to find peoples' eyes and focus on them (a great tool for portrait photogrpahy), and 14-bit RAW image data capture for pro-quality color depth. It also captures uncompressed 1080 HD video at 60p and 60i, and has one of the highest resolution electronic viewfinders available.

Key Features:

  • World's lightest interchangeable lens full-frame camera
  • 24.3MP resolution 35mm sensor
  • 14-bit RAW image capture
  • Hybrid AF with phase detection
  • Intelligent AF optimized for full-frame sensor
  • New FF lenses
  • Compatible with Sony E-Mount lenses via optional adapter
  • 2.4 million dot OLED EVF
  • Tiltable 3-inch, 1.229k dot LCD monitor
  • NFC and Wi-Fi wireless connectivity
  • Full HD movie capture


Lab Test Results (Provided by DxOMark):

  • Maximum ISO for acceptable image quality (digital noise): 2200
  • Maximum ISO for acceptable dynamic range:  1600
  • Color depth: Outstanding (24.8 bits on a scale of 1-25)
  • Overall image quality: Outstanding (90 on a scale of 1-100)
  • Dynamic range: 14.2 stops


By any measure, the Sony A7 is at or near the top of every DxOMark image quality rating for any camera with any size sensor and is the highest-rated EVF camera in its price range.

Who would love it: Photojournalists, travel photographers, street photographers.

What's your favorite EVF camera? Leave a comment below!

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