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Digital camera features: Transmissive LCD viewfinders

With the EOS 7D, Canon introduced a new type of viewfinder to the EOS range called “Intelligent Viewfinder”. This new viewfinder uses a transmissive LCD which, unlike traditional viewfinders, does not feature interchangeable focusing screens but, instead, uses an LCD screen through which light passes, giving an optical view but with the ability to overlay extra information on the screen as required. The exception to this is the EOS-1D X which offers a transmissive LCD screen and also has the option of interchangeable screens.

With developments in the AF system, also first seen in the EOS 7D, the ability to show a variety of different AF points and AF selection modes (single or groups of AF points etc.) on the screen became much more important. With the screen it is possible to see exactly which AF point is being used and which are available regardless of whether you shoot in single point, spot, zone or AF point expansion.


Diagram showing the information available within the EOS 5D Mark III’s viewfinder.


The EOS 7D was the first ever Canon EOS DSLR to feature a transmissive LCD viewfinder.

For those interested in architectural shooting, the LCD viewfinder screen is also able to display a grid and the pitch and yaw of the camera from the electronic level.

When the camera is taken out of the box for the first time, or after an extended period without a battery, the viewfinder will look dark or milky. However, as soon as the camera is powered on it will become clear and is as easy and clear to use as a traditional viewfinder.

Since the EOS 7D several other EOS models have included the same viewfinder technology, including the EOS-1D X, EOS 5D Mark III and EOS 70D. Compared to the EOS 7D, the unit found in the EOS-1D X and EOS 5D Mark III cameras is more durable and is thus able to cope with being used in a wider range of environmental conditions, especially in cold environments where it will continue to function normally at temperatures below 0degC.

EOS cameras featuring a transmissive LCD viewfinder

Camera Viewfinder coverage Viewfinder magnification
EOS 7D 100% 1.0x
EOS 5D Mark III 100% 0.71x
EOS-1D X 100% 0.76x
EOS-1D C 100% 0.76x
EOS 70D Approx 98% 0.95x