Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why can't we have Waist Level Finders on DSLRs? The Pentax LX had an optional Waist Level Finder!

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Hi Pentaxian friends.

Before the advent of digital SLRs, along with Pentax and Nikon 35 mm format cameras, I used to shoot with medium format cameras as well. I owned a Pentax 645, and several Mamiyas and one Hasselblad. These cameras had different ways to focus on your subjects other than the eye-level viewfinder. They had a waist level finder (not the Pentax 645). Even my Pentax LX ( and my Nikon F5 had an optional waist level finder.

If you shot "street photography", you never had to bring the camera to your eye-level and could shoot with the camera hanging down your neck, at...well...your waist level. It was so much less intrusive and your street subjects never knew you were taking their pictures. That is paramount, in my opinion, to get the best results as your subjects are completely unaware and thus...very natural in their actions.

It was ideal to take portrait photos as you could just look up at your subject, entertain a conversation with them, and adjust the camera focus, aperture and speed at the same time. Once your camera was set, you could just look at your subject and fire the shutter without them even realize you were taking the picture. The results were more natural looking images.

It was very good for landscape photography as there is something to say about composing an image through a viewfinder or a waist level finder. The waist level finder allows you to look at the scene just as if you were looking at a picture. It is easier to notice anomalies or distracting objects within the scene you are about to capture. I understand that most current DSLRs have live view, but on a bright day, you can hardly see the scene. The waist level finders had an unfolding hood that protected bright sun rays to enter and reduced reflection tremendously. Also, by looking at the scene from above, your head also protected the reflection we have trying to shoot with live view.

If you were shooting an event with a crowd in front of you, you simply raised the camera above the crowd, up-side-down and compose the picture through the WL finder.

The only problem I had with waist level viewfinder was that the image projected was turned 180 degree. So you had to rotate the camera to the left when you actually wanted to capture something to the right and vice versa. That problem could easily be solved by using electronic LCD screens. That way the image could be just like that of an eye-level finder. Think of it as an EWLF instead of an EVF.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading,

Yvon Bourque
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