The Lightweight Photographer: Olympus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder Real World Review

by Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen on November 17, 2010

The VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder is the must-have accessory for the E-P2, E-PL1 and E-PL2 camera. Mount it on your E-P2 for the finest micro four thirds photography experience available – despite the VF-2’s one annoying design flaw.

Olympus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder: VF-2 mounted on PEN E-P2 camera

UPDATE: The new Olympus VF-3 Electronic Viewfinder is now available. It fixes the one flaw of the VF-2 – it LOCKS to the hot shoe! The VF-3 fits all Olympus PEN cameras that have the accessory port. This includes the new Olympus PEN E-P3E-PL3, and XZ-1 and the older E-P2,E-PL2, E-PL1. Click to check VF-3 prices at Adorama and Amazon.

Eliminate the “point-and-shoot salute.” Attach the VF-2 to your E-P2, E-PL1 or E-PL2 and forget about waving the camera around in front of you as you try to compose a photo on the shiny LCD.

The VF-2 allows the photographer to become one with the camera again. That extra point of contact between the viewfinder and the eye adds stability. And with glare eliminated, you’ll see your subject clearly for easier composition and more accurate focusing.

Olympus VF-2 View Finder Buyer’s Guide

Olympus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder Review: the silver VF-2The VF-2 is available in two colors, silver or black, to match the color of your camera. They each sell for around $250 – a worthwhile investment.

Olympus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder Review: VF-2 in BlackTo check current prices and read user reviews, visit Adorama or Amazon. After all, you don’t want to just take my word for how good the VF-2 is, do you?

When you buy a VF-2 – or anything else – through one of the links here, you support PhotoCitizen at no additional cost to you. Thanks.

Read my review of the Olympus PEN E-PL2: “The Lightweight Photographer: Olympus PEN E-PL2 Real World Camera Review.

Using the Olympus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder

The VF-2 is a simple to use:

    1. Remove the plastic hot-shoe protector from the camera – if you haven’t already misplaced it. That thing is so small, it’s easy to lose.
    2. Turn the camera off. Although I found it did no harm to leave the camera on, Olympus recommends turning it off while mounting the VF-2.
Olympus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder Review: Accessory Port

Accessory Port

    1. Slide the VF-2 into your camera’s hot-shoe. The accessory port plug is connected simultaneously
    2. Turn the camera on.
    3. Press the black button on the VF-2 (it’s the only button on the VF-2) to turn the viewfinder on and the LCD off. Push it again to toggle the LCD on and the VF-2 off. The VF-2 and LCD cannot both be active at the same time.
    4. Adjust the VF-2’s diopter by turning the black rubber ring to match your vision.

The best way to do this is to display some text on the VF-2 screen by pressing the camera’s INFO button or OK button to show some shooting info. Turn the diopter until the text is sharp.

Once the text is sharp, the images displayed in the VF-2 will be sharp. Using this method, you don’t have to focus the lens to set the diopter, so any lens focusing error is eliminated from the process.

  1. Tilt the viewfinder if you like. Normally it clicks solidly into place at zero degrees, but you can tilt it to any angle up to 90-degrees for creating low-angle compositions.
  2. Take the photo. Simple.

One Annoying VF-2 Design Flaw

UPDATE: The new Olympus VF-3 Viewfinder fixes this flaw.

The one thing I don’t like about the VF-2 is this: all that holds it onto the camera is friction between the VF-2 and the camera’s hot-shoe and, to a lesser extent, the accessory port. There is a little spring-loaded pin on the VF-2’s hot-shoe connector, but it doesn’t stick out far enough or have enough spring tension to engage the hot-shoe securely.

Don’t get me wrong: the VF-2 is not loose in the hot shoe. It fits firmly, but it doesn’t take much pressure on the front of the VF-2 to dislodge it.

Olympus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder Review: Balck E-P2 with Black VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder

VF-2 in Black

I like to keep the VF-2 on the camera all the time. But I’ve learned that I need to keep an eye on it. If it bumps up against something – such as my body as I’m carrying the camera on my shoulder or my camera bag as I remove it from the bag – it can fall off.

The VF-2 did take a dive on me once in Death Valley. Fortunately, I noticed it immediately. After brushing off the sand, it was as good as new. But if I hadn’t been paying attention, it would have been lost to the dunes.

