Viewfinder Mode, also known simply as Finder Mode, is the name for the first-person view that the player enters after raising the Camera Obscura. It's in this mode that the player is able to fend of spirits and utilize the powers of the Camera Obscura.
In most cases, the default controller scheme allows the player to enter viewfinder mode by pressing the circle button () on the PlayStation 2 controller. In addition, viewfinder mode in the fourth installment in the series, Fatal Frame IV, is brought up by pressing the "B" button ().
There are some recognizable parts to the camera in viewfinder mode that are common in the games throughout the series:
1. Capture Circle
This area denotes what will be affected by the Camera Obscura. For a spirit to be damaged or exorcised, it must be within the range of the capture circle. If a photo is taken when the subject is not within the circle, it will may appear clearly, or it may not appear at all.
The capture circle glows when pointed towards something that can be photographed. It glows blue when a non-violent ghost or a clue is present, and red when a hostile ghost is attacking. In most cases, the capture circle may be yellow before becoming red when a ghost is within it, as it only turns red when the shot is a Shutter Chance or Fatal Frame. When fighting a ghost that hasn't attacked the circle will be blue.
Following the original Fatal Frame, the capture circle also displays the relative amount of damage that will be inflicted. This function, called "Spirit Wave Gauge" or "Charge Meter" generally works by making the capture circle glow stronger gradually in a clockwise fashion.
The capture circle is one of the camera's basic functions, and can be upgraded to increase the circle's size and the depth it covers.
The filament indicates the presence of a spirit aside regardless of the capture circle. It glows blue in the presence of a non-violent ghost or a clue, and red in the presence of an attacking ghost. The only exception to this is in Fatal Frame III, where it glows blue for a clue or a violent ghost that is unaware of the player's presence, and it glows red for an attacking ghost or a non-violent ghost that is moving.
In addition, the strength of the filament's glow also changes relative to the ghost's location; the closer the player is to the ghost, the stronger it will glow.
3. Health Meter
The health meter shows the player's current health. When a hostile ghost makes contact with the player and is not dodged or shaken off in time, the player will take damage and the health meter will fall. If the meter is emptied it will be game over unless a Stone Mirror is used.
4. Enemy Health Meter
- See main article: Measure
The enemy health meter displays the enemy's current health. As damage is inflicted on a hostile ghost, this meter drops. Sometimes, however, this function must be found.
5. Film Type and Amount
This indicates the type of film that is currently being used by the camera. It may also indicate the time it takes for the film to load between shots. Beginning with Fatal Frame III, the type of film loaded into the camera can also be changed by pressing a specific button while in viewfinder mode.
6. Power-up Lenses
This area displays the equipped power-up lens. Only one lens can be active at once, however, once found a function also allows for other lenses to be equipped, and for the player to switch between them and choose which is active. Each power-up lens is denoted by a specific Japanese character or specific letters that indicate what that lens is. A power-up lens can only be used once enough spirit power is built up for that specific lens. Once there is enough spirit power, the character for the active lens glows, showing that it can be used.
7. Spirit Power
Every damaging shot of the Camera Obscura also gathers spirit power. The amount of spirit power absorbed shows on a small gauge, and once enough has been absorbed to fill the gauge, it gets stored or "stocked", shown here as a blue orb. Spirit power absorbed from the ghost goes into using the power-up lenses equipped. Once enough spirit power has been stocked, the active power-up lens glows and is free to use.
Absorbing spirit power is one of the camera's basic functions, and the rate at which spirit power is absorbed and limit the player is able to stock can be upgraded.
8. Fatal Frame Lamp
This function was first introduced in Fatal Frame II as the "Instant" function. Once found, it allows the camera to sense when a specific shutter chance, the Fatal Frame, occurs in a ghost's attack. The fatal frame only lasts for a few moments, and as soon as it occurs the lamp glows a bright red and blinks.
In Fatal Frame II, another optional function adds a chime that sounds during the fatal frame.
- In Fatal Frame II, the words "Shadow Obscure" can be seen at the bottom during viewfinder mode. The significance of this is unknown, however.
- In Fatal Frame II, the capture circle is decorated by symbols of the Japanese zodiac.
- In Fatal Frame IV, the capture circle use the phases of the moon to indicate how much spirit power has charged, the moon being a central motif in the game.