As people are receiving their Z-Finder, reviews are popping everywhere on the net. The first one coming (that I am aware of) from M. Bloom and now there is one more from Mitch. As you could have guessed if you have been following my Gorilla rigs review, I am going to review it too. Actually, if it was not of some technical issues with the UPS custom broker department who evaluated my Z-finder at over 900$, I should have received mine first! So, to all of you who think that Z-gear is too expensive, know that the UPS guys think they worth more than twice as much!
Contrary to many other viewfinders available, the Z-finder magnify the LCD to ease focusing. This is great until you realize the 5D Mark II or 7D LCD does not have a pixel density high enough to survive the enlargement without losing quality. Even focusing precision is limited by the ‘low’ pixel density. Dont get me wrong, my focus is 100% more precise with the Z-finder than without it, but it could have been even better if the camera LCD had more pixels. This is great because it means the Z-finder it is future proof: it’s performance is going to improve as LCDs get better!
BTW, the enlargement provided by the optic is about 3X, which translate into transforming the 3” LCD into a 52 inch TV with you sitting right in front of it (from the eye point of view). So yes, you see better what is going on.
As others have pointed out, the Z-finder mount is quite solid. I have installed and removed the Z-finder a few times and the mount does not give any sign of weakening. I think the only way it could come off is if it was accidentally knocked off. That is why I suggest, as a safety measure, to attach the Z-finder to it’s strap and attach the strap to the rig (or your wrist) as seen in the picture below. As good as Zacuto warranty is, I dont think they would cover accidental drops on the concrete!
There is a big red scroll wheel on the Z-finder to adjust the optic. Mine is a little bit rough to adjust but it doesn’t matter much since it is already set at the perfect distance. Some people have suggested a chamois replacement for the rubber eye piece and I think it would be a great idea and hope Zacuto catch it. Also, the eye piece can be turned around to be usable by either eye this is convenient for me since my left eye is better than the right one.
Focusing with the Z-Finder
As it as been outlined in other reviews, focusing with the viewfinder requires your eye to be directly in front of it. If this is a limiting factor, just pop off the Z-finder and use the normal LCD for the specific shot.
The Z-finder also make it easy to keep both eyes open while shooting. One eye is used to focus while the other look around at the environment to make sure you don’t fall, trip on something and keep the action within the frame. I use this technique a lot while shooting stills and I am happy to be able to do it now while shooting clips.
Z-finder and Gorilla rig
Consult the specific review of each rig (coming soon).
Carrying the Z-finder around
The Z-finder is nearly perfect, its only thumb down (if you can consider it one) is teh lack of ways to safely carry it around when it is off the camera. I would have liked to have a cap to close each end so they don’t accumulate dust and to protect the optic. My only solution so far has been to use the plastic box used to package it. My solution is probably to order another mounting frame and cover it up to protect at least one end. To protect the other one (the eye piece) I might use a cloth pouch.
Here is a video sample of what can be seen from the view finder. Actually, since it was shot with my 100mm macro lens, the actual field of view is much larger but I wanted to show how visible the pixels are while trying to focus. I tried to play a bit with the focus but I did not had the presence of mind at the time to use my D-Focus to do some focus pulling so I had to focus using the second 5D LCD which was not easy at all.