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By Mike Johnston

The viewfinder is the single most important user interface on any camera. Throughout the history of cameras, the method of aiming the camera accurately and communicating its view to the operator is what has determined and defined most different basic camera types.

Yet the viewfinder is perhaps the single most fudged and botched aspect of today's 35mm SLRs. With the exception of the Contax Aria of the late '90s and the more recent Minolta Maxxum 7, virtuallyallentry-level to mid-range cameras skimp on the viewfinder. The worst offenders are cameras that are meant to be cheap (they have mirror-box prisms) or cameras that are meant to be small (which usually have poorer coverage).
For the Sake of Clarity
To be clear, let's define a few terms about viewfinders, just in case you're not entirely up to speed. (And if you aren't, don't feel bad. Most people aren't. Why do you think the manufacturers are able to get away with such blatant skimping? An educated consu...

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Mike Johnston graduated in 1985 from the Photography Department of the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., where his photographic mentor was the late Steven Lee Szabo. Initially a photo teacher who taught at all levels from, children to the elderly, he worked as a professional photographer for 7 years in Washington as a member of the Paul Kennedy Studio. In photo magazines he was East Coast Editor of Camera & Darkroom magazine and later Editor-in-Chief of Photo Techniques magazine. He wrote more than 250 regular columns (in five different languages) for a number of publications and websites including the British Black & White Photography magazine and the late Michael Reichmann’s The Luminous-Landscape website. He now writes, edits, and maintains The Online Photographer website full time.
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