Wearing Eyeglasses and Using Camera Eye Viewfinders

Depending on the survey and the country, about 2 out of 3 or 3 out of 4 people have eyeglasses, even if not used all the time.

Most adults over age 45 have presbyopia, or the inability to focus at close range. They use reading glasses.

For those with distance vision and/or astigmatism or other corrections, they wear eyeglasses of contact lenses.

Most DSLR cameras have a diopter adjustment to enable one to look through the eyepiece viewfinder with or without wearing glasses or contact lenses.

My photo hobby involves 2D, 3D and video photography at events such as historical re-enactments, air shows, and character photography at comic-con.

All of these are “fast action” scenarios – taking off and putting on glasses in between photos has not been a great option. Consequently, I have been looking at other options.

I am fortunate in that I have had good vision all my life and did not get my first reading glasses until late 40s, and first distance vision correction in mid-50s, for use while driving. My distance vision correction is small enough I am not (yet) required to wear glasses while driving, although I do wear glasses as it is more relaxing on my eyes to do so.

Glasses and Photography

When I have been photographing at air shows, I tend to keep my glasses off so I can quickly put my eye up to the camera viewfinder. More recently, due to wanting to wear sunshades over my glasses, and making it easier to spot aircraft in the sky, particularly when they fly out aways before returning to the airfield, I’ve been wearing my glasses – then removing them rapidly into a shirt pocket so I could use my camera’s eye viewfinder.

But I have found this is not practical.

  • One, its time consuming to swap glasses off to take photos.
  • Two, lenses become dirty, quickly.
  • Three, I occasionally drop my glasses when doing this maneuver. Very bad.

I have myself carrying 3 sets of glasses.

  1. Generic dark glasses
  2. Distance vision glasses with or without clip on sunshades.
  3. Reading glasses
  4. And no glasses when using the camera.

At the last air show I attended, the “clipons” for my prescription glasses broke. Then I dropped my generic dark glasses, scratching the lenses.

Juggling 3 sets of glasses and 2 cameras has become a fiasco – and I began looking for better solutions.

So far, I have not yet found a solution.

Possible Solutions


One solution might be to get proper bifocals. The only bifocals I have are for driving – the “reading” part is adjusted for the dashboard distance and is not suitable for normal reading distances.

Maybe I should get a true bifocal with both my distance and reading correction?

Maybe I should get a proper prescription, bifocal, set of dark glasses?

This would simplify things, but still has the problems of wearing eyeglasses up to the viewfinder (mot on this below).

Contact Lenses

Looking online, I see many serious photography hobbyists and pros wear contact lenses when shooting photos.

My first step was to ask my optometrist about contact lenses at my last eye appointment. Unfortunately, the answer I got was a generic and implied response of “your too old”. I am not kidding.

In the optometry industry, their traditional rule of thumb has been those in their 50s or older (and especially over 60) should not wear contact lenses. This was true 2 or 3 decades ago but is no longer consistent with today’s technology.

But it’s still common for them to use this generic response based on “class” rather than a patient’s individual situation.

It comes about because a person over 60 is more likely to have health conditions for which contact usage is not recommended versus a younger person. Some of those conditions, if present, can be addressed with far newer contact lens technology.

These health issues may range from eye conditions like “dry eye”, to other health problems such as arthritis in the fingers, or “shaky hands” that make putting in and taking out contacts, difficult.

In my case, my eyes are in excellent condition, I have no eye health problems, and no physical health problems. Instead of treating me as an individual patient, I was treated as a member of a probability cloud group!

Reading online, I learned about 60% of an optometrist/optical practice profit comes from the retail sale of frames and lenses. This may bias some practitioners to favor eyeglasses over contacts. Indeed, market studies find persons prescribed contacts are highly likely to order contact refills from online discount services. Consequently, contacts are not a great profit center for the optical department of your local vision center. Second, many contact lens users only wear them part time – not every day – and may only consume a single box of lenses over 6 or more months.

Related: the optical/optician service staff are typically paid a commission on the sale of eyewear/glass frames and may also receive a “spiff” from the manufacturer. While the vision center may have dozens of “brand names” available, it is common that more than half the “brands” are owned by a single, monopoly optical manufacturer. This is why eye glass frames cost $200 to $600 at your local optical center.

Thus, as I found, even exploring a contact lens option may be difficult for older photographers – even though they may be fine candidates for using contact lenses.

I may go to another optometrist, pay for a 2nd exam, and be prepared to clearly lay out my requirements and to respond to random “your too old” assertions. For now, I do not know if this is a solution for me, or not.

Taking Your Glasses Off

If you do not suffer from bad astigmatism, you may be able to use the diopter setting on the eyepiece to use your viewfinder without eyeglasses.

This may be very practical for many situations such as landscape and travel photography – where you have time to do this. This is not so practical for my type of photography shooting fast paced or “real time” events.

Using the LCD Back panel

Some people prefer to use the LCD panel versus the eye viewfinder.

For tracking aircraft in flight this does not work though. It is also difficult to use in bright sunlight – like most outdoor events!

For group portraits, static subjects, and indoor use, this may be a solution – just wear your reading glasses or bifocals.

Wearing Glasses While Looking Through the Viewfinder

Wear your glasses while looking through the viewfinder.

Possible drawbacks:

  1. One, this puts your eyeball further behind the viewfinder than it is designed for – the result is you may not be able to see the full image in the viewfinder without sliding your glasses/eyes back and forth. Whether this is a problem or not depends on the camera type. A few cameras have 3rd party “soft” eye cup attachments that may compress to move your eyeglasses closer to the viewfinder (none of my cameras have 3rd party solutions). For my fast-paced scenarios, I do not have time to slide my eyeglasses around on the back – think of doing this while tracking a jet flying by at 500 mph!
  2. Second, constantly butting your eyeglasses up against the eyepiece may result in scratched eyeglass lenses.
  3. Third, eye cups are designed to remove extraneous light between your eye and the viewfinder. When wearing glasses, light is coming in from above your eye and the side. When I wear glasses to look through the eye viewfinder, pointing my camera upwards, the reflective glare makes it impossible to see the image!
  4. Fourth, adding a clip-on type sunshade pushes your eye out further from the viewfinder, meaning less likely to see the full image area, plus more likely to have glare problems. One solution to this may be to use separate prescription sun shade eye glasses.


For now I do not have a solution – just these 3 options to explore.

  • Replace my camera with one having a viewfinder that works better with eyeglasses.
  • Consolidate my glasses down to one true bifocal, with correct distance and reading prescription, as prescription sunglasses so I don’t have to juggle three pairs of spectacles.
  • Consider contact lenses.
  • Possibly a combination of the above? Different camera, consolidation of glasses?

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