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Fujifilm X-Pro 1, Sony NEX-7, Panasonic DMC-GH2, Olympus VF-2: EVF comparison

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by stratokaster, May 31, 2012.

  1. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Pavel
    Recently I had a chance to spend a large amount of time with two of the most interesting mirrorless cameras currently on the market: Fujifilm X-Pro 1 and Sony NEX-7. I am also a happy owner of the Panasonic GH2 and have extensive experience shooting with various Olympus Micro 4/3 cameras using the VF-2 add-on viewfinder. That's why I wanted to make a comparison of the viewfinders used in those cameras because for me this is one of the most important features in any camera.

    To some extent, this comparison is also applicable to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (which uses the same EVF module as the VF-2), Panasonic LVF-2 (which has almost the same EVF as the Panasonic GH2), Sony Alpha A77, A65 and NEX-5N with the FDA-EV1s (those cameras feature the same EVF as the NEX-7).

    1. Fujifilm X-Pro 1. The hybrid viewfinder of the X-Pro 1 is excellent. In the optical mode, it obviously doesn't have any delay and is as bright and clear as any other optical viewfinder out there, but with useful electronic overlays including virtual bubble level, histogram, and parallax-corrected AF point indication. Simply stunning. In the electronic mode, the X-Pro 1's EVF has a very good resolution of 1.44M dots and features relatively good dynamic range. The biggest downside of the EVF in the X-Pro 1 is its slow refresh rate and noticeable delay, especially in low light. It also has no diopter correction whatsoever. The size of the EVF is relatively small - it looks almost the same as Olympus VF-2, maybe slightly bigger.

    2. Sony NEX-7. The NEX-7's EVF has the highest resolution (2.35M dots). It's also one of the biggest — approximately on par with the EVF in the Panasonic GH2. However, in many ways it's inferior to every other EVF in this comparison. Its dynamic range is very narrow and it crushes shadow areas completely. Surprisingly, it's also the noisiest in low light situations. And its eye-relief is very tight; I wear glasses and I'm not able to see the whole frame at once when shooting with the NEX-7. It has one redeeming quality, however — it has a relatively deep eyecup which is more effective at blocking stray light than others.

    3. Panasonic GH2. Panasonic was the first camera company to offer truly excellent EVFs. The EVF in the GH2 is very large and bright. It also has a very good resolution of approx. 1.44M dots. Unlike other Panasonic cameras, the EVF in the GH2 is multi-aspect to match its unique sensor. It also provides generous eye-relief — I have never had any problems with glasses. Its dynamic range is somewhere between the Sony NEX-7 and the Fujifilm X-Pro 1.

    4. Olympus VF-2. This EVF is superb. It's not as big as the Panasonic one, but it's very crisp and clear, with excellent dynamic range (although still much worse than an OVF) and color rendition. Its eye-relief is also quite good.

    I know that such things are a matter of personal preferences, but I think Olympus VF-2 is simply the best of the bunch. The Panasonic GH2 EVF is a close second, and the EVF of the Sony NEX-7 is a distant third. As for the X-Pro 1, its viewfinder is unique. As a whole it's super awesome, but its EVF part is no fun because of slow refresh rate and noticeable delay.

    Hope that simple comparison is useful for you!
     
    • Like Like x 11
  2. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    Is the GH2 viewfinder the same as the one in the G1, G2, and GH1? I find the colour "tearing" to be quite uncomfortable on the GH1. The problem is made worse by it's large size since your eye virtually needs to look around to see the entire display. I agree that despite being smaller the VF-2/E-M5 viewfinder is the better of the two, to the point where I'd consider it to be more than just for "emergency" use only.
     
    • Like Like x 3
  3. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Pavel
    I don't think it's the same unit. It has faster refresh rate and is also multi-aspect to match the sensor of the camera. It definitely has less color tearing than my former G2. I hardly notice it.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Jack
    Thanks for the comparison Pavel. I've used them all as well, and I agree with your assessment.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    Why do I feel like the E-M5 EVF is smaller than the VF-2? I feel like it's quite a bit smaller.....is it indeed the same?
     
    • Like Like x 1
  6. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Pavel
    The unit is indeed the same, but it has different optics in front of it.
     
  7. Pelao

    Pelao SC All-Pro

    Jul 11, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    Stephen
    Interesting. Thank you.

    Had my first detailed play with the Nex 7 this past weekend. Nice camera in many ways, though I think it would benefit from being a bit bigger.

    Anyway, I was really disappointed in the EVF. Perhaps my expectations were too high. But I prefer the Olympus VF2.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Biro

    Biro SC All-Pro

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Steve
    Thank you, Pavel. I've been toying with the idea of a Sony A65 because of the OLED EVF. But it sounds like I'd do just as well with something like the A35, which has a more traditional (if any EVF can be called traditional) LED EVF. If I'm not mistaken, the EVF in the Sony A 33/35/55/57 is the same unit used by Olympus. What's more, the A35 is, for all intents and purposes, the same size as the GH2. Good deal!
     
    • Like Like x 1
  9. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Pavel
    Yep, this EVF was hyped as the best viewfinder EVAH!!!, when in fact it's not better than its direct competitors.
     
