There are times I wonder if product designers ever use the products they design.

3 diginal cameras

My digital cameras. Top to bottom, they are 2.1 MP, 5 MP and 10 MP. The photo was taken with my iPhone.

This is not a new complaint for me. My second post was on smoke detectors, and a couple of months later I included cars and washing machines.

Now it’s digital cameras.

I’ve had three of the things, steadily increasing in resolution and decreasing in price and size. That part’s great. But my first digital camera, the clunker on top, had a viewfinder as well as a very small screen. I finally retired it when it started giving me double exposures, photos which were cut in half in the middle, and other peculiarities, but at least I never had a problem knowing what it was pointed at.

Camera number two was a Kodak with over twice the resolution of the first, and it took great pictures – except in bright light. I couldn’t see what I was photographing. No viewfinder, and while young eyes may be able to see those digital screens outdoors in bright light, I can’t. A good many of the photos on my blog before last fall were taken by guessing where the camera was pointed, as I certainly could not see the screen. It was large enough; I just couldn’t see anything but gray.

Last fall my brother-in-law showed me his camera, which had both a large screen and a viewfinder, like my first digital camera but with a large screen. Great! I wrote down the name and looked it up on the internet when I got home. I found it all right – a discontinued model. So I searched, not just Canon, but several on-line stores, for a digital camera that had both a screen and a viewfinder. After all, I’m surely not the only person who has trouble seeing those screens in bright light.

Turns out that the combination, or even a viewfinder, was available only in expensive, SLR cameras, not in the pocket point-and-shoot I wanted. I wound up getting a “used” camera of the type my brother-in-law had, and it’s been quite satisfactory, though I’m sure I’m not using a tenth of the features. But sooner or later, I suspect, it will refuse to work with a computer upgrade, as the Kodak did, and I’ll have to look for another camera.

Why on earth did the camera designers decide that a viewfinder was no longer necessary? Have they never tried to take a picture in bright ambient light? A cell phone I can understand – picture taking is strictly secondary. (Of course it’s rather difficult to dial a number if you can’t see the screen, but it’s usually possible to find some shade.) But why has the viewfinder become obsolete in cameras?

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