I’ve tried taping the VF-2 in place using cloth gaffer’s tape. It works, but detracts from the camera’s classic good looks. Perhaps in some future version of the viewfinder, Olympus will add a screw or lever to hold it in place more securely.

Permacell Pro Gaffer's Tape in Black(NOTE: gaffer’s tape should be in every photographer’s bag. It comes in handy for all sorts of in-the-field repairs. The good pro tape can be removed without leaving residue. Although it comes in several colors, black is the most useful for photographers. Never ever use duct tape on your camera: it does not come off. I use 3/4- or 1-inch cloth pro gaffer’s tape in the field. Check prices here.)

Firmware Upgrade Makes the VF-2 Even Better

Olympus recently released version 1.1 firmware for the E-P2 and E-PL1. To get the most out of the VF-2 electronic viewfinder, you need this update.

Olympus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder Review: VF-2 at 90-degree angle

VF-2 Tilts to 90-degrees

With the original version 1.0 firmware, whenever the VF-2 is enabled, all screens are displayed on the VF-2, even menus and image playback. So, you’ll find yourself toggling the VF-2 off to change menu settings or review images and then toggling it back on to continue shooting.

With the new firmware, menus and playback screens are displayed on the LCD even when the VF-2 is enabled. The VF-2 displays your scene, the instant image review, shooting info screens, the Live Control Screen and Super Control Panel.

Pressing the camera’s MENU button automatically switches to the LCD. Exiting the menu automatically enables the VF-2 again.

The same is true when using the camera’s PLAYBACK button to review images. Don’t confuse this with the instant image review (Olympus calls it REC VIEW) which appears for a few seconds immediately after capturing an image. This is still displayed on the VF-2 unless you have set REC VIEW to AUTO. In AUTO mode, it is displayed on the LCD.

If you’d rather view the menus or playback on the VF-2, or the shooting info on the LCD, press the VF-2’s button to toggle between them.

The new firmware offers several other improvements such as faster auto-focus, so you’ll want to install it even if you don’t own the VF-2 viewfinder.

To check your camera’s current firmware version, go to your camera’s SETUP menu (the one with the wrench icon) and click on FIRMWARE. For full instructions on downloading and installing new firmware, visit the Olympus website.

Olympus VF-2 Pros and Cons


    • 100% coverage – everything that you’d see on the LCD is displayed on the VF-2.
    • No batteries. The VF-2 draws power from the camera, but with its smaller screen, I’ll bet it uses less power than the LCD.
    • New firmware shows menus and playback on LCD and everything else in the viewfinder.
    • One simple button switches from VF-2 to LCD and vice versa.
Olympus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder Review: Tilt up to 90-degrees

VF-2 Tilt

  • Angle up to 90-degrees.
  • Diopter adjustment (-3 to +1).
  • Rubber rim around viewfinder won’t scratch eyeglasses.
  • Available E-P9 rubber eye cup. Blocks even more light.
  • The VF-2 eye piece protrudes nearly a half-inch from the rear of the camera for fewer nose smudges on the LCD.
  • Fast screen refresh rate makes it easy to use when photographing fast action or when panning. (Not in Art mode though. Most Art modes require a lot of processing power and slow the refresh rate of the VF-2 and the LCD to a crawl.)


  • The VF-2 is held in place by friction and does not lock securely onto the camera.
  • Since the viewfinder occupies the camera’s hot-shoe, a flash cannot be used with the VF-2. But it’s easy to remove the VF-2 to mount the flash in its place. Olympus even includes a small cloth bag to hold the VF-2 when it’s not on the camera.
  • Expensive – but worth every penny.

VF-2 Specifications

  • Resolution: Approx. 1,440,000 dots
  • Size: 1.15″ W x 1.9″ H x 1.82″ D
  • Weight: Approx. 1.2 oz
  • Field of view: 100%
  • Magnification: Approx. 1.15x
  • Eye-point: Approx. 18 mm
  • Diopter adjustment: -3.0 to +1.0m
  • Frame rate: 60 fps
  • Brightness and color temp. adjustment via camera’s EVF ADJUST  menu


An Olympus PEN camera without a VF-2 is only half a camera. If you own one of these cameras – or plan to buy one – get the Olympus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder. You won’t regret it.

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