What Is It, and How Can You Use It?

Have you ever looked through your camera’s viewfinder only to find a blurry image? If so, your camera’s diopter is probably set incorrectly. Fortunately, it’s easy to fix.

In this article, I’ll show you how to reset your camera’s diopter so that your viewfinder still looks sharp. I will also explain how you can use your diopter to take photos without glasses or contacts. (That way you never have to worry about bad vision ruining a photo shoot!)

Let’s dive into it.

What is a camera diopter?

A diopter controls a lens system in your camera’s viewfinder and allows you to match the focus of your viewfinder to your eye.

A poorly focused viewfinder image – one without proper diopter adjustment – will look like this:

Diopter blur photo demo - Blurry viewfinder image?  You May Need To Adjust Your Camera's Diopter - Here's How

But adjust the diopter and you’ll see something closer to this:

sharp photo illustrating diopter adjustment - Blurry viewfinder image?  You May Need To Adjust Your Camera's Diopter - Here's How

Note that diopters are offered by most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. You can usually find the diopter control on the left or right side of the viewfinder.

Diopter adjustment dial - Blurry viewfinder image?  You May Need To Adjust Your Camera's Diopter - Here's How

Also note that a diopter not affect the actual sharpness of your photos; it only affects the sharpness of the viewfinder. In other words, a blurry viewfinder does not result in a blurry image.

Why is a diopter useful?

The camera’s diopters allow you to see the sharpest image possible, allowing you to carefully select focus points, compose your scenes and analyze subject detail.

camera pointing at a building

After all, if you’re looking at a blurry scene through your viewfinder, how can you expect to capture a good shot? You will not be able to get a clear idea of ​​the scene because you will be bothered by the blur!

If you wear glasses, the diopter adjustment can be a big help. You can use it to correct your bad vision; this way you can take pictures without glasses. Or, if you sometimes work with glasses and sometimes without, you can adjust the viewfinder before each shoot so you see a clear image.

I am always shocked by the number of students who tell me that they never see anything sharp through their viewfinder. I show them the diopter, and after a quick adjustment, they are often surprised by the sharpness of the viewfinder!

How do you know your diopter needs to be adjusted?

Chinese woman photographer - Blurry viewfinder image?  You May Need To Adjust Your Camera's Diopter - Here's How

If you look through your viewfinder and see a super sharp image, your diopter is set correctly and can be left alone.

However, if you look through your viewfinder and notice blur – even a bit of blur – then you need to follow the adjustment steps I share below.

Pro tip: When evaluating the viewfinder, try pointing your camera at a scene with lots of detail, like a poster or a book. If you’re having trouble reading words or resolving fine lines, that’s a sign you need diopter adjustment.

(You can also check the information and guides in the viewfinder, such as the exposure bar and shutter speed numbers. These should be accurate; if you can’t see them clearly, your diopter should be reset.)

How to adjust camera diopter: step-by-step instructions

Making a diopter adjustment is quick and easy. Just follow these steps:

Step 1: Locate the diopter control

The diopter is usually a small wheel or slider near your camera’s viewfinder:

Diopter adjustment dial - Blurry viewfinder image?  You May Need To Adjust Your Camera's Diopter - Here's How

Most are labeled with + and – signs.

Step 2: Place your camera on a tripod

Make sure you have a lens attached to your camera – ideally a sharp lens that can focus relatively close.

Then mount the camera on a sturdy tripod. Place the setup in front of a flat scene with decent detail and good contrast, such as a bookshelf, clock, or brick wall.

Step 3: Focus the lens

Using your lens’ autofocus, focus on the scene.

(If you’re using a manual focus lens, that’s okay, but you’ll need to be extra careful to ensure accurate focus.)

Take a test shot, then zoom in to view details on your LCD screen. Make sure the results are crisp. (If you have a mirrorless camera, you may be able to see the image in the viewfinder, but don’t not do this ! Check precise focus without looking through the electronic viewfinder.)

photo of one eye - Blurry viewfinder image?  You May Need To Adjust Your Camera's Diopter - Here's How
Step 4: Adjust the diopter

Look through the viewfinder. Then start turning the diopter wheel or moving the slider.

The image may become sharper or softer. I would recommend pushing the diopter adjustment until the viewfinder is extremely blurry; then bring the diopter return until you see a clear image. (Feel free to nudge it back and forth until the viewfinder is as sharp as possible.)

Note: If the viewfinder display information looks sharp but the image is never completely clear, then you have a different problem. You may have focused incorrectly, in which case you need to repeat the previous step. Alternatively, you can use a soft lens or one that cannot focus at this distance; try switching lenses and/or backing up and see if that fixes the problem.

Step 5: Repeat as needed

If you always shoot with glasses or contacts, wear them when adjusting the diopter; if you adjust the diopter first and then put on your glasses or contacts, the viewfinder may look heavily overcorrected.

Boy with glasses - Blurry viewfinder image?  You May Need To Adjust Your Camera's Diopter - Here's How

Of course, if you prefer to photograph without glasses or contacts – even if you wear them in other situations – remove them before adjusting the diopter. The diopter can compensate for poor vision, but only if you adjust it to your eyes.

Finally, if you sometimes shoot with glasses or contacts and sometimes shoot without, simply reset the diopter before each new photo shoot. It will only take a few moments, and this way you can be sure that you are capturing the sharpest photos possible!

The camera diopter: final words

Camera diopters are not complex and adjusting your diopter is simple. However, it can be a huge difference to your photography – and your photographic enjoyment – so don’t be afraid to do a reset once in a while!

Leave a Comment