Since both of these cameras feature live viewing, the viewfinder can, for some, become less important. They both feature viewfinders that, even with glasses, are useable. Not great or huge, but useable.
They both show the standard array of information - AF information (AF points, focus confirmation light), exposure information (shutter speed, aperture, AE lock, exposure level, ISO speed, exposure warning), flash information (flash ready, high-speed sync, FE lock, flash exposure compensation), and battery and memory card information. They both show about 95% of the actual image.
Here’s a great example of where the engineering approaches differ significantly. Nikon offers a fairly standard, if not big, swiveling LCD display. The resolution is what we’ve seen on other cameras, at 230,000 dots. The display is hinged on the bottom - it pivots down and out, and rotates around the hinge point. If you’re shooting low, the display can be pivoted so you’re looking down into it, like an old Hasselblad or twin-lens reflex. If you want to be a paparazzi and shoot over your head, you can do that too. As a part of Murphy’s Law, I always feel like the absolute best position for the camera seems like it’s up against the wall or the ceiling, and it will work for that too.
The one place it won’t work is on a tripod, facing the front of the camera. No self-portraits or family shots with the timer, using the display, I guess. Interestingly, there’s one position that may solve some issues with compulsive “chimpers”- photographers who constantly look at the image they’ve just shot. You can turn the LCD around, so it faces inward, away from chimping eyes. Funny though this may sound, it’s something that a lot of people have trouble with - resisting the urge to review the image constantly, even when they should be shooting, and somehow can’t seem to just turn the display off. Turning it around, having just the black plastic and the Nikon logo facing you seems to help photographers stay in the moment, looking through the camera - almost a bit of photo de-evolution.
At a full 3 inches, and 920,000 dots, the Canon sets a new bar. There’s a visible, perceptible difference, both side-by-side but also just alone, when shooting with the Canon. It feels bright, big and sharp. More importantly, though, nothing shows focus accuracy better than the high-resolution display, and although we’re showing a shot here to demonstrate that, you really have to witness it yourself to appreciate it.
The shot here is of a window screen falling out of focus on the bottom of the display. You can see the navigator, with the little frame showing how much we’re seeing. This is at the highest magnification, and discerning areas that are sharp and in focus, and areas that have fallen out of focus is an easy task with more than double the higher resolution.
We’re giving Canon the nod on this one. A swivel display is fine - it got Nikon a lot of buzz at the release of the product, but when the day is over it’s a feature we’ve had on several cameras and rarely used. A 920,000-dot display, however, is something we’ll not only enjoy, but use every time we shoot.
Again, the Live View options are very similar. Both have Live View in still and video, autofocus, real-time metering and exposure simulation. The Nikon has the big swivel display so the camera can be held, and viewed, at various angles live, but the Canon display has significantly higher resolution - something that you can appreciate in Live View as well as in Playback mode.