With sensor prices dropping and leading manufacturers keen to get consumers on board with their latest mirrorless offerings, increasingly budget-friendly options are expected to emerge. However, would you buy an affordable camera that is cheap because it doesn’t have a viewfinder?
Canon recently launched the EOS RP, a low-cost version of its first foray into MILC territory, the EOS R. As a means of making it affordable, various compromises were made: probably the most significant is the lack of a top-deck display, an element that Sony is also happy to ditch in its a7 line of cameras. Other downgrades are certainly present but don’t feel too dramatic: there’s a slower burst rate (not many will be buying either for their speed here, in my opinion), a marginally lower resolution sensor, and slightly fewer autofocus points, slower max shutter speed, and poorer battery performance. As both cameras use the same processor, video specifications are largely enforced deliberately through software rather than being limited by hardware. Sensor prices are dropping so there’s not a massive need to drop the resolution below 24 megapixels.
If all of these seem incremental, where else is the $700 being chopped out of the RP? Some of the biggest savings in price probably come through downgrades to the rear display and the electronic viewfinder. The RP has half the number of dots on its slightly smaller rear LCD and almost 40% fewer dots in its smaller OLED EVF. In addition, it’s likely Canon made some savings by borrowing this EVF from the M50, able to transfer existing technology without having to do too much work.
RIP ILC EVF?
With rumors emerging that Nikon is plotting an entry-level Z-series camera, there’s speculation as to how this will manifest and how the price could be kept so low. Two ideas stand out: one suggestion is that it will feature an APS-C sensor, which brings its own complications for lenses. Another suggestion is even more dramatic: Nikon will ditch the EVF completely, with users relying solely on the rear LCD display.
This idea strikes me as both ludicrous and logical at the same time. I rarely shoot using my rear display because I began photographing on film and holding my camera at arm's length seems weird and makes me feel like an idiot (and I’m not judging here — I spend a lot of time feeling like an idiot). However, those newer to photography find this a completely natural thing to do, having come to photography from a world where the first camera you ever hold is your phone. Such a camera from Nikon would be courting customers who would already be more than used to not squinting through an EVF.
Nikon’s video capabilities have progressed significantly since the company's foray into the world of mirrorless, and I wonder whether the next step would be to offer a fully articulating screen. What a vlogging tool this could be: take the IBIS performance of the Z 6 and the Z 7, and a full-pixel sensor readout for some tasty 4K video, and squeeze this inside a stripped-down body that no longer has an EVF. To finish it off, shove a flippy screen on the back. If this is too much of a stretch, leave out the 4K or stick with the articulating screen and you still have a camera that’s destined to make an impact.
I’m probably dreaming. Ditching the EVF might not be enough to offset 4K, a flippy screen, IBIS and still give a saving that’s the best part of $800. Furthermore, Nikon is an extremely conservative brand that’s not known for making bold moves. However, it does raise the question of how far the industry is from seeing an ILC that lacks an EVF.
I’m keen to get your thoughts. Could you conceive buying a camera that doesn’t have an EVF? Is this something that Nikon would consider doing? How else could they trim a full-frame MILC into something that costs less than a grand? Your thoughts in the comments, please!