Sunlight is the worst enemy of LCD screens. The multiple layers of material in an LCD screen all act to diffuse light and wash out the image on the screen. Sunlight is strong enough to make the screen unreadable. LCD screens are too weak to fight the sunlight. We need something better outdoors.
LCD screens are made worst by using highly reflective plastic for the final layer. The reflexive layer makes the screen look better in a shop. Out in the sun, the sunlight glares back in your face. If manufacturers want to use LCD, they should treat the final layer to the same coatings as the lenses on cameras. You can also get the same coasting on reading glasses. Why is there no one offering the option for the LCD screens in cameras, mobile phones, netbooks, and notebooks?
The LCD screen on the back of a camera has little protection from the sun. My first attempt to photograph a building using a digital camera was ruined by the sun reflecting off the LCD screen. There was only a limited location where I could get the right angle and a limited time to get the right light.
Some digital cameras retain an optical viewfinder to let you use the camera outdoors in situations where the LCD screen is unusable. Some cameras mount the LCD screen on a flexible plate you can rotate to stop reflection. My first recommendation for using a digital camera outdoors is to buy a camera with either the optical viewfinder or a flexible mount LCD screen.
Which is best, the flexible mount LCD or the optical viewfinder? You can use optical viewfinders without using reading glasses. Optical viewfinders are the first choice for people who need reading glasses to see the LCD screen. You can work faster with an optical finder compared to the routine of taking out your camera then searching for your reading glasses then aiming the camera only to find the rare species of bird has flown away.
My next recommendation is a wide brimmed hat to keep the sun off your camera when shooting in the middle of the day. The brim should cover the camera and the front of the standard lens. If you have a long lens, typically a telephoto lens on an SLR, you mount a separate shade on the lens. The hat is mainly for the quick shots with your pocket camera.
The screens are larger every year but not better. The largest screens take up so much space, there is no room for an optical viewfinder. Some time next year Samsung should be mass producing AMOLED screens in their new factory and we should see cameras with the first real screen improvement. AMOLED is brighter for the same amount of electricity, giving you bright screens without draining the battery. AMOLED has no polarising layer which means you can read AMOLED screens with your sunglasses on.
Samsung built a new $2.1 billion AMOLED factory in Tangjeong to increase capacity from 3 million to 30 million screens per month and the factory should start producing this month. Most of the screens will go into mobile phones. The current shortage is so bad that HTC had to switch some phones from AMOLED to LCD. By the time HTC switch back to AMOLED and Samsung expand their own smartphone range there may be nothing left for camera. Two other companies have announced similar factories that may open in 2012 and ease the shortage.
If you want to see what an uncoated AMOLED screen is like, use a Samsung Galaxy S or Galaxy S II outdoors.
When cameras have AMOLED screens with the right optical coatings, we can all enjoy photography outdoors in bright sunlight. Oh, remember to keep the hat. Nothing spoils a photography session more than melanoma.