Photography / Features

Things We Love: Flip-Out (Articulating) LCD Screens on Digital Cameras


It’s a bit of a stretch, but for the sake of the Hallmark set, I can say that I love flip-out LCD screens on cameras. What I really love is the effect they have had on my photography and the creative possibilities they enable when photographing, especially for street photography. My first camera with a flip-out (and swivel) articulating LCD was the 4MP Canon PowerShot G3, which I purchased in 2003. Since it was my first digital camera, I didn’t take full advantage of all its capabilities, tending to stick with my Nikon SLR for most work but, by the time I bought a used PowerShot G5, in 2005, I was well into experimenting with the LCD and it began to transform my shooting style. Not having to bring a camera to my eye to compose allowed a more surreptitious style of shooting that suited the street photography in which I was indulging.

Yes, I had been shooting street photography with SLRs for years, but raising a camera to your eye can upset the rhythm and reactions around you and, having the LCD open and “on,” waiting for my glance to confirm a composition, was transcending. Photos that I never would have captured—on buses, while walking, from my bike—I could take, and I achieved the results I wanted. What came to pass was that the angle from which I shot descended, from eye level to waist level (navel level), and this became a style in which I flourished. This would not have been possible with an LCD that did not flip out and swivel. A monitor fixed to the back of the camera would still require raising the camera to compose accurately, and one that did not flip out and swivel up would diminish the opportunity to compose with just a downward glance. Yes, I realize that cameras with waist-level finders have been common for years, but the convenience of the digital format combined with a waist-level approach was the perfect blend for me.

It was not only street photography which benefitted from an articulating screen, but my portraiture and low-light work improved, as well. I practiced techniques for viewing my subjects through the LCD while talking with them and releasing the shutter to capture the desired expression. This is not a technique made possible only due to an articulating LCD, but for me it was enabling. I also developed tricks to hold the camera steady while composing through the LCD, and captured images at longer shutter speeds. Having the LCD—not simply to confirm after exposure, but to compose—was a breakthrough.

The PowerShot models G7 through G10 removed the “Vari-angle” LCD, so I saw no need to purchase any of these models. It was also about this time that I bought my first digital SLR, but when the G11 was introduced, Canon went back to the Vari-angle LCD, so I snatched it up and this is when my work really took off. I would use the DSLR for jobs, but the G11 came along, as well. The 2.8" screen was a bonus and I had become so comfortable with the waist-level point of view that, with the minimized lag and improved ISO of the G11, I incorporated it into every aspect of my work and street photography remained a daily joy.

As full-frame DSLRs became the required norm for work, my dilemma was to combine the performance of a DSLR with a tilt-swivel LCD. Therefore, as a Nikon shooter, I was excited when, in late 2014, the D750 was announced with a tilt-screen. I bought the D750 and love the camera but I find myself not using the LCD to compose. The reasons have less to do with live-view focusing and battery life but simply with the tilt and “no swivel” design. The LCD on the D750, as well as on the Pentax K-1 and Sony a99 II, flip back and out but do not flip to the side and, therefore, will bump uncomfortably into my belly if left open with the camera around my neck. This is hopefully a “problem” that will be solved by a future generation of cameras and, while all the cameras mentioned above have very maneuverable monitors, the simplicity of a tilt-out and swivel screen is what I prefer when shooting. This explanation may not make much sense to the countless photographers who use LCD monitors of all sorts to capture wonderful images, but because we are talking love and the heart has its own explanations, and I’ll stick with mine—that a tilt-swivel articulating LCD monitor improved my photography and fostered a renewed love for the photographic process.

Nikon D750 DSLR Camera