Olympus XZ-1 with VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder - Best of Both Worlds?

As high-end compact cameras became, well, more compact, their optical viewfinders fell by the wayside. For me, this wasn't such a terrible thing since they were usually awful anyway, often only showing a fraction of the photo you were actually recording. That being said, wouldn't it be nice to have something other than the LCD screen for composing with these little photographic gems?

Olympus XZ-1 with VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder Olympus XZ-1 with VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder. Click on image for larger version. Photo by Derrick Story.

The engineers at Olympus seem to think so too. For their latest well-heeled compact, the XZ-1 with f/1.8 zoom, they included an accessory shoe that accommodates the VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder (that also works on most of the PEN cameras.)

The VF-2 slides into the accessory port and provides an accurate view of both image and camera controls. You can switch back and forth between the viewfinder and the LCD by pressing the control button on the back of the viewfinder. The VF-2 is hinged, so you can angle up to 90 degrees providing more flexibility in how you hold the camera when you take pictures. There's also a diopter ring so you can adjust its clarity to your eyesight.As you can image, this accessory is a blessing when working in bright sunlight, which can make composition on an LCD difficult at best. But I use the VF-2 for all types of shooting. I find it easier to concentrate on my composition with the device, similar to the experience of composing through a DSLR.

What's amazing, however, is how small and light the entire package is. For photographers on the go, or just anyone who loves to travel light, the Olympus XZ-1 plus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder does make compact photography more pleasurable than ever. The only downside? The price for this combo will also lighten your wallet.

The Olympus XZ-1 is running around $499 plus another $249 for the VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder. So don't try it unless you have the budget to spend. Because if you do, you'll certainly be hooked.

More Articles about the Olympus XZ-1

Olympus XZ-1 Review, Part 1

Olympus XZ-1 ISO Test 100-3200

"Olympus XZ-1 ISO Smackdown" - Digital Photography Podcast 267

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Hey Derrick,

I'm about to lighten my wallet to get the VF-2 for my E-PL1.

Any comments on how secure the VF-2 feels on the XZ-1 and PEN cameras? Is there any sort of locking mechanism to keep it on the accessory port?

Also, I've heard some mention of a bit of lag when looking through the viewfinder, so things like video and panning are affected. Have you experienced this at all?

Also, maybe you should have a word with Olympus about making the VF-2 more affordable. Half the price of the cameras it is made for seems insane.

They are lucky I'm a loyal Olympus user... :)

The VF-2 fits snugly into the hot shoes of all the cameras I use it with. Have had no slippage problems at all.

There is lag when you pan from side to side. It had never bothered me, so I tested for this specifically after reading your comment. It's there. And now that you've brought it up, will probably bug me forever. (Just kidding) But if those things bother you, then it is a consideration. Once you stop moving the camera, the image is very sharp.

As for price... sigh... photo accessories are the most overpriced items on the planet.

With the VF-2 that makes the XZ1 $50 more than the EPL2 w/kit lens and VF2. Is the difference in weight and size all that perceptive; ie, does the X1 really feel all that more "nimble"?


Hi Derrick,

To be honest, I rarely use the video on the E-PL1, and treat it much the way I would treat the video function on my smartphone or old point-and-shoot. And if I wanted to shoot action and do lots of panning, I guess I wouldn't have gone with a mirrorless camera. So hopefully the lag won't really be an issue. I guess it won't be much different from trying to use the standard LCD for the same things...

Today I was out shooting with a friend, and when I tried to take one of those 'light breaking through the trees' shots, I realised how difficult that is to line up using an LCD screen...

Also, I feel like buying camera gear, particularly those that are made in Japan, seems that much more important right now.

Thanks for the feedback, you're a big part of the reason why I made the jump into Micro Four-Thirds, and I'm very happy with it.

Actually the Panasonic LX5 with its EVF would be a much better solution. The quality of the viewfinder isn't quite as good, but the whole package is much more compact and feels more balanced...

The E-VF2 is kept in the shoe by friction (on my E-PL1 and E-P2) which is good but not great. I use a shoulder strap and while riding my bicycle one day with my camera slung over my shoulder (resting on my lower back as I rode leaning forward) I heard a "clack clack clack" of something on the ground. At first I thought I had rode over some debris, but had the forethought to look back and sure enough it was my viewfinder, recently freed from my camera by my jostling.

But for regular walking around shooting, the viewfinder is plenty secure.

Tip: you can use a rubber band around the viewfinder and under the lens to provide additional security. Sure it looks goofy, but for $270 I have the right to look goofy! (I wish they had a more positive locking mechanism to keep the viewfinder in place, it's not something I want to leave on 100% of the time as I'm always worried it'll get knocked off at an inappropriate time.)

Thank you for this info on the Olympus. I have been searching and hoping and waiting for some upgraded equivalent of my old Fujifilm camera with its built in EVF.
I was ruined from the start!
I simply cant stand the modern LCD screen however large.
Nor do I want the bulkiness of the the old style reflex lens digital. In fact though the reflex gives very good viewfinder image, it is NOT what the electronics actually produce. I have always found it much better to adjust what the ELV sees and focuses on by simple movement and holding of shutter.
My old camera can actually be held in a pocket, not comfortably but adequately. This is not something any of the top end reflex cameras can do!
I do not understand the total domination of the compact market with the back LCD. They are too affected by light and less than perfect human vision, and often awkward holding angle.
An optical viewfinder on a compact is not really satisfactory either.
If only people could know and get used to a really good EFV , compact cameras could actually be much cheaper, with no need for a huge LCD on the back at all.

sigh. End of rave. thanks again.. David L.

I have had a Ricoh GX200 with its EVF for a year and been very pleased with the results. Dioptre adjustment means glasses are not needed and exposure detail appears in viewfinder. Framing a picture in sunlight is similar to a dslr, but because of the small sensor results are not so good in low light conditions

Does anyone have a good suggestion for a small case to hold just the XZ-1 with the VF attached? I am looking for the smallest possible case to hold just those two.