External viewfinders for an SLR, HDMI and DVI revisited

Week of May 14, 2006

Q:   I want to buy or make a “gunsight”   viewer to fit on my camera. When taking action photos I find it cumbersome and almost impossible at times to sight through the viewfinder or the LCD screen. I propose to build, if need be, a square wire box     which I can quickly see my “target” as it passes in front of me. I want to mount this on the hotshoe of the camera top and it would be about   3 inches square. I need to know if   the “gadget” would in any way interfere with the electronics of my Canon 20 D or my Sony F-828 when I activate the shutter.   Do you know of anyone that makes a”sight” like this or can you offer any suggestions?

Don Treadwell, Ventura, CA

A:   What you are referring to is usually called a “sports finder” because, as you state in your email, framing fast-moving action shots can be difficult when looking through a small viewfinder.

As long as   the mount of your homemade sports finder is made of non-conductive materials, it will not interfere with the electronics of your camera.   If you use metal it will probably short out the contacts in the shoe and that will not only cause problems, it may possibly short out the camera, ruining it or necessitating an expensive repair.

You can buy external viewfinders at www.cameraquest.com.   You will need a different finder for every focal length you are using.   This can become an expensive proposition, but will yield fairly accurate framing.   Just match the effective lens focal length to the focal length of the viewfinder.

You may have noted I said “fairly accurate”.   The viewfinder will see things at a slightly different angle than the camera lens, and this can yield framing errors.   Worse yet, it can yield focusing errors if the tiny spot the camera uses for focusing is not on your subject.   If you are using an external finder it is quite possible this will happen.   Which leads to the advice that can help all of my readers today:   pre-focusing or range focusing.

When shooting sports, children, or other fast-moving objects, the camera needs a little (sometimes a lot!) of time to focus, and the focus delay may be all it takes to make you miss the shot.   By having the camera focused and ready, you can release the shutter instantly and capture that special moment.

Pre-focus by setting the focusing spot on the area where you expect your subject to be when you take the picture, and press the shutter button down partway.   The camera will lock into focus position.   When the subject moves into view, finish pressing the shutter release to take the shot.   In your case, you could pre-focus then move your eye to the external finder to take the shot.

Range focusing is done with the camera’s manual focus control.   Guesstimate the distance to the subject and set it on the SLR’s lens focusing ring or with the electronic camera’s   manual focus menu setting.   If you use a smaller f-stop like 8 or 11 you will improve your chances of getting accurate focus.

Q:   I recently had an HD DVR installed for my DirecTV system. I have a 65 inch Toshiba which is HD ready. My installer told me that I needed to get a DVI conection up-grade from Toshiba if I   wanted the best reception since my tv did not have a DVI connection. Is this possible to get from Toshiba?
-Sunny St.Pelcovich

A:   A DVI upgrade was available from Toshiba some time ago, but is not longer available.   It was quite expensive, typically $400 or more.   Even if it was still available I would not recommend it.

You are not alone- a lot of readers are fretting because their HDTVs do not have DVI or HDMI inputs.   This may cause problems in the future with formats such as HD DVD or Blu-ray, but that has yet to be seen.   I would not worry about it for now- the component inputs of your set will give you a great HDTV picture.   Most people seeing a well-done HDTV picture say “wow, that looks great!” not “too bad you do not have DVI or HDMI, it would look even better!”   If you are watching your HD DirecTV right now, I think you will agree.

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