  10. Landshark

    Landshark PhotoDog

    Jul 15, 2010
    SoCal
    Bob
    Not exactly, it does not have one built in but you can change diopters, just have to buy them
     
  11. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Pavel
    Yes, this is possible. However, Fujifilm themselves don't make suitable diopters. So you have to find out what diopters to buy, then find them and buy them. I think for most buyers it means that the camera does not have diopter correction.
     
  12. kyteflyer

    kyteflyer ~@¿@~

    Jan 31, 2011
    Newcastle, Australia
    Sue
    Thank you so much for this. I was particularly interested in the Olympus VF because I wanted to get one, and just couldnt make up my mind, without first trying it. This helps a lot!!
     
  13. Landshark

    Landshark PhotoDog

    Jul 15, 2010
    SoCal
    Bob
    Fuji recommends Voigtlander diopters, easy to find, easy to buy, may not be the most convenient, but it does have diopter correction ability
     
  14. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    The only one of these I haven't tried is the Nex EVF. But I agree that both the GH2 and Olympus VF2/OMD are both incredibly good - I wouldn't even bother rating one over the other from my experience. And the EVF is a really nice thing to have on the X-Pro for those situations where the OVF either doesn't work or is at a real disadvantage (super close work primarily, but sometimes in low enough light the EVF gain helps too, even though it looks terrible, you can still at least see SOMEthing), but I don't think it really competes with the others, which are the ONLY viewfinders in those cameras. The OVF is a HUGE part of the reason for the X-Pro and if I wasn't gonna use it 95% of the time or more, I probably wouldn't have chosen that camera (although the IQ is pretty wonderful too). Bottom line, EVFs are getting really good. At some point they'll probably be no downside to them relative to an OVF at all - its a pretty narrow difference right now and it'll only get narrower.

    -Ray
     
  15. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Jul 3, 2010
    Excellent writeup, Pavel. Gets right to the heart of what people need to know. I think I liked the GH2 EVF a bit more than the E-M5 EVF because of the larger size of the former, but both are excellent, and I like that the E-M5 EVF doesn't protrude out as much.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Jack
    Speaking of EVF's, for the OMD, is there a setting to make the EVF and/or LCD reflect the true exposure of the scene? In other words, if I'm underexposing, I'd like the EVF/LCD to be dark.
     
  17. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    Do you have "Live View Boost" turned on? This negates the effects of under or over exposure on the EVF/OLED.

    Menu -> Gears -> D -> Live View Boost -> Off
     
  18. flash

    flash SC Veteran

    372
    May 6, 2011
    Gordon
    I have 5 minutes with the Fuji EVF, so I can't comment on it, however I have extensive experience with the other three.

    For me:

    The EVF in the GH2 had the best eye relief and was the most comfortable to use over extended periods of time. However it had quite a bit of smearing when used tracking a subject. In addition the setting where it was supposed to simulate exposure was woeful and other settings actually affected the shutter lag of the camera. I also found it clipped the quickest in bright light and back light. The eye sensor is placed very well for both left and right eyed shooters. So while the GH-2 was comfortable to look through, in use I found it frustrating in use most of the time. I just didn't trust it. The diopter was placed well and didn't move on its own. I ended up having to use the live histogram all the time because exposures could vary wildly from the EVF and that's with exposure simulation turned on. The rear LCD was much better.

    The NEX 7 has the same EVF as the a77/a65, but since the optics in front of it are different the viewing experience is different. The a77, which I have, looks huge, clear and wonderful (without doubt the best EVF on the market today). The NEX7 version is cramped in comparison. The contrast is too high, but as I shoot RAW I just adjusted the jpeg contrast down low, which is reflected in the viewfinder. With that setting I see a very similar scene to the final image. The eyecup is by far the most uncomfortable and sticks right into the flesh around my eye. I have removed it. The eye sensor is placed badly and right eyed shooters and those with glasses will get frustrated when the sensor doesn't cut in when it should. With the contrast lowered, detail is exceptional and the EVF shows an excellent representation of exposure. Tearing in minimal. The diopter is placed well and is not going to move by itself.

    The VF2 has excellent eye relief and optics in front of the EVF itself. I find it comfortable to view. The simulation of exposure is excellent and the contrast out of the box is about right. As it has no eye sensor you will need to be prepared to press the little button often. The diopter adjust is far to easy to change. Just putting it in and out of a bag can adjust it extensively, which is very annoying. It also needs a locking tab as it can be lost quite easily if you're not careful. I wouldn't trust it in the hotshoe if I were just walking with the camera over my shoulder. I've picked it off the pavement more than once. Overall, I find the VF2 the most pleasant to use.

    My order would be the VF2, NEX7 (with contrast adjusted) and GH2 in third place.

    Gordon
     
    • Like Like x 1
  19. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Pavel
    Gordon, thank you for your insightful comments. I adjusted the contrast on the NEX-7 to -3 and the EVF now doesn't crush shadows nearly as bad as before.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  20. flash

    flash SC Veteran

    372
    May 6, 2011
    Gordon
    I was glad when I read it on a few sites (so not my idea, but glad it helped you). Its very disappointing that a camera with a sensor that has so much DR has a viewfinder with so little. Hopefully the requests I've seen for Sony to include a separate VF adjustment in a firmware update can be listened to, because it really is a fun camera to use.

    Gordon