Does Your DSLR's Viewfinder Give the 'Full Picture'?

Does Your DSLR’s Viewfinder Give the ‘Full Picture’?

One of the most attractive features about DSLRs is that they enable photographers to know that what they see through the viewfinder will be exactly what they see in the image that they end up with….

Or do they?

Unless you’re fortunate enough to own a fairly high end DSLR the changes are that what you see through your DSLR’s viewfinder will only be around 95% of what you’ll end up with in your image.

PS: this tip applies for most compact cameras too


This means that there you need to account for just a little extra of your scene to be in your end image than what you’ll see.

Of course you can always crop this out later if a distracting element creeps into your shot.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Ryan April 25, 2007 03:39 am

    I've always assumed, probably incorrectly, that the percentage was roughly equal to what a minilab machine crops off during printing.

  • Tom February 6, 2007 11:14 pm

    Actually isn't it always better to frame it the way you want it to be and then crop it if you'd happen to get those five procent extra? I mean you can (just like you say) always crop a picture but you can never get that extra space back if you take the pic wrong?

    Good tip though had no clue about this.

  • Jere Joiner February 3, 2007 05:20 am

    I have lost many good pictures by framing through a viewfinder. I use basic composition technique (remembering the one-third rule, for instance), but otherwise go for the bigger picture in RAW (or NEF) and worry about framing and cropping after I see things on the computer.

    Other techniques are equally valid; this one's just mine.

  • Graeme Dawes February 2, 2007 10:40 pm

    This was even more important with film cameras. Often as important as what is included in a picture is what is NOT included, and with transparency film there was no opportunity to crop. I spent a lot of years making slides for lectures, and sometimes these included pictures from textbooks (under the 'fair usage' dispensation to educational establishments) and time and again I'd find extraneous matter in the picture because the viewfinder didn't show me the whole picture. There were only a couple of (hugely expensive) SLRs that would display 100% of the image. Why are DSLR and SLR manufacturers even now so reluctant to let us see what we're about to photograph?

  • Raghu February 2, 2007 02:03 pm

    I have read about this earlier and the technical specification of my DSLR (Canon XTi) also mentions it, but now I have a doubt. If One uses a Matrix metering, and there is a bright light or a dark object which is not seen through the viewfinder(because of the 95% view)but will be the part of the final image , will it affect the cameras prescribed metering ?

  • Andrea February 2, 2007 10:34 am

    This is something I hadn't even thought about, even after years of being an amateur photographer! I subscribed this this blog thinking I would only learn a little here and there, but I find I'm learning more than I expected. :)

    *crosses fingers* still saving up for a Canon DSLR... Any Canon DSLR, lol....

  • Rob February 1, 2007 09:21 am

    this happened to me today, i have a nikon d70s, and i specifically framed my shot to eliminate a distracting cone in the street, got home and there's half of it in the shot.

  • Brian Auer January 31, 2007 04:47 pm

    I've seen the same comparison done with P&S cameras -- they can be much much worse than this. They are often less than 95% and can be skewed in one or more directions. It's definitely good to know how YOUR camera works.

  • Tom January 31, 2007 04:30 am

    EVFs are fairly popular in prosumer cameras, they work nicely.