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Have you ever looked through a camera’s viewfinder and only been able to see a blurry image even after focusing? If you are always seeing a blurred image the diopter is not set correctly for your eyes. This happens every time I pick up my wife’s camera. She is near-sighted and I am far sighted.
The diopter is a small lens in your camera’s viewfinder. It allows you to match the focus of your viewfinder to your eye. So before I can see anything clearly through the viewfinder on my wife’s camera I must focus this small lens. She has to do the same when she uses my camera.
If your eyesight is good and you are using a camera that’s had the diopter adjusted, you will see a blurry image in the viewfinder. You will need to adjust the diopter to correct this so you can see a sharp image.
I am surprised by the number of people who join our workshops here in Thailand that tell me they never see anything sharp in their viewfinder. After a quick adjustment, they are often surprised by how sharp the image is appearing in their viewfinder.
The easiest way to see if your diopter needs adjusting is to look at the information and guidelines you see in your viewfinder. If you cannot clearly see the numbers and lines sharply this means your diopter is not set correctly for your eyes.
DSLR cameras with optical viewfinders and mirrorless cameras with electronic viewfinders all have diopters.
The diopter adjustment control will most likely be a small wheel or slider close to your camera’s viewfinder. Most diopter controls are labeled with + and – signs.
When you want to adjust the diopter it is best to have your camera mounted on a tripod or somewhere it will not move. You want to do this where you have a scene with good contrast. Something that your camera can autofocus on easily.
Focus your camera using the autofocus. If you are using a camera or lens without autofocus you will need to look at the focus indicators in the viewfinder to ensure the lens is in focus. If your diopter is adjusted incorrectly for your eyes you will not see a sharp image in the viewfinder at this point.
Start to turn the diopter wheel or move the slider. As the image comes into focus keep adjusting until you see a blurred image again. Now dial back your control so you see a sharp image (go back and forth until it’s as sharp as you can get). Now your diopter should be set correctly.
If you cannot see a sharp image in your viewfinder at any point of the adjustment you need to look at the display information. The exposure display in the viewfinder will come into focus at some point. If the display info is sharp in your viewfinder but the image is still blurry, you have a different problem.
The problem may be with the camera’s autofocus system or the lens. Here are a few suggestions for what to do in this situation:
If you normally wear glasses or contact lenses you can adjust your diopter to suit. If you prefer wearing glasses while using your camera, adjust the diopter with your glasses on.
But if you prefer not to wear your glasses while using your camera’s viewfinder, make the adjustments while you are not wearing them. If your eyesight is quite bad you may not be able to adjust your diopter sufficiently though and may need to keep your glasses on.
If your diopter will not adjust to give you a clear image in your viewfinder you might need an add-on accessory diopter. Not all camera models will accommodate these so you will need to check your camera manual.
Diopter adjustment is simple but can make a significant difference to your photography enjoyment. It is always good to see a sharp image when you look through your viewfinder.