There is considerable discord between DSLR traditionalists and new mirrorless converts regarding the benefits and limitations of electronic view finders. Since this is a landscape photography review of the A7RII, I’m not going to list the pros and cons of each system, but look at how the EVF functions in the field. Because of phone and compact cameras, photographers have become accustomed to using the rear LCD to compose, holding the camera at arms length while shooting a photo. This is a big fail, if you’re serious about getting the sharpest images possible. Using a view finder provides a third point of stability when shooting without a tripod. Also, in some situations, the rear LCD screen can be difficult to see and the view finder provides an alternative in bright and contrasty conditions. Consequently, having a big and accurate view finder is important in any camera destined for work outdoors. The only question is which is better for landscape work, an optical view finder or an EVF?
While camera technology has improved dramatically over the last decade, human vision is still unmatched in its ability to handle high dynamic range, depth, and details in a larger context. A large part of the art of photography is learning to see as the camera sees, and there is nothing better for this purpose than previewing the image on an LCD screen or EVF. The EVF, like the rear LCD, gives you a live preview of what the image actually looks like. Through an EVF, you see what the cameras sees, which is often quite different from what the eye sees. It allows for adjusting composition and exposure in real time, before taking the shot. With an optical view finder, you compose, shoot, review, adjust, compose, shoot, review, etc.. The EVF in the Sony also allows for an overlay of useful information for landscape work, such as a histogram or level, as well as the ability to use focus peaking when manually focusing a lens. Through an optical view finder, manually focusing a wide angle lens accurately can be an exercise in futility. The A7RII EVF is big, the largest in any digital camera at the time of its release, and accurate, matching the rear LCD in color and contrast. Though very fine grained, you can see the pixels in the EVF while composing, and it doesn’t render fine detail quite as well as an optical view finder. On balance, however, I find this a reasonable trade off, given the advantages. When needing to shoot hand held, the A7RII electronic view finder has proven itself to be an incredibly useful and now indispensable tool.