Can you see clearly now?
Years ago, I owned a camcorder with only a large LCD screen for a viewer. That agonizing experience convinced me to “never again” buy a camera without a real viewfinder. It had to have a viewfinder of some type or “no sale”.
As digitals became more compact, and more people got used to using an LCD screen exclusively, manufacturers dropped the viewfinders, to save money and to save space. Eventually I did buy a small point and shoot camera without a viewfinder, and when I couldn't see the screen, just guessed and hoped for a good snapshot.
But then came the Panasonic LX-3, which was different; it was a downright "serious" camera, with fine, fast lens and features and capabilities that photographers welcome. When your photos matter, it usually helps to be able to see what you're shooting, and there are a lot of situations where you just can't see an LCD screen very well, at least not any detail.
I bought a couple of used hotshoe-mount optical viewfinders, but found them pretty worthless.
What I really wanted was to be able to see detail, unaffected by ambient light, like I could with my electronic viewfinder. But since there were no add-on electronic viewfinders for most cameras, the only option left were the hood-and-lens combinations that mounted behind the LCD and made the camera very large. Yes, they can be removed, but then where do you keep it? Probably on the shelf, or in a camera bag somewhere, and when you need it, it's not there.
I remembered a small folding viewer I had received years ago, for viewing type and halftone prints at close distance. I dug it out, and sure enough, I could see a very decent view of the screen; even most of the 3” screen on my LX3...certainly enough to see what I needed in most photos. Some investigation led me to find out this was a 20 diopter lens. So I removed the lens and fashioned a plate that went into the camera’s hotshoe, to hold the diopter lens the right distance from the screen. While it was inconvenient to have to be constantly removing and replacing the viewer, it did enable me to see what I was shooting, and I knew I was on the right track. This original design I used is similar to the current hotshoe-mount version of the ClearViewer.
After many trials and experiments, it evolved into a folding tripod-socket-mount viewer that's fairly compact and lets me see all the detail the screen offers, under nearly all conditions. Even better, since it mounts to the tripod socket, it can be adapted to most any digital compact camera! Even if your camera does have a small optical viewfinder, or offers an add-on electronic viewfinder, you might still find the ClearViewer useful. With the large camera screen and close-up view, it shows you, in detail, what you're really getting, not just a glass-lens approximation of what the camera is pointed at.
A Little History
What many of us, unfortunately, see when we try to take a photo using the LCD screen