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

PROS

    • 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.)

CONS

  • 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

Conclusion

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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{ 12 comments }

1 John A. Chisholm December 14, 2010 at 8:56 am

I would like to know on a scale of 1-10 the necessity of this rather expensive Viewfinder. It seems that the accessories for this camera are all expensive, although I ordered the camera a week ago so I’d have it for Christmas.
Give me your opinion on Camera & the VF2
Thanks

2 Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen December 19, 2010 at 10:15 am

Hi John,

As I mentioned in my review, I think the VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder is the hottest camera accessory of the year. Once you’ve used it, you’ll never want to go back to using the LCD. So, save your nickels and get a VF-2 as soon as you can.

Alan

3 Ken Bhasin February 2, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Hi,
Can I use Vf-2 Electronic Viewfinder with Leica D-Lux 5 Camera?
Ken

4 Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen February 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Hi Ken,

Although the Leica D-Lux 5 has an accessory port similar to the one on the Olympus cameras, I doubt that they are electrically – or even physically – compatible. I have not tried it though.

To be safe, I’d buy Lieca’s own viewfinder, the Leica EVF 1 Viewfinder.

Alan

5 Lawrence Austin April 5, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Thanks for this. Like you, I find that the VF2 viewfinder makes my camera for me. In fact I sold my E-P1 and got the E-P2 specifically so I could have an eye level finder. The E-P2 with the VF2 and the Lumix 20mm pancake lens is my “take everywhere” tool of choice. The resolution and refresh rate are astonishing to anyone who has used Panasonic’s version on one of their cameras.(Fine cameras, though, even if for me Olympus jpegs are superior). Now I’ve just ordered a Leica screw mount to m4/3 adapter so I can use those old Leica lenses from 1933 (50mm Elmar) and 1946 (90 mm Elmar) . I like the E-Pxx black and white results and look forward to seeing how they look with ancient Leica glass. It should all be great fun, especially as, not finding a Leica M8 in my budget, I refer to my E-P2 was my “poor man’s Leica”.

6 Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen April 13, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Hello Lawrence,

With that old Lecia glass mounted on the E-P2, you’re going to get a lot of people asking about your “film” camera. Even with the 14-42mm kit lens on my E-P1, people ask me, “Is that a film camera?”

Alan

7 Sharafi May 23, 2011 at 5:36 am

Can I Use VF-1 With E-P1 Olympus and All Micro Four Thirds Lenses.
Sharafi

8 Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen May 23, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Hi Sharafi,

The VF-1 viewfinder is an optical (not electronic) viewfinder that is designed to be used with the the 17mm pancake lens only. It will work with the E-P1, since it simply slides into the hot-shoe without requiring any electronic connections.

The VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder, however, will NOT work with the E-P1. But on cameras that support it (E-P2, E-PL1, E-PL2), it will work with any lens.

-Alan

9 Mustafa Digdigi May 25, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Hi Alan,

Thank you very much for valuable review on E-PL2 & VF-2. I want to lock my VF-2 into hot-shoe of E-PL2 with gaffer’s tape. But I could not understand the way on your review. It is possible to send a picture to my email or attach your review?

Thanks for your helps.
Mustafa

10 Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen May 28, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Hi Mustafa,

I just attached a couple of small strips of tape to each side of the VF-2 with a little overlap onto the sides of the hotshoe. It’s ugly but it works.

Alan

11 Jon July 5, 2011 at 3:22 pm

I’ve been thinking about upgrading my old Pany point and shoot for a few years now, and the early reviews of the Oly E-P3 has got me thinking I’ve found the camera that makes me take the plunge (I don’t want the bulk of an SLR). I’m wondering about using the VF-2 on an E-P3 with its touch screen upgrade. I’m assuming the touch screen “press to shoot” feature would need to be turned off when using the viewfinder, otherwise my nose would take lots of pictures. Any other thoughts on the E-P3 and VF-2 combo?

Jon

12 Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen July 6, 2011 at 8:27 am

Hi Jon,

There isn’t much information available yet about the new E-P3. But, I would imagine that the touch-screen will be turned off automatically while shooting. I’m confident that Olympus has already considered the inadvertent “nasal photography” issue.

The touch-screen seems like it might be a bit of a gimmick designed for less experienced photographers. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on an E-P3 to find out.

Judging by the track-record of the Olympus PEN series, the E-P3 is bound to be a great little camera. I’d recommend getting one. I’ve pre-ordered mine at Adorama. Check it out here: Olympus PEN E-P3.

Alan

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