Since I received my Z-finder, a lot of people have been asking me about it and even more about cheaper alternatives. While I don’t think there are any decent alternatives (yet) available on the market, here is a quick list of the ones I know of an have tested.
For a while, the Hoodman was the only solution on the market. Originally, it was designed to view the camera LCD in bright conditions after taking their shot. With the arrival of video DSLR, it found a new market. It offers no magnification and it is held in place with straps you have to purchase separately. Bruce Dorm sells a 199$ version of the Hoodman that comes with a base plate to attach the viewfinder to the camera.
Cavision viewfinder is a one size-should-fit-all design. It is designed for a smaller LCD than the one on the 5D Mark II so you have to either get the adapter or do some customization to make it fit. It has a magnification factor of x6 which is way too high for the pixel density of the 5D. In short: near useless for the 5D.
The Z-finder (v1 and v2) is the first pro level viewfinder available to 5D Mark II owners. It has a 3x magnification, excellent optics, sturdy construction and is easy to install and remove while being securely held in place. Typical Zacuto stuff. The problem? Of all the product listed her, it is the most expensive at almost 400$. Yet, every single person who has seen my Z-finder wanted one!
The fact that it looks like a pro product really helps too! Of all the solution outlined here, it is the only one that actually looks cool/pro and clients can see that. Try to book a 5000$ wedding and show up with a ghetto viewfinder and they might wonder how ‘pro’ you are. Once the seed of doubt as been planted, it is hard to get it off. It is all about perception and the Z-finder does a great job at looking like a pro product and giving confidence to your client.
A few people have asked questions about the mounting frame. It is held in place with a very strong adhesive. Actually, the adhesive is so strong that I had some issues with it when I had to remove the mount before sending my 5D for repair that Canon. I was afraid to break the mount by applying too much strength on it. After confirming with Z-Steve that I was not going to break it, I tried again and managed to get it off. The adhesive left no mark on the camera, the mount was in perfect shape and it still had enough holding power for me to put it back on my second 5D Mark II. Great stuff.
While not vaporware, this very talked about and sought after product, is not yet on the market and no dates have been officially provided for its release. According to my communication with the manufacturer, it will have a 220% magnification which might be the sweet spot for the 5D Mark II LCD. Focusing will be a bit harder than with the Z-finder but the pixels would be less visible. It is held in place with a magnetic clip and should have excellent optics.
All of this for under 200$ which make it a decent alternative to the Z-finder when/if it comes out and hold to expectations. This description will be updated once more informations are released and tests are done with production units.
As you can see, there isn’t much choice for view finder buyers. You either go with the cheap hoodman and get marginal results or pull out the credit card and get a Z-finder. Since view finders are so much useful to get accurate focusing and better framing, I suggest you invest in the Zfinder (and consider the LCDVF once it is out). This is the kind of item that can really increase the quality of your work and will probably outlast your 5DMark II.