Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Olympus VF-3 Experience

VF-3 fitted on Olympus E-PM2

I am a long time user of Micro Four Thirds camera from E-PL1, E-PM1 and now E-PM2.  This system appeals to me because of its small size.  One thing that consistently held it back for me was the lack of EVF.  With the E-PL1, the screen was barely visible in day light.  This was changed with E-PM1, the screen is now quite useful in daylight, apart from the glare and reflection.  The rear screen of the E-PM2 looks very much the same as the E-PM1.

Close up of VF-3

For my style of shooting, I much prefer a view finder, hence the purchase of VF-3 recently.  It has transformed the way I shoot.  Now I no longer need to stretch out my arms and squint at the LCD.  It also adds stability when shooting at low light.  VF-3 can also be pivoted through 90° and I have used it like a waist level finder at time.  This is a style I developed in the past when shooting a compact camera with a flip out LCD screen and I quite like it.

VF-3 showing diopter adjuster
This is a user experience because I do not have access to VF-2 which has higher resolution.  All I can say is it works and I use it all the time and it is rarely off the camera.  It is not all good however.  The problem is not the resolution of the VF-3, it is the colour and contrast compared to the rear LCD.  When shooting with the rear screen, the image you see is comparable to the final image.  The image you see on the VF-3 is nothing like the final image.  It looks very yellow in colour temperature and over amplified; even the shadow area looks bright on the VF-3.  Therefore it should only be used to compose the image and nothing else.  I find I use the rear LCD to view the image I’ve shot rather than relying on the VF-3.  As a tool, I find it very useful but it is flawed in its execution of its task.

Recently, Olympus released the VF-4 which apparently solved all the above problems, but is very expensive.  I do not see myself buying one in the near future.  The VF-3 when used knowing its limitations is a very useful aid to Olympus shooters.  Here are the Pros and Cons:

·         Very useful in day light.
·         Can be pivoted 90° and used as a waist level finder.
·         Makes the camera more discrete, rather than everyone seeing your rear LCD.
·         Helps with stability when shooting.
·         Resolution good enough for manual focusing.
·         It has a locking pin, so unlikely to drop off like the VF-2.
·         Cheaper than VF-2.

·         Colour temperature is different to rear LCD.
·         Very low contrast and shadow is way too bright.
·         Lower resolution than VF-2.
·         Add bulk to the camera.
·         Actual viewing area is quite small.
·         Cannot use flash or any other accessories when it is attached.

View from the back
Although it has its drawbacks, it is still an invaluable tool to Olympus M43 shooters.  Therefore I can highly recommend it noting the Cons listed above.  I still think it is overpriced and if the VF-2 and VF-3 are cheaper, Olympus will sell a lot more of them.

Update 13th October 2013: I've had the VF-3 now for a while and I can say it is not good enough.  As a viewfinder to use during bright sun light, it works.  Also it makes taking photo more stable because you are not holding the camera at arms' length.  Ultimately it fall short of what I expect a viewfinder to be.  After shooting in good light at the Redbull Soapbox race, I want happy with it.  But after using it at the London Fashion Weekend cat walk show, I was very disappointed.  I was using a Canon DSLR at the same time and the optical viewfinder so much superior.  The VF-4 may be a lot better, but I don't have one to test and it makes the camera viewfinder combination cast more than a good DSLR.  Unless mirrorless cameras have good viewfinders I think they will not be taken seriously by enthusiast and professional photographers.