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EVF and Sensor Resolution: Higher is So Much Better for Critical Focus

Today I was shooting an 50mm comparison with rangefinder lenses (Leica 50/2 APO and Zeiss ZM 50/2 Planar). Very interesting, to be published soon.

I chose to use the 36-megapixel Sony A7R, using a ~2 pound weight on the hot shoe to damp shutter vibration, a ridiculous but viable solution for indoor shooting.

Something striking caught my attention: with its higher-res sensor and much higher-resolution EVF, the A7R made the faint scratches and smudges on the ruler plain to see—focusing was never so good on any camera. I nailed the focus the first attempt with two different lenses.

But with the low-res (and grossly overpriced) EVF2 on the Leica M240, all those fine details just disappear into plain white mush. With the M240, it is shoot and repeat until focus is right (shoot, examine on the computer for a match, go back and redo ad nauseum—at least an hour wasted when trying to focus-match two lenses). OK—so you don’t do that normally, but what about f/1.4 for regular shooting? Focus precision applies to all sorts of real-world shooting too.

There simply is no comparison between the Sony EVF focusing experience and the Leica M240 awfulness (worse, the M240 can focus only in the center). It is a shame to see the M240 crippled with an EVF that is so visibly inferior in quality and functionality, with seemingly no hope for something better.

Actual pixels (Sony A7R)

Jon M writes:

I violently agree with this post. It is interesting to see how strongly you support good EVFs. Many other “serious” reviewers complain about the limited dynamic range of EVFs. What we are missing in not being able to see shadows properly in sunlight is more than made up in my opinion with the ability to get focus right first time. This is especially true when you look at the excellent EVF quality combined with innovative focusing tools found in the Sony A7 & RX series and the Fuji X series.

DIGLLOYD: accurate focus is paramount, the priority for my aging eyes, and optical viewfinders on DSLRs are nearly useless for critical focus on high-res digital. I’ll take “nailing” the focus any day. Strong contrasts could indeed be of some concern, but the latest EVFs are getting better and better. I look forward to seeing retina-grade EVFs in the 4-6 megapixel range with even better contrast handling characteristics; this is just signal processing that should be designed it—a temporary niggle.
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