by Rick Smith (September 18, 2000)
New digital cameras may have a new display in them next year. At Photokina in Cologne, Germany, Colorado Microdisplay introduced their QVGA (320x240) microdisplay viewfinder module. This device offers unique capability and added performance to existing viewfinders. Some of the features are larger virtual image size, lower power, compact size and lower cost. These modules are capable of displaying full-color, full-motion video in the viewfinder, so digicams and camcorders can deliver high quality image preview capabilities and stunning image review capabilities.
This new Colorado Microdisplay QVGA viewfinder module also:
displays three times more pixels than direct-view displays and these images are smoother and much less pixelated
appears to be five times larger than direct view displays
has an image area appearing to be 13.88" diagonal instead of the physical 1.8” diagonal, commonly used. (if a 20 degree diagonal field of view lens is used)
uses less power (75 milliwatts total) which results in a longer battery life
provides better contrast in sunlight (Up to 30X greater contrast ratio compared to direct-view displays) and displays 16.7 million colors. The display supports the full range of images - text, still and full-motion.
provides stable images at 120 Hz refresh (360 color fields per second). This should eliminate current display problems such as color break up, flicker, and motion artifacts.
is extremely lightweight - the whole module weighs only 14 grams.
The intended applications for this module are:
as an optical viewfinder replacement in low to mid-range digicams. This lower cost display should help drive digital cameras with preview capabilities down to an even lower price point.
being used in conjunction with current on-screen displays of mid and high-end digicams.
I believe that seeing the digital image directly through the viewfinder will have several impacts on digital camera use such as:
only one person can see the image at a time. The camera must be passed directly to each person unless another external display is also provided
the camera interface may change, since you can’t see the buttons or menus, if you are looking through the viewfinder - you will need to “feel” the buttons. This can be done, but this will require changes to current camera designs.
better zoom control. Zoom digicams may begin to have viewfinders in addition to their LCD screens for more accurate zoom control without parallax.
I believe that this module may impact new models of digital cameras in two ways:
By slightly increasing the price of viewfinder-only digital cameras and adding this module you can easily create new, low cost digicam with “preview” capability. Since other digital imaging components are getting cheaper, this feature might be added without any price increase. The down side of viewfinder imaging - Passing the camera to display a shot - is better than having no display at all. Also, this display will look much better than displays currently used in lower end cameras - since the Colorado Microdisplay QVGA module has much less flicker or color separation.
Better WYSIWYG capability will be added to high end cameras. Initially, they will begin to have both external LCD screens and use this module instead of an optical viewfinder. This viewfinder module will give the photographer an intense, virtual feel of real “through the lens” viewing.
© 2006 Rick Smith All rights reserved.