Instructables

Electronic Viewfinder for Compact Digital Cameras

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Picture of Electronic Viewfinder for Compact Digital Cameras
This Instructable is specific to making an electronic viewfinder for the Canon S95, but assuming your digital camera has video-out capability, and you can find the correct connector and pin-out, you can adapt for your specific needs.  This viewfinder is USB has rechargeable batteries and can be recharged via a microUSB connection.

This is the Mark 1 version, with a Black & White LCD video module scavenged from a Wild Planet Video Spy Car.  This viewfinder is larger than I wanted it to be, and is not color.  The next version will use parts scavenged from a Vuzix/Icuiti Video Eyewear/Glasses unit.

The other components are avialble online and make this project fairly easy with only minor soldering required.

Why would you want a viewfinder for a digital camera when you have that nice LCD display on the back?  It might be easier to shoot in the sun for one reason, but who really cares why...  if you want one, here is a way to make one.
 
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Step 1: Get some parts

Picture of Get some parts
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I bought the following from sparkfun.com:

1 - Lithium Polymer Charger
2 - 3.7V 110mAH Lithium Polymer Batteries

I scavenged a small switch from a previous project to have a power off/on for the viewfinder.

I had a small plastic box from some old Polaroid Kids Instamatic camera film that fit almost perfectly.

I also ordered a mini HDMI adapter to hack and use to physically stabilize the attachement to the camera.  The Canon S95 has a mini HDMI port just above the Extended USB port.  I used this mini HDMI port to give the viewfinder a more solid physical connection to the camera.  There are no electrical connections to the mini HDMI connector you see in this Instructable.



Step 2: Find a small LCD video module with lens

Picture of Find a small LCD video module with lens
I bought a Wild Planet Spy Video Car replacement Headset on ebay.  This was the easiest to hack in my opinion, but is Black & White.  Another option that I will be using for the next version which will be both smaller and color, is components from the cheapest version of the Vuzix/Icuiti video glasses I found on ebay.
symarino21 days ago

I have been searching for an evf solution similar to this for months!!! This is nearly what I'm trying to recreate for my BMPCC. However, it is a video camera and video is output only through a micro HDMI. Other evf solutions are too bulky and defeat the purpose of a pocket sized camera. I have no clue how to accomplish this, but it would be awesome if you could create instructions for this same project with a micro HDMI connection instead. I would mount mine to a shoe mount and use a color lcd, but otherwise, instructions just like this one would completely be generous of you.

thejanis4 months ago

I tried this for my Fuji Ax200. I used small digital photo viewer, which had 1.0 inch full color LCD (like in a photo). Resolution is 96x64 pixels only, but works great.

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jellmeister2 years ago
Great hack!
Have you sussed how to communicate with the Vuzix/Icuiti glasses yet? I have a pair that were supposed to plug into old iPods. They aren't compatible with newer iDevices as they use composite video. Great I thought, easy hack with TVout from arduino... but there are a bewilderingly large number of connections.

I can't make head nor tail of it and cant seem to find a pinout anywhere. Everyone seems to focus on how to connect to the iPod rather than to a composite accessory. Im guessing one of the lines needs an "activate" signal or resistance pull, but it might be talking serial. I'm totally lost anyway so let me know if you fair better:)
Gorgus3 years ago
Very nice instructable, thanks.
I have to try building something like this for my DSLR.

Good work!
What would be the point in that LOL, ROFL, LMAO, ROFLMAO ect... Cough Cough! (LIke a Boss)
Main reason is that when filming with the DSLR one can't use the optical viewfinder, only the LCD and in sun-/daylight it is quite unusable. Therefore an eyepiece would be nice so that one actually can see what one's filming. :-)
Ok. So you want to use this for video. I see what you did there. :—— )
Big nose (Like a Boss)
Like A Boss3 years ago
Nice project ( Like a Boss), but what kind of battery life do you get out of this?
rkalmar (author)  Like A Boss3 years ago
I am using 2 of this battery from SparkFun: Polymer Lithium Ion Battery - 110mAh
sku: PRT-00731. I put my camera on Slideshow so that the LCD was constantly showing something. The backlight is a simple white LED for this LCD Video Module. I thought the battery life would not be very good, but that it would not matter too much, as I could switch off the EVF when not in use. I also thought I could add a light-touch on/off button that would be placed nicely so that instead of the switch, the button would just be pressed whenever I held the camera/viewfinder for shooting. In any case, with the 2 110mAh batteries fully charged, and my camera on slide-show playing something constantly, the viewfinder was displaying for over 3 hours continuously before I forgot about checking it. I was surprised and will do another test trying not to forget about it this time. That seems like it would cover a lot of casual shooting!
That kind of battery life is great for this kind of project. (Like a Boss).
qqqqqq5823 years ago
Now why exactly would you do this instead of buying a camera with one in the first place or using the screen instead of spending many many hours making this? I don't mean to sound mean, but really.
First, because "It Can Be Made"...
Second, because those cameras with swivel viewfinders- if they are made at all- are fairly expensive...
Third, because you already have an older model PnS camera that is still working, and that is enough reason NOT to buy a newer model which may not give you better quality pictures, anyway...
Fourth, because "It Can Be Made", which is the most important thing here.  That's what Insturctables is all about.
'Why on earth did you make that?'
"Because I thunk I could!'
NICE project, Dude!
Cameras like the Sony NEX-5 would be so much better with a swivel viewfinder... will it work with them?
rkalmar (author)  dchorley3 years ago
This could easily be adapted for any camera with composite video out capability, so if it can output composite video, then yes. The S95 has the ExtUSB type connector. The easiest way to connect to that was to chop the cable that came with it. I also purchased a breakout board from SparkFun, but during construction I opted not to use it. I am not sure if it will work, but it would require modification to try it, as the connector on it is not shaped exactly the same though the pins are in the same locations (it has one of the corners "filled in").
rkalmar (author)  qqqqqq5823 years ago
Why would I? Well, I really like everything about the Canon S95 (more than the other available cameras), so I bought it. While browsing for accessories, I read several reviews about people using the S95 as their pocketable alternative to their SLR. It is compact and has a wide aperture, manual controls, and does take nice pictures. Many of those reviews mentioned how they wished it had either an optical or electronic viewfinder. I figured I might want one too. I could not find a 3rd party attachment and Canon did not make one for this camera. It would help if shooting when the sun was shining directly on the LCD. It could also be adapted and used with CHDK to provide a remote viewfinder for shooting hummingbirds or similarly difficult subjects by simply adding some video transmitter/receiver to the system. There are many reasons why someone else might want such a device, so I decided to build it in case it could help others too. I like to fidget and make things, so I did. I do not anticipate using it much, but if I EVER want it... I have it now. Others may suggest reasons they might want one too. (I really want the Leica M9, but that cost too much).
Troll successful.
Broom qqqqqq5823 years ago
How about:
1. His favorite camera might not have this feature, but everything else he wants.
2. This provides a flex-screen (that can be rotated to any angle), which is not incredibly common on cameras.
3. The viewing screen can actually be placed a short distance from the camera, allowing even more discreet photo-taking, or better viewing while taking odd-angle shots (like nature shots of mushrooms on wet ground).
4. It's DIY. If you have to ask, you won't get it.
Name one good new model point and shoot that has a viewfinder and you have somewhat of a point. Like a boss.
Very few point-n-shoot cameras, even the more capable ones, come with any kind of viewfinder. They all claim their LCD display is "usable in bright sunlight".
yes, that is definitely true, they always claim theyre good for sunlight, but without a transflective screen LCD's are never gonna be good for outside.
rkalmar (author) 3 years ago
I gathered parts for the next version, 640x480 Color, but it has some larger pieces that I am trying to further eliminate/shrink. The 320x240 Color version made from Icuiti IP230 Glasses would be significantly smaller, but I am going to skip that and focus on the 640x480 Color version. I am proceeding with hacking/designing tonight and will update this thread or make another Instructable depending on how it goes over the next several days.
Broom3 years ago
Been looking to see if anyone had done one of these.

Thank you so much.
Death313133 years ago
Nice instructable, I've been looking in to making one of these as a head mounted computer display, and your project (with a little modification ) could probably be used for that. great work!
wobbler3 years ago
Or go low tech. You can use a hand-held slide viewer, take the end off it and make a bracket to clip fit the camera then clip it over the actual viewfinder for use in sunlight.
CoopPen3 years ago
this is pure genius! Too bad my cheap camera doesn't have video out.....I guess i'll have to by a new one so i have an excuse to make this
keithisit3 years ago
As a guy that sells digital cameras for a living I get a lot of people lamenting the lack of viewfinders on point-n-shoots so now I might carry a copy of this link in my pocket for those shoppers who really really really want camera x BUT just can't live without a viewfinder :-)
The Wapusk3 years ago
Very nice Instuctable.
And valuable too... In addition to all the reasons stated toward qqqqqq582's question there is also the fact that my digital camera has parallax error created by the offset of the optical viewfinder. Additionally, when using the digital zoom feature of my camera the optical viewfinder is rendered pointless. Being able to shoot in daylight without resorting to the the screen but still able to get the true composition of shot will come in very handy.