Nikon’s New Viewfinder Does Double Duty

by on May 10, 2008

in Gear,News,Nikon,Technology

Nikon has blown photographers away this past year with the introduction of the critically acclaimed Nikon D3 and Nikon D300.  Rumors abound of several new Nikon DSLRs in the works, including a D90 (update to the D80), D10 (mid-range full-frame camera) and a 24 megapixel D3X (leaked in a recent D3 firmware update).  We should know by the time Photokina 2008 rolls around which of these new cameras will come to fruition.

The technological advancements found in the D3 and D300 have pushed Nikon to the forefront of the DSLR market.  According to recently published patent applications, Nikon may have something special up its sleeve for its next generation of DSLRs.

In-Viewfinder Display

Nikon is the owner of a US Patent Application Publication No. US 2008/0084484  (you can read the whole thing on uspto.gov – just do a search for the application number), which details an invention whereby a small display screen is visible through the optical viewfinder.  The photographer can switch back and forth between the optical image and the digital display for a variety of purposes.  According to the patent, one of the most prominent uses will be to enable a wide viewing angle when zoomed in tight on a subject.

What the Viewfinder Display Looks Like

As you can see from the images presented in the patent application, Nikon contemplates use of this function when tracking subjects in a sports setting, specifically, as shown, a soccer game.  The digital display will show a wide angle image with a superimposed frame that indicates the field of view provided by the lens.

Nikon is taking care to make sure the optics for the digital display in the viewfinder are well-integrated with the TTL calculations.  In the upper left corner, the new Nikon tech provides a zoom bar, which indicates the current focal length of the attached lens.  The viewfinder’s electronic display also features the ability to magnify the image by optical or digital zoom.

How to Use the Display

To engage the wide preview mode in the viewfinder, the photographer presses a button near the lens mount on the left of side of the mount on the top image.  In the diagram above, it is labeled as 48c.  The button labeled 48d is the aperture preview button.  The patent further indicates that a zoom switch permits the user to optically or electronically increase/decrease the magnifying power of the preview image.  No diagram in the patent shows this “zoom” switch; however, I anticipate that it is accessible via the right hand thumb – not so different from the zoom switch found on point and shoot cameras.  The patent emphasizes that all of these in-viewfinder changes can occur without the photographer’s eye leaving the viewfinder.  Therefore, it only makes sense that the “zoom” switch is thumb-accessible.

As you can see from the images near the top of this article, Nikon contemplates integrating this in-viewfinder display in different types of DSLRs.  Specifically, the top image is clearly a full-sized pro camera, like the Nikon D3.  Could this feature appear in the D3X, or maybe a sports-oriented D3H?  Additionally, the second image from the top, indicates a viewfinder lens on a pop-up flash, which we see in more consumer-grade Nikon DSLRs.  Perhaps we’ll see this on the Nikon D90 in September.

Conclusion

One thing is for sure.  Nikon, Canon, Sony and the rest are not slowing down in making better DSLRs and packing more convenient features into their cameras for the photographer’s eye.  While I am not completely sold on the utility of this feature from Nikon, as a photographer, it’s certainly comforting to see manufacturers take another step forward.  Competition breeds progress, and progress is good for photographers.

Your Thoughts?

I’m interested in your thoughts on how this new technology can advance your shooting.  Or, if you think it’s not so great, I’d also be interested in your thoughts on why.  So, what do you think?  Hit the comments below and let us all know.

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{ 10 comments }

1 http://flickr.com/photos/muddi May 10, 2008 at 8:37 am

Interesting!

2 Tharizdun May 10, 2008 at 8:38 am

It looks good, but I wander if it is usefull to my line of photography. I guess I’d have to see/use it to believe it ;)

3 UncleSam May 12, 2008 at 2:39 am

I think this could be quite useful for event photographers, when you could lose a second (and a shot) by failing to see a good picture.

4 UncleSam May 12, 2008 at 4:16 am

Sorry, there is no patent application at uspto with the number you have given. Is there any more info on this?

5 Eric May 12, 2008 at 6:54 am

@UncleSam – You may have searched under patents rather than applications, because that’s the right number. Regardless, here’s a direct link.

6 RicClarke May 12, 2008 at 5:51 pm

That may not be a pop up flash in the second image but a wide angle lens for the viewfinder.

7 Eric May 12, 2008 at 7:45 pm

@RicClarke – If you read the patent, it’s clear that the image shown above is a popup flash. You can also see the flash bulb and hotshoe in the image. The patent actually details a third embodiment of an attachment for the hotshoe that serves the same function.

8 lyn May 13, 2008 at 9:36 am

This looks great for sports, Focus and in camera crop on second base and not be suprised when the runner gets there!

9 Eric May 13, 2008 at 10:10 am

@lyn – Good point! I hadn’t thought about the utility for pre-focusing. That’s probably the most useful suggestion I’ve seen so far. That really adds to the “wow” factor of this technology.

10 Mark May 14, 2008 at 1:30 pm

Nikon may have been getting feedback from D2x/D2xs owners that while shooting in high speed crop mode, they like that you can see what is outside of the picture area, and what may be coming into the picture area, I do.

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