If you’ve got any interest in using a DSLR as a serious video camera, chances are that you’ve heard of the Zacuto Z-Finder. As I have been learning the ropes of shooting video on the 5D Mark II, I’ve found the Z-Finder to be an indispensable piece of equipment for mobile operation of the camera.
The Zacuto Z-Finder is an optical viewfinder for use when capturing video. If you’ve tried to focus using the rear LCD of any DSLR, then you understand the limitations – particularly with shallow depth of field.
The Z-Finder gives you a 3x view of the rear LCD with a nice, rubber eyecup that prevents external light from interfering with your view. The Z-Finder has a built-in diopter with a -2.0 to +0.4 range; however, I found that the flexible eyecup allows me to wear glasses with no real problems.
The Z-Finder version 2 (now discontinued), which I’ve been using is mounted on the rear LCD via the use of a plastic frame that attaches to the viewfinder using heavy duty adhesive. You’ve got to let it set up for 24 hours before use, but it is rock solid after that point. You can find extra frames for use on multiple camera bodies for $6 at the time of this review.
The latest version of the Z-Finder features a mounting plate that attaches to the underside of the camera via the tripod mount. This is apparently in response to concerns of damage to the LCD screen as a result of the frame mounting directly on it. It hasn’t given me any worries using the second version though.
In addition to the improved vision that the Z-Finder gives you, it also aids in video stabilization by adding a point of contact between you and your camera. Our heads are pretty stable parts of our body, so tucking the camera up against our eye with something like the Z-Finder gives us the ability to improve the look of our video.
Zacuto has split the Z-Finder line into Jr. and Pro models. The Z-Finder Pro, to which the above version 2 is most comparable, has the built-in diopter and more solid overall construction. It will run you about $375 at the time of this review. The new Z-Finder Jr. model can be had for about $250, but you’ll need to use extender frames to make adjustments (if needed) to the -2.75 focal point.
As noted above, the Z-Finder is an indispensable tool for video work on a DSLR. It wins big in both the ergonomics and performance categories. As such, it gets a high recommendation from me.
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