The Olympus Electronic Viewfinder VF-4 ($279.99 direct) is, without question, the best EVF that we’ve seen for digital cameras at this point. It’s bundled with the Olympus PEN E-P5 as part of the standard kit, but can also be purchased separately and used on older Olympus PEN cameras with the AP2 accessory port.
The finder delivers 1.48x magnification—basically, this means that if you’re shooting with a standard-angle lens (25mm in the Micro Four Thirds format), what you’re seeing in the finder is going to be noticeably larger than it is in reality. And what you see is extremely crisp thanks to a 2.36-million-dot resolution. This gives you a clear view of what you’re shooting, and overlay information is displayed so you also know what settings your camera is using.
It’s an LCD finder, so it doesn’t pack quite as much contrast as the OLED Sony Electronic Viewfinder that is compatible with the Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 and some other Sony cameras. Of course, because there’s no cross-system standard for accessory ports, you can only use the Sony finder on Sony cameras, and you can only use this Olympus finder on Olympus cameras.
In addition to the sharp resolution, the finder delivers a very fast refresh rate when used on the E-P5. Older Olympus cameras require a firmware update to use this new finder. We also looked at it on the PEN Lite E-PL5. The finder seemed a little slower to refresh on that camera, even with an f/1.8 lens attached. Even on the E-P5, the refresh can get a little laggy if you are using a lens with a narrow maximum aperture in dimmer light.
The EVF itself is fairly large, which is necessary because of its magnification factor. It is hinged and can tilt up to 90°; there is a locking notch, so you won’t accidentally tilt it. If you use it on an E-P5 the eye-sensor automatically switches between the rear LCD and the EVF, and for older PEN cameras there is a button to do so.
It’s heads and shoulders better than the older VF-2, which was previously the top-end accessory viewfinder for Olympus cameras. The VF-2 features a 1.15x magnification factor and a 1.44-million-dot resolution, so the image it projects is not only smaller, it’s not as sharp.
The Olympus Electronic Viewfinder VF-4 is more expensive than the older VF-2, but delivers a much better experience, even for occasional EVF use. We were blown away by the image quality that the EVF delivered, and are also quite happy with the asking price—it’s $170 less expensive than the OLED EVF that Sony sells for some of its cameras. The VF-4 earns our Editors’ Choice award, and is without a doubt the EVF to get if you’re a PEN shooter.